This one came to me over breakfast on Saturday. It’s nearly 500 words. It’s funny, looking at the photo again. I had in my mind a flat surround, and misty conditions. Maybe it’s the weather this week that had me befogged.
Approach to the tower
It was creepy from the start. He seemed like a tramp: shabby patched clothes, shuffling gait, the smell as he approached… but he passed me a note, and went on.
‘Top of the northwest tower, 4 pm Saturday.’
Well, it was already 2 pm on Saturday, and I was in the market square trying to finish my shopping. What tower? I huffed as exasperation flowed through me. What was this? I went to stuff the note in my raincoat pocket, and noticed the drawing on the back.
Oh. That tower.
Forty minutes later and I parked the car at the gate across the yorkstone-paved approach. The tower stood in the gloaming of a winter afternoon, the sort I always associate with hockey matches or rugby games. I played hockey, brother played rugby. Saturdays in winter… cold, damp, murky. Dark.
Walking along the path left me exposed to everything, prying eyes as well as the elements. I’d say I felt safer once I reached the shelter of the archway, but I didn’t. I knew what lay ahead.
The steps up the northwest tower were stone, slippery, and winding. A genuine spiral staircase, with a cold iron handrail to guide my faltering steps, except if you grabbed it for support it would probably pull away from the stone.
My footsteps crunched underneath me, and some sand slipped away, then a pebble went with it, echoing down, down, down and down again. It must have passed the entry and continued because it couldn’t possibly fall that slowly… no… it echoed into the depths, way below the level I’d approached on. It felt like minutes later when I heard a gentle plop and a little splash echoed up to me.
I shivered, wondering whether anything would stir in the depths. To emphasise, a cold breeze slipped over my back. I was higher now, and slits in the tower walls let in an apology for light. The breeze whispered about, creating voices in my ears, questioning my very presence. Lichen crusted on the walls, and moss dripped the condensed fog from outside. I pushed through a sticky web, revolted by the idea of a spider that would make something that size.
A tiny bell tinkled above me.
A doorbell attached to a spider web? Yuk.
I reached the top.
A wooden door.
I pushed it.
It opened with an agonising drawn-out shriek.
I stepped inside.
“Hello dear. Glad you could make it. Tea’s nearly ready.”
I slumped in a chair, exhausted by the approach to my auntie’s grace and favour flat. She doesn’t look like a witch, but you can never really be certain with aunts.
© J M Pett 2023