(This story was originally going to be the first in a series I was going to write for a “drama podcast” we were doing at one point. The others never got written, though I’ve often thought I should…)
They were not mountains they were hills, and it would never be a city but always a town. Beacon Hill sat on the edge looking over the Oak River. Its streets were steep and nothing in the town could ever please a spirit level.
There were no young in the town of Beacon Hill, none that could be easily seen that was. In the day those young or mobile enough to get out of town did so in favour of Blackbridge or even Gravesend both which lay to the towns south. Of a night the streets were all but literally rolled up and all that could be seen of any of its inhabitants were the ghostly images of flickering TV’s behind curtains.
The hills themselves were a trio that curved round into a rough horse shoe; the tip of the first hill touched the west end of Blackbridge and which had its own community everyone called “The Circle”.
Beacon Hill sat on the west bank of the third hill, far to the north east of The Circle and easily forty miles away as the crow flew. The two communities did not know of each other, and they would have little in common if they did.
It was what sat on the middle hill that often occupied people minds in Beacon Hill, and sometimes even those in the affluent community of The Circle.
Middle Peak Resort was easily three times the size of Beacon Hill, which was not difficult as the small town boasted merely six roads, and at peak season the resort’s inhabitants outnumbered those of the town by more than thirty to one.
So over the resorts peak season Beacon Hill became something of a resort town where the teenage children of the resort patrons escaped their parents and descended on the small town across the river.
The tiny town despised this time of year when the sleepy community was torn asunder as if by invasion; but they knew their reliance on it and the wisest of the town hated themselves for it.
For three months a year Beacon Hill was at something approaching war with its neighbour who, by means of class, was aided by the far off land of The Circle. To the people of the town the resort was something alien and exotic, few people of the town ever stepping foot over the threshold of the resort and those who did found it best not to crow about it.
The road the town’s folk called The Reach ended atop the highest point of the town. The street hooked around back on itself ending in a tall boarding house just pass an ancient pub with a wooden sign that would sometime be torn off by the unhampered wind.
The Hillview Inn was not the largest public house that its patrons had ever seen, but it was the only one in the six streets that made up Beacon Hill so it enjoyed a modest yet comfortable trade.
An observer would be easily forgiven for thinking the name of the Inn came from its location, but in truth it had been named after one of the towns founders, Reginald Hillview, who had settled in this place back almost three hundred years before; partially due to the fact that the location amused him.
It still did.
Things had changed so little.
Since his death, from a fall on the stairs, he had become acutely aware of how little things had changed throughout the centuries.
Lizzie had set him straight on many things.
Lizzie had died so many years before that Reggie sometimes did not understand a word the spirit-woman said.
Today was one such day.
The pub was almost empty and so Lizzie and Reggie sat in the window seats and looked out over the edge of the hill, almost a cliff face, to the waters of the Oak River below. In the distance the lights of the Middle Peak Resort could be seen in the dim evening light.
Reggie sighed and sat back into the lushly upholstered leather window seat.
Across the room a man heard the creak and looked around the otherwise empty room. He glanced at the clock, sipped at his pint and resumed reading the newspaper on the table before him.
Reggie’s voice was the creaking of far off doors and the whisper of the wind through the windows.
“‘Tis a funny world,” He said to himself.
Lizzie looked at him, her near constant frown deepening slightly.
To those who could see them Lizzie and Reggie looked as though from the same place in time. Reggie was dressed in a loose shirt and cowhide trousers, his shoes had large buckles and his once white stockings were grey with filth.
Lizzie wore a tight leather bodice, laced up the front and a mass of black skirts that light seemed to fall into.
“Whithle thum.” Lizzie replied.
Reggie tuned to the barman, under the light from the lamp above him his bald head gleamed. Lizzie watched the light that reflected from his scalp as bit her upper lip, looking like a ghost-child for a moment.
“Barkeep. A pair of flagons and a slice of your tenderest ham.”
The barman, predictably, didn’t hear a thing.
Reggie stretched his arms along the back of the seat; idly he ran a fingernail over the too-white spectral flesh of Lizzie’s arm. She squealed and drew away.
“For the martyr’s sake woman; it’s been three hundred years!” His voice lowered to rusted hinges and rattling chains then shifted to pattering rain as he finished. “I’m so bored.”
The lights of the resort across the valley, across the river, caught his eye.
Ghosts could travel, that was something that surprised him on the eve after his death. He found that he could travel the street outside the inn from where it met Broad Street right up to the boarding house at the crest of the hill.
Distance brought on weakness and with the weakness came a fear.
Fear of what he could not tell, but he fancied that he heard things out there at the limits of his existence. These things growled and would bite he was sure; if he allowed them to get close enough.
Reggie looked out over the valley at the lights.
“Thats it, I’m orf…” He announced abruptly and stood.
Lizzie bit her lip again but otherwise didn’t respond.
“I said I’m goin’…”
He stood, his feet sinking slightly into the worn blue carpet and for a moment looking as if he had truly become rooted to the spot.
He turned and stormed over to the door leading to the street, as he neared it the heavy worn door swung inward as the first of the evening customers entered. Reggie ignored them and walked on through.
The middle aged couple would comment later on a chill they both felt as they entered the public house. It would occur to them because of how warm it was inside this particular day and the barman would, as way of explanation, tell them of the Ghost of Hillview Inn.
In the corner Lizzie would listen, recognising nothing of the tale of murderous smugglers and betrayed harlots, but captivated nevertheless. It would captivate her so deeply in fact that it would be hours before it occurred to her that Reggie had been gone far longer that he normally was and that she should perhaps check on him.
But this was hours away, and Lizzie thought of nothing as she watched Reggie float through the couple as they walked through the door. That was nothing accept the vague feeling of confusion she always seemed to feel.
Reggie wandered out into the street. The sun had nearly disappeared behind the hills on which the Middle Peak Resort sat. It backlit the resort nicely, a silhouette dotted with a sprinkling of lights.
He took in his immediate surroundings. The street on which he stood curved up to the crest of the eastern hill, the boarding house owned by Cyril and his wife were direct descendants from those who owned it in his own time.
So little changed.
Cyril even looked a great deal like his great-great-grandfather’s great-great-grandfather.
The pub sign above him swung in the ever present wind, on it was a grinning face with the words Hillview Inn beneath it; Reggie’s immediate though was always the same at the sight of it.
It should read Hillview’s Inn; it was his at the beginning and it seemed that it would be his until its end; or until he could leave the God forsaken place.
Reginald Hillview turned away from the creaking sign and walked down the curving road towards the limits of his world.
To Be Continued…