A Derelict Stone Cottage
Anna had persuaded Sarah to come for a walk through the woods, up in the hills of Cumbria.
Before heading deeper into the woods, they stood next to the bubbling stream, watching the little waterfalls, interrupting the flow of the water.
“It's so beautiful,” Sarah breathed, bending forwards to let the water flow over her hand.
“I knew you would love it!” Anna said, smiling.
The sun was streaming through the branches of the trees, Anna was momentarily mesmerised and jumped when Sarah touched her shoulder.
Anna spun round, so sharply, that Sarah took a step back.
“Did you think I was the phantom bear or something?” Sarah laughed.
“Not quite!” Anna grinned, “but you did give me a fright!”
They climbed the steep hill to a wooden bridge, that crossed a narrow waterfall.
They stood on the bridge, “it’s breath taking,” Anna whispered.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live here?” Sarah said, watching the water cascading down.
“Imagine, waking up to this every morning,” Anna answered, dreamily.
They were both silent for a moment.
“Look Sarah,” Anna said, pointing to a small clearing, “it looks like a cottage.”
“Are you sure it’s a cottage?” Sarah answered.
“Let’s find out,” Anna laughed.
They walked towards the cottage. “You’re right,” Sarah said excitedly, as she quickened her pace.
When they reached the cottage, they could see it was derelict. Anna wanted to investigate but Sarah was dubious, “Don’t go in Anna, the floor might give way.”
“Oh come on Sarah, where is your sense of adventure?” Anna laughed and headed through the doorway.
Suddenly, she heard Anna scream, from within the cottage. In seconds, Sarah peered in through the doorway.
Anna laughed, “got ya!”
Sarah was angry, “Oh! How could you? You scared the life out of me!”
Anna was apologetic, “don’t be mad Sarah, I just wanted you to come and see this. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
Sarah pulled a face and looked like she was going to leave.
“Oh don’t go Sarah,” Anna pleaded.
Sarah turned round, abruptly, a big grin on her face, “Got you back!”
“Oh very funny!” Anna laughed.
“Well I guess we might as well investigate, now that I am inside!” Sarah laughed.
There was an open fireplace, in the main room. To the left, there was another door. Anna went over and opened it and they both peered in. There was no evidence of what the room had been used for.
Only half the roof remained and part of the back wall, had crumbled.
“That’s weird,” Anna said, “it looks like there might be another room beyond this one.”
Sarah looked at the wall beyond, “that is strange, there’s no door.”
Anna bent down to look at a small hole in the wall, near the floor. “Hey, look here, Sarah.” Before Sarah could look, Anna was already disappearing through the hole to the other side.
“Be careful Anna, this wall doesn’t look very safe.”
Worried, Sarah looked through the hole. She could hear Anna moving around. “It’s so dark, I can’t even see you.”
“Have you got your phone Sarah,” Anna answered.
Sarah pulled her phone out and put the torch light on. She peered through the hole and held the torch up, “it looks very small in there.”
Sarah sighed and followed Anna in through the hole.
Anna was relieved that Sarah had joined her.
“Don’t you think it’s odd?” Sarah asked,
“What’s odd?” Anna queried.
“That this floor is only partially stone?” Sarah continued.
Anna shrugged, not really understanding the significance.
“Maybe it held coal or animals or something,” Anna answered.
Sarah crawled across the floor, feeling her way. “It’s strange, the floor feels like wood here and then stone over there, with patches of just dirt,” Sarah whispered, signalling for Anna to come over. “Some of the wood feels flexible in places.”
Initially, Anna couldn’t feel any difference but Sarah got on her knees and started to hit the floor with her hand.
“Here,” she said excitedly, “it feels like it’s hollow.”
Anna came over to where Sarah was hitting the floor and hit the floor herself.
“Um, I think you’re right, but I don’t understand why you are so excited about it?”
“I think that it may have a room below or at least a place where they may have stored food.” Sarah said.
“I need something to help lever the wood up,” Sarah said.
“Like what?” Anna replied,
“Maybe there is some flat stones or flint outside,” Sarah said, “but hurry, I don’t want to stay in here on my own too long. There could be someone buried down there!”
Anna laughed, “don’t worry, I will go out and find something.”
Five minutes later, Anna returned.
“I found 2 sharp pieces of flint.”
“Thank goodness!” Sarah exclaimed.
She was relieved because her imagination had started to play tricks on her.
Anna crawled back in and used one piece of flint to hit the thinner one to try and lift the wood. There was a splintering sound and part of the wood fell away.
“Wow, the wood must be rotten.”
“That’s a bit scary, we really could have fallen through the floor,” Sarah replied.
“I know,” Anna said, feeling apprehensive now.
Sarah came over and shone the torch where Anna had broken the wood. She could see that it was quite a drop.
“Seriously, Anna, please be careful.”
Anna cleared a big enough hole for her to drop down. Sarah held the torch so she could see. Holding part of the floor that felt more solid, Anna lowered herself down and dropped the rest.
Sarah peered down, “are you okay?”
“I’m fine, it looks like the floor is just earth down here Sarah. Can you throw the flint down in case we need it?” Anna called.
Sarah leaned over with the torch and said, “mind out of the way Anna, I don’t want them to hit you.”
Anna moved towards the back wall whilst Sarah threw down the flint pieces. She shone the torch down again, “can you find them Anna?” Sarah called, hearing Anna moving around.
“Got them Sarah. Are you coming down?”
“I’m not sure,” Sarah said hesitating.
There was no response from Anna.
Sarah took a deep breath, “Okay, coming down,”
She lowered herself down and jumped. Anna made her way over in the dark, shuffling forward, “are you okay Sarah?”
“Yes, I’m fine, just can’t find my phone,” she said anxiously, “it’s pitch black down here.”
Anna reached her and touched her lightly on the arm,
“Oh my god! Something touched me,” Sarah screamed.
“It’s okay, it’s me, Anna.”
“Oh thank goodness! That was bloody scary,” Sarah said, panting, “I’m worried that if we don’t find the phone, we won’t find our way out of here”
“Maybe we should crawl across the floor, side by side, to cover the whole area, that way we should find the phone.” Anna said, trying to sound reassuring.
Working together, side by side, they both covered the area, going up and down slowly, feeling their way along the earth, covered floor. Sarah was starting to lose hope of finding it. She didn’t want to acknowledge the nagging worry that they could be stuck down there.
There was silence, as they crawled around the floor. Sarah could feel her anxiety rising. “I hope we can get back out of here,” Sarah voiced both their thoughts.
Internally, Sarah berated herself for being stupid and jumping down as well.
Suddenly, Anna yelled, “I’ve got it.”
“Got what?” Sarah said, her voice high pitched with anxiety.
“The phone, silly!” Anna said excitedly.
Anna gave Sarah her phone. She sighed with relief and burst into tears. They hugged each other briefly. “We’re going to be fine.” Anna said firmly.
Standing up, Sarah shone the torch around, “Look, there’s a door,” Anna said, rushing forward to open it. Sarah was close on her heels.
They walked into the room, shining the torch. It was gloomy and smelt damp. As they reached the back wall, they found a shelf, carved into the wall. Anna carefully put her hand into the shelf, “can you shine the torch in here, Sarah?” she asked, “I think I’ve found something.”
Sarah shone the torch in, as Anna pulled out a little black notebook.
“Do you think it’s someone’s personal diary?” Sarah whispered.
Anna laughed, “why are you whispering?”
”It feels a bit creepy in here,” Sarah said, in a hushed voice.
“Come on Sarah, let’s see what it says inside,” Anna said persuasively.
“I don’t know, it might be private,” Sarah replied.
Anna whispered,“No-one will ever know. Besides, aren’t you just a little bit curious?”
Sarah started to protest but then grinned, “come on then.”
They opened the little black notebook. Inside there were some poems and lists of herbs. At the back, there was a small pocket with a little piece of paper, tightly folded inside.
“What do you think this is about?” Anna said, looking at the faded ink on the paper.
“I have no idea. Look at the circles of dotted lines and that square in the middle, ” Sarah said, pointing at the page.
They both stared at it, waiting for inspiration. When none was forthcoming, Sarah decided to look back at the poems to see if there were any clues there. She found a little rhyme on the 9th page.
Round and round
A room without sound
Closing in, I find the door,
A treasure trove
Within the earth.
Confused, Sarah showed Anna.
They sat silently, pondering the words and the strange picture on the little piece of paper.
“On the 9th page,” Sarah exclaimed, “there are 9 circles drawn on the paper.”
Anna, intrigued, re-read the rhyme, “round and round, a room without sound.”
“Get up, Anna!” Let’s walk 9 circles round this room,” Sarah said excitedly.
“What?” Anna looked confused.
There was silence for a minute.
Sarah jumped up, “I’ve got it! If you walk 9 steps from the centre of the back wall and I walk 9 steps in from the centre of the side wall, I think we will find the square.”
Anna was a bit unsure but stood up, “let’s do it.”
They both walked the 9 steps inwards, which brought them to the centre. Crouching down, they began to move the earth away. Anna took the two pieces of flint out of her pocket and gave one to Sarah. They scraped away the earth.
After about 20 minutes, they had a pile of earth on either side but hadn’t found anything.
Sarah started to doubt, “maybe I am wrong,” she said disappointed.
“No, lets keep going, just a bit more.”
With less enthusiasm, they dug down further.
“Look!” Anna said excitedly, “wood.” She hit the wood with her flint, “Yep! Definitely wood.”
Sarah, scraped away the earth with Anna. At last, they were able to see the sides of a box. They both dug the sides, around the box, loosening it enough to pull the box free.
Anna, pulled at the top of the box but it wouldn’t budge.
“Try using the flint,” Sarah said, “I want to know what’s in there!” Anna laughed,
“Me too!” Anna said and hit the lid from underneath, where it overhung slightly. She felt resistance but suddenly, it gave way.
Sarah was next to her, as Anna pulled out a drawstring bag.
They could hardly contain their excitement.
“Open it, open it!” Sarah burst out.
Anna undid the knot on the bag and loosened the neck to look inside the bag. Her face lit up, “I think it’s money.”
Anna pulled out five bundles of notes. Sarah counted the notes with Anna, “$20,000” they both gasped, together.
“Wow! Imagine what we could do with that!” Anna whispered.
“Why are you whispering?” Sarah laughed.
“I don’t know,” Anna grinned.
They were silent for a minute.
“Do you think we should get out of here?” Anna said,
“Definitely!” Sarah answered.
About the author
I am a freelance writer for hire, writing on matters of health, mental health, herbal medicine and wellbeing. I love writing and creativity. I am a Medical Herbalist, Psychiatric Nurse, Writer and artist.