It is certainly easy to forget about the things left unseen.

Cutlery that has fallen down the back of the sink.

Clothes at the bottom of a pile at the furthest recesses of the wardrobe.

And a dilapidated manor house in the middle of an old growth woodland, surrounded by one of the coldest lakes in the country, that would chill your marrow even on the hottest of summers.

It is certainly easy to forget about the things left unseen.

Whilst you can wash carpet hairs off of the spoon and use it for a delightful cherry yoghurt, venture into the back of your closet for the crumpled T-shirt and take an iron to it, some things will remain unseen for the rest of time.

This is because they do not wish to be seen.


Thomas Slade found himself cursing for the 15th time that day, having been trekking through Gladewell for the best part of four hours.

The four hours had mostly consisted of plodding along damp fields where he’d twice wandered into a field with two bulls, twisting his ankle on a rusted cattle grid and then stepping into a puddle much deeper than he’d anticipated.

His left sock was soaked. His feet hurt and his ankles were sore from walking. The job wasn’t worth it, despite the listed pay. If it even was a real job.

Thomas thought back to the week before when he’d been sent to an Airbnb out in the sticks with the promise of a quick job, lucrative payment, and very little hassle. Unfortunately, it was some basement loner who’d played around on his computer and set up a rotting horse stable as “Prestony Inn” and then put forward a bunch of fake five star TripAdvisor reviews.

Funny to them, perhaps.

Not so funny given the cost of petrol to drive back home, seething.


And there was the other sock. He let out a groan as he pulled his foot out of the mashy waters.

The low-hanging grey clouds mumbled and rain began to spatter.

Thomas walked on, the squelching noise in his shivering right foot irritating him as he walked.

Before too long, he saw it. Just past a stretch of pines that looked was if they’d been shaved by a massive razor, patchy and splintered. Green needles covered the forest floor and stuck to his dripping trainers.

There was the house. Straight ahead. And between him and the house, a lake. It glinted like a thousand muddied gemstones, swathed in fog and mist. It hadn’t been mentioned in the online description. He stepped forward to eye the lake before turning back, already trying to calculate the petrol bill.

“Can’t walk to the Miller house, son. Not unless it’s mid-December and all this freezes over…”

Thomas Slade jumped out of his skin as the voice in the mist called up to him. It was deep and thickly accented. German. Or…slightly Dutch?

He wandered closer to the lake and saw a wooden boat stuck snugly between an outcrop of mossy rocks. The boatman looked up at him. He was anywhere between 30 and 60, crows-feet around sea blue eyes with a thick white thatch of hair with only a few jet black hairs remaining.

“You know the house over the lake?”

The boatman shrugged. “It’s the only house over the lake. Always has been, always will.”

“I need to get over there.”

The boatman laid back in his little wooden boat. As Thomas got closer, he noticed the peeling paint and the splintering wood. About a litre of water sloshed around the bottom the boat in gentle and lapping waves.

“A’yup.” The boatman smiled. “I’m sure that you do.”

“I don’t have my wallet, just everything I’ve bought in my rucksack.”

The boatman rubbed at his bristly beard, eyeing the rucksack. “Is there money it in?”

“I’ve just told you I don’t have my wallet.”

“You might keep your money in your rucksack, though.”

Thomas was getting irritated.

“And why would I do that?”

“Well,” The boatman chuckled, revealing two rows of brown teeth. “You’ve just told me you don’t have a wallet!”

Thomas was next to the boat and, feeling very put upon, took off his knapsack and rifled through it.

The boatman watched him as he bobbed up and down.

Finally, Thomas pulled out a bundle of cling film and held it aloft.

“What it is?” asked the boatman. He had been picking at a patch of lint on his grey-knitted jumper but now looked at the wrapped bundle with an idle curiosity.

“You can have it if you take me to the other side of the lake.”

“It’s not the other side,” the boatman muttered. “It’s an island.”

He cleared his throat.

“What is it exactly?”

“I’m not going to tell you,” Thomas replied. “You simply agree to the job and I will give it to you or you disagree to it and I throw it in the lake and it sinks and you never find out what it is.”

The boatman regarded him with a mixture of curiosity and frustration that Thomas couldn’t help but enjoy, ever so slightly. His mind was briefly taken away from his sodden socks and pained ankle.

The boatman sighed. “So be it. Climb aboard.”

Thomas got onto the boat which dipped lower in the water, causing a trickle of water to spill over the side.

“Bloody careful! You’ll capsize us!


The boatman picked up an oar and began to row. Slowly, cautiously, across the lake.

When he got halfway across the lake, he asked Thomas to unwrap the package which Thomas duly did, revealing the Melton Mowbray pork pie underneath the cling film.

The boatman stopped rowing.

“I am not taking you across the rest of the lake for a flipping pork pie!”

“And yet you have taken me across half of it already, for aforementioned pie.” Thomas replied. The water lapped dangerously close to the rim of the boat and the panels creaked underneath his feet. More water seemed to have seeped in from outside the boat.

The boatman sighed and rowed onwards.

After what could have been a few minutes or a solid half an hour, Thomas noticed a lamplight haze and a small wooden pier extending out from the island. The panels of wood at the end had twisted, buckled, and spiralled and evidence suggested that at least half of it was now submerged deep in the lake, coated in the freshwater kelp.

The prow of the boat knocked against the pier with a thin knocking sound and Thomas exited the boat without a further word to the boatman.

As he walked away, he could hear the oars splashing against the lake as the boatman abandoned him. And, ever so faintly on the breeze, the slow munching of a Melton Mowbray pork pie.


At the end of the pier, Thomas expected someone waiting for him. But instead, nobody. Nothing. And that was strange. No insects, no birds or animals. Silence.

All that he could hear was a creaking. Something was moving backwards and forwards in the darkening afternoon mist, on the decaying wooden slats. A swing.

A rusted swing.

An eight-year-old girl sat on the swing, watching him.

She was wearing what looked like a gingham skirt and swinging, gently, backwards and forwards. The mist displaced as she went back and forth, and Thomas took in her face through the whirling fog.

Dirt-caked but smiling. Her frame was fairly thin, and she looked like she hadn’t eaten a decent meal in weeks.


The girl said nothing to him, but looked at him implacably.

“You’re not supposed to be able to get here, you know.”

“Actually, I am.” Thomas replied. “I’m here to fix the ceiling of the Miller house. Do you know anything about the house?”

“Only it’s where my Mummy and Daddy live. You don’t want to go up there and see them.”

She stopped swinging.

“I can walk you there, though. If you want.”

Thomas looked up and could see the lights of the house less than a hundred miles away, swathed with dark trees. The scent of pine clung to his nostrils.

“I’m fine. Thank you. You should probably go in, though; you’ll catch a cold if you stay out here.”

The girl shrugged. “I don’t feel it, Thomas. If you want to go to Mummy and Daddy, then that’s fine. Tell them I’m fine.”

“What’s your name?” Thomas asked.

“Do you like my shoes?” the girl replied.

She pointed her toes, proudly displaying a pair of scuffed-up ballet shoes.

“Daddy says when I’m older he’ll take me to lessons,” she said.

“And what’s his name?” Thomas asked. He felt the windchill through his jacket. He had no clue how a young girl could be wearing a short gingham skirt and not catch her death.

“Mr. Miller,” the girl said. She went back to swinging. “Arnold Miller. My name’s Claire. I’m bored now, so you can go. Remember to tell Mummy and Daddy I’m fine. Just a little hungry, maybe.”

“I’ll tell them,” Thomas replied. He kept moving, the soggy feeling in his socks having mostly abated down to a kind of scratchiness. His ankle was less sore. But mostly, he just wanted to give the two people who lived in the house a piece of his mind.

It wasn’t right to leave a kid outside like that, no matter how rural the surround.

He made the rest of the journey quickly, the woodland near the pier peppered with a few signs of life. Insects chirped and birds twittered. Somewhere not too far away, a fox briefly yelped and an owl hooted. And then he was outside.

The house itself was a mess, with several of the parapets looking as if they’d folded in on themselves decades ago, lichen spattered the roof tiles and vines wended their way across the crumbling brickwork.

The door below the tilting lintel had no doorbell and no knocker, and so Thomas rapped lightly on the door with his knuckles.

The door swung open on rusted hinges, revealing a darkened foyer.

Thomas stepped in. He reached for his backpack and opened it up. There was a bottle of Industry-grade mould remover and two other bottles containing some liquid that was mostly blended dish-soap, a specific brand of washing up liquid and water. Usually did the job in just under ten minutes.

He called out into the empty manor.


His voice echoed.

The chandelier clicked on. After a brief fizzing noise, one of the bulbs shattered.

“Dang and blast it,” came a voice from the darkness. “Come on in.”

Thomas stepped forward towards the voice. A lady wearing an evening dress was spread out on a battered chaise lounge covered in images of kittens, each one the cruelest shade of tartan.

“Melinda Miller. Charmed.”

She extended a hand that Thomas did not take.

“Is it in the kitchen?”

The woman in the darkness nodded. Her face obscured, her expression unreadable.

He walked through to the kitchen, hitting his foot on what seemed like a metal bucket that was busy catching droplets from a burst pipe above his head.

In the kitchen, Thomas threw the light switch on the wall and a single loose lightbulb illuminated the rank kitchen along with a man in a dinner jacket, smoking a cigarette by the kitchen window.



“Where’s the mould?”

The man turned and almost tripped over a large glass bin filled with wine bottles that clattered against each other like a thousand glass wasps. “Boatman,” Arnold said. “‘e brings ‘em in.”

He walked to the middle of the kitchen and pointed at a small alcove just above the cooking hob where an extractor fan sat, a squat lump of stainless steel in the otherwise stained kitchen.


He stumbled back over the the glass bin, opened the backdoor and continued to smoke his cigarette, looking out into the darkening skies. Rain had began to drizzle.

Thomas climbed up onto the kitchen counter, melamine and covered in what looked like ready-meal wrappers. He grabbed at the bulb in the middle of the room and angled it towards the room. There was a spot of rot, but it honestly seemed like the least of the problems going on here. Thomas thought of a phrase he’d heard long ago about futility. Polishing a deckchair on the Titanic? Something like that.

He began to scrub and, five to ten minutes later, the work was done.

He climbed down from the counter and regarded Arnold, stubbing his cigarette onto the wine bottle on top of his empty collection.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out four crisp £50 bills. Usually there was dickering, here there wasn’t. Thomas felt uncomfortable.

“How is she.”

“Cold, probably, Thomas replied. He gripped the money in his hands and tried to control his voice, but he couldn’t help but feel slightly haughty. “You really let your own daughter play out in this weather?”

The man sighed. He looked at Thomas with bloodshot eyes. His drunk inflection seemed to drop from his voice.

“That’s not my daughter. That’s something wearing her.”

“That is our daughter!” cried a voice from the darkened foyer.

She rushed into the dim kitchen and Thomas could finally see her face, cracked through with grief. Tendrils of lank black hair stuck to her face.

“How is she?”

“She’s fine. Just says she’s hungry. That’s all.”

Melinda and Arnold Miller exchanged looks.

“Why did you think you were here?” Melinda asked.

He ran from the house as the laughter seemed to chase after him.

Terror filled him as he sprinted through the dark forest. The girl. There was something about her. She’d said his name. And at no point had he told her.

The rain began to rally into a storm as he reached the pier. He could see the swing, rocking madly. And somewhere, somewhere far behind him, he could hear a girl laughing.

But not just a girl. It sounded like some sort of sick wild animal, barking and braying.

At the end of the pier, he spotted a boat. The boatsman disembarked and ran towards him, holding an oar aloft. Something was coming out of the woods.

A chitinous carapace about ten meters high knocked through two of the trees. Spiny, spindly legs tried to make purchase in the muddied ground and a face the size of a tire rose out of the fog.

The mouth of the creature opened, revealing rows upon rows of pointed teeth. Two jet-black marble eyes, each the size of plates, stared with what seemed to be a dumbfound hatred.

It let out a roar. Halfway up its hairy and spidery legs, Thomas could see two impaled ballet shoes. A ripped gingham skirt covered the front of it, the tatters falling as the creature writhed towards him.

The storm was building.

The boatman turned. “Run! Get away from here whilst you—“

The creature lunged at the boatman and he disappeared between teeth that whirled like circular drills, his screams not quite drowned up by a childlike laughter that seemed to echo across the island.

Thomas made it to the boat as the spider-like creature straightened up, dropping the torso of the dead boatman. It fell to the wet mud like a sack of cement, bones crunching inside a ruined pillow of torn meat and clothes.

The creature began towards him, twisted legs pumping as the cockroach-like carapace continued to echo out childish laughter.

Thomas leapt for the boat and grabbed the other oar, jabbing it towards the creature that raised its hind legs to try and knock it from his grip.

He aimed as the thing bent down on top of him, its hellish face of skin pulled tight over insectile features set into an expression of pure rage and hunger.

He thrust the oar through the eye.

The thing squealed and staggered backwards.

Thomas jabbed the oar into the pier. The wood crumbled as he pushed off, launching the boat away from the island and away from the hellish monster.

He lay back in the boat as it drifted away. The monster on the pier, now nothing but a shadow in the pelting rain and mist, shrank until it was the size of a small girl, lost in the dark and the cold. It raised a hand to him, waved, and then skipped back across the pier.

Up at the Miller house, the lights turned off.

Thomas Slade waited until he was back on the other side before running for the main road, his mind a jabbering mess. He felt the banknotes in his pocket and hurled them to the wind, rejecting the proof of the bad dream.

As he made it to the main road and hailed down a car, he burst into tears. All he could think of was the creature, the house and, strangely, of the backpack of household cleaning supplies that he’d left behind.