The house was covered in shadows as dusk settled around it.
This mellowed the empty and uncared for look of the place.
Hiding in the nearby trees sat a boy and by the look of him he had been there for some time. A cat crept through the undergrowth and stopped. The boy glared down at it.
Green unblinking eyes looked back and black, bristling hair stood out around its head. The mouth opened, and sharp teeth were exposed. Then there was a hiss, a swish of the tail and the cat turned and stalked away from the copse.
Hidden from view, the boy watched as a woman he recognised went into the house. It was Sheila who lived a few doors down from his home. He remembered mum telling him that she worked at the ‘big house’. She didn’t stay long, and he wondered what she could be doing.
Nobody lived there anymore. The police cordon was still in place to show a crime had taken place.
He knew the old man who had lived in the house, named Woodlands, was horribly dead, and the rumour in the village was that there was no one to inherit.
People said that the old boy drank through sheer loneliness and isolation. Many said he was mad, even dangerous. He had been dead for three weeks now.
The boy had also heard rumours of much darker goings on, but he hadn’t really understood what people were saying.
The boy shivered and wished he’d put a coat on when he ran off. Although he was 15 years old he hated being away from home. He hadn’t planned to stay away so long but now he felt afraid to go back. He thought back to the awful argument with his mum.
He had always known she was connected to this house, and the man who lived there, but not how.
When he had casually asked why she seemed so upset to hear of the old man’s death, which in fact turned out to be murder, she was furious.
‘Mind your own business’ she roared ‘you are never to go up there or snoop into that place. I told you it was dangerous. Now look what’s happened’.
Since he was about 10 years old, while growing from child to adult, the one thing his mum insisted on was that he was totally forbidden to sneak up to ‘Woodlands’ with the other boys. A favourite game of theirs was to sneak over to Woodlands and frighten each other. The boys called the game ‘House of death’. They liked to say that anybody going in never came out. It was rumoured that the old man carried a gun.
He had been determined to have a look. See what he could find out. There was something funny going on. He had never known his dad, and if he asked about grandparents his mum just snapped his head off. He stood looking at the house and then ran across the unkempt lawn round to the back door. It was no trouble at all to break in.
Now he sat in the kitchen and looked at the broken door. He sensed a movement and saw that it was the cat pushing its way back through the cat-flap. Jeez, that had scared him.
Breathing deeply, he waited for his heartbeat to slow down.
The green eyes stared back at him.
‘Shush. Why don’t you just feck off, go on. You can’t feel worse about me than I do’.
The cat’s eyes shone like little flames in the deepening dusk. He badly wanted to shove it back through the cat flap. Cats made his asthma bad.
The boy stood up and started to wander through the rooms. He found a downstairs shower room. ‘Why not’ he thought. ‘I feel filthy. Doesn’t matter if it’s cold’.
Stripping off, he turned on the tap. Wonder of wonders, the water was quite warm. Pure heaven. As he had nothing to dry with, he used his sweatshirt.
God, that felt better.
When he was reasonably dry he wandered back through the rooms. He was completely exhausted. Sleeping in the woods was terrifying. He found a lumpy old sofa and collapsed heavily onto it. He found himself drifting off to sleep and thinking ‘I wonder why that cat is still here? Is that why Sheila comes, to feed it?’.
He must have slept for a couple of hours because when he did eventually wake up it was dark. Feeling starving hungry, he wandered back into the kitchen and started to look through the cupboards. He felt desperate. Oh joy, some packets of opened biscuits. They were soggy to taste but he was too hungry to care. The boy sat down and ate the biscuits slowly.
‘I’m not cut out for this’ he thought. ‘it just doesn’t sit right’.
He heard a noise and turning around he saw the cat coming back through the flap. This time it came straight over to him. It was making a low noise and he realised it was purring.
‘Oh, so you like me now do you?’
Maybe the cat felt as lonely as he did. He laid his head down on the kitchen table and nodded off again.
The next thing he knew someone was calling his name.
‘Rory, Rory, wake up for god’s sake. Do you realise how worried we’ve all been?’
The voice was shouting now. He lifted his head and looked up. It was Sheila.
‘You stupid boy. You’ve been on the news and everything. And here you are just 3 miles down the fecking road. What possessed you? Your mum told me it was just a stupid teenage row. Phone her, go on, phone her now’ and Sheila handed him her phone.
Rory quickly pressed out the number and waited.
‘Mum, mum, it’s me. Yes, Yes, I’m fine. Don’t cry mum. I’ve been stupid. I’ll walk home now’.
‘No you won’t’ shouted Sheila. ‘I’ll drive you. Look at the state of you Rory’.
Rory was quite indignant at that. ‘What’ he said, ‘I’ve had a shower and everything’.
Sheila pretended to clip his ear but then she hugged him. ‘Are you ready to go home now?’
‘Yes, I am. I’ve seen the house. I just wanted to look, but now I want mum to tell me the story properly. I just know she’s connected to here somehow’.
‘Come upstairs. I’ll show you something’.
They walked up the stairs together, and Sheila led him into a large bedroom that looked over the front garden towards the copse he had been hiding in.
They both stared at the outlines which the police had marked out in chalk on the floor. One was clearly a body shape, the other appeared to be a cat shape and the third outline looked like the outline of a bird.
It was horrible to look at.
‘Look’ Shelia said, and pointed to a painting hanging on the wall.
‘He looked in astonishment. ‘It’s mum, isn’t it’.
‘Yes, it is. You were born here, and the old man was your grandad. Now you go home and ask her to tell you the story properly.’
When he got home, his mum put her arms round him and held him tightly.
‘You’d better read this’ she said pointing to a newspaper laying on the kitchen table.
‘Everybody will be talking about it’.
‘Three people appeared in court yesterday following the bizarre scene found in the house known as ‘Woodlands’ three weeks ago. Three corpses were discovered. They were an elderly man, the 87-year-old owner of Woodlands, a cat and a pigeon. The police reported that the corpses had been mummified and positioned in the following way. The dead man was holding a shot gun pointed at the cat’s head and the cat was clawing into the pigeon’s throat. Items relating to satanic practices were found at the scene.
Rory felt quite ill. ‘God mum, that’s terrible. He was my grandad, wasn’t he? Sheila told me’
‘Yes, it’s true. Sit down Rory. I will tell you everything’.