The Face in the Window: A Short Story
It was a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of autumn as I disembarked the train in Suffolk. It was quieter here, so different from the London Liverpool station, where I had started from. The dew scented, placid atmosphere and soft sound of birds chirping in the distance proved to be most welcoming. I would enjoy my time here. I had already booked to stay in a bed and breakfast. I decided to walk to the B&B, which was only a few blocks away, to take in and enjoy the countryside.
It was a quaint little house, almost like a cottage out of storybooks. It was small, and had a few bushes and plants lining the path to the door. The house was also surrounded by tall trees which were shedding their multi-hued leaves on the roof of the house. The sun bounced off the red and gold leaves, giving it a beautiful, ethereal look. However, I noticed that the houses on this street were few and far apart, which made it seem eerie.
I dragged my suitcase behind me along the path, trying to maneuver the windy path to the door of the inn, tired and looking forward to resting for the night, maybe after a cup of hot cocoa. As I arrived at the door of the house, the door swung open, and there stood an old lady. She had a pleasant, round face with red cheeks and small, bright eyes, and she greeted me with a welcoming smile.
“Hello there, you must be, Mrs. Ashworth. I am Clarence. Clarence Darwin.”
“Of course! I’ve been expecting you Mr. Darwin.” Her delicate frame completely belied her voice. It was rather deep, and faintly intimidating.
“Oh, please, call me Clarence!”
“Very well then. You must be tired after your journey; let me show you to your room.” I dragged my suitcase into the house and followed the lady. Her house was much larger than it appeared to be outside. She led me through a cozy kitchen, the sparse dining room, and the comfortable living room, before we stopped at a white door that looked quite worn down. Chips of paint from the door littered the floor beside, as did pieces of wood.
“Do pardon the mess. I didn’t get a chance to clean up before you came.” She smiled apologetically. “I am doing a little renovation around here. The house is quite old and needs attention but I could never truly change her appearance as I’ve grown up in this house and the familiarity comforts me”
“I understand”, I said. “They don’t make houses like this anymore and I can appreciate the old architecture that is characteristic of the 60’s.”
“Thank you for understanding. I will leave you to freshen up and see you in a few for supper”, she said and left me in the room.
I looked around at what would be home for the next couple of weeks. A clean and moderately furnished room with a comfortable bed and a desk to work at. But what really caught my attention was the large window that framed most of one wall. The view outside was beautiful – the beautiful countryside with winding streets and fairytale cottages, the vast greenery and little flower bushes. Everything framed by the gnarly branches of several trees. It made for a beautiful picture. I sat down on the bed and thought to myself “I am going to enjoy this quiet and calm away from the big city craziness.”
A few hours later after a nice homemade supper and some more light conversation with Mrs. Ashworth, I began to feel drowsy. I knew it was time to retire to bed. My bedroom, thankfully, was directly next to the living room, in which Mrs. Ashworth and I had retired to after supper. I thanked her for the meal and made my way towards my room.
The full moon outside was the only source of light in the room besides the little lamp that on the bed stand. The moonlight lit up the scenery outside my window, making it look both beautiful and mysterious; maybe even a little bit creepy. I crawled into my bed and was so tired that I nearly tripped on my unpacked suitcase. I set the alarm to wake me at six, so I could get a hot cup of coffee on the way to work. I drifted to off to sleep with little effort.
I dont usually sleep well the first night in a new place and as suspected, I woke up sometime in the middle of the night.. I reached for my glasses, rubbing my eyes and glanced at the clock. It was only 1! I did not feel like going back to sleep so I turned on the bedside lamp and opened up the book I’d purchased at the overground station. It was the latest thriller story from Luna Blakely. The story was about a young boy who goes to stay in his cousin’s house in a small, rural area, where unsuspecting people are killed for harming trees.
After about an hour of reading, I began to feel my eyes grow heavy again. I took a sip of water to wet my parched throat and as I turned, I saw something in the window that nearly stopped my heart. There in the window, was a face, staring at me. It had cold, black eyes, and a mouth that stretched from ear to ear. There was an oozing hole in the face, presumably where the nose used to be. Framing this terrifying face were what looked like thin strands of oily, tangled hair. Startled, I turned away from the window and rubbed my eyes. I told myself that It couldn’t have been true! I turned back to the window and felt a wave of relief. I realized that it was just the moonlight bouncing off the branches and leaves of the trees framing the window. Relieved, I switched off the light and drifted back to sleep.
I woke up to the first rays of the sunshine streaming through the window and just as I did, the alarm went off. I immediately remembered the face in the window last night and looked at the window again. With all the light outside, it seemed quite easy to remind myself it was just my eyes playing tricks on me. With that reassurance, I climbed out of bed and stretched, ready to begin the day.
I could tell Suffolk was not a town for early mornings. Mrs. Ashwood was still asleep, and the streets were empty, save a person or two on their way to work. The local coffee shop had just opened, so it was still bare but the wonderful smell of strong coffee filled the place. I placed my order and sat down at one of the coziest chairs, next to a wall lined with books. I pulled out my book so I could catch up with a few pages before I had to head to work.
It had begun to rain outside by the time I was ready to leave, so I flagged down the nearest cab to take me home. When I got back to the cottage, I saw that Mrs. Ashworth had prepared a fire, and was sitting by it with a tray of biscuits and tea.The thought of sitting next to a warm fire after the dreadful weather outside seemed lovely and I joined her. We made pleasant conversation about our day and after that night’s supper, I retired back to my room to catch up with my book and some much needed sleep. I was so tired after last night that I was asleep by the time my head hit the pillow.
I was woken up by the sound of light tapping on the glass. Strangely enough, it was only one, just like last night! My eyelids still felt heavy, so I did not want to switch on the light and just reached for the glass of water. And there it was again, that dastardly face in the window, staring at me. This time I knew it was the tree branches but I couldn’t help feeling unnerved. I tucked myself deep into the bed, pulled the sheets over my head and forced myself to go back to sleep.
It happened almost every night. I was woken up at 1am like an invisible alarm, sometimes with a light tapping at the window, other times just because I woke up startled for no apparent reason. And everytime I looked up, there was that face, staring at me with it’s cold, blackened, hollowed out eyes! And everynight, I would try to reassure myself that it’s the branches, less convincing as time bore on.
On my second last day at the bed and breakfast, I had breakfast with Mrs. Ashworth. She had woken up early and prepared a hot breakfast, complete with fresh baked, buttered crumpet, scones with homemade clotted cream and strawberry jam. Armed with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a cup of piping hot coffee, I joined Mrs. Ashworth for breakfast. We chat about the weather, the lazy town of Suffolk and my work. We eventually talked about our favorite books and I spoke about the interesting story by Luna Blakely that I had been reading.
“That’s a wonderful book! I remember hearing the story from my mother. Did you know that the book was based off a Suffolk legend? It ‘appened right here! Over a century ago!” She stopped for a sip of coffee. I was intrigued by the fact that this was a true story. Mrs. Ashworth explained how the case remains unsolved. “Everyone believed it was the spirit of a girl named Terra, who revolted against the cutting of trees for paper. She was eventually hanged from a tree somewhere relatively near here, maybe even in the woods surrounding this very house! I believe in that theory. I really do.”
“That’s fascinating! Although, I doubt she would have been the killer if she died herself.” I checked my watch and thanked Mrs. Ashworth for breakfast as I grabbed my coat and head out for work.
Yet again, it was only one when I was woken. The same face watched me from the window. I hadn’t had a proper nights sleep in days and this time, I had enough. Maybe it was the story from the morning, maybe it was the lack of sleep over many days, or maybe I couldn’t reassure myself anymore but I had seen an axe lying outside by the path and I walked outside, grabbed the axe and chopped several branches that were around the window.
I returned to my room, and I could no longer see the face or feel like someone was watching me. Relieved, I slept like a baby for the rest of the night. Little did I know what I had set in motion…
It was my last night staying at the cottage and I had an early train to catch back to Liverpool. Knowing I wouldn’t see Mrs. Ashworth in the morning, I thanked her for her hospitality and paid her before going to bed early in the clothes I would wear tomorrow. I was packed and ready to leave as soon as I woke up. Knowing I wouldn’t be seeing that wretched face again tonight, I peacefully drifted into sleep.
I woke up to my arms and legs being exposed to the cold air of my room. I didn’t know how, but I must have kicked my blanket off, for it was laying on the floor. It was cold and I wanted to pull the blanket back up. As I reached for it, I realized it was wet as well- darn, I must’ve knocked my water off the bed stand too! When I turned to look at the time, it chilled my bones – it was 1am again and there was my glass of water, standing tall and full. Something was not right…I could feel a stare on me again. How is that possible! I cut those darn branches off! I turned towards the window slowly and breathed a sigh of relief – there was no face. BUT it was open and I am sure that I had not opened it. I got up to close it and as I neared the window, i stopped. There was the face again but it wasn’t the branches. This one was real!
I felt a cold, bony hand grasp my wrist and pull me through the open window. I screamed and I kicked as I was being dragged into the forest behind the house. Even with all the screaming, the house was so isolated that nobody could hear me. Fallen branches cut at my skin as I got dragged. We came to a clearing in the woods and stopped. I was mortified by the sight. Surrounding me were about ten dead bodies, all hanging on worn out nooses. Their names were carved into the branch they were hung from.There was one empty noose with the name Terra carved into the branch. I was overcome with fear.. The creature dropped me, and I tried to run, but my feet wouldn’t move. I used my hands to push myself up, but I was frozen. I knew what was coming.
The creature grabbed me, this time around the torso. It threw me over its shoulder and began to climb a nearby tree with a new empty noose and my name carved into the branch it was hanging from. I couldn’t kick, I couldn’t scream. I knew it was my turn. I felt my head being slid through the noose. Before letting go, she whispered, “Nam Arbores”. I shuddered as the world went black.