Part 1: Welcome to Blackwood Manor
Chapter 1: Welcome to Blackwood Manor
My name is Michael Arthate, and I am supposed to be a successful novelist -- horror novelist, to be precise. Two years ago I wrote and published Vanishing Town: the critics were wild, and the book sold like... well, to quote an overused euphemism, hotcakes.
... Did I just write that? Reduced to such simple language! It is hardly a mystery that I am finding it hard to write the final chapter of my new book: what will ultimately be the deciding factor in the critics labelling me as a failed author with one coincidental success, or a new name in the genre. I never expected the pressure to mount up as it has... and the expectations of my fans is more of a burden than what any editor could say about my work.
Inspiration, however, has been lacking. Dreary, uninspiring walls surround me; I cannot even let my mind wander like it used to as I was writing Vanishing Town. That spark, that.. thread that led me through the pathways of my imagination into the depths of what I can only describe as.. well, twisted thoughts. Those words would send chills up the spine of any who picked up my book.
Hm. I am raving again. Since the day Jerry told me Blackwood Manor was finally mine, I have found my mind to be more prone to wandering... this is a good thing. What better source of inspiration than an old, Victorian manor nestled in the woods of England? Gothic architecture, gloomy decor, total silence save the creaking of the house's wooden floors and the ticking of an ancient grandfather clock... precisely what I need.
This journal will be a document of my time at Blackwood Manor. I sincerely hope that I will leave its pages empty in favor of spending time in front of my typewriter.
I leave for Blackwood Manor in 5 days.
* * *
Saturday, October 12th.
The drive to Rothbury was pleasant, although I was anxious to get into Blackwood Manor and explore its past and (who knows?) hidden treasures.
With dusk approaching fast, I made my way through the winding pathways of Northumberland's forests--you should have seen my face light up when I saw the manor's tower peeking through the trees!
Eager, I drove up to the manor's gate and made my way inside.
The manor was certainly a foreboding place, if not beautiful. Behind it, the sky was lit up by the fiery setting sun... I felt opressed, unwanted; and desperately wanted to throw myself inside the manor.
I had to check my car first, however.
It was the back of my car which, considering my non-existent technical expertise, I hoped I would never need to open.
It was the back of my car which, considering my non-existent technical expertise, I hoped I would never need to open.
I had forgotten to take my keys with me, so I pocketed them and walked out of the car. I had noticed a small letterbox by the gate, so I decided to check for mail.
The imposing main gates were guarding the entrance of the manor.
The mailbox was empty.
Nothing. I turned around, and with new resolve, made my way towards the manor. The pathway forked in various directions, but I resolved to explore those options later. All I could think of, under that pestilent sky, was to find shelter within the walls of the manor.
The door was locked, but I had stopped by at Jerry's office on my way to pick up the key.
The door creaked as it opened, as if marking my arrival to the long-gone owners of the home...
The ticking of the clock was the first thing to strike my attention as I shut the door behind me and took in the musty, stale air inside the manor. I felt a smile spread over my lips as the realization of where I was came crashing down on me--a true gothic manor! Oh, how I would write in a place like this; I could tell already that my muses would be happy to return to me in this ambience...
A majestic grandfather clock was ticking gently nearby. It was almost sleep-inducing, but I was glad it was working.
To my right there was a living room that certainly looked comfortable, but before I could explore further, the phone rang. I must admit I was rather startled at first, but setting my suitcase and typewriter down, I picked up.
It was Jerry.
J: Michael! It's me.
M: Hey Jerry! It's good to hear your voice.
J: I see that piece of junk you got there is working. So how did you find everything? Do you like the place?
M: It's... hard to tell yet. I'm very impressed, that's for sure!
J: Are you alright? You sound a little distant. Is everything alright with the house?
M: Yes yes yes, it's perfetly fine, it's just that I'm in awe. I mean pleasantly surprised. This house is like a dream come true.
J: So you do like it! You got me worried there for a second.
M: Oh no, I intend to turn this house into a factory of horror stories!
J: Good, you ought to finish that book. I'm rooting for you, mate. You sure everything is in order?
M: Yes Jerry, everything is fine. I'll call you if there is anything else.
Jerry's constant enthusiasm was, and remains until this day, one of the finer, yet slightly annoying aspects of his behaviour. Shaking my head at his unnecessary concern, I set the phone down and decided to make my way upstairs, where I knew a room was set up for me, to put my increasingly heavy luggage down.
I remembered that Jerry said a nice room had been prepared for me upstairs.
I knew my room was straight up the stairs, and the first door on the right. I did get distracted, momentarily, by the numerous paintings on the wall. Whoever owned this house must have been an avid collector.
Another painting, closer to my room's door, also caught my attention.
The gallery extended throughout the length of the home, displaying several more works of art. I made a mental note to examine them later, as I opened the door to my room.
I quickly realized that this had to be my room. It became evident why, as I glimpsed at the gorgeous view through the huge window.
Certainly cosy. The large window over the desk gave me a spectacular view of the grounds below; no wonder Jerry had designated this to be my room! I quickly set my things down, eager to explore the place.
Just in case, I tried again, but still there was no power.
On my way in, I flicked the light switch on the wall, to give the room a little more light. Unfortunately, the lights were not working. I decided to phone Jerry about that later.
A beautiful oak desk was standing against a window with an extraordinary and inspiring view.
My loyal typewriter was inside that case.
I was eager to start doing some work, but the idea of exploring the place was too tempting.
I had taken some of my notes with me.
The ending... have to come up with a suitable ending. The final twist was the most celebrated aspect of VT - they will tear me apart if I don't pull off another thing like that. But how how how...
I'm up to the point where Steve goes mad. She is confused... the visions are becoming real. So we knew for sure there's a supernatural element in the story (wait... is that really so?). Question is: does it have anything to do with the creepy old lady or not? Would it be too obvious if her powers were real after all?
Big big question: would people accept it if the solution to the story is unreal? Damn why am I trying to please everybody here?
NO DEUS EX MACHINA
On the other hand... a realistic solution disguised as supernatural. Is that possible? They are expecting something like that... a real and probably outcome, that's what they loved in VT.
Bloody hell!! This is driving me insane...
The chest of drawers next to the table would make a handy place to set my suitcase down. I hadn't packed much, as I am fond of travelling light.
Almost as though it were mocking me, VT was the first thing that stared at me as I opened my suitcase. Frowning, I picked the book up and read the back for what must have been the millionth time:
The #1 Best-seller.
"The most breathtaking page-turner of the year!"
A passing traveller comes across the small town of Fetch Rock set in Cornwall, England, only to find that it is completely deserted, devoid of any signs of lfe. Houses, shops, town hall, church... no human being to be seen. The traveller informs the authorities of a nearby town of this fantastic event. The next day an officer accompanied by two policement visits Fetch Rock... except everything is back to normal.
Ten years later, John Parker, a journalist, reluctantly accepts the assignment to investigate these strange events, as they have now grown into a pressitent local legend. Could it have al been a practical joke played by that anonymous traveller? Or did something truly strange take place in the vanishing town? Things become more mysterious, when Parker learns no inhabitant of Fetch Rock remembers what happened on that day...
What at first seems to be a lousy job for Parker eventually turns into a nightmare as Fetch Rock is no ordinary town... but home to deadly secrets and a lurking evil!
"In this outstanding debut, Michael Arthate has concocted a wonderfully twisted tale, bound to keep you guessing until the last page."
- Psychotic Dreams Magazine
"If H.P. Lovecraft was alive and suddenly decided to write his take on The Wicker Man, the result would be this book. Deep, engaging reading... and downright terrifying!"
- Tales from R'lyeh.
Michael Arthate is a newcomer writer to the genre. Born in Providence, Rhode Island, and settled later in London, England, his first novel is proof that he takes no prisoners when the goal is to scare people. With a fresh and compelling writing style, Michael has published several short stories in mystery/horror magazines. His upcoming book is eagerly anticipated by his new legion of fans.
De la Poer Publishing House
I continued to rummage through my suitcase, and found a few other useful items.
I made sure to memorize Jerry's phone number; I could imagine it becoming useful. I had also brought the final letter he had sent me--never before had a single manuscript made me so happy, not even the sales figures of VT.
Oct 7th, 1976,
It took me months, but at last I think I have it managed. Well, I mean 'think' so to speak as there are only a very few details left, but I can confirm with certainty that the house is yours. I owe you an apology because I didn't think it would take me that much time. I tell you, I'd have never thoguht that finding a Victorian house, and no more and no less than in Rothbury, would have been so hard. The maojrity of the old houses in this region are either impossible to live in or they belong to the aristocracy. As if that wasn't enough, you and your blood whims. Was it really that necessary being so cut off from town? Why all this sudden need for solitude? Well, as long as you don't become of those typical hermit writers...
Anyway, the beauty will take your breath away. It belonged to a wealthy family that always took great care of it. Around the mid 60's, it became the property of one person... I believe friend of the family. He lived there for about five years or so and then abandoned it. Yes, you read right : abandoned it. As far as I know, this lunatic, a renowned doctor, spent his last days getting drunk in lousy bars before vanishing from the face of the earth. Why would someone do that is beyond me... The house then became property of the National Trust and, surprisingly enough, no one ever did anything about it. That is, until I rescued it from oblivion of course! It took me a lot of work so I hope you like it.
The price is just as we discussed earlier. I know it's hard to believe but the price of the interior was never agreed upon, so whatever you find inside, be it furniture or lor a long lost Rembrandt, it's yours. Just remember our deal: if you find anything of great value, you have to share it! Now I won't bother you if your sofa collection happens to be valued in the thousands, but if you bump into a hidden cache of money (and you can never know really) then I want a piece of it! Wait a second... if you happen to sell any important items you find inside such as your sofa collection, I should get a part of that too. Business is business, my friend!
By the way, I sent two people over yesterday to clean it from top to bottom. Six years without inhabitants must have left a nice coat of dust, don't you think? They couldn't do wonders though, and you are going to need weeks to fully clean the place. Oh, they told me the house seems to have a rat problem, but you can't have it all!
Should you need anything, don't hesitate to give me a call!
As I read the letter, that euphoria from the previous week began to flood back into my mind. Smiling, I put the letter down and decided I should explore the manor a little more before busying myself with work. After all, the place was my property!
I made my way downstairs, with the intention of revisiting that lounge I had seen upon entering the manor...
As the soft ticking of the clock paced itself into my ears, I walked into the silent lounge. I could almost see the guests that would have been entertained here, sitting before the fire and discussing... well, whatever it was that the previous owners were interested in. How they must have spent the hours of the night, their world lit only by the flickering flames in that modest fireplace...
The books on the table picqued my interest; perhaps they would provide me with some insight as to the previous owners of the house. I sat down, and picked up a brown, leatherbound tome.
It was a diary, of some sort. Intrigued, I flicked through the pages...
During a fit of rage I burnt my previous diary. Not that I regret it... as if my disjointed notes were worth anything. Their only purpose was to keep me sane. I feel that this is my escape route, my only means of finding some inner peace. Whenever I put my pen to this paper, I feel that I can reflect upon my situation... I just wish I had more options, that's all. But I'm rambling. I must think clearly... focus, focus...
I've become an eternal guardian... stuck between few choices, some of which are good. Do I fulfill a promise and violate everything that I believe in, the very principles of my life, or am I condemned to spend the rest of my existence in this deadened state, a ghost with no other purpose than just being here watching? I truly have no escape... I can't find an appropriate solution to this problem... and I must pay the price. I'm a shadow of the man I used to be. Only these notes remain, my testament in these moments of mediation, my sole companion.
Today I spent the entire afternoon staring at the window, my mind a blank. Oddly enough, I really didn't care. It sems now as though it was something... natural for me, a part of my personality. But I know the reason very well. I've lost my soul. I'm an empty shell, devoid of any feelings. I renounced them on that fateful day... and the worst thing is I KNEW there were going to be consequences. No... no, that's not true. Consequences were far worse than I expected. How could I be so blind?
I often wonder what would have happened if we had simply reversed it all... what would happen if right now I came out and told the world what really happened. No, I'd end up rotting in jail. Although... that might be better destiny compared to this eternal suffering.
I can't say for sure when it began. I just heard them, one morning, coming from next room... the whispers. Are they real? Have I been alone for too long? THey won't stop, I can't stand it any longer...
Ever since I locked it away that everything seems to have calmed down a bit. Perhaps James was right after all... it's madness, I know. But at this point I'd be inclined to believe anything.
Over the years I was convinced that everything James suffered was a misfortune, a whim of destiny... for the first time ever, I'm not so sure anymore. I never thought it could happen, but I believe I understand now. If this is so, then cursed be my soul! Poor James... if I had acted in another way then maybe things would have worked out differently. But it's too late now. And I have to suffery my Calvary...
The noises are back although this time they're different. Before, I'd only hear them inside my head, as if someone or something was whispering and... how to put this... interrupting my thoughts. But now... I can really FEEL them spread around the house. What are they?
I've realised... the noises are coming from down there. I don't want to think about it anymore.
They are unbearable... they get worse at night... oh how I wish it would stop... what is going on down there? I don't dare go nearer... I don't want to know...
God how many years have passed? I have lost all sense of time...
I have to get out of this place.
I was unsettled, to say the least. Who would write such things? Such.. ravings? My mind was already racing--could the noises heard by the anonymous author have been real? Were they a figment of his imagination, a product of the insanity brought on by loneliness, or was there something more... sinister? I shuddered, rubbed my eyes, and stood up. There were more pressing issues on my mind than the ravings of a lunatic.
So where to, Goons? Should we call Jerry about the lack of electricity, or should we explore the Manor (or the outside) some more?