Abbie O’Connell is the runner-up in the 15 and under category of our Christmas ghost story competition.
Abbie O’Connell owes her nan a big thank-you after she encouraged the 14-year-old to enter our Christmas ghost story competition.
Her spooky tale was picked as the runner-up in the 15-and-under categeory and Abbie revealed: ‘My nan, Laura O’Connell, buys The News and when the competition was launched she brought the article round and suggested I entered.’
When Abbie discovered her story was to be published in The News and read online by Meridian TV presenter Fred Dinenage, she said excitedly: ‘That’s awesome!’
The Horndean Technology College pupil, who lives in Wesermarsch Drive, Cowplain, added: ‘I’ve normally got my head in a book and I love writing stories - I want to be a journalist when I’m older.
‘With my ghost story I sat down at the computer and knew that I wanted to create a feeling of a Victorian Christmas.’
Abbie, who receives a £25 gift card to spend on books at Waterstone’s, continued: ‘English is one of my favourite subjects at school. When I’d written the story, I e-mailed a copy to my teacher, Mrs Priory, and she said she really liked it.’
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR AT CHRISTMAS
A large, basted goose glistened, the vegetables framing it like an oil painting. Candles flickered around the grubby-faced band of farmers that had toiled all day in the snow and ice, their employers showing no mercy to their faithful workers.
The dull sound of conversation grew quiet around the battered wooden table as an old man rose to propose a toast.
The man cleared his throat.
‘As we all know, Christmas is not just a time for mirth and celebration, but also for remembrance. So I propose a toast to a man we all respected. To Albert Wainwright, the people’s banker, the only light in this miserable winter’s fog!’
Unenthusiastic ‘hear, hears’ echoed around the tables as the elderly man scraped his chair against the cold quarry tiles of the farmhouse. Pewter plates were shifted as a young man reached over to carve the goose.
‘My dear Charles. I trust you and your colleagues are well?’
The congregation grew silent as they turned to face the doorway, the source of the unexpected sentence.
A young woman, of about five-and-twenty, dressed in a plain cotton dress, corset and cap was illuminated by the intermittent orange glow of the open fire in the adjacent living-room. Her slim features curled into a smile as she entered the dining room.
‘Lottie! How could we leave our favourite wife in the festive darkness!’
Charles leaned forward and kissed her outstretched hand. Lottie blushed delicately as she sat down and smoothed the folds of her simple skirt.
She took a piece of goose with pewter fork in coal-smudged hand.
‘Did I miss my father’s remembrance speech?’ Lottie asked with bowed head. One of the young men placed his hand on her shoulder.
‘Although you did, Lottie, it was fitting and your father was smiling on us from Heaven with joy in his eyes.’
The young lad Oliver Drummond, of about nine or 10, smiled understandingly at the young wife. He had been brought up by the elderly man who had made the speech; Rufus Drummond; since the age of five, when his parents were hauled off to debtor’s jail.
Christmas dinner 1872 was as wine-soaked as any Victorian dinner, but this one had more of an effect. One by one, as each of the drunken guests set off for home through the treacherous snowfall, Lottie remembered her kindly father, Albert Wainwright. As she gazed out the bedroom window, the streets with the smog darkening the night in the streets below took her to her childhood...
The child ran through the snow, the hem of her dress darkened by the snow that lay underfoot. Her bonnet protected her ears from both the cold and the profane language rattling the streets.
‘Lottie! Come here!’
Albert Wainwright pushed his nine-year-old daughter to the front of the crowd. And what a sight there was to behold! The cavalry that had returned from the Crimean War were weary but triumphant. Some soldiers had wounds, but others had escaped unscathed. Every one was riding their loyal steed proudly through the Cheapside street as if it were a racecourse.
As quickly as it had come, the vision of Albert and Lottie faded. Lottie shook her head and went upstairs to prepare for bed, the boughs of holly on the walls looking down in an almost maternal way on the young woman.
Meanwhile, Charles was cold. His bedchamber was cold. He couldn’t feel his feet. The fire couldn’t be lit, for fear of the hearth-rug being set alight, although it wouldn’t come amiss. The damask bedclothes didn’t do much for his chill.
Gradually, the room grew darker, then lighter, the illumination pulsing as though something spinning was casting its shadow in the room. Intrigued, Charles sat up carefully, cautious not to disturb the queer light in his bedchamber. His fear rose as he sensed footsteps in the wooden stairwell, and then breathing, heavy like an angry bull, coming closer.
Closer. Closer. Closer…
Charles drew the blankets towards his chin, slowly, his own heart quickening as the bed curtains twitched as if someone, something, was trying to draw them back. The scraping sounds of fingernails on wood echoed in his pounding head.
Light filled the dark pocket of the bed as the curtains were flung back. A scream escaped from his tight, dry throat as the invisible spectre flung him to the floor as if he were a rag doll.
The odd light in the room shivered and went out as Charles lost consciousness on the frozen, barren floor.
‘The only light in this miserable winter’s fog.’
Charles’ unconscious brain registered one last time. Then the world went black, like a candle being snuffed out.