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Fiction Mystery Horror

The caravan site is almost deserted now. From where mine is sited,  I can see the lighting stanchions lining the access way like sentinels guarding the empty pitches, daring anyone else to pitch there this season. This part of the site is actually closed for camping now until the last of us goes - mine is almost the last here. It’s how I like it and why I only come in the shoulder months. There is just one more caravan on this part of the site, as far away from mine as it is possible to get, and not many others elsewhere as the site rapidly empties. This one belongs to Red Boots. I call her Red Boots because that is what she habitually wears: not fashionable but the clompy sort, ideally practical - the caravan crowd are nothing if not idiosyncratic.  And she is a real enthusiast if the looks of her van is anything to go by. It’s a real vintage affair with heaps more character then the modern vans: it’s practically a country cottage on wheels. I’d love to have a look inside, but you do have to wait to be asked - It’s part of the unwritten code of caravanning.  These things have their own enthusiasts’ groups and sell for a king’s ransom even though they have none of the mod-cons the modern ones have. Mine has central heating - it looks as though Red Boots’ has a wood-burner. She’s been here a while now, and I’m surprised that Bill (that’s the site owner) allowed her to set up, since he’ll be anxious to close this part of the site as soon as I clear off. I didn’t actually see her arrive, but that wouldn’t be difficult since I’m either out walking thinking of plot lines or actually putting them onto the laptop.

I see her from time to time walking around the site. She never speaks, just shyly peeks from under lowered eyebrows as she passes and clomps on her way. The boots are what first drew my attention to her, apart from the van obviously, which is unusual because she is an attractive, elfinesque young woman, but the boots seem to define her somehow.

It’s unusual also that she never seems to want to engage in conversation, particularly since we are almost the only ones here now - caravanners share an enthusiasm for their pastime and do like to  exchange stories occasionally. But, then again, caravanning is also a solitary pastime, especially at this time of the year, and if someone doesn’t want to engage, you respect their privacy. I would try to test the waters, but our routines never seem to coincide and the opportunity to speak never seems to present itself, other than the quick nod from myself from the window, which I never know whether she has seen or not,  and the half-concealed glance from her. I do wonder sometimes if that is not some sort of invitation, but it would hardly be appropriate to make the first approach to a lone woman in a remote place - she seems to be of an age where she could be my grown-up daughter.

It’s unusual also that a woman should choose to caravan  alone - and there is no vehicle evident so I assume that she has the van in storage on site and Bill drags it out on request.  Come to that, I suppose it’s also unusual for a lone man to do the same, but I have always been something of a loner and there’s nothing I like better - it gives me space to write. The isolation and the change of location is somehow inspirational. And I’m not currently in any sort of relationship anyway. But, for a woman, being alone in an almost deserted campsite could be seen as potentially fraught with difficulties. 

Actually, she is not alone: she has a cat. I have seen it sitting in the window. She never seems to let it out and that, of itself, would present one of the biggest difficulties, I would have thought,  because cats like their freedom. I know, because I had cats for years until mine was run over a couple of years ago and I vowed I would never have one again. I certainly couldn’t see myself trying to keep a car indoors - life is too difficult as it is!

The nights are drawing in now and the lighting stanchions give off a fitful glow as the daylight fades, illuminating an ethereal mist that generally begins to form in the evenings at this time of the year. And I hear Red Boots clomping close before she passes the window, head down, throwing the briefest of glances before she disappears into the mist, which has suddenly thickened as it sometimes does here - which is strange because my pitch is at the highest point of the site - you would expect mist to form at the bottom where the stream is. She always seems to wear the same outfit, not that I as a mere man have any sense of fashion to pass judgement, but, it’s all part of the freedom that caravanning brings - you tend to wear the same clothes until they almost walk out of the wardrobe to greet you of a morning. At least I do.

I like these late autumn evenings. There’s a bite to the air that presages winter but still harks back to the chill of a summer’s night after the sun glow has faded and the ground has cooled. But the weather is definitely changing now. When you start to shiver in bed, despite a sleeping bag, a duvet and a couple of blankets - and central heating -  you realise that it is time to call it for the season. 

Almost as if he had read my thoughts, Bill turned up on his rounds this morning enquiring if I was ever going to go home or if I intended to hang around like a bad smell until the spring. We have this sort of easy going relationship - I’ve been a regular here for years and he’s more like a kindly uncle than an anonymous site proprietor. “Yeah, time to call it, Bill. I’ll close up and let you shut the site. Don’t know about the vintage job, though - that pretty girl who wears the clomping red boots. I’m surprised you let someone else on site this late in the season.”

I looked over his shoulder to where her caravan was just visible. She was outside at the time. And, amazingly, she was shepherding her cat - good luck with that, I thought. Amazingly, also, her head was raised looking in my direction. She lifted her arm in greeting. I was just about to do the same when Bill’s reaction caught my attention. His face had taken on a sudden pallor. “John,” he said. “There is no-one else here but you.” I demurred and pointed him in the direction of Red Boots’ caravan, raising my hand in greeting … but there was nothing and no-one there … and a chill crept down my back.

Bill followed my gaze and gulped. “You’ve seen her?” he asked. “Oh, my God. I never believed the story.” And he recounted it to me. The farm had been a caravan site ever since his grandfather’s time from the period when caravanning was just becoming a popular pastime. A young woman had burned to death when the stove overturned in her caravan one late autumn evening after she had been left alone. She had been known locally as ‘Red Boots’ - her abnormal dress sense had caused some amusement at the time, apparently. And, ever since then, Bill told me, her spirit was said to roam the site from time to time. “I always thought that Grandad was pulling my leg, but the story was well known in the family. She was one of the first customers Grandad took in when he opened the site. It was all over the papers at the time. Grandad pulled her out of the van initially, but she broke away and went back to save her cat. By then it was too late to do anything - the fire was too fierce.”

Had I not seen Red Boots with my own eyes, I would have been disinclined to believe the story, but what Bill said next raised the hairs on the back of my neck. “They do say that if she ever acknowledges you, then it's an invitation to join her. Tell me she didn’t.”

October 23, 2023 12:42

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6 comments

Jennifer Chan
21:31 Nov 01, 2023

Oh my lord, that last bit really got to me. What a perfect and unexpected end.

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Malcolm Twigg
23:08 Nov 01, 2023

Thank you Jennifer. I have to say I was concerned that I had telegraphed the ending, but from your comments it seems not. Thanks again. Glad you enjoyed it.

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M.A. Grace
23:27 Oct 31, 2023

Well written and intriguing tale. Feels like setup for a muddy romance, then twists into satisfying ghost story right at the end

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Malcolm Twigg
08:35 Nov 01, 2023

Thanks for that! Wasn't sure if the outcome had been telegraphed too early. Gratifying to know that perhaps it wasn't.

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Malcolm Twigg
08:27 Oct 30, 2023

Thank you. It's invigorating to get feedback.

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Shirley Medhurst
23:21 Oct 29, 2023

Yessss - A good old traditional ghost story - I really enjoyed reading, thank you, Malcolm

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