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Country Living

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Passionately interested in life-long learning, writing, researching, and many other things. Spent many years as a management trainer.

Billy Buc's Photo Challenge Number 3

William D. Holland, well known and respected writer on Hubpages has set a 3rd photo challenge at Billybuc photo challenge Prompt 3.

This is my response to the photos he supplied. Photos in this article are copyright William Holland, Pixabay and Unsplash and credited as such.

Orchard in spring

Orchard in spring

Looking At Properties

“I'd love to live in the countryside”, Ann agreed, looking over Dave’s shoulder at the properties offered for sale locally, “Roses climbing the walls and maybe even an arbour. A country cottage would be much better than this!” She gestured dramatically.at the grey roofs and walls they could see from their apartment building.

Dave ignored her gesture, staring at the computer screen. “Look at that orchard,” he exclaimed, “And the view. We could put the caravan on the land and live in that while we built a house. It's a good price for what we would get.”

"And......," he paused, "My ancestors all come from round there. I still have some relatives in the area. I used to stay for a few weeks in the summer just a couple of miles up the road."

“Mmh,” Ann said, noncommittally, “But what about our furniture?” she said, suddenly practical. “And would we get building permission?”

Tumbledown House

Tumbledown House

The Old House

“There’s already a house there,” said Dave, switching the slide show to the house. A total wreck appeared on the screen, with no inside views. It appeared typical of abandoned houses and farms all over Ireland, tumbledown cottages, left to rot when the famine killed and emigration took many more. “If there’s a house already on the land, we should be able to replace it.”

“But that applies only if the house is habitable,” she argued. “Aren’t there any houses for sale that we could just, you know, move into? That house looks like there would be no running water or sewage and maybe even no electricity!” She shuddered suddenly, "It looks downright spooky!"

“That's not like you," said Dave. "You don't believe in the supernatural! Are you trying to put me off it? Look, there’s even a stream on the property,” he added enthusiastically, “There might be fish in it.”

“Oh goody,” Ann muttered, her country cottage enthusiasm rapidly waning.

“I’m going to ask for a viewing,” Dave said, typing rapidly, as he emailed the Agent.

……………………………

“We can view it anytime,” he told her an hour later. The Agent has sent a map and we don’t need keys. He was practically dancing with impatience to see the property. An hour’s drive and they were there.

Cows in the countryside

Cows in the countryside

The Nearest Neighbours

“But it’s a farm!” Ann exclaimed as they parked on the roadside beside a small gate. She glanced around at the neighbouring properties. Only cows gazed back.

Farm Tractor

Opposite the entrance gate, a neighbour's yard contained an old tractor, that had been used for gathering hay. Dave was already at the open gate. He pushed at it and it swung drunkenly to one side giving them access to an overgrown path where the grass was downtrodden.

“Someone has been here ahead of us,” he frowned.

“Probably the Agent, taking photographs,” Ann said.

Dave pushed on ahead towards the house, impatient to check it out. “We don’t want someone else beating us to it,” he grouched. Ann wasn’t too sure about that.

Modified by author

Modified by author

Inside The House

The house door lay open, showing an old-fashioned kitchen with a table in the middle of the room but no other furniture. They ventured in seeing a bare electric wire and shade hanging from the ceiling. Ann tried the light switch automatically, a faint light glowed in the bulb, then promptly went out.

“There’s electricity, then,” Ann thought but kept that comment to herself.

Modified By Author

Modified By Author

The Loft

The kitchen sink was flat china, filthy with age, with a slatted wooden board for draining dishes. Beside it, a heavy ladder, painted blue, rose to a loft over the kitchen. “I wonder what’s up there,” she queried.

For once, Dave seemed to hear her, “Probably storage for apples,” he muttered, his previous excitement muted. Ann wondered how he knew and checked out the large open fireplace with chains still hanging there for pots to boil over the fire.

Large falls of soot sat in the fireplace, with some white items among them. “Birds’ bones?”, Ann wondered and moved quickly to the other downstairs room. It was darker than the kitchen and also had a large fireplace. The soot falls in both fireplaces were undisturbed.

“Does that seem odd to you? Ann asked. “There’s no sign of disturbance in here, at all. I would have thought this house would have attracted teens at night, to smoke or drink.

“Too far out,” Dave muttered from the kitchen, sounding irritable. Ann moved to the window to look out but it was too filthy to see much apart from some trees growing too close to the house.

“Let’s look at the garden,” Ann suggested. Outside, Dave seemed to cheer up. The orchard was close to the house and the trees were old, with green lichen clinging to grey weathered bark. It was spring and some trees had flower buds starting to show. The ground was littered with old fruit, that lay where it had fallen, rotten, eaten by wasps and frozen by frost.

Further down the back garden, they saw an old outhouse. “An outside toilet,” Ann muttered. They picked their way over the tufted grassy hillocks to view the stream. Green weed spread like hair in the flowing water. “There could be fish in there,” Dave said his enthusiasm returning.

“How much land does it include?” Ann asked. Dave studied the map.

“Quite a bit”, he gestured vaguely around. “It’s probably rented out to local farmers for grazing or crops.”

Ann wandered back to the house. The roof seemed sound and there was no sign of rain getting in. It was a wreck but maybe it could be refurbished, rather than pulled down. She had a soft spot for old buildings. She wondered again why there was no sign of the house being used by anyone, despite being so open and accessible. As a teen, she and her friends had wandered widely, gathering in any abandoned house to smoke or drink away from adults.

In the kitchen again, she looked up at the old loft and wondered whether the ladder was safe to climb, it certainly looked strong and heavy. She was in her trainers and jogging trousers, so she put a tentative foot on the lower rung and tested it for strength and whether the ladder was stable. She was half-way up, climbing slowly, checking as she went, when Dave came in.

The Ladder

“Get down from there,” he shouted urgently, “At once!”

Ann stood stock still. The ladder was safe so far. “Why?”

“Just get down, now,” he growled and came across to the ladder to catch her foot, to stop her climbing any further.

“Stop that,” she retorted angrily.

“Just get down”, he repeated, letting her foot go. “We’re not buying this place!”

“Oh, why?”

“I don’t like it.”

Ann climbed down slowly, her anger receding. Her husband was very sensitive to atmosphere and she had learned to listen very closely to it.

“What’s wrong?” she asked softly.

“I just don’t like it and I especially don’t like that ladder!”

Ann jumped the last couple of rungs and moved across to the side walls standing on tiptoe to see whether she could see up any further into the loft from there.

“Come on,” he said, moving towards the door, just as the heavy ladder started to slide sideways. Whether it was her scream or his own sensitivities, she never knew but he had jumped through the door before the ladder landed with a loud bang. Ann stood, shaking, as the dust settled, then stepped quickly over the downed ladder to the outside. Dave looked equally shocked. “Let’s go,” but once outside the property, they sat for a while in the car before Dave started the engine and drove home much more slowly than usual.

“I must have unbalanced it,” Ann began as they drove.

“No, it wasn’t you,” Dave muttered and stayed silent for the rest of the drive.

Back home, they were hardly in through the door before an aunt called them. Dave put her on the speakerphone, so Ann could join the conversation too.

“What were you doing out at the old Hendry property?” his aunt asked.

“How did you know?” Dave asked, dodging the question.

“You know the country,” his aunt laughed, “You can’t blow your nose, without someone thinking you’ve got pneumonia!”

“And gossiping about it to everyone else,” Ann interjected.

“That’s right,” Dave’s aunt agreed, “But surely, you weren’t thinking of buying that place?”

“Why not?” Dave asked.

“Old Man Hendry died in prison, for murdering his wife in that house,” his aunt said. Ann gasped.

“He pushed her off the ladder in the kitchen. It fell on her and broke her neck.”

Comments

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on November 05, 2020:

I know what you mean Denise. I enjoy growing stuff but then, there are lots of other things I want to do too!

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on November 05, 2020:

I do miss country living with a patch of land and an old farmhouse. This apartment living means we don't have to mow a lawn but then I can't grow anything. It has pluses and minuses.

Blessings,

Denise

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on October 29, 2020:

Thank you very much and thank you for visiting and commenting.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on October 29, 2020:

I would have bought that house but my husband wanted as far away from it as possible and as soon as possible!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 03, 2020:

What a spooky story! You did a beautiful job leading up to that climax! Bill should be pleased that you answered his photo challenge with this story.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on October 03, 2020:

I'm not squeamish. I think I would love to live in an old farmhouse like that. Especially at times like these where we have to keep our distance from people. Growing my own food sounds so inviting.

Blessings,

Denise

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on April 23, 2020:

Thank you very much Mel Carriere, very kind.

Mel Carriere from San Diego California on April 23, 2020:

I love how you built suspense in this tale, again, masterfully using just a bit of foreshadowing to give us the sensation that something creepy is around the corner. And some mystery remains at the end to muse about, because we don't really know what suddenly turned Dave. Great stuff.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on April 17, 2020:

Thank you very much Carrie Lee Night

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on April 17, 2020:

Thank you very much Denise, that's very kind. A series of pictures doesn't always work for me either but sometimes "a plan comes together"!

Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on April 16, 2020:

Well written story !! :) Its great when a mere picture sparks creativity :)

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on April 16, 2020:

I love the way you weave a story together. I always look at Bill's photos and nothing really comes to me except how lovely the photos are.

Blessings,

Denise

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on April 15, 2020:

Thank you for visiting and your comment, Umesh Chandra Bhatt

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on April 15, 2020:

Nice one. Good reading.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on March 16, 2020:

Thank you very much M G Singh, glad you liked it.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on March 15, 2020:

A great story with a tragic ending. You have the knack of weaving a thrilling tale.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on March 15, 2020:

Thank you very much Jason, much appreciated

Jason Nicolosi from AZ on March 15, 2020:

Oooo what a great story. A well told, chilling tale. Great twist to the ending. Excellent job. I was hooked all the way through.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on March 13, 2020:

Thank you Rajan Jolly. That house actually existed and much of the story actually happened to us.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 13, 2020:

The ramshackle house sure lived up to its eerie looks finally. Great story and well told.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on March 03, 2020:

Thank you for visiting. I am glad the story surprised you!

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on March 02, 2020:

Okay, I didn't see that coming! Great suspense. Wow. I think my heart is beating faster.

Blessings,

Denise

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 27, 2020:

Thank you for visiting and commenting Devika.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 27, 2020:

You shared an interesting and ghostly story with a great end. Photos used to perfect this story suits every part of this write up.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 26, 2020:

Glad you found it chilling! Thanks for visiting.

Nell Rose from England on February 26, 2020:

Ooh chilling! Loved that the husband suddenly realized what was going to happen! Never mess with a gut instinct! lol! Great story!

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 24, 2020:

Thank you very much Eiddwen.

Eiddwen from Wales on February 23, 2020:

I really enjoyed this story and the ending unexpected. Here's to many more. Great write.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 19, 2020:

Thank you Bushra Iqbal

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 19, 2020:

Thank you for that Linda. Sometimes, you wonder whether the writing or ending is sufficient, it's hard to tell with our own writing, I think.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 19, 2020:

Thank you very much for that very kind thought.

Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on February 17, 2020:

Cool!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 17, 2020:

I enjoyed this story very much, Meg. It was interesting throughout and the ending was unexpected and dramatic.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 17, 2020:

Meg, Letterpile is the niche site for quality creative writing. This certainly fits the bill!

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 17, 2020:

Thank you for visiting MG Singh

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 17, 2020:

Thank you very much Bill, especially for the inspiration.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 17, 2020:

Thank you very much Pamela

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 17, 2020:

Thank you very much Shauna, both for your comment and the advice. I did not know that at all, I must remove the link, though I never expected the stories to be considered for a niche site and it seemed only good manners to link to the source of the inspiration.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 17, 2020:

Thank you very much John, yes, old buildings like that often have stories, if they could only tell them!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on February 17, 2020:

Meg, that's a fine story. Congratulations

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 17, 2020:

I love where your imagination took you with this story. Loved the ending. I'm going to think twice before climbing up on my ladder next time. :)

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 16, 2020:

What an ending to this story! I sure didnot expect that ending. i did enjoye the story, however. I would definitely say you met the chllenge.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 16, 2020:

Holy shit, Meg! I did not see that ending coming!

I love this story. I didn't imagine the ending, which makes for an excellent fiction tale.

One thing I'd like to mention, is your story will not be moved to a niche site as long as you include a link to another HP article in yours,. That's why I don't. You can mention Bill's challenge if you feel the need, but don't include the link.

Just trying to help you out.

I really enjoyed your story, tho.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on February 16, 2020:

I enjoyed this story Meg, it got creepier and creepier. You used Bill’s photos well for your inspiration. Looks like you and I both got the ghost story vibe from them to incorporate in our stores. Lucky Dave’s sensitivity to the atmosphere stopped Ann climbing the ladder. Good job.