I finally moved into my dream house today. It was a steal of a price; a fully furnished, old Victorian country manor that looks over the beautiful Yorkshire countryside. The house is in disarray and looks like it hasn't been lived in for years but nothing a good mop or a lick of paint can't fix. It's quiet here - the nearest neighbours are miles away - but I've always enjoyed my time alone, away from others. You see, I have large purple birthmark which covers half of my face and it’s always irritated me how often people rudely stare. Most people awkwardly gawk, even though they are aware they shouldn’t, they can't stop looking. It'll be a longer commute to and from work now but I'm tired of the hectic city life with so much uncomfortable attention. The middle of nowhere suits me well.
I start unpacking the master bedroom. It is a large room with an ancient four poster bed and rich velvet curtains, draped across a dome shaped window over-looking the lush green fields. The room is dominated by an enormous old oak wardrobe, sitting in the corner opposite the window. It is the height of two grown men and its top almost reaches the ceiling. The proportions are odd and out of scale; as the wardrobe rises it becomes wider and leans in towards you, as if it is leering intimidatingly. Despite the beautiful craftsmanship, the wardrobe leaves me feeling unsettled. It'll be worth a small fortune though, I'll sell it eventually.
For now though, it serves a purpose. I start dusting the insides. It has a faint musty smell about it. On the bottom shelf there's an old black and white photograph in pristine condition. It’s a family portrait of a father, mother and a little girl all dressed in their nineteenth century Sunday best. The father sits in a lavish armchair between the two women with them standing either side of him. The father has a stern, proud posture with a cruel squint in his eyes and the mother a tense, nervous expression in her stance and face. The little girl has a facial disfigurement, a cleft palate on the right side of her upper lip. Her long black hair tries to cover the right side of her face. She looks as if she is about to burst into tears and is leaning away from her father with her head facing the ground. She looks terrified and embarrassed…poor girl. There is something written on the back of the photograph in large, angry handwriting: NEVER AGAIN.
I place the photograph to one side, and notice a pile on the bottom shelf of the wardrobe. My hands touch the top lightly and recoil. It's sharp; I look closer and realise they're fingernail clippings! Yuck! Oddly, they look like fresh clippings. What's most disturbing is that the inside door has thousands of deep scratch marks all over. It must have been caused by some kind of animal - a rat trapped inside perhaps. Damn it; the damage would bring the value down considerably. I sweep the clippings away and put them in the bin. Most of my clothes fit in the wardrobe, the rest are put in a chest of drawers I kept from my old flat. I make the bed and then it’s time to get to work downstairs.
Cleaning the kitchen is the first priority. It's a real mess, but even in its grubby state there's potential, so I put my iPod on and get started. After a few hours of hard work there's signs of progress, the kitchen now has a warmth which it didn't before. The sun beams in through the window and gives the mahogany surfaces a gentle glow. Feeling pleased I reward myself with a long, hot shower.
Still smiling, I return to my bedroom to grab a towel only to see the wardrobe doors wide open and all my clothes scattered across the floor. My smile disappears. What the hell was this? Was my iPod on so loud that I didn't hear someone sneak into the house? The kitchen is right next to the front door after all. I stand still in the middle of my room just looking at the floor for several minutes, feeling my heartbeat rising and a slight feel of dread at this intrusion. I shake my head. Bloody kids; neighbours must be closer than I thought. They probably hung out in the house as it's been abandoned for so long.
'You better get out of here or I'll tell your parents!'
My voice echoes back at me. Silence. They're probably long gone by now anyway. Maybe they saw my face and were scared away, maybe that'll keep them away from now on. I set about gathering my clothes but after a long day I can only muster the energy to pile them up next to the bed. An eerie feeling sticks with me so I decide to take a walk to clear my head. I reach into my chest of drawers for a sweater; I notice all the clothes in there are still folded neatly.
After some fresh air and a solid day of work I'm shattered and happily greet an early night. First night in my new bed and the mattress is so comfortable that I can't keep my eyes open if I want to.
I wake with a sudden gasp, looking around the room, frantically trying to piece together my unfamiliar surroundings. Slowly it comes back to me that I'm spending the first night in my new home. The clock reads 3:00. I take a few deep breathes. With sleepy eyes I look at the bottom of my bed and to my horror a little girl is sitting on top of my pile of clothes. She must be about ten or eleven with long jet black hair. Her back is to me and she's sharply jerking in a crying motion, but she doesn't make a sound. I'm so scared, my eyes are watering with fear and I'm shaking uncontrollably. Get a grip; this girl is clearly in distress.
'Hey, is everything alright?'
At the sound of my voice she instantly stops jerking and slowly turns towards me. Her skin looks transparent, as if it hasn't seen daylight for years. I'm speechless, my hands tightly clench onto the bed sheets. A cold sweat spreads over my trembling body. Finally I see her pale, veiny face. She looks at me with two tearful eyes. I recoil in horror as I see her mouth - she has no upper lip. It’s been cut off; all I see are long yellow teeth and blotchy black gums. My stomach turns and gag reflexes spasm my body. She reaches out to me with her bloody fingers tips and says,
'Daddy said we'd be safer in there. He'll fix you too.'
I jolt upright, panicking as I struggle for air. My eyes squeeze tight and open to try and focus on the end of the bed. Nothing. Sleep is impossible after that disturbing dream. I glance over at the clock. It reads 2:59 ... the wardrobe door creaks.