Atop the hill sits a large, stately house. The residents of the small town know it well. It overlooks the suburbs, on the last, northern road out of town. Strangely, nobody knows who lives there. The house is just…there. Whenever a stranger inquires about the odd building, the answer is always the same.
“Now that you mention it…I don’t know who lives there. It’s just always been there”.
From the road, you can see a little up the driveway, but the view of the house is obscured by small trees. The garden is well kept. Occasionally, there are lights on in the house, so it seems reasonable that there is someone living there. Curious. What a strange, interesting house it is. Despite this, it is quickly forgotten in conversation. When it becomes apparent that nobody knows the story, the subject moves on. No one spends too much time thinking about the queer house on the hill. Nobody has much to say about Scarrowcroft Manor…
1st of January.
I am not the owner of Scarrowcroft Manor, nor am I its tenant. I am not a servant or an employee at this establishment, however I have found that I am here, and it appears that I am here to stay. I awoke several days ago, lying on the floor of the lobby, with nothing in my possession but bewilderment. My clothes, my memory and even my name were left behind. It has been days since I arrived and these things are still lost to me.
From what I gather, Scarrowcroft Manor is a sizeable mansion on a hill, overlooking a small town in what I assume to be Middle England. From the second story window I can just make out a street sign that appears to point to Windsor Drive. The fact that the sign is in English and that the name “Windsor” is used is my only basis for this assumption. From the same window, I see the occasional passing of small people in the distance. No matter how hard I scream, no matter how excitedly I wave, they do not appear to see me. It is too far.
On the first day, I tried the various entrances and exits to the Manor, but found them all to be locked. They will not budge no matter how much force I apply, and believe me; I have applied a considerable amount of force. Even the axe in the cellar left nothing more than a scratch, to my unending confusion. I appear to be a prisoner here, for reasons unknown. My bars are made of wood and glass, so frustratingly fragile in my memory, yet seemingly indestructible now.
It seems that the belongings of the previous owners have been left behind. There are plenty of things to keep me occupied. The library is full. The study has all manners of writing and artistic materials. The kitchen is well stocked. The television, unfortunately, reveals only static. The radio tells the same story. I spend most of the first week reading in an armchair at the bay windows by day, and by the fireside by night. There appears to be enough wood to last me several winters in the cellar stock. This causes me to wonder how long I will be kept here, and if anyone will ever come to release me. I spend many hours in complete silence, pondering and pondering. Where am I? Who has done this to me?
After what I believe to be a month’s time, I decide that I may have to spend more time here than I had previously hoped. Luckily, the owners had left behind a calendar. The year had been scratched out with a black pen. What year is it? It was only then that I realised I did not know.
I started doing some exercise in order to keep myself from succumbing to cabin fever, although the crushing loneliness covers my mind with a dull veil, a pessimism so complete that I often contemplate ending my own life. Surely that will end this devious affair? I lose myself in my books and my exercise.
I begin my journal on this day. As I had no idea as to the true date, I decided it would be reasonable to begin my writings on the first of January. The entries should serve as a method of keeping time, if nothing else. Though, most days I have little to report.
I broke my hand, hammering on the door. I screamed for hours, begging and pleading for my captors to release me, but I do not know if my pleas were even heard, never mind acknowledged.
Despite having broken my hand yesterday, I am in no pain today. I can even move it. It does feel a little sluggish, however. Surely such an injury could not heal so quickly? Perhaps it was never broken at all. Perhaps it is just this place, playing tricks on me. I remain confused. It is enough to drive one mad.
The occasional person in the distance from my spot at the second floor window does little but aggravate me. I have descended into foolish rage more than once. I have broken my fair share of furniture in my frustration.
What the blazes is going on here? I slowly chiselled away at the wooden door frame with a screwdriver, in hopes of removing the door entirely. However, after partaking in my evening meal, I returned to find the door once again without a scratch. I had heard nothing, seen nothing. How are my efforts at escape continually being thwarted? I think it is time to open the whiskey. I have remained sober long enough.
January 3rd, Year 2.
I have been in this damned house for more than a year now.
February 27th, Year 2.
The pantry is running low. I am down to my last few tins of ham and pork. The bread ran out months ago, as did the vegetables. Am I to starve in here? Is that the sick fantasy my captors are forcing me to play out for them? Is this an experiment of some kind? An exploration of madness?
March 1st, Year 2.
My frustration became bewilderment and fear once again this morning. I have been captive in this prison for a year and two months. Yesterday I finished the last tin of ham. I had resigned myself to my fate; however my unconscious, futile need for food drove me to check the pantry once more. It was as full as it had been on the day of my awakening, and with the exact same food, down to the precise number of carrots and potatoes. In the same places. Had someone been in here while I slept? Perhaps starvation was not their intent. Perhaps I have not yet fulfilled my purpose. Do I have a purpose?
November 11th, Year 2
I have nothing to write in these accursed journals. I do nothing. I feel nothing. Each day is the same monotonous schedule, without change. I wake, I eat, I read, I sleep. I curse the eyes of those who trapped me here.
January 1st, Year 3
Another year passes. Once again, I recycle this stupid calendar, marking off the days for a third infernal time. The pantry has been refilled in my sleep again. Someone is watching out for me. Perhaps observing my every movement, like an ominous big brother. Do they think themselves a God? Tending to my needs, but only in such a way that I survive and no more? Such that I doubt their existence? But surely they must exist. Surely there is someone orchestrating this cruel, despicable circumstance. Whoever they are, damn them. Damn them to a hell worse than this. My state of fear has long since become a state of severe indifference.
February 3rd, Year 6.
Five years into my stay, my fear was renewed in such a fashion that I can barely bring myself to tell of the encounter. It began when I was sitting by the fireplace, reading an old tome on the history of the Anglo-Saxons. I had barely finished the first chapter when I heard a knock at the door.
My initial bewilderment gave way to unparalleled excitement as I rushed to the front door, but this glorious feeling was cruelly snatched away from me when I discovered that the door still would not budge. It was then that I heard another knock. And realised that it was coming from within the house, not from without. I followed the noise. I found myself in the kitchen, the supposed origin of the knocking. I jumped as i heard it again…coming from the cellar door. I slowly reached out. I opened the cellar door.
I immediately wished I hadn't. The sight that confronted me was the most terrifying experience of my life, or what I remember of my puny, worthless life in this infuriating place. At first i saw nothing but darkness, but then…at the bottom of the stairs, a pair of eyes. There was nothing out of the ordinary about these eyes, save for the unnatural way they shone in the darkness. It was the grim, devillous grin that shook me to the soul. The smile was wide, too wide for a human mouth, and it hooked upwards at the corners. The gleaming white teeth shone like beacons in the black. As I stared in horror, I saw this vile creature move his dark, featureless leg into the light…one step towards me.
With an exclamation of sheer terror, I slammed the door and locked it. Without a moment wasted, I smashed the rocking chair from the living room and used it to nail the cellar door shut. I had barely finished my handiwork before i heard that horrifying knock once again. Knock knock, knock knock. The rhythm was always the same. I backed out of the kitchen and ran up the stairway, locking every door behind me. I lay awake all night, the axe by my side, staring at the door and waiting for the knock.
February 4th, Year 6.
It took me a whole day to gather the courage to venture out of my bedroom. I now considered it my bedroom. I had lived in this house for five years, and while I could not bring myself to think of this hellish place as my home, I permitted myself to at least consider this room my safe haven. It was on the third floor, the only room on this level. The furthest point from the cellar. When I stepped out of the room, I swept the house, looking for any sign of a disturbance. There was nothing.
February 11th, Year 6.
A week later, I permitted myself the courage of stepping into the kitchen. I peeked through the sliver of the door at the cellar entrance, and to my relief, the door was still barricaded. There was no knocking. Soon, I managed to return to my previous routine, but the incident with the face in the darkness was not forgotten. It was never forgotten.
March 16th, Year 6.
Busying myself has become more of a chore. My exercise regime has left me in great shape, while my continuous reading has opened up my mind to a myriad of new ideas. I look forward to writing my journals, and I consider turning them into a novel. Perhaps if I ever escape from this place, I will sell the story to the papers and make a fortune. This is but one of the many plans i made for the future. Will I ever get the chance to implement them?
November 30th, Year 6.
I realise that I have not said a word in months, possibly years. My only exclamations of sound have been mere noises. I try to say something, but find my voice is completely gone. Will it ever return?
February 3rd, Year 7.
February third, once again. Another year had come and gone. I once again sat by the fire, this time with an old Dickens novel. I had made my way through a large chunk of the library, but I still have many more to go. My cup of Earl Grey tea, with a slice of lemon, sat on the coffee table by my side. I almost spat out my gulp when I heard the knocking once more. I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t even be sure I had heard it at first. But when the second knock came, I knew there could be no doubt. I run up the stairs for my axe, this time eager to face the demon. I want answers, and perhaps this…thing can give them to me. I rush back down the stairs, but do not think to tread cautiously until I reach the Kitchen. This was a mistake.
I burst into the living room and once again I am confronted with a sight that struck fear into my heart. By the dim light of the fire, I see a figure in my armchair, reading my book. The eyes shone through the dull light…just like the grin. The face takes a sip of my tea and the smile widens. I drop the axe out of fright and stumble out of the room. The door shuts just as I saw the figure rise from the chair.
My plan worked last time, so I saw no reason why it would not work once again. Out of sheer adrenaline, I smash the cabinet against the wall. I use the pieces to barricade the door once again. I was lucky to have kept my tool kit in the bedroom rather than the living room…which is now out of reach. The demon has come once again…and I do not think he has any motive other than to cause me harm.
February 4th, Year 7.
Why does he plague me so? The kitchen and the Living room are out of bounds now, leaving access only to the dining room and the library on the ground floor. I knew this was too close, so I began moving books and useful items upstairs immediately.Soon, many of the other bedrooms were filled with the contents of the library, as well as some tools, cooking appliances and furniture from downstairs. My main worry is now food. With the kitchen off limits, how am I to reach the pantry? Cooking is no problem, as there was a camping stove in the dining room cupboard as well as many other items of use, but there was not a scrap to eat. Is this the end of my journey?
February 6th, Year 7.
No it is not, apparently. I looked down the staircase a few days after the return of the demon to discover that there was a large pile of food by the living room door. Not as much as was in the pantry, but certainly enough to keep me going for months.
August 16th, Year 7.
As it turned out, the food would return to the same place as soon as I went to sleep after the last pile was depleted. I waited until that moment, went for a quick nap and awoke less than half an hour later to discover it was already there, as if it simply appears out of thin air. This place is not natural. This place is not real.
November 8th, Year 7.
One demon plagues me. Another provides me with food. Is it the same demon? I know nothing of how this layer of hell works. That’s what it is, I’m sure. A layer of hell. I wonder what I did to deserve this.
January 12th, Year 8.
I continue my routine as best i can, but I am getting worn out. I barely manage to sleep for longer than a few hours, half out of fear and half out of exhaustion so complete that sleep in this place does little to subside it. I let my hair and beard grow long. I just do not care any more.
January 27th, Year 8.
Will the demon come again? The anniversary grows near.
February 2nd, Year 8.
It was just my luck that the food runs out on February the Second. The demon appeared on the past two February thirds, so i have no reason to believe he will not show his disgusting face again this year. I go to sleep, awaiting my inevitable shudder into reality a few hours from now.
February 3rd, Year 8.
Much to my dismay, I appear to have slept for hours. It is most definitely February third now, as I can see sunlight stream in through the window. Yet I hear no knocking as of yet. I remember that the demon only seems to appear at night, usually around 8pm, so I cautiously sneak into the hallway and prepare to run down and snatch the food. No sign of his atrocious grimace. Perhaps it is safe to venture downstairs.
I was halfway down the staircase when the lights went out. It appeared that the sun went out too, as I found myself in complete darkness. I froze and felt the cold grip of fear once again. I had no doubt who was behind this. Looking around, I saw no inkling of the bright eyes and smile. I turned around and began running up the stairs, which passed without incident. Upon reaching the landing above, all was silent. I felt my way towards the door to the stairs which led up to my bedroom. I had managed to stumble through half of the corridor when I heard it. The sound of creaking stairs as someone walked up them. Throwing caution to the wind, I ran towards what I hoped was the door to my bedroom. Success! I fumbled with the lock for ten seconds before managing to get it open, ever looking for any sense of bright eyes and teeth. I did not see them. The door crashed open and I fell forward onto the stairway. I flipped onto my back so that I could shut the door with my foot and there he was – standing just outside the doorway was the smile I had learned to fear with all my being. I slammed the door with a kick from my boot, before ramming into it with my shoulder and turning the lock. I had left a frying pan by the door for use as a crude weapon in case such an event should take place, so I grabbed it and sat down on the stairs, exhausted. I was but a meter from the door. Watching. Waiting.
Knock knock, knock knock.
The knocking continued at intervals of a minute each time. All night long. I didn’t sleep a wink.
March 29th, Year 8.
I no longer have the luxury of reading. Most of my books are now off-limits to me. I still have a few in my bedroom, but only a few. I discovered that now my food appears at the bottom of the stairway, just inside the locked door. There is a much smaller pile this time. Ten tins of ham. Sixteen carrots. A loaf of bread. A bottle of water. Some butter. It would still replenish when I ran out, but there was less variety in my meals these days. Yet another small torture.
May 30th, Year 8.
I have nothing to barricade the door with this time, save for my bedside table and bed. I considered breaking one apart, but decided that there was no point. On February the third, that demon was coming in, whether I liked it or not. I counted down the days on my calendar.
June 20th, Year 8.
Even if I wanted to venture out of this room, I discovered that I couldn’t. When unlocked, the door refused to budge, much like the front door and the other entrances to the manor. Curse this place! Curse it with every fibre of every being on this damned planet!
July 3rd, Year 8.
I finished my books in a few months. There is now nothing to do but write my journal. I can barely find the motivation to do so, being the broken man that I am, but I push through it. Someone must know my plight.
Some time in December, Year 8.
I was barely awake when I heard the knocking. I burst into tears. He’s early! He has come for me ahead of time! Why did he take this one last comfort from me, the comfort of knowing his schedule? Why must he torment me so? The knocking continued throughout the day at minutely intervals, the rhythm boring a hole into my very being.
January? Year 9, I think.
The leather bound book in which I have written my journal is almost finished, with only a few pages left. This is no major problem, as all I seem to do these days is sit in silence and await the maddening knocking, which comes every couple of days now. I am surprised that I am not a gibbering wreck. Time passes so slowly. Night blends into day.
Who gives a damn about the blasted date?
I go to collect my food on the morning of whatever. I stopped counting. Who cares? The schedule is gone, as is my patience. All I know is that it is sometime in late January. Perhaps early February. Should that date mean something to me? I can barely think straight. I stop short as I look down the stairway to discover the door is wide open and a foul darkness is seeping in. It is time.
I shove the bed over the opening to the stairway and pile everything I own on top. The demon may take me but I am not making it easy for him, the detestable beast. I can hear him knocking again. Is he knocking on the back of the bed? It sounds much closer, as if he is knocking on my very mind. Damn his eyes, this spawn of Satan, this offspring of witches, this son of a whore. I grip the frying pan tight. This shall be my sword.
I am on the last page of my journal. I can only fit in a few more lines. I feel this is for the best, as my demise is surely imminent. With my last words, I shall not curse the demon. I shall curse the bastards who imprisoned me in this god awful bastion. I hope their insides are devoured by maggots! I hope whoever they are, that they feel the pain of a thousand blades cut deep within their flesh! I hope they…
The man finished the page. There was no space left for him to curse. He sighed. It was a sound filled with incredible sorrow and pain. He prepared himself to meet his maker. Adjusting his collar, he moved to place his finished journal on the floor. He was surprised to discover that the floor did not feel right. It felt like it was a lot higher than it should be. Confused, he glanced to his right. His journal had come to rest upon a pile of books. This was not the only pile. Mountains of leather bound books covered the room, now that he thought about it. How long had they been there? Had he gone completely mad? Or had they appeared out of nowhere, just like the food? The incessant knocking continued. He moved his journal aside and picked up another.
January 1st, Year 1
I do not know where I am. Several books and pieces of stationary state that this place is somewhere known as “Scarrowcroft Manor”, but I have never heard of such a place. I have been here for months now, so I decided to start a journal…I guess I should begin on January 1st as I don’t know the date…
He picked up another.
January 1st, Year 1
Where am I? I woke up this morning in this strange mansion, with no memory. Had I been drinking last night? Is this some sort of joke played by my peers at the University? If that is the case, then it certainly is elaborate, as I cannot seem to leave…
Frantically, the man picked up another journal, and another. They all told the same story. He skimmed to the middle…around the date of February the third.
February 3rd, Year 6
I have never known such horror! As I awoke from a short slumber, I heard an ominous knocking at the cellar door. Upon opening, I was confronted with a sight unlike any I had ever seen! A cold, bright light emitting from a pair of dead eyes, and a grin…such a grin! It was unlike anything I have ever seen…
February 3rd, Year 6
I was cooking my final meal of the day when I heard a knock at the cellar door. This was confusing as I didn’t realise there was anyone else here with me. However, when I went down to check, I was scared out of my wits by a face! And oh, what a face…it seemed to be the devil himself…
February 3rd, Year 6
I cannot bring myself to write about what I saw this day. The smile of Satan, the eyes of hell.
The man collapsed in dismay. Many men had befallen the same fate as he. Or had he lived through this hell time and time again? There were no answers. There was no solace. When the demon finally took him…would he have to relive the horrors of this past decade? He dropped his head into his hand and let out the first word he had said in years.
“Why?” he whimpered to himself.
He removed his hands from his face and opened his eyes. He was met with a familiar smile.
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