#writephoto: Glimpsed

For Sue Vincent’s photo prompt. I hope she doesn’t find anything like this on her open northern moors.

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She had always hated the Victorian Gothic pile with its crenellations, mock Tudor mullions, classical portico, and it’s stone balconies of imitation oak branches. The whole think was fake. And ugly. When a local entrepreneur bought the property to turn it into a theme park she thought it poetic justice. The house was to be a hotel with a haunted suite—naturally—its very own White Lady, and a totally invented history of fictitious gruesome murders and mysterious disappearances.

The idea pleased her so much, she was tempted, for the first time since she had lived in the little northern town, to wander down the oppressive driveway, bordered by impenetrable ranks of rhododendrons, to take a look at the result. It was an uncharacteristically sultry summer evening and the dank rhododendrons hung humid and limp. She found it suddenly difficult to breath and hesitated, on the point of turning back. But the driveway ended, and the house appeared, squat and ugly and silent. The bridle paths for the pony trekking were empty, as was the adventure playground with attractions that reminded her of medieval scaffold scenes.

A movement in the trees that clustered behind the house caught her attention. Crows. Rooks probably. But silent. She began to feel uneasy, as if she was trespassing, and the owner was watching her. A big black bird hopped out of a tree and settled just beyond her line of vision. Another one followed, then another until the trees were empty. Curiosity got the better of her and she approached, her feet crunching on the gravel path, the only sound except for the heavy fluttering of bird wings.

In the dying light of a cloudy sunset, she saw the heaving, squabbling sea of black birds and reached out to the wall to steady herself. Ponies lay in bloated stillness, and here and there, she caught sight of the pale glimmer of flesh, a small foot, a hand. She retched. A movement, this time above her head at a small window. Caught in the last blood red light, a woman behind the diamond-paned glass watched. Smiling.

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