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Slowly, Rachel tapped the door open. Standing on the threshold together, they gazed at the gloomy room. It was half empty. By the sofa stood an ancient grandfather’s clock, without the pendulum inside. A grand piano was situated at the side of it, though the white piano keys were covered with layers of ash residues on top and a dead rat’s eye rested underneath the keys. Although it was not the best, they were still grateful they had found a place to stay in just for the night.

“Knock, knock,” Rachel called. “Is anyone in here?” There was no reply.

Rachel moved into the kitchen whereas Sarah decided to have a saunter around upstairs on her own. The floorboards creaked as she climbed cautiously up the spiral staircase to the landing. Carefully, feeling her way in the dark, she approached the bedroom. On the wooden table was a filthy vase containing carnations that had withered and shrivelled away. Lazily, she shuffled to the French window overlooking the garden, though it was not a very pleasing view. Using her damp coat, she wiped the dust from the window pane and, as she did so, a soft, shaky whisper sounded from behind.

“Hello?” she said in a quiet voice, but no one answered.

Solid black clouds had filled the sky and huge drops of rain were pouring down harder than ever. The wind was steadily getting stronger and leaves on the top branches of the trees swirling rhythmically, rising and falling. Without warning, the scene outside was illuminated by a sharp flash of lightning. Instantly, she bounced back and dropped heavily onto the creaking floorboards. Soon after, something caught the side of her eye.

Hanging on the wall, which had dull, tattered wallpaper, was a tarnished photograph, bordered by a rusty oval frame. The cantankerous looking man, who appeared to be in his sixties, had piercing black eyes, bushy eyebrows and a thick grey moustache. Wearing a brown bowler hat, he carried a cane in his wrinkled hand and had a crooked back. She thought perhaps this was the past owner of the collapsing house.

Abruptly, behind her, the whisper resumed. Her lips quivering with sudden fear, she said in a low, breathy voice, “Who is it?”

Immediately, a strange humming noise came from somewhere, gradually becoming louder and louder. Picking herself up nervously from the floor, her heart pounding, she sneaked into the hallway. Holding her breath, her hands trembling, she peered round into the other rooms. But there was no one there.

As she strolled around, the dust smothered Sarah’s nose. In the corner of each room, large cobwebs suspended from the steep, sloping ceilings.

Then, slowly, something beside her moved. Gently, she turned her head around to notice a newspaper flying towards her onto the floor. One at a time, the pages were turned over in flutters, until at last it stopped at a page, as if someone had done it intentionally. The page showed the old man with the hunched back. The evil look on his face sent a cold shiver down her spine.

Racing to the bottom of the stairs into the living room, she looked for Rachel. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, she suddenly heard shower splatters coming from the bathroom. Breathing deeply, tiny drops of sweat trickling down from her armpit down to her ribs, she tiptoed towards the bathroom. Her face had turned white like a blank sheet of paper, as she stared in disbelief at the sprinkling of the shower. There was no one there. Angrily, she turned the shower off.

“Whoever you are, stop it! It’s not funny!” she raged.

It did not stop. Strange ghastly things occurred, one after the other. Looking sideways, she heard a faint noise. Frustrated, she hurtled to the dismal music. To her horror, the slow, subdued music was coming from the piano. The keys were being depressed deliberately, as if invisible fingers were pushing them.

Her heart pounding more ferociously, her fingers uncontrollably tightened and clenched together, as she produced a high pitched, sharp cry of fright and scrambled like the wind to the front door. Grabbing the handle, she turned it viciously and pulled it, but it did not open. Hoping the back door would not be locked, she dashed towards it, and as she did so, the playing on the piano was became more and more intense and rapid.

Reaching the rear door, she clutched the handle and pulled it furiously, but still it did not open. Her back leaning against the door, she slid steadily on to the floor, and sat flatly in despair like a frightened animal. Her hands pressed against her ears, her face contorted in fear, she felt a tear trickle from her eye. She was trapped.

Shortly after, she heard quick heavy knocking from the door behind. But she no longer had the strength and patience to rise on her feet.

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