The Grey Causeway To Brierwell Manor (Part 3)

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Wetness falling on my face awoke me. Half-sleep I rubbed at my cheeks and nose. Groggily I opened my eyes and wondered where I was. Sitting up confused I was outside, I looked around.

Tops of headstone poked out of the grass, their surfaces dappled with raindrops. Behind them lay the church looking more menacing in the growing dark. I heard the wind blowing harshly in the nearby trees and bushes. In the distance a sea wave hit the rocks.

Panicking, I scrambled to my feet as everything came back to me. I had fallen asleep in the Brierwell Manor graveyard and judging by the sky I should have been home hours ago. I searched for King, knowing that the huge black stallion was easy to spot. 

‘King! King! Here boy!’ I cried wildly, not seeing him in the graveyard.

Had he gone back to the Grey causeway? Had he gone home without me? Did he even know the way?

I put on the protective body vest and helmet, fumbling with the clips then I stumbled through the long grass calling his name.

The rain was starting to fall more heavily and the wind picking up to storm force. We had to get off the island now before it got any worse.

Thrashing through the grass, not thinking straight, I tripped over a headstone. I hit the ground hard, the grass hardly cushioning my fall. The air whooshed out of me and the protective vest luckily didn’t go off but it cut into my neck and sides. Pain shoot through my legs, arms and my chest.

I shut my eyes and lay still  as I counted to a minute, then I moved into a sitting position. Breathing hard, my mind full of panic, I looked at what I had fallen over. It was a small grey headstone with a lamb carved at the top. Though the words were faded I could make it out to read;

Infant son of E. W. and E. V. Brierwell

1st September 1858

My brain took a moment but then I realised this was the grave of a baby who had either been a still born or died soon after birth. E and E? I thought. Oh, Lord Edward Walter and his second wife Lady Elizabeth Victoria who had built the manor.

I reached out and stroked the headstone, thinking how sad that must have been for them. Raindrops hit my hand and I looked up at the sky. The thick clouds were turning black and looked like a storm rolling in.

‘You need to calm down and pull it together,’ I whispered to myself, ‘you need to find King and get back home. You can do it but just take a minute here to sort yourself out.’

I stood up and walked over the shelter of the church. The wooden door was locked but there was a porch I could sit in. Holding the cold stone wall for support, I turned and watched the wind and rain gathering in the graveyard.

With a bit of difficulty and as best I could, I got into yoga sit. Coldness flood though my pants and tickled along my spine. I thought about getting up again and putting my fleece on the floor but I didn’t want to struggle around again. Instead I shut my eyes and cleared my mind as best I could. Thinking only about my breathing; breath in through the mouth and out through the nose, I stayed like that until I felt better.

Opening my eyes, I felt better though my bum was numb. Getting back with the aid of the wall, I stepped into the rain and looked around. Even though it was growing darker by the second, I could see the track King had left in the grass.

I followed the flatten grass and hoof prints in the soil. There was a fallen down section of stone wall close to the  right side of the church and King had gone this way. I followed after him pushing through thorny bushes and avoiding fallen tree branches.

An out building that had once been a stable block came into view. I picked up my pace and went inside.

‘King!’ I cried on seeing him.

The stallion was plucking hay out from a stack of rotting bundles in one of the horse stalls.

He flicked his ears back at the sound of my voice saying his name then chopped on what he was eating.

‘I don’t think that’s good for you,’ I said.

Going over, I stroked him and pressed my face to his rough black coat. I gathered the reins and King let me led him, quietly which was unusual, out into what had been a cobble stone yard.

‘We need to get home,’ I told him whilst I looked for something to stand on to give me extra height to mount him.

I spotted a stone water trough and took King over. The water had some slime floating on top but still King bent his head and took a drink.

Holding on the saddle to help my balance, I climbed up on the water trough and got King to come alongside. I climbed onto his back and sat down as lightly as I could into the saddle. Pulling the reins right again, I got King to walk on and we went back the way we had come.

‘The rain is really coming down now,’ I uttered, ‘we are going to get soaked through!’

The wind whipped King’s mane, tail and my purple hair that was sticking out from the helmet. Everything moved around us like a giant was parting through. Loose leaves and small branches rained down. I urged King onwards and he picked up his pace as he was aware we needed to go now!

Across the graveyard, back to the front of the manor and down the front drive, King trotted. The rain dripped of my helmet and protective vest, but it soaked into my pants. King’s mane and coat was dotted with drops and some of them did slide off him as we moved.

On to the Grey causeway King stepped and I saw to my horror that the tide had come in.

‘Oh my god! How long did I sleep for?’ I cried.

Panic swelled in my chest and I felt my heart began to beat too fast. Dizziness made my head swim and I felt like I sliding out of the saddle. I took a few deep breaths, got a grip again and looked down at King’s legs.

The sea was about to his ankles and the Grey Causeway was covered but still visible. We could still cross if we were quick. I pushed King onwards and though he went to fight me, he must have sensed something of the danger ahead of us. Luckily, he started walking then picked up into a trot.

Sea water splashed up, wetting him further and the waves which were bigger now splashed over the causeway and up King’s legs. I saw seaweed floating by and hope it didn’t get wrapped around King’s ankles.

I kicked him on and stood up in the saddle, urging him to go into canter. I heard King snort and felt him pick up his speed. Water splashed around us, some of it hitting me but we were all ready wet so it didn’t seem to matter.

I heard before I saw that that the sea waves had grown. They were swelling together and crashing on the rocks with some force now. I looked and saw dark waves washing over the causeway head of us and making everything disappear underwater.

‘No!’ I screamed, ‘Go King! Go!’

I slapped the reins down and kicked him in the side. King neighed out in anger but there wasn’t much he could do about. He ran forward, muscles expanding and water running off him.

Then King tripped.

Either he stepped off the causeway or a stone give way underneath him because suddenly we were falling into the sea.

I opened my month to scream and chocked on sea water. I flayed around, my feet trying to find a solid surface to stand and push me up. I was half were of King floundering along side me. Rocks scrapped against me and I grabbed on of them and used that to help me get back onto the Grey Causeway.

I stood up, spitting out salt water and feeling pain aching everywhere. I looked for King and saw he was all right and had got himself out of the sea a bit further down the way to me. Water was dripping off him and he was shaking with shock.

I waded over to him, water getting into my knee high boots. When I reached him, I took his reins and led him back to Brierwell Manor.

To Be Continued…

The Grey Causeway To Brierwell Manor (Part 2)

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We arrived at  the proper driveway to the manor. The Grey Causeway turning from rough stone to flat smooth bricks as it led up towards the gates. King launched into a tot, happy to have a solid road to go on when though it was still damp.

The sea was still on either side of us but I could see it was only three inches or so high. Other rocks stuck out like tiny islands and a seagull had landed on one and was busy eating a dead crab. Waves broke on the rocky low cliffs just ahead of us, the tide didn’t go out further then this.

I slowed down King as we reached some fallen wire fencing. The grass was quickly cover it up and worried that more wire could lay hidden which he might step on. There was loads of fencing around, fallen or cast aside. Half hidden metal signs poked out of a bushes and the grass, rust splashed through the white paint.

Last time, the signs had read things like; keep out, guards on duty, beware loose dogs,  CCTV and private property. I could remember seeing them scattered around the down fencing, abandoned like the manor once more. 

King went up to two towering stone pillars that had been the original gate posts and keep to a nervous stop. I saw, picked out on the stone faded words which read; Brierwell Manor. The name of the Victorian family who had built and lived in the manor. Seaweed wrapped around the bottoms of the pillars whilst climbing plants and moss covered the rest of the stones. There was nothing left of the fancy gates that must have once been here.

‘Good boy, King,’ I said gently.

King flicked his ears back to show he was listening.

‘Walk on then,’ I added.

He hesitated, taking a step back and flicking his tail. His muscles bunched and he turned his head to the side. He went to turn around.

I squeezed my legs against into his side and tightened my grip on the reins., ‘go on!’ I encouraged.

King snorted and tossed his head but he stepped forward.

Pushing again, I got King to walk on. We passed under tall trees and bushes, spring flowering plants filled the air was a heavy scent, it was like entering a secret garden. The ground was all soil and grass from now on. The plants were wild and King had to watch his step.

We had been here before but it looked so different each time. Where once there had been clean and neat front garden there was nothing but a tangle of nature. I had seen a photo of a fountain in a circle driveway before the manor but you couldn’t see anything of that. It was all soil with plants pushing their way up.

Abandoned building materials lay scattered about; huge bags of sand, an orange mixer machine, rusting tools, a ladder half buried in a tangle of vines. There had been builders preparing to work on the manor but their job of turning the place into a hotel had fallen though because it was going to cost too much.

Brierwell Manor now rose up before us. A flight of four deep stone steps led up to a porch area with thick Roman columns and also two broken stone lions lay on either side. The house was a square shape and there only two floors. Most of the windows had been board up but a few were open and broken glass clung to the frames. There was double front door made out of heavy oak and one of the doors was half open in an inviting way.  

King stopped, sniffing and snorting. Coming here always made him quiet as if he sensed it wasn’t a good place to be. I had to agree with him, their was an unnatural sense to the place. No birds sung, no animals moved in the scrub and the wind moved through the trees in such a quiet manner that it seemed as if it was trying not to disturb anything.

Without any prompting, King started walking along the edge of the driveway. I let him go where he was more comfortable. He brushed passed all the nature. Sure-footed on the damp soil ground. I knew where he was heading, around the side of the house and down towards the small church and graveyard where sweet grass grew.

I admired the view from King’s back and took the time to further calm myself after our run. I knew some history of the manor and something of the Brierwell family. In 1856 the building of the manor had started and after some difficult years, Lord Brierwell, his second wife, three daughters and baby son moved in.

The manor had been passed down through the family until 1902 when a massive storm caused the sea to flood the island. The lower floor and cellar were swept out, the gardens destroyed and the spring where the manor got fresh water from was contaminated by salt water. The damage was too much for Lord Brierwell’s descendants, so they sold up.

The new owners fixed up the manor and stayed until the end of the second world war. After that, an investor did things up again and rented out the rooms but there were rumours about the manor becoming a drug den and a brothel. A girl was said to have been kidnapped and murdered in the cellar. That started a train of ghost sights and stories. What Victorian manor wasn’t haunted?

In 1960, Brierwell Manor was abandoned and despite the place passing through many hands and people trying to turn it into a number of different things like; an artists’ retreat, a bed and breakfast, a museum and finally the idea of a hotel, nothing had developed and now the manor had been empty for sixty years.

The nature began to clear as I felt King start to go down hill. We passed the moss covered, tumble down stone wall then we were into something like a clearing. Tall grass some of which had open into wheat like heads of seeds lay thick in a field dotted with headstones with a small stone church at the end.

King went to a stack of stones which I had placed there myself, four or five years back when we had discovered this area. I had never known there was a church and graveyard till I had seen a photo of it in a local history book I had found in the newly opened museum shop. Since then, this had become a favourite place of ours. 

‘You like it here, don’t you, King?’ I said.

I dismounted. Using the stone stack like a ladder to get down. I tied the reins to the saddle so they wouldn’t get in King’s way then he moved off to eat the grass. I watched him as I sat down on the stones and began taking off my helmet and protection vest. 

I took in deep breaths, feeling lighter and it easier to fill my lungs all the way. A breeze blew through my hair and I saw flashing of purple out of the corner of my eyes. I took off my body warmer next then my fleece jacket but it was too cold to sit for long without it back on. 

‘Don’t wander too far,’ I called after King’s moving form.

Sitting down on the grass, I looked at the headstones and church whilst rubbing my chest. I had a feeling of tingles of pain around my heart, like the start of pains and needles. These would passed soon, they came and went, sometimes I just thought the pain was in my mind, like a physical memory of what I had been through. 

I pulled off my long sleeved thermal top and moved my vest top around to check the scars along my torso. Some of them were fine and faded, others rises and white outline. I looked like Frankenstein’s Monster. None of them should ache but sometimes they did.

I was a mirror twin and whilst my sister, Pearl, had been born normally, I, Paige, had been born with backwards organs. Most things could work fine but I’d had a few operations as a baby and child to insure that. Then around the age of ten, I had developed heart complications and from then until now; eight years later, I had been in and out of hospital, on bed rest and home schooled. 

That’s why I craved freedom and normality and also why I had connected with King. He’d been born soon after my complications and having such a pretty foal to focus on had helped me. I had always wished he wasn’t strong headed with a wild streak and dangerous recorded. My family had wanted to me to pick a calmer horse – a mare that was King’s older step-sister but totally the opposite of him. 

I just couldn’t though. I helped to hand rear King when his mother abandoned him a month later. He was my goal to get better, to ride and be free, my best friend who made me feel wild and not in pain for a time.     

I put my fleece back on and lay down in the grass. It felt damp and smelled so sweetly of hot summer days. The grass hide me and I felt protected here. The sky was masking over with rolling grey clouds and I knew soon we’d have to head back. I shut my eyes and felt the tiredness that never seemed to leave me.

Just a few minutes of resting then I’ll feel better.

To Be Continued…

 

 

 

Playing In The Church Graveyard #CCC

Church bells rang to end Sunday service and the congregation came out. People stood talking and I bored as usual walked into the graveyard.

I adventured amongst the weeping trees and headstones, ignoring the ghosts I could see lingering, as a ten year old boy I had better things to do.

One old lady began shouting, ‘get out! You vandal! Stop disturbing me!’

‘I’m not doing anything!’ I yelled but she wouldn’t listen and carried on shouting.

I tried play but she flew and pulled me about like a whirlwind. Deciding it was best to leave, I ran back to my parents.

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2020/02/05/crimsons-creative-challenge-65/ with thanks).

The Grave Digger’s Cottage

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Alice said goodbye to her friends and started to run home. Now eleven, her parents let her walk alone but she was only allowed a certain distance. To school a few streets away, the park next door and the corner shop.

She laughed loudly, excitement spilling out as she went. School was over for another day but also for summer. There was a whole two months of playtime and adventures waiting for her.

Alice lived behind the village church and across the graveyard. Her house sat on the back edge of the cemetery, over shadowed by a massive weeping willow tree. It was a small cottage with a yellow thatched roof, red brick chimney, small frosty windows and set apart from all the others in the village. It was called the Grave Digger’s Cottage.

There many routes she could have taken home, but Alice took the quickest. Cutting across church grounds and the straight path that ran down the centre of the graveyard. Opening the gate of her front garden, she skipped up the gravel path, lined with bright summer flowers then opened the front door.

‘Hello, grandpa!’ she shouted.

‘Hello, Al!’ the distant echoing voice of her grandpa called back.

Giggling, Alice took off her shoes and left them with her schoolbag in the hallway. Downstairs there were only three rooms; the front parlour, living room and kitchen/dinner. Upstairs there were also three rooms; a small bathroom, her parents bedroom and her grandpa’s room. Another staircase led to the attic which was Alice’s bedroom.

Alice went down the hallway, through the kitchen to the back door and stepped out into blazing sunshine once again.

Her grandpa was in the back garden, sitting on a stool next to a low table and he was putting together flower bunches. His skin was tanned a deep brown from days spent outside and his figure was stooped from years of being bent over digging. He had a thin cloud of white wispy hair and rough outline of a white beard. His eyes were blue like the colour of the sea lit by the sun.

Alice had been told she looked like him but she had never been able to see it. Yes, they had the same colour eyes and once grandpa’s hair had been chestnut brown like her’s was now. Alice’s skin though was paler and definitely not wrinkly!

‘School is finally over!’ Alice cried.

‘Is it really?’ grandpa questioned.

Alice nodded, ‘are mum and dad home yet?’

Grandpa shook his head, ‘your dad’s watching over an evening exam at the university and your mum had a late meeting to go to in the city. It’s just you and me till bedtime.’

Alice smiled, spending time alone with grandpa was the best. He told awesome stories, let her do want she wanted and allowed her to stay up late.

‘Would you like a hand, grandpa?’ Alice asked.

‘I’m almost done,’ he replied.

Alice sat down on another stool and watched him wrapping green garden twine around the bunches of mixed flowers. Alice knew he had grown them himself and when the flowers were ready, grandpa would cut them and put them together.

‘There we go. Right, would you like to come with me, Al?’ Grandpa asked.

‘Yes, please!’ Alice said.

Grandpa give her some of the flowers to carry and he took the rest. Together they went out into the cemetery. At a handful of headstones, they placed the flowers into the vases and grandpa did some cleaning and weeding if needed.

Countless times they had done this and Alice knew the stories of all of the headstones they visited plus many of the other ones in the graveyard. Grandpa had known a lot of people buried here because they had come from the village and the graves they visited were of family and friends. Grandpa had also buried some of them.

Alice looked back their cottage, the roof could just be seen through the trees and wild growth. Alice sat down on one of the tombs, the stone was cold against her bare legs but she didn’t mind.

‘Grandpa, tell me the story of our house again.’

He looked up from pulling weeds out from around a Second World war grave of his uncle.

He smiled and began chatting away, ‘when the new church was built in the eighteen hundreds after the old one burnt down, they also built a cottage for a grounds keeper to leave in. The man and his son who first lived there were also grave diggers and that’s how the cottage got it’s name.’

Alice nodded.

‘From that day on, every man who lived in the cottage – expect your father- was a grave digger and also church grounds keeper. We had to make sure that nature didn’t take over and the paths clear for visiting people. We had to help plot out the cemetery, decided where to bury people and dig those graves. Then when the headstones arrived we had to plant them in the ground over the right grave.’

‘And what else, grandpa?’ Alice demanded.

‘And we were night watchmen too! Back in time, grave robbers would come and dig up fresh bodies to sell to doctors for science. People would also try to do cheap burials by doing it themselves and we had to stop them! Then there’s tramps and teenagers who muck around and make place untidy. We had to get them out by dawn so visitors wouldn’t see ’em and get a scare!’

Grandpa clawed his hands and made swatting movements in the air. He growled low like a bear before coming over and tickling Alice, who broke into giggles. Then he sat on the tomb next to her and they looked out over the cemetery.

‘Did you ever see a ghost, grandpa?’ Alice asked.

‘Plenty!’ grandpa cried, ‘I saw the ghost of little girl once, way younger then you, and she was running along the path just there. There’s the woman in blue who walks around the church, crying for her lost lover. A black dog with red eyes that’s spotted in the bushes and shadows of the trees. He’s said to guide souls away.’

‘And there’s also the headless man!’ Alice shouted.

Grandpa laughed and spoke, ‘that’s one of your favourites, Al.’

Spots of rain began to fall.

Grandpa pointed out a large bank of grey cloud coming over to them and declared it time to go home.

‘But you will tell me, won’t you, grandpa? The story of the headless man,’ Alice questioned.

Grandpa helped her down from the tomb. Hand in hand they walked back towards The Grave Digger’s Cottage.

‘Of course, I will! As long as you promise not to lose your head with fright!’ Grandpa replied.

Alice laughed and shadows grew long on the ground.

Ghost Lights #AetherPrompt

He followed the lights and they led him into the woods. The lights were a green-yellow, small in size and with a halo of fuzz around them. He had been seeing them for a year, since they had moved into the old country house and he’d spent a lot of time wondering what the lights were.

Deeper into the woods, into further darkness, the way lit only by the lights. He stumbled on something and looked down as the lights began to fade. There was a small grave stone at his feet marking the entrance to a forgotten graveyard.

 

(Insipred by; https://aetherealengineer.com/2019/05/01/01may19/ with thanks).

 

At Peace #SundayWritingPrompt

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It was a strange place to go to find some quiet but graveyards always drew me. Nearly all the time, they were empty of people and blocked out the everyday noises.

I wandered around to the sounds of birds, wind in the trees and my footsteps. I looked at the headstones, thought about those long gone lives and what they might make of the world today.

There was a peace here that was nowhere else and a deeper connection to life that only comes when you reflect. It was my place for those moments.

 

(Inspired from; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/sunday-writing-prompt-peace-of-mind/ with thanks).

 

 

The Walk Home #WeeklyWritingPrompt

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Even though he had to work on Sunday, Nick always went to church afterwards. Sitting on the cold wooden pews, he stared at the alter watching the candles flickering against the stone wall and stained glass arch window above. Nick shut his eyes and prayed, thanking God for his second chance, for removing his sins and his needs now being meet.

Not long ago, Nick was barely surviving his fourth year on the streets. Newly released from jail for robbing shops, houses and cars, he found himself with hardly anything. He couldn’t get a job and when he spent all the money he had, he found himself with no home. There seemed nothing else left for him to do but die in the gutter.

However, death had left him alone and during his first snowy winter on the streets, Nick had often visited churches and other holy places that left doors open. There he had found himself again through religion.

Years later, with the help of a few kind people, Nick had turned over a new leaf and found employment in maintaining the cities’ churches. An old victor had allowed him to live in a tiny vicarage which was very basic but at least it was warm and dry. To Nick it was the best home he had ever had.

Leaving the church, he made his way through the graveyard. It was snowing heavily again and some of the smaller headstones where almost covered. Nick was careful and respectful in his walking, he tried not to disturbed anything. His breath misted in front of his face and snow fell on his worn coat and rubber boots. He didn’t shiver or really feel the freezing air, he was use to the cold now.

Leaving deep footprints, he went through the open gate at the end of the graveyard and along the path to the vicarage. Snow lay thick on the roof of the building and also on the window sills. There was little arched porch at the front and Nick huddled underneath. He shook the snow from his coat and boots then dug in his pockets for the key.

In the quietness, Nick putting the key in the lock and opening the door sounded louder then normal. Heading in, he turned the light on and felt a brush of warmth. Taking his his things off in the hallway, he went into the small living room and looked out. It was dark outside but thanks to the streetlights reflecting off the snow, Nick could make out some of the graveyard and the church.

‘I wouldn’t like to be out there right now,’ Nick mumbled, ‘thanks for my new life.’

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2019/01/21/weekly-writing-prompt-177/ with thanks).

Hopeful Rest (Part 2)

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I came back around to the start of the graveyard and looked out once again. I could see the tracks I’d made in the long grass. My brain puzzled over that same last line and I tried to shrug it off as nothing but there was something here! There had to be a reason why it said ‘we hope they have gone to rest’ on all the headstones.

A rumble of thunder sounded over head, blocking out the music from my headphones for a few seconds. I looked up at the sky and saw it darkening with thick clouds. Time to go home. Going back the way I’d come, I put the route into my mind map. Rain began to fall and I pulled up my hood and hurried on.

Luckily, the storm held off until I had reached a place to shelter. I’m not a fan of rain or storms. I entered the little cafe and sat down at an empty table. It was busy as it seemed other walkers had been caught out by the rain too and huddled inside. I looked over to the small pocket like window and saw a flash of lightening.

I got a cup of tea and a slice of cake. My mind worrying that they might ask me to leave if I didn’t order something. I moved tables to this little one in in a back corner which had a huge bookcase towering over it. I watched other people looking out of the windows and heard them commenting on the sudden storm. The thunder was super loud and I’d kept my music on but I could hear the rumbles over the techno beats.

Forty minutes later and the storm still hadn’t stopped. The rain was now lashing at the windows and the wind threatening to blow the place down. I sighed and hating myself, I call my mum to pick me up and drive me home. At least, I got home safe and dry and had a chance to ask her about the graveyard.

‘I think once there’d been a village there,’ she replied, ‘but I don’t really remember. Gran would know.’

The storm raged most of the night. Highly unusual for England. I slept on and off, my thoughts drifting back to the gravestone and that inscription. Finally at around midnight, I got up and turned on my computer. With just the noise of the storm and the PC fans in the background, I researched the place.

There was little to be found. There had been a village, built for the servants and their families who worked in a manor house close by in the mid 1800’s but it had been bombed in World War 2 by a lost German plane.

Disappointed, I went back to bed and next morning got up and went to see my gran. She lived a few doors down from us. She had been born in this town and never left. If anyone knew about the graveyard and lost village it would be her.

I used my key to her house and let myself in, calling out to her as I opened the door. The smell that hit me was a strong reminder of childhood; mints, faded tobacco smoke, dying flowers, coal fire and old things. I walked into the living room and found her there, in her favorite arm chair, watching TV.

‘Hello, gran,’ I said and hugged her.

She patted my arm, ‘hello, Neil. It’s so nice to see you. Cup of tea?’

‘Sure.’

I helped her up and give her my arm as we walked into the kitchen. Once the tea was made and the biscuits gotten out, we went back into the living room and I started with my questions.

‘I found an old graveyard yesterday, out in the moors and all the headstones had the same last line on them; We hope they have gone to rest. Mum said there was once a village up there. Do you remember it?’

Gran thought for a good few minutes before replying, ‘yes. I never want there. Only heard about it.’

‘It got blown up in the war,’ I added.

‘Yes. That’s what all the stories said but we always thought differently.’

I paused and waited for her to go on.

‘There was some kind of disease, more like a plague, that everyone in the village had. No one knows where it came from. Some say the manor family had it and passed it on to the servants, who then passed it on to their families. Or perhaps, one of the servant’s families had it. It was called The Restless Plague.’

‘The internet said nothing about that,’ I said aloud.

‘No one said anything about it,’ Gran cut in, ‘we were not allowed too, but everyone knew not to go to the village or the manor house.’

‘So everyone died of this plague?’ I asked thoughtfully.

‘That was always the story. You see, it wasn’t a normal plague. Once a person had it they carried on living but they were different. They weren’t all together there,’ she said with a tap to her head, ‘when they weren’t working or sleeping, they would wander around a lot.’

I frowned, not fully understanding. I had another biscuit and a few more sips of hot tea.

‘I saw some of ’em a few times. They’d just be standing, staring at nothing or shuffling along not going anywhere. Everyone was told to keep away, lest you caught the plague too. I saw this one man, once, dressed up like a farmer and he was just moaning at a tree. Another time, there was this child screaming and screaming, until she was carted away,’ Gran said with a shake of her head.

I couldn’t think of any straight questions to ask, my brain was trying to process all of this.

‘Thank goodness they’ve all gone now,’ Gran spoke out, ‘more tea, pet?’

‘No, thanks. What about the headstones, gran?’

‘They all had to be buried in another place. No one wanted them at our church.’

‘And those words? We hope they have gone to rest?’ I pressed.

‘They had no rest in life so maybe they’d find it in death? Who knows…..I’ve some angel cake left,’ gran said getting up,’ You want some? You love angel cake, just like your mum.’

She hobbled to the door then paused and said, ‘there’s a good boy. No more talk about this now.’

I nodded and sipped more tea. My brain felt better that the puzzle had now been solved. I part of me was eager to find out more but what else was there to say?

Hopeful Rest (Part 1)

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Some days, I just mindless walk whilst listening to music. It’s a habit that comes from when I was a teenager and just had to get away from my family. I was so anger and upset all the time back then and I couldn’t talk properly to anyone about it because I didn’t know how to. Being autistic didn’t help either.

It still doesn’t, but at least things have become a little easier. I like my job as an IT assistant at a large office. People come to me with their PC problems and I fix it. Though the world still has a habit of getting on top of me.

I was wandering to cool off after a bad day at work, listening to classic Linkin Park albums on my phone when I came across the old stone gate and fence. I stopped and checked for any signs telling me not to trespass etc, it’s important to pay attention to those things. There didn’t seem to be any and now I had stopped, I realised I wasn’t sure where I was.

Around me, thick trees and bushes blocked out most of the light. The path I was on was overgrown and it seemed nothing had been here recently. I was far from any road or house, in the middle of the moors. There had been something man-made here once and nature had claimed it back.

Getting lost had never scared me, my autistic brain didn’t really understand emotions or feelings. I get them sure, but not on the same level as everyone else. Also, if you wanted to be away from people you had to get lost sometimes.

I went through the gap were a wooden gate once had been and found myself on a fading path heading upwards. There were piles of stones dotted around, all of which had fallen off the wall. Past the trees lay an open, tangled snarl of a clearing and popping up from the super long grass and trails of ivy were headstones.

Counting them slowly, I came to about thirty in total, though there was probably more hidden in the grass. So, a graveyard then. I couldn’t see a church poking above the treeline, maybe if there’d been one it was long since gone. I didn’t give much other thought to the hows and the whys. I liked burial places, they were often quiet and didn’t have that many living people about.

I walked to the first row of headstones and tried to read them. Weather, age and moss made it difficult. I traced some letters and numbers with my fingers and got a few of them. I tried to clear the stone, interested to see the date on it. 1879 seemed to be it. The last line on the stone was clear to read, as if someone had gone to great lengths to make it stand out; We hope they have gone to rest.

I moved on to the next which like the first was a plain arched shape. The inscription once again was faded but at the end were those same words again. I went down the row, looking at each headstone carefully, but they were all too hard to read expect for that repeating last line.

There was an odd sound to those words my brain realised. I had seen many epitaphs but that was just different. Who was ‘we’ ? The family? and why ‘hope’ for something that was true? I don’t really get why people do things sometimes.

I walked around the other gravestones. Some of them were clearer then others and I got the sense this resting place was for members of a small village that might now be lost to history. The earliest date I found was mid 1800’s and the most recent 1930’s close to the start of the Second World War. On all of them though were the same last words; We hope they have gone to rest.

To Be Continued…

The Basement (Part 2)

Woman in Black Walking in Hallway

(Please be aware this story contains adult sexual content.) 

Unhappily, I followed Raven out of the living room and into the front hallway. A cold breeze was now circling the house, causing more smells to mingle in the air; old leather, wood vanish, dusty fabric and a faint hit of cinnamon. A door somewhere was creaking above us and something else was rattling gently.

Beside the front door, two of the moving men were bent down, picking up pans and other kitchen things. The plastic box the items had scattered from had been dropped to one side. The men were rudely shoving things back in.

‘Did anything break?’ Raven called, striding over.

‘Not sure,’ came a mumbled voice.

I sighed and tried to quieten my growing anger.

‘It’s fine, love, we got it,’ one of them said as Raven tried to help.

She ignored them and began stacking things back in right. They tried hard not to watch her, but I saw them. I stood guard, eyeing the men like a guard dog until they give up and left Raven to it.

‘It’s fine,’ she announced.

Flicking her hair over her shoulder, she shot me a smile.

It did little to cool my anger though. I picked up the box and carried it around the grand staircase and into the kitchen at the back.

The original kitchen had been build for the bustle of six or more servants. It was a vast rectangle space with a large fireplace in the far corner which was home to a monster of an aga. To the left of which was a small door for the servants to use. Ahead was a large table and chairs. Boxes were all ready taking up most of the room upon it.

Along the walls on either side of us and the right one were blue and grey granite worktops and cupboards. Black and grey modern appliances including a gas cooker and oven were slotted in or on them. Two more doors were in the corner, one was the back door and I think the other led into a utilities room.

I walked in and placed my box by the double metal sink with work tops either side and a window above. The blinds were drawn and I opened them to give more light and also to see the view outside. A long strip of grass framed by tall hedges was all I could see but I knew beyond it there were acres of land and also something else…

‘I got another surprise for you, Raven,’ I spoke softly.

‘Oh?’ she asked and looked up from a box she had been sorting through.

‘Do you have the key for the back door?’ I asked.

She looked down at the ring of keys she had placed on the table. She pressed her lips together and almost went to pick them up.

‘Can it wait till after? I want to make sure nothing else gets dropped,’ Raven said in a quiet voice.

From the hallway we heard the loud voices of the moving men again and the rustle of them bring more stuff in.

I nodded and turned away, so I could hide my disappointment. How many years had I been planning this moment and now it was ruined by moving men! I had wanted this to be as special as our wedding…

Raven wrapped her arms around me and pressed her head into the back of my shoulder.

‘What is it?’ she breathed in my ear.

‘Nothing,’ I responded.

‘Tell,’ she pressed.

She reached up on tip toes and lend into me. I felt her breath, brush of her lips and nip of her teeth in my ear lope.

‘No,’ I half moaned, half hissed.

She bit harder, ‘Crow,’ she growled.

‘I swear,’ I squeezed out through gritted teeth.

Raven’s biting was passing from pleasurable to painful.

She let go and dropped back down. I turned and wrapped my arms around her, trying to keep composed. My wife knew better though. She pressed into me, fixing me with a hard glare.

‘It’s just,’ I began, ‘I wanted this to be special.’

Shrugging, I looked over her shoulder as I saw movement in the hallway.

One of the moving men barged in, dropped a box on the floor and left again.

Raven patted me.

‘They’ll be gone soon enough,’ she whispered.

The moving men couldn’t have left any faster if they had tried. They seemed to carry on forever with their loud voices and banging. Luckily, they didn’t drop anything but they noise echoed through the house anyway.

Raven and I busied ourselves with emptying the hearse and setting up the master bedroom she had picked to be ours. I helped her make the bed but then stayed clear of it, because the urges to have some fun were too strong. I put clothes away in the wardrobes and drawers. The furniture was old maybe a close to a hundred years and though it all fitted the room it was not originals.

The room was huge, three times the size our’s had been in the apartment we had rented. A wooden four poster bed, complete with dark red velvet canopy and curtains dominated the room. On either side were dark oak bedside tables, which had lamps in an old fashioned style on them. A fire place took up the middle of the left wall, but it had been converted into ornamental then working. Then there were wardrobes and drawers on the left.  Lastly, large windows were in the far wall and they looked over the driveway and front garden.

Closing the wardrobe, I drifted about as Raven placed more things away. I went to the window and looked out. The afternoon was still clear, but it was beginning to switch to evening. Time was running out for my other surprise.

‘I’m going to see how the men are doing,’ I spoke, ‘you coming?’

‘Sure,’ Raven answered and she closed the lid of the large bedding box at the foot of the bed.

We headed down the corridor and stairs together. The moving men were gathered in the hallway as if they were waiting for us. Just like servants presenting themselves to the master and Mrs. Finally it seemed they had finished.

‘Just need you to sign off, Chief,’ the leader called me over.

I gladly went and signed a receipt on a clipboard. They give me a copy then wishing us all the best, left. I closed and locked the door behind them.

‘So,’ Raven purred as she came over and wrapped her arms around me, ‘what did you want to show me?’

I hugged her and kissed her hair. I had her all to myself now.

‘Crow?’ she asked and kissed me on the cheek.

‘You got the keys?’ I asked.

She nodded and jiggled the bunch.

I took her hand and led her to the kitchen. Through the mass of boxes we went and to the back door.

‘Which key?’ she wondered.

‘Just use the skeleton one,’ I suggested and pointed out the biggest key.

She used it and the back door opened. We walked out into the early evening. I closed the door behind us and then tugging her, broke into a jog. Raven laughed, her grip on my hand tightening as I raced for the gap in the hedges. Branches scratched at us as we pushed through then without pause, even though I heard Raven gasp at the sight of the gardens spreading before us, I rushed to the left and took her along the hedge.

A few minutes of running and I had to slow down to catch my breath. Raven bumped into me, laughing and also breathing hard.

‘Where are we going?’ she cried out.

‘To there,’ I said and pointed to a hill in the distance.

Raven looked hard, but all we could see was the outline of a fence.

‘How much of this land do we own?’ she asked.

‘Lots of it,’ I said, ‘it’s in the contract somewhere.’

Raven pouted thoughtfully.

I started walking again, seeing that the sky above was dusky but also overcast. Raven slipped her hand into mine and we fell silent.

We went through a patchwork of gardens and plots. Most were boarded by tall hedges or bushes, making each area private. We came to an open stretch and the hill was just off to our right. I took Raven up, along a half hidden pathway, to a set of small black gates.

‘Oh!’ she cried, spotting the headstones behind the fence.

Her face lit up and just as she had done on first seeing the house, she pressed herself to the fence and looked excitedly across.

I slipped the keys from her and unlocked the gate.

‘They came with the house,’ I explained.

I opened the gate and Raven hurried in. She darted around the headstones and went to the family mausoleum at the back. The square squat building with its black glossy stone walls, stood out. I followed her, knowing to keep my distance, Raven hated being disturbed whilst she was looking around graveyards and cemeteries.

She came back and threw her arms around me in a suffocating hug.

‘This is a amazing!’ she shouted.

I laughed and squeezed back.

‘There’s also a pet graveyard in the woods just through there. I don’t know how much of the woods we own though…There’s also a little church too, further that way….You can just see the steeple…’ I pointed.

We both looked together, through the tall trees we could make out an iron cross.

‘What more could we have asked for?’ Raven breathed.

I shrugged and added, ‘there’s an ice house way way back, double garage close by the house and stables a bit further back too. We only own one of the small cottages though.’

Raven looked at me with big eyes and waited for me to go on.

I searched my mind, trying hard to remember what the agent had told me. ‘The cottages were built for the servants and their families, early nineteen hundreds. I think. They were sold off sometime ago or given to the families. They have the little plot of land around their houses too. There’s maybe ten cottages, dotted around at the edges of our land. We own the first one; the grounds keeper’s.’

Raven sighed and kissed me, ‘you did a lot of hard work, getting this didn’t you?’

‘Yes. It’s worth it though seeing your face,’ I stated.

I gently angled Raven’s face up to mine and kissed her hard on the lips.

‘Let’s go back to the house,’ she said huskily.

All other thoughts went out of my head.

To Be Continued….