It’s all because of the Welsh Revival.
I blink against the sunlight, slapping my face to wake up. This is weird!
Quite bewildering as I am unable to comprehend my circumstances.
How is it possible to be lying on my back across a rocky ledge; with one arm dangling over the cliff, and one leg stretched out on an acute angle? I have no recollection of what lead to this situation.
From where I lie, the view extends the horizon many miles out to sea. Below, the turbulent Atlantic Ocean rushes towards the Goodrich Peninsular. On the eastern side, the Pembrokeshire valleys are being thrashed by the prevailing wind speeding across the hills. Eastward; steep pastures create zig zag patterns, bending this way and that across the rolling, green grassed valleys of the Welsh county. The fishing town and ferry port of Fish guard, is being plummeted by the winds. To the east is the village of pummelled.
This is the predicament; How did I reach this rocky extrusion? As some-how I negotiated the high cliffs. The ledge protrudes like a jetty above the swirling ocean where waves crash against jagged rocks lining the beach.
I study the rock face. How will I claw my way off?
My body hurts, especially the top of my head. Dried blood is congealed on my chin; the result of falling head-first on the rocky surface? Perhaps I over-balanced then fell, landing on the out crop.
Beads of perspiration sliding into my eyes are making me blink. I attempt to lift my leg into a natural position. It responds. Fortunately, it is not broken.
Have I been unconscious for an hour or longer? I don’t recall anything definite.
My scratched fingers touch where my jaw is aching; possibly bruised by the fall. There is rough prickly stubble on my chin, making me wonder when my face last felt the blade. It feels like two days of growth.
I remember, I didn’t shave last night. Too tired to do so. The recollection brings relief as memories are returning.
High above, gulls and terns soaring with the wind are squawking. The loudness and persistence is disturbing me. There is something strange, or surreal about the screeching sound playing through my head. Is it a sea bird or something else?
Unknown forces I don’t understand repeatedly play with my sanity.
‘Someone help me!’
Something or someone is demanding my attention. Perhaps a ghost or spirit? Can’t be, as I don’t believe in ghostly existences. Despite this, a sound reverberates inside my head. I’m overwhelmed with confusion, becoming disorientated.
Warily, I comb the cliffs and rocks looking for the person attempting to attract my attention. I survey the hills in the distant valley; no one is in view.
Again, the entity calls, ‘Daniel. . ., Daniel Mathews. . .’
Now, understanding the words, I reply, ‘Where are you? Who are you?’
It ignores the question. ‘Take your life into your own hands and experience freedom.’
This is my biggest weakness – the problem of freedom. ‘This isn’t the freedom I’m after!’
‘You misunderstand freedom. To be free, step off the ledge towards me.’
‘Towards what? I can’t see anything except the thrashing, crashing ocean below me.
Crazy thoughts torment me. I irrationally consider whether, by stepping off the cliff, I might solve my problems. Perhaps this is the way out, to end the struggle.
My sane mind replies, ‘No, no, no. That is not the way!’
The entity laughs, enjoying my bewilderment. It chortles. Somehow it is aware of the temptation to jump.
‘Leave me alone,’ I scream into the blustery wind. The thumping of my heart drums within my chest.
Plummeted backwards against the cliff, I shieldmyself from the terrifying entity. I can’t see it; only hear it. Is it a ghost after all?
In my homeland, there are myths and legends involving paranormal activity. Stories of ghosts haunting castles, country cottages and pubs, send shivers down my spine.
Welsh families believe in the reality of the Christian God. Calvinist beliefs exclude ghostly experiences. Instead, following the teaching of salvation for some, and eternal damnation in hell for the unchosen.
‘Don’t be scared. For once, take your life into your own hands. I will lead you.’ A hand reaches for my own, extending from clouds forming above me.
Frightened, with my back against the cliff, I shake with alarm, hiding my hands behind my back. Nothing about this is normal. This is as unbelievable as my fathers’ Calvinist beliefs.
The freezing wind whistles and the eerie voice persists. Perhaps I should step towards the ocean and disobey my instincts; to obey the forces driving me to the tip. . ., to the edge . . ., of sanity.
‘I can’t make such a decision!’ I scream.
The ghostly entity urges again, ‘Take control. Make up your mind. Grow up! Be a man.’
‘I want true freedom, not death,’ I mouth, unwilling to challenge the spirit. ‘I want to be a man, but . . . ‘
‘Real men daily face life and death. To die is without sting for those who believe. You can become free. Will you accept this?’
Will I? ‘I’m unsure,’ I question myself. There is something familiar about the words.
‘All it takes is a leap of faith. Just one small step . . .’
With arms outstretched I swing towards the clouds, attempting to drive the words away. What is happening is absurd.
The evil spirits persist, laughing like a crazy woman. ‘Give up fighting. I can’t be driven away. I’m all around you and inside you; you are not your own.’
‘For I have chosen you, so you are mine.’ The words . . ., from Calvinism?
This is the reason for my dilemma. How can these demon spirits know this?
I stand my ground, shouting. ‘Leave me alone!’
The voice changes, taking on a new persona; becoming a feminine voice.
‘Daniel, you were pre-chosen before the creation of time.’
It sounds like my deceased grandmother. This is impossible. A ghost? No; I don’t believe in ghosts of ancestors.
‘Liar . . . I’m not yours. I don’t trust you as I don’t recognise you!’
In response, it laughs an awful mocking laugh. My tortured mind racing. I will seek help from . . ., From whom? At last I know.
‘I want to live. God help me.’
The angel of death pushes hard. It urges, ‘trust me with your life – I am the way, jump from the cliff!’
Defiantly I scream into the blustering wind; ‘Leave me alone! I’ll never worship the devil!’ My allegiance decided.
Around me something changes. It’s unexplainable, but real. Overhead a battle is looming. I imagine it developing into an outright physical storm. Icy wind encircles my body while I cling desperately to rocks. My fingers are white and stiff, as I daren’t move.
Forceful gusts spread sleet like showers of ice at me. I dodge. Until I realise nothing is touching me. My head tells me this is in my mind; not a physical happening.
I loosen my grip on the rock, and hold my head in my hands to hide my eyes and escape the barrage.
Actual waves crash heavily upon the jagged coastline. Bitterly cold waters of the Bristol Channel reach up to drench me. Salt, stinging my eyes, is blinding.
Are the ghosts of the north winds intentionally attempting to drive me over the edge? No, I know my adversary. This is a spiritual battle between good and evil.
By covering my ears to block the voice, it penetrates nonetheless. My mind faces each attack head on, having discovered the power of courage.
‘You can choose.’ This doesn’t ring true.
‘Calvinists preach that only God chooses.’ I reply
The adversary’s tone changes, this time becoming that of a caring, tender, woman.
In imitation of my mother, it soothingly coaxes, ‘Follow me, Danny. Mothers don’t forsake their children. Allow me to hold you in my heart as you are mine.’
‘You are not my mother! Leave me,’ I respond. Her presence dissipates into thin air. All remaining is silence. A vacuum replaces the turmoil.
It is like nothing I’ve experienced, replacing the dark moments of temptation. I bask in the silence, relieved. A pleasant respite quietens my heart, easing the anxiety.
I open my eyes, to witness around me, tremendous crashing thunder-claps rapidly echoing around the hills. The silence is broken by streaks of forked lightning, hurtling from the booming clouds; attacking my body, missing me by inches. Are they real or imagined?
Real . . ., as I am witnessing a raging battle.
Drum rolls transform the heavens into an orchestral chaos. Grey-black clouds thunder across the sky in rapid succession.
Who will win the battle . . ., The evil one or the Lord of the Heavens?