In love with the devil
Baying at the moon
Bride of night
Sweet Sixteen in June
Ending far too soon
With all the bravado of the young they climbed up the hill towards the tree, singing the local nursery rhyme as though it were a talisman. Jacob, ever the clown, changed the words on the second attempt to something far cruder and Nathan pushed him, sending him tumbling down the hill to the bottom again.
“Hey!” Jacob called as he fell.
“Serves you right,” said Celia, the self-appointed leader of the trio, doing her bit for the power of girls in the company of adolescent men.
Nathan laughed and they continued to the top of the hill, hearing their fallen friend scrambling behind them.
Once they were all together again they stood solemn for a moment, turning to look at the horizon behind them. Far in the distance twilight trembled before its descent and retreat to the blackness of night. Clouds scattered the skyline, threatening to hide many of the evening stars. Far below the homestead was dark, and empty as it had been for years.
None of the teenagers knew when the house had last been inhabited. In their living memory they could not recall a new owner and they tended to believe that it had remained empty since the tragedy of little Carlotta, she of the nursery song, over fifty years previously. The scandal and the tragedy and the ongoing mystery had fuelled many a campfire ghost story even to this day.
Jacob was in a mood for retribution. He whispered darkly in Celia’s ear, “Can you feel her here, hanging upside down, hanging from the tree?”
“Don’t be a child!” Celia replied, to hide her own fears as they crept up upon her, using the most insulting retort it is possible to say to an adolescent boy.
Jacob was miffed and unrepentant. He reached for a low hanging branch of the tree and ran its pointy end up her back.
“Now do you feel her?” he asked, his voice deliberately sibilant.
She jumped despite herself, turning round, and seeing the branch in the boy’s hands.
“You little prick!” she accused. Jacob laughed and her fury and his amusement caught them still for a moment, each wondering what the next move would be.
“Hey guys!” Nathan said, his voice quivering slightly.
“Don’t even start!” Celia warned, still looking directly at Jacob. The two had fallen into a staring contest and neither were in the mood to lose.
“No, guys, really!” Nathan said more insistent.
“What is it?” Celia demanded through gritted teeth, still not breaking eye contact, and inwardly telling herself she should have known better than to come here with these youngsters. Maybe if she had come with Jonathan, the older boy in year 12, it would have been an entirely other and more satisfying experience….
‘’A light went on in the house!” Nathan cried, his voice betraying the dismay at something the whole town would have thought of as an impossibility. The Hanged Girl’s house as it was called had remained dark forever it seemed. The thought of a new owner was beyond anyone’s imagination unless, of course, they were in a mood to entertain the many ghost stories about the house and little Lottie at the tree. But he didn’t believe them, no-one did really, so who or what had turned the light on in the house?
Jacob and Celia gave up their battle and turned to look. Sure enough, down the hill and in the middle distance, the big house stood silent and dark as ever, save for a light in the attic area at the very top. The brightness and incongruity of the light even being there and its high-placed position made the cursed house look rather like a lighthouse beacon. But a beacon to what?
Just as they were starting to process this unexpected turn of events, they heard the backdoor at the bottom of the house open and close and they could discern a large, shadowy figure emerging into the half-light. It looked like a man, not a little girl ghost or even the wraith that Lottie’s equally tragic mother might have formed, but nevertheless the figure instilled a form of chill and disquiet that was entirely new to the teenagers.
“Hello?” a male voice half called, half bellowed out wards them.
“It’s the devil!” Nathan cried, ever the most imaginative and sensitive of the trio. But for the moment the others were more inclined to agree than deride. In the half-light, with an unanticipated extra to their little journey, they felt vulnerable to all manner of darkness in the night.
As one again they scrambled over the top of the hill and down to the boundaries of the property to escape. As they ran Celia was sure she heard the footsteps of the man hurriedly following, but when they finally navigated the fence below and reached the apparent safety of the road nearby, she chanced a look behind her and saw nothing.
Nothing but the tree at the top of the hill, swaying in a wind that had suddenly picked up as they ran, the noise of its branches and leaves sounding very much like a devil chasing them in the night.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2015 All Rights Reserved