There’s no such thing as ghosts
I stand in the haunted ruins of a castle in the deserted countryside of Scotland. I look down at my feet. The cobblestones are cracked and the whole ground is a gloomy green and enveloped in weeds and slimy moss. What a joke. Ghosts don’t exist. They’re just figures of people’s imagination.
“They never did exist and they never will.” I say out loud. The sound of my own voice comforts me.
But how I got here, I can’t remember, All I can remember was that I smashed my phone on the ground because there was no signal.
The air around me is icy cold. It was early November, but never in my experience had it ever been so cold before at this time of the year. I shiver, and, biting my lip to stop my teeth from chattering, I decide to take a stroll around to warm up my freezing limbs.
I walk at a brisk pace to the castle’s courtyard which is a plaza surrounded by high, gothic arches. A statue of a gargoyle sits high above me, the last drops of water from yesterdays rainfall dripping sadly from its beak. The gargoyle's face was twisted up, a forced smile on its stony face.
Most of the stones that once composed the walls hundreds of years ago lie broken at my feet, covered in moss.
Sick of looking a the gargoyle's terrible features, I decide to venture to the gardens. Weeds and ivy have overgrown the flower beds and vegetable patches, making the place messy and forgotten. The plants and flowers were withered and dead, apart from one lovely crimson rose, popping out from all the brown and grey. The only living thing in sight. Before I leave the gardens, I look back at the little flower one last time. The flower, once a healthy thing, now lies on the paved stones, its roots completely ripped out of the dirt.
This act freaks me out so much I back away, stumbling over my own feet. My teeth start to chatter again. Wether it was fear or the cold, I couldn't tell. I go to the moat. The whole pit is empty of water, save for a couple of inches, and a few rotting fish carcasses float as if sleeping at the surface of what little water remains. No bird dares touch them. There should’ve been the sound of a swarm of buzzing flies around the corpses, but there was none. The water is a sickly greenish grey colour. The drawbridges’ metal hinges have rusted over, making it almost impossible to close it up.
I climb up the main tower, where the king
Dust covers everything. Creepers have started to climb into the room from the windowsill, like green octopus tentacles. For a few moments I stand in the doorway, transfixed by what I see as I try to picture what this room looked like a thousand years ago. Dustless, with people walking around the whole castle in magnificent robes.
I bend down and examine a few scratch marks on the wooden floor. It probably came from the royal family’s pet cat, leaping up onto the Queen’s lap. I make my way across the room to the four- poster bed. There- the same scratch marks. I smile for the first time since I found myself in this godforsaken, grim place.
Through the window, I can see the land for miles. Lush greenery, prairies, stretching out for miles beyond the battlements. A small black figure prancing around in the fields and making extremely irritating sounds indicates that a black stallion lives somewhere around here.
Towards the north, however, there is a huge forest, standing out clearly against the low fields that surround it. I finally force my gaze away from the breathtaking view.
I investigate further and find a chest, locked with a heavy- looking brass padlock. With an axe I find in the corner, I break the padlock and open up the chest. Inside, I find moth eaten silk suits and velvet dresses that once would have looked beautiful. There is also a chain mail shirt that surprisingly hasn’t rusted. I lift up the nicest, least moth-eaten dress I can find and brush the dust out of it. When I get to the ruffs on the left sleeve, I feel something hard underneath my fingers. Cautiously, I stick my hand in and pull out a small, neat mahogany box. It had been hidden well, almost as if I wasn’t supposed to find it. I lift the latch and find a golden, heart shaped locket studded with diamonds. It glitters radiantly in the sunlight. I open the locket. A small door with a handle awaits me. Tempted, I turn the handle and a tiny golden key half the size of my thumb falls out. The top of it is decorated with swirls and other decorative patterns.
‘This is it. There’s no time to lose.’ I think. I visit almost every room in the castle, including the stables, trying the key on everything I find. When I emerge from the stables, I am surprised to find out that the whole world has suddenly crystallized. The floor has lost its strange ugliness and has transformed into a glittering white sheet that seemed to reflect every single ray of light that touches it. The snow comes all the way up to my ankles. I hear a crunching sound behind me and spin around. The stallion, who was still whining, was following me. It nuzzled me on the shoulder, but I batted it away.
“Go away.” I say.
“Go away!” I almost shout at it, raising my voice.
My voice echoes through the castle. The horse takes a few steps backward with an offended air. I continue walking. The stupid creature snorts and paws the ground. I sigh and it looks at me so reproachfully that I let it come with me. It happily follows me , jumping up in the snow and making such a racket I begin to think whether the whole castle would fall to pieces because of that. It was enough to drive anyone mental.
Finally, just as the sun begins its descent from the sky, I go to the big hall across from the church.
The library was the most wonderful place. The stallion shoots inside before I can even get a close look at the room. Heavens curse the animal. I should’ve never let it come with me.
Although a thick layer of grey dust covers all of the tables, the floor, and mothballs litter the place, the closed books that rest on the bookshelves were almost begging to be opened and awakened from their thousand year slumber. The bookshelves were as high as the ceiling and a ladder protruded from every one of them.
I search for hours for the slightest clue as to what the key could possibly be or could open, yet I find nothing of use to me. Bewildered, I sit on the dusty ground, twirling my messed up red hair around your fingers.
Then it comes to me, just as darkness settles in through the stained glass windows. Dark, dark, so cold. The dungeons. As you cross the library, you discover an abandoned cloak. You find yourself once more in the courtyard, once again underneath the watchful gaze of the gargoyle whose outline is just visible in the moonlight. The air is colder than when I last stepped outside, and I wrap the cloak around myself, feeling grateful for the warmth it offers.
I slowly find my way down the curving stone stairwell that leads to the dungeons. The steps have an odd, curved dent in the middle, carved out by the feet of people that once made their way up and down the stairs countless times throughout more than a thousand years.The air inside suddenly becomes freezing, and I tighten the cloak around myself.
Groping around in the darkness, I find a torch. Its soft golden glow leads me through the dark corridor to the nearest door. It creaks as I push the door open.
I find a chest in the far corner of the room and try the key in its lock. It fits. Excited, I turn the key, and with a last click, the chest springs open. I peer inside but what I see disappoints me. Instead of the suspected gold and jewels, all I find is a leather bound book with an almost faded stamp of a golden lion on it.
I open it at the first page and groan. Latin. I know how to read latin, but I can't stand it. I flip through to the middle of the book and to my relief, that bit is written in english. I continue to go through the weathered, spotted yellow pages until the end. At the very back of the book I discover a piece of parchment with faint letters that I can just make out. Initials of some sort. ‘Pr. E.J.’
A clatter behind me. I spin around. Nothing. Nevertheless, I slip the parchment in my pocket, grab an unlit torch, the key and the book, then hurry back to the courtyard. I glance once more at the gargoyle who somehow has lost its almost friendly appearance. Now I can see its face clearly underneath the full moon. Its posture seems to have changed from a slouching position to an attacking one. Its wings are outstretched and its beak open. I feel the sweat streaming down my sides as I cautiously retrace your steps backwards to the library. Its eyes flash red. I scream, turn around and run as fast as my tired feet will go to the library. When I arrive, I bolt the heavy wooden doors and lean against them, exhausted and panting.
I'm being followed. What it is, or who it is, I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s going to be back. Soon.
It sat, crouched in the gargoyle, the creature that was so proud to haunt the scottish castle. The castle was the perfect place to roam.
It watched the human girl from its uncomfortable seat. Her hair shone a fiery red in amongst the dull, greyish walls that were falling apart. A fiery red, just like its eyes, blazing eyes that reflected hatred for the world (apart from its master). It wanted to destroy the intruder, but only fear for its master kept it from doing so. It spat out a glob of clear spit through the slightly ajar mouth of the statue angrily.
The girl had just appeared. At first she seemed frustrated, and she threw a small object on the floor that sent a ripple of excitement through the Thing, and sent out a loud clinking sound that echoed across the battlements, ending with a ringing silence.
She mutters something and hugs herself. Her breath came out in misty plumes. Yet the Thing did not feel what she felt. The Thing was immune to feeling- whether it was love, sadness, anxiety, coldness. The only thing it could feel was hate.
The Thing followed her out of curiosity, fear and loyalty. Loyalty and fear for its master, of course, not the girl. Yes, this must be the human its master had predicted would help them. The one that would find the key. That would unlock the mysteries of this castle. Oh yes. And when she had found the key and whatever it unlocked, the Thing would destroy her. A shudder ran along the spine of the Thing as it thought of its prize. Ripping open her throat, spilling blood...
The Thing follows her, a dark shape flitting through the stones and walls, to the gardens of the castle. Poisoned ivy, the Thing’s favourite plant, have obscured the flower beds and vegetable patches. Such a sight could not please the Thing more, as the plants and flowers there were withered and dead, apart from one horribly alive red rose, popping out from all the brown and grey. How could this be? That won’t do. The Thing oozed through the cracks in the wall and swept over the flower. It instantly died, the petals going a brown color and moulding. Then it tore the plant, roots and all out of the dirt, and flung it onto the cracking cobblestones for good measure. Satisfied, it oozed like a black liquid through the wall, only to materialize again on the other side in its usual cloaked form. Its evil gaze was fixed on the girl.
The girl was scared- her face revealed her emotions- her green eyes were wide, and her lip was trembling. The pallor of her face showed up clearly against her bright hair. Every step she took seemed either hurried or reluctant. Anyway, even if she wouldn’t have shown her fear, the Thing would have sensed it, for it fed on fear. It fed on fear, and everything else that left a permanent black mark on the world.
She stumbled towards the drawbridge. It was open, its far side digging into the mud on the other side of the banks of the moat. It had been left like that from the last invasion the building had experienced. The Thing passed over the chains holding the wooden plank to the empty archway. As its cloaked form glides over the metal, a thick layer of red rust forms. The Thing is pleased with itself.
She walks towards the water, peers in, and recoils. The dead fish floating on the surface are merely the Thing’s latest prey, which explained the absence of insects. The moat reeked of death, and the water was a beautiful shade of greenish grey, like the shade of someone who was terribly ill. All feared the Thing, who took pleasure in torturing living things, then eventually killing them, the creature that, some people used to say, took pride in tearing animals apart limb to limb.
Looking disgusted, the human walked away from the moat, and went to the main tower. The Thing remembered the praise he had gotten from its master for murdering the royal family as they all sat in their bedchambers, doing royal things. The princess Elizabeth was the first to die. She had just disintegrated into thin air. Then came the dog, Prince, and the cat, Muffin, then the prince, the queen, and the king.
The Thing resumed its stalking the girl, and waited patiently for the girl to find something. The Thing was beginning to lose hope in this useless girl, yet it could not stop tracking its prey. It was tedious, watching her explore, yet the Thing still patiently waited.
She let out a gasp. The Thing, invisible, peered at what she was holding. The key. The Thing was sure of it- it could feel the warmth radiating off the golden object. It was too shiny- it would have looked better if it was rusted.
The girl spins around and knocks a hundred- year old vase to the floor, shattering it to pieces. For a normal person, this may have been dangerous, but to the Thing it was a weapon. The Thing absorbed a sharp shard of clay from the floor, and resumed following the girl. It now felt more evil than anything. In its sudden surge of power, the Thing forgets the human girl and instead stays in the furnished bedchamber of the king and queen, as if paralysed by evil joy.
The evil radiated off its icy heart. It spread into the heavens, making the sky turn black, with rolling grey clouds blotting out the sun completely. The skies froze, turned white as, forced by its hatred, the skies wept cold, fragile tears, each unique. As the snow fell upon the broken cobblestones and bricks, it transformed the castle into a glittering white palace.
The Thing was jerked out of its trance by a sudden slamming of doors. The girl. Furious with itself, it glided effortlessly towards where the sound was coming from. She had gone into the library. The Thing waited outside until she came back, enveloped in a cloak that once belonged to the king. Her footsteps made eerie, crunching, echoing sounds that rang through the battlements.
She looked bewildered. The Thing was starting to get impatient. But still it waited. Its red glare swept over the crystallized battlements of the ruined castle.
There was the sound of shuffling footsteps. The girl had found the entrance to the dungeons. With the key in a firm grip, he descended the cold, stone spiral stairs. The Thing watches as she lights a torch and finds her way to the nearest door. Inside the room lay a single chest, padlocked with a tiny golden lock that seemed to give off the same uncomfortable warmth as the key. Slowly, a look of terror on her young face, the girl puts the key into the lock. It fits. There was a soft click as she turned the key, and the lock opens, crashing to the floor. The girl opens up the chest. Inside, to the Thing’s utmost disappointment, lay a book.
Sighing, the girl sits on the hard, stone floor and begins to leaf through the pages. A minute or so passed and the Thing became restless. It began to glide back through the dark corridor, when it accidentally dropped the shard of the clay pot the girl had smashed earlier on. The fragment shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. The girl lifted up her head. Her eyes were wide with fear. She stood up, and fled. As she passed the Thing, the Thing saw what it had missed before- a piece of parchment, clutched in her right hand. It had to become her second shadow.
And so it followed her, a dark form against the glittering snow.