Y Ladi Wen – The White Lady

This is a Hallowe’en story inspired by Welsh traditions and folklore.

There are some lines of Welsh spoken, but it will be either translated or contextualised.

It won’t matter if you don’t know any Welsh, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to pronounce it.

Please enjoy.


Evan awoke to the sound of fireworks. They had been going off for weeks in the lead up to Bonfire Night.Remember, remember, the fifth of November. Not much chance of forgetting. That was still a few days away, but tonight was as good a reason as any to set them off: Hallowe’en.

That was if he hadn’t slept through it already. What time was it?

Explosions of green and red lit up the room, and Evan remembered with a groan that he was still at the office. He had fallen asleep at his desk. Again.

He nudged the mouse and his monitors lit up. His movements activated the motion sensors, and the strip lights in his section of the office flickered into life too. He was alone. The clock in the bottom corner of his monitor told him it was 19:27. He had made coffee little more than half an hour ago so he couldn’t have been asleep all that long. The coffee sat untouched and cold amid a teetering stack of paperwork to his side.

He wondered again if it was worth working so many late nights if he was just going to fall asleep and not get any work done. It didn’t help that when he did drag himself home to bed, a decent night’s sleep eluded him. More often, he would lie awake for hours, unable to settle.

When he did sleep, he had the nightmare. Nothing as common as turning up late for work or being naked in front of a crowd. He longed for something so simple. No, in his nightmare he was stalked by a creature, a monster, and not some unseen figment in his peripheral vision that his unconscious mind merely convinced itself was there. He saw it. It was a pig. A bizarre, enormous, hairy black sow. It had huge, curved tusks, one of which was broken. It was covered in scars, and it was missing its tail. It had fire in its eyes, and smoke leaked from the corners of its mouth. It looked the same every time, it made itself known to him, and then it hunted him relentlessly until he woke up.

The dream probably lasted a matter of seconds in the final moments of sleep, but Evan felt like it consumed the whole night and, fed by fatigue, he carried the fear with him in the day too. A chill ran down his spine and he glanced around the office as another volley of fireworks illuminated his surroundings. He was still alone, but the shadows at the far end of the open plan office space were ominous and deep. Time to go home. He gulped the cold cup of coffee and set about wrapping up what little extra work he had achieved.

After shuffling the papers on his desk into piles that would cause him the least anxiety the following morning, Evan closed half a dozen spreadsheets, then took a deep breath before clicking back to his e-mails. There was an automated corporate communication that he deleted with barely a glance and some satisfaction, and nothing else worth wasting any time over. The only other open mail was one that had lived in his Drafts folder for years, that he stared at wistfully from time to time. It was his resignation, and it hinted at a life where he didn’t work late and fall asleep at his desk. He still remembered a time when he had liked his job though, only his workload had seemed to continue growing as long as he had worked there. He gave his resignation serious consideration on particularly difficult days — more frequently, it seemed, of late — but he usually convinced himself that the status quo was preferrable. That was, on those occasions where he did not simply become so distracted by the work that he forgot

the e-mail altogether. He sighed and closed it.

As he tried to log off, his computer started installing updates. Typical. Still, better to sort now, than deal with it in the morning. Deciding to wash out his coffee cup while the computer did its thing, Evan made his way across the office space, the motion-controlled lights chasing away the shadows as he went.

The office opened into a reception area where lifts and stairs led to a lobby and five floors of similar offices below, and one above. The top floor of the building was built as a wide, open conference space that could be used as needed by the businesses in the building but stood empty most of the time. Evan’s colleagues often took their breaks up there and mingled with the building’s other employees. Evan did not take many breaks. He could hear music and voices drifting faintly out of the stairwell. One of the other businesses must be hosting a Hallowe’en party. Evan supposed that was a better reason to still be in the building at this time.

He entered the small kitchenette off to one side, washed and dried his cup, and stowed it in a cupboard. Then he splashed water on his face, which did no worse at waking him up than the coffee had.

He strode back out towards his desk and was halfway across the space before he realised that the lights had clicked off and were not coming back on. He looked around. It wasn’t fully dark thanks to a few lights shining in through the windows from neighbouring buildings, but it seemed the air outside was thick with smoke from fireworks, and no more bright explosions were forthcoming. Inside, the shadows closed in, deeper and more unnerving than before. At first, he thought the power had cut out, but across the room his computer monitors glowed dimly like a lighthouse in fog. Evan had slowed, but not stopped walking. Lights or no lights, he needed to get back to his desk before he could leave. His keys, phone and wallet were in the pockets of his jacket which hung over the back of his chair.

He made his way more carefully between the desks. His eyes should have been adjusting to the low light, but it seemed to be getting even darker. Surely, it was his imagination. Working too late and getting too little sleep had him all but jumping at shadows. As he neared his workstation, his monitors clicked off, and the last glimmer of light disappeared.

Evan stopped instinctively. The darkness was accompanied by a deep silence. He considered calling out, but he suddenly thought about being in the nightmare, opening his mouth but unable to make a sound. He was awake now. If he was dreaming, he wouldn’t be thinking about dreaming, but he kept his mouth shut.

Evan stood staring into the dark. The silence was so complete that the sound of his own breathing was deafening. It seemed to be coming from all around him. As he started to edge closer to his desk, the sound got louder. He felt uneasy but was not exerting himself. When he gulped down one deep breath, he finally realised that the loud breathing surrounding him was not his own. Something else was here. Someone, surely, rather than something. Perhaps someone from the upstairs party playing a drunk Hallowe’en prank.

Evan took another deep breath and was about to call out when two small lights appeared in the darkness behind his desk. They flickered like candle flames, but they looked to Evan like something that he was all too familiar with. Something they couldn’t be. Something that literally kept him awake at night. The flaming eyes of a nightmare.

There was an explosion of fireworks outside, and everything lit up. Evan flinched. The pig did not. The room was bathed in a multitude of colours, but the light that touched the hairy, black hide of the hideous creature seemed to be swallowed up, making it look more like a shadow. But it was there. Evan’s mind raced, and his heart pounded. Now, his breathing was loud, but didn’t begin to cover up the horrific snarling emanating from the monster before him.

Evan stumbled backwards, then turned and stumbled forwards. Behind him, the creature let out a sickening squeal. When Evan found his footing, he ran.

He hurtled across the office as fast as he could with the darkness closing in once more around him. Afraid to even slow down, much less stop, Evan ignored the lifts and followed the sliver of light peeking out from the side as he crashed into the dimly lit stairwell. He should have headed down. He should have leaped from landing to landing to the bottom and got out of the building, but he wasn’t thinking clearly, if at all. The stairs right in front of him presented a different choice. He went up.

He took the steps two at a time. He didn’t dare to look behind, but as he turned across the first landing, he caught sight of the black mass filling the space below. Even with his pulse pounding in his ears, he could still hear it clambering up behind him, and that putrid smoke spewed from its mouth and nostrils with every grunt and snort.

Almost falling over the last step, Evan burst through the door onto the top floor. The reception area here was separated from the conference space that could be entered by a double door. Evan was alone in the space and the doors were closed, with the sounds of the party muted on the other side. Evan stopped, not knowing how to proceed because, of all things, he hadn’t been invited to the party. If he ran into the room and wasn’t followed by a huge demon pig, he would look like a lunatic. If it did follow him, he might get a whole room of people mauled, or eaten, or whatever the hell the thing wanted to do to him.

Without thinking, Evan ran to the far end of the reception area where a door led outside onto a balcony that ran the length of this floor and looked out over the city. The partygoers would be able to see him, illuminated by the lights inside, through the large windows, but luckily nobody else was out enjoying the night air. Evan heard the door slam shut behind him, but he didn’t know if he had come through it alone, or if the people inside were about to watch him die. There was nowhere else to run.

He didn’t want to look behind, so Evan pressed himself against the railing and stared into the night.

He waited.


No tusks. No smoke. No demonic squealing. All he heard was distant fireworks on the wind, and traffic in the street below.

The creature was probably sat the other side of the door waiting for him. He was barely ready to run again. He certainly wasn’t prepared to fight it. If it wasn’t going to follow him onto the balcony, though, he would accept the temporary reprieve.

Evan looked over the railing. Nine stories below, the street swam in his vision. He didn’t mind heights but, between the tiredness, the fear, and the adrenaline flooding his body, he wasn’t immune to vertigo. There was no danger of falling over, of course, but he felt sick and dizzy.

“Don’t jump,” came a woman’s voice from his side. She must have come out from the party through the other door.

More afraid for her than himself, Evan glanced away from her towards the door he came through. If his pursuer came now, he would have put more than himself at risk.

“It’s alright,” said the woman, “she’s gone.”

Evan’s voice croaked. “You saw it?”

“Not quite, but I always know when she’s hunting. She really has it in for you, Evan.”

There was a familiar, almost fond tone to her voice, but it was the use of his name that finally drew Evan’s attention to the mysterious woman. Who was she? What was happening? Should he still be afraid? Should he still be running? He had a million questions, but did he really want any of the answers?

Anything other than a giant demon pig would have been a welcome sight to Evan as he turned, but if there existed a woman who was the complete opposite, this was her. She was dressed all in white. A white dress that hugged her curves and cinched at the waist with a pleated skirt that fluttered in the breeze. She wore white stockings and white high heels. She even wore a white neckerchief and white gloves up to her elbows. There was something at once both modern and vintage about the look. Evan didn’t recognise her from the building. Not that he spent much time around anyone else, but if he had seen her once, he would remember her.

“Eyes up here, Evan,” she said, and he looked to find her appraising him with seeming amusement. Her eyes sparkled and her golden hair shimmered in the light from inside as she leaned against the door jamb.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I’m Gwen,” she returned with a smile.

Evan stared, waiting for that to mean something. “I-I think I’m going to need more than a name.”

“Why don’t you come inside, and I’ll explain.”

“Isn’t that thing still in there?”

Gwen tilted her head towards the side of the balcony and Evan followed her gaze. He looked down towards the ground again. The street was empty, except for directly below, where the creature paced back and forth glaring up at him. He could barely see the fire in its eyes, but when it squealed, it felt like it bore directly into his brain.

“Is it expecting me to jump?”

“No, she’s guarding the front door.”

“We can’t leave,” Evan realised, a hollow pit forming in his stomach. There was no other way out of the building.

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” Gwen replied with a calmness that was having the opposite effect on Evan. “So, come on inside for a while. Get a drink. Wait it out.”

Evan glanced through the windows into the party, considering it properly for the first time. “What about everybody else? We have to tell all these people they’re in danger of being eaten, or whatever the fuck, if they try to leave. Are we all supposed to just get a drink and wait it out?”

Gwen stepped towards him and reached up to place her hands on either side of his face. Her fingers were cold despite the gloves, and Evan’s breath caught, stopping his rant. He covered one of her hands with his. Each real sensation he felt was a new reminder that he wasn’t still asleep, dreaming at his desk. He already knew for sure that he wasn’t, but not all that long ago he had also known for sure that nightmares didn’t just come to life.

“What the fuck is happening?” he asked quietly.

Her eyes searched his face. “Nobody else is in danger, Evan. You can come inside, and they’ll all be safe. I’m afraid yr Hwch Ddu Gwta is only interested in you.”

“Er, what?”

“Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta. The tailless black sow.”

“Right,” said Evan with almost a laugh. “That’s certainly a fair description. I’m sorry, I haven’t done any Welsh since school, so unless you tell me it’s raining, or that you like playing rugby, I’m lost.”

“Mae’n bwrw glaw,” she said.

“That’s the one,” Evan agreed, before realising it was indeed starting to rain. Gwen didn’t say anything else. She just took him by the hand, then waited until he finally let her lead him inside.

A few heads turned as they entered but their presence was not challenged. Evan recognised a few people as employees of the Pomona Foundation, which was some kind of charity consultancy on the third floor. The dress code appeared to be smart casual, so Evan, despite presumably looking a little worse for wear after running for his life earlier, at least wasn’t underdressed. He was in his shirt and suit trousers, but his jacket was still downstairs with his tie tucked into the inside pocket.

The room was too big really for the number of people in attendance. Most were spread around in small groups, and others were off to the side dancing to the music that came from speakers dotted about. A buffet was set up on tables against one wall, and there was a corner that appeared to be dedicated to Hallowe’en party games, with several people laughing at two men leaning over a barrel bobbing for apples.

In the middle of the room was what looked like a bonfire. The fire itself was made from long pieces of paper in red, orange and yellow, that billowed atop a large fan built into a pit filled with stones. It was hardly the most improbable thing Evan had seen tonight, but he was impressed by it all the same.

“Pomona’s boss knows how to put a party together,” said Evan.

“Enid Halston,” said Gwen. “She’s around somewhere.”

“Is she a friend of yours?”

“You could say that.”

“Is that why you’re here?”

“No, Evan. I’m here for you. Would you like to dance?”

“I think I’d rather talk. What do you mean you’re here for me?”

Gwen flashed a disarming smile and pulled him towards the makeshift dancefloor. “Let’s talk while we dance. I won’t hurt you, unless I accidentally step on your toes.” When Evan still hesitated, she added, “if you’re most afraid to dance with me, you’re welcome to take your chances with our friend downstairs. Maybe she’s more your type? She does have an impressive rear end, and ten nipples. And she does want to eat you, which could be enjoyable, while it lasts.”

“What about you, Gwen? Do you want to eat me?”

She raised her eyebrows at him. “Let’s dance first and see how we go from there.”

Evan gave in and placed his hands on her waist as she wrapped her arms around his neck, and they swayed to a slow song.

“Do you know what tonight is?” Gwen asked after a minute.


“Yes, among other things. Around these parts, it’s also known as Noson Galan Gaeaf. The night before the start of winter. Traditionally, people would gather to celebrate around a bonfire.” She nodded towards the imitation fire across the room. “When the fire burned down, they would run home, believing the last to return would have their souls eaten by a spirit in the form of a tailless black sow.”

“Not so much a myth then,” Evan interjected, “but I’m not sure how that applies to me.”

“There are many spirits in our world, and most are experienced by humans on a daily basis as omens, or feelings, or superstitions. Tonight, on Noson Galan Gaeaf, or Hallowe’en, or Samhain, spirits are allowed to take form and move through the mortal world, but they may only manifest as an extension of their abstract concept.”

“So, that’s the abstract concept of a soul-eating pig?”

“She is the feeling of dread you get when you know you’re not where you’re supposed to be.”

“Like at this party I wasn’t invited to?”

“No, Evan. Like asleep at your desk late in the evening at a job you have hated for years.”

The music changed to something a bit livelier, but they continued to dance slowly around in a circle. Evan subconsciously tightened his grip on Gwen’s waist, and she held him closer in response.

“How long have you wanted to leave your job?” she continued quietly. “And how long have you been having nightmares about her? She has been feeding off you for ages.”

“How do you know so much about it?”

“There is another version of the old legend. Instead of a black sow, there is a woman in white who appears to scare people and chase them home. Those are my more successful endeavours, where they only saw me, and were spared from her altogether.”

“You’re a spirit too?” he asked, and she nodded into his shoulder.

“Remember when you were out on the balcony, and you looked down? You couldn’t have fallen but were afraid all the same. That was me breathing down your neck. I am but one of many spirits who warn people of danger. I am the fear you feel that stops you from putting yourself in harm’s way.”

Evan held her a little tighter still. “I actually feel safe with you. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. Thanks for saving my life a billion times, I suppose.”

“You’re welcome.” She tilted her head up and planted a kiss on his cheek. There was an immediate chill that made him shiver when her lips first made contact, but then her kiss was soft and warm against his skin.

Evan felt a lightness growing in him. He was even starting to enjoy the dancing. He still had a million questions but was mostly content with the answers he had already been given. The pig-spirit had been feeding off him and filling his head with shadows for months, maybe years. Being close to Gwen was like holding up a torch to the darkness.

“Evan? Is that a rock in your pocket, or are you just enjoying yourself?”

“Oh, god, sorry,” he stammered, stepping back. She gave him that ironic raised-eyebrows-tilted-head look, and he patted his thigh to discover there was something in his pocket. He reached in and pulled out a round white stone, that fit neatly into the palm of his hand. It was smooth and strangely cool to the touch. He turned it over to find his name ornately inscribed on it.

Evan gave Gwen his hopeless more answers, please look and, with a nod, she steered him away from the dancefloor.

“Drink?” she asked, snatching two glasses of sparkling wine off the buffet table as they crossed the room. She handed one to Evan, which he promptly downed, then she handed him the second.

They crossed to the ‘bonfire’, which was more impressive up close. It was lit from inside, but the way the paper flames moved over each other made it flicker like real fire. The stones that filled the pit around the fire were similar to Evan’s. They were smooth and round, in various sizes, all with names written on them. There was a multitude of colours — greys and reds and browns — but there was one other white stone near the middle. Evan leaned over to look at the name on it.

“Enid Halston.”

“Present,” said another woman’s voice to Evan’s other side, and he turned to find an elegant looking grey-haired lady. It was the party host, boss of the Pomona Foundation. “I’m Enid,” she continued. “You must be Evan. I’m glad you could make it.”

“Uh, thanks,” Evan replied. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t invited.”

She laughed. “Oh, my dear. I didn’t mean I was glad you could make it to our little shindig, though you are very welcome, all the same. I meant I was glad you could make it to the rest of your life. That’s no small achievement once yr Hwch Ddu Gwta has her sights set on you.”

“You know about it too? Is everybody some kind of spirit?”

Another laugh. “Poor Evan. I know, it can take a while to wrap your head around it. Alas, I am a mere human like yourself. I too was once in very much the wrong place in my life until one rather unpleasant Hallowe’en night, a long time ago now. Luckily, y Ladi Wen was there for me that night.”

“Er Laddy what?” asked Evan.

“Dear me, and I thought they taught Welsh properly in schools these days. Y Ladi Wen. The White Lady.” She gestured to Gwen, who waved.

“Right, I probably could have worked that one out,” replied Evan. “It has been a while since school though. I probably aged about ten years in the last half hour, but I wasn’t all that young to start with.”

“Well, you’re a darn sight younger than me, my boy,” retorted Enid.

“And you’re both considerably younger than I,” offered Gwen.

“You both look great for your age, so I guess it all shakes out,” said Evan with half a laugh. Enid scoffed and waved him away, but Gwen smiled and squeezed his hand. Evan suddenly realised he had been thinking of Gwen as near to his age, rather than maybe hundreds of years older — if age even applied to spirits representing human superstitions. Knowing the truth — difficult as it was to believe — didn’t make her any less beautiful. She looked younger than him, if anything. Especially since he had for months felt older than he was.

“Evan, add your stone to the Coelcerth — to the bonfire,” Enid offered.

As he placed it among the others, Gwen explained, “when the fire burned out, the people would run home before the spirits appeared, but they would also have written their names on stones and left them around the fire. In the morning, they checked the stones. If your stone was burned clean, that was a sign of good luck. If your stone was missing, it was believed you would die within the year.”

“Now you’re wondering why your stone magically appeared, and whether you’ll be dead within the year,” Enid added bluntly, and Evan nodded. “Everybody has a stone, Evan. Only those of us who have been touched by the White Lady or one of her kind can see them. The rest of these, with the names of my friends and colleagues are just aesthetic for the tradition, but yours and mine are true. As for what yours will tell you. Worry about not having your soul eaten tonight, then come and talk to me in the morning.” She patted his arm sympathetically, but Evan thought he probably preferred her tell-it-like-it-is attitude.

“Now,” said Enid, “dear Gwen has one night of freedom, and you’re pretty much here for the duration, Evan. So, no more stories. Eat. Drink. Enjoy yourselves. Try the hors d’oeuvres: there’s a deconstructed toffee apple which is pretentious as hell, but totally delicious.” Then she turned and walked away.

“I like her,” said Evan as they helped themselves at the buffet. The food was indeed delicious, and another drink went down nicely.

“She’s one of the good ones,” Gwen smiled. “After centuries of trying to save people from becoming pig food, I must confess I usually only fight for the good ones now.”

“Why did you make an exception for me then?” asked Evan.

She frowned. “You are one of the good ones.”

“But I’m not the boss of a charitable organisation like Enid. I’m just an idiot office worker with poor time management.”

Gwen took his hands in hers and stared at his face. Her gloved fingers were still somehow cold at first, then warm. “Ask Enid sometime where she was when we met. Let’s say it was far less noble that doing voluntary unpaid overtime like you. But I knew then who she could be, what she could achieve. I see you as someone who always does more than their fair share. You give more and you take less.”

“So, now you’re saying that working late is a good thing, but that’s also what drew that monster to me.”

“If you worked nine to five, and took your lunch breaks, I think you might still be doing more work than most of your colleagues,” she said, and it was a thought that had occurred to Evan, though he would never voice it. “It doesn’t make you a bad person to think that, if it’s true. You’re a good man, Evan. You have good to spare. It could be put to far better use and take far less from you besides.”

“What the hell am I doing?” Evan mused. “I was almost eaten by a demon pig, I’ve slow danced with an immortal spirit, and now I have a magic stone that can foretell my death, and all I can do is bitch about my job. I must seem so small to you. Are they all like this, the people you save?”

“You’re handling it pretty well. I’ve dealt with a lot worse.”

“Do you want to tell me about some of them? Maybe some of the more awkward ones. It would almost be like you were complaining to me about your job then.”

She leaned in and kissed his cheek once again. “Evan, you’re a good soul, and easy on the eye, but take it from me, as someone who only gets to walk the Earth one night a year, you need to get out more.”

Convinced his only chance of not being eaten was to ‘wait it out’, Evan did his best to enjoy the party. He ate, drank, and finally got to know some of the people he had shared the building with for years over tipsy Hallowe’en party games. He listened enthusiastically to Enid Halston’s spiel about the Pomona Foundation’s charitable mission and looked on with envy as she presented service awards to her employees along with heartfelt toasts that elicited joyous applause and some tears. He allowed himself to be dragged around by Gwen, who danced with, talked to, and hugged pretty much everyone in the room. Her zest for life was infectious. Nobody seemed concerned with who she was — just some friend of the boss — and the thought that she may be anything other than human didn’t even seem to occur, because why would it? Spirits didn’t exist, and they certainly didn’t come to office parties.

It was still drizzling out, so Evan and Gwen were alone when they returned to the balcony a while later. The odd firework flashed away in the distance, but nothing close enough to hear. Gwen pressed herself against Evan’s side and he put an arm around her shoulders.

“Mm. You feel nice and warm,” she said. “I’ve been spoiled for human contact tonight, but you feel the best.”

“Huh, is that a spirit thing? I thought you were just a hugger.” He shivered as she ran her hand over his back. “Your touch always feels cold at first but then there’s a warmth beneath it.”

She shrugged. “It comes from being the embodiment of a shiver down your spine.”

“What’s it like?” he asked before hastily adding, “if you don’t mind my asking. If you can only take this form and move freely through the world one night a year, how does it feel the rest of the time?”

“It doesn’t actually feel like I can’t move freely, but I know I am drawn to where I’m needed by some other power, and I pass entirely unseen. By humans, I mean. I see others of my kind all the time.”

“Are the others more like you,” he asked, “or like her?” He gestured over the railing without looking to where he assumed the tailless sow was still waiting for him.

Gwen laughed. “Either. Both. Others besides. She and I really aren’t all that different. Even you’ve started referring to her as her, instead of it.”

“Well, I keep being told she’s a sow, so I know she’s a she, but she’s still a giant evil pig, while you are a breathtakingly beautiful woman.”

“My, Evan. You can be quite the flatterer, can’t you? I almost hate to remind you, but we’re spirits. Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta is not really a pig, and I am no more a woman.”

Evan shook his head. “For the first time tonight, I think I’m glad I can’t understand it. Pig. Not a pig. Woman. Not a woman. All I know is that down there is the creature from my nightmares and being up here with you is like a dream.”

Gwen’s lips were cold, but it was surprise that knocked the breath from Evan’s lungs when she kissed him. The longer they made contact, the warmer her touch, so when she put one hand on Evan’s chest and slid the other to his waist, it was excitement that made him shiver. Her breath was hot when he opened his mouth to hers and he returned the kiss eagerly. Evan had one hand on Gwen’s back, another on her shoulder. He just wanted to hold her to him. Not for the first time tonight, he thought he might wake up at any moment.

A monstrous squeal reached them from the street below.

“What’s her problem?” Evan sighed, leaning his head against Gwen’s.

Gwen smiled. “It just got a little harder for her to get to you, because, well, we’re enjoying each other’s company, so that means you’re where you’re supposed to be.”

“So, does that mean I’m safe now?” he asked.

“It loosens the grip she already had on you, but believe me, she will happily go through me to get to you.”

“I hope it won’t come to that,” Evan said. “Does it usually end with you fighting?”

“Not always. Not anymore. There were some dark times in the 14th and 15th centuries where every year we fought and nothing else.”

“I can’t even imagine,” mused Evan. She had lost him at ’14th century’.

“Let’s just say she wasn’t always so badly scarred, she used to have both her tusks, and she wasn’t always the tailless black sow.”

“I take it then that you were the better fighter at least?”

Gwen shuffled nervously. “If only that were true.”

“So, what has been stopping her from coming up here to get us all this time?”

“You were invited to the party,” Gwen replied, suddenly brighter, as though that should make everything clear. Evan wondered if there were spirit lawyers to keep up with all the rules, because they were starting to make his head hurt as much as the nightmares had. Gwen tilted her head up and kissed him again, snapping him out of his ruminations.

Following another cry from below, Evan asked, “is it really a good idea to antagonise her like this?”

“Probably not. Let’s go back inside.”

Gwen led Evan through the door he had escaped from earlier into the empty reception area, then into a small office off to one side. It had two desks, set up with workstations, that didn’t look like they belonged to anyone. Gwen pushed Evan against one of the desks and kissed him.

“Mm, warm,” she murmured against his lips, even as she sent that first shiver down his spine. Her hands roamed up his chest to the back of his neck, pulling his head down into the kiss.

Evan slid one hand to Gwen’s waist, the other twisting in her hair as she kissed his jaw, his neck. She felt so good as her body meshed against his. He wanted to grab her, feel her all over, touch every part of her body with his hands and mouth. It had been a long time since he had been with anyone like this and she was so beautiful, even if she was a centuries old spirit. Of all the crazy things that had happened so far tonight, holding Gwen in his arms as she kissed him was one of the more unbelievable.

“What’s the matter,” she breathed into his ear, seeming to sense his hesitation.

“I guess I’m just a little out of practice,” said Evan.

Gwen laughed. “You’re out of practice. It’s been a whole year since I even touched a human.”

“It feels like it’s been longer for me,” said Evan, “and I’ve never been with anyone like you.”

Gwen’s fingers traced a line down his abdomen. “All the more reason to enjoy it,” she said in a low voice, and Evan gasped as her hand pressed into his crotch. Just because he was overthinking it, didn’t mean he wasn’t rising to the occasion.

“Uh, that might be another magic stone in my pocket,” he said.

Gwen raised her eyebrows at him, grabbed him by the belt and walked him round to the other side of the desk. She pushed him up against it again but seated herself in the chair. Her gloved fingers worked his belt loose before unfastening his trousers and tugging them down. She eyed the bulge in the front of his boxers and licked her lips. Evan didn’t move or speak for fear of breaking whatever spell was over them.

He shivered when she ran her hands up his thighs, both from the chill and anticipation. She caressed the front of his boxers and he twitched at her touch. By the time she took hold and pulled them down, he was already fully hard.

Every time Gwen broke contact with his body, Evan knew to expect the cold shock the next time she touched him, and he tensed as she reached for his cock. She grinned and bent to press her lips against his thigh, so when her fingers curled around his erection her touch was warm.

More than once, he had imagined her naked, but there was something uniquely sexy about her gloves as she stroked and fondled him. She worked his shaft slowly with one hand and teased his balls with the other. It had indeed been so long since he had been touched this way, that he was incredibly sensitive, and as much as he wanted it to last, her slow stroking was exquisite torture. She seemed fascinated by his manhood, looking at it close up with her cheek pressed against his thigh, and he tried not to think about how many she had seen over the centuries.

“Lovely and warm,” she murmured again, “I can’t get enough of the way you feel.” She pressed his cock against her face, stroking it against her cheek.

“You’re unbelievable,” Evan gasped through ragged breathing, and he meant it literally. Even now, he could still be dreaming.

“When you say you’ve never been with anyone like me, Evan…”

“I meant beautiful, passionate, sexy…” he breathed.

“Oh, you didn’t mean because I’m not really a human?” she asked, still stroking him slowly against her cheek.

“N-no, I didn’t mean that,” he gasped.

“Not because I’m a spirit? A spectre? No more than a shiver on your skin?” She pressed her lips to the base of his cock and feathered kisses up the shaft.

“Oh, fuck. No, that’s not what I meant.”

“But that’s what I am, Evan. Nothing more than a cold breath on the back of your neck. And there’s one good thing about it. Shall I tell you what it is, hm?” She planted one kiss on the tip of his cock. “I don’t actually have to breathe at all.”

Evan thought he might pass out when she took him in her mouth. The chill had long since dissipated and her tongue was hot on the underside of his cock. She bobbed her head, still working the base of his shaft with her hand, slicking his length with her saliva, taking a little more of him in with each stroke. He felt his tip nudge up against the back of her throat, but she took him in again and again.

Now she was working him in earnest, gradually faster and faster, no longer teasing him. Evan wanted to touch her, but he was gripping the edge of the desk with both hands, thinking he would slump to the floor if he let go. He was so sensitive to her touch the pressure was already building inside him.

“Fuck, Gwen. I’m not going to last,” he groaned, but she didn’t slow down, a flurry of hands, lips and tongue rushing him towards the edge. She slid both hands to his hips and pressed her fingers into his flesh as she sought to take him all the way into her throat, gulping him down.

Evan shook and let out a cry and Gwen pushed her head down as far as she could on him as he flooded her throat. He shuddered and slumped despite his grip on the desk and her grip on him as his cock continued to pulse in her mouth, coating her tongue. His breath rasped and his heart raced as his climax washed over him. Gwen hummed and swallowed, still stroking him, squeezing every last drop from him.

Evan, finally able to relax his grip on the desk, shook the cramp from his hand before raising it to stroke her cheek and brush her hair away from her face. Gwen took her mouth off him with one last playful flick of her tongue, smiled and leaned back in her chair.

She traced a line down her own neck and chest with her finger. “Delicious,” she said. “I can feel it filling me with your warmth. Thank you, Evan.”

“I, uh, you’re welcome…” Evan offered, uncertain. He stopped to tuck himself away and fasten his trousers. “It should be me thanking you. In fact, it should have been me doing that for you. You know, to thank you for saving my life.”

“Plenty of time to repay the favour,” she said. “We have all night.”

“Ah, yes. A night to spend together, to drink and dance, and other things. Sounds perfect, except for the part where we’re trapped by a soul-hungry pig. It does spoil the mood a bit.” He thought for a moment. Gwen’s eyes sparkled as she watched him, and Evan made up his mind. “Let’s get out of here,” he said.

Gwen raised her hand to stroke his cheek. “Wouldn’t that be nice?”

“I mean it. I can’t actually stay at this party all night. It will have to end at some point. Then, even if I spend the rest of the night with you — which I’m very much looking forward to — what happens then? I just come back to work tomorrow, and nothing’s changed. I just get another year of miserable days and restless nights. If I let that thing start filling my head with shadows again, I will sit at my desk and wait to have my soul eaten. No. One way or another, this ends tonight.” He held Gwen’s face in both hands and kissed her forehead, then willed his mouth into a triumphant grin. “I’m going downstairs. I have to send an e-mail.”

Evan’s confidence lasted until he made it back onto the seventh floor. Finding that there wasn’t a big black pig blocking the stairwell certainly helped. The office lights clicked on the way they should as he strode across the space with Gwen in tow.

“Is this you?” she asked, pointing at a desk across the aisle.

“No, I’m over here,” said Evan, pulling out his chair and donning the jacket he had left behind earlier. “Half the idiots in this office leave everything switched on at the end of the day.”

Gwen said, “if it’s any consolation, offices have been the same since the 11th century,” and Evan stared at her stupidly for a moment before realising she was joking. When he took his seat, she came to lean against his desk, and she nudged his shoulder. It was a playful touch, but it still sent that initial shiver through him, a now comforting sensation.

Evan opened his e-mails. How the hell were there a dozen new messages since he last looked? At that time of night? He found the draft he was looking for. One more click and he would be free of this miserable office. Well, on his way, at least. He had to be glad of the statutory four weeks’ notice, so he had time to find another job. He started reading through the message, just to check the contents. He looked at it often, but hadn’t updated it for a while.

He laughed to himself as his cursor hovered over the send button. “Is it too late to try an exorcism? Sending an e-mail to quit my job suddenly seems like the most ridiculous way to fight an evil spirit.”

A chill like a cold wind surged through the room causing even Gwen to shudder, and Evan realised his mistake as soon as he made it. Everything was silent. Then, out in the reception one of the lift doors opened and a huge cloud of black smoke billowed out.

“It was a joke, you stupid pig!” Evan yelled, shaking. “I’m not hesitating. I’m not having second thoughts.” He hit send on the e-mail. “There. It’s done. You lose. My soul is off the menu.”

The black cloud coalesced into the nightmarish form, and the Hwch Ddu Gwta stalked towards them. Gwen stood, putting herself between Evan and the sow, spreading her arms wide.

“I don’t know what else I have to do,” Evan whispered.

The pig let out a squeal worse than anything Evan had heard from it yet, then gurgling up from its throat came a voice even more horrific. It spoke.

Adre, adre am y cynta. Hwch Ddu Gwta a gipio’r ola!

Evan groaned, defeated by sheer exasperation. “For fuck’s sake! If I learn Welsh, will you leave me alone?” The pig tilted its head towards Gwen as though to say This guy, seriously?

Without turning to him, Gwen said, “you wanted to get of here, Evan, and that’s what you need to do. As long as you stay here…”

“…I’m not where I’m supposed to be. Yeah, I get it. But how do I get past that?”

“I’ll take it from here,” said Gwen as she started walking towards the creature.

“No, Gwen.” Evan grabbed her wrist and shivered. “It wasn’t supposed to go like this. I didn’t want you to have to do this.”

She looked over her shoulder at him and smiled. “All you have to do is get outside. Run as soon as you get a chance. Oh, and I’m sorry, I didn’t want you to see this. Just remember I told you: not a woman.”

As she walked away from him, she peeled off her white gloves, and as she cast them aside, they seemed to vanish into the air as though they had evaporated. Once bared, her fingers stretched and grew into long sharp claws. Next, she pulled off her scarf, which also evaporated. Beneath was a faint scar encircling her neck, from which white fog started to seep like visible breath on a cold day. A few steps later, her feet no longer touched the floor. By the time Gwen and the sow met each other, all Evan could see was a whirling white fog, slashing with wicked talons at a shadowy mass enshrouded in a churning cloud of black smoke.

Evan stared in stunned silence for the longest second of his life. Then he ran.

He had to cut a route across the office away from the fighting spirits. He picked his way between the desks, ducking or dodging as the black and white clouds swirled over his head. Halfway across the room, he tripped on an errant chair leg and was snatched up by seething black tendrils. White blades cut across and he was dropped, but the shadows descended on him. Foul smoke filled his lungs and heat prickled his skin. As he looked up, the grotesque pig’s snout emerged from the smog over his face, the sharp point of her one full tusk pressed against his cheek. Evan winced and tried to wriggle from her grasp. He watched in horror as the black sow’s mouth gaped open.

White talons curled into the sides of the open maw and the creature grunted as its head was pulled back. Evan was able to look up enough to see Gwen’s face emerge from the white fog over the pig’s head, her golden hair blowing in a breeze of her own making. She was beautiful still, and terrifying too. The Hwch Ddu Gwta shrieked as Gwen sank her teeth into one of the sow’s tufted ears. In a voice that sounded like she was screaming into the wind from far away, Gwen said, “let him go, or I will pull you apart like slow-cooked pork.”

The sow snarled and turned her attention to Gwen once more, allowing Evan to get to his feet. He sprinted the rest of the way across the office, stumbling once but not looking back. He heard the monster squeal as he hit the stairwell. This time he went down.

He pounded down the stairs, skipping the last few steps onto each landing. His lungs burned from the vile smoke, but he dared not slow down. Seven floors down, he staggered, panting into the lobby. Still half expecting the sow to fly out from the stairs behind him, or from the lift again, he limped towards the front door, emerging into the freedom of the street outside.

He looked up at the building, unable to see what was happening on the seventh floor. Was it over, or were they still fighting?

“Is that it?” he gasped at the night sky. “I quit. I left. What else do you want from me?”

He thought of Gwen, both a beautiful woman and some kind of freezing fog creature. No matter who or what she was, how many times had she saved his life? It was in her very nature to protect him. And now, had he let her sacrifice herself for him?

He was about to enter the building once more when he saw the black cloud pour out of the stairwell. It raced towards him, and he stepped back, missing his footing on the kerb, almost falling into the road. By the time he righted himself, it was on him. The smoke roiled around him, with the creature snarling and snorting somewhere inside. Then, with one last nauseating squeal, the shadowy mass that was the Hwch Ddu Gwta swirled away from him and vanished into the night. Evan stood, staring after it.

“Evan, you’re standing in the road,” Gwen said somewhere behind him. “Normally, that’s the sort of thing I’d be around to warn you about, but I was a little busy.”

Evan looked down at the road, then jumped back onto the kerb. Gwen was in her full human-like form. Her gloves and scarf were back, but her dress and stockings were torn in various places and blackened with soot. Her hair was damp and windswept, and there was a cut on her cheek and several on her arms. She wouldn’t meet Evan’s gaze. He considered her for a split-second before stepping to her and pulling her into his arms. He barely felt the chill. He just wanted to hold her.

“Thanks for saving my life again, again,” he breathed as she melted into his embrace. “One night a year you get to freely walk the Earth, and you’ve spent the whole evening trying to make sure I don’t die.”

“Maybe that’s why I was drawn to you, Evan. We both find it hard to take the night off when there’s work to be done.”

“Yeah, I don’t know if that’s going to be a problem for me for a while since I don’t have a job anymore. It’s over though, isn’t it?”

Gwen sighed into his chest. “Yes, it’s over. You’re safe now.”

“Great. So, the bonfire’s burned down and it’s time to run home. What do you say, White Lady, do you want to come back to my place?” He offered his hand, and she took it.

Evan started chuckling to himself as he drove home with Gwen in the passenger seat.

“You ok there?” Gwen asked, watching him out of the corner of her eye.

“You were a cloud,” he said. “Like a big white cloud of fog whooshing about the place.”

“Yes. Like I said, I’m sorry you had to see that.”

“No, no. Not at all. That’s not what I mean.” He laughed again. “You can fly! I’m driving you home. You’re sat here in the car, and I’m driving you home. But you can fly!”

“I don’t understand. Do you want me to get out of the car?”

“No, absolutely not,” he blurted. “I’m sorry. It must just be normal for you, and I don’t want to be some wide-eyed idiot reacting to each new spirit-y thing like nobody’s ever seen it before, and I’m only laughing because it’s been such a mad evening, but you can fly!” More laughter. “I mean, if I could fly, and someone offered me a lift in the car, I’d be like, ‘nah, I’m good, I’ll meet you there.’ Whoosh!”

Gwen stared at him with a bemused smirk on her lips. “That’s all well and good, Evan. But I don’t know where you live.”

Evan laughed so hysterically, he almost had to pull the car over.

At home, Evan didn’t know whether to drag Gwen upstairs and throw her onto the bed, or to pour a drink and collapse into a chair, but he caught sight of himself in the mirror. The sleeve of his jacket had come loose at the shoulder, and his shirt looked beyond saving. The cut on his cheek from being stabbed with a tusk had been bleeding. He stripped his jacket and shirt, abandoning them on a chair, and led Gwen to the bathroom. He handed her a cloth to wash the black soot from her face and arms and he washed his own face. After his experience with the tailless black sow, he wished he could scrub clean his mind and soul, but luckily the cut didn’t seem to require any treatment.

“We should tend to some of these cuts,” he said, turning to Gwen. He barely felt the cold rush through him as he touched the scratch on her cheek. Or, he did feel it, but it had become a pleasurable sensation for him now. Gwen leaned her cheek against the palm of his hand, the warmth of his touch still having the same effect on her.

“You could always kiss them better,” she said softly.

Evan laughed but turned her face and pressed his lips against her cheek. He watched in astonishment as, with a puff of the cold white fog, the cut sealed itself.

“You can heal yourself?” he asked, trying not to react as hysterically as he had in the car.

Gwen fixed him with her gaze. “No, but you can heal me.”

“How does that work?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know, any more than you know how your brain works, or your liver.”

“There should be a rulebook, or an instruction manual.

“I’m a spirit, Evan. Not a washing machine.”

He lowered his head and kissed one of the cuts on her upper arm, which immediately vanished. He did another one on her shoulder and then one on the other side.

“What about this?” he asked, touching her scarf, indicating the concealed sca surrounding her neck.

“I think it’s too late for that one,” she said. “It’s been there a long time.”

“Did she do that to you?”

Gwen nodded. “Let’s just say there are legends that clearly depict the White Lady as a headless woman in white and leave it at that.” Evan hummed sympathetically and kissed her neck anyway.

“And what about these,” he asked, taking her gloved hands in his.

“You can’t heal my claws, Evan.

“Ok, but do you have any cuts on your hands? I’m not afraid of the claws if you want to take off the gloves.”

“One last legend,” she whispered. “The White Lady’s Curse. If my claws scratch you, you will die a slow agonising death.” Her eyes searched his face. She seemed to still be expecting him to freak out and run from her.

“Well, that just seems unnecessary,” said Evan, and he kissed the back of her hands. “I do find the gloves strangely sexy, if that’s any consolation.”

He stepped back to look at Gwen, appraising the rips in her stockings and the cuts on her legs. He sank to his knees in front of her. He lifted one of her legs, running his hands down the back of her calf. He tilted her foot and pulled off the white high heeled shoe, which evaporated in his hand like her gloves had earlier the second it left her foot. He kissed a graze on her shin, and it vanished, but the tear in her stocking remained. He ran his hands up her stockinged leg until he touched her bare thigh, making her shudder. He slowly peeled the torn stocking down her leg and off over her foot, where it disappeared. He kissed away another graze above her knee.

He repeated the process slowly with her other leg. Removing her shoe and stocking, letting them vanish into thin air, before seeking out her injuries and banishing them with his lips. As he got back to his feet he lifted the hem of her dress, sliding it up her body.

He thanked his stars that he already knew Gwen could somehow make the clothes reappear, as she had already with her scarf and gloves. It saved him having to ask one more stupid question about whether vanishing all her clothes would leave her naked forever. He was already fighting to suppress a gleeful laugh every time a shoe or a stocking puffed out of existence.

He kissed Gwen’s thigh, her hip, her belly, healing her as he went. Her knickers were white, of course. Her bra too. Her body was more gorgeous than he had imagined all night. Her skin was soft and smooth, and flawless once he moved his lips over it. Gwen cooed as he erased the last scratch by pressing his lips to her breast. She raised her arms so he could lift the dress over her head, and it dissolved into mist and slipped through his fingers.

He raised a hand to stroke her cheek and she purred again at the warmth of his touch.


“Yes, Gwen?”

“Are you going to carry me to the bed, or would you prefer me to fly?”

He gathered her up and carried her into the bedroom, practically throwing her down on the bed. He shed his own shoes and socks — which did not vanish into thin air — before joining her. His hands were all over her as their mouths melted together. Gwen didn’t breathe, but she sighed as his tongue entwined with hers. Gwen’s fingers twisted in Evan’s hair, and she writhed under his touch as he caressed her body, squeezing her breasts.

He didn’t want to waste any more time on repaying his favour and she didn’t complain as he kissed his way down her body. He slipped his fingers under the elastic of her knickers and peeled them down her legs, fighting the urge to yell Hey, presto! as they wisped away.

He pushed her legs apart as he kissed his way back up the inside of her thigh. He moved his hands to spread her lips, inhaling the intoxicating scent of her sex. There was nothing cold about this part of her body as delicious heat radiated from her.

Gwen was already moaning softly before Evan put his mouth on her. She responded immediately when he did. He touched and teased her, kissing and sucking. When he tugged her labia gently with his mouth, she moaned. When he pressed his tongue against her clit, she gasped and gripped the back of his head. More than anything it was his hot breath all over her that drove her wild.

He used his fingers on her clit as he pushed his face into her wetness. Her fingers gripped his head, and guided his movements, and held him into her. He was hungry for her taste. Desperate for the sounds of her pleasure. Unlike her, he needed to breathe, but in that moment, he would have happily drowned between her legs.

Gwen cried and shook as she came, still gripping Evan’s head tight, her juices flooding over his face. She shuddered and moaned and gasped his name. He lapped thirstily until she released him, and he looked up to find her face flushed and plastered with a wide smile.

She tugged his head and he crawled up the bed to kiss her. She rolled onto her side facing him, stroking his face and hair as he consumed her mouth. Evan’s hands slid over her back and unhooked her bra, and she shrugged it off.

“Go on. Do your bit, whatever it is,” she breathed, rolling her eyes.

“Abra Kadabra!” laughed Evan as the bra vanished.

Gwen shook her head and pushed him onto his back, climbing on top of him. She bent down to kiss him again and sighed as he fondled her breasts and teased her hard nipples. She reached between them to unfasten his belt and trousers. She shuffled down the bed, and he raised his hips to let her pull his trousers and boxers down.

“Voila!” she said as she whipped them away from his body.

“That’s not Welsh,” he said, but her mouth stole the words as she kissed him again.

Evan was rock hard, of course. He had been since he’d started kissing her in the bathroom. Their bodies were perfectly aligned, and his cock twitched against her vulva. Gwen curled her fingers around his shaft and stroked him a couple of times before introducing him to her wet entrance.

Gwen gasped and Evan groaned as she slid down onto him. She adjusted her angle and rocked her hips and soon opened to his length. Their bodies were hot against each other, the initial chill a distant memory, the sweet heat of her sex molten on Evan’s naked cock.

Evan ran his hands all over Gwen’s body. Legs, hips and back. He squeezed her breasts and buttocks. He lay beneath her as she rode him, using his hands to help her, rocking his hips to match her movements. She spread her gloved hands across his chest, leaning into him to grind her clit against his body as she bucked back and forth.

Gwen cried and threw her head back as a second climax overwhelmed her. Her fingers dug into Evan’s flesh, and he was glad she had declined his invitation to reveal her claws. He shuddered beneath her as her insides gripped him. Gwen screamed out a string of words in Welsh that Evan took to be profanities, but she didn’t stop riding him. She instead picked up the pace, sliding up and down Evan’s entire length, impaling herself repeatedly, frantically on his cock.

Gwen moaned and cried with each thrust, and it was all Evan could do just to keep his hands on her as she moved on top of him. As he watched her face flush, aglow with ecstasy, he saw the white fog starting to leak out from under her scarf. He reached up to untie it, pulling it free, and watched it fade away. He already couldn’t see the wound around Gwen’s neck as the fog filled the air around them. She suddenly became aware what was happening, touched her neck and looked into Evan’s eyes.

“Oh, Evan,” she said longingly, and doubled over to kiss him. The shock of cold returned as her mouth and the fog hit him at the same time, but as she covered his face with passionate kisses, it all became warm once more. It was like kissing in a summer rain shower as the fog swirled around them.

Gwen didn’t disappear into the fog this time. Evan could still feel her body and see her face as she kissed him and fucked him. But the fog flowed over and around them. Her golden hair shimmered and blew as though in a howling wind. A million water droplets swirled over Evan’s naked body like hands caressing his skin, occasionally turning from warm to cool then back again, heightening the sensation of every touch. It covered his arms, his chest, his legs. It swirled between his fingers and toes. It flowed between their legs, like running a shower over their most sensitive parts. Evan could have been lost in a storm of endless pleasure, but he felt himself rushing towards that edge again.

He cried Gwen’s name, but it sounded like a whisper in a hurricane, though the only other sounds were her desperate moans and her Celtic curse words.

He gripped her hips and thrust deep into her as he came. She screamed again as he spilled his heat inside her, another orgasm crashing through her too as she shared his climax. They clung to each other, gasping and shuddering, seeming to spin and tumble as the fog churned around them. Gwen’s insides contracted around him as he emptied himself into her, and she clutched her arms around his neck as they whispered sweets words into each other’s ears.

Gwen touched her fingers to her neck and a white choker appeared there, stemming the flow of the fog. Evan felt as though they were sinking as the white cloud started to dissipate. Then he realised that they had been floating about three feet off the bed. Gwen sat astride him with her legs fully dangling. They kissed and stroked each other as they descended slowly onto the mattress.

Evan lay on his back panting for a minute while Gwen kissed his neck and chest.

“Wow,” he said after accepting that anything he said would be inadequate. “Just, wow.”

“I agree,” said Gwen with a smile. “I thought I sensed something special about you, Evan.”

“Everything is special about you, Gwen.”

They lay quietly in each other’s arms for a while then Gwen said, “I know you haven’t been sleeping well, Evan, but I hope you’re not too tired after that. We still have all night.”


Evan awoke some time later. He had managed to go another few rounds with Gwen before falling asleep with her in his arms. He didn’t know what time it was, but he hadn’t dreamed at all, and he actually felt refreshed, something he would never take for granted again.

He rolled over to find Gwen sitting at the side of the bed dressed in a white sweater, and white trousers, with a woolly white scarf and gloves.

“I should go,” she said quietly.

“You can stay,” he replied groggily.

“I can stay, but not for much longer. I want to leave on my own terms. I don’t want you to see me fade away when the sun rises.”

Evan got up, washed and dressed. Gwen accompanied him to the kitchen where she sat with him while he made and drank coffee. She didn’t drink or eat, of course. They held hands and talked about simple things like normal people, even though Gwen was not, and Evan never could be again.

“Will I remember you?” he asked as she made to leave.

“Of course, but nobody else will believe you. That’s why legends exist, but they remain legends.”

“I still don’t entirely believe it myself,” Evan said with half a laugh.

“You may see me again, Evan, but I may not be able to stand between you and spirits who wish to harm you again, so please take care, for me. And don’t put yourself in harm’s way just to feel me breathing down your neck, because you know who else will be paying attention. And I will always remember you too.”

He walked her to the front door, where they shared one last kiss, neither cold nor warm, just perfectly matched, and then a hug.

“Do you need a ride?” Evan asked.

With a smile, Gwen lifted gently into the air. “I can fly!”

“Whoosh!” said Evan.

“Hwyl fawr, Evan,” called Gwen, blowing him a kiss.

“Goodbye, Gwen.”

Then, on a rush of cold wind, the White Lady flew away.


Evan made his way into the office, steeling himself for a conversation with his boss, but with no intention of going back on his decision to hand in his notice. In the lobby, he pressed the call button for the lift. He’d had enough of the stairs. As he waited, somebody walked up next to him and pressed something into his hand.

“Burned clean,” said Enid Halston as Evan turned his stone over in his hand, both sides smooth and white. “Lucky man.”

“Thank you, Enid,” said Evan. “How about yours?”

“Still got it, that’s what matters,” she replied, showing him her stone with her name still written on it. “Are you sure you should be here this morning, Evan?”

“Of course, I’ve got statutory notice to work.”

“Good man. That’s a step in the right direction. Are you happy with that decision?”

“Happy enough, now that I’m thinking clearly again, and had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in months.”

“I see,” Enid said with a wry smile. “The White Lady let you get a full eight hours, did she?”

“Inappropriate topic of discussion for the workplace, Ms. Halston,” Evan laughed as they stepped into the lift, and he pressed the buttons for three and seven. “What about you? Can’t you give yourself the day off after your party.”

“I gave my team the day off, but I still have work to do. I’m a little hungover, but nothing that a strong coffee and a bacon sandwich won’t fix.”

Evan’s stomach turned at the mention of bacon. “I would warn you about being too dedicated to the work, if I’ve learned anything from last night.”

“There’s nothing wrong with dedication, Evan. It just has to be worthwhile.” The lift doors opened onto the third floor and Enid stepped out. Turning to Evan, she added, “in fact, I’ve got a vacancy coming up and I could use some dedication. Strictly nine to five.”

“I know someone who might be interested in about four weeks.”

“Take your lunch break today, Evan. Come down and let’s have a chat.”

Evan nodded and she turned away. “Lucky man,” he muttered to himself, contemplating the white stone in his hand as the lift doors closed.