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It was a cold, frosty evening and your breath held in the air like a cloud of smoke. In the grand old house of Leinster, in an office lined with historic pictures of great leaders with the smell of hope, prosperity, history and legacy, sat a man huddled behind an antique golden brown table, beside a flag of green, white and orange. His two large swollen hands clasping his puffed out ruby red cheeks, he stares ahead with resigned, weary and bloodshot eyes. A troubled man, with the weight of the nation on his back, well dressed in a suit with an emerald green tie. He is motionless and thoughtful, deep in reflection, whilst focussed and determined.
The main light is switched off and a lamp on his table shines like a moonbeam onto the stack of papers on the desk. Throughout the corridors outside his door there is little sound or movement, only an echo of the history, through the chambers, halls and offices. An eerie silence almost, with only the odd distant hollow footstep and mumblings from afar. The man startled by a wail, arises from his desk with a fright, his large trembling fingers clasp the doorknob, and slowly but gently turn the handle, ask the door slowly creaks open, a sliver of light draws a line of light into his office, and he emerges into an empty hall, the hall stretches as far as his bespeckled eyes can see, and the walls are lined with portraits of patriots, heroes, legends and leaders.
He walks along the hall, mopping the droplets of sweat from his furrowed, frowning brow, with an immaculate pearl white handkerchief. As he surveys the wall of his empire amid the hallowed halls of history, a wail in the distance, stops him in his tracks, then a boom like a shotgun, fills his whole body with fear and he shakes and he quivers and falls to his knees. As he cowers in fear, trembling and quaking, a soft voice whispers and touches his shoulder, ‘the choice that you make will make you the man, and there’s only one choice by which you can stand!’ His bowed head looks up and there stands a long fella, and over his shoulder is a very big fella! In an instant they are gone, and he’s alone once again, and he figures it’s only a figment of his imagination.
The week has been stressful, and he hasn’t had much sleep, these stressful times can play games with your mind. He walks a little further and past a room that he notices is slightly ajar. He returns to the door and opens it slightly. As he looks inside he can see the back of a dappled leather chair, with the outline of a mans head visible over the top of the chair, the chair spins around and the shadow of a stern and angry man, illuminates, ranting and roaring. The startled and frightened man shuts the door and runs along the corridor, but no matter how far he runs he can’t get to the end of the corridor, exhausted and panting, he collapses to the ground.
He awakes in the long tiered chamber, in his seat sits the little prince, eyes glowing lava red, drilling a hole into the mans eyes, he spits fire, claiming he is the saviour, the little prince who anointed the King, ‘I made you King, you destroyed my Kingdom, I made you, if I hadn’t all would be fine, you turned your back on my, I did nothing wrong, you destroyed it all’, ‘no’ said the man, ‘I didn’t want this you made me do this, I didn’t want it, I didn’t want it!’, screamed the man. The Little Prince, laughed from deep within his stomach, his eyes glowing with fiery pride, ‘I made you, you lost it all, I am the Prince, you were only my servant!’.
The man lay, legs crossed in the middle of the floor, looking around, on the benches sat the long fella, a hurler on the ditch legs crossed smoking a pipe, and a man of mature reflection, they stared long and hard, pale and disappointed, determined they walked towards the man, arms outstretched and fingers pointing, the sweat poured down his face, his knees trembling and his mind racing, the man shut his eyes, and as he opened them, they were gone and he was alone! Silence, but for a murmur, that grew louder, then louder, then from the benches around him, appeared, a handful, then two dozen, then more and more, hands, arms, legs and limbs of body’s, clawing and grabbing at the terrified man, tearing and clawing at his skin, scratching his face, ripping his clothes, whilst chanting a low mantra, ‘go, go, go, go, go…’, surrounded and smothered by hundreds and hundreds, a mass of bodies, the man tries to speak, to explain, to escape, to reason, to argue, but he can’t move, or speak, or walk or run. He is surrounded and smothered and disappears.
It ends, it is over, he awakes in his office, touches the flag, gently with his hand, walks past the paintings of the past, stares through the mirror beside an ancient text, looks deep inside, sighs deeply, rubs his hands through his hair, buttons his jacket and straightens his tie, looks deep into his own eyes, and turns and closes the door for the last time.
The Ghosts of Leinster House by Darragh Breheny O’Donovan.