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Only an hour after first sighting the strange woman standing in the centre of the castle lawn staring at me, I have spotted her twice since. I was in the kitchen and she stood outside its window staring in at me. I called to her and ran out to confront her but she was gone. On the third occasion, I was moving through the reception area of the ground floor of the castle when I caught her outside its main window. This time I stood, not allowing myself to react. I focused on her gaze. Her oval eyes, hazel in colour that seemed to pierce into my being. Her shoulder length brown hair was motionless as if glued to the head. Her mouth, its lips, quivered. Squeezing my eyes to concentrate further, the narrow top lip moved. Had she been trying to talk to me? I slowly gravitated towards the window and she moved from my sight.
I am on edge. I feel it in my body, the symptoms are recognisable. I need to tell Jenny, but what can I say? A strange woman is randomly appearing to me! What if it’s a ghost, or a spirit trying to contact me? I sit, slowly sinking deeper into my armchair nestled next to the arched stone chimney breast of the castle reception. A memory I have not recalled for a long time suddenly resurfaces, sending a chill up my spine, causing the arm hair to stand on end. During the first year of my arrival at the castle, each night, I would wake with the immense feeling of someone standing over my bed, watching me. Of course, I could see no one nor was there anyone there, but it became more real when my bed would sink on one side as if someone had sat on its edge. It was always the left hand side. Closing my eyes, I would count and every time I reached 180 seconds, the bed would lift again, as if the person would stand up.
The memories now flood forward, sending a sickening pang to the bottom of my stomach. The footsteps came next, light steps, ascending the stone spiralling staircase and onto the wooden floor boards outside my door. Then within a year of my arrival to the very day, all stopped and I never heard or felt anything again. What if this spirit has returned? Am I now seeing her?
Standing, I pace the reception room, hands wrapped around my body, offering myself comfort. I had never told Jenny of this experience. The sounds radiating from the room overhead tells me she is busy at work. It was my father’s reaction on telling him of what I heard that scared me the most. My mother dismissed it of course and said it was the strange noises of the old castle that has been standing for over six hundred years and I must get used to its creaks and sounds. She romanticised it completely, saying, “Jan, do not worry, it is but the castle.” However, it would have worked for a seven year old, if not for my father’s non-verbal reactions. He always seemed to have believed me. His eyes told me a different story. It was during this period my father would move himself to the attic by day, lock himself in and rarely come out.
The image of the top floor now floods my memory and that wooden hallway running towards the distinctive oak arched door that has always been shut. No matter what time of year it is, the sun never reaches it. This fascinated me as a child. I would watch as each season would go by. The window opposite the door on the other end of the corridor would be a doorway for the sun. As the spring moved into summer, the sun rays would lengthen their reach further along the wooden hallway, always stopping in the same place each time, three inches from the base of the door. Then as the autumn retook the summer and moved towards the death of the year, the sun would crawl back along the wooden floor boards only ever reaching three inches into the hall during the height of the winter.
Following my father’s death, I never made use of the attic room. I never even studied it. I had found him that morning by accident as he deliberately had left the arched wooden door slightly ajar. I had rung for the emergency services and they removed his body and locked the door under my instructions. To ensure I never did, I threw the key away. It became a place of foreboding darkness and for it to have done what it did to my father? It was no place to venture in to. Whatever secrets remain with the castle, they shall remain hidden and I want no part of them. My superstitious nature has been developed from living within this stone keep, but that is as far as it went. Jenny does not know this side of me, nor did any of my friends. But now, with the strange woman appearing before me, I believe its time I tell Jenny of my experiences.
Part III – 10.08.18
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