There was a manor in Sussex, England. A queen had once gone there for the holidays, when she was very young, but something strange occurred at that particular residence when she turned 21. It was on a cloudy September afternoon on a Friday. September 13 to be exact. She was said to have died on the property. No one was certain either way, but the woman had never been seen again. The flowers stopped growing on that dreary day. Forever. The lake flooded the property, and, ever since then, anyone who wandered there noticed that the leaves never grew on the trees.
There were people who were said to reside in that house, or were they ghosts? No one in the town was entirely certain. Bonnie MicIntosh, the housekeeper, was seen by some but not by others. She had ebony skin, and she was always wearing the same outfit, trapped in time, forever, it seemed. She could exit the house, cook, and clean, but she was never once seen anywhere except on the property. There was no car around, and anyone who saw the woman wondered how she actually went about getting groceries.
One day, a little girl by the name of Lucy was exploring with her friends, even though her mother had warned her not to, and she got very frustrated with Samantha, who kept beating her when they were racing. The two of them, and Samuel, chanced upon the place. The clouds were overhead, the property went on for miles, and, finally, they saw the woman. They'd heard the rumors around town but were never quite sure whether or not they should believe them.
The trouble was that Samuel saw nothing. The two girls, however, were talking to the same woman, the housekeeper, who the boy thought must be some sort of ghost. Who's to tell who was right and who was wrong? Perhaps the woman was a distant memory to the two of them, perhaps the boy simply didn't see her because he didn't want to, didn't believe she existed, and never would. Nonetheless, she made them tea and biscuits, set the table, and talked about many, many issues that were quite current. She knew about all of the goings on in England: the new café that had just opened up on third street, the hip new pub as well. It was rather odd. Finally, they decided it was time to leave the property. Samuel, the boy, simply strolled out, beckoning for the girls to follow him.
The two of them could not leave. There was an invisible barrier that stopped them from doing so. Suddenly, they saw a banner on which was written, "The Forever House," held by the housekeeper, which then rapidly disappeared. The boy told them to try climbing over the wall, thinking it was odd that they could enter but could not exit, and saying that he was going to call either the police or the mental hospital, because they were seeing what, to his eyes, was nothing but a ghost, an apparition of their subconscious.
Lucy tried to climb over the wall, as did Samantha, but they would always fall right before they were able to reach the other side. Samantha got to the very top, was about to jump, and, as she did, fell backwards. Samuel swiftly dialed a number on his phone. It was his uncle's. He told him of the dilemma that he and his companions were in, and the man made his way to the manor.
The problem was that, by the time he had arrived, the housekeeper had already made supper for the two girls that was apparently absolutely delicious. The boy was horrified to try it, thinking he would join this deceased woman in what must be one of her hauntings. She insisted that the house had been given to her by Elizabeth (no one could confirm or deny this), and that she had promised herself to tend to it as if it was her own for many, many years to come.
The moon began to rise over the trees, the lake murmuring on the grounds with whispers that could perhaps be either human or animalistic: it was impossible to tell because the sounds were all muted. The only thing that anyone could hear clearly was the housekeeper's voice. Finally, at last, the uncle arrived. Henry was his name. He wondered exactly what was going on. He thought that maybe he was alone because, at first, he didn't see the house. He only saw Samuel, screaming for his friends at what looked like empty space.
As he took a deep breath, the place emerged, seemingly out of thin air, and the children with it, but, he, too, did not see the housekeeper.
"Uncle! I'm so glad that you are here! The girls are inside, and they can't get out! Perhaps you can help! I've been inside the kitchen and been served tea by what appears to be a ghost, but the girls see and hear her. They tell me she's absolutely splendid: quite a lovely woman."
"Odd!" the uncle exclaimed, before entering the home.
He went inside and wondered what exactly he would do. He wondered what he would say and where he would go, if this woman really existed. He entered the kitchen and saw the two girls, laughing and knocking their knees with their hands, talking to the air as if it was a very engaging woman, eating biscuits and drinking tea.
I have never seen anything so strange in my entire life…
He mused, then prodded them gently to leave the property. He took their hands in his and marched them to the gate. Samuel walked off of the property quite easily.
"Hold onto my hands tightly," He said.
The two girls did so and they were able to move through the barrier effortlessly. Samuel was waiting for them.
"There you are, nephew! I don't know what you were on about!"
He paused, looked at the two girls, and pointed his finger at them, "What did I tell you about talking to strangers? Hmm?"
He furrowed his brows.
"I'm going to tell your mother!"
Samuel smirked and Samantha sternly told him that it wasn't funny. Mothers could get awfully furious about these sorts of things.
This story was inspired by the following Reedsy prompt: "Set your story in a Gothic manor house."