Clarissa's Warning - Paranormal Thriller
My heart swelled in my chest as I pulled up outside my property. I could scarcely believe I owned the whole half acre. The ruin had been built at the northern end of the block, leaving a sizeable patch of land stretching from the street to the dry-stone wall at the rear. Beyond, dominating the landscape to the northeast and rising up behind some low hills, a volcano sat with its gaping maw and russet flanks. Towards the south-east were the other volcanoes in the chain and due south, a range of serrated-edged peaks in the distance. The Betancuria massif rose to the east, with mountains dotted before it. After four decades cooped in Colchester, the effect on me was one of exhilaration. The wide expanse of arid land elevated my spirits and I dismissed as hocus pocus Aunt Clarissa's worrisome predictions. I took comfort, too, knowing I had a neighbour to either side and one across the street, although there was no sign that anyone was at home in any of those houses.
I walked over to the ruin. The structure was set back from the street and built with much uniformity. The main façade comprised eight boarded-up cavities where once were windows. The cavities were evenly spaced, four above and four below. On the lower level, one of the central cavities was wider than the others and would have contained the front door. In places, the render was crumbling. Some areas were exposed stone. The side walls were uninteresting, containing two bricked-up window cavities on the upper level. At the rear were three small outbuildings, one in good repair although minus its roof.
By rights I needed permission in the form of a key to get into the main building, not that there was a door to open, but I knew a way inside at the rear where there was a gap in a poorly boarded up doorway. I came across the gap on my last visit to the island, on the day I took my prized photo that I had blown up and framed, the photo that had hung in my living room like a lure.
I squeezed through the gap and entered a short passage that led to an internal patio, taking in the interior of the building that I had only seen in online images emailed to me by my lawyer when Señor Cejas was bent on putting me off the purchase. Dilapidation scarcely described the state of disrepair. Some of the interior walls were freestanding. Much of the roof was missing. Stairs to the upper level did not exist, and the balcony that would have run along three of the walls of the internal patio was missing save for a section cantilevered in the western wall and supported by two skinny posts. I didn't dare walk beneath it. I could hear Kevin McCloud's voiceover telling his viewers that, yet again, the owner had bitten off far more than she was able to chew and the cost and time blow outs would be enormous.
Not if I could help it.
I picked my way around. There was evidence of paintwork in some of the rooms, harkening back to more glorious times. Many of the walls had been painted a yellow ochre. A simple frieze decorated the top of some of the walls, straight lines of cobalt blue and black and stencilled flowers in the corners. Different, more earthy colours had been employed in a similar design of straight line borders and simple stencil work in other parts of the house.
There appeared to be four large living areas, a dining room and kitchen, and what was probably a laundry or bathroom. There was no way of accessing the upper level but I imagined a similar arrangement of grand rooms and estimated at least six bedrooms. In one of the downstairs rooms the floorboards had been pulled up, revealing the subfloor of bearers and joists.
The whole arrangement of rooms faced the internal patio, which had been divided into two by a partition wall. The wall had a large hole in its centre as though someone hadn't wanted the wall there and bashed through it, and evidence that it was a later addition could be seen in the way it cut off a portion of architrave, and dissected the existing balcony in the west wall.
I stood beside the hole in the partition in what would have been the centre of the patio and absorbed the atmosphere. The wind blew through every crevice of the ruin, moaning and whistling. Other than the wind there was no sound. I couldn't hear a dog bark or a vehicle engine or any other evidence of life beyond the walls. Despite the wind, there were pockets of stillness and the ruin exuded a timeless quality. Embedded in its dilapidated state remained faint echoes of its history, overlaid with sorrow, as though the very stones and ancient timbers mourned their former selves, when they were united as one, strong and proud and true.
The house was rumoured to be two hundred and fifty years old, built by a wealthy family from Tenerife enjoying the riches of their wine exports and later sold to a family of lawyers. I pictured what it may have been, the grandeur of the carved wood and the vaulted ceilings, the balconies, the patio filled with plants and elegant outdoor seating.
I imagined men and women in period dress, all straight backed and God-abiding, going about their daily business in hushed voices. They would have had servants too, to cook and clean. The lady of the house would tend her plants and go to mass. The gentleman would read a book or a newspaper and take trips away on camel-back or donkey to attend to business. They would discuss their concerns over the weather, public health, the harvest, matters of politics and trade. Perhaps they received visitors, the priest, overnight guests. And there would have been children and extended family members. Aunts and uncles and cousins. A surviving grandparent or two.
Outside the walls, the wind would have blown and picked up the dust. The interior of Fuerteventura endures many a sweltering day in summer, and with no trees to shade the rocky land, ambient temperatures rise to infernal heights. I couldn't imagine any of my dainty well-bred family venturing out unless they had to. Not in summer. Instead, they would have taken full advantage of their cloistered life within, enjoying the cool of the internal patio.
A faint odour of animal urine wafting on a breeze brought me back to the present. A dog? Or a cat? The light was fading and I thought it wise to make my way back to my apartment before nightfall. On impulse, I thought to take with me a small piece of my new country estate to mark the occasion. I picked a craggy stone out of the partition wall. It was the size of my hand and the colour of orange ochre and rough to the touch. As I walked away a sudden gust of wind blew through the hole in the wall. It was a preternaturally cold wind for the climate. Goose pimples broke out on my skin. I thought nothing of it.