Gothic Tales by Candlelight
The Year 7 class have been studying the Gothic genre, exploring the writing of renowned authors such as Susan Hill, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte. Drawing inspiration from their studies, the children were then invited to write their own Gothic story to share around the fireside by candlelight on a dark, winter's night.
Here are some wonderful creative pieces written by Year 7.
I was playing in the Nursery of the orphanage when I first started to hear them; the voices. They were hollow and ancient. I told August but he didn't believe me, no one did. They just teased me. They said I was ‘weird’ and that I was a strange and unwanted child that no one loved or ever would love. The rain pattered dismally on the windows and on the roof, and the water seeped under the front door of the ancient building.
There was a wintry storm outside and the glass of water on the table started to ripple. I felt an urge, a sensation, an almost magnetic force dragging me to the woods outside. I hesitated. I tried to resist the temptation, the voices. I felt like I had heard them before somewhere, somehow, but I could not bring myself to think where they might have come from.
It was that night that I decided to follow the voices, so after supper I went upstairs to get my coat and gloves and grabbed Nelly's hat on my way out. I slipped down the dark corridor, down the cobweb-covered stairs and out the heavy door, moaning as it creaked on its hinge. When I got outside, there was a man dressed in rags standing there, motionless, not moving; not even blinking. A crow cawed. I froze like a startled deer. The bird flapped into sight, swooped down through the air, and landed on the broad shoulder of the bearded man, but still he didn’t flinch, he never moved a muscle. The bird cocked its head at me and fixed me with one black, canny eye. Suddenly it plunged its beak into the man's neck!
The crow stabbed and stabbed again, the way a shorebird spears a fish with its beak. The man just stood there. Blood and fragments of skin flew out as the bird shook its beak and dived in again and again making a gurgling, cawing noise.
I started to run as fast as I could. Through the garden. Up the steps. Round the walled garden to the wood. As I ran, I could hear the steady beat of large wings and the sharp caw of a crow. I tripped on the root of an old oak tree and the bird alighted on a branch and tilted its head at me. I could hear the thud of my heart so loud I was scared it might break out of my chest. The bird made one more harsh caw and swooped low; I ducked, but the bird flew past into the dark. I ran back to the orphanage and through the front door so as to not run into the man in the ragged clothes and up the stairs to my room. Never was I so relieved to be back in my cold, dark, damp bedroom.
That night the caw of the crow haunted me whilst the image of the blood gushing filled my head and I woke to a scream. It took me a while to realise it was my scream. My voice was filled with fear. I eventually drifted back into a troubled sleep.
When I woke again it was morning and I felt compelled to return to the wood. As I reached the garden I started to run along the side of the old pond. I moved quickly but I was surrounded by a thick suffocating fog and suddenly my foot slipped from beneath me and I fell directly into the murky waters. I surfaced to loud laughter, and I saw Freddie Longshaw and his bunch of cronies laughing at me. I crawled out of the pond, the weeds slimy against my feet. I couldn't help it. I saw red and the voices came back, louder than before, and all I could think of was the high pitched whistle in the back of my head, like a kettle at full boiling point. The voices were loud, and it was then that I realised what they were trying to say. They were urging me with a desperate tone to ‘teach them a lesson, make them stop!’ I suddenly didn’t feel alone; I realised I wasn’t the only one who suffered the painful taunting of these cruel children. Whoever I was listening to had been victims, too.
I knew they would follow, so I took off, leading them deep into the dark heart of the wood. I realised in that moment what I had to do. I had to shock them to stop them from ever bullying again. The voices were louder still and as I rounded a corner in the track, the man in the ragged clothes was standing right in front of me.
“Help me!” I screamed.
He looked deep into my eyes and I could tell he knew exactly what had to happen. It was as if he had known all along. His eyes flickered over my shoulder as the Longshaw gang appeared round the corner. They were suddenly face to face with me and the old man and his raggedy bloodstained clothes. They stopped dead in their tracks and just stared in disbelief.
The sky turned black and I suddenly realised the sky was filled with crows swooping down behind me. The trees went wild and the voices were everywhere. I was not the only one that could hear them, everyone could hear them now. The crows swirled all around us like a black cloud, descending on the boys at pace. The boys turned and ran for their lives, screaming their heads off, pleading for the nightmare to end.
I turned to the man to thank him - but he was gone, just like the voices. I stood there, alone in the woods, with the remaining leaves rustling on the trees, and I knew that Freddie Longshaw and his gang would never bully again.
I walked down the small drive of my house, the rain running off my brightly coloured umbrella. I paused as I turned round the bend of the road, and gazed at my home. It was a large house, dating back to the Victorian age. It was called Rosehill Manor and true to its name, white roses covered the front of the house. Overgrown ivy covered the back of the mansion, which faced the rolling hills of Wales.
I stepped through the doorway just as I heard my mother shriek, “Where have you been? It's freezing outside! Not to mention the rain! No, stand there...Emma you’re dripping all over the carpet!” I knew she was not talking to me, as she was using the tone she saved for my younger sister. I kicked off my boots and hung the umbrella on the stand, walking through the hall to the library.
My mother was sitting in her velvet armchair, holding a book in her hands. Emma just laughed at her words, and ran round her chair, saying in her singsong voice, “I was playing with Alice!”
I sighed. No doubt Emma was talking about her imaginary friend. I knew my mother thought the same thing as her expression turned to exasperation.
I was walking up the stairs to Emma’s room to turn off her light, when I heard voices in her room. When I looked in at the doorway however, only Emma was in there.
That night I woke to a scream. I knew at once it came from Emma's room. I slipped out of bed and ran along the corridor of the old house to the west wing of our mansion. I rushed down the grand stairs of the hall, the echo of my feet tapping against the ground, loud in the silent house. As I stumbled through the half lit hall, I could have sworn I saw a figure; a little girl, not the same size as Emma, but taller, stiller, staring down at me from the balcony overlooking the hall. I faltered, but when I looked back, she was gone. I rushed into Emma’s room but could only hear her light snores. I sighed; it must have been my imagination. Still, I shivered and turned on the lights in the corridor.
That morning the air was thick with mist, clinging to the trees as I went for a walk in the woods. The roots tripped me up as I tried to find my way through the fog. Too late I realised I was lost. The harsh cry of a crow sounded, the mist cleared slightly and I stumbled into a clearing. The trees seemed to lean back from the long grass within. As soon as I stepped one foot in, the stench of decay hit me. I staggered back, and put my hand out to steady myself. To my disgust I felt my hand sink into a thick slime that reeked of rot. I wiped my hand against some moss, gagging at the smell. Small, dead moths littered the grass. When I looked back at the clearing I saw a young girl. She had long jet black hair and pale skin. The most unusual thing about her were her eyes, which were a dark violet with flecks of gold. She was clutching a sapphire necklace in her hand, its thin chain a light gold. She wore an odd white dress that had many petticoats and lilac lace that ran across the sides. A little apron that started at the skirt tied around her waist.
There was something troubling me then but I didn’t quite know what. As she turned her head back at me it clicked; she was the exact same shape and size as the figure I thought I saw last night. Before I could utter a word she turned her head to watch a large, grey moth flutter onto her shoulder. She moved her hands and to my horror I saw that her nails were like claws. I knew what she reminded me of; a bottle of shimmering poison or the polished bones of a skeleton. She saw me staring at her and smiled. It was a grin of pure, utter glee, filled with madness.
That's when I started to run.
I don’t know which part scared me so much; either that strange little smile, the claws or those moths. The beats of wings followed me as I tripped through the fog. My heart thudded loud in my chest. My breathing turned ragged as I reached the edge of the forest. I didn't dare turn around for fear of seeing that strange girl.
I reached the garden gate, its lock rusted from the rain. I fumbled with the key that hung at the side. As it finally opened I ran through, slamming it shut behind me. Deathly silence. In the frosty air my breath formed as I forced myself to calm down. I realised with relief that there were no wingbeats, no cloud of moths. I trudged back to the house, my mind already trying to persuade me into thinking it wasn't real.
It had been a fortnight since I saw the little girl in the woods. I was cleaning the attic when I noticed an old woven basket covered in dust. Inside, nestling against each other, were old newspaper clippings. They were all from the 1890’s and many were torn or missing corners. I turned round and my heart turned cold when I saw an ash grey moth fluttering weakly next to the curtain covered window. The lantern slid from my hand and shattered, the shards of the glass glinting in the streams of lights from cracks in the shutters. The candle went out, a thin trail of smoke curling in the air. I sank to my knees, the glass slicing my skin. Small feet thudding up the stairs woke me from my daze. I turned to see Emma pausing at the doorway. She strode over the glass and pointed at an old family portrait.
“Look, there's Alice!” she said, grinning.
She pointed at one of the children in the picture. My stomach gave a lurch. No, no it couldn’t be. There was no way the girl Emma was pointing at was the same strange girl from the woods. Except it was; she had the same violet eyes, and she wore the same clothes!
Emma picked up one newspaper clipping from the basket and gave it to me. She skipped back down the stairs. I found it odd that she picked this one, since she couldn’t read well, especially not such small writing. The picture on it was of the same girl. Again, my throat closed up and I couldn't breathe. The newspaper print was faded, but I managed to read the writing easily.
A young girl named Alice White was found dead in her house, Rosehill Manor. Police are yet to find the cause, but say her family had reported signs of her going mad after the death of her four siblings. She was discovered clutching a necklace in her hand.
At the bottom of the page were the words “ As I have suffered, so you shall suffer.” written in an elegant handwriting.
I had read enough. I didn’t think twice about how Emma knew her, didn’t think about my sister. I ran down the stairs and into the garden. It was only when I was in the centre of the woods when I noticed a trail of small muddy footprints going through the forest. No, no, no not Emma! I ran faster and when I reached the clearing I saw Alice. She beckoned with her hand, still smiling, always smiling.
I followed her out of the woods and onto a cliff. Emma stood right on the edge, swaying. In her hand she held the same necklace that Alice had. I cried out, but she took no notice of me. I tried to run to her, but Alice put one hand out in front of me, stopping me from moving. It was like Emma was sleepwalking as she turned around. The salty wind whipped at my hair as Alice walked away, her dress swishing on the grass. In my head I was screaming at Alice, at Emma, at myself for not paying attention. Still, I couldn’t move or utter a word, even as a trickle of blood ran from Emma’s mouth.
Emma didn’t change that empty expression as she swayed, didn’t scream as she fell from the jagged cliff and into the slate-blue sea below.