The screams just won’t stop.
Every night, I hear them, echoing through the dark hallways of our house. Shuddering, I huddle into a corner, hoping that someone would hear them and send help. But I think that is too much to ask. Nobody has come before as well. Our house is on a hill, overlooking a village. Tonight, the bright moon shines a shimmering blanket over us, but there is not a soul outside.
Wait! Is that a door creaking open? I pull back into a corner of the bed, eyes fixed at the door as it slowly opens. A little girl in a white frock enters. Deep channels of tears mar her cherubic face and in the pale moonlight, I see a few drops of ruby red on one side of her lips. She sits down on the bed, burying her face in her hands. A part of me is swamped with pity but another is too scared to move.
Just then, the half open door bangs open and a huge figure sways in. It is a burly man with a half-broken bottle of …wine? Even in the din, I can make out the sheer drunken frenzy on his face. Before I can react, he bellows.
“It’s your fault! You are the reason why she left me. Had you not been born, there would not have been any problem. You…”
Then, he strikes the poor girl. Instantly, I spring from the bed and lunge at him, but he phases through me! I yell and run for my mother as the screams begin once again.
My mother is seated in the hall in her favourite chair, looking over the gloomy expanse of sloping houses beneath us. I jolt her from her trance and tell her about what is going on in the room.
She smiles and replies, “Son, don’t make up stories. You and I both know that ghosts don’t exist.”
But I know they do. What about those people in my room? That little girl, that obnoxious excuse for a man? What about me phasing through them? This isn’t the first time it has happened. I have tried telling my mother this many times, that we must leave the house at once, but she just smiles and shakes her head.
Even the villagers are of no help. Whenever I try asking them something, they pretend not to notice me. Hardly anyone comes up to our house and ones who do: the milkman and the postman, they seem to be very eager to leave as fast as their legs will carry them.
After many attempts, I managed to eavesdrop some information. Apparently, this house, or Hilltop as it was called then, was owned by a wealthy country squire, some hundred years ago. Pretty mundane name. The squire had a wife and a child, but nobody remembers the gender now.
The squire was adored by friends and family alike. He was kind to everyone and had a unique way of leaving people in smiles after every conversation. This was until he met a certain woman at the tavern one night. Completely enamoured by her, the squire started a radical descent into misery. He began neglecting his family in favour of spending more time at the tavern. Stories of late-night dalliances and dishonourable conduct started spreading, but when they reached the wife, she refused to believe any of them.
Until one day, she disappeared.
Nobody knows what happened and when they asked the squire, he responded with rage that his wife had gone to meet her parents. Gone was the cheery lord of Hilltop. What stood before them was a man so consumed by the fires of lust and liquor that he did not care about right or wrong anymore.
The prolonged absence of the lady raised several eyebrows and eventually, rumours of her never having left the house made the rounds. All of this was too much for the mistress of the squire. Tired of being the target of public disapproval and refusing to commit to the squire because of his child, she decided to end things with him. Apparently, he did not take this well. There are accounts of him going down on his knees, begging her not to leave him. But she did, and rightly so.
Soon after, the squire stopped coming to the village often. The few times he did, it was to buy alcohol, food, and other provisions. Any attempts at exchanging pleasantries with him were met with so fierce a scowl, that people started avoiding him like the plague. The child wasn’t seen in the village ever again.
One clear winter night, when the first flakes of snow floated down from the sky, a loud sound was heard emanating from Hilltop. The villagers gathered the courage to go up the next morning, finally having enough of the squire.
The house was locked, and after breaking in, the villagers were hit by waves of musty and stale air. After a lot of searching, they reached the cellar. The great stone door of the cellar was jammed shut, but a trickle of red coming out of the crack between the door and the floor alarmed the villagers. After a lot of struggle, they managed to push the door open and the sight that awaited them was burned in their sites for all eternity.
Inside, in a pool of his own blood, lay the body of the unfortunate squire. The fingers of his right hand still gripped a shotgun and fragments of a shattered wine glass lay nearby. In one corner of the cellar was a shovel, its end still muddy. This roused the suspicion of the villagers who dug up the garden. There lay two bodies: one of a boy, still freshly buried and the other of a woman, that had already started decomposing.
Following this, a shroud of fear descended upon the village. Many residents started leaving, under the pretext of finding better jobs in the city. Hilltop was rented by many families over the century, but they always ended up leaving almost immediately, citing strange occurrences.
I sit outside the house, the mark on my neck still aching. Inside, the poor girl still screams and I wish I could help her. They say, ‘history repeats itself’ and this is one of the times I hope it doesn’t. I wish I could touch that man! But, I can’t do much if everybody seems to ignore me.