“Hey Emily are you ready yet? We’re waiting.”
“Yeah I heard, just finishing off now.” She replied speaking directly to the bedroom door as she hurriedly put ripped pieces of paper into several books she had been trawling through in order to prepare for her first Formative assignment. Her mind was still trying to put together answers when she put on her coat, grabbed her mobile and keys and made it out of the room.
“Where we going again?”
“Out for a walk.” Amy answered with an exasperated sigh.
“Will it be dark when we get back?” Charlotte asked nervously, locking her bedroom door also. “Should I go and get my torch?”
“Nah, we’ll be fine, we’re not walking that far. Just into the woods at the top to check out the view.”
“Yeah all we have to fear out there is Amy herself.” Emily teased slipping her arm through Charlotte's, who seemed to brighten up with the laughter.
The three flat mates went out of Slade B and into the chilling evening air. It was only half past six but nearly all the warm daylight had been leeched by the sky and dark splodges made of murky grey clouds spoiled the once dazzling blue heavens. A constant reminder to everyone that summer was over, if you could call it a summer that is, and now autumn was taking over the land. Bringing with it the usual weather of showers heavy and light as well as the constant presence of a cold wind. The friends passed other students, equally well wrapped up or if they were boys, merely walking around in t-shirts, either making their way back to their cozy flats to snuggle under the duvet or to the shop to top up their cupboard supplies.
Along their walk up the track the three of them discussed what they might dress up as for the D-bar Halloween party which was only two weeks away. It was as Charlotte was describing her red devil outfit idea that Amy spotted it.
“Wouldn’t it be awesome to come here on Halloween?”
“Erm…no…it wouldn’t.” Charlotte said trying to not to appear the slightest bit afraid of the old ruined building before them.
“I wonder how long this has been here.” Emily openly wondered following Amy without question, who had already gone down what was once a drive but now the stone walls were overcome with hawthorn and other weeds. Most of the house was surrounded by trees that have sprung up over the decades but most remained visible to the natural elements.
The building the three stood looking up at was certainly a farm at some point. The old barn was visibly what it was, attached to the rear end of the property, its large doors now missing and inside was littered with broken rafters from the also missing roof and ceiling. The house part of the farm had windows either bricked up or boarded up or simply void of glass. Above what may have been a shed or a coal bunker was a large hole in the wall. From their position it was hard to tell whether the hole was on the top floor or the bottom. Peering inside everything was of stone and dust.
“What’s that noise?” Charlotte half shrieked half whispered pointing into the shadows lurking around the bottom of the property where weeds and hawthorn grew in mass over rubble and large slabs of stone.
All three stopped their curious inspection and looked in the pointed direction to see a young man, around their age, emerge from round the corner and walk towards them with a slightly smug smile.
“Don’t worry girls; I’m just looking around, like you.” His voice had a calming resonance.
“Oh cool.” Amy replied without suspicion.
“A sad sight isn’t it. To think what this place must have been like without all this overgrowth, ruin and vandalism.” He commented openly standing a short distance away from Emily.
“Yeah, I was just wondering what might have happened to whoever lived here.”
“Ah they moved away eventually, once there weren’t enough patients in the hospital to feed. My family used to live here. A long time ago.”
“So Storthes really was a mental hospital?” Charlotte gasped with obvious disbelief as if it was the first time she had heard the news.
“Oh yeah, this place is called Ravensknowle Farm, it was a small part of Storthes Moorside Farm which is up nearer the top of the hill. Both farms would supply the hospital with food and stuff. Although my Granddad always knew it as Keepers farm. I think perhaps because gamekeepers lived here back when Storthes was a genuine hall for the wealthy families. Makes sense really, it’s close to the woods.”
“What’s your name?”
“Oh, it’s Ben.”
“Nice to meet you, I’m Emily, that’s Charlotte and this is Amy.”
“Cool. Well I’d best be going, it’s getting dark and I don’t want to get lost going home.”
“Oh you’re not a student then?”
“No, no, I’m too old for that. I do live nearby though. Maybe I’ll catch you round.”
“Yeah. See ya.”
“Bye Ben.” Charlotte said as he passed her giving a rather pleasing smile.
“Oh by the way girls, don’t try looking inside, it is dangerous believe me. The whole place has been left abandoned for too long. Have a look around its outside by all means just don’t go inside and get hurt.”
“Ok we won’t.”
“Thanks for the tip.”
He walked out onto the track and disappeared behind the wall and vegetation in the direction of the halls leaving the trio to wonder and imagine.
The following day Keepers Farm still remained in Emily’s mind, almost pestering her to retrace its history and reclaim its lost heritage. It just so happened that when she visited the shop for milk the next day there was a book all about Storthes Hall called ‘Storthes Hall Remembered’. She ignored everything else as her eager fingers flicked through its pages until they stopped.
There in black and white was a picture, a picture of Keepers Farm as it once was. Her eyes fled across the text looking for more information, she didn’t find much apart from what Ben had told her about it supplying meat and dairy products so she flicked back earlier into the book and then she really did gasp, both with excitement and surprise.
There in a small paragraph it mentioned who had lived on Keepers Farm in 1863, a man whose name was Lockwood, Benjamin Lockwood to be precise. Had she just met someone who might have carried a past relatives name or perhaps, out of all sane reason, had she met a ghost?