As Old as Houses -Ghost Story – Yorkshire Magazine
"I wonder how old this place is."
"Who cares? It's going to be gone after the weekend."
"Yeah, there's a notice about it in reception."
"Oh. What a shame."
"Why? It's a dump." Jenny muttered pointing at the mould covered and water soaked mattresses which lay scattered like decaying corpses amongst the trees concealing most of the old farm house walls.
Staring at the tumbled pieces of brickwork, the roof with no tiles, not complete chimney stacks and the vandalism and graffiti all around, Sarah had to agree.
A wind blew down from the waving tree tops giving the girls intense shivers. Sarah paused to listen to it whisper through the broken walls and empty doors.
"Come on, this place is boring." Jenny complained.
Sarah cast one glance back at the house before racing after her friend who was already returning to the familiar lights of Storthes Hall student flats.
It was Friday night and feeling a bit home sick Sarah chose not to go out drinking and clubbing with her friends. Instead she planned on finding comfort with a good film and chocolate to cheer her up. Raiding through her collection she wasn't sure what to watch when something caught her eye. It was the shocked face of Eddie Murphy on the cover of The Haunted Mansion. Remembering how it made her laugh so much as a child she slipped it into the DVD player.
It was nearing Midnight when her childhood comedy classic came to its happy ending. After turning everything off Sarah climbed into bed, snuggled deep within the duvet and let her mind float away.
She was young. That is one thing Sarah knew as she took her part in the dream world. She was also at home in what was an unfamiliar landscape. It was a small enclosure in the middle of a vast expanse of trees and an oddly built house in the middle with gardens around it. There was a small field set off by a crude wooden fence with two horses frolicking in the sunshine. She was going to run towards them to watch closer when a large hand took hold of her own.
"Not today little one, I believe Mother needs some help with the cooking." A gentle male voice spoke from somewhere above yet somehow all Sarah could make out were large legs walking in front of her.
She was led towards the oblong stone house in front of her with grass turf for a roof and a single plume of smoke escaping out in the middle. The wooden plank door swung open and a woman wearing her hair behind a cloth bandana, a large white apron tied round her middle, a plain blue gown and holding a dead pheasant in one hand, greeted them.
"Ah Fala! Take that basket by the door and go fetch some eggs from the hens."
The big hand of the man passed Sarah the basket as she slowly made her way back to the door somehow instinctively knowing where to go for the eggs. Just before she went out she heard the man and woman speak.
"And you better chop some more wood if we're going to keep this fire burning long into the night. I know what you and your friends are like when you start telling tales."
"Who wouldn't want to hear about my adventures? Besides it's the first time we've all met since bringing you women across. Just tell me, do you like our new home?"
The woman paused. "It'll do for now but still a lot to be done before it's worthy of all those scars on your body."
"It's going to be worth it because I want this to be my family's home for many years to come. I won't let anyone take this place from us."
The conversation faded away to murmurings as Sarah stepped out of the door and in that one movement the dream world itself began to twist, swirl and fade to be replaced with the silent blackness of a dreamless sleep.
Spending too much in the Saturday Sales is how Jenny and Sarah spent the first part of that weekend, buying more clothes to fill up their wardrobes and feasting out at Pizza Hut. Laden with bags they made their way back to Storthes Hall flats on the Storthes Bus passing through some of the local woodland that enveloped the hillside the campus was built on. Amongst the trees Sarah glimpsed large yellow vehicles and a team of men making their way down the old track towards the derelict farm house. Bringing back a mixture of regret and sadness for not having the opportunity to get to know that old building better.
A thunderstorm passed over that night, pelting her window with rain, the high winds moaning through her window pane and thunder loud enough to shake the sky into pieces. Sarah lay in bed and closed her eyes tight trying to let her dreams take her away from the nightmare outside.
Sarah saw pure darkness yet within it something was moving. Silver edged waves lapped her feet sending shivers crawling up her bones. She could make out a faint white glow in the centre of her vision, weak but enough for a silhouette to evolve. Of a ship with a large square sail and a snarling prow beast head racing over the crests of black waves. Its sinister shape and swift movement made her want to run and hide but she could not move.
There was a flash of lightning. It illuminated an axe blade coming down upon her from above. Just before it could slice straight through her paralyzed body a male voice whispered into her ear.
"I am here."
Sarah sat bolt upright in bed, freed from the nightmare at last. The image of a raven flag still lingered in the shadows of her mind.
It was Sunday and Sarah was surprised to find she wasn't the only one going to see the sad downfall of the old farm house. She stood amongst the student gathering kept behind the safety barriers now that the bulldozer was in position. It was just as the bulldozer driver was about to get in, alongside a big cheer and chatter from the small crowd, that someone pushed past her. The culprit ignored the barrier and ran towards the house, straight past the demolition team unnoticed. Only when Sarah glared after the rude person did she recognise who it was.
"Hey! Jenny? Jenny!" She yelled trying to stop her friend, Jenny turned around just as she reached the old farms coal shed which was now visible because the demolition team had cleared all the vegetation. When their eyes met Sarah became cold inside, silenced by that strange feeling, she watched Jenny disappear into the farmhouse. "Jenny! Jenny! What are you doing?" Sarah couldn't understand this, Jenny was meant to be in bed still being nine in the morning. Sarah kept glancing around hoping someone had seen Jenny as well but people were starting to look at her with puzzlement. The demolition team were ignoring her shouting completely as the bulldozer driver turned on the engine. The rest of her cries were drowned out in a huge cruel cheer from the student crowd.
Sarah caught the attention of the nearest man in a yellow jacket. Her frightened eyes and nervous voice persuaded him that she was telling the truth. He halted the bulldozer and went to the house with Sarah, much to the disappointment of the crowd who began booing and jeering.
"She's in here I swear. She went right past you all. Jenny? Jenny can you hear me?" Sarah called into the dusty derelict building as her and the demolition foreman stood at the doorway. "Jenny? Please come out, you're going to get into trouble."
"I am here." Jenny answered her voice echoing in the darkness.
Sarah took her first steps inside, immediately feeling the coldness of the shadows.
"Are you sure she's in here?" The foreman grunted, not satisfied.
"Yes, yes she is. Where are you Jenny?"
"I am here."
"She's through there." Sarah began to go towards the dusty and cobwebbed doorway to the cellar. "Are you in there Jenny?"
Again came the reply. "I am here."
It sounded strongest and closest in the one room they had yet to enter. "She's in the other room."
"Come off it, there's no one here. You're just stopping us do our job." The foreman made a move to turn around and head back to the front door.
"No, she is in there. Didn't you hear her?" Sarah pushed past the foreman towards the room. It was dark inside with bricked up windows but Sarah could see a darker form that wasn't her shadow from the foreman's distant torch light. She walked towards it thinking of Jenny. On her third step the dirt and rubble covered floor groaned, something snapped causing a shudder and the floorboards collapsed inwards. Sarah lost her balance with a wail and went down to the unknown.
The foreman came closer at the sound and shone his torch into the collapsed floor and stepped back in shock. In the dust flickering light was Sarah, on all fours amongst broken timbers and dirt but right next to her was a skull, its fixed expression so serious it was almost glaring at them both. Beside its other bones was what looked like a well rusted axe head only giving the faintest shine and a large lump of wood that was not from the broken floor. The beast's forked tongue, jagged teeth, and painted ruby red eyes still looked menacing despite its withered state. Its age and sorry condition did not stop Sarah trembling when she looked at it.
The foreman swore before he clicked open the channel on his radio. "Dan get the Police on the phone, the damned house is on top of a grave. Until then this house stays up."
Sarah heard words echo out of the skull by her side, it wasn't Jenny's voice anymore. "I am here!"