A Halloween Ghost Story
Driving through the quaint country lanes of Kent, Cassie couldn't remember the last time she had felt so liberated and relaxed. The fact her long term relationship with Liam was finally over after five years of suffering his infidelity and mental cruelty had left Cassie lacking in self-confidence, but with a renewed sense of hope for a better life in the future. At least now she could go home to her small cottage each night without the sense of dread she had got so used to dealing with each time she knew she had to face Liam again, either to listen to his sarcastic remarks about her lack of any attractive traits, or hear his lies as to where he had spent the previous night when he had failed to return home. All too often Cassie had found packets of condoms in his coat pockets, even though she was on the pill and they had no need to use such methods of contraception. Liam always had an excuse though, such as he had been looking after them for a friend, and there was always an element of believability about Liam as he looked her directly in the eye, his own brown eyes apparently declaring his absolute honesty. It had been easier for Cassie to simply bury her head in the proverbial sand, and hope her suspicions were wrong.
The final straw had been a month ago, when feeling unwell Cassie had asked the manager of the pet store where she worked if she could go home early. Something had felt wrong as soon as she opened the front door to the cottage and saw the two empty wine glasses on the coffee table. As she quietly walked up the stairs, she heard the giggling coming from the bedroom, and throwing open the door she was horrified to find Liam and his female boss Sandra, in a considerable state of undress and clearly not discussing Liam's future promotion chances, which right now were looking to be pretty secure!
Cassie had snapped, at last, and had marched over to the bed, picked up both Sandra and Liam's discarded clothes, before unceremoniously throwing them out of the bedroom window, and into the goldfish pond below. Next Cassie returned to the stunned couple still staring at her with a combination of shock and horror on their faces, and with a toss of her fiery auburn hair and a spark of absolute fury flashing in her green eyes, Cassie ripped the covers off them and demanded they get out of the house right that second. In no mood to be argued with Cassie then pulled from the wall an ornamental replica sword to back up her insistence, which needless to say, did the trick, although Liam did try feebly to protest that he was truly sorry and it wouldn't happen again. It was too late for apologies though, and Cassie escorted the naked couple out of her front door and locked it behind them, leaving them to figure out how they were going to drive Liam's car home without being stopped for indecent exposure. Cassie had then gone back upstairs, and turfed the rest of Liam's clothes out of the bedroom window into the goldfish pond, (no doubt much to the surprise of the goldfish themselves).
Now one month later Liam had finally accepted the fact Cassie would never have him back, and had ceased the constant phone calls and letters pleading with her to allow him back into her life. With relief Cassie could now begin to pick up the shreds of her dignity, and move on, hopefully to a better and more positive future.
So now, Cassie had decided to have a day out on her own, simply enjoying the scenic country lanes of Kent from the comfort of her small jeep. Not having a specific destination in mind, Cassie simply turned down the lanes and roads that looked the most appealing, purely following her instincts, so it was not surprising that she soon lost track of where she was. Not that this worried her at all, as she knew she would soon come across a Bed & Breakfast tucked away in one of the villages, and would easily get a room as it was now the 31st October and therefore Halloween. At this time of year most of the holidaymakers would have long since returned home.
By now it had gone one o'clock in the afternoon, and Cassie decided it was time to stop for a bite of lunch somewhere. Fortunately almost as soon as she made this decision, she found herself passing a sign saying "Welcome to Hopfield Village". The name sounded kind of appealing, and for no other reason than this, and the fact her tummy was rumbling, Cassie decided to stop at the next available public house for a traditional Kentish pub lunch. It was only a matter of a couple of minutes when Cassie saw the old thatched roofed pub nestled at the side of the road surrounded by trees and small country cottages. Clearly the "Royal Oak" had been around many hundreds of years, and immediately Cassie noticed the staff were dressed in traditional costumes of the 17th century. "How wonderful" she thought, "wouldn't it be great if they also do accommodation".
Having parked her jeep alongside the pub on a rather rough dirt track, Cassie entered the front doorway of the pub, ducking to avoid bumping her head on the low beam that went across the top of the door. Once inside she looked around, captivated by the original flagstone floors, the low ceilings and the dark oak beams that crossed the ceiling, liberally adorned with shiny horse brasses. In the middle of the far wall was a huge inglenook fireplace complete with a roaring log fire, and generous heaps of logs stacked up alongside it.
Approaching the bar Cassie felt completely at ease. An elderly barman approached her, smiling warmly. "Hello missy" he said " and what I get ye today?". Struggling not to giggle at this old fashioned way of speaking to her, whilst at the same time being enchanted by the lengths the owners had obviously gone to in order to maintain the original character of the place, Cassie answered, "A half pint of cider would be lovely thank you, and can you tell me, do you have accommodation available for one night please?"
"Why of course missy" he replied, whilst he poured Cassie's cider from an actual wooden keg located behind the bar. "We have one room left, enjoy your cider and I'll make sure it's prepared for you poste haste".
Cassie breathed a sigh of relief, now she could enjoy her drink without having to drive, plus she could wallow in the feeling of re-living the history of this ancient village. Taking a seat close to the crackling fire, Cassie took a sip of her cider. She was quite surprised to realise it must be a local brew, as there was no gas in it whatsoever. Too polite to say anything, (in spite of her doubts) she decided to continue to sip at the amber liquid, and quickly found herself actually quite enjoying this local scrumpy.
Some time later Cassie was feeling very comfortable, by now having enjoyed a delicious hunk of clearly homemade bread, accompanied by a rich country stew that the barman had recommended. Other customers in the bar had been few and far between, and those that had come in had not paid any attention to Cassie, although this didn't bother her in the least as she was really enjoying her own space to simply "watch the world going by". What she had noticed was the fact they were all wearing pretty scruffy clothes, but putting this down to them being farmers etc, Cassie thought little more of it.
Eventually the fire began to die down, and Cassie realised she was the only person left in the pub. Even the barman seemed to have disappeared. As he had kindly given Cassie a substantial sized key to her room, and had already taken her overnight bag up for her, she decided it was time to turn in for the night. What she had thought were quaintly designed electric lights, apparently now seemed to be genuine candles in lantern style lamps on the walls, and even these were dying down. Yawning, and feeling slightly woozy after the few pints of cider she had enjoyed, Cassie headed up to her room.
The lock was a little on the stiff side, but forcing it a little harder, Cassie managed to turn the key. She then turned the knob and entered the room. Immediately she noticed the beautiful, but mysterious, mirror on the wall in front of her, surrounded by ornate carvings with a newly lit candle reflecting in the glass. This apparently provided the only illumination in the room. A small shiver ran down her spine as Cassie watched the flickering flame dancing in the mirror, and for a second she was almost sure she saw a shadow pass behind her reflected in the glass. Instinctively she spun around, but there was no-one there. Scolding herself for being so paranoid, "just because of a silly mirror and a candle", Cassie decided that crawling straight into bed was the best option.
Quickly undressing, Cassie threw on her pyjamas, blew out the candle in front of the mirror, and scrambled into the bed, pulling back the old fashioned covers and sinking her head into the soft feather filled pillows, before snuggling up in a foetal position ready to enjoy her night's sleep.
It must have been about 02.00 am Cassie re awoke with a start, although not sure what had woken her. She reached for her mobile phone that she had left by the bed, only to find it had no signal, "strange, but not impossible", she thought. Unable to shake off the feeling that something was wrong, Cassie struggled to pin down what was bothering her about the room. Then it struck her..... the candle in front of the mirror was merrily flickering again, although Cassie was certain she had blown it out before she went to sleep. A cold sweat broke out on her neck, and the goosebumps jumped up on her entire body. Telling herself not to be so daft, Cassie got out of the bed, and checked her bedroom door was still locked, which it was. She then walked over to the mirror scolding herself for obviously having had too many ciders and forgetting to blow out the candle before sleep
Cassie found herself automatically looking at her reflection as she approached the mirror, it was then she nearly screamed out loud as in the mirror the sad face of a young girl appeared behind Cassie's right shoulder. She whipped round to look behind her in a fraction of a second, but there was no-one there, and for a moment she thought she heard a faint sobbing fading away into the distance. Shaking slightly Cassie returned to the mirror and looked into it closely, searching for any signs of unexpected movement. For a few moments nothing happened, and just as Cassie was beginning to think that she must be seriously imagining things, she saw what appeared to be a mist rising behind her in the reflection. Of course Cassie immediately looked around to see if this was real, but no mist was visible anywhere other than in the mirror itself. Peering back into the mirror, her curiosity getting the better of her fear, Cassie watched to see what would happen next.
The mist began to disperse, and much like a film beginning to roll, a scene began to play out in front of Cassie's eyes, (and with no further sign of Cassie's own reflection). Firstly she saw the bar of the pub, and lots of people all dressed in what she assumed was farmworkers clothing of a bygone era. The view focused in on a girl who was clearly not only the same girl Cassie had just seen standing behind her, but was also the barmaid, although she only appeared to be about 16 years old. The pretty, petite, blonde haired and blue eyed girl was dressed in a slightly tatty red frock. As she giggled and joked with the menfolk whilst pouring their beers from a large jug, it became obvious one man in the bar could not take his eyes off her, and not in a pleasant way! From a distance it appeared he was a scowling, surly looking stranger, and no-one else in the bar appeared to be sharing any form of conversation with him. He sat alone, and by the same fire that Cassie had enjoyed her ciders by earlier in the evening. As she watched Cassie instinctively felt that this man was bad news, yet she was powerless to intervene.
Next the scene changed, and the pretty barmaid in the tatty red frock was walking down a darkened country lane. Clearly the bar had closed for the night and as the girl made her way towards her home, a shadow could be seen following 20 yards or so behind her. Suddenly the moon came out, and the man's face was exposed totally clearly for the first time, Cassie gasped, it was the same man from the earlier scene by the fireplace, but now, what doubly shocked Cassie was this man bore a striking resemblance to Liam, only dressed in the style of the 17th century. A moment later, the girl looked around, and seeing the man following her she began to run. As if spurred on by this sudden action, the man gave chase, and a shaft of moonlight reflected off what was obviously a knife held in his hand. Cassie willed the girl to run faster, but clearly she was being quickly outrun. In a matter of seconds the girl tripped and fell, and before she could get up the man was upon her. Cassie, had to restrain the urge to retch violently as the man dragged up the struggling girl's skirts, tore away her upper bodice, and then had his evil way with the young girl, his hand jammed firmly over her mouth to stifle her cries, and then violently and mercilessly ignored her pleas for mercy as he casually slit her throat.
The scene continued with the man dragging the girl's bloodied body to a nearby pond, where he forced it into an old hessian sack, and using a number of pieces of rope he had apparently previously secreted at the location, he tied some large rocks to the neck of the sack, before tipping it into the water and watching until it vanished beneath the surface and the bubbles ceased to appear. Washing his hands in the pond he then walked away without so much as a backward glance.
Cassie felt the tears running down her face as the scene in the mirror faded, yet she was still alarmed at the striking likeness between Liam and the murderer in the mirror. Suddenly all in the room was back to normal, apart from Cassie, who was shaken and no longer comfortable staying in the room with its weird and spooky activities. She made a decision, it was no longer a good idea to stay for the night, even though when she checked her watch it was now after 04.00am.
Gathering up her belongings Cassie crept downstairs. All was quiet, so she left her door key on the bar, along with a £50 note in the hope it would cover her room and bar bill, (she had never got around to asking the exact price for a room for the night). As she exited the pub she quickly located her car and jumped into it with a great sense of relief that she was back in a familiar environment. The car started first time, and Cassie drove out of the village as fast as she could, continuing to drive until she reached the lights of a larger town, where she stopped, checked out her map, and headed back towards her home.
Falling back into her own bed was the nicest, safest feeling Cassie could imagine, and once there she slept like a baby. The following morning she awoke to the sound of the local newspaper coming through her letterbox. The previous night still felt like a bad dream, and Cassie doubted that what she thought she had experienced could possibly have happened for real. Putting it down to recent stresses she headed down the stairs to enjoy a cup of tea and a catch up of the local news. Sipping on her tea she carried the newspaper to the kitchen table and flipped it open. This was the point Cassie choked on her tea violently, as splashed all over the front cover of the paper was Liam's face. Apparently he had been arrested the previous night for raping and then stabbing to death, his boss Sandra's 16 year old daughter. Liam had been caught attempting to dump her body in a local reservoir.
The following day, and still in shock, Cassie decided to return to the pub where she had stayed and look at the mirror more closely. However, in spite of driving for many hours she could not locate the village or the pub at all. Finally, in desperation, she went to a Kentish library to look up the village of Hopfield in the hope of tracking down its exact location.
After an hour of research Cassie unearthed a very dusty book that included a reference to the "Hopfield Village". Reading the text made Cassie literally go cold, and now the hairs all over her body were standing on end, as she read how and why the village no longer existed. Apparently after a series of tragic rapes and murders of young women back in the 17th century, the village had become a very unpopular place to live. Eventually, even the near on abandoned local public house "The Royal Oak", had burnt down after a candle mounted in front of a bedroom mirror had inadvertently set the curtains alight after a draft caused them to billow into the flame.
The murderer had been caught and hanged eventually, after a missing young barmaid's body was found in a local pond, the gases of its decomposition dragging it to the surface in spite of the rocks weighing it down. The rope holding the rocks matched ropes also found in the murderer's cottage, along with a knife that was covered in dried blood, and the murderer's name, well that was the most creepy coincidence of all, his name had been Liam!
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