This story was inspired by a photograph from Bryn Graves Photography. I mentioned that it set my imagination racing and he kindly gave me permission to use it.
Although my usual expertise was in portraits I often found myself traipsing through unknown areas off the beaten track for that special picture. On one autumn ramble I was lost in thought when I realised I had totally lost my bearings, and had no idea what I was doing in this desolate part of the country.
Dusk was falling, my feet were aching and despite taking hundreds of photos none had that special something for which I was striving. Eventually in the distance I saw a building which with a bit of luck would have a phone so I could call for help, or at least rest for a while. My mobile had long since died, and I started to despair as I got closer and realised the property was derelict.
As I approached the heavens opened, and rather than risk getting soaked I ran full pelt hoping to at least find some shelter from the driving wind. To my surprise the door opened as I leaned against it and I gratefully entered the gloomy interior.
The first room I stumbled into had gaping holes in the roof, opening the interior to the storm which was now raging with full force. The years of exposure to the elements had rotted the floorboards, and green lichen hid any chance of recognising the original colour of the mouldy wallpaper.
Shivering and ducking to avoid the water streaming through the gaps I ventured further into the interior to try to find a drier haven. Although from the outside the building had appeared to be some sort of crofter’s lodge the other rooms were a revelation.
I discovered a bedroom, complete with fireplace and logs stacked ready to provide some warmth against the chill. The four poster bed although old looked solid, and in a cupboard I found a stack of blankets. At least if I had to stay the night I would be able to rest in comfort.
Exploring further I came across a kitchen with not only an Aga that looked serviceable, but a wood burning stove and a sunken well to provide fresh water. A butcher’s table covered the middle of the extensive room and hanging from the ceiling were a range of glistening pots and pans. A search through the drawers and cupboards revealed a full supply of dried foods as well as crockery and cutlery.
This place was an enigma. From the outside there was little to recommend it, but the further I ventured the more impressed I became. It was as if the neglected exterior was designed to deter casual travellers, but it catered for every need of the brave adventurer.
By now it was almost dark but in the fading light I discovered numerous candlesticks, complete with tapers and boxes of matches in a metal container to keep them dry. I had resigned myself to spending the night, and after making a hot drink retired to the bedroom. Giving thanks to my mysterious benefactor I settled down to get a few hours’ sleep.
The storm had turned into a full blown tempest with thunder crashing and lightening illuminating the sky directly overhead. Despite being warm and dry in my sanctuary I could hear the torrential rain beating down in the other rooms, and hear the gale force winds whistling through the ramshackle building.
Surprisingly I slept well, and only woke when the first light of dawn was breaking through the un-curtained window. The storm had blown over and the beginnings of a crisp autumn day offered the opportunity to finally get some good photographs. A quick coffee and I would be on my way.
While I was waiting for the kettle to boil I experimented with various settings, leaning back to get the right angle for some shots of the interior. With a groan a concealed door swung open, nearly pitching me into another room hidden behind the wall. Camera still in hand I stared in amazement at the sight that greeted me. This was not simply another part of the cottage but a fully equipped chapel.
The light streaming through the leaded windows showed the dust dancing amongst the beautifully carved engravings and tapestries. In the air hung the fresh aroma of wax from the candles on the altar. The lectern and officiates bench, although obviously of great age gave the appearance of having been used recently. It was a strange paradox, as was everything in this peculiar lodge.
At least I had found the subject for my photographs. Time passed as I became lost in my art, and despite my good intentions the sun was already setting when I realised I must either leave immediately or be forced to stay another night.
‘Over here. We’ve found him.’
The shouts hurt my ears and I found it difficult to focus as I slowly opened my eyes to see nothing but fluorescent orange. As my brain cleared I registered the apparel of search and rescue teams before blackness once again descended.
‘Nurse. He’s waking up.’
‘Well, young man, you certainly caused a bit of a fuss. How are you feeling now?’
‘My camera, where’s my camera?’
‘All safe and sound. Don’t worry. The air ambulance found your knapsack and all your stuff. Now, do you know what day it is today?’
It was hard to think straight but I remembered it was Saturday when I set out, so I assumed today must be Sunday.
‘It’s actually Monday but you’ve been out like a light for nearly three days since they brought you into the hospital; that’s not counting the days since you were reported missing. Get some rest now and with a bit of luck we can send you home by the weekend.’
A few months later I was well enough to retrace my steps, although this time I was accompanied by four friends, and fully equipped with camping gear, compasses and tracking devices. I found the cottage and couldn’t wait to show them the hidden chapel. The outer rooms looked exactly as I remembered them but as we searched the interior I was faced with a shock. There was no Aga, no food supplies, no bed or bedding; the whole building was open to the elements revealing nothing but rotted wood, cobwebs and neglect.
As much as I pushed and prodded the wall it stayed firm and no secret door swung open. Eventually I let my friends convince me it was all part of my hallucination and we returned to our respective homes.
It was only a year later when I was looking for a suitable entry for a competition that I came across this photograph.
The camera never lies.
© Voinks September 2016