BAM, BAM, BAM,
Nick backed his body against the window, his wide, fearful eyes staring madly at the door,
BAM, BAM, BAM,
The door wouldn’t take much more, already, it was lurching out of its frame, threatening to breach at any moment. Nick took another look over his shoulder, outside, the road was still empty as far as he could see, no sirens whirring, no blue lights, if help was coming, it would never arrive in time, and what would happen if they arrived and saw no smoke or sign of fire, would they investigate the alarm, or would they call out Hedges to be there first?
He had to do something, Nick couldn’t just stand there and wait to die, if it could hammer on a door...if he could hammer on the door, perhaps he could be hurt, or knocked down, maybe there was a way to fight. A sudden plan came to his mind, he moved across the room, to just a foot from the door, hoping he was far enough back to not get hit as it opened. Nick waited for the next assault, when he felt sure the door would give in and open for his stalker, that’s when he would make his move, even though, it might be his last.
“Here we go” he thought out loud,
“NOW!!” Nick leapt forwards, the keeper appearing for an instant, Nick barely had time to see his axe go up into the air, before he closed his eyes and waited to collide with the wasted figure blocking the doorway, but the next thing he felt, was the cold hard wall of the corridor outside the room. His brain worked fast, eyes open and getting up, he could hear the cracking bones of the keeper trying to turn around, probably already raising his axe again. Nick did not look, instead he ran for the other end of the corridor, hurrying to put as much distance between himself and the ghostly axe men.
Reaching the landing and the top of the stairs, Nick looked around for the next best place to hide, he was considering trying the back door again from the dining room, when he saw what he felt sure was the hem of a long white dress, disappear though the open kitchen door. Nick jumped the stairs, then looked back as he heard a dull thud, the axe hitting the floor, the keeper had managed to catch up and must have swung a hit as Nick jumped....the realism of this sunk in quickly, and horrifically, the keeper could move a lot quicker than Nick had thought, he was playing with him.
Nick ran through the dining room door and slammed it shut behind him, he looked around, but saw no sign of the white lady. The room was exactly like the others, desks and cabinets, nothing more. Nick strode the room to the far wall where the window was, he tried to force the latch but it would not move, he was now positive that the keeper was responsible, that he was the reason Nick could not escape,
“But even If I do get out, what about Gareth?” he said to himself, it was true, if he left the house without Gareth he may never find him,
BAM, BAM, BAM,
The keeper was at the door, Nick knew it would, or rather, should take him longer to get through, this door opened outwards, the keeper would almost certainly have to knock it off its hinges to get in, then the knob slowly started to turn,
“Oh come on!” he almost cried as the latch clicked, the door began creeping open, a tiny speck of the hall outside came into view, then the door stopped, everything seemed to stop, Nick could feel the stillness, it wasn’t natural, somehow he knew that time had simply decided to stand still, then he felt, rather than saw, the light reaching around him, he tried to turn, finding his whole body was frozen, yet he was turning, spinning very, very slowly on the spot. Nick knew what he was going to see, but it didn’t stop the quickening of his heat beat and trembling in his body.
The white lady stood so close, her nose was nearly touching his, she was holding the lamp right up to the level of her eyes, her mouth slightly open, but Nick felt no breath. The tiniest trace of flowers scent met his nose, it was so subtle and pleasant after the stench of the keeper, she seemed to know what he was thinking, her mouth twitched into a tiny smile against her sad face. Nick looked into her eyes, white and dead, no colour, no pupils, just empty, and white, but as Nick looked deeper still, the white began to shift and move, swirling like mist inside their sockets, he felt as though he were being pulled into them, then the mist took his mind, and the world went black.
He stands up, brandishing his axe, the job’s not done, the house needs protecting and it’s his responsibility to make it safe, from everyone. The fool calling himself lord won’t bother them anymore, acting like the house is his, HIS! The house belongs to itself, and he is it’s protector, that mutt won’t dare try and foul the carpets with its dirty paws anymore, following him around, begging for food all the time, cut the disgusting beast wide open didn’t I, now the house is safe, and I’m it’s guardian.
It’s her, come spying on me, thinks I need watching, like I need a WOMAN telling me what to do, a woman who can’t even bare me my son, the houses son, the future protector, but we’ll soon deal with her, bury my axe in her head I will, teach her for asking questions in town, spying on me, ON ME!
Nick is not thinking the words, but they stream through his mind anyway, he’s looking but not moving his eyes, he has no control over his body. He tries to recognise his surroundings but cannot, he thinks, unless he’s very much mistaken, he’s in a church? He stands, but not by his own free will, and begins walking through the rows of pews, towards an alter and pulpit, then his feet take him off to the left, towards a heavy looking oak door, which he guesses leads to the vestry.
Why can’t they leave us be, intruders, vandals, thieves, all wanting the house, all wanting to pillage and ruin its beauty, but they don’t know I’m waiting, I will always be waiting,
Nick watches helplessly as a hand rises up and grips the heavy iron ring of the door latch, and pulls it hard. The door swings open hard, Nick walks through the door and over to a corner, where an older door stands, its wood is older than the rest of the church, a curtain lays coiled against the wall beside it, Nick wonders if it usually covers the doorway from sight. The hand rises again and pushes the old door open, Nick can see the bounce of the axe in his other hand as he walks, blood is trickling down it, onto the hand holding it, a large hand, larger than Nicks, a hand belonging to a strong arm, bare to the elbow where the cuff of a white shirt lays rolled up.
Through the old door, there lay a steep flight of stone steps, leading down into a candle lit cavern. At the bottom, Nick feels the pace in his movements quickening, the passage he is entering from the cavern is long and thin, completely illuminated from start to finish in candle light, the candles are old, almost depleted, Nick wonders how long he, whom he now knows is the insane keeper, has been down in passage, going stir crazy. The passage ends in an old wooden ladder, nailed into the bare, wet stone wall.
Nick can feel the massive strain in the keeper’s free arm, pulling himself up the ladder the while the other hand keeps a tight grip on the axe. His head tilts backwards and Nick can see a trapdoor, the axe hits the door and pushes it slowly up and open, then the keeper pulls himself up into what Nick soon recognises as the kitchen. A stove is gently smoking in the corner of the room, pots and pans hang from the ceiling along with a couple of dead pheasants. The keeper turns, changing Nick’s view of the room, now he is facing the door, two large oak cupboards filled with china crockery, stand on either side of the door. The keeper raises the axe and walks to the door, he can hear voices, outside.
Old fool is still alive, and now she’s with him too, not for long, I’ll see to that, and then there’s no one left, just the house and I, forever!
The free hand reaches for the knob, clutching and turning it in a powerful grip, very slowly it creaks open, but the sound is masked by the scream of a young woman dressed in a long white dress, no more than eighteen, standing in front of a dead man, a man Nick had already seen once, the late manor lord. The white lady had her back to the keeper, she was clutching her mouth and staring down at the body, she would never see him in time. The axe was raised high, Nick felt the incredibly strong grip the keeper had, his arm was so powerful. The girl started turning, Nick could not watch this happen, with everything he had, he willed the arm to stay where it was, to somehow stop events that had already taken place, was that why he was there?
Then he realised why she had shown him this, as the axe came down and buried itself in her skull, as the first trickles of blood ran down her face and onto her white dress, as the lamp fell from her hand and smashed on the floor, as the life left her eyes and they rolled over white, Nick felt himself pulled out of the keepers body, and back to his own time and place, in the kitchen, nose to nose with the haunted and hunted lady in white,
“Thank you” he said, and she vanished,
The door flung open from where it had stopped, but Nick knew what to do, he ran for one of the furthest desks, and kicked it hard across the room where it smashed into a wall, and there it was, the old trap door. The keeper burst into the room, axe high and twisted, broken body cracking as he walked towards Nick. Nick was bent low, trying to get his fingers around the tiny metal ring used to pull the trap door open, it was so old and had probably not been used for years. Nick finally managed to get a finger under, but he could not get enough leverage from this side of the door to pull it, he would have to move, he would have to get closer to the keeper.
Nick pulled every last ounce of courage he had and jumped on the balls of his feet to the other side of the trap door, the second he did, he felt the footsteps of the keeper quickening and knew he had only seconds before the axe would take him, he looped his finger under the ring and pulled, but as he did, his finger slipped and he fell backwards to the floor, landing hard on his back, then he saw him, the keeper, standing high above him, dead and decaying, the rotten stink surrounding him, and the axe coming down with a powerful swish, Nick was about to die.
Suddenly something small and bright swung out over Nick’s head the axe collided with it and was thrown backwards, the force of the impact sending the keeper stumbling back. Nick raised his head from the ground and saw the lamp in the white ladies hand, she looked livid, rage personified, and glaring at the keeper, Nick sat up and grabbed the ring again, he pulled with all his might and this time the door swung up. He pushed his feet through it and let his body fall the six or seven feet to the wet, stone passage below. He looked up from the pitch black of the passage way, above he could now only see the keepers face, mouth wide open and screaming a horrific sound, like nothing Nick had ever heard or could ever describe, but it was a scream of anger, that he knew, not directed at him, but the white lady.
Nick looked down the passage, it was so dark he felt very grateful he already knew it was straight to the church. He lifted the camera from his chest, feeling instant relief that the battery had not yet died. Through the night vision, he could see the passage and cavern as he remembered, empty of anything but the now dead stumps of candles, hundreds of years old, cobwebs hang from the ceiling, making Nick jump in fright at first, as the night vision does not show them up, pushing through them, Nick enters the cavern and turns the camera around it, the steep steps lay ahead.
Nick climbed the steps quickly, hoping beyond hope that the keeper isn’t right behind him. He reaches the old wooden door, which is now soaked through from the damp in the walls, he tries the heavy ring but cannot shift it, the metal has utterly rusted through, Nick kicks the door in anger, and although feels incredible pain in his foot, notices the wood crack. From somewhere down the passage, Nick hears the trapdoor slam, no idea whether it has just fallen, or if one is following him. He bends down and starts pounding on the cracked plank of wood, pushing, pulling and then standing and kicking, trying to break his way into the church.
Something shifts in the dark behind him, a thick, rotten small meets his nose and a freezing cold makes his necks hairs stand up. Nicks pulse quickens and his hands start to clam up, he’s almost through the door, the broken plank leaving just enough room for him to squeeze his head and shoulders through,
Nick looks back and sees the blade of the axe against the top step, the keeper is climbing the stairs and just barely missed him with the last lunge. Nick takes one brave step back, then rushes his foot forwards the plunges it through the broken plank, then falling to his knees, banging them hard against the stone floor, Nick pushes himself through, into the church.
Nick stands up, and takes a quick look round, there’s a piano in the corner, a clothing rail with cassocks hanging on it, and a door in the wall opposite, the same door Nick came through as the keeper. He runs for the piano and moves to push it towards the door, it moves easily on its wheels, and he uses it to block the hole he has made and secure the door. From behind, he can hear a dull, continuous,
THUD, THUD, THUD,
The keeper is once again trying to smash his way in. Nick runs for the door and pulls the iron ring, the latch clicking open easily. He runs into the church, past the alter and pulpit, across the rows of pews. He is almost half way through the church when his foot catches on something and Nick fall’s face first to the floor,
“Don’t hurt me” a scared and very familiar voice comes from the dark,
“GARETH?” Nick picks himself up, turns and see’s Gareth curled up in a ball on the floor by one of the pews,
“Where the hell have you been?”
“He....Here, she told me to stay here”
“Who tol.....Ohhhh” Nick was suddenly beginning to understand, “what about the blood on the chair in the kitchen, your radio crackling?”
“I had a nose bleed” Gareth told him, “I haven’t got my radio?”
Nick picked himself up then held out a hand to Gareth, helping him to his feet he hugged his friend,
“Sorry, you just have no idea how good it is to see you”
“Gareth we have to get out of here, is the main door unlocked?”
“I don’t know” Gareth protested, “I’ve been curled up in a ball scared out of my wits for the past hour”
“Oh you really are useless, come on” together they hurried for the main door of the church.
Nick grabbed the doors heavy handle and pulled, but the door was locked tight,
“Well we are in the middle of Slough” Gareth pointed out unhelpfully
“Oh god, he’s out of the vestry, we have got to get out of here” Nick panicked, without a key, he simply had no idea how they would get out, all the stain glass windows were too high and he knew they had no time to find something to climb, yet the white lady had led them there, she had protected him, shown him the way,
“Oh come on, help us, will you” he called into the church,
“I don’t think praying is gonna help, mate” Gareth was joking but still sounded terrified, from the back of the church, they could both now here the steady approach of the keepers footsteps.
Gareth suddenly started tapping Nick on the shoulder,
“What now” Nick snapped, Gareth pointed across the church, to a wall some ten feet away, where the ghostly white figure of the lady stood, beckoning to Nick. He started walking towards her, Gareth reaching out and grabbing him,
“What are you doing?”
“She won’t hurt us, she wants to help”
“Oh yeah, silly me, the scary dead lady wants to help”
Nick ignored the comment and shrugged Gareth’s hand off, he walked to the lady, being as quick as he could, never taking his eyes off hers. When he reached her, she smiled at him, then slowly bent down, she laid her lamp on the ground, over a metal grating running the length of the wooden floor, a tiny recess running below it, like an open drain.
Nick bent down as she rose, he followed the guiding light of the lamp with his eyes, then saw a glint of metal against light. He reached to either side of the grating with both hands and lifted the section above whatever she was showing him, with both hands. He placed the grating on the ground and reached into the recess, pulling at the item, it came away from the mounds of dust and dirt which had built up over time and examined it. It was a key with a paper tag attached to it by a small piece of string, Nick turned the tag in his hand and large smile covered his pale white face,
Nick stood up and looked at the lady,
“Thank you, for everything” he said, and felt sure she gave him the slightest of nods in return,
Nick turned and saw the keeper was halfway up the rows of pews, he turned to run back to the door when the white lady shifted at an incredible speed, placing herself between the keeper and the door,
“HURRY UP!” Gareth called, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
Nick ran to him and thrust the key into the lock, he tried to twist it but his hands were to tired and sweaty, the lock was old and fiddly, finally, the tumblers lifted with a loud CLICK and the door opened,
“LET’S GO!” Gareth shouted and tore out, into the dark. Nick hesitated he looked back into the church. The keeper approached the lady, he raised his axe high, screaming his angry, in human scream. The white lady turned her head to look at Nick, then turned back, just as the axe buried itself in her head again, and the door of the church slammed closed in Nicks face, blocking the last view he would ever get of her.
Nick and Gareth walked on the opposite side of the road of the manor house, stopping for a moment to take it in,
“What now?” Gareth asked,
“We go into town”
“Nothing, we go to town, find a really, really bright place, lots of lights, pigeons and litter and stay there till morning”
Gareth laughed, “Then, what?”
“Then, we go back to the house at first light, I’ll get the gear while you start the van, we leave Hedges a note telling him we found nothing and go the hell home”
Together the two of them walked towards the bright orange glow of Slough High Street, shops and restaurants, pubs and clubs, offices and houses, people living lives day by day, never knowing what lies just a short way from the hustle bustle, in the grounds of an old manor house, called Upton.