All of a sudden it’s autumn. When I wake up in the morning the sun is still sleeping. I don’t mind getting up when it is still dark. I like to watch the world wake up around me and see the sunrise. An autumn sunrise is breathtaking. It illuminates the vivid red and gold leaves on the trees. The wind rustling through the leaves is one of my favourite sounds. It’s also the season of one of my favourite smells. Petrichor. This is a good word. It means the earthy smell after rain falls on dry earth. After a long, hot summer, the autumn rain has left a pleasant aroma in the air. I am still far from home, but the familiar sights, sounds and smells make me feel a little less homesick.

This time of year is exciting because it is almost Halloween. I’ve been spending lots of time at Castle Nod helping my new friends decorate for the Trick or Treat Halloween Ball. King Otto has decided to end the party with a big fireworks display. I have been given the particular task of adding Halloween decorations to the garden so it looks just as spooky outside as it does inside. I have spent the week wrestling giant cobwebs onto the trees and shrubs around the garden. As a finishing touch, I have added bat-shaped fairy lights. Decorating the gardens was more challenging than I expected and took longer than I thought it would, or maybe it’s just that it gets dark earlier now too.

It was my last day of decorating the garden; it was now looking spooktacular. I was hanging the last string of bat lights when I suddenly realised I’d never seen a bat. Do you know a fifth of all mammals living on Earth are bats? That’s when I decided to go on a bat hunt. Bats like to nest in the hollows of old trees and sleep in the roofs of old buildings. Castle Nod is built at the top of a hill; it’s surrounded by ancient, magical woodlands with giant oak trees, ash trees and silver birch. This has got to be the best place to spot a bat, but was it best to stay close to the castle or move closer to the trees?

I was pondering this decision when something caught my eye. Whatever it was, was crossing the leaf-strewn lawn towards the tree line. The lights from inside the castle only illuminated part of the garden, it was much darker near the trees. The form was a hazy, fuzzy shape, too difficult to make out clearly. I forgot about the bats for a moment.

“Hello,” I called out loudly.

The blurred shape paused for a moment before gliding away. I could feel the flapping of butterfly wings in my tummy. A mixture of nerves and excitement. People don’t glide! Had I just caught a glimpse of a ghost? I thought ghosts were just characters in stories which now seems silly. The world is full of amazing things that can’t be explained. I should know, I’m a magical travelling doll that discovered portals to places most people wouldn’t have the imagination to dream about.

I ran as fast as my little legs would carry me across the lawn towards the trees.
I called out again, “hello”.
This time I got a reply. I couldn’t be sure at first, it sounded like a whisper shushing me.
“Be quiet, you will frighten them.”
My heart was hammering loudly in my chest. I couldn’t believe my eyes! In front of me was a ghost, almost invisible in the dimming light of dusk but still, she shimmered. A shift in the air, a little like on a hot day when you can see the heat rising off the road. Also, nothing like that at all.
“Be quiet and make yourself useful,” instructed the little ghost.
“Excuse me,” I replied. I was a little startled by the ghost speaking to me in such a bossy tone. “I’m trying to count the bats living in that tree. It’s hard to count them, not because I can’t count, but because they leave the tree so quickly. With all their wings flapping, it all becomes a bit of a blur. Well, you will see it in a moment. Don’t just stand there with your mouth hanging open,” instructed the little ghost.

As I stood there her shimmer started to shift. A little like glitter swirling, the ghost had started to take on a more solid form. I followed her instructions and closed my mouth and prepared (as best I could) to start counting bats. Suddenly, the air around us was filled with the fluttering motion of flapping wings. The little ghost had been right, I tried to count as fast as I could but it was impossible to tell one bat from another, they moved so quickly as they exited the tree. In the next moment, they were gone.

“How many did you count?” asked the little ghost.
“I don’t know. Maybe 15. Is that right?” I replied hesitantly.
“I don’t know, I do this almost every night, I’m no closer to an accurate answer,” she exclaimed disappointedly.
“Can’t ghosts see in the dark?” I asked.
“Being a ghost doesn’t mean you have better night vision. You can sort of see in the dark. Well sort of, but just the same way that most people can see in the dark. That’s why ghosts bump around so much, we knock into furniture, especially if you keep moving it.” She explained.
I thought about it for a moment. Her explanation made sense. That must be where the saying comes from “things that go bump in the night.” They just need torches so they can see.
The little ghost had started to shimmer again, she was almost invisible.
“Wait, don’t go, I’ve never met a ghost before.” I pleaded to no one.
Then I felt a prickly sensation on my skin, not a cold feeling but more like static electricity. Boo, I’m behind you” the little ghost laughed a cheerful sing-song laugh, not a scary laugh as you might have expected from a ghost.

I still jumped a little. I wasn’t expecting her to loudly whisper “boo” in my ear. The little ghost held out her hand and introduced herself. She is called Dotty. I went to shake her hand and of course, it went straight through hers. I don’t know what I was expecting, it just felt a bit cold and tingly, but only for a second. She laughed much louder this time. I know that ghosts have a reputation for being scary, but Dotty is an adorable ghost and she has so many stories.

We started to walk back across the lawn together, I walked, and Dotty just glided. She explained that autumn is her favourite season. Not for the reasons that I like autumn. Dotty likes autumn because of the dark evenings and gloomy rainy days, apparently, these are the perfect conditions for scaring people. That is her favourite thing to do as a ghost. Not big scares, just little scares. She’s not an unfriendly ghost. On gloomy days she makes herself just visible enough so visitors and guests at the castle might think they’ve seen something but won’t be sure. Dotty doesn’t make herself fully visible, just a glimmer so people don’t know what they are seeing. Most people don’t see her at all. She likes to get really close to them so their skin goes all goosebumpy. Dotty especially loves autumn because she loves Halloween. It takes her a lot of energy to appear solid but it is always much easier on All Hallows Eve. Like me, she has been looking forward to King Otto’s Trick or Treat Halloween Ball. Her favourite thing about haunting Castle Nod besides the visitors is all the parties. She even loves the party preparations. It is the perfect opportunity to get up to some mischief. The reason that I hadn’t seen Dotty out in the garden until my final day decorating is that she had been inside the castle hiding things and finding fun ways to spook my friends. Whispering hello in their ears had some funny results. Dotty isn’t the only ghost she is the most mischievous ghost living at the castle.

Dotty has promised to introduce me to some of her ghost friends at the Halloween Ball. Her top tip for telling a real ghost from someone wearing a costume for Halloween is to look at their feet. Even though Halloween makes it easier for ghosts to appear solid it is difficult to maintain that form for very long. If you can’t see their feet they are a ghost or they might be wearing a long dress. It’s not an exact science.
So this is how I met my first ghost and got to see my first bat. Now I just need to pick my costume for the ball. I went as a witch last year. Maybe I’ll go as a ghost or a vampire. I haven’t decided yet.
Happy Halloween.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s