Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

Brownsea Castle By Janette Gledhill

BROWNSEA CASTLE by Janette Gledhill

Wet feet slapping on flagstones: footprints in the dust shaken by clangs from above.

An empty larder. Smells of fried bacon and coffee (long-trapped) escaping as the kitchen door opens. Three finds - taken to the window in turn. First, a tin of rat poison. Useless. Rats were tasty. Second, a tiny packet of birthday candles with one intact match stuck in the top. Excellent. Last, a catering-size, glass, screw-top jar. The lid wouldn’t turn. She squeezed it between door and jamb. It loosened. The smell of vinegar. She dipped her fingers and pulled out a gherkin. Her first food for two days.

Clasping the jar, the candles tucked under the elastic of her swimsuit, she moved on. A foul-smelling j-cloth provided just enough drying power for her blonde hair. For the rest she’d drip dry. The curving wooden staircase beckoned. Clang, clang, clang.

Long, black cobwebs draped themselves around her shoulders. She bound more about her waist. They felt warm.

Brownsea Castle was shrouded in rhododendrons. John Lewis, it owners, had failed ten years before when retail died. To escape hungry, wild-dogs and men, she’d swum to the island from Sandbanks with its lifeless summer palaces and the dried-up pools of once-rich footballers.

Here peacocks, rabbits, rats, seabirds and fish would provide her diet until she could clear some land to grow crops. A wood burning stove offered cooking, hot water and heat. A safe new start.

But first she had to know who, or what’s rhythms, filled the space. She searched first, second and third floors by the dim light of dusty windows. The never-ending clangs obscuring the slaps of waves and the roar of wind. It was the entire world.

The attic was dark. Carefully she lit a pink birthday candle, sacrificing her only match. Tiny candle held in her mouth she moved quickly.

In the shadows a rope ladder hung from a trap door in the roof. She climbed the swinging ladder towards the clangs. The trap door vibrated with the noise. She pushed it up, just enough, to see out. She was too slow. It slammed shut deadening her fingers.

She climbed down. Lit a blue candle from the stub of the first. Removed the gherkins from the jar and stowed them safely between two joists to eat later. The heavy jar would be her weapon.

One squashed hand hung onto the ladder. The other the jar. This time she used the top of her head to lift the trap. The noise was immense. She straightened, opened the trap fully and hurled the jar towards the noise.

The force threw her backwards off the ladder, crashing unknowing onto the small pile of gherkins. Clang.

Word count: 456

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