Under the Ashes

The gate opened inwards with an authentic spine-ripping screech. For the first time, after years of staring at the house from a distance, I noticed the gate wasn’t a simple iron framework. There were little, intricate shapes covering each horizontal shaft.

They were gargoyles, hundreds of them, tiny hideous things frozen in the act of snarling, tumbling, scratching themselves or eating each other. They, too, were black. Their twisted, deformed features could only have been formed by some deranged sculptor, hungry for detail, over years. They leered at me, and the ones at the edges of my vision seemed to move, stiffening again when I looked their way.

It was a wonder nobody had physically cut off the gate and stolen it. It would have been worth thousands of pounds in an auction. Of course, there were the rumours about what had happened to the burglars who had tried the house back in the seventies. Perhaps that scared people off.

I felt my heart pulse in my chest as I looked at the faint perimeter line on the ground which the gate had revealed. The dark, wet garden beyond seemed like barred, forbidden territory. I fought the sudden, giddy impression that these thoughts weren’t entirely my own.