10 July 2019

Story

Part One

High on the moors, there's an abandoned stone cottage. It sits beside remote Oaking Clough Reservoir, miles from anywhere. Alone but for a few ragged moorland sheep and the plaintive calls of lapwings, this tiny building was erected during the Victorian era for waterboard workers.

That is where I sheltered when the rain began to pour. It lashed down in torrents so I stayed put and dry inside. Outside, November's afternoon light was quickly fading. When would that rainstorm end?  Hearing it battering the stone slabbed roof, I hunkered down in the snuggest corner I could find and rested my head against a wall.

Perhaps I was only asleep for a few minutes but when I woke the ceaseless rain had ceased and night had fallen. Only the very last vestiges of daylight remained in the western sky as a half moon now soared above me like a Chinese lantern, moving in slow motion - following the departed day.

Stumbling, I followed a now replenished stream wrung from that exposed moorland. The peaty landscape acts like a vast natural sponge - east of  Stanage Edge. It was impossible to clearly see the way ahead and the rough vegetation was of course now sodden. That half moon lantern provided weak illumination helping to define the shape of the skyline.

Had I come the right way? Maybe I should have turned back. The waterboard ruin wasn't far behind. My boots squelched in  black porridge. I felt almost blind. More than once I fell down, my tumbles cushioned by heather clumps or crowns of  bog grass. Somewhere close by a red grouse cackled. And then I made out what I thought was a wall, running arrow straight into the night. 

It was a tumbledown wall, long neglected, no doubt hewn from the exposed millstone of nearby Stanage Edge. I remembered it from before and I knew that if I followed it it would take me to an old track along which I could descend to Redmires and then home.

Progress was slow but the broken wall kept me out of the adjacent quagmire. My waterproof walking trousers were already soaked. I staggered along, sometimes feeling my way though my eyes were now better adjusted to that pale moonshine. High above, the navigational lights of an aeroplane blinked at the stars. I imagined those air travellers, strapped in their high-backed seats, reading inflight magazines as I floundered along, alone in the dark.

And then I reached the unmade track. To the left, rhododenron bushes bent over black hollows. To the right, the silhouette of an old stone hunting lodge reared up defiantly. I had often seen it from afar on my rambles. It stood in the middle of a big swathe of the moor with impenetrable plantations on either side of the access track.

Previously, I had seen signs at the estate boundaries . White on black. "Stanedge Lodge - PRIVATE" or "Stanedge Lodge - NO PUBLIC ACCESS" or "Stanedge Lodge - KEEP OUT". The capitalisation was always bold and threatening.

Though it was time to get home, instead and illogically I turned right heading up the track to the lodge as though magnetised. What was I thinking of? Why oh why did I not turn left?

Within five minutes, I was standing in front of the lodge. Its windows looked eastward over the moor and the shadowy spruce plantations and the three reservoirs at Redmires and the sprawling suburbs of the city. In its splendid isolation, it seemed daunting and defiant, like a medieval castle, designed for defence and not for guffawing grouse shooters in tweeds.

As I stood there in the November night, a cold polar breeze billowed silently, ruffling my hair like an invisible hand. Behind the window glass there was only pitch darkness, no sign of life and then I inhaled a deep breath. There was light in one of the upstairs rooms! Perhaps candlelight or a lantern. It glowed brighter. I saw a shape, a figure. Was it a man or a woman? There were muffled sounds of people shouting and then the light was extinguished.

One moment later, someone hit me hard from behind and I collapsed.

37 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I hope you haven't had an underpants accident Red!

      Delete
  2. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode!
    Alphie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ...in which our hero lands in the soup!

      Delete
  3. I could hear the violin shrieking!!

    What I want to know is why your clothing didn't get wet from falling repeatedly on the "sodden vegetation". I am very picky with logic in fiction.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right madame. My walking trousers were indeed mud-soaked that fateful night. To please you I will insert a reference to this fact. By the way, my boots are waterproof.

      Delete
    2. ... as are your trousers, apparently, so does that mean your feet were soaked too? lol

      Delete
  4. Why quit now??? I was just about to grab a cuppa and sit down for a good read and it ended! (Love the cover, but 'author of Horace the Hedgehog' somehow took some of the intrigue out of it, lol...)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad you spotted the reference to "Horace the Hedgehog"!

      Delete
  5. "When I woke the ceaseless rain had ceased"... :-)
    A gripping read from first to last, and now this cliff hanger!! Love the cover, too.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Not for the first time I will just echo Meike's comment - especially the first sentence. I assume it was said on purpose because it engenders a very strange feeling. Even if it is a little distracting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was indeed deliberate. Ceaseless rain always ends just like endless journeys.

      Delete
  7. Love it...please carry on...much better than some of the books I have had to read for book club!! ( I am struggling through " The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle" at the moment!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How come Evelyn died seven times? Shouldn't it be "debts" and not "deaths"?

      Delete
    2. It is incredibly complicated. I am about 2/3 through and feel like giving up. The idea behind it is excellent but too many " layers" adding to it as the story continues ! ( The next meeting to discuss this book is at my house so I feel I must persevere)

      Delete
    3. From that book's review in "The Guardian":-
      "There is a twist on nearly every page, and there are more than 500 pages. It’s a rare reader who won’t be hopelessly flummoxed well before the halfway point. And what a pleasure it is to give oneself up to the book, to be met with discoveries and thrilling upsets at every turn in the labyrinth. Not only is nothing what it seems, it’s not even what it seems after it’s been revealed to be not what it seems. “Fate’s leading me around by the nose,” says Bishop ruefully, and we can only sympathise."

      Delete
    4. Yes, that is a perfect description of the book!! Hopelessly flummoxed ...that's me !

      Delete
  8. It took your eyes rather a long time to accommodate to the lower light levels. Either you should have them examined by an optician or drink less of that pale moonshine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After the rainstorm, clouds scudded across the night sky - sometimes obscuring the half moon light. Your response has a mocking tone Sir Tasker...like a mourner making light of a funeral eulogy.

      Delete
  9. Can't wait for the next episode, although you have left yourself unconscious. So what wickedness did they get up to on the moors, Cornwall it was whiskey smuggling.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To tell you the truth, I am still thinking about the next phase of the story Thelma but it won't be whiskey smuggling or even whisky smuggling.

      Delete
  10. I kept thinking about The Little Stranger and The Woman in White when I saw the photo for the first time. I hope this is a ghost story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It reminded me of The Little Stranger, too, Jennifer - only that I imagine that house much grander and more cheerful with its garden.

      Delete
    2. "The Little Stranger" means nothing to me I'm afraid.

      Delete
  11. Perhaps the man/woman figure was Mrs Manvers, just about to set the house alight? Or Doris, cleaning the windows?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In fact the windows were cleaned by a woman called Jacqueline doing community service after a shoplifting spree.

      Delete
  12. That's what we do too - to voyeurs !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's nowt wrong with a healthy helping of voyeurism Mr Heron.

      Delete
  13. I love your stories and I'm looking forward to Part Two! A good mystery is always fun. But now you need to let us read "Horace the Hedgehog".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Horace the Hedgehog" was a children's story Bonnie. I wouldn't wish to insult your significant intelligence by posting that one.

      Delete
    2. YES!!! I'm with Bonnie on that one - I WANT to read Horace the Hedgehog, too! Pretty please??

      Delete
    3. Shhhh! my little choochy-choo. I'm still on "Stanedge Lodge".

      Delete
  14. And the polar bear escaped once again. Danger alert!

    What were you thinking, Yorkie? Time and time again you've been told not to poke the bear!!!

    Hurry up and regain consciousness...we await Chapter Two with baited breath!

    ReplyDelete

Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

Most Visits