“Fuel tank, it’s empty.”
“But I saw you fill it up before we left.”
“I did. This shouldn’t have happened. Maybe there’s a leak.”
“Where are we?” Lilly squinted through the window. The headlights lit the path before them. It was as though they were on a rough road edged by trees. “This doesn’t look like a main road.”
“I’m sure the sign post said to go this way. I’ll ring the road assistance. They do a twenty four seven.” William got out his mobile. After a few moments he sighed.
“What’s the matter?”
“No service. We must be out of reach. I’ll have to get out and walk and see if I can find somewhere to make a phone call. You wait here.” He made to open his door.
“Just a minute.” Lilly grabbed his arm. "You’re not leaving me here.”
They had been walking for a few minutes, although to them it felt much longer, when William spotted a light in the distance through the trees. “Look Lilly.” William pointed and taking her hand in his, he pulled her towards it.
As they got nearer it become clear it was a cottage. Smoke drifted from the chimney, grey fingers reaching towards the stars. Light shone from two square windows, eyes burning bright in the dark.
“Who would live out here?”
“I dunno, but right now it’s our best bet. Come on.” William marched on and Lilly ran to keep up with him.
From out of nowhere the wind blew. Leaves fluttered in a frenzied dance above their heads. Lilly pulled up her coat collar and clutched it tight around her ears. She waited while William knocked with his fist on the door. They heard the thump of bolts being slid before the door opened with a creak. Two small black eyes peered around the edge.
“Excuse me. Our car has run out of fuel, way back down that lane and we were wondering if we could use your phone to call for some help.”
The door opened wider and a silver haired old lady, whose face was etched with the lines of time, stood before them. Her thin lips pressed together in a deep smile. “Come in out of the cold.” She stepped aside to allow them entrance.
“This is very kind of you.” William smiled at her and watched as she closed and bolted the door. He glanced at Lilly and she raised her eyebrows in answer. “Now, if we could just use your phone, then we’ll go.”
“So sorry for disturbing you so late,” Lilly added.
The old woman faced them. “I don’t have no telephone.”
“In that case we’ll be on our way.” William reached out towards one of the bolts but the old lady placed a frail hand upon his.
“You won’t find no one for miles. I think it best you wait the night out here. Come into the sitting room and I’ll make you a nice cup of tea.” She ushered them into the room and disappeared somewhere to the back of the cottage.
The room was dimly lit. A fire blazed in the hearth. William and Lilly sat down together on the sofa. A rocking chair stood to one side of the fireplace.
“I don’t like it,” whispered Lilly.
William kept his voice low. “Well, there’s not much we can do about it now. We’ll leave first thing in the morning. We’ll be better able to get our bearings then. Maybe the old girl will be able to help with directions.”
Lilly glanced around the room. The wall on the far side was filled with shadows. She frowned as she stared at them. “Will, look,” she tugged his sleeve and nodded in the direction of the wall.
“They’re just shadows. Stop scaring yourself.”
“But don’t they remind you of..”
“Shush! She’s coming back.”
The old lady entered carrying a tray with two cups and a plate of biscuits. She put it down on the small table in front of them and sat herself in the rocking chair.
“Drink it while it’s hot. It’ll get rid of the chills from the night air.”
They picked up their cups and sipped the hot brew. Something about it tasted peculiar. Lilly pressed her lips together and put her cup down.
“What’s this tea made of?”
“It’s my special herb blend. Do you the world of good. Now, as we’re going to pass the time together, let me tell you a story. But first I must make sure all the windows are secure. The wind is howling through the trees, tearing the leaves from their boughs.”
She got up and disappeared. They could hear her moving around the house.
“I don’t like it. Let’s get out of here. That tea, it’s strange. I’m not drinking it.” Lilly gave him her stubborn look.
“Don’t be daft. Where can we go? At least it’s warm and dry here,” he hissed back. “Drink your tea. I am.”
Lilly glared at him and was about to say more when the old lady appeared.
“There, all done.” She noticed Lilly kept glancing at the shadow infested wall. “Don't be afraid of the shadows that weave across the wall. The fire's flames love to play tricks. They can't hurt you. Not while I'm here. Tell me, do you believe in ghosts?”
Lilly and William looked at her, but said nothing.
“Ah! Non believers. Well, my dears, what I'm about to tell you, will be hard to believe….”
To be continued....