My first 18 months at the University of Papua New Guinea were a bit of a learning experience.
There'd been riots, shots fired over my head, my house was burgled, and I was held up at gunpoint.
I was pretty philosophical about all of this. After all I had survived and made many new friends. But I'd also gone through a divorce, so I suppose my spirit may have been a bit disturbed.
I lived in Fourth Street and, when lonely, took to walking down to Fort Banner market of an evening to talk to friends, chew some buai and share a beer or two. (This was before I met Rose and found purity.)
But I did stay off the spirits. Until one night...
It was at the start of the dry season. It grew dark around 6.30, and on this night I decided to wander along to Fort Banner around 8.
There were street lights, but the ones nearest the market were flickering on and off intermittently - faulty bulbs.
I was nearing the light nearest the market, it was flickering, when I glanced across the street and saw the hooded figure of what I took to be a woman wearing a bilum shawl.
She was looking directly at me but I couldn't see her face. Then she started walking slowly towards me. I suddenly felt cold, and the hairs on the back of my neck prickled in sudden activity.
The woman opened her arms as she moved towards me until she was just a few metres away. The light flickered off and a friend saw me and shouted "Peter - come and have a beer!"
As the light flickered on again, the woman in the bilum shawl was gone. Not a sign of her.
I was a bit shaken and told my friends what I had seen.
"Peter, that is the Fort Banner masalai,” I was told. “You are privileged to have seen her.”
And here’s the story.
There was a female lecturer who lived in a house beyond the street light. She was offered a scholarship to study in Australia and was determined to accept it.
But her husband was a jealous man, and the night before she was due to leave he beat her to death.
“She died on that very spot where you saw her,” I was told.
Some people say they see her spirit; it approaches them with arms outstretched as if in warning.
I do believe I felt that poor woman’s spirit again a few months later – it was standing at the end of my bed late one night. It was not frightening, but foreboding. A week later I learned my baby grandson had died.
Sleep tight tonight!