I moved out to the country not too long ago, having lived in the city for quite some time, and you'd probably expect me to be all ready to tell you some ghost story about the supposed "Witch's Stone" next to our house or the stretch of road the locals call Starvation Way.
Truth is these are all common stories; folklore that every rural area has. No, the story I want to share with you concerns the city I left behind...the busy streets...the cars and crowds...lights and noise...this is where my story began.
You would hardly expect the paranormal to enter your life when you were walking down a busy high street, with several tourists shoving past you at high speed and an over-zealous charity worker trying to stop you with offers to help the poor and needy.
The local McDonald's was packed as usual, and just outside the doors stood an all too familiar sight on the crowded city streets: a drunken man wearing a cap and shaking his plastic cup while mumbling "...Spare change?"
I didn't pay the man much notice as I went on my business. Beggars were common and I was in a hurry. The others in the crowd did the same, as the drunken man just stood and shook his plastic cup and continued mumbling.
I kept walking along until the busy high street ended and moved to a quieter area. By no means deserted, I don't think it is possible for a big city to have a place like that. At any rate I noticed a familiar figure as I moved down the quiet street.
The sound of a familiar mumbling, and the shaking of a plastic cup. "...Spare change?" I gave the man a glance, as if to assure myself I wasn't seeing things. As I did so, his eyes momentarily locked with mine. They seemed dead to the world, but I quickly shook it off.
Ignoring the shiver that ran down my spine, I decided the best thing to do was keep moving. I was too old to believe in ghost stories, and even if it was strange, the man didn't seem to be doing any harm.
I felt my heart begin to beat faster as an unexplainable feeling of dread began to come over me as I hurried down the street. The crowds seeming to slow down as my mind raced. The more I tried to stay calm, the more I could feel myself being drawn into a panic.
I found it hard to contain myself; my knees becoming shaky as I kept getting a horrible feeling of something following me. Each time I turned around, there was nothing but the crowds of passersby.
Eventually, I stopped dead in my tracks as a familiar man appear in front of me, shaking his plastic cup in my face. His dead eyes staring into my own as he flashed a smile filled with slightly rotten teeth. The smell of cheap alcohol sufficient to enter my lungs as he muttered, "...Spare change?"
I couldn't take it any more, I instinctively lashed out at the figure. Not to harm him, just to shove him out the way so I could flee. Yet as soon as I was about to touch him, the figure winked slightly and vanished, leaving me in the midst of a confused crowd, who had stopped and gathered around me, some asking me if I was alright or if this was some kind of joke.
I felt sick to my stomach and decided to get a cab home. After resting for a few hours, I felt my fear and anxiety change to deep embarrassment over how I had seemingly freaked out like that in front of everyone.
I continued to live in the city for a few months after that incident and never had any problems. By the time I moved to the country, I had grown to accept that something strange had happened, but I wasn't going to question it any further.
In the country, we don't need to worry about beggars, and the only crime the local police have dealt with in recent times was a case involving a dog biting a local mail man. All in all, I'd say I did pretty well with my life.
However, if you happen to live in a big city and see an old man in a cap with a plastic cup asking for spare change, perhaps you'd better just give him what he wants. I mean, what's the worst that could happen?