Updated: May 28
Nancy Schumann is a German writer, based in London, who writes poetry, short stories and novels on a variety of topics in both English and German. Her works have been published in both languages. Nancy's particular interest, in fiction and academically, are female vampires. Nancy's masters’ thesis on female vampires through the ages formed the basis to Take A Bite, which traces female vampire characters in folklore and literature. For further information see www.bookswithbite.in
Dove Street was one of those streets that never quite register on anybody's map; a small, one way street in a big city. If one missed the turn into it one missed the entire street. Yet, Dove Street had a large, lively community contained within it. There was a church halfway down the street. A beautiful white brick building, reaching high into the sky, looking over Dove Street and far beyond like a silent guardian.
There was a pub, the Lord's Arms, opposite the church. The cheerful, blue house shared a little lane with a shop, so both establishments formed a corner facing each other and the street. The shop contained at least one of absolutely anything the inhabitants of Dove Street could ever want. It was a marvel of space efficiency that no big supermarket could compete with. In Dove Street, neither believers, nor non-believers had to walk far for social life and moral support.
On one end of the street there was a school and on the other a nursery and a lot of life happened between its entrance and its exit point that never involved the rest of the city. The people who lived here had been here for generations. They were quiet, content people; happy where they were without desire to go anywhere else. Whatever they needed they could find in Dove Street and whatever else the world had to offer was never going to make them any happier than they were. Dove Street even held the ultimate luxury for a city street, a park, although, due to its proximity to the church, locals had developed the morbid tendency to call it the graveyard.
On the corner of the lane that led into the park was a house larger than most along the street. With plants ranking all around its walls, it looked as if the house had grown out of the park. The friendly looking house had been there forever. Many thought that this was the first house here; the house that was built before Dove Street even had a name. The window on its left, that looked out onto the park lane, had a small, unassuming but carefully painted sign that identified the house as the Dove Street Inn.
The Dove Street Inn was owned by an elderly lady. The lady looked ancient in her black dress with a scarf wrapped around her and a headscarf covering her hair. She walked slowly, her body slightly bent, as if her head was trying to get somewhere her feet couldn't quite follow. As far back as anybody could remember, she had always been there. She was only ever referred to as the lady. When people met her in the street or in the park they nodded and said a friendly hello but nobody ever talked long enough to find out her name and she didn't offer it. She didn't want to talk to anybody and that suited the other Dove Street inhabitants just fine.
It would never occur to anybody in Dove Street to direct a weary traveller to the Dove Street Inn, in the unlikely event that one found their way into this part of the city. As far as anybody was concerned, Dove Street had no accommodation to offer. The Dove Street Inn didn't really exist. The house was part of the park and it had a name. It did not have the function that name suggested. The warm and friendly looking house contained the screams of unruly children, everybody knew, but they were barely audible. One had to go right up close to the house, while the lady was out somewhere else, to hear them at all, but nobody wanted to get that close. It was better not to know. It was better to pretend the Inn wasn't there.
Dove Street never had any loud, rowdy youths to trouble its inhabitants. Dove Street had a boogeyman in the guise of a harmless looking, elderly lady that nobody really spoke to. Children were born just like everywhere else. They grew up with stories like many other children. They learned respect to the elderly lady they could see in the street from time to time. They learned to be polite and say hello to the lady. If they misbehaved they were told one story that was true. The elderly lady that nobody spoke to would get them if weren't good. She would know, even if nobody complained. She would just come to the house, knock on the door and stand in silence until the unruly youngster came out. She would take them to the Inn, from where they couldn't escape, where their parents would not go, and could not rescue them. Nobody knew what happened to the children in the Inn. They never came out once they'd entered.
Aoife tried to be a good girl. She wanted to be a good girl. She knew her mother had picked her name to be prophetic, and make her a good girl, but being good was so much harder than everybody thought. Every morning, Aoife got up at six, brushed her teeth, got dressed, then went into the kitchen to set the breakfast table. Breakfast tended to be the best part of her day. Her parents were still sleepy and at their most benevolent if she was quiet and timid with her demands at that time. It was a comfortable semi-silence that united them against the rest of the world around the breakfast table. Then Aoife had to go to school.
Classes she could do. It was fair enough to be quiet when being taught important things by a grown-up. She struggled to keep her mind on the important things sometimes, and she hated being called out by the teacher. She didn't always want to say the answers, and then everybody would know that her attention had slipped. Then it felt like all eyes were on her and everybody was laughing, even if they did so quietly. The worst part was that often the answer she didn't say, because she wasn’t sure turned out to be right. Then she felt really silly. But that wasn't always. Sometimes she did pay attention, sometimes she said the answer and all was good.
What Aoife really hated were the breaks. She didn't much like the other children, or rather they didn't seem to like her. She wasn't part of any group of friends. The breaks were when she felt most alone. She felt the others were laughing at her, regardless of whether she got the answers in class wrong or right. She felt that anything that ever happened at school that wasn't quite right, was always seen as her fault. Most days, Aoife felt like she was going to explode. To keep herself from exploding, she would cry, and shout, and put the blame back on the others, the so-called good children. She'd cry even more when she realized that nobody believed her. She never knew how they did it, how they kept the mask of goodness. She suspected it had something to do with the fact they always knew the answers, when they were called in class.
When school was over, many of the kids went to the park to play. The other girls played with dolls and pretended to make cakes for tea parties with their imaginary friends. Aoife didn't like that. She did not like quiet games. Aoife wanted to climb up the many trees in the park. She wanted to swing off their branches. She wanted to fight imaginary forces invading her imaginary land. She was always the loudest of the children. She was always the one who got bruises and cuts and came home bleeding. She never thought she had done anything bad but her parents often looked sad when she got home in the evenings. The evening was quiet but not comfortable. When her mother took her to bed, she didn't think she would get a good night story. Instead, she got one she didn't want. The one where the creepy old lady who lived down the street came to get naughty children who were never seen again. Aoife didn't like that story. For one thing, it clearly told her that mother thought she'd been naughty or at least borderline. For another, she didn't believe it. That poor old lady, creepy as she was. Nobody ever spoke to her. They all just said hello, and walked on when they saw her. Aoife suspected that was because the lady looked so creepy. She didn't really think the lady actually stole children. That house where she lived was right at the park, where they all played almost every day. Surely, their parents wouldn't allow them that close to the house if that was where all the naughty children were imprisoned. Surely, the old lady was just lonely and weird. Aoife didn't understand how anybody could possibly be afraid of the old lady.
Then, one night, there was a knock on the door. Just one. Easy to miss. Aoife wasn't even sure she'd heard it at all a second later. Then she heard her mother's footsteps on the stairs; slowly, deliberately they descended the stairs to stop in front of the door. Aoife held her breath. One second. Two seconds. Then her mother opened the front door. She could not hear anything else. She felt her head start spinning. No, no, no, it couldn't be. It was just a story to scare children and she'd never been scared of it. Aoife strained her ear but no sound was forthcoming. It could not be the old lady. It wouldn't be. She knew it couldn't be. She had to know for sure. On tippy toes she crept to her door. Without a sound she pushed down the handle. She opened the door just an inch. She could see her mother at the open front door but nothing else. Her mother stood unmoving, not saying anything.
'Mama?' Aoife whispered, opening her door a bit more. 'Mama.' She tried again. Then she couldn't stand it any longer. She ran down the stairs to her mother's side. She tried to take her mother's hand but her mother's arm just hung like a lifeless limb on a shop mannequin. Aoife turned around to see the elderly lady nobody spoke to in the doorway. The old lady stood as if waiting for something, not saying anything at all.
'No.' Aoife said and looked up at her mother. 'No, mama. I won't go. It's just a story. It's not true. She can't take me.' But her mother stood still when the old lady took Aoife's hand. She was stronger than she looked and Aoife couldn't free herself from the grip, as the old lady pulled her down the road closer and closer to the Dove Street Inn. Aoife kept looking back to her home but the door closed and her mother disappeared from view. There was nobody on the street to see Aoife cry that evening. Nobody saw how the doors of the Dove Street Inn opened and closed to swallow another child.
Life on Dove Street continued as it always had, as it always did. Sometimes a child disappeared. Nobody ever mentioned the fact when it happened. Some parents tried again. Others didn't. It made no difference to life along this street.
Aoife's life was very different after that night. The Dove Street Inn, the house that didn't really exist, was very lively inside, she found out. She didn't understand how the parents knew, but what they told their children was true: this really was where all the naughty children went. They lived in the Dove Street Inn with the old lady. Aoife didn't know any of them. She was too young to remember the last time a child had disappeared from the Dove Street community.
Having dragged her all the way down the street, the old lady opened the door to the Inn without loosening her grip on Aoife. When the door closed behind them, it fell into its locks with a heavy thud that told Aoife she would never be able to move that door. She stood staring at the entrance to her prison for a moment, when a voice shook the silence.
'Ida, set the new one to work in the kitchen.'
Aoife had never heard the old lady speak. Now, a strong, authoritative voice belied her fragile appearance. Aoife turned around and found herself in a spacious, dark hallway. Somewhere out of the dark appeared a young girl, no older than Aoife was, with dirty-blond hair, bare feet and wearing a greyed dress that reached to her knees. Ida did not look at the old lady or Aoife directly. She kept her eyes on the floor but hurried to Aoife, took her hand, whispered: 'come' and led her through the darkness, away from the old lady.
The kitchen was as spacious as the hallway and Aoife began to wonder how these large rooms fitted into the house that stood by the park. It wasn't a kitchen like the one her parents had. This looked like a factory for cooking and baking. As far as Aoife could see, there were children all about the room chopping vegetables, measuring and mixing ingredients, roasting meat and doing all the stuff her mother did in their own kitchen, but on a far larger scale, and all at the same time. A small voice beside her said: 'You will have to start with the cleaning lot until you learn how to do anything else.' Ida sounded like she was apologizing, rather than giving a command, but Aoife nodded nonetheless. She didn't have the feeling that she was just being asked to help, and she liked the softer sound of Ida's voice much better than the old lady's. She joined a young boy who looked around eight, and another girl in their cleaning duties. Aoife started to dust the surfaces, which was considered a no-skill task, although she struggled to dust around all the things kept on the shelves here without breaking anything. After a while, she noticed the boy struggling to hold the mop that was much too big for him, as he attempted to wash the floors. Aoife stopped dusting and went to the boy. 'Here', she said and placed the duster in his hands, taking the mop off him, 'We’ll swap. I think dusting might be easier for you.' He gave a little smile in response and shot off to start dusting. Aoife washed floors all around the house. She didn't even notice how she moved from one room to the next. She didn't take in what she saw in each room. Children not only baked and cooked. There were others who made all manner of things. Things that Aoife might have recognized from the shop on the street that had at least one of absolutely anything if she'd paid attention to them.
Daybreak signaled the end of a shift. Aoife, Ida and many of the other children, whose names she didn't know, put down their tools and shuffled up the stairs to a room under the roof that served as a bedroom. Aoife had never felt so tired. When Ida showed her a mattress and a blanket, she fell down with closed eyed, and was asleep in an instant. She vaguely registered muffled sounds of crying around her, and felt a sharp, painful pull, just as she heard the heavy front door open and close. She did not see the old lady leave the house. She did not see the multitude of things the children had made disappear, but both of these things happened.
In time, she learned that the harder she worked, the less painful the sharp pull felt; the easier she could sleep. She learned that everybody felt this pain when the old lady left the house. She learned to cook and bake and, after a while, she could make the most beautiful jewelry. Everything made in the house vanished when the old lady left the house in the morning. So they continued making more and more of everything every night.
'Do you think they know?' she asked Ida one day, as they sat side by side painting smiling faces on gingerbread men. Ida looked at her as if she didn't understand the question.
'Our parents. Do you think they know what happens in here? That we make all the things they can buy in the street?'
Ida's voice was barely a whisper when she said: 'It doesn't matter.'
'They know something. They know where the naughty children go. Why wouldn't they just tell us? Why doesn't anybody do anything?'
Ida repeated: 'It doesn't matter.'
Aoife didn't understand how these things couldn't matter to any of the children. Surely nobody wanted to be here. As that thought ran through her head, another one crept up on her and she realized that she'd only ever heard stories from the grown-ups. Aoife couldn't remember a child vanishing. People must have noticed that she had vanished, not just her parents, everybody.
'Ida, how long have you been here?'
'It doesn't matter.'
'Why doesn't anything matter?'
'Because nobody can leave this place. Only the old lady comes and goes. We are here forever. It doesn't matter when forever started. Can you even remember how long you have been here now?'
Aoife couldn't. She hadn't counted the days.
'I expect my parents are dead by now,' Ida said in the same even, emotionless tone in which she always spoke, 'I have no idea how long you have been here either but it takes years in outside time to learn the things we all can do.'
'Years? I may have been here for years?' Aoife struggled to grasp the thought that lurked at the back of her head, 'So we never change? We are forever children, forever working here?'
Ida nodded. Disillusion had taken hold of her long before Aoife arrived. Ida had long stopped counting the days. Aoife wasn't ready to accept the truth of Ida's words or her own realizations. She hadn't been trapped in the Inn for long enough to lose all the spirit that had taken her here in the first place. Aoife couldn't believe that the old lady was the only person able to open that heavy entrance door. She picked up her tools to take them to the kitchen sink to clean. There was a window right in front of the sink. Aoife stared at the window as she washed the icing off the brush she'd painted dozens of smiling faces with but it didn't show her the world outside the Inn. It didn't work like normal windows. Light came in but Dove Street stayed behind without allowing the inhabitants of the Inn a single glance of their former home. Tears formed in Aoife's eyes but she blinked them away. She shook her head to refocus her thoughts, shook the water off the brush and took her tools to where a tea towel hung from the wall to dry them. As she stood there, she still looked towards the window.
The little boy she had swapped dusting duties with on her first day came up to the window with a little bucket to clean. She smiled at him. He was still on cleaning duties most days but had progressed from dusting. He looked stronger than he had on that first day but he was still a very small boy. When he'd finished cleaning the inside of the window, he opened it. Aoife hadn't thought this was possible but the window opened into the room and the boy cleaned the outside glass. Even the open window didn't allow any of the normal noises of Dove Street into the Inn but the view changed. It looked like they were looking out onto a section of the park that Aoife remembered. It looked real and tantalizingly close. The boy must have been thinking the same because he put away the cleaning cloth very deliberately and paused before he stepped off the chair he was standing on to climb through the window. Aoife stared open-mouthed as the boy didn't disappear through the window. His hands took hold of the window sill and he lifted his leg. Somehow his leg went outside for a second only to throw his entire body back into the room. He landed on the kitchen floor with a thud and didn't move. Aoife dropped the tea towel, the tools she'd been holding clattering to the floor, and rushed to where the boy lay. Ida got up from the table without a word and went to the sink, stretched up to her toes and closed the window. With a sad face she looked at Aoife who said: 'I think he's dead.' Ida nodded and whispered: 'I know.'
Together, they lifted him off the ground and carried him to the mattress where he used to sleep. Ida carried herself with a demeanor that told Aoife louder than words this wasn't the first dead child she had seen. Everything about her said 'I told you so' to Aoife. Yet, Aoife still believed that there was a way out of here.
That night, she found out that it was possible to leave the Inn, at least in company of the ancient lady. Aoife had never found out what the old lady's name was. Even the children in the Inn all called her the old lady. She remained the black figure in the background even where she ruled supreme, a ghost that didn't quite exist. The news of the boy had reached the old lady and she appeared in the children's bedroom under the roof where he lay. It took only moments for her to get some older boys to fashion a wooden box to put the body in. When the night was at its darkest, Aoife, Ida, the boys who'd made the coffin and the old lady left the Inn and stepped into the park. With hanging heads they marched deeper into the park. No sound disturbed their procession. They stopped under the branches of a large, misshapen tree that Aoife remembered climbing what seemed a lifetime ago. Wordlessly, the boys began to dig a hole, and Ida and Aoife followed suit. Aoife had never been to a funeral, but she thought it was wrong that nobody said anything. It took all of them to lift the coffin and lower it into the hole. The little boy sank out of existence and nobody but the children of the Inn would ever know what happened to him. In fact, Aoife thought, they didn't even know what had happened to him. Ida had said the Inn didn't let anybody leave, and it hadn't let the boy leave, but Aoife still didn't know, didn't understand, how what had happened had happened. None of the children in the park tried to run. They had just buried the last person who tried. They followed the old lady back to the Inn. Aoife looked around the park and wondered if the bumps around the trees were all children who had tried to escape the Inn. The thought made her shudder, as she realized how many times she had played on top of these bumps. How often she had climbed the trees. How often the children of Dove Street still did the same thing now she was one of the Inn's children. Her eyes filled with tears and her head started spinning more and more with each step towards the Inn. She did not want to be one of the Inn's children. She didn't want to go back. She did not want to live and end her life like the little boy. With that thought, Aoife started running. She ran to the end of the park. She ran down Dove Street. She ran and ran. Dove Street ended and she kept running. Down the next street and the one after that. Through a little alleyway. Across a bridge. On and on until her legs gave way and she couldn't run anymore. She sat on a bench. Exhausted, she lay down and fell asleep.
'Are you alright, young lady?' The unknown voice belonged to an older, friendly looking police officer who had bend down to where Aoife lay on the bench and gently poked her arm to wake her up.
Aoife didn't know how to answer that simple question. She didn't know where she was, either. What caught her attention were the words 'young lady' that he'd said without any detectable sense of irony. She looked down on herself to find arms and legs that she didn't recognize. The police officer still stood in front of her, a look of concern fixed on her as she stared at the limbs that were too big for her with fascination.
'Is there anybody I can call for you, honey?' he asked. Aoife shook her head and finally said: 'I don't know where I am. I don't know how I got here.'
That wasn't entirely true. She knew how she had run to arrive at that bench. She didn't know how she was still there. She'd not been dragged back to the Inn. She hadn't dropped dead like the little boy they'd buried. Aoife asked herself if none of the Inn's children had ever tried to run after one of the funerals. She didn't voice that thought. Her words had been enough for the police officer to spring into action. He helped her up and took her to his car, all the while talking to her in his soothing voice, intermittently asking questions she couldn't answer. Some she did not know the answer to, others she just didn't want to respond to. He didn't know the difference, and helped her all the same. She felt safe in his presence. She was sure the darkness in the distance wasn't empty, but whatever it was that watched her from there kept its distance while she wasn't alone.
Even with Ida's words still spinning through her head, Aoife didn't know when all the time had passed and turned her into an adult. She couldn't understand how she looked this way now when only yesterday, last night, she'd been a child, desperate to escape from Dove Street Inn. Yet, she was grateful for the change when she realized that nobody tried to contact her parents. Nobody was forcing her back to Dove Street. Aoife gratefully accepted all the help she could get: from the policeman, from the shelter he took her to, from social services. Somebody willing to help seemed to be around her all the time all of a sudden. She was grateful for that, too. She could feel a presence just a little further away; a distant call that tried to drag her back to the Inn. Aoife never looked into the shadows, she refused to see what was in the corner of her eyes all the time. She stayed where there was light, where there were people.
She took all the help she was offered and used it to keep running. Once she had a starting point, it wasn't hard for her to find a job. She was used to working hard and the Inn had taught her all manner of skills. There was always something she could do to earn money. As soon as she could, she left the town she'd managed to run to. Moving further and further away from where Dove Street was, leaving the country and crossing oceans, as she did so. She never travelled alone. The presence she felt in the shadows never went away. She could feel malevolent eyes on her wherever she went, a predator waiting to pounce. Aoife stayed on her guard. She made sure there were people wherever she was.
At first, she appeared to every one she met as the scared child she was inside. She couldn't tell anybody her true story. This wasn't Dove Street and these weren't people frightened by an old lady who took naughty children, so for every question she couldn't answer truthfully she just offered 'I don't know'. People saw a young lady, but one without memories who didn't know where she had come from, and who seemed to be all alone in the world. The fear she didn't quite hide inspired sympathy in everybody. People wanted to take care of Aoife, and Aoife let them. It went some way to make up for the family she'd lost and the home she couldn't go back to.
Aoife never got used to the darkness watching her. The presence remained wherever she went. Small towns and large cities were equally dangerous as far as Aoife was concerned. Yet she learned to live with the menace and settled eventually. The fear she could never quite shed, but over time she felt more like the grown-up version of herself that greeted her out of the mirror every day. She began to wonder how long people would continue to take care of her if she turned into a proper adult. Before she found an answer to that question she met Frank.
The town had needed a cafe for a long time before Aoife arrived there. Her friend Iris had wanted to open a cafe in her hometown and Aoife had joined her, providing marvelous cakes for the endeavor. The cafe soon became the beating heart of the town. People loved the cakes and enjoyed the friendly chatter. Aoife felt safe surrounded by all these people every day. She shared a room with Iris and they always went everywhere together when they weren't working. Frank delivered groceries to the cafe. He stopped to talk to Aoife whenever he made a delivery. He was kind and softly spoken and Aoife liked him. So when he asked permission to walk her home one day she was happy to allow him into her life. He became her friend, her partner, her vision of a future with her own family that would never leave her alone to be snatched up by the darkness.
One day, they took a train to visit a town by the coast. Frank bought them ice-creams and they walked along the beach silently happy. She almost couldn't hear Frank, his voice like a whisper against the ocean, when he asked her to become his wife. Of course, she said yes and sealed it with a kiss. Thunder suddenly sounded in the air. Black clouds darkened the sky. Aoife shivered and looked around with fright. The darkness came closing in. Frank put his arm around her and led her away from the beach. The perfect day suddenly spoiled. There was a cafe near the beach where they sought shelter from the rain that drenched everything and emptied the beach of all passers-by. Frank left the table for a moment. Aoife looked out of the window where rain and darkness engulfed the empty beach. She did not notice how the cafe's waitress slipped into the kitchen. Aoife jumped up and screamed as the old lady looked right at her from outside the window. Both the waitress and Frank came running back into the room. Aoife still stared at the window but the old lady had disappeared. She couldn't tell Frank what she'd seen. Something outside had scared her but she must have imagined it. No, there was really nothing and nobody outside. Just the rain.
The rain wouldn't stop and they got drenched on their way back to the station. Aoife wanted to go away from the remote coastal town. She wanted to be somewhere with more people. They took the next train home. That calmed her. The train was quiet. Aoife didn't like that. She sat beside Frank, keeping a hold of him, staring out of the window. The storm remained behind in the coastal town. The train attendant called Frank into the corridor. Aoife got up to follow him but the door closed before she'd caught up with Frank. She reached out to open it and right in front of her was the old lady. Aoife pulled back her hand and backed away. The lady didn't say a word. She looked just like she had the night she'd taken Aoife from her parents' house. The door opened, Frank came back and the old lady was gone. Aoife had never felt so alone. She implored Frank not to leave her by herself again. He smiled and said he'd never leave her but she knew he didn't understand what she was really asking of him. She wished she'd stayed with her friends. She wished she hadn't trusted this one person to always be there. She wished she hadn't agreed to a trip to a remote coast.
Frank got more and more annoyed with her paranoia. By the time the train pulled into their home station, they weren't speaking to each other. Aoife wanted to be amongst people. Frank didn't want to be around Aoife for a moment. He left her standing at the station to walk off his anger. Aoife walked right into the town centre. There were people in the streets. She was less worried here but she didn't want to go home. She would go to the cafe and stay until Iris closed up today. Just as she got to the cafe, Aoife thought she wasn't quite ready to talk to Iris. The nearby church tower was a well-visited spot for locals and visitors to climb and enjoy the view across the town. She went to join them. Up and up she climbed the steps with her fellow sightseers. Assured by the presence of other people, Aoife took a deep breath when she reached the top of the tower and looked out over the town. Everything looked more peaceful from up here, she thought. She could feel her heartbeat slow down, her panic subside. All would be well. She would go to see Frank later, maybe tomorrow, and they would forget their quarrel.
'You really thought you could escape, didn't you?'
The authoritative voice behind her chilled Aoife to bone. Slowly, she turned, knowing who she'd see. The old lady was the only other person on the top of the tower. Her figure blocked the route back to the stairs. Finally, the darkness had caught up with Aoife. She was all alone with the old lady of the Inn. Aoife smiled, ‘I won't come with you,' and turned away from the old lady. Quickly, Aoife climbed just that little further up the walls of the tower and jumped.
Her body landed with a thud on top of a car parked near the tower. Everybody on the street came running toward the sound of broken metal. In moments, a crowd gathered around the car. They stopped and stared in silent wonder at the body of a beautiful young lady, as she lay seemingly asleep, reclining on top of the bent car roof. Her arms softly framed her face, as if she was about to yawn, stretch out and get up. Her legs were slightly crossed and she looked altogether at peace where she was.
It took a long time before anybody dared to move her.
As the earth closed over Aoife's grave, a multitude of mourners gathered in the small cemetery. At the other end of world, in a street that most people didn't know existed, a house known as the Dove Street Inn suddenly collapsed in on itself. The Inn that nobody ever talked about from one day to the next looked as if it had been abandoned for centuries. Nobody went near it. Nobody tried to repair it, or even to remove its remains. Its ruins remained as eternal monument to a house that never existed.