Harvest Moon, pt 1

This is part of a text adventure series to celebrate the spookiest of months, October (and beyond!). Full information about what’s happening can be found here. It is free to read, but in order to vote on what happens next, you will need to be a Patron.  To become a Patron, you can find my Patreon page here.

Your adventure begins – as these things so often do – on a dark and lonely night. You’ve been in a car crash.

The specifics are vague. The Nissan you’re sat in is now wrapped around a large tree. The vehicle has ramped the verge, its bonnet mostly consumed by a thick, unkempt hedge. 

You’re still alive – thank whatever you believe in – and your head is ringing with a constant, high hum.

No – wait. That’s not in your head. You blink, and ease back turning your head to one side. The world gives a disconcerting sway around you as though your brain is on a short delay. On the dashboard an array of lights are flickering red and orange with wide blurred blooms. You’ve never seen most of them before, you haven’t the slightest clue what any of them mean. None of them look good and the noise they’re giving off is drilling into your brain. 

You blink to force focus back into your world. Looking around the cramped and crumpled car interior, your heart skips a beat as you turn to the driver’s seat. It’s empty. Before the crash there had been someone sat there. Of course there’d been someone sat there. You’re in the passenger’s seat.

It’s going to take a moment for you to piece things together.

Nick. That feels right, your friend Nick had been with you. He’d been your driver

He’d been driving tired, but not tired enough to have made a mistake like this.

The two of you had been on your way home after something. A party, maybe? Yeah – a party. That makes sense. Some big place on the other side of the moors in… you can’t remember the name of the town. You’re sure it’ll come back to you.

Rather than opting to spend the night somewhere close to the venue and expensive for the convenience, you and he had flipped a coin to decide who would be the designated driver for the long journey home. Heads, you won, which is why you had been getting quieter and dopier as the drive had gone. You don’t think you’d had that much to drink, but the combination of a slow night drive and no music is like a lullaby to some people.

That’s feels right – you hadn’t been able to get the radio working, and Nick’s car is too old for anything so clever as an MP3 player port or even a CD player. The radio had worked at first, but the longer he’d been driving for, the more the music had gotten cut through with biting white noise and long pauses. You’d turned it off some miles back.

He’d been driving carefully. The roads were – and are – completely unfamiliar to you both. You’d been keeping half an eye on the road in front, and half an eye keeping watch for the telltale beam of approaching vehicles. A near miss with a Land Rover on your way to the party put enough of the shits up you that you’d spent the first hour of celebrations seriously entertaining getting a hotel room for the two of you. Because you’d been at a hotel. 

It’s filtering back.

In the end, your meagre bank accounts made the decision for you. Parties aren’t cheap – not even for guests, and the hotel had been a few grades beyond both of your means.

Something had been distracting you before the crash, and it wasn’t just the road’s lullaby. At some point you had stopped recognising road signs and completely lost track of what few landmarks could be seen over the roadside hedges. A large, bright moon helped somewhat but not enough in the shadowy cluster of valleys the car winded its way through. You might’ve been able to help navigate by memory if you’d been able to see more.

Tired and increasingly pissed off, Nick became determined to keep going. The lanes you were on were a mess of spaghetti, but he figured that they couldn’t all end in dead ends. You’d reasoned that at some point a more significant road must intersect – a road with signs, road markings and – what luxury! – street lights. Behind you was an hour’s worth of sharp, dark turns and empty landscapes for tens of miles in the wrong direction. There was no sense in turning back – he was getting more and more tired and didn’t think he could handle it.

So he pressed on with your blessing.

When the crash happened, you were completely unprepared. The last thing you remember is Nick clumsily rearranging himself to curse at the windscreen. Hedgerows had become dense to block out the precious moonlight and already poor visibility quickly got worse.

You’d snorted at his elegance before giving an ugly grunt of your own and shifting in your seat to rest your knees against the glove box. 

Then the tree loomed.

Nick had slammed his feet hard on the brakes but it was too little, too late. The Nissan’s tires skidded; its stopping distance buried it into the trunk that was inexplicably filling the lane. You felt yourself being thrown forward then nothing as the airbag deployed.

Now things are falling together, your body is shot through with bursts of nervous pain. 

You squint through your confusion and, after a couple of tries with doubling vision, manage to grab a scrap of paper resting where Nick had been sat. Wincing by the dashboard light, you just about manage to pick out what’s written there: ‘Gone to get help’

Fumbling through lingering shock, you clumsily tug off your seatbelt and scrabble at the door. It takes a few tries to coordinate your arm and fingers, but you eventually manage to hook your fingers around the handle and prise it open. You tumble out into the cold night and take a moment to catch your breath. Your head is swimming and your muscles throb with sustained tension. There’s a shooting pain across your shoulders that you’re sure is going to feel considerably worse in the morning. You feel like the poor car looks.

Looking around as you massage your neck, you’re surprised to see not 200yds off the road is a large house. There are lights on. A further glance around reveals nothing but night.

Nick must have gone there. It’s the only point of interest for miles around. You certainly don’t remember seeing anything else in the minutes before he created the wood and metal hybrid that once had been his noble, albeit janky steed for the last five years. Not that you remember seeing that house, for that matter. Put it down to the crash.

Why Nick hasn’t come back, you don’t know. You can only assume that he left not long before you woke up. He must have been too worried to move you. Nothing about him screams ‘first aider’ so he did what he thought was the smart thing: Made sure you were still breathing then ran off to get help.

Sure you could wait around for him to return, but what’s the point? It’s pretty obvious where he’s gotten to. It’s not like the wreck is far from the house so if – when – the police and rescue service arrive, you can jog down to meet them. 

A flash of inspiration sees you duck back into the car for your mobile only to find it took a short hard trip into the windscreen. Wedged halfway through the glass, you don’t even bother to pull it free. It’s gone, the screen a spiderweb of cracks. Something thing to fret about when you’re back home safe and sound. 

Thinking on things a little more, you reach into the glove compartment, under the seats, and in the trunk to see if Nick has left anything you could use as a source of light. You manage to find a small flashlight with dead batteries. Hardly ideal, but if you take it with you then you might be able to borrow some replacements up at the house.

You also find the car’s paperwork with roadside assistance documents tucked inside, half a packet of mints, Nick’s lighter, and a non-specific fast food straw. What a princely sum his chariot contains.

You leave a vast collection crumbs and food wrappers where they are (under and between the seats mostly), putting the random assortment of things in your pockets. You’re unpleasantly surprised to find a greasy napkin containing some mushed up sausage rolls already in your coat. After considering whether or not to eat them (your blood sugar must be pretty tanked at the moment), you think better of it before setting off to the house.

A five minute stagger up an overgrown gravel track sees you panting for breath. Walking with your coat pulled tight across your chest, a biting Autumn chill quickly saps the strength from you. The moon is bright and large, touched with an eerie orange hue. It reminds you of the warning lights in the Nissan for just one unsettling second. 

You couldn’t be more relieved when you look up to see yourself standing at the front door, or – rather – doors. Now up close, you realise that calling this place a ‘house’ was underselling it. It’s more akin to a modest stately home, or the seat of some little country estate. Give it five years and someone will’ve converted all the rooms and have slapped a ‘boutique’ hotel label on it. It’s also not in the greatest state of repair. Once upon a time it might’ve been grand. Now, it looks a little sad and – you have to admit – outright creepy against the backdrop of a huge black sky. A shiver ripples down your spine and it’s not entirely from the cold.

Dim light glows from many of the windows and you’re grateful for it. If there wasn’t, you’d be tempted to think the place was abandoned. 

The building is put together with old grey bricks, many of which are cracked. There are multiple ordered windows set out along the front with a couple far overhead in the roof. There must be at least three floors to the place. Four if there’s a cellar.

The double front door arrangement is imposing with a short series of steps leading up to both it and a small stone porch. Either side of the door are columns reaching up to an over-embellished lintel. There are dead potted plants and vacant spidery trellises under the closest windows. 

Craning back from under the porch cover, you also notice that a high wall extends out either side of the house. It presumably hides a garden. You spot a little door set into the wall some 20ft on from the edge of the house.

So. Options. What would you like to do next?

  1. Knock on the front door?
  2. Try the side gate in the wall?
  3. Look through the ground floor windows?

Vote for what happens next on my Patron page before 8pm GMT tomorrow. The next update will be 8pm GMT on the 3rd of October.

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