The house on the hill

by John Waterhouse

The two-bedroomed house at the top of the hill was much smaller than all the tall three-storey buildings that lined the road leading up to it. It seemed strange that a bungalow should be built on the crown of Mount Street but there was a rumour the land had been vacant for a long time after the farm, that originally occupied the site, had mysteriously burnt down. There were tales of wild, drunken orgies that had gone on inside the farmhouse and there had been strange sightings of a farmer in the woods that lay behind the farm. These sightings were attributed to the famous, local story of an amorous farmer from the seventeenth century, rumoured to have fathered a string of illegitimate children around the village.

When a local builder bought the plot of land and applied to build a bungalow, no one objected. The situation might have been different had the application been to build a large house overlooking all that lay beneath it but you had to almost be at the top of the hill even to see the bungalow roof. Also, the pathway leading from the road to the forest was not affected so the locals felt no need to complain about anything.

The bungalow had been lived in until recently by a single old lady for longer than anyone could remember. She had never married although there were rumours she had got pregnant out of wedlock and given up the baby for adoption. Now the house stood empty and a voluptuous female writer with long dark hair was about to take up residence.

Demelza Jones had fallen in love with the bungalow at first sight. It had an air of isolation, looking back onto the forest and yet was only ten minutes walk from the shops. The small, atmospheric rooms inspired her to write and fired her imagination for the complex historical novels that she was contracted to write for Mills and Boon. Having come out of a long-term relationship six months earlier, Demelza wanted a complete break from men while she completed her latest work, a seventeenth century political romance set in Salford.

After a productive day, writing well into the evening, Demelza had allowed herself three glasses of whisky whilst watching the late night news before collapsing into bed. In the depths of her sleep, Demelza dreamt that a mysterious nocturnal visitor had entered her room and got into bed with her. Suddenly waking up in the middle of the night, she could feel pressure around her waist and back as if she lying in the strong embrace of a muscular man. Demelza fell asleep almost immediately and slept well. Curiously, she woke up feeling physically exhausted yet mentally very refreshed, almost exhilarated even.

The novel progressed well and Demelza adopted a virtual hermit-like existence as ideas flowed into her mind, inspired by the ambience and history of the bungalow. The dreams however became more vivid and when Demelza woke up in the middle of the night again, she could feel what seemed like the weight of a man on top of her yet there was no one there. Demelza turned over, feeling strangely warm in the bed, as if someone was next to her. Hurriedly turning on the light, Demelza could plainly see that she was alone. In any case, Demelza thought, ghosts might appear as white sheets but they don't crawl in between them, do they?

Over the next three weeks, Demelza busied herself in her work and almost came to look forward the strange sensations that she continued to experience regularly in her bed. It was as if she was in a physical relationship with an invisible man, who never spoke to her. Whatever his motives, Demelza felt sure that the spirit, if indeed it was a spirit, meant her no harm.

Some weeks later, with the novel completed, Demelza felt she owed it to herself to have a holiday and went to stay with friends in London for a few days. She was now sleeping quite normally and was if anything starting to feel horribly alone in her bed. However, she was aware of changes in her own physical condition that were most unwelcome. Everything seemed to indicate that she was pregnant and yet she felt absolutely positive that there was no way she possibly could be.

At the local surgery, Doctor Brown, a long time resident of the village examined Demelza and confirmed that she was indeed pregnant. Completely stunned, Demelza protested vehemently that this was medically impossible and was sure there was some mistake in the diagnosis. She even explained about the strange bedroom experiences.

Doctor Brown gave her a knowing smile. "You know about the legend of the amorous farmer?"

"Of course," Demelza sighed, wondering how this could possibly be relevant. "There were even times when I wondered if it was the phantom of the amorous farmer that lay with me in my bed."

"Precisely," smiled the Doctor. "You've got a phantom pregnancy!"