The Shadows

Zoë Fox would like to be normal. She would like to have a normal life, with normal friends, with a normal job. She just wants to fit in. For her, however, that isn't possible. Because Zoë Fox has a special ability that has been passed down through generations to finally get to her; the ability to see the dead. The dead, the ghosts, the shadows who stalk her refuse to leave her alone no matter how much she tries to ignore them, so when she hears of a deserted watermill with disappearances happening within its walls almost every week, she tries to turn her back to it. And then her only friend vanishes into thin air, and Zoë is forced to make a terrible decision that may cost her her life.

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3. CHAPTER THREE

 

When the couple walk out of The Barleycorn pub an hour later, I turn to Ant who’s sweeping the floor, who’s totally oblivious to the shadows of former people who surround him here. I feel myself about to go rigid before I shake myself out of it.

 

Come on, Zoë. Don’t let them scare you. They’re nothing but shadows. Nothing. But. Shadows.

 

“Ant, can I ask you something?”

“It depends what it is,” he says, distractedly.

“Are you sure?”

“Jeez, Zoë, what’s the question?”

Frankly, I ask. “Do you know anything about a big millhouse two miles away from the village?”

Ant stops sweeping and stares at the floor for a bit. He looks up at me. I’ve got his full attention now.

“Lockwood Watermill?” He asks, looking at me more seriously than I’ve ever seen him look.

“Maybe,” I say.

He leans the broom on the wall and drags a chair away from a table and saddles it. “Well that’s the only old mill nearby so it must be. Why’d you ask?”

“No reason, just that I’ve heard some pretty weird things about it recently.”

Ant worries at his lip and picks at some peeling leather from the chair. “That’s because it’s a weird place, Zoë.”

“Really? What’s wrong with it?” I say, sharply.

He gives me a wry glance. “You don’t really want to know-”

“No, no, I really do,”

“Zoë...”

“I do! Ant, I’m interested, okay?” I say. “And I know that you’ve got information about it because you paled the moment I bought it up.”

There are a few seconds of awkward silence, and I wonder if I said too much, scared him away. I do that a lot.

“You want really want to know about it, don’t you?”

I nod.

Ant drags his hand across his face. He looks old.

“So tell me what you want to know.”

“Everything there is,” I say.

“Everything?”

“Stop keeping me hanging, Ant.” I say.

“Okay,” he says, nervously. “The truth is, is that I’m not an expert on this place. I know the odd scrap of information here and there but it’s like there’s a huge jigsaw puzzle and I only have a few pieces of the complete set.”

I absentmindedly fiddle with a ring on my finger.


 

“Basically,” He continues, “Lockwood watermill goes back since the time when mills were first introduced, I think. It’s ancient. So you know, obviously it has history.”

I slip my ring between my fingers. It’s the only valuable item I own. I shove it back onto my finger. I don’t want to lose this thing.

“Um... in the fifties, this new family moved in.” He frowns. “They were pretty happy to begin with, as far as I know, but then the father ditched his wife for another woman and the wife was left with a small son, and heavily pregnant. Obviously the daughter, when she was born, was doted on. But there was something wrong with her.”

“Yeah?”

 

“The daughter had epilepsy, where you are prone to sudden, unpredictable seizures due to an excess of electrical activity in the brain.” Ant stops and stares into his lap.

“When the girl was still a toddler, she went missing and nobody ever found her. Apparently she just walked off, and suffered a fit in the woods, but that’s just a dumb rumour.”

“How do you know?”

“Because, Zoë, there are these huge fences surrounding the mill. A toddler managing to scale them is ridiculous.”

“Okay...”

“Plus, it doesn’t explain how she came back and started haunting the place where she was last seen.” Ant says.

 

Well, he does know how to end dramatically, I’ll give him that.

 

“What sort of things does she do to the people who move in?” I say.

“We don’t know, Zoë,” He says. “We don’t know because the people who see her inside the watermill grounds vanish, just like her.”

“What about the police?” I say. “I mean, they’d get involved! Hold an investigation, or something?”

“Yeah well, they did. They investigated for months. But, you know. It was a dead end case. They didn’t find anything. Not a scrap of DNA that could help them find the victims. Not a fingerprint, nothing.” He shakes his head again. “And now another person has gone missing, and you know what’s weird? It’s always boys. It’s always boys who vanish.”

“And it’s a shadow, you say?”

“Ye-” Ant stops, completely freezes. “Oh no, Zoë, don’t you dare get any funny ideas about this!” He jumps up and shoves his chair under the table and furiously starts sweeping again.

“I don’t know what funny, exorcist, shadow hunting thoughts are running through your head right now, but whatever you do, I am not going to let you go down to that house and put your life in danger for a freaky dead girl! No way! I will not stand for it!”

“Ant, you of all people know that I hate my ability to see the dead, so do you really think I would be all that willing to galavant down to-”




 

Suddenly I go cold inside and turn towards the doorway.

 

“Hello.”

 

Jack.

 

“What are you all talking about?” His eyes crawl around the room, before landing on me, and staying there. Involuntarily, I shiver.

“Nothing much, Jack.” I say.

“Really?” He asks. “You sounded in a pretty important conversation to me.”

Ant smiles politely, completely unaware of the cooling atmosphere in the room. He blows a lock of hair out of his eye. “How’re doing, Jack? Still up for that drink, tonight?”

Jack licks his lips, still looking at me. ”Sorry, Antony, but I’ve got some things I have to take care of, so maybe another time.”

I can’t help but think Ant looks a tiny bit relieved.

“Oh, well, okay. Maybe another time.” Reluctantly, Jack turns away from me to fix his stare on Ant.

“I look forward to it.”

Then Jack Skipper turns around and takes the stairs two by two.

 

And Ant and I are left again, with the sound of silence.








 

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