Part 6: Scratches
Slightly shorter update today, sorry. Expect something longer for the next one!
Chapter 4: Scratches
I sat down on my bed and began to empty my pockets, when I realized I was still hanging onto that odd piece of paper I had found in the photographer's (whom I now presume is the maid) room. Fumbling for a pencil, I began to doodle on the page and complete erased letters... until I discovered it was actually a letter!
I managed to reveal what appeared to be a letter in Italian.
My first instinct was to slip the letter into an envelope and send it off, but then I realized I had no idea who I would address it to.
I certainly needed help with the letter, but who would I have mailed it to?
I then remembered that Barbara had spent five years living in Italy as a student! I dashed downstairs, picked up the phone and called her.
M: Hey, it's me. Barbie, dear, I need to ask you a favour.
B: Bring it on.
M: I found a letter here and I'm curious about it. It's in Italian... do you think you could translate it for me?
B: My, Mr. Arthate, are we being nauthy?
M: Mrs. Stiles...
B: Yes yes, of... of course I can. Just send me the letter and I'll put hands to work as soon as I have it here. Have you told the post office in Rothbury that you were moving to Blackwood Manor?
M: Yes, Jerry did. I just hope they don't forget about me, that's all. In any case, thakn you, you're such a dear.
B: That's what I'm here for.
M: Actually, that's what I'm paying you for. Anyway, I'll go and try mailing that letter.
B: I'll be standing by for action! Good luck!
Satisfied, I put the phone down. After jotting the address of the office down on the envelope with my pen, I stepped outside to put it in the mailbox.
All I needed was a quick glance up to the sky to realize that it would be getting dark soon. ... I wouldn't be caught dead wandering these grounds alone after sundown without a source of light.
The time was 7:00 P.M.
I made my way upstairs. It was time for bed.
It was getting late. Perhaps it was a good time to go to sleep.
I laid down on the bed...
* * *
I stirred in bed, and felt my mind calling out to my body -- 'Wake up!' Slowly, I raised my eyelids: it took me a moment or two to gain my bearings, as I always do when sleeping in a new bed. The guest room I was in definately felt different... and the longer I focused my eyes on a single place, the more I seemed to... well, move towards it, while standing still. I rubbed my eyes, and stood up.
Then, I realized why I had woken up. There was a hammer banging somewhere in the house. I felt a chill run down my spine: who would be making those noises, at this time, in this house?!
The sound of a hammer wouldn't let me sleep.
Bolting out of my bedroom, I stopped to listen again once I had reached the corridor. I needed to find out where those noises were coming from!
... But of course! The gallery! Driven by an almost obsessive curiosity, I strode down and swung the doors open.
It took me a while to realize what was different. One of the display cases was gone, and behind it, there was a barred door!
Stepping over to it, I gave it a quick look. I wouldn't be able to open the door, barred as it was. I noticed, however, that a hammer lay on the ground in front of the door.
I kneeled to pick it up, but as my hand grasped the tool, I felt my vision faltering... a definite sluggishness infected me, and I felt my conciousness slipping...
I awoke, some unknown time later, back in my bed. I realized, the, that I had been dreaming.
I was awakened from my strange dream by some odd noises revebrating around the room.
I apprehensively examined my surroundings, this time -- I knew for certain that this was reality. The room felt more... concrete, somehow; unlike the fleeting, almost mystical aspect it had assumed in my dream. What struck me and made me realize that I was awake, however, were the noises coming from all directions. They were loud enough to rouse me from my sleep, but more importantly... they seemed to be definitely caused by someone, or something. They sounded like... like scratches.
As I got up, I noticed that the noises seemed to be coming from the fireplace...
Suddenly, the noises seemed to get louder...
I knew for certain that the noises were coming from somewhere close to the fireplace. Reaching into my belongings, I pulled out the stethoscope I had obtained from the doctor's bag and pressed it against the cold stones.
I listened carefully as I moved the stethoscope around the fireplace. Yes, the noises were coming from there... but I still couldn't determine their source.
I stood up and put the stethoscope around my neck. With a feeling of dread lodged firmly in the pit of my stomach, I creeped out of my room and headed downstairs, as the scratching noises grew louder.
I glanced at the clock as I made my way to the kitchen. I knew that I was going to the basement, but I hadn't quite had time to realize the folly of my actions. How interesting that a man is overcome with unconcious courage in the most distressing of times!
It was 12:00 A.M.
I thought about investigating, but then I realized the basement would be pitch black at this time... I couldn't go down there without some light.
As much as I wanted to find the source of the scratches, I wouldn't be able to proceed without a source of light.
I thought back to the old lamp I found in the attic, but my searching had not yet yielded any oil. I thought better than to search the house in the dead of night, without any electricity. I made my way back to the lounge, to examine the fireplace there.
Shivering, I pressed the stethoscope against the stones... I did not know what I expected to hear, to be honest.
Just as they had begun out of nowhere, the scratching noises stopped.
I was glad, in a way, that the noises had ceased. I would not allow my mind to ponder on what... or who I had heard. There would be no use searching the house without any light, and so I decided to simply go back upstairs and do my best to go back to sleep.
The scratches had stopped. I thought it was the right moment for me to sleep.
I went back to bed...
I could not tell you how many hours it took me to eventually drift back to sleep. My mind was racing, my imagination haunting me with fabricated noises and fake phantasms. Every time I seemed to open my eyes, I would see shadows and shapes moving... all figments of my troubled and disturbed mind. Exhaustion, perhaps even delirium soon overtook me, and I drifted off into a troubled sleep that did little to rest me.
* * *
I awoke to the sound of rain beating heavily against the windows of my room.
On the second day, a fierce storm had assaulted the land. I could hear the trees creaking, or rather, moaning, to the fierce lashing of the rain, and I quickly abandoned my hopes of having the power fixed...
Despite the dreary weather outside and the prospect of having to spend the entire day indoors, I did not succumb to depression. There mere fact that the house was once again well-lit was enough to lift my spirits. I had made it through that dreadful night!
At this point, I didn't even bother with the lights anymore...
My first thought, upon stepping out of the room, was to check the gallery. Was my dream...?
Nothing. Nothing had changed. The cabinet was firmly stuck into place. I must have been dreaming...
I made my way downstairs, with the goal of heading to the kitchen. Perhaps I would find some dried foods to satiate my hunger?
It was 9:00 A.M.
But before I could step through to the dining room, my phone rang.
It was Jerry.
J: Michael! How are you doing over there? The sky is falling here!
M: You mean this storm has hit there too? Seems the entire Universe is falling here. I'm afraid to go outside!
J: That's what I called to tell you -- I'm not going to be able to make it over there today. The rain is so bad that the roads leading to Rothbury and the manor have been shut.
M: What? Are you serious? What am I supposed to do?
J: Don't panic! I'll come right for you as soon as this thing is over. You just hang on in there.
M: It's not like I have any other choice, do I?
J: I'm afraid not, my friend. This storm as the power to disturb the dead!
M: Well, it'd seem like this very same storm has awakened the evil spirits resting inside my new home.
J: What's that?
M: Not sure, but I happened to hear some odd sounds last night. Kind of... "scratching" noises down in the basement.
J: Michael, don't you remember what the cleaning ladies said? Something about a rat problem? That's probably what it was.
M: Unless we are talking about mutant rats here, I don't think that's the problem.
J: Michael, my friend... you were tired from a long trip and stressed about the problems you found there. On top of that, you have moved into a very old house. Guess that's the most common complaint from people moving to old houses?
M: Ghosts on the loose?
J: Sort of... now go focus on your book while you still have enough light. I'll be there as soon as possible!
I was certainly let down by the fact that I would not be seeing him... or anyone else, for that matter, today.
I turned away from the kitchen, toward the house that was now my only companion... it was a strange thought, to be sure, but after that first day and night, I could only feel a sense of familiarity with the place. The manor was trying to communicate something to me... and I would be damned if I didn't find out what. I had to investigate, to find out the mystery behind the manor, and... those scratches.
* * *
Where to now, goons? We have a whole day ahead of us! There are a couple of details we have missed in other rooms that will unravel more of the mystery...