The cottage was cosy in the daytime. At night, it changed.
When the Writer had let herself in through the heavy, wooden front door, observing as she did so the pretty rose bush which creeped up the ragged stone walls to border the entranceway, she’d felt a surge of peace and contentment. This was the place she’d pen her bestseller, she’d told herself, and for an entire fortnight she’d feel right at home and brimming over with inspiration. Only the most exquisite prose could pour from her fingertips when she was holed up in such a serene abode.
She’d planned to whip out her laptop and start typing almost as soon as she’d arrived, but the charm of the place overwhelmed her. Logs were stacked in a basket beside the fireplace and screamed out at her to light them. How could she have resisted? And once the fierce flames had started to crackle away, she felt they begged for her to settle down in the armchair beside them with a book. How could she say no? Then, her tummy had rumbled and reminded her she hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and a takeaway had been swiftly ordered and devoured, alongside a bottle of wine, a book and the sumptuous warmth of the fire.
The first day should be for settling in, after all, she told herself. And tomorrow, the writing would begin in earnest.
She had taken herself off to bed at the demure hour of 9pm, for no other reason than the fire had dwindled to a sad glow, and the draughty cottage had begun to chill her to her bones. Besides, the combination of a full stomach and a bottle of wine had made groggy, and she was in dire need of a good night’s rest. For all that writing that was due to come, of course.
But when she flicked her bedside lamp off, the cosy cottage vibe was snuffed out along with it.
The house groaned. It creaked and moaned like an arthritic dog settling down to sleep on concrete floor.
Initially, the writer thought it was the pipes, but she hadn’t turned the central heating on at all during the evening. Then she wondered if the house was straining against the force of the wind, but it had been a perfectly tranquil day, and when she peeked out through the curtains she noted that the branches of the tree across the street were as still as statues.
And yet the cottage creaked and grumbled around her. It sounded like wood grating on wood, as though the eaves were struggling to hold up the thatched roof. The writer had visions of them giving in altogether and bringing the roof down on her bed, burying her in century-old straw. She closed her eyes and pulled the duvet up to her nose, hoping to drift into a peaceful slumber and awake to daylight, when the creaking and danger would have surely disappeared along with the moon.
Then the floor seemed to shudder. The writer clung to her duvet and held her breath, wondering whether it was her mind playing tricks on her or if the wooden floor beneath her bed was destined to give way.
It was the latter.
Her stomach lurched as the bottom end of the bed tipped downwards and she slid, feet first, along the length of the mattress and off the edge of the bed. Her legs and arms flailed for a few seconds, before she crashed into the living room floor below. Then, with a squeak that sounded suspiciously like rusty hinges, that gave way too.
The writer fell once more onto solid ground, painfully winded. She dragged the duvet away from her head and gasped for air. Her surroundings were pitch black – far blacker than the bedroom which was at least dimly lit by the glow of the moon. It smelt damp and musty, and she heard the lethargic drip, drip, drip of water falling from – well, she had no idea where.
She looked up and saw the faint outline of a square hole above her. Before she could even contemplate an escape plan, the squeak of rusting hinges broke the silence once more, followed by a hopeless thud. The square above was gone, and she appeared to be trapped in nothing but pure darkness.
This would make a great story, she told herself, if I ever get out of here alive.
I’m unsure as to the writer’s fate, dear reader, but I can tell you that she is yet to scribe her tale.