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Carrie’s alarm sounded at 06:30, echoing around the crypt with a jarring jangle and flashing coloured lights. Roused from a dead sleep, Carrie struggled up off the mattress and flung her hand out to grab her vibrating phone. Throat lined with a thin patina of stone dust, she clambered drowsily out of the tangles of her sleeping bag and duvet, space blanket protesting her escape from its insulating clutches. The crypt was always chilly, and the cold spots – which Carrie most certainly did not associate with paranormal activity – came and went at inconvenient hours of the night. This was, after all, a final resting place, not somewhere a sleepy twenty-something should be waking up.

              The crypt was the only structurally sound part of the building, the original thirteenth century masonry providing the only shelter that Carrie could now afford. It probably served her right for thinking she’d be safe from the departmental downsizing, and sinking her savings into the renovation project. Now she was stuck under the only roof she had left, the Georgian structure above her a skeletal mess of rotting boards, half-finished plaster and exposed wiring.

She groaned with the stiffness in her neck, and dressed in the dark.

          The first time she saw the place, its ruined face and one-eyed window-less stare still majestic and proud in the middle of the brambles and ivy, it was as if it had reached out and punched her in the chest. For a while, she had stood still in the middle of the grounds, unable to move or think or breathe. I AM YOURS, The Crows told her. YOU ARE MINE.

And she was.

Like a lover, she went to sleep that night in her two-bedroom flat and dreamed of the vast acres of unkempt grounds, broken stone walls crumbled into weeds, her bed floating in the middle of the thorny chaos. She dreamed the building was wrapping its walls around her bed, the plaster growing back like a new skin, and the heavy, red, fleur-de-lys wallpaper smoothing over its nakedness. The ceiling stretched above her, oak beams racing towards the twisting chandelier. She was cocooned in the room, and The Crows creaked around her, 'I AM YOURS. YOU ARE MINE.'

It was no wonder she had sunk the entirety of her savings into it.


It was where she belonged.

The electricity wasn’t actually connected, so Carrie was using a solar panel device she’d bought off the internet to power her lamp and charge her mobile. She bundled her scattered laundry into her bag-for-life to take over to Susan’s, then, jeans securely belted and blouse buttoned incorrectly, she donned her hard-hat and headed up the stairs.

             Braving the trip to the kitchen, Carrie ducked the wires dangling from the ceiling where the rotted beams had been ripped out and replaced, and the doorway gaped, door-less, into the vast space. This part of the house had been salvaged first because of the original bread oven and great Victorian range, but the only thing that worked was the butane camping stove in the middle of the floor where the table had been.

Carrie went on autopilot. The birds were barely awake yet, although the clouds were lightening a little, underbellies mottled with the promise of dawn. The window glass had been put back in, thank god, and through the bevelled panes the building site of a garden greeted her with the sight of JCBs at rest.

You won't regret this, The Crows promised her.

The auctioneer had raised his gavel and brought it down, and there went Carrie's pension fund. The renovations swallowed everything else, money pouring into the maw of the old estate and trickling away through pipes and wires, absorbed in carpentry and plastering, lining the corduroy pockets of surveyors and architects.

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