Snow flakes settled on Nettie’s pie crust collar, she looked down at her feet as she stood on the luxurious frozen carpet, the same colour as her tights.
It was not night-time. Neither was it day- time. It was kind of half-night. That surreal time period that normally takes place only in one’s dreams. The moon was not full, it was awkwardly missing a thin slice. Under the crooked moon was that place.
462 Priory Way. This must be it.
Nettie felt an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. This was the place she had been to before, as a child. She remembered a hazy half-night just like this, but warm and musty… Seven year old Nettie was taking Herbie the Yorkshire Terrier for a walk. They skipped along Clough Terrace, past the derelict annex, and climbed over the stile to which they came a path.
No, Herbie. It’s nearly dinner time and daddy will be worried.
Her legs couldn’t stop.
The dog wore a whimsical smile, and ran up a path. But no, there was something really bad about this path. Something was pulling them there. Something that had been decaying, that smelt of granny’s attic…
A glassy tear rolled down young Nettie’s eye, it shone in a sunbeam that had found itself through the trees.
Don’t cry, only babies cry!
Curiosity. Curiosity and fear. Sheer trepidation.
She walked down the path, it was aligned with deciduous trees all green and lush, at the left was a crumble set of stone steps that spiralled down to the bottom of the wood. Alas, the fear heightened when, at the corner of her eye she saw a young woman in a dark green dress, sat on the bottom step burning what looked like clothes… she was staring… with a menacing grin… and sat still, just staring like she was going to hurt poor Nettie… and… and…
GO AWAY! GO AWAY YOU’RE SCARING ME! NO!
She was incredibly thin, cheekbones so prominent, hands like raven’s claws black with filth, skin stretched over her collarbones as if it was going to rip…
Nettie slapped her hands over her eyes in horror. Then, her fingers parted slowly to create a little peek-a-boo hole. The woman was gone. She looked around, still, she was gone, as if she’d been vaporised.
She resumed her journey along the soil path, looking ahead as that place became more and more lucid. Herbie sounded like he was right at the top, next to the cast iron gates. Through the gates was the most beautiful courtyard you’ve ever seen, tall monumental oak trees, ransacked water fountains harbouring mould and weeds, crumbling stone cherubs covered in lichen… a circular courtyard it was, with the biggest fountain in the middle, and a shiny Aston Martin parked near the gate, the engine still running.
Go home Nettie
Now, at the far end of the courtyard, the front of the building was visible. It was a monolithic, Grand Guignol- esque monstrosity, verdigris roof covered in dead leaves and filth, beautiful turrets, reminiscent of the time she visited Sewerby Hall earlier that year, except there was no statue of Amy Johnson.
The leaves filtered out any remaining sunlight. It was so dark. Yet the building was framed with a soft warm light, like towering seraph. She wondered whether she should go on, she was trying to walk but her legs felt so heavy as if the were stuck in mud… the building faded, the leaves fell from the trees.
“Nettie! Nettie! It’s seven o’clock, time to take daddy to the station!”
She opened her eyes and looked at her mother’s immaculately painted face.
“Good morning, mummy. Let me get dressed, I’ll be down in ten minutes.”
I can’t wait until next time I fall asleep.