I was never afraid of ghosts because I didn’t believe in them and then when I encountered one for real I was more curious than concerned. It was a bloody inconvenience but by upbringing I am disposed to being helpful where I can and the wanker from hell clearly needed a hand.
My first experience of him was waking up in my uncle Georgie’s house aware that somebody was shuffling pretty vigorously in the next bed. School and work camp dorms teach a man to pretend to be contentedly unconscious. He never knows when he might require the same courtesy extended to himself.
But as the clamminess of sleep cleared from my brain I recalled that I was not at school nor in a camp but passing my first night alone in the creaky old dump west of Dublin that uncle Georgie had left me in his will. I had come over to see what work might need done before selling it.
So who was wanking in my bedroom? No one that I could see.
I assumed, at first, that I had an interloper; someone who had been using the house while it was empty and didn’t know that I was here; a migrant labour perhaps, or some snarly young druggie. Yet I had arrived in daylight, checked the place out and made up my own bed with linen I had brought, and I had seen no sign of any intruder bar a bird that might have got into the attic through a broken skylight and spattered white guano all over the place before dying and decomposing alone.
Well, I figured I had an advantage over the guy while he was engrossed in masturbation so I reached quietly for my bedside lamp, flicked it on and leapt, bollock-naked myself as it happens, to confront — nothing. No one. There wasn’t even another bed in the room, which I had known though the clear sound of creaking springs had overruled my certainty about that in the dark.
I stood there confused. The sound of the bedsprings and panting breath had just increased in a kind of fretful tempo, as in a man who just can’t get there. It continued like the incessant hammering of a beast oblivious to any distraction.
Right. This was clearly a joke of some sort.
The problem with that theory was that no one around here knew me well enough to bother.
I didn’t want to try to sleep near this, so I picked up my bedding to carry it to another room. As I turned off the light I caught sight of someone, dimly outlined; not the wanker from hell but someone else in another part of the room.
I thought it was a woman in a black dress and white frill apron, squatting, a chambermaid on a chamber pot.
I think now that’s exactly what I saw, or the spirit of a young serving maid, her skirt raised and her arse bared as she crouched to relieve herself in a ceramic bowl. And she was looking towards the wanker from hell, or his part of the room, as if indulging him. Well, that may seem to have been a lot to take in at a glance before the image disappeared but that’s what I saw and I would see her again later more clearly.
In the morning I went back to the room to check it for speakers and a projector, any audiovisual equipment that would have enabled a joker or someone with more malicious intent to recreate in my bedroom the sound of a wanking man and the image of a ghostly maid servant having a pee in the night.
There was nothing there that could have replicated those effects.
So I had to stop and think about this. I am a rational and practical man. Someone invisible was wanking in my room, apparently at the sight of a maid on her chamber pot. Well that was behaviour I could comprehend; the only difficulty was that they both appeared to be ghosts.
Old Georgie’s house was about 300 years old. It had been part of an Anglo Irish estate that had been broken up and sold off over the years as family fortunes declined. I was about to execute the final cut by selling the house.
If I knew anything of the common lore about ghosts, the wanker from hell was probably some lecherous old ancestor of mine, perhaps Georgie himself. He had died but been unable to tear himself away from his smutty indulgences. Or maybe someone had put a curse on him and condemned him to wanking fruitlessly for eternity. Or maybe his saintly wife had prayed for his concupiscent soul and made a bargain with God and this was the result, a purgatory of fruitless fist fucking. Or maybe the old buzzard had sold himself to Satan, as the end approached, and pleaded for time to explore his sexual vices further before succumbing to a sulphurous fate.
Who could say? Having read a few ghost stories and listened to Hallowe’en tales around a few Irish firesides myself, I could predict the speculations that my story would prompt. But none of them were going to get rid of him.
That night I resolved to sit awake in the bedroom and see if I could learn more.
I wrapped up warm and settled myself in an easy chair in the corner with a flask of coffee and just a quarter bottle of whisky, there being little point in getting drunk if I was to remember and understand.
At about one, I was wakened from a doze by a creaking of the bed that wasn’t there. He was back.
And then I saw a misty light in the far corner where I had glimpsed the chambermaid on her pot.
This time I saw a woman in a strapless ball gown undressing before a tall mirror. She did not methodically loosen or unstrap each layer but as she moved her hands lightly over buttons and stays, the parts of clothing held together there simply evaporated.
This was not a woman undressing as an actress might on the stage. She was losing her clothes as she might in the mind of a lecherous dreamer who neither knew nor cared how the clothes came away.
And quickly her shoulders and then her breasts were bared. I doubt if the lady of the house in reality, at the end of a long evening, would have lingered to toy with her own breasts as much as this ghostly figure did. She cupped them in her hands and squeezed them, as if she was just getting to know them.
And of course the one who was getting to know those breasts was the one who had conjured them into visibility, the invisible wanker in the bed. Now pumping more ardently on himself.
The lady then waved vaguely towards her skirts and suddenly they were gone and she was standing, briefly in bloomers then naked.
I got a feeling that the wanker had never really seen her like this. For a moment her buttocks were large and then they settled into a fine form as if he had imaginatively readjusted them. Her pubic hair started out as blonde then turned black then faded away and a moment later there was a young man standing there in his riding clothes but he vanished quickly and we were looking at the maid again, hoisting her skirts, and walking about with arse bared, turning around to show off her own rich dark pubic hair and her bare legs.
This, I suspected, was a real memory.
But why was the wanker from hell taking so long to come. I fell asleep bored before answering that question.
To take my story further I must say a little more about myself than I would normally be comfortable sharing.
I regard a hard-on in the morning as a sign of rude health. It does not normally betoken arousal but a robust erection assures me that I have withstood the depletion of encroaching mortality by another day. This confidence gives me great pleasure but as I stood and discarded my nightclothes and stretched myself to enjoy the morning air about me I heard the bed creak again and the ghost wanker stir himself to a brief frenzied effort.
I didn’t like that at all.
I wished I knew more about him. I had assumed he was an old man trying to ring a little bit of life out of a tired and unwilling organ. I did not know this for sure. And why was he wanking at the sight of me? Had my own form stirred him? Perhaps this was a libertine who had, in his day, caroused on both sides of the street.
And then I thought over the ghost images he had summonsed during the night. The maid on her pot had surely teased him when young but the body contours of the lady disrobing had been strangely ill formed, as if this ghost did not really know what a mature woman fully naked looks like. Well, if he could see me I could show him not just my body but anything I liked.
After breakfast I moved my laptop and a small projector into the bedroom and set them up on a small table from which I could display images on that part of the wall nearest where the ghost images had appeared. And then I did a little research, though not much was necessary, for I knew my way around the sites that entertained me on my travels.
When I had what I wanted I took lunch in the kitchen then passed a couple of hours in the old library, acquainting myself with family history.
The ghost wanker presumably had used the room he now hung around in, and whose room was that?
It was not the largest bedroom in the house. I would have been too cold there. This was the one with a large bay window overlooking the gardens. The room I used had traditionally been that of the eldest son, in generations when there had been one, or it had been used by visitors or the brother of the master of the house.
That didn’t help much.
The portraits on the walls showed me all the old wankers who had lived here, mostly Algernons and Walters, but also some lean young men with riding crops. One of them, Thomas, had died of consumption in that room.
So perhaps Thomas was the ghost. I could imagine him slowly wasting there and the chambermaid trying to enliven his days with her antics. Perhaps the lady guest — surely not his mother — had used that mirror while trusting he was asleep or too far gone to notice her.
I settled on this conviction with little real evidence that the ghost wanker was 18-year-old Thomas, that he knew he was dying but that he wanted, yearned for, full sexual gratification before he went.
Well Tommy boy, I’d see what I could do for you.
The first website I took him to was run by a collective of young Texan lesbians. They filmed their playful intimacies on a ranch, dancing about naked in the open air, pairing off to wrestle and tongue each other in the cabins, trying out various sex toys.
The video clips were categorised by the interests to which they appealed from girls masturbating alone to couples, threesomes, leather, spanking and vibrator play.
I tried him out on a clip of a young woman showing us around her bedroom. ‘My name’s Cindy.’ Cindy showed us her wardrobe and her shoes, her swimsuits.
‘Would you like to see me in my bikini?’ And she wrestled her way out of her jeans and vest, then her light bra and thong to pause for a naughty discourse on how she liked a little soft pubic hair. ‘I don’t like to have the kind of bristle you get on a man’s chin down there, unless there is a man behind it.’
The ghost wanker seemed strangely unimpressed with Cindy though I thought she was gorgeous.
So I tried some images of hard fucking, of other young women like Cindy perhaps not getting a chance to enjoy their work so much, unless they relished being gouged and pummelled by heavy muscular men. I suspect that some of the cutaways of the girls slavering over semen drenched cocks were simulated with prosthetics.
Tommy wasn’t sure. I could tell he liked some of what he saw. Then I remembered how he had responded to me that morning and wondered if he was really interested in female flesh at all.
I played him a gay site. The effect was strange at first. He groaned and the chambermaid appeared leering at him, squatting over her pot, inviting him to look closer. Was a ghost maid punishing him for his temptation to lust over men. Was Tommy himself trying to blank out the guilty images that, in fact, most intrigued him?
How he groaned and squirmed! The walls around him creaked, as if the whole building expressed his tension.
I felt it might be safer to leave the room. My presence might be complicating this.
The ghost wanker could now have his deepest yearnings to enjoy alone. And if that wasn’t enough there’d be nothing more I could do but leave him to try and gratify himself to the end of time on childish games with a serving wench or fantasies about a lady undressing a body he’d never seen.
I went downstairs and poured myself a whisky and listened. I sat in the big living room thinking that Cindy would be much better company in this house than poor Tommy who had been trying for a hundred years to enjoy a decent wank.
If he was going to continue to infect this house with his misery then I would never be able to live at peace here or find a buyer. Ghosts are like houseguests; some stay out of your way and are easy to live with. Tommy was the worst kind. I could just imagine some young family trying to explain to their children why he was groaning and fretting and pumping on his ghost bed or why a chambermaid insisted on bearing her bottom in the corner.
A headless old knight walking through walls rattling chains would be much less trouble. You could get used to a ghost who was merely wallowing in misery but not to one who was perpetually striving for orgasm in a spirit body that didn’t provide for that sort of thing.
Above me the rhythm was getting more frantic. Tommy was no longer trying to blank out the images of fisting and fellatio, of well oiled muscular young men parting their arse cheeks for each other, prancing in leathers and cowboy hats. He might be as puzzled by some of the cultural references as by Cindy’s bedroom decor but the impression above me now was of a fully realised male body thrashing on a real bed.
This was no longer the tentative fumbling of a miserable young man trying to get off on the drab pornography of his limited imagination. This was a young man freed into the delirium of unrestrained rapture. The shaking of the whole house told me he was riding himself hard.
Well good for you, Tommy. When he came his roar was like a blast of rampant exultation, then like a wind coursing round the whole house, shuddered off its gloom, then died away with the relief of a death completed and the shaking house fell silent.
I finished my whisky and went up to the room. The projector was still playing images of naked men stroking each other. I shut down the computer and sat and waited to see if the fretful fumbling would start up again.
It didn’t. But I was not alone yet. The lady of the house moved about with her back to me. Then the maid appeared, tidying up now, turning down the ghost bed in which the young man had died.
They would leave now too and I would have the house to enjoy alone, with Cindy perhaps.