I don’t know why I want to share this old abandoned house story with you right now, but I just feel like it. It’s definitely not because I’ll ever forget about all these events. So, my story is about what helped me to become a professional photographer who I am now. It happened 2 years ago when I’d just finished the high school:
My dream always has been to be a photographer. Whenever I go, I take my camera with me, but after the high school, my family didn’t have the money to pay for the university, so I couldn’t get the proper education. Although I was pretty skillful already, no one wanted to hire me as a photographer, but I really needed a job and couldn’t just try to become a self-employed person. All employers were asking for some grade, at least courses, but I didn’t have any. I was sending my portfolio to countless places but always got a rejection. They answered that my work was good, but unfortunately, they couldn’t hire me.
I remember that I was walking down the railroad on some particularly hot summer day. I’d been to a job interview, but they’d rejected me. After that, I’d talked with my uncle, and he’d promised me place in his grocery store as a vendor.
I was devastated, I didn’t have anything against the vendor job, but that wasn’t what I wanted. I could have been the architect of Golden Gate Bridge or something, but I still hadn’t been happy. It didn’t matter to me who I was if I wasn’t a photographer. Of course, it sounds a little bit silly, but that’s a life of an artist.
I didn’t know how I’d wandered along the railroad so far, but I’d reached the place unknown to me. It was a little bit weird because I loved my hometown. This area always had lured me to go on an adventure. When I was a little kid, I used to go pretty far but never that far.
I stopped and breathed in the summer air. The smell of the railroad and surrounding forest hit my nostrils. It was my last week of freedom. After that, my new job in the store would start, if I didn’t find the photographer job. But I was sure I wouldn’t, I’d lost all the hope.
I sat on the rail and looked around me. The summer was in its bloom. Grasshoppers were chirring keenly, birds were singing and trees were beckoning me when a gentle wind swayed their branches.
In front of me, was a meadow, but in the distance, I could see that there was some abandoned house. It seemed that the house had been pretty luxurious when it was new. It was built from bricks and plastered with beige stucco, but time had done its job, and plaster was peeling off. The house had big windows, and they hadn’t been boarded up like it usually happens with abandoned houses. On the second floor, there was a wide open terrace above the entrance. Overall the house seemed to have European look. It was built with care and had these little details which made all the difference.
House’s walls towered above the overgrown grass, which surrounded this building. From the regularly planted bushes, I understood that this meadow some time ago had been a garden. Wild rose shrubs, which had managed to survive, were still blooming in it.
I turned on my camera and started to take pictures. For a photographer, this house was a real gem. Surprisingly, it didn’t seem hostile and creepy. The beige plaster, blooming roses and midday sun made it look cozy and welcoming.
Then I sensed the vibration in the rail. The train was coming. I walked down from the bank and went to the house. I was sure that the house had an interior as gorgeous as its exterior and overall area.
A little trail was visible through the long grass. I went along it. It probably had been a beautiful rose alley when the house was new.
When I reached the house, I climbed up entrance stairs and was inside. The ceiling was very high. They don’t make ceiling so high these days because it’s a waste of space and doesn’t hold warmth in the winter so well, but it sure looks good.
Unfortunately, they had moved out most of the furniture. There weren’t that many things left in the house, but I didn’t care. The rooms were spacious and left a cozy impression because the big windows weren’t boarded up and walls around the house also were withheld in bright colors.
When done investigating the first floor, I went to the second one. The room which had the terrace was a real gem. More things were left in there. Big, luxurious bed was placed against the wall. It also had an antique closet and cosmetic table. A small mirror, old lipsticks, mascara, powder and other stuff were lying on this table. From these things I could tell that this had been a woman’s room. Also, these things weren’t that old and I could tell that they probably were made in 70’s. So that was probably the time period when the house was abandoned.
Then I opened the closet, and big was my surprise when I found a very cool camera inside from the 70’s. It probably won’t tell you much, but it was Canon AE-1. ”So this woman, who lived in this house, was a photographer too,” I thought back then. As you can probably tell, it was really interesting and exciting for me.
I was taking picture after picture. There was a lot to shoot, and time passed by unnoticed. I was trying different angles as the sun was shining directly through the terrace windows, and dust particles were dancing in the sunrays. Such a magical sight. I reckoned that these windows came out to the south. That’s why it was so warm and cozy inside the house.
It could have been around 6 PM when I finally stopped shooting. I was very tired. I went outside on the terrace and looked at the railroad and the forest in front of me. The sun wasn’t so hot by then.
I sat down and took out of my small handbag a sandwich. I’d planned to eat it and go home afterward, but it didn’t happen like that. After eating my sandwich, I somehow fell asleep.
When I woke up, it was nighttime. Then nothing seemed so welcoming and warm anymore. Instead of the sun, the full moon was shining above the treetops. Its pale light was casting long shadows on the old floorboards.
I gingerly looked around. ”How did it happen?” I remember thinking then. When I was ready to get up and go, I suddenly heard something on the first floor. My body became like petrified. Cold fear seized me. On the first floor, there was definitely someone walking around. I still remember how the old floorboards were squeaking through the silence of the night.
I tried to calm down myself that it was just some animal. It wouldn’t have been weird as the forest was located very near the house. Finally, I cautiously got up and sneaked to the stair railings to peer who was making the noise below. It really startled me.
A young woman was standing in the hallway and looking at some painting, which was left in the house. She seemed very beautiful. Her body was small but fit, and waist gracefully thin and delicate, which highlighted her hips. By then, I still couldn’t fully see her face, but she had long, straight, black hair. Her profile revealed small but pointy chin and subtle, straight nose. She wore a simple, blue summer dress.
I was scrutinizing her for some time until she suddenly turned and looked straight at me. It happened as if she’d known where I was. Her face was a little bit pale with subtle, thin lips and sharp, expressive eyebrows. She had dark, brown eyes. In the night they seemed almost black. I recoiled and fell on my butt. Her laughter echoed in the empty rooms.
”Hi!” I heard her say.
”Hi… Who are you?” I still remember that my voice sounded faintly and suspiciously.
”But who are you and what are you doing here?” she answered me with a question.
”I’m a photographer. I came here to take some shots,” I was honest.
”Cool, I love photography, come down and show me your work.”
I came down to her. What else would I have done? Although now it all seems super strange and weird, then it happened naturally and smoothly. That night there were just this house, full moon, forest, railroad, abandoned garden and this mysterious girl. Nothing else existed in the world. It was normal. It was as it should have been.
I don’t know how, but our conversations started and ended naturally, so I didn’t ask her about who she was anymore. It seemed redundant. We were small talking and time once again passed by without a notice.
”Let’s go, I’ll show you my favorite place,” she said, and we went outside.
Her favorite place was some old bench, which was surrounded by lilacs. It was the middle of the summer, and lilacs had already bloomed, but I could imagine that in the springtime it must have been a beautiful place. We were sitting and chatting there about nothing until she said:
”Don’t you wanna take some pictures of me?”
Of course, I agreed. I hadn’t that much experience of taking pictures of persons because I’m an introvert and didn’t have that many friends, but with her, everything seemed easy. The pictures turned out great.
The last place, where we were shooting pictures, was the room with the terrace. She was posing beside the railings, her hair shimmering in the pale moonlight.
It was starting to dawn behind the horizon, and the moon was setting. Suddenly, she seemed a little bit sad. I asked her why it was like that, but she pretended that everything was fine. I sat at the place where I’d fallen asleep. Our conversations took a pause.
”Our time is running out,” she suddenly said, ”but before we part our ways, I want to give you something special, like a lucky charm one might say.”
I was quite confused. I couldn’t understand what she’d meant by that, but before I managed to ask, she came closer, straddled me and gave me a kiss.
This kiss felt somehow strange. Her lips were very cold, and my body got petrified. I couldn’t move while she was kissing me. Then I felt like recovering from slumber, and fear seized me. Suddenly, everything didn’t seem normal anymore. ”Who is she? What was she searching for here? Why did she want to spend time with me? What will happen to me?” These were the thoughts which were running through my head then. After that, for some reason, I again fell asleep completely, while she was still kissing me.
When I woke up, the sun was already pretty high, its rays giving warmth to my body. I was lying in the same position in which I’d been when I fell asleep in the evening. It was like all night’s events hadn’t happened at all. This crazy night had been just a dream, at least it felt like it. It would be so strange if it had happened for real.
I quickly got up and run home. I was thinking that my parents were probably going crazy. They had called the police for sure. My phone had a dead battery, and I couldn’t call and tell them that I was okay. I run back across the meadow and along the railroad. It seemed far for sure. I must have been very dreamy the day before when I strolled all this distance.
When I got home, my parents scolded me. They really had called the police. Now they had to cancel their application about my disappearance. I was just taking all the patronizing. Although I was 18 years old then and could just tell them to leave me alone, I didn’t do that. I knew that it was my own fault. Maybe I deserved all the scolding.
When they were done, I went to my room. I was really tired and wanted to rest. Sleeping on the floor in the abandoned house hadn’t been very relaxing. So, I jumped into my bed and relaxed my body.
I was trying to fall asleep, but I couldn’t. All the thoughts about the last night were spinning around in my head. ”What if all that wasn’t just a dream? What if it was real? How can I prove myself that it was just a dream?”
I looked at the table. My camera was lying there. ”Of course!” I jumped out of the bed and went to check my camera. If it was just a dream, there wouldn’t be any pictures from the last night. Before turning on the camera, I paused a bit. I guess I was afraid to find out the truth back then.
Beautiful girl bathing in the moonlight. She was there, her smile, mysterious and playful. I sat on my bed and just looked at all the pictures. They were absolutely stunning, the light always falling from the right angles in these photographs. I hadn’t noticed that they were so good while taking them.
I decided that I need to give this art a shot and send the photographs to the last photographer job application I wanted to try before giving up. I attached my CV and pictures as my portfolio to the email, pushed send button and was done. It was highly unlikely that they would hire me because this company was a high profile one, but I had to try.
After that, I fell asleep, thinking about the girl. I knew that I had to find her again. It was such a mishap not asking for her name, but I was sure that in my small town I would find her easily.
Next day, I saw that I’d received one new email. The email came from the company where I’d sent the pictures. They were inviting me to a job interview. I was so happy that I jumped from the joy. Of course, I wasn’t hired yet, but still, it was awesome.
All the following events happened so fast that I didn’t have time to think about them. I was hired and I had to go to live in the big city where the company was located. I needed to find an apartment to rent, pack my things and buy all the necessary things which I couldn’t take from home. Two days before my new job would start, I was ready, and then I remembered about the girl.
I had to find her. She was the real reason why things had turned out so well for me. I had some money in my money box. I took it and bought her a little, cheap camera. It doesn’t sound cool, but I spent all my remaining money on it. The most important are the reasons, aren’t they?
I walked all around the town asking for this girl and showing her pictures, but no one knew her. I was really annoyed by this, and I absolutely had to find her. It was important to give her my gift as thanks. Thought about the abandoned house came into my mind. She’d said that bench surrounded by lilacs was her favorite place. I decided to go to the abandoned house again.
The day was just like that one before. Hot summer with gentle wind gusts, and only small clouds along the horizon. When you wander far enough along this railroad, you just forget about everything. It seems like time has stopped, and nothing else exists in the world. The place is magical.
Finally, I could see the house in the meadow. It looked just like before, lost, abandoned and beautiful. I continued my way.
Of course, the girl wasn’t there. It would have been a true coincidence if she had been. I’d looked in all the rooms and in the abandoned garden too, but no luck.
After that, I was sitting on her favorite bench and thinking about her, ”Where is she, what is she doing now?” I remembered the moment when we met. The girl had been standing in the hallway and looking at the painting. Interesting what was depicted there? I got up and walked to the house to find out.
The painting was hanging on the wall in the first-floor hallway. For some reason, I hadn’t looked at it before. When I finally saw it, the painting was like paralyzing me because it explained everything and made a thousand questions at the same time.
In the painting was depicted some girl, who was sitting on the bench surrounded by lilacs. She had small, slender body, dark, straight hair and a little bit pale face with dark, almost black, brown eyes. She also had subtle lips and expressive eyebrows. It was the same girl. But it couldn’t be because painting seemed pretty old unless… unless…
I looked at the painting more closely and saw that she had photo camera in her hands. It was Canon AE-1. Just like the one which I had found that day in the closet. But maybe it wasn’t just like that, maybe it was the one…
I left my gift to her in her favorite place. On the bench…
Now, when I look back at those events, they seem very unreal, but I know that they really happened. Old abandoned house story was very real. If I start doubting even just a bit, I take out the pictures of the girl with dark brown eyes and black hair, shimmering in the pale moonlight. They are still one of the best pictures I have ever taken.
Author: Sebastian Winter
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