The final edit of a draft story, written for Screams!!! Halloween 2020.
|A Haunted House
“Amy, put your coat on. I’ve found something you really ought to see.” Ben paced impatiently while Amy finished off wiping the dishes.
“Okay, I’m done,” she said at last, slipping her feet into a pair of boots, then taking her jacket from the hook by the door. “Any clues?”
“No. This is something you need to see with your own eyes.”
Taking her arm in his Ben hurried along the road towards the woods, then led her along one of the well-trodden paths. This was a route they used frequently, whenever they felt the need to reconnect with nature.
“Let me guess,” Amy said. “A badger sett?”
“Nope.” Ben picked up his pace as they drew nearer to the clearing. He stopped, let out a sigh of relief, then pointed forwards.
In the clearing stood a house. Amy frowned. “But... I’ve never noticed it before. Have you, Ben?”
“No. Of course not. It wasn’t here yesterday, I’m sure of that. To be honest, I was kind of worried that my imagination had been getting the better of me.”
It had been quite sunny when they had left the house, with a late autumn chill in the air. The trees always kept the woods a bit gloomy, but already the sun was sinking in the sky. It gave the house an even creepier air than it would have had in full daylight.
“I don’t understand. How can it be here?”
“Look closely. Do you notice anything odd?”
Amy laughed. “Apart from the fact that it’s here at all, you mean? The chimney looks odd, not very safe. I wouldn’t want to be inside with that above my head.”
Ben took her hand, then paused. “This is the back. Do you want to take a look at the front? I’ve got to warn you, it is kind of spooky.”
“Go on with you,” she laughed. “What do you take me for? Your kid sister? I’m not going to be put off by any of your ghost stories.”
“Come on then.” Ben gripped Amy’s hand in his own and pulled her closer to him. They walked past the end wall, keeping to the trees, and finally came to a halt opposite what was clearly the front of the building.
It was not a large building but was like one of the traditional cottages, most of which had been either modernized or knocked down. There was a stony path that led from the trees to three small steps. At the top of these stood a door, with windows either side of it. Above the door stood the one solitary upstairs window.
It wasn’t the house that grabbed their attention though, but the three stone slabs that stood in its grounds. Each one of them looked weathered, discolored by age and moss. There was a stump of a tree off to the far side, much to substantial to have come from anything recently grown.
“What are they?” Amy’s voice was not much more than a whisper. “They look like gravestones.”
“That’s just what I thought,” Ben whispered back.
“But... But how...?” Amy’s words were cut off by a sudden rumble of thunder. The black cloud seemed to hang directly above the house and when lightning flashed the roof was lit up with the harsh white light. The pot on the chimney no longer looked like what it was, but instead appeared more like a human skull.
“Ben, I don’t like this,” Amy said. “Please... can we just go?”
He gave no reply, and when she looked towards him, Amy saw why. All his attention was focused on the window above the door, where a skeletal figure, in what looked like a black dress, stood beckoning.
“Come on, Ben,” Amy insisted, pulling on his arm to break whatever spell he was held by.
The lightning flashed once more, illuminating three grotesquely carved pumpkins that stood one on each grave. She screamed, tugged hard on Ben’s arm and began to run back the way they had come.
* * *
Amy woke late the following morning. She had spent most of the night tossing around and had not been able to sleep until the sun began to light up the sky. There was no sign of Ben, so she set about making herself a coffee.
She had just sat down when the door opened and Ben stepped inside. “Come on, sleepy head. Get yourself dressed and come with me.”
Amy shook her head. “No way, thanks. If I ever set foot in those woods again it will be too soon.”
“You’ve got to.” Ben insisted. “It’s gone!”
“Seriously, I’ve been back and there’s nothing there!”
She had to go and see for herself, Amy realized, and Ben was right. There was nothing in the clearing. No house, no gravestones, not even a tree stump. They walked all around the clearing and everything seemed just as it always had done.
“But it’s impossible! How could we both see something if it wasn’t here?”
Ben stared off into the distance then turned to look at his wife. “You know, Amy, I really don’t have a clue. But whatever happened yesterday it sure was creepy.”
And Amy had to agree.