by Jenny

The snow had been coming steadily for hours. The group downstairs had made themselves quite at home and Siany was trapped.

Voices drifted up through the rotting wood of the floorboards to where Siany crouched, shivering in her ragged tartan blanket. They’d already started burning the wood she had gathered and one boy had wandered off to find other things to burn. She hoped he wouldn’t find her sleeping bag and stove.

Siany had been settling in herself when she’d seen the headlights flare in the drive and they’d tumbled in, a bundle of youth, panic and excitement; red cheeks and blue fingertips, damp wool and bravado. She’d frozen, desperate not to be heard, found and driven out into the snow. Siany had been sleeping rough for long enough to know what happened to people who stayed outside in this weather.

This must have been one of the bedrooms, she thought, staring at the windows boarded like blinded eyes, the vicious, jagged rents along the walls and all the signs of neglect and decay that wasted a beautiful building.

She listened. They were eating sweets and telling ghost stories as Siany’s wood crackled in their makeshift fireplace. She thought wistfully of the little meal she had planned. Fat chance of that now. If only they’d fuck off.

“No-one ever comes here because they know old Bertha is still here, still thirsty for revenge…”

Siany had a thought.

“When they found out about her human sacrifices they chopped off her legs so she couldn’t run away before they killed her…”

Slowly Siany crept down stairs that jutted from the wall like broken teeth until she stood outside the room where they huddled.

“At night you can hear her dragging herself from room to room by her hands, as she roams the halls looking for victims to drag into her basement…”

Siany began a slow, shuffling walk outside the door, dragging one foot heavily behind her. The voices instantly fell silent.

“Nathan? Did you find more wood?”

Siany dragged her nails down the door then slammed into it. The group screamed. Quickly she drew into the shadows as Nathan careered down the hall past her and into the room.

“What the fuck’s going on? There’s no-one out there I swear!”

The fear was palpable. Siany let out a low groan and rattled the door handle. That was enough. They piled out, clutching torches and sleeping bags, heedless of the fire they’d left burning, mindless of anything but their desire to be away. The car revved, faltered, flared to life and they were gone. Back to their halls of residence.

Siany sifted through the stuff they’d left. A box of Turkish Delight, a few bottles of nice red, expensive wool socks. Perfect. There was still plenty of wood left so Siany settled herself down near the fire. She poured some wine into the lid of her thermos and swirled it around, imagining the grand people who used to live here and swirl wine before their own crackling fires.

As she listened to the howling wind raging at the walls of the house Siany stiffened a little, wondering if the scraping, dragging sound she thought she could hear was coming from within the storm, or from the empty blackness of the corridor outside