Damn the blackness! Damn the rain and the wind! Damn that puncture! Damn my forgetting to fix the spare tyre! Damn my addiction to the Rocky Horror Show! Damn the River Nile! Oh, sorry, that’s been done already.
Oh, and while I’m at it, damn that fork in the road that caused me to become hopelessly lost on my way back from Athlone. If I hadn’t have lost concentration trying to figure out what a piece of cutlery was doing in the middle of the road, I would still be safely driving on the N4 instead of some overgrown cattle track.
At least I didn’t have, nor need, a Janet in the car to suggest brightly, “Didn’t we see a light back there?” I’d seen them all right. Four bright lights, shining out of the blackness of the Westmeath bogland, like welcoming beacons. And, as I slid and squelched towards them in the driving rain, I earnestly prayed that I would find someone there to aid me in my plight. Although who I would find at midnight on the last day of October was anybody’s guess.
As I passed through a spooky copse that lay on my direct route, I came across three vile old hags hunched over what could only be described as a cauldron. That’s not exactly true, because it could also be described as a big soup pot, but you know what I mean.
“Stop!” they called out in unison. Unfortunately, I did not understand unison, so they repeated their demand in English. This time I got the message and halted.
“By Beelzebub!” cried out one, “What do you wish to know?”
I thought for a while and then said, “Tell me, you decrepit old crone, when will Rovers next win the Cup?”
The three witches stirred the broth with giant spoons and cackled maniacally.
“Not till Paul Doolin goes to the barbers,” quoth one.
“Not till Pat Dolan can get through the turnstiles at Richmond,” quoth another.
“Not till Jackman Park is full to overflowing,” quoth the third.
I pondered their cryptic remarks. “Not for quite a long time then?” I ventured. “Thank you, fair ladies,” and I rubbed my hands gleefully as I hurried on my way.
Emerging out of the far side of the eerie copse, I could see that the four bright beacons were in fact four giant floodlights at each corner of a dilapidated old stadium with the words “Welcome to Flan-scare Park” written in blood on the walls. I gulped nervously, which, truth be told, has always been my preferred method of gulping, and pushed my way through the rusty turnstile.
The sight that met my eyes as I ascended the steps made my blood run cold. A football match was in progress, but my eyes were drawn instinctively to the crowd. It seemed that the stands were packed to the rafters with thousands of misshapen, zombie-like mutants and miscreants, like thirty thousand Kevin Kilbanes, all baying for blood. Hurriedly, I spied an empty seat next to a headless horseman [or he could have been a horseless headman – the point being I was too afraid to look.] and plonked myself down trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. The sad thing was that I seemed to blend in rather well.
“What’s the score?” he asked in a hoarse voice.
I glanced up at the scoreboard. “Boo-hemians 3 St. Bats 2” I read out loud, scarcely believing the dreadfulness of the puns.
The game appeared to be nearing the full-time whistle. As I watched, the Fourth Dimension Official held up a board with a blood red “4” on it. The two managers leapt out of their dugouts and began exhorting their teams to greater efforts. “More backbone! More backbone!” screamed the Boos manager, Jonathan Spook, at his gangling skeleton of a centre forward. “Show some spirit!” yelled Bats’ manager, Demon Richardson, as Witchie Baker ghosted past the Bats left back. And then I saw him!
Standing motionless in the centre of the pitch, he was dressed from head to foot in black. A cruel smile played about his evil lips, then got bored and started playing about his ears instead. He had about him the air of supreme authority, the air of a man who wields supreme power. Cloven-hoofed and wielding a three-pronged fork, his dark bottomless eyes revealed nothing of the thousands of years of terror that his reign had caused. A cold sweat came over me and I clutched my crotch in terror as I recognised him –Hugo Whoriskey!
As I watched, transfixed, he raised the whistle to his bloodless lips and emitted a loud piercing shriek that surely raised the souls of the dead from their slumber. Half the stadium erupted in howls of approbation while the other half slunk mournfully away, save for one young vampire, who foolishly started to sing, “Who’s the bastard in the black?” before being transformed into a large slug. The headless horseman beside me galloped excitedly down the stone steps and crashed necklong into a steel pylon.
Ghosts and ghouls swooped and dived above the stadium in a cackling cacophony of whooping noises. It was all getting too much for me. My head whirled, like that young one in “The Exorcist,” and the last thing I remember was a giant white ghost telling everyone that he was the Referee’s In-spectre.
And then I think I must have passed out, for the next thing I remember was waking up in a field with a member of the drugs squad performing a rectal search on me, Your Honour.