As we approach Halloween, I thought I’d share this spooky tale with you. It was inspired by a conversation I had with a colleague at work.
Can’t See the Wood for the Trees
The filigreed gates creaked loudly as Caroline Fleming pushed them open. She cautiously inched the car along the pitted driveway for some distance until she rounded a bend and finally saw her destination. Marwood Hall was a dilapidated, rambling manor house cloaked in ivy which she had been instructed to value prior to it being sold at auction.
She parked outside the large, oak doors, got out of the car and glanced around. It was an overcast afternoon in October but the atmosphere was crepuscular as the trees, mostly evergreens, pressed in on all sides encouraging feelings of claustrophobia.
Caroline unlocked the door with an old-fashioned, ornately detailed key and stepped into the double height entrance hall. There was a lot of post on the welcome mat which she gathered up and placed on a table next to a wilting aspidistra. The house was a warren of corridors and wings so she had been furnished with a plan which she now consulted. She set off with a determined step up the elaborate staircase towards the East Wing.
Once Caroline reached the master bedroom, she fished her laser measuring device from her bag and started her task. She was engrossed in her work when she heard a metronomic tapping noise behind her. The sound seemed to emanate from the window so she strode over to it and peered out. The trees were huddled even closer to the house on this side and a branch was beating a tattoo on the glass. “Whoever buys this place will get to know their tree surgeon very well,” Caroline said to herself.
She moved efficiently from room to room and was surprised to find that several of the guest rooms at the back of the house were in stygian blackness because the trees had grown so close to the rear wall.
Having finished the East and West Wings, Caroline made her way back to the main part of Marwood Hall. The ballroom faced the front of the house so she was puzzled as to why it was so gloomy. Flicking the light switch illuminated the dazzling chandeliers and dispelled the darkness. With some trepidation, Caroline walked to the window and looked out. Nothing but foliage met her gaze and branchlets were forcing their way through a crack in one of the panes.
Caroline hurried along the murky corridor, ran across the main hall and flung open the heavy door. A wall of tree trunks blocked her exit. Quickly shutting the door, she leaned against it. She reached into her bag for her phone. No signal. She rang 999. Engaged tone.
A thought poked insistently at her mind. Reaching into her bag she found the folder with details of the house. There were two aerial photographs of Marwood Hall. One showed extensive lawns around the house and in the other you could barely see the roof. She checked the dates. The photographs were taken only ten months apart. Studying the later photograph closely, she noticed a few pixels of red in a tiny gap in front of the house. Caroline’s blood ran cold as realisation dawned on her. The postman had visited but never left.