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Monday, 21 February 2011


It stands on a hillside overlooking the road, hidden by a fold in the landscape. So well hidden, in fact, that the only reason I see it at all is because I've left the road to pee in the bushes. I look up and there's a roof just visible over the brow of the hill. Cautiously, I scramble up the steep bank and stare through the trees at it. Then I run back down and back to the road to get Lisa.

Together we sit just inside the tree cover and watch the house for almost an hour. Nothing stirs. No activity at all.

"Well," I say at last, when we're sure the house is empty. "We need some more water don't we?"

Lisa nods. "It's worth a try."

Just like always, I leave Lisa hiding in the trees armed with the pistol, while I go to investigate the house. I keep the rifle slung casually over my shoulders, even though I'd rather be holding it at the ready. Best not to scare anyone who might be hiding in there. I reach the low wooden fence without incident, open the gate and enter the garden.

Close up I can see that it's actually a cottage rather than a house. On the far side there's a small cobbled area surrounded by sheds and outbuildings. Some old bicycles lean against the wall and a rusting jeep sits on flattened tyres. There's a smell of hay and farm animals.

"Hello?" I call. To my immense fright the sound of my voice provokes a flurry of activity in one of the sheds. I grab the rifle and raise it to my shoulder, finger slipping instinctively onto the trigger. But then out of the door of the shack comes spilling a couple of chickens, which squawk and run around in circles before disappearing to a far corner of the yard. I lower the rifle. I almost laugh.

First off I poke around in the outbuildings. There's little of interest in the first few: a lot of tools and bits of machinery. A huge stack of hay bales, piles of firewood, some massive drums of animal feed. The last one contains a large green plastic tank. A small tap protrudes from the side and, curious, I turn it. Water comes spilling out. I shut off the tap, back up out of the shack and consider it from a distance. I can see a pipe running from the roof of the house down to the shack. A rainwater storage tank. We're in luck.

Next up is the house itself. I go to the door and, feeling a little stupid, knock loudly. No answer. I push it open and step inside. The kitchen is a small, cold, tiled space, dominated by a massive wooden table. Fruit has rotted in a bowl on top of the fridge, giving the whole room an overpowering sweetish odour.

"Hello," I call again. Still no answer. I make my way across the kitchen and step into the next room. It's a large lounge, with a sofa and a TV set. Dark wooden beams cross the ceiling. The walls are covered in floral wallpaper, and wilted flowers sit in a vase above an antique fireplace.

I take another few steps into the middle of the lounge. And then, away from the rotten smell of the kitchen, I catch another scent that lies heavy on the air. It's a smell I've come to know all too well. It's the smell of death.

1 comment:

leroy miles said...

looks like they have lucked out. A farm house, water, chickens, and out of the way.