When I was young I often used to go on cycle rides with my best mate D. They were great days out away from Mama & Papa Smeg. Off we’d ride into the countryside and discover many exciting places and hidey-holes; the forgotten Hereford to Gloucester canal, old barns, disused railway sidings and even an overgrown adventure playground.
There was one house which we never had the guts to explore, a true ‘haunted house’ if I ever saw one. Disused, with no power. It stood greying and fading at the end of a gloomy tree enclosed lane. Moth-eaten curtains would flutter out of the smashed windows and strange noises would be heard from the trees surrounding it.
Every week we’d pull up on our bikes daring each other to inch that little bit closer. A summer or two went by until we’d finally summoned up the courage to reach the front door. It was truly creepy. Through the window we could glimpse old décor – possibly not touched since the 20s. We felt it could have been an old farmhouse from when the whole area was farmland.
We’d been far too brave that week so cycled home to safety watching Knightmare and Fun House.
The next week was a different story, we were nearing the end of the summer holidays and our bike rides would soon be postponed to bad weather and schoolwork. We’d reached the front door but could we gather the courage to step inside?
I’ll always remember that day as long as I live. Upon arriving at the house the air seemed to go colder. I was nervous, feeling this was a truly bad idea but ‘D’ egged me on. We pulled the torch out of my rucksack (it was a birthday present back in March, I was secretly quite excited to use it for something other than reading The Beano under the bedclothes at night) and gripped the handle of the main door.
It swung open with a creak straight out of a Hollywood B-movie. We both stepped inside and our senses were instantly overpowered with that musty mouldy smell of old, damp buildings. The wallpaper was peeling away and many of the fixtures were smashed or broken. As we took more steps inwards the daylight faded behind the heavy living room curtains. We flashed the torch around noting an old fireplace, some bedding and modern magazines strewn around the floor. We were too young and innocent to think of druggies or squatters using the house so wondered if it was perhaps a tramp bedding down at night.
That was when we heard a clunking from deeper in the house – movement! Shining the torch over to D I could see he was nervous but he nodded that we should investigate. As we came out of the living room we noticed a door to the left that I swear wasn’t there before. Unlike the other, grander doors in the house it had a more temporary feel to it. It also had a bolt at the top.
“Probably to keep us out” D laughed.
“Or to keep something in?” I replied. I’d meant it as a joke but realising what I said scared my self. What if there was something locked inside? Should we open it?
To cut a story short we did and were confronted with rickety wooden steps down into darkness. Shining the torch into the gloom I could see the cold stone floor of a cellar. A rat, startled by the light scampered off into the dark. I took a few steps downwards and jumped as I heard that clunking again. I couldn’t pin where it was coming from but didn’t want to seem a wuss in front of D.
The cellar was stark, cold, damp. We could see our breath glistening in the torchlight which was starting to flicker – the battery running down. As we reached the back wall of the cellar we were rather unnerved to find two sets of rusty chains drilled into the wall.
“What the hell are those for?” I mumbled as the cellar door slammed shut. We froze. Too scared to turnaround for the fear of what we might discover. There was movement again, and that ominous feeling of someone in the room with us. Indeed now there was shuffling, barely audible over the thumping of my heart – we were way out of our depth.
My torch flickered again, as it did so I noticed another light source from above – it was very feint but it was daylight. As the shuffling grew closer I felt my temporary paralysis ease. Nudging D I inched closer to the light source. As my eyes grew more accustomed to the darkness I could make out a hatch – a hatch that led to freedom.
“Go!” I stammered.
D being more athletic than me leaped up. He made contact with the rotting wood of the hatch and somehow managed to push up and out of it. I saw his legs slide up into freedom and daylight. I reached forward and began to pull myself up, the fresh external air clearing my senses fro the dank below. Just as I thought I would make it something gripped my leg tight. Looking back I could see a hand strong, but pale. It had a vice like grip. Peering into the gloom I could make out a pair of eyes glistening. They were human, but filled with evil intent. I screamed out to D for help put the man with the demon eyes began tugging hard, pulling my leg – just like I’ve been pulling yours for the last five minutes….