That was old and damp my mum would oft’ grouse.
It was centuries old and impossible to heat,
Lighting the fire in the snug an essential treat.
Positioned on the edge of an encompassing wood,
Where we used to play as much as we could.
My mum was hesitant ‘bout letting us play there,
But for my brother Tom and I, it became our lair.
We’d explore it all day and play near the stream,
But everything in those woods was not as it seems.
We found an old gnarled tree we both liked to climb,
It became the place we spent most of our time.
There was a spot high up where thick branches met,
We attached sticks and blankets and our den was all set.
We’d dream up different games as we hid in our den,
Tom was older than me, he was nearly ten.
He became bored and wanted to go deep in the woods,
But Mum had said no and I wasn’t sure we should.
But he was older than me and held far greater sway,
So we headed deeper into the woods one terrible day.
As we walked, I wished I had never said yes,
I could tell Tom was nervous but would never confess.
The world got darker as the trees grew more dense,
I began to feel sick and even Tom seemed tense.
Then he turned, his face bright with surprise,
I followed his gaze and couldn’t believe my eyes.
Positioned in the middle of the encompassing wood,
Stood a house where I couldn’t believe one could.
We stared at it without making a sound,
Until we jumped at a stick cracking down on the ground.
It had blackened windows and curtains pulled tight,
That seemed to twitch, though the movement was slight.
Roof slates had dropped down to the overgrown grass,
Stones crumbled on the long path where no-one passed.
Paint peeled off the door and the handle looked loose,
As if it would no longer work and be of little use.
We couldn’t believe that anyone lived there,
It was dark and deserted, unloved and uncared.
We’d come back and look at it whenever we could,
Though we never confessed we went so deep in the woods.
Tom was more confident, he grew increasingly bold,
I found the dark silence uneasy and cold.
We imagined the owner, an old man living there,
Who lived alone, in darkness and despair.
Whose family had gone missing in a mysterious way,
Then he’d buried them in his garden the very next day.
The stories grew so wild it gave him his name,
We called him the Storyteller, and his family he’d slain.
We never met anyone, never saw anything change,
Everything always seemed to be exactly the same.
Except that one day when we turned up quite late,
Clouds were tugging darkness across the sky’s plate.
At first we thought we must have got it wrong,
But the curtains in the bedroom had completely gone.
It was one at the front and as we stared in surprise,
There was movement at the window, someone passed by.
We both gasped in fear and we started to run,
Heading swiftly back to where we’d come from.
Breathing fast, my head pounded and started to swim,
Desperate to find our house so we could get in.
We ran towards our house, as fast as we might,
But our house just never emerged into sight.
We stopped out of breath and cried out in shock,
We came to realise we were totally lost.
The darkening sky seemed to mock our fear,
It was late now and we were stuck out here.
I looked at Tom, told him I was scared,
But he ignored me as though he hadn’t heard.
He met my eyes and said we needed to move fast,
He knew a way but the failing light wouldn’t last.
We exchanged a glance, moved as swiftly as we could,
But we dropped ever deeper into the dark wood.
Tom was breathing heavily, his eyes flicked about,
I swallowed hard, and we began to shout.
We yelled for my dad, we shouted for my mum,
But the wind whistled between us and no-one would come.
But then out of nowhere, we both saw a light,
We sped towards it with all of our might.
A house, our house, we could both suddenly see,
We raced towards it, both shouting with glee.
Through the bushes and trees we did carefully thread,
And then we both stopped still, we both stopped dead.
It wasn’t our house, but it could not be right,
We had run the other way throughout the night.
But the storyteller’s house was what we could see,
We had come to a place we could not possibly be.
In the bedroom window of the deserted house,
A solitary light shined impossibly out.
It was a place that made me just want to run,
But all other options had faded and gone.
We shared a look and began to approach,
Pushed the front door open, started to encroach.
The hallway was black, and bitterly cold,
The floorboards were cracked; perilously old.
We stood in silence, there was a stench of death,
The only sound was our panicked breath.
A creak on the stairs made us both cry out,
Tom gasped and I couldn’t help but shout.
He turned and shushed me, held my hand,
My nerves had shredded and crumpled to sand.
He pointed at the stairs but I shook my head,
If it my choice, we would already have fled.
But Tom knew we were lost; desperate and alone,
He took my arm, I released a scared moan.
We slowly ascended the blackened stairs,
Each step’s creak providing a whole new scare.
The landing was bathed in a very faint light,
We stepped off the stairs and turned a sharp right.
We faced a closed door that held light behind,
I grabbed Tom and hoped he’d change his mind.
But he had already approached the faintly lit door,
Rapped a knock as my nerves buckled once more.
I stepped back, stepped towards the stairs,
I couldn’t do this, I was simply too scared.
The door slowly opened and Tom stepped inside,
The door slammed shut behind him, ‘NO!’ I cried.
I ran forward, felt terrified and shocked,
Shoved the door hard but it seemed to be locked.
‘Tom!’ I screamed out, ‘Tom!’ I roared,
But no sound surfaced from the other side of the door.
I banged on the panels, I screamed out his name,
I shoved against walls, I kicked at the frame.
I screamed and I screamed, tears flooding my eyes,
But nothing changed, whatever I tried.
My heart pounded hard, I could almost be sick,
And I kicked and I kicked and I kicked and I kicked.
And then when I had never felt so scared before,
I heard an agonised screech from behind the door.
I began to count down, beginning at ten,
Tom taught me how to calm down back in the den.
So I started at ten and counted out loud,
My trembling voice seemed the only sound.
And then everything changed when I finally reached one,
The door never opened, but the light was gone.
I wanted to run, to return where I’d come from,
But I could never leave here without Tom.
My hands shaking, my feet scuffing the floor,
I stepped forward again and banged on the door.
I screamed Tom’s name, screamed it loud and strong,
I screamed for the storyteller to say what he’d done.
Then suddenly, a screech, it was right in my face,
My heart exploded, and I began to race.
Fast down the stairs, into the hall,
Straight through the front door and over the wall.
As I stumbled through the woods, I shouted for Tom,
But I had to keep moving and he just did not come.
Finally, exhausted, I collapsed in a heap,
I curled into a ball, finally began to sleep.
I shivered and shook, till a scream startled me awake,
It was my mum, crying and shouting, cupping my face.
She sobbed and hugged me, squeezed my hands,
I realised the sun was rising as a new day began.
I began to gabble about what had occurred,
She shushed me and held me, didn’t hear a word.
She kept saying ‘it’s alright, you are safe now’,
‘I just know you are here, and it doesn’t matter how’.
They had been looking all night, searching the woods,
Desperate to find us, they did all they could.
But I pulled away angrily, and asked about Tom,
The storyteller has him, he’s locked in his room.
I can take you right now back to the house,
We have to be fast but we can get him out.
My mum stared at me, her breathing ragged and fast,
A strange look in her eyes that quickly passed.
Then she said words that exploded like a bomb,
As she held me close and asked ‘Who’s Tom?’