Hope cycled down the hill.

That was odd. A roof could be seen poking out over a grassy bank, through some trees. She cycled on a little.

The ridgepole was not long, belonging to a house no larger than a small cottage. But the end closest to Hope and her cycle had just a few beams to it. Then it crumbled and fell, leaving an overgrown sagging roof of red-burnt tiles crusted with moss. The back end was intact, if in appalling condition. There was no way the small stone cottage was lived in.

Hope cycled a little further. The cottage was stone, that was true, but no door or window could be seen, for thick undergrowth covered the view of such things.

Then behind a tree, opening out just off the lane, was a hidden driveway. At least, it was hidden until you reached that particular bit in the road, which was when Hope began to shudder. Almost sticking into the road itself was an assortment of cars. A tractor, a pick-up truck, a small rusty van. At the front was a small cheap thing with tyres as flat as a hedgehog on the road nearby, with moss growing from the gravel onto the tyre itself. Next to this was a vehicle so old it could scarcely be recognised to be a vehicle. The tyres lay propped against the other tightly-packed cars around it, as if they had fallen off without warning. The thing was orange with rust and all that remained was a few corroded components, deformed with age and quite useless.

Hope had seen things like this on films and such, but to be confronted alone by an extremely rusty speciman in a crowded drive of an unattended run-down house, and at nighttime, was an experience she did not relish; nor did she decide to dote on it.

Hope turned her bike in the middle of the deserted road and cycled away with an uneasy backward look, ignoring her errand to the chemist in search of toothpaste. Never would she take a different route to the store again, she thought firmly. Maybe she should give up trying to be adventurous.

A sly smile curved her lips. Anastasia never hesitated when it came to adventure. But she was Anastasia. And Anastasia was Anastasia. And let her be Anastastia.

Hope again glanced over her shoulder with the edgy suspicion that she was being followed. She doubled her speed, then remembered that the faster she went the more terrified she became, and reduced her speed to the slowest she could possibly go in her present state of agitation.

One last time Hope peeked behind.

The black shadows around the cottage lengthened and stepped forward. Hope hadn't time to scream.

The End

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