Alby Stone: Haunted House

Copyright © 2014 Alby Stone

The once-famous but now unfashionable writer moved in on a sunny morning in late May. This, he thought as he delightedly explored the property on that first day, was the place he had been seeking for what seemed like forever – somewhere he could really write.
The rambling old house stood where a dense forest almost met the lake shore, far from any other dwelling, accessible only by an unpaved, unlit road that wasn’t marked on any map. It had no history worth relating, only the happiness and fulfilment of its former occupants, ordinary people who would be fondly remembered but never celebrated outside their families. When the writer investigated the light, airy attic rooms all he found was a thin layer of dust and the memory of mice; the cellar was clean and dry, and contained only a worn broom, an empty bucket and a couple of meandering beetles.
The electrics and plumbing worked just fine. Lights did not flicker or fail, doors did not creak eerily or ominously refuse to budge when he tried them, windows opened and closed freely and only when required. Nothing unpleasant came out of the kitchen and bathroom taps, only clean water. There were no mysterious, decaying structures or disquieting earthen mounds in the gardens – no concealed wells, stagnant ponds or unexpected sinkholes. Nights were quiet and calm; the summer days were long, warm and comfortable. The neighbours left him alone – indeed, no one came by at all. The telephone never rang and he made no calls.
At the edge of the garden, the land fell a dozen or so feet down to a narrow strand separating his new home from the lake. Each day, for twenty or thirty minutes at dawn and dusk, he strolled aimlessly along that little beach, enjoying the birdsong, gathering his thoughts, looking across the waters at the low hills on the other side, the lights of the village nestling, barely visible, in a distant bay. Now and then he would wonder who lived there, what their lives were like. But that was rare. Mostly he simply basked in the twilight ambience, focused wholly on that expanding text. It was the only thing on his mind and the outside world was not permitted to encroach.
He spent nearly six months there in peaceful solitude, writing a new novel, a gothic horror story of tormented ghosts and an ancient, lurking evil, supernatural retribution that continued beyond the grave, redemption through love and self-sacrifice. In all that time, as his imagination caught fire and the story took shape, the only events of note were occasional visits to the garden by squirrels, badgers and foxes. Sometimes it rained lightly. Undisturbed and absorbed, he worked hard. His novel grew, was revised and polished.
At the end of October, the book was finished. He read through it one last time and nodded, satisfied. Everything about it was just right. It had turned out exactly as he’d envisaged. Now he could rest, though it was a shame the story would never be published. It was the best thing he’d ever done, far superior to anything he’d written while he was alive.

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