A Haunting Christmas by Aaliyah Morby, aged 12

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Once again we’ve been inundated with entries for our Christmas ghost story competition, sponsored by The Hayling Island Bookshop. In the run-up to Christmas we’re featuring the winners and runners-up in the 15-and-under and 16-and-over categories. Today it’s A Haunting Christmas by 15-and-under runner-up Aaliyah Morby, 12, from Waterlooville.

It was Christmas Eve and Alice, her mum and dog Tink were travelling north to spend Christmas with Alice’s aunt.

It was the first time they’d visited her aunt Milly in her new house. Alice had always loved the festive season and her mum always took her out to look at all the decorations in their village.

As Alice saw the signs for Bedale, she smiled and looked out of the car window. They were driving through the village high street and the shop windows all looked so pretty.

Alice’s mum turned left on to Milly’s road.

‘Her house is just down here on the right’, Alice’s mum said.

A Haunting Christmas

A Haunting Christmas

She drove for about a minute and on the right-hand side, between hedges, was an entrance with double gates which had been left open.

‘Apple Tree cottage, this is it’, said mum.

Mum turned into the gravel drive. Was it weird that I’d always loved that sound?

The headlights of the car lit up the drive.

‘Wow’ Alice said, ‘it’s beautiful, old but beautiful’.

Mum laughed and announced: ‘Just like her’!

Milly came rushing out to greet us. After many hugs and kisses and grabbing our bags and Tink, we headed inside.

‘Come and warm up by the fire’ said Milly.

‘It’s freezing out here tonight’.

I was holding my bag and Tink’s lead as we walked into the cottage. The entrance hall felt colder than outside and the floor had small cobblestones leading to the stairs at the end of the hallway.

There was a room to the right and I peered in. It was a big room, very dark with wooden furniture and several boxes. It too felt cold and I had an odd feeling about the room.

As I was wondering how old this house must be, Tink suddenly barked and growled and pulled on her lead.

She made me jump – for a little dog she was strong.

‘Come on Alice’, mum called me and I quickly headed to the room on the left.

Mum and Milly were sat on the sofa in front of a roaring log fire and there to the left in the window was the prettiest Christmas tree.

Milly had decorated it with old, traditional decorations. It was so snug and warm.

Milly had headed to the kitchen to get us some warm drinks. Tink had sat herself right in front of the fireplace.

‘What do you think of the house?’ said mum.

‘It’s nice’ I replied, still thinking about the other room.

‘Nice’ said Milly, as she walked back in with a tray of mugs.

‘How old is this house, Milly’? I asked.

‘Well, this part of the house is about 30 years old. It was an extension, but they used similar bricks and stone to blend in with the old part of the house that was originally built in the 1800s.

‘This place belonged to the blacksmith.’ Milly said.

We finished our drinks and I let Tink out in the garden before Milly showed mum and I to our rooms.

We headed up the stairs and Milly opened the door at the top of the stairs.’

‘This is where you’ll be sleeping Lottie. So glad my sister and niece could come and keep me company this Christmas’ Milly said as she gave us both a hug.

‘You, young lady, will be in this room’, said Milly, heading to the right.

Tink and I followed her. As I walked in I felt a bit of a chill in the air, but there was the cosiest-looking bed with the bedside lamp on.

The curtains were drawn and Tink had already jumped on to the bed and snuggled down.

I was feeling sleepy from the journey and called out goodnight to mum and Milly. I got on my pyjamas and settled into bed.

I then picked Tink up and cuddled her under the covers and turned off the light.

My eyes darted open and I woke feeling panicked. I’d had a bad dream and the visions came back into my head.

I was being followed by a man with a long overcoat on. His footsteps were so loud and his eyes were dark and piercing.

I shook as I thought about my dream. Tink started to growl, which made me panic more.

I know dogs have a sixth sense, but started to wonder if I did too.

My heart was racing and Tink had jumped off the bed and was scratching at the door.

I opened it and she ran down the stairs. I called her, but she just kept going.

I guessed she wanted to go in the garden, but when I got down the stairs she’d pushed the door open and was in the cold room.

She was stood by the old fireplace, looking up and barking.

Some old soot fell from the fireplace and made me jump.

What was Tink barking at? I called her and she ran to me.

I could then hear footsteps outside on the cobbled hallway floor.

Where had I heard that distinctive noise?

As quick as I thought it, I realised it was from my dream.

I picked Tink up and tried to find a light switch. The footsteps had got louder and then I could hear Milly and mum calling me.

They rushed through the door and I collapsed into my mum’s arms, crying.

Milly had made me some warm milk and I told them both about my dream and the footsteps.

I started to calm down as mum cuddled me and Tink sat on my lap.

‘Alice’, mum said.

‘There’s a little present on the tree for you, you can have it now’.

I walked over to the tree and hooked off a little pouch bag with my name on.

Inside was a charm of protection for my bracelet.

I smiled and looked out of the window and there he was.

It was the man from my dream, stood outside looking in.

He looked at me, smiled and waved.

AALIYAH MORBY

Aaliyah Morby is the runner-up in the 15-and-under category with her entry A Haunting Christmas.

The inspiration for Aaliyah’s gripping story comes from a dream that her mum had where she was on the Isle of Wight and thought that she was being followed by a ghost.

Aaliyah said: ‘I remembered hearing about the dream and thinking that would be the perfect ghost story.

‘I thought that it would be the perfect plot as my mum remembered small things about the dream and it really inspired me to bring it to life.’

The 12-year-old from Waterlooville, who attends Crookhorn College, loves mystery fiction.

She said: ’I’m such an avid reader and have really been inspired by ghost stories, so I thought it would be a great idea to get involved in the competition.

‘It’s a different kind of story than I’m used to writing and it was definitely challenging, but it was also a lot of fun.

‘I just sat myself down and started writing, which was the best part of it.’

Aaliyah says the competition has inspired her to pen some more tales of her own in the future.

She added: ‘I’m thinking about maybe being a writer in the future and this only steered me more towards writing.’