This Place. A short story for Halloween.

The seat was a fallen tree, a once-mighty oak, now moss-covered, and beginning to rot. It had lain at the top of the hill for as long as I can remember.

It was the place where I often sat in solitude, looking out across the valley to the hills, and onwards into the purple haze of beyond.

I am surprised more people do not know of this place, the place I think of as my own. Yet over the years of coming here, I have only seen a few people before today. The occasional dog walker, the tramp who wandered too far from the village, the little girl with the kite, and one or two more. I have never seen any of those people more than once. It seems that visitors to this place are far and few.

Perhaps, the problem is the woodland. To get to this clearing on the hill, one must trek through the densely wooded area, known locally as the Gallows Trees.

There are rumours abound regarding the woodland.

One such tale is the woods are so named because the town’s gallows were built from the old oaks that grow here. Like the one I often sit on. It is said the lost souls of all those hanged now wander aimlessly amongst the trees.

Another story is, years ago, a fellow called Gallow owned these woods, he was a woodsman. One day a cavalry officer rode up to the Gallow’s cottage on his charger, demanding Mr. Gallow’s surrender his daughter, so to become the officer’s wife.

Gallow’s refused, and a fight took place. As Mrs. Gallows tried to separate the fighting men; the officer sliced off her head with a mighty swing of his Sabre. Mr. Gallow retaliated by hefting his axe high into the air before bringing it down with all his might.

At that precise moment, young Annabel Gallow’s ran from the house, coming between the men. The axe cleaved Annabel’s skull in two.

Mr. Gallows was hung in the town square. His body was left dangling for a week, suspended from a frame he himself fashioned from the very oak trees of his own woodland.

Locals delight in telling this tale to outsiders, informing them Mr. Gallows ghost is constantly looking for Annabel within the woodland. On quiet, windless nights, it is said you can hear him calling her name.

“Annabel”, the air whispers, “Annabel, where are you?”

This is the story the locals tell. But others say it is not true.

One time, not so long ago, something unusual happened here.

A group of men came to this place. They carried with them an array of equipment. I heard they were called Ghost hunters, Spectral engineers, or Paranormal researchers. It really depends on who you listen to.

They were a strange lot, wandering about fixing camera points, heat sensors, movement detectors, microphones, and all sorts of gadgets throughout the woods, and around the green where the tree trunk lies.

Five day’s they stayed. Sleeping in a van, and a few oddly assorted tents at the north edge of the woods, next to what once was Black Mill Farm.

Every morning they milled about drinking coffee and checking their machines. They took turns watching the dials and screens they precariously placed on rickety trestle tables in an open-sided tent.

Nothing happened.

Nothing at all.

This is why, I supposed, they seemed somewhat dejected the morning they were leaving.

I thought I would never get another chance to see exactly what they were doing here, so that morning I walked closer, watching as they unplugged their equipment, and began to pack it away.

I was surprised how much care they took in placing their strange machines into those big black padded cases. Two men carrying them, gently lifting them, and sliding them into the van without dropping, banging, or jolting them.

So intent was I watching the men’s activities, I walked very close to their tent, much closer than I intended.

That was when everything in the tent started to buzz and beep. The men jumped, startled expressions appearing on their faces as they rushed about in excitement. I watched as they stared at the lights flickering and buzzing, pointing, and stabbing their fingers at the screens, and dials.

The men were looking up, out of the tent, in the direction I stood. I looked around and about myself, I could see nothing which would cause them so much excitement.

One man called out… ’Who are you?’

I thought he was speaking to me, so I answered him, ‘I am Annabel,’ I said.

I am surprised more people do not know of this place, the place where a once-mighty oak stood, now fallen, moss-covered, and beginning to rot, the place I think as my own.

© Paul White 2014 _ FFCO2104‎2014/U21/808


If you enjoyed reading ‘This Place‘, I am certain you would love to read my psychological suspense story, ‘Three Floors Up‘, published as an eBook/Kindle, and available from Amazon, https://amzn.to/3uZ5W0q and universally via D2D, https://books2read.com/u/mlYqN7

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