Please remember this story is being written and posted 'live' every day. I am writing today's episode and posting it here without benefit of a read-through, let alone an edit. I don't usually work this way and this experiment is exciting and different for me, not my normal work-ethic at all. To that end, please forgive me any typos, grammar errors and anything that you may think should have been picked up in an edit - it WILL be picked up in the edit.
I've already spoken with a publisher about getting this story published - possibly after Christmas, we'll see how it goes.
Images from Google
Ash dodged through gardens, over fences and gates, her agility would have done her proud in a gymnasium, a natural gymnast. Constantly looking behind herself, she made her way back to the junkie. She estimated he’d either be just coming around, ready for another fix, or he’d be dead.
She got to the street of condemned houses and strolled along the lane, making certain she was alone.
A few houses from the one where she had left Nigel, she nipped through an alley and up the garden path. Ash jumped over that gate and scrambled through the bottom of the back door.
It was not the house where she’d left Nigel.
Ash made her way tentatively through the kitchen and back room of the abandoned house. Picking her way carefully across broken glass, debris and hidden dangers, such as rotten floorboards, she made her way to the front room to check it out before heading back to the staircase.
She crouched to pull at the bottom step. A couple of sharp tugs and it came loose.
Under the next-to-bottom step of the stairs, just within her reach, lay a small plastic box with a lid – similar to a fast-food take-away container.
She clicked open one corner and peered inside. The ‘stash’, a syringe, a spoon, a couple of needles and a few baggies, each with a small amount of beige-brown powder lay inside the box, exactly as she had left it.
She took out two of the baggies, leaving one, and she placed the baggies back under the step, covering them with a piece of board so no one would see them even if they found the hiding place.
Then she went out of the door the same way she’d entered and moved on to the next house – the house next-door to where she’d had Nigel delivered.
Again, she entered the house through the broken back door and made her way across the dilapidated kitchen, avoiding suspicious piles of stuff she didn’t want to even think about, let alone accidentally step in.
The floor of the back room had partially collapsed and she had to step carefully in order to avoid falling into the cellar.
Some of the floorboards had been removed, they were leaning against the wall, some bending like damp cardboard, others snapped like matchwood. It was obvious even to Ash that the floor was rotten, but she was light and agile and she’d made the trip across the room before. She knew what she was doing.
She stepped on crossed joists wherever possible.
More than once she pulled back her foot as she tested the floor.
At last, she decided against making her way straight across the room, the floorboards that had taken her weight before had deteriorated. She made her way around the perimeter, where the floor would be better supported by the foundations of the building.
The edges of the rooms were littered with wallpaper that had peeled down the walls because of the increasing dampness. While the houses were occupied and kept relatively warm, the wallpaper managed to defy gravity and stay where it had been pasted, sometimes a decade or more before.
Two, three and sometimes four layers of old wallpaper flopped down to the floor in great strips, leaving dingy, flaky paint on the wall if it hadn’t come away with the wallpaper, of course.
Ash went to the stairs and looked up. Lengthening shadows played tricks on her eyesight, a bird flying past a window could create a menacing shadow magnified beyond the bird’s actual size.
Nothing moved, not even rats and mice and she climbed the stairs, keeping tight hold of the handrail as she went. She planted her feet on the outer edge of each stair because she just didn’t trust the rickety staircases in the old houses.
At the top of the stairs right above her head, a square hole loomed dark and foreboding. A ladder leaned from one bedroom, across the top of the stairs and into the hole. She clambered up the ladder without a thought as to who had put it there.
Ash had discovered the ladder and various other tools and equipment as she explored the houses over the weeks since the demolition team had finally evicted the last tenant. As the floor rotted and crumbled, the equipment would have been either forgotten or abandoned – not worth risking life and limb for.
Some, but not all the houses, had a peculiar quirk in their attic space. Sometimes, the attic would stretch further than the house itself. That meant it was possible to clamber across from one house to another. It had probably been a way of cutting down on building costs.
The attic had never been boarded out for use as storage and therefore, the anomaly had probably never been discovered. That only worked if the next-door hadn’t looked up there, either. In this case, that’s exactly what had happened.
Some of the houses had bricked-up the space, but the one she was scrambling about in had not.
It meant that she could get in and out of the house where she had left Nigel, without being spotted.
Ash crawl-clambered across the bare joists in the attic, treading from one to the next, keeping her hands on the joists ahead for extra stability and balance.
Though the floors in the house had given up the ghost and rotted, the roof was still intact, keeping the house dry from above, at least. That meant no chink of light snuck through to help light Ash’s way and as she got further from the loft hatch, the darker it became as her body blocked out the light, meagre though it was.
It wouldn’t matter if she went through the ceiling of the room below from a monetary or aesthetic point of view, but she could well be injured and/or stuck and no one, including Rob and Justin, knew where she was.