Ivy didn’t so much climb the side of the building as smother it. It gave the impression of the world’s largest topiary with a door and windows. If you pulled it away, and it took a bit of effort, you could see the grey and pitted stone that comprised the real walls. No one ever did.
The original name of the house, it was one of those edifices with a name, had been long forgotten. These days, it was only called “That Place,” as if naming it might invite undesired attention. Neighborhood children told all sorts of stories, a witch lived there, trolls, vampires or ghosts, and anyone who entered would never be seen again.
None of these were true, but there was something unwholesome about it. Grown ups pretended that it simply didn’t exist. If a child persisted with questions, they were told to stay away if they knew what was good for them. Only the most contrary of child persisted after that. Seeing, perhaps for the first time, genuine fear in their parent’s eyes.
As a result, “That Place” was a blind spot for the town, which meant that taxes were never collected, and all the bureaucracy that burdens the modern world did not touch it. For the town’s folk, this was small price to pay for the détente that they enjoyed, even if enjoyed is not quite the right word.
Ten years ago, someone from the big city had the idea to tear it down. No amount of warnings would dissuade him, after all, with real estate prices being what they were, why not? Why not indeed? Any lorry or other vehicle that approached with the intent of harm to “That Place” failed to arrive. Most of it was engine trouble, but there was one massive deadly accident on a nearby highway.
Everyone waited for further retribution but it did not come and things went back to normal, at least for what passed for normal. After a while, most folk felt as though they had dodged a bullet. But that’s what you get when outsiders meddle.
It was a foggy April evening when everything changed. The local hotel, which also housed the local pub on the first floor, had a guest. She seemed normal enough, dark hair, nether tall nor short, quiet, and dressed conservatively, she took a room for the night and had dinner in the pub. Lucy, the owner and local gossip brought her the special, a lamb stew, and a glass of red wine.
“Can I get ya anything else?” asked Lucy.
“No,” the woman replied, “I’m fine.”
“Just passing through then?”
The woman took a bite of stew and looked up.
“No, actually,” the stranger said.
“Bit of a holiday then?”
Looking up, she said, “Actually, I’ve inherited some property, just outside of town.”
While Lucy loved a sweet piece of insider information, this was of a higher proof than she was accustomed to. It was like taking a sip of boxed wine, the kind she served to tourists and finding that you have downed a mug of Absinthe.
“I hear it’s called, That Place. Do you know it?”