“I’ve often seen gates like this one and wondered what lies within. I actually wrote a fantasy series based on a gate within the city I was born. That series like my mysteries remains as lost as the secrets within the property beyond the mysterious gate.”
I wrote this story in answer to the following prompts:
Sadje’s What do you see – image above – Image credit; Victoria Strukovskaya @ Unsplash
FOWC with Fandango — Fish
Pensitivity’s Three Things Challenge — Forgot – Sad – Unusual
The Problem at 285
‘I need help … 285 Church Lane … Come quick …’
Constable Steve Barker took the job from the dispatcher who’d received the harrowing call. Pulling up to the sad, unusual looking gate surrounded by a fifteen-foot high wall of creepy ivy, he wondered what he was getting himself into. “Dispatch, what we know about this address?”
“Records showed this is a plot of land that time forgot. The house is reported to have burned down in two thousand and two. Police reports indicate that it was believed to be arson. No arrests were made. From then on nothing. No new tenants, no rebuilding, just abandonment.”
“So, how can somebody be calling for help from within there? I mean it doesn’t look like anyone’s been through the gate in a hundred years.” Steve climbed from his squad car and approached the diagonally slatted gate.
“I don’t know what to tell you. Except, it was a young lady. She gave the address quite specifically,” replied the dispatcher. “Want me to send backup and an ambulance?”
Steve’s eyes focused on the padlock — it was a huge clue to something going on. While the rest of the bolting mechanism was heavily rusted; the padlock was shiny and new. “Yes, do that,” he said into his radio as he started walking along the property boundary.
It bordered a farm field turned golden yellow by a sea of vivid rapeseed oil flowers. The ivy strangled hedging continued along the side of the forgotten property.
Undeterred, the constable walked through the crop surrounded by buzzing bees and butterflies. After a good eighty-five yards, he came to the rear of the property. The field continued much further around and beyond it.
Even here the massive hedging seemed impenetrable — yet it wasn’t.
Steve came upon an old kissing gate and it was open. “Okay, I found a way into the rear of 285. I’m going in,” he said in his radio, before ducking beneath the trailing vines. “Ho- lee mackerel!”
“Roger that, Steve. What are you seeing?”
“I feel like I just stepped back to the Jurassic period!” Steve took a deep calming breath as he gazed around at the thick, toxic stems of giant hogweed towering over his head. He knew the sap burned any skin it came in contact with. The hogweeds were growing strongly amid a dense carpet of brambles and ferns.
“Steve, backup’s twenty minutes away. Any sign of the caller?”
“Roger that. That’s a negative,” Steve pulled on his black leather gloves and eased deeper into the overgrown garden. He was following what was nothing more than a rabbit path. Just over a shoe wide, it seemed somebody had been in and out through her.
The place was crawling with insects and the occasional lizard. There was even a bright yellow newt salamander beneath one of the hogweeds. Its home likely the old pond Steve came upon. If there had ever been any fish living there, they would have been suffocated by the heaps of water lily entangled with the ever-present ivy which almost hid the pond from view.
“Steve, how you getting on?”
“Nothing yet!” Steve scanned the area around him as he batted mosquitoes from his face. Masses of ivy seemed to grow skyward in columns before him. “Wow! There is some house remains in this jungle!” he remarked having realised he was looking at some of the ancient brick walls encased in the vines.
There was no upper floor; just some of the thicker lower walls left like the ruins of an old castle.
Reaching what used to be the back door, Steve knew people had been in here. The way was clear. No ivy, no spiderwebs blocking the way. “Venturing inside, now,” he reported while switching on his torch.
“Okay, help is still twelve minutes away. Take it easy,” replied the dispatcher sounding as nervous as Steve felt on the radio.
Even two decades on the place still smelt of the fire that consumed it. Enveloped by ivy and brambles which were turning it into a natural cave, it was difficult to imagine this ever being a home. There was no furniture. No plaster or paint on the visible walls. Glass and debris crunched beneath his feet as he searched for signs of human life.
Rats were scurrying about yet there seemed nothing larger living here. Steve turned through a doorway, the lintel close to crashing to the ground. This room had a clear space around the old fireplace. Fresh ashes, food packets, beer cans and used syringes indicated somebody was living rough in here. Looking up, Steve could see this room still had part of the ceiling intact, with a covering of vines it was almost weatherproof. “Hello – It’s the police!”
Silence greeted the constable’s call.
“Hello — you called us for help!” he tried again.
Something scampered right past his feet.
Steve tried the track it with his torch but there was nothing. No soul moved anywhere near him.
Glass crackled closer to the fireplace.
Steve swung that way, illuminating the spot. Again nothing. Feeling his blood run cold, he fought to control spiking fear. His chest tightened beneath his bullet-proof vest as his hand gripped his baton. “Who’s here? Come out show yourself!”
A wailing noise erupted for nowhere it seemed to charge the atmosphere.
The constable felt the veins bulging in his forehead as he fought to control his breathing. “It’s okay … I probably scared an owl,” he surmised while doubting every word he’d just said.
Turning a slow circle, Steve took out his mobile phone. “No signal!” There was no way a landline would still be functional in here. If a mobile wouldn’t either; how could somebody have called for help? Sweating and breathing like he’d run a marathon, Steve felt hot and close to suffocating.
“S… ar… ya… o…y.” Steve radio crackled with interference. The dispatcher’s message garbled almost beyond recognition.
“Dispatch, I can barely hear you. I’m …” A wall of air hit the constable like an Arctic blast. He felt as if his organs had been frozen in his body. “Help …” he rasped as a creeping darkness clawed at his conscious. The rubbish-strewn floor raced up to meet him. Then … nothing.
It was hours later when Steve awoke in the hospital. They said he’d been overcome by gases trapped within the old building. Nobody else had been found within the structure or gardens and the call was deemed a fake cry for help.
Steve, remembered everything which happened within that nightmarish place. He knew it wasn’t gases. Something otherworldly still lived within the ruins of 285 Church Lane. Steve knew he was never going anywhere near that place again!
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