Moonlight melted into scarlet curtains and dripped onto the carpet. The dimly lit chamber awoke when a hitched gasp startled the silence. A dark silhouette rose from the ground and approached the light. Seventeen year old Isaac steadily reached for some kind of support as he clutched his aching head.
Nausea afflicted him as his body swayed with the lack of balance. He gave himself a moment to adjust himself as he slumped back to the carpeted floor. He had no memory of why or even how he ended up here…or anything for that matter. Everything was a blur. His mind converted to a fog growing thicker and thicker. His dry mouth opened and closed, as if taking breaths for the first time. Placing a hand over his heart, the beating had slowed and drummed softly against his fidgety fingers.
When Isaac finally composed himself, the first thing he became aware of was the ring weighing down on his right index finger. The gem centered into the silver band was so dark it nearly captured the likeness of a vacuum, but the flakes of green here and there dismissed the illusion.
Isaac’s attention turned to the floor where white pills had scattered—resembling pearls as they were immersed in the moon’s cascade. There was at least a dozen of them left to collect dust off the floor. An empty bottle accompanied the glistening pills, and sat there partially hidden by a pocket of shadow against the wall. It was if the bottle had been thrown against that spot and the pills had scattered amongst the room.
Isaac’s green eyes wandered the room, finding himself in a bedchamber that gave off a sense of familiarity, but the fog in his mind wouldn’t cease. He stared at it dumbly, from the molded ceiling to the four-poster bed with unkempt sheets that reeked—an indication that it hadn’t been washed for quite some time.
The four posts that held up the bed’s canopy were scratched, as if a knife had struck the delicate wood. Not to mention the pillows were thrown carelessly from the bed and sat lopsided against the mahogany nightstands. A glass oil lamp stood on top of one, while another lamp lay on the ground—broken. Isaac flicked the functional lamp on to allow an orange glow to chase the shadows from the wall behind it. Isaac stared at the light, finding some sort of comfort within the little warmth it gave off.
The last things noted were the bottles of pills laying on the night stands' surface, as well as a letter dangling off the stand’s edge. Finely written cursive danced across the ivory, and Isaac quietly observed to see what it had to offer.
February 2nd, 1897
You haven’t been yourself these past few months and it worries me so. Ever since your parents passed away—God bless their souls— you’ve kept yourself secluded in your home. I know this must be difficult to cope, but there appears to be something else troubling you. I’m coming over to see you in the next few days and I want you to tell me what’s wrong.
I don’t want you to be like this, especially when our wedding is approaching. I hope you didn’t forget, I’ve just picked out your favorite flower for the decorations. Sweet William. But if you prefer something else, that’s perfectly fine, I want what’s best for you, and for our special day to be a memorable one. I love you, Isaac, I hope for you to stay in good health.
P.S. There is something important I must tell you when I come over. I want to tell you this ahead of time so that you’re prepared.
“Joan ...” The name barely passed Isaac’s lips, it sounded so gentle like a song that should be sung. Unfortunately, no matter how hard he tried, Isaac couldn’t remember what she looked like. Though he was sure that her appearance was just as lovely as her name. He repeated the name once more in attempts to gain the slightest glimmer of recollection, but nothing came to clear the fog that engulfed his mind. Isaac returned the paper to the nightstand and started for the door, but it was locked. Furrowing his eyebrows, Isaac twisted the knob again but it wouldn’t budge. He stepped back and then felt something under his shoe. There was a small key lying there, as if it had been tossed away like the pills and lamp.
Perplexed, Isaac picked it up and used it to unlock the door. When he stepped out of the chamber and into a spacious foyer, his focus first fell on the two wrought iron chandeliers that hung over the grand staircase. Their small providence of candlelight barely held much illumination to the quiet foyer. The sconces perched on the walls didn’t aid as a useful guide either. Paintings of unknown figures climbed the walls and they all seemed to stare at Isaac once he approached the candlelight, but the teen dismissed it as simply his imagination.
Isaac proceeded down the long flight of stairs, descending with each foot taking precaution in the dark. He checked his surroundings; no one seemed to be around in the mansion except for him.
“Where is everyone?” Isaac asked, though found himself speaking in a whisper as if there were people around and he chose to be quiet. However, there were no servants, no lords or ladies, not even a dog scurried by. Only the moon which continued to shine its milky white light accompanied the teen. There was the occasional wind blowing from outside, but besides that—nothing.
Surveying the area, Isaac spotted a piano situated next to a baroque style couch and a gramophone. He advanced to the piano, tracing a hand over the keys and played a few notes out of interest. The piece echoed throughout the foyer, ringing before silence fell once more. Isaac turned his attention to the gramophone. He twisted the knob, and after a few seconds, a man’s voice was produced, along with the vague chattering of other gentlemen flowing in the background.
“It’s very generous but ... unusual for you to throw this party, Lord Harel. What’s the occasion?” The man’s voice was deep and held an abundance of curiosity.
“I had recently inherited this mansion from my parents, so I thought I should celebrate with a little gathering,” a young man’s voice responded rather optimistically with a smile evident in his tone.
“Ah, your parents, may their souls rest in peace. It’s almost been two months, hasn’t it? How are you settling in?”
“I’m quite well, actually, never been better.”
“That’s splendid to hear. I’m sure you will be an excellent Lord just like your father.”
“Thank you.” There was a short pause as a grandfather clock chimed at a steady beat.
“Why, look at the time, it’s almost dinner.”
The gramophone ended and the background chatter died down. Isaac turned to where the guests probably stood; surrounding the grand staircase as they laughed and gossiped. An image now lost as he saw nothing but the moon’s pale light drenching the carpeted steps. Above him, the chandeliers shone dimly with candlelight trailing up the wrought iron and leaving splashes of light on the ceiling where cracks were found. The cracks had sprouted from the chandelier’s medallions and Isaac wondered how long the ceiling could hold the opulent objects.
Isaac glanced at the entrance; stained glass windows framed the doors from top to bottom. Drops of rain could be seen trailing down the glass from the outside, slithering in long strands of silver. The remnants of a storm. Steadying towards the doors, Isaac found something tainting the bronze handles.
Bloody fingerprints…or what remained of them.
Observing closely, the door’s wood was scratched, but not enough to penetrate too much of the décor. Yanking the handle, the doors were bolted shut. Isaac’s face paled.
It’s locked? No. Isaac yanked at it again, but still no effort. He was locked inside the mansion. Isaac took in a breath, but couldn’t collect himself further as he found more blood on the carpet. Isaac stepped back as his eyes trailed to splotches of blood that led over to a pair of double doors on his left.
Before attempting to open the doors, a repulsive odor leaked out from underneath and caused Isaac’s nose to scrunch in disgust.
“What is in there?” Isaac asked, but didn’t gain a response as his voice only carried itself away. Isaac held his nose, contemplating if he should go inside, but the smell was too much and chose to leave.
Venturing to the other side of the foyer, Isaac entered a library with a stained-glass ceiling. Rainbow light melted off the glass, shining upon the variety of books that lined the cherry wood bookshelves. Marble columns supported the balconies of the second floor, and a narrow, spiral staircase was situated right in the center.
An old marble fireplace was settled at the far end with dying ambers lighting around the cover. A large painting hung right above the mantelpiece, and was ornamented in a golden frame. The painting revealed a family of three sitting together on a couch. On the far left was a young man, likely in his late twenties with slick black hair that framed his sharp face.
He smiled a welcoming smile, looking like someone who would kindly greet you into his home and always had stories to tell. His hand cupped his wife’s who also had a pleasant smile that softened her pale face. She was poised elegantly with sparkling jewelry adorning her neck and arms, and she wore a midnight blue dress that sprouted like a flower bud with its many layers. Seated on her lap was her son who was around six years old. He smiled the brightest and his green eyes were animatedly widened. He was ready to jump off his mother’s lap and run off to play, but stayed motionless as his mother’s hand rested on his shoulder.
Isaac stared up at the painting, wondering if he was that cheerful little kid that smiled back at him. His attention returned to the man. On his left hand was a ring perched on his pinkie, visibly seen by its dark green shine. It was the same ring that Isaac wore, and it still possessed its familiar glow as if time hadn’t passed.
Isaac took a few steps closer on further inspection, but the moment he moved forward, a ghastly breeze flew by, as if someone whispered in his ear. Isaac turned only to see the still books lining the walls and nothing more. Isaac took one last glance at the painting—the only object that proved that happiness was once had in this now darkened place—and approached the stairs.
The metallic stairs whined beneath Isaac’s feet as he mounted. When Isaac reached the top, he came across a small study area. An oak desk was propped next to the stairs, right beneath a small chandelier that faintly glowed orange. On the desk were piles of paper and books scattered all over, it was an utter mess. Isaac skimmed through some of them before one caught his attention.
June 5th, 1894
Research day #86
Ever since I’ve started this research, I’ve been hearing voices in my head. It distracts me from my work and I feel like I haven’t gotten anything done. All these books and notes have proven nothing so far. It’s nearly been a hundred days and in all those days, there have been voices. Am I being watched? Or is it all in my head? I usually go to the lab to do the rest of my work so the voices wouldn’t come back.
The voices are so low, almost like whispers. I can never distinguish what they say, and I don’t think I want to know. I will continue this research nonetheless, but by doing so in the lab. It is the upmost importance that I finish this, even if I must spend days and weeks or even months down there—I will complete it, even if it kills me.
Glancing at the other notes, there were countless and countless of remarks about the strange voices, as if they were addressed to a stranger who needed to leave but kept coming back again and again. Another thing noted was Edmund’s handwriting that appeared clean and elegant at the start of the research days, but became frantic and hurried by the end as if he couldn’t think straight. Out of curiosity, Isaac wondered what else he could’ve written in the lab. That entry was three years ago though, so there must be more information there.
Isaac rummaged through some more of the papers before spotting one that could be useful.
October 14th, 1896
It comes to my attention that the elevator in the basement keeps breaking down. How dreadful, it’s my only way to the lab but I must go down there. I must. The last time it broke down, I was trapped in the darkness and swore I heard something. There was this constant beating sound against the metal.
As it articulated and my heart rate accelerated, the elevator suddenly started to work again and I returned to the basement as quickly as I could. I’m not going back down there until that elevator is safe. I must get someone to fix it soon. I also need to lock the basement door; I can’t have anyone go down there—especially Isaac.
Right under the paper was a small bronze key. Isaac smiled slightly before tucking the key in his pocket. It should come into good use soon.
Once Isaac descended the stairs, a cold breeze swept by again and he noticed something unnerving. Turning back to the painting, the paint was wearing off—melting. The faces of the couple and child dissolved into a muddle of colors. Their warm smiles had disappeared and all that was left were ugly, disoriented smudges on the once jovial portrait.
The headache returned and a wave of nausea hit Isaac. He clutched his head and nearly tripped on the stairs. When he finally collected himself, he turned back to the painting, only to find that it was back to its original state.
Isaac gaped, wondering if his mind was playing tricks on him. He shook his head and exited the library, shutting the door behind him. He breathed out sharply before moving on, pushing the image out of his mind. Isaac then ventured to the back of the staircase where he found the basement door.
After successfully unlocking it, Isaac was welcomed by a dark abyss, beckoning him to go in. A shiver crept up Isaac’s shoulders, going down there blind was far too reckless. Surveying the foyer once more, he spotted a lit candelabra resting on a table. It wasn’t enough light, but it was at least some kind of guidance. Isaac held the silver tightly and the five candles blazed faintly before him. Taking another sharp breath, Isaac ventured into the dark.