The house had many names in the town, none of which were its real title. Perhaps the house’s lost identity added to its air of mystery; the people in the town had been curious about its origins since it had first been stumbled upon several decades ago, discovered in the same abandoned state as it was in now - though of course now it was much more dilapidated. Abandoned houses were the stereotype for a haunting, but the house was not haunted. When the inhabitants of the town spoke about it, their hushed tones conveyed puzzlement and caution more than fear. They were puzzled because nothing was known about the house - no stories passed down for generations, no registered facts, just the rumours. Who had owned the house and what had happened there remained as much a secret as ever, never to be discovered.

At least, until I arrived. I was told of this by the landlord of the quaint village inn I planned on staying at during my exploration of the place. The stories about a lost house intrigued me, as did any unexplained occurrence, and that was how I set out late one warm afternoon in summer, determined to locate the house and reveal the truth behind its mysterious façade.

By the time I first laid my eyes on the house it was a dark silhouette against the fiercely orange sun which was burning down on the horizon and tinging the sky with streaks of pink and gold reminiscent of a fairy tale. It had taken me a while to stumble across it; the townspeople’s directions had not been exact, and there were over five miles of countryside surrounding it in every direction.

However, I was finally there. There was no boundary to mark the edges of the property. The overgrown greenery had crept right up to the house walls, hiding it from prying eyes. It wasn’t going to keep me out. I picked my way laboriously through knee-high grass, wild flowers and banks of brambles, clambering over fallen trees carpeted in moss. Thick bushes rustled with the breeze of my passing. Their red fruits fell to the ground where they lay like beads of blood, never to be eaten. A realisation struck me suddenly and I paused to listen.

It was eerily quiet. Nothing but myself was moving; no birds came to peck at the plentiful berries. I could only guess that the presence of the house had scared them away. I glanced up and saw that I was closer to the house than I had thought I would be, although it was also taking me longer than I had thought it would to get there. Dusk had already fallen as I approached, a grey veil settling over the landscape.

I observed the house for several minutes, taking in its sorrowful state. The dark wooden shingles were gradually rotting away, some already fallen off, leaving darker patches all over the walls. Dirty rainwater dripped from the broken gutters lining the top of the ground floor, trickling down the wall like tears and creating new stains. There was a porch tucked under this part of the house, and a short round tower perched above it. Beneath the overhanging edge of the roof the porch was in darkness, hiding in shadow the way crabs sheltered under rocks, as though the house was trying to retreat from the world and take its secrets with it. I surveyed the once-smooth conical black roof of the tower, its point just visible against the ever-darkening sky, and the curly iron fixtures connected to the corners where the carved wooden beams of the porch met with the roof they were supporting. The dark holes of smashed windows gazed forlornly over the wild gardens from the tower. Rather than an air of malevolence, which I might have been expecting, there was a sense about the place of despair, of elegance fallen by the wayside after decades of neglect. I imagined it must once have been a grand home… the house had been alone for so long. I pitied it, as if it was a living being, rather than a decrepit building forgotten and left to rot in the middle of nowhere. More than ever I longed to find out what had gone on within its crumbling walls.

The End

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