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The Annexe
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 1

Some months ago now, while visiting a relative on the other side of the country, I acquired at an auction a small statue which afterwards turned out to have been of great value; and which I consequently was able to sell at a high enough price so as to be, for the first time in my life, able to think in terms of acquiring a house.

At approximately the right time I also came to know of a house that had come on the market, and which was priced not high because it lay a fair way out of town; most people, apparently, shied away from purchasing property that was not just unlikely to appreciate significantly in value but which was not conveniently close to a mall or a garage. But that did not apply to me, because I did not mind isolation and because apart from work I never went anywhere anyway. And the amount asked was just what I could afford. Apparently there was some kind of scandal or mystery about just why it was on the market – the estate agents were very tight-lipped about it – but from my standpoint the place was acceptable and affordable, and that was all I wanted.

So, an inspection of the property and a few signatures later, I was able to move into the house and for the first time in my life I was able to look around me and declare to myself, "All this is mine". And, little by little (for I am not one of those people who can adjust quickly to new surroundings) I began settling in and getting to know my new property.

It was called, by some bygone owner from British days, "Highwinds". In appearance it was mostly as the British must have built it; walls of attractive grey stone surmounted by sloping red roofs and even a bow window over what must have been once a well-maintained lawn. That lawn was now a wilderness of grass and wildflowers. Perhaps such a sight might have been anathema to a keen gardener; but I, who am happy enough to let Mother Nature have her way, was happy enough to leave it as it was.

Over the decades there had been some changes, of course; some windows had evidently been blocked up and someone had built an extension out at the back, and an old well in the back garden had been filled in. But it was substantially as it must have been when the British had built it maybe a hundred years ago.

The house was much larger than I required for my own purposes, and consequently I took my time getting to know it further than the three of four rooms that I occupied. Those rooms were designed as though to cope with a Scottish winter, with thick walls and even fireplaces with grates, in which nobody had probably lit a fire in more than sixty years. The floors had once all been of polished wood, and in a few of the rooms they still were. A few items of furniture from the previous owner still adorned those rooms – a wall-to-wall cupboard that must have been brought inside in sections and assembled, a few chairs which I suppose nobody had wanted and which I consequently appropriated for my own usage, a large four-poster antique bed which proved too uncomfortable for me, and a massive desk.

That desk must have been at least a hundred years old. It had drawers everywhere, each with its little brass plate with a tiny ring in which one would hook one’s finger to pull it open; and a few of the rings had come off and never been replaced. Those drawers were extraordinarily difficult to open because there was absolutely no other purchase for one’s fingers. I persevered only out of curiosity on a Sunday when I had nothing else to do, when the rain came down hard outside and there was nowhere to go. It was only by dint of careful prying that I was able to open one without damaging the wood. Once I knew how it was done, it was less difficult to open the others, but they were all empty anyway except a few bills so old the companies that issued them no longer existed, and newspaper cuttings that were brittle and yellow with age and that fell apart at the touch.

It was only in the last drawer I opened, and that with the greatest difficulty, that I found something. It was not much; a child’s double-lined exercise book that someone had converted into a kind of journal. There was no name or clue as to who the writer might have been, nor even a date. But it was a modern exercise book, as one might pick up at any stationer’s in town; and the writing was all in ball-point, not in faded old ink from some leaking fountain pen. For a few moments I considered throwing it away unread, because the handwriting was crabbed and difficult to decipher; but there was still the afternoon to get through, and – by an oversight on my part – no other reading matter or distraction available to get me through it. So, with a sigh, I sat down in one of the chairs next to the bow window, opened a bottle of Cobra beer, and began to read.

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:General Horror
Type:Short story
Rating:6.88 / 10
Rated By:47 users
Comments: 4 users
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