Nick Fletcher
Show MenuHide Menu

Short Stories

THE SHADOWS ON THE WALL

By

 Nicholas L. Fletcher

 

“I must have a picture.  Last time I saw a Grandfather clock like that was in Scotland,” said John, as he grabbed his camera from his bag.
“We’ve only been here five minutes and you’re snapping already,” said Janet, as she looked up at the winding staircase.

John clicked away and put the strap around his neck and ran up the stairs.  “Come on let’s have a look in the bedrooms” said John like an excited school child.  John stood in the window, stroked his goatee beard and admired the view of the moors.  Janet and their daughter Sally walked in and surveyed the room.

Kenton Hall had a gothic look to it.  It stood, at the bottom of a valley on the North Yorkshire Moors.  It looked almost out of place with the landscape.  John Hanson, his wife Janet and nine year old daughter Sally were on holiday from London.  John had a good job in the city but was really a hippy at heart.  He loved to go taking photos of Britain’s rugged landscapes.
The first day of their holiday the Hanson’s got to know Kenton Hall and its garden.  They looked in the kitchen, study, bedrooms, hall and dining room.  What a charming house they thought.  Sally wandered into the garden and was joined by her parents as they marvelled at the frogs on the old pond.  A girl with a white face appeared in the lounge window.  “Look,” shouted Sally smiling.  “It’s Judy.”
John and Janet turned around and looked at the window; the girl had gone.
“Judy?  Whose Judy love?”
“The girl I saw in the house, she whispered her name to me when you were in the hall.”
Janet and John looked puzzled.
“There’s no one here, must be a shadow love,”

John went inside and Janet hugged Sally and stared at the house.
That evening the family went to the village pub and had a nice meal.  Driving back down the winding road, Kenton Hall looked a different place at night.
Next morning John came down and found Janet cooking breakfast.  “You’re up early?”
“I seemed to have cat naps all night, you seemed restless” said Janet.
“How do you mean?” said John as he munched on some toast.
“I felt like something was pulling the bed sheets off all night.”
“I slept like a log.  It’s a new place love, different bed, where’s Sally?”
“I’ll go and wake her up, thought she’d be down by now.”
Janet hopped up the stairs and stood near Sally’s door.  She could hear a chair rocking and whispering.  Janet stormed in and saw Sally sat on the bed giggling.  The Chair was empty and gently swaying.
“Who was in here Sally?”
“No one”
“I heard someone.”
“She told me not to tell you.”
“Who?”
“Judy, the girl I saw yesterday, she’s nice”
The Grandfather clock disturbed the silence as the Hanson’s sat at the breakfast table.  Sally looked down at her toast and jam.
“Look love your mother’s just worried about you.  Believe me there is no one else living in this house.  It’s just us.”
“Judy has lived her for a long time, it’s her home.”
“How about we have a ride on the bus to Whitby, see the Abbey and get some lucky Whitby Jet.”
“Yes that’s lovely.” Said Sally as she ran to her bedroom.
“You two go, I want to get some photos, make the best of these autumn colours.  I’ll meet you at the bus stop.
As they put their bags in the car, a gaunt savage looking woman in a black nuns dress stood watching in the top window.
John bid Janet and Sally farewell at the bus stop in the small village.  He parked his car, flung his rugsack over his shoulder and headed for the village store.  Janet and Sally sat on the bus reading magazines and admiring the beauty of the Yorkshire moors.  John walked in through the red door of the village store.  The bell rang but no one was there.  An old man with thick grey hair appeared from the dark room.
“Sorry to keep you Sir, legs aint what they used to be.”  Said the man.
“It’s okay, no rush, I just want some chocolate and a bottle of water.  Thought I’d do a bit of walking today.  I was wondering what is the easiest way to get to the moor?”
“Past the church, there’s a public bridle path, you can’t miss it, quite a walk though sir.”
“Don’t worry, I love walking.”
“You here on holiday sir?  You don’t sound like you’re from these parts.”
“I’m from London, Hammersmith, nice to get away from the rat race, and get some fresh air in your lungs.”  I’m renting Kenton Hall for a week”
The old man dropped the water bottle.
“Are you okay?”
“Sorry sir, got a lot of arthritis now.  Kenton Hall you say?”
“Yes do you know it?”
“That will be two pounds please sir”
John looked baffled and counted the money from his wallet.  He paid the old man and walked to the door.
“You’re not staying there on your own are you Sir?”
“No I’m with my wife and our daughter.  Why do you say that?”
“Have a good day Sir.”

John walked along the bridleway and was soon met by an army of walkers.  The sun was shining and the moors looked magnificent in the autumn light.  A beautiful kaleidoscope of colours as far as the eye could see stretched along the valley.  John took picture are picture in rapid fire.   He was in heaven.

That night at Kenton Hall, John and Janet decided to drink some wine and relax.  Sally went  to bed early.
John poured Janet more red wine as they sat on the floor in front of the big log fire.  The rain started to lash the window and thunder shook the room.
“Look’s like quite a storms brewing,”
“This is nice and cosy, sat near a log fire in a house on Yorkshire moors.”

The storm grew stronger as the log fire raged.
“Do you think we ought to see someone about, Sally,”
“Not now love, were on holiday, kids have vivid imaginations, she probably just created this imaginary friend.”
“It’s just when we were in Whitby, she bought some Whitby jet for herself…and Judy.”
“Look I’ll have a chat with her in the morning, now let’s enjoy our holiday.

John and Janet became very drunk and staggered up the stairs.  The lightning lit up the staircase.  Suddenly a young nun dressed in black was stood at the top of the stairs looking straight at Janet.  She walked away and along the landing.  Janet chased after her, but she vanished as the lightning flashed.

“Did you see that young woman at the top of the stairs?” said Janet trembling.
“What woman?”
“A Nun, she was standing there staring at us.”
“It’s just a trick of the light, and don’t forget we’ve had some very strong wine.”
“I know what I saw John.”
John and Janet went to bed and soon became sleepy because of the wine.  Sally was asleep in her bedroom, a gentle tapping noise got louder and louder, and she opened her eyes.  A child’s voice whispered as if in pain, “Sally….Sally…help me.”
The storm seemed relentless and the lightning lit up the garden and house.  John tossed and turned and a crack of thunder woke him up.  He went down stairs in his tea shirt and thermal pants.   He checked on the fire and went into the kitchen.  He got a glass and poured some water from the tap.  Suddenly he saw rained drenched girls face looking through the window.  She had marks on her neck and was deathly white.  The rain bounced off her solemn innocent face.   John dropped the glass and it shattered.  He got a bin and picked up the shards of glass.
“She didn’t too it..”
John jumped out of his skin and he turned and saw Sally, stood in the doorway.
“Come to bed love.”  Said John as he gripped Sally’s hand.
“Can I sleep with you tonight?” said Sally trembling.  “I’m frightened.”
“Course you can pet.”
Sally gripped John’s hand as they walked up the long winding staircase.
Janet lay fast asleep in bed as the wind and rained battered the window.  A shadow appeared in between the lightning strikes that lit up the room.  A shadow of a nun shone on the wall.  She was holding up a short rope.  She kept tightening the rope and moved slowly towards the bed.  The silhouette moved eerily towards Janet as she slept.  John and Sally opened the door.  The nun disappeared as quickly as the lighting strikes.  John and Sally cuddled up to Janet and went to sleep.
The storm had eased and the house was silent.  The Grandfather clock struck three O’clock.  Janet woke to hear footsteps coming up the staircase.  She woke up John and Sally.
“Listen, there’s someone coming up the stairs,”
John jumped up; the steps got louder.  There was a long deathly pause and the floorboards creaked with every step on the landing.  Something was approaching their bedroom.   The doorknob started to turn slowly.  The door slowly opened.  John, Janet and Sally sat on the edge of the bed looking petrified.  A young nun dressed in black stood, sobbing in the door.
“I didn’t do it.”  said the nun.
The nun ran down the stairs.  John followed her but she vanished.
The next day Kenton Hall was a different place, the birds were singing and the sky was deep blue.  John was sat in the lounge sipping strong coffee and looking at his laptop computer.  He was searching the internet for anything he could find about this strange house.  Janet chucked a bag in the hallway and walked into the lounge.
“I’m not staying another night in this place.”
“A gamekeeper I spoke to on the moors was right, this was an orphanage run by nuns.  That’s strange it changed its name in the forties.  I’ve booked us into a Bed and Breakfast in Pickering.”
The Hanson’s got their belongings and left the house.  As their car drove past the front drive, Sally looked up from the back seat at the house.  The young girl Judy was stood in the kitchen window.  The young nun stood in the lounge window and the gaunt old nun with a haunted face peered down from the bathroom window.
As the car came into the village, John stopped the car.
“I just want a chat to the guy in the village shop; I think he knows more than he’s letting on.”
John entered the shop and the bell rang.  The old man came out of the shadows.
“Can I help you Sir?  Oh it’s you.”
“Kenton Hall, used to be ‘Grayson Place’, it was an orphanage.”
“That’s right sir.”
“Is it haunted?”
“You know how old wife’s tales spread sir.”
“What happened there?”
“A young nun called Sister Alice was hung for strangling a young girl there.   A lot of people say she didn’t do it.  Said she was framed by someone at the orphanage.   The judge at York didn’t believe her so she went to the gallows.  They said that another elder nun called Madeleine was jealous of her and she killed the child, but poor Alice ended up carrying the can.
John looked stunned.  “That’s very strange.”
“Are you alight sir?” said the old man.
“Yes…yes, thank you.”
That night in the Bed and Breakfast in Pickering, John got his camera out and uploaded his photos to the laptop.  He flicked through the pictures and smiled at his photos of the moors.  His face dropped as he looked at the picture of the Grandfather clock he took at Kenton Hall.  In it he could see a blurred image of an old nun with a rope around a young girl’s neck.

The End