If only I could have found a way to escape. If only I had understood sooner what kind of man Master Simon was. If only I had swallowed my fear and refused to do the things I did to save my life.
“Oh God…help me. Give me the courage to end this. I know it is a sin to take one’s own life, but that sin pales in comparison to the lifetime of evil ahead of me.”
* * * * * *
My first sight of Master Simon made me cringe. Impeccably dressed, he opened the front door of the manor to invite me in. His mannerisms were those of a gentleman, but his hand was cold as he shook mine. I noticed wetness left on my fingers and looked down to see that it was blood. I looked up in shock and only then noticed that Master Simon’s lips were stained with blood as well. He noticed my stare and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and laughed.
“There will be many things in this house that you will find…unusual. You will get used to them.” He laughed again and shut and locked the front door. “Now that you are a part of this household.”
As he led me through the rooms I was shocked by the condition of the house. That it was once beautiful was obvious, but to say that it had fallen into disrepair would be an understatement. I have seen homes that were dusty but in these rooms there wasn’t a surface that was free of dirt. It was as if the outside had disregarded the existence of the walls and taken upon itself to claim the living space. Tree roots reached through the walls and ceiling into the rooms. Spider webs hung almost to the floor and draped across the rooms. Who knows how long it has been since these rooms have been cleaned. As unappealing as the prospect of putting this household in order may be, I am clearly needed here. I have to girder my courage and take over my responsibilities and show these poor American souls what a British butler is capable of.
My first night in the Manor was unlike anything I have ever experienced or imagined. My quarters, located in an isolated corner of the house behind the kitchen, are spacious but just as dirty as the rest of the house. I have left my clothing and personal effects in my luggage until the time comes when I can clean my room. Just being in this house has encased me in a coat of dust and everything I have brushed up against has added to the smudges on me.
At first I didn’t want to sit down for fear of collecting more dirt upon myself but I have since given up on the prospect of staying clean. As long as the house is dirty I believe that staying clean will be impossible. I am coming to realize that getting the house in order will be a daunting task. In addition to the dirt that covers everything, and the tree roots and the spider webs that are everywhere, there are also creatures living in this house that clearly belong outside. I have seen spiders crawling about and insects buzzing about the lamp in my bedroom. I can hear movement in the corners of my room. I can only imagine what sort of wildlife has taken up residence in this house.
I have searched for clean sheets and blankets and found none. I have to sleep. I cannot face my duties without enough rest. Tomorrow I will be meeting my staff and begin the task of returning this house to a state of order. Careful not to disturb too much dust, I pull the covers back and crawl into bed. I try not to think about what might be sleeping under my bed or, God forbid, within the sheets I am now laying on.
I close my eyes and try to unwind so I can fall asleep. In spite of the bed I lay upon, I feel like I am outside in the wilderness. I can hear the insects buzzing and the sounds of creatures scuttling about are all around me. Somehow sleep begins to take over and the sounds fade into the darkness.
A scream jolts me from my sleep and I bolt upright in the bed. I listen for another scream and try to calm the pounding of my heart. I hear nothing more. Perhaps it was just a dream. A nightmare in this place would be understandable. This house would evoke fear in the hardiest of souls. I settle back onto my pillow and pull the covers up to my chin. Once again I am aware of the sounds of insects around me.
I hear sounds of laughter outside my room. A woman screams again, but softer this time and punctuated with laughter. I relax a little. Obviously, other members of the household are up late. The Master’s rules appear to be quite lax. I have never before been in a house where boisterous behavior would be tolerated at this hour. But then, the state of the house is not in the least bit normal. I will have to get used to it.
The morning brought an eerie fog into the house. There is an odor like freshly turned earth reminiscent of a newly dug grave. I try to force the image from my thoughts as I ready myself for the day.
To my relief and surprise there is fresh water in a bowl for my morning ablutions. Although my clothes have collected dust even inside my luggage, I am able to feel somewhat refreshed after my troubled first night. A little concerned about what I will find for breakfast, I seek out the kitchen. Another pleasant surprise. The smiling face of the cook and a fresh pot of coffee welcome me to the kitchen.
“Hungry?” the cook pours a cup of coffee and hands it to me. I nod and accept it. He points to cream and sugar, which I make use of to sweeten my drink. He then takes the lids off a couple of pans on the stove and fixes a plate. Scrambled eggs and a hash of meat, potatoes and onions. The aroma sets my troubled mind at ease.
“Sam,” the cook extends his hand.
“Edgar,” I shake his hand. It is cold. “Thank you for the breakfast, it is delicious.”
After a satisfying breakfast, I felt ready to face the job I had ahead of me. I found my way back to the front door and began my assessment from there. I wait in the living room for my staff. I see no one. I am not pleased. I expected that Master Simon would present me to the staff but he has not made an appearance either. I have no option but to return to the kitchen to find Sam.
“Sam,” I try to contain my impatience. “Where is everyone?”
“Everyone?” he asked.
“The rest of the staff. Master Simon. I should be meeting them so we can discuss our duties and make plans for what must be done.”
“Because that is what a butler does. That is my job.” Now I am getting irate. “How am I supposed to do my job?”
“Edgar,” Sam smiled placidly. “You must have noticed by now that this is not a typical household. Any conventions of normalcy you might have expected don’t exist here.” Sam then poured a cup of coffee and handed it to me. “Relax. Everything will work out.”
“But what am I expected to do?” I take the coffee. “Where is Master Simon? He hasn’t even gone over the details of my position here. Do you know what my duties are?”
“Don’t worry so much Edgar. You will discover what you are to do on your own.” He gently turned and guided me back to the door. “Why don’t you explore the house? I’m sure you haven’t seen all of it yet.”
I am troubled by this development but see that I have no choice in the matter. I decided to take a stand and begin the work myself. While my training is best used in giving direction and coordinating others in their household duties, I am certainly capable of rolling up my sleeves and getting my own hands dirty. If I am to do this on my own, I will begin with the room in the house that I love most. I had walked through the library earlier and have decided that it is to be my first project. In every home I have served, the libraries have always been close to my heart. They are an escape from the drudgery of the day and a place to increase my knowledge and expand my mind.
Standing before the towering bookshelves almost breaks my heart. I am almost afraid to remove any of the books off the shelves for fear that they might fall apart in my hands. The extent of their disrepair troubles me but the titles make me curious. Some of these volumes are truly old. That they even exist at all is a miracle. I hope I am able to salvage at least a few of them.
I have no duster or broom to clean with so I use my hands to swipe at the cobwebs and wipe dust off the shelves. I grab at a particularly long root and pull it with all my force to try and remove it from the wall. Without warning there is a tremendous wailing from another room. Several voices are crying out from all over the house. I heard an angry roar behind me and spun around in fright. Master Simon rushes at me shouting furiously.
I am powerless as he grabs my shirt and slams me against the wall. “What the hell do you think you are doing?”
Before I can say anything, Sam and a lady rush into the room also shouting. “What’s going on? Why are you disturbing things? Who do you think you are?” I could hardly comprehend what was happening.
“I was just trying to do my job,” I tried to stop my voice from shaking.
“You haven’t been informed of what your job is,” Master Simon growled before releasing me.
“Then tell me, what are my duties? What have I been hired to do?”
“Well, I can tell you what you are not to do,” the lady snapped. “You are not to alter this house in any way. You do not clean. You do not fix. That is not your job.” And then she stormed out of the room with Sam and Master Simon following.
I stare after them in shock. I don’t understand. What am I supposed to do? My legs feel weak and I stumble to a chair. I reach down to clean the dust, but stop myself and sit down without doing so. I do not want another encounter with Master Simon. He is a man with a violent temper and is incredibly strong. He frightens me.
I am torn between my duty to serve and my desire to leave. I have never abandoned a post before but I find myself sorely tempted to do so now. I don’t even know what I am supposed to do here. I am a butler without a staff to coordinate, and with a house I am not allowed to clean. I am lost. I decide to go back to my room. I must record these events in my journal. I may have need to recollect details about this house at a later time. I do not want to forget a single thing. Especially the rules.
I don’t run into anyone on my way back to my room but I hear noises in the corridors and in other parts of the house. I can hear children but their voices are indistinct and distant. The door to my room is open although I am certain I did not leave it so. There is no one inside and I cannot tell if anything has been disturbed, but I am wary of entering my thoughts in my journal and leaving it in my room where anyone can find it. I think I will take advantage of the little used library and secret my journal among the unused volumes on the shelves.
I spend my days wandering the house and I am becoming more and more frightened as the days pass. I have yet to encounter any of the staff. I have heard a number of voices and when I follow them I seem to enter a room just as whoever was in there leaves. There have been times when I was certain someone was behind me but when I turn around I find that I am alone. I have heard the front door open and close repeatedly and people are greeted but when I get there I find no one there. The front door is also always locked and strangely enough, I cannot open it from the inside.
Sam appears to be in the kitchen almost every time I go there. He always has food prepared and invites me to join the family for meals. I have chosen not to eat with them. I do not want to become any more familiar with them than I have to. But I am trying to familiarize myself with the house.
This is the strangest house I have ever been in. The floor in some parts of the house appears to be damaged. It is as though something has shoved the floor upwards, buckling it, making it difficult to walk on. The corridors are like a maze and some of the walls move to reveal secret passages. Some of these passages are actually inside the walls of the house. No one has stopped me as I wander these passages but I have encountered more and more people lately. They never speak to me and sometimes I wonder if they even see me. I still hear voices and quite often it sounds like there are dozens of people in the house. I have decided that the house is haunted. But that still gives no explanation as to why I am here.
I came across the children’s room today. I had heard their voices before, but it was the first time we met. They seem to be the same age but not twins. The girl looks sad and there is an aura of pain and loneliness about her. The boy glared at me with hate in his eyes. Neither of them spoke to me but the boy whispered something to the little girl that made her cringe. I could see marks on the little girl’s wrists that look like they could have been made by a rope. When I made a move towards her the boy stared at me with a look so intensely evil, that I hesitated. The little girl pleaded silently with her enormous eyes and shook her head almost imperceptibly and I thought that I might endanger her life if I tried anything. That encounter was the final straw. I have decided to find a way out of this house and if I do nothing else, I have to try and save the little girl.
If it wasn’t for my journal I would have completely lost track of time. There are no working clocks in the house. There are no windows to let in sunlight. I am only guessing at the passage of time, eating when I am hungry and sleeping when I am tired. Or at least, lying down and trying to sleep. Over the past three or so weeks that I have spent in this house, my sleep has become very interrupted. I feel like I only get minutes of sleep each night. I am extremely fatigued and still do not have a clue as to why I was brought here. I still take my meals in the kitchen while Sam watches me in silence. I have long since given up on the idea that he might give me some idea as to why Master Simon has brought me to this house.
Along with everything I observe in this house, I am making a record of some of my dreams, or rather nightmares. I realize that these nightmares may not really mean anything but perhaps they might reveal something of importance to someone else who might read my notes. If anyone ever does.
One night I awoke to find myself in the children’s room. They should have been asleep but, of course, nothing is as it should be. The little boy was laughing, while the little girl simply stood in the middle of the room with a terrified expression on her face. Suddenly he picks up a pitcher and begins to pour something on her. Pain twisted her face as the liquid appeared to be burning her. The liquid itself appeared to be on fire and she was quickly encased in the flames. Instinct drove me to her side as I threw a blanket around her and tried to smother the flames. The smell of burning flesh and blanket was intolerable. To my horror the flames only got bigger and hotter and I saw that her burning flesh was literally melting off her bones and falling to the ground.
Suddenly the flames died and the room was in utter darkness. I sat up to find that I was still in my bed. As much as I dreaded to, I had to find out the truth for myself and taking a lamp I braved the corridor and hurried to the children’s room. They were both fast asleep in their beds but the room was thick with smoke, and the smell of burning flesh and blanket was in the air. When I looked closely at her, I could see no sign that the fire had been real. But for days following the nightmare my own hands stung with the pain of burning even though there was no visible damage. I wonder if she is beyond saving. I wonder now if I am. I cannot believe that. I have to cling to the hope that I will, one day, be able to find my way out of this ghostly mansion.
As usual, Sam has prepared breakfast. But he is not in a good mood. Although he is not speaking directly to me he is constantly grumbling that the “locker” is running low. From everything I have overheard I believe he is speaking about the “meat locker.” I know that there is a cold locker for meat storage in the kitchen, but that is one place I have never actually looked inside. I made a point of remaining in the kitchen when Sam left and cautiously opened the locker. A blast of cold air greeted me as I peered inside. I could hear Sam’s heavy feet stomping back toward the kitchen and hurriedly shut the locker door. But what I had caught a glimpse of chilled me more than the cold air.
There were a number of empty hooks hanging from the ceiling of the locker. There was meat hanging on one. What had horrified me was the shape of the “meat”. Although it was wrapped in fabric and I could not see exactly what it was, it was quite clearly human in shape. I stared in horror at my empty plate. I had been grateful to have freshly made food everyday and had not given much thought to what it was I was eating. My gorge rose as I tried hard not to think about it now. For the past few weeks I had been frightened. Now I was terrified beyond belief.
I steeled myself and strode towards the front door. I was determined to make my escape. I would begin at one end of the house and search until I found an opening to the outside. I could no longer stay in this house. I peered into the library and, finding it empty, took my journal from where it was hidden and put it in the inside pocket of my jacket before continuing on my way to the front door.
“Edgar,” Simon’s voice stopped me. “The day you have been waiting for is here. I have a job for you.” He sounded genial but the look on his face was dangerous. He led me through the house to a room that I had only been in once before. The last time I was in this part of the house I became incredibly lost. I realize now that there were multiple rooms that looked identical. Each room had eight doors. Some of the doors led to dead end rooms that could be locked from the outside while other doors led to more rooms with doors. I felt like a rat in a maze. When I was finally found by Master Simon he was very angry. He said that I was never to return to the area, unless instructed to, as the rooms were just for guests.
“We are having guests tonight. You will greet them at the door and bring them here to wait in privacy. There are separate rooms for each of them. I will come for them once they have all arrived.”
I nod my acquiescence and turned to walk back to the front door. Master Simon follows me. This could be my opportunity to escape. The door will have to be unlocked for the guests. I am nervous and excited. All I need is a moment when no one is watching. Once I find my way out of the house and beyond the garden walls, I will bring the authorities to save the little girl.
By the time I reach the front door, Master Simon is no longer behind me. I don’t know if he is watching and look around. I see no one. My heart is pounding and all I can think about is that I want to run. My hand is shaking as I reach towards the door knob. I try to turn it. The door is unlocked and it creaks as I open it.
With bated breath I step outside. The instant my foot touched the front porch I am blasted with a powerful wind. It howls in my ears and buffets me against the house. I cannot let the wind stop my escape. I try to walk towards the steps but the wind is too strong. I cannot force my way through it. Suddenly the wind becomes cold and I hear laughter. To my horror I feel invisible hands grab me and throw me against the house. The wind is a malevolent and unnatural force. The hands grab me again. The laughter grows louder and I find myself tossed through the front door like a doll.
The door slams shut and I feel a cold hand grab the back of my neck. “I told you,” Master Simon hissed in my ear. “You are now a part of this household. What that means is that you will never leave us. You will help us with what we need, or you will die.” He then let go of my neck and helped me off the floor. “Edgar,” Master Simon laughed. “You are such a mess. You should get yourself ready before our guests arrive.” And, still laughing, he turned and walked over to the fireplace which slid open for him to walk into another of the hidden passages.
All hope left me. What was I to do now? What kind of power did this man have? I looked at myself in a mirror on the wall and automatically tried to straighten my hair and clothes with little result. I jump and turn at the sound of a knock. The guests are arriving. I open the door slowly to find a couple waiting. Everything is calm. There is no sign of the powerful winds I had experienced just a few minutes earlier.