I would often ride past the large house on the corner of the long, windy country road. Every time I rode past it, I would glance up at the balcony at all the dolls that were in there.
One day, I had a puncture right outside the large secluded house, and I had forgotten my puncture kit.
I looked up at the black painted balcony and all the dolls. They were brightly coloured with pigtails and of various shapes and sizes. I stood there for a moment mesmerised by the dolls; there was something not quite right.I had no alternative, but to knock on the door and to see if I could borrow their phone. I really did not want to go into this house; I had a very negative feeling that I should not be here, but on the other hand, I felt that it was fate that brought me here.
I knocked on the large, solid wood door and within seconds the door was opened as though they were expecting me.
I was greeted by a very small, meek-looking woman, around 70. Her bent figure and downbeat demeanour made her look older than what she probably was.
She gesticulated to me to come in. The house was large with a wooden staircase and brightly polished wooden floors. The ceiling was high with decadent candelabras’ hanging from it. There were many pictures on the walls of men and women from preceding centuries dressed in different styles of attire.
“How can I help you?” The woman said.
“I was wondering if I could please use your phone, as my bike has a puncture and I am unable to repair it.”
“I am afraid I don’t have a phone.”
“Oh ok, you can’t really help me then, I will have to walk back with my bike.”
“How far do you live?”
“I live about five miles.”
“You can’t walk that far, it is starting to get dark. Why don’t you sleep here for tonight and then go back tomorrow when it is light?”
I peered outside the window, it was getting dark, and I was in the middle of nowhere without any street lamps. It would be quite dangerous to walk back.
“Ok that would be very kind of you, I hope I am no trouble?”
“No trouble at all, I will show you to your room, you can shower, and I’ll get you some fresh clothes, then we will eat.”
The woman showed me to my room, which was very large with a king size bed. I took off my sweaty gear and took a shower.
When I came out of the shower there were some freshly pressed clothes laying on the bed. I lifted the clothes up with their coat hangers. There was a 50’s style short-sleeve shirt with long pointy collars and a pair of turned-up grey trousers with a crease that would cut your finger.
I started to feel very sleepy, so I decided to lay on the bed and shut my eyes.
I was alerted by a crying like many little girls. I tried to ignore it thinking it was maybe the trees creaking, but it persisted, and I could not ignore it anymore. My curiosity got the better of me and I ventured out into the corridor. The crying appeared to be coming from the room in the corner of the landing. I crept very slowly towards the door. I was just about to open the door when the old woman shouted, beckoning me down for food.
The table was laid out as though I was a special guest. There was a beautiful floral patterned tablecloth, which looked very old, and an array of silver cutlery.
“They suit you the clothes.” The woman said.
“You needn’t have gone to all this trouble.”
“It is no trouble, really, you are my guest. Now, I have some tomato soup to start with, would that be ok?”
“Sounds lovely, I am very hungry, I must admit.”
“I bet you are you, all that cycling.” And with that, the woman left the room.
Shortly she returned with a large ceramic dish and began to ladle out the soup.
“I thought I heard young girls crying in the room on the landing where I am.” I asked.
“Young girls? There is no one here apart from me.”
“Strange, it really sounded like crying.”
“It was probably the foxes mating, it sounds like someone being murdered. The first time I heard it I phoned the police, I was convinced someone was being attacked.”
“Well this is lovely.” I said, as I carefully spooned the soup into my mouth.
“There is more, help yourself, then I have done you a steak just like you like it and then your favourite ice cream – chocolate.”
I suddenly, for the first time in the evening, felt uncomfortable and almost questioned how she knew what I liked, but then I decided to change the subject.
“How long have you lived here.”
“Many, many years.”
“And you have always lived on your own?”
“Yes, ever since my husband died. Finished? I’ll get your steak.” The woman then left the room.
I was sat thinking about what I needed to do tomorrow when something made me look up towards the landing. There, staring straight at me, was a young girl in a brightly coloured dress and pigtails. She was almost in a trance, her bright eyes boring in to me.
The woman came back with the steak.
“Who is the young girl upstairs? She was sitting on the landing.” I asked.
“I told you, there are no girls in here, it is just me.”
“But I saw her with my own eyes.”
“You must have imagined it, perhaps you’re tired; our minds can play tricks on us when we are tired.”
“No, I know what I saw, I’ll show you.”
“Please eat your steak it will be going cold, and help yourself to veg!” The woman exclaimed.
The atmosphere turned frosty. I was starting to feel really uncomfortable and actually a little frightened. I should not have come into this house. I could not understand why the old woman was denying there was a child upstairs when I clearly saw the child with my own eyes. A thought flashed through my mind that maybe the girl was a ghost which raised the hackles on my back.
“I almost forgot, the wine, how can you eat steak without wine!” The woman exclaimed, before leaving the room.
I closed my eyes and rested the many thoughts that were running through my head. I opened them again to be met by two pairs of eyes staring at me through the staircase. I smiled at the two young girls and waved at them. They remained motionless, their eyes boring into me.
The woman came back, and, as expected, the two girls vanished.
“Here you are.” The woman poured out the wine. “I haven’t asked you your name.”
“My late husband was called Harry, what a coincidence.”
“And your name?”
“Elizabeth. Have you got any children Harry?”
“No I am afraid my wife can’t have children.”
“I’m sorry. It’s a terrible thing if a woman is unable to have children, it can completely destroy a marriage.”
“I love my wife, it doesn’t make a difference to me.”
“What a lovely man you sound Harry, some men would just pack up and leave and find a woman who is able to give them children.”
“I hope you don’t mind, but I am feeling really tired now, I think I will go to bed. I want to be up early tomorrow and get back to my wife.”
“Yes that’s fine, good night Harry.”
“Yes goodnight, and thank you for the food, you really didn’t need to go to so much trouble, a sandwich would have been fine.”
“It was no trouble Harry.”
I walked back to my room. There was a key in the lock and I instinctively locked the door behind me.
I was soon in a heavy slumber. I was awoken abruptly by the sound of girls crying again. I sat upright; my heart was beating very fast. I had to go into the room and see for myself.
I opened the door to the room very slowly and peered around the door. There was no one there. I opened the door to the balcony, and there were the dolls that I could see from the road. I was just about to leave the room when a trapdoor caught my eye. I opened it up and it led down some very steep old rusty steps. There was a damp-smelling cellar below, which was very cramped and strewn with old papers, and a stack of boxes almost reaching to the ceiling. I reached inside one of the boxes and felt around. There were objects of various sizes wrapped in paper. I pulled out one which was round in shape and very hard. I unwrapped the paper, and to my horror it was the skull of a young child.
I woke in a fit of panic and alarm.
“What’s wrong!” Jan, my wife, exclaimed.
“I have had a terrible dream, it was so real. I dreamt I entered that old house on the way to Cracklington, that no one lives in, you know the one with the dolls on the balcony.”
“Oh that house, did I ever tell you what happened in that house.”
“Well I remember my Dad telling me. Apparently a woman lived there on her own back in the 50’s and she was a school teacher. She used to take some of the girls back from her school and she murdered them.”
“You’re joking! I dreamt I went in to that house because I had a flat tyre and ended up staying there because it was too late to cycle home, and I saw two little girls looking at me and I heard the cries, and I discovered a trapdoor which had a child’s skull down there! What happened to the woman?”
“She was finally discovered and arrested, and she was hung for it, they reckon she killed twenty girls over the course of five years. It was actually quite a sad case, because her husband left her because she was unable to have children and she never really got over it, so she wreaked her revenge by killing the children she took back.”
I am a fairly new writer to short stories. I have had one short story published by Short.Story.me. That was The Path of Kernow (Mystery)
This story is inspired by a cycle ride I do through the beautiful Surrey countryside where I live.