by Jade Leone Blackwater
Golden flames snapped, awakening the old stone house on the hill. Winter was deep in meditation on Winnifred’s first night at Stillwood Farm. Her landlady had left an envelope containing a heavy key and a note: "Make yourself at home. Will return tomorrow morning."
Inside, the great room was empty excepting an assortment of chairs lining the wall. Drafts whispered from the keyholes. For warmth Winnifred began to unpack. Soft plank floors groaned as she wandered the house, singing: "…upon the hilltop alone, wandering by moonlight…"
Outside the moon eclipsed silver and rose when a sudden, brisk knock resounded. Winnifred curiously approached and opened the front door to find a short, old gentleman in a grey waistcoat. He mumbled as he entered: "there now, fire’s started… here now, come let’s a chair…"
Several men and women followed from the shadows, pulling chairs near the hearth. Ignoring Winnifred, the group proceeded to murmur together for nearly an hour. As full moonlight reemerged the visitors rose and walked out into the night. Screech owls whinnied in the darkness: "…whhhooowollowollowollowollowooo…"
Mystified, tired, and alone, Winnifred retired to bed and slept late into the morning. An envelope waited on the doorstep with a new note from the landlady: "We call this place Lonely Hill since it’s just you and the old tree. Enjoy the solitude; no one ever visits Lonely Hill."