Written by Anna Wilcox
One by one, we had been picked off by the horrors that lay beneath the sullen city. Each victim, lured by an invitation to dine in the Manor of Silent Stone. An estranged mansion, laying within the foreboding parts of the city. Of course, we had each assumed we had been summoned for our prestigious scholarly achievements, each masters of our studies expecting to be commended. All of us ignorant enough to believe ourselves safe with knowledge and esteem, in such a troubled place, where nightmares became actualities.
Everyone arrived at the manor as the sun went down, sinking fast into the murky sky. A foolish buzz of curiosity and excitement as to what had brought the likes of men like us to Silent Stone hummed in all of our minds. Fogged with questions, I failed to recognize the ominous symbols marked in the peculiar bloodstone steps that led up to the brazen front door. As I walked up the steps, the sky darkened, boldly engaging the evils of night. Unease trembled up my spine to the tiny hairs on the back of my thin neck. I turned around to see a huge swarm of locust had blocked out what was left of the sun. When I got to the doorway of the manor, I joined a group of four men. Together we watched the locust swarm spiral through the sky, flying with malintent right toward us. Soon, the locusts surrounded us. They were so close, it was as if they were trying to suffocate us. And then, as soon as they came, they were gone, with no trace of ever having existed at all. We looked around at each other, confused and disturbed by the bizarrity of what had just happened. And yet, we still walked into the manor.
I thought it strange that someone of the manor did not greet us. We gathered in what looked to be the dining room of the seemingly untenanted manor. Every pair of eyes immediately focused on the motley of sinister markings on the long wooden table in the center of the room. Everyone, intrigued by the markings, but only I understand their meaning. I had studied symbols and anthropology for many years. I recognized the collection as tokens of suffering and malice. Our eyes drifted about the dimly lit room, soaking in every detail. The crumbling fireplace and many candles, our only source of light. The walls of the room were covered in dark velvet cloth, some of it ripped back, exposing the barren wooden walls. The room was mostly empty, eerily highlighting the presence of the markings on the table. The left corner held a statue of a Greek woman, one hand gesturing to come forth, and one hand behind her back holding a dagger.
While we studied the room, a sudden erratic knocking began. The knocks sounded and felt as if something were in the walls around us. It stopped and then started again, louder. When the knocks ceased all the windows and doors leading out slammed shut. The front door slamming so hard the handle fell off, preventing us from getting out. Our failure to realize the danger within the manor granted us our coming demise.
Frightened, we gathered together in the center of the room around the table. We looked at one another, starting to realize we were now in the presence of something unknown. When the heavy breathing and tremors of the group settled I spoke.
“The symbols presented on this table promise us suffering at the hands of something very dark; we must stay together and endure whatever evil may come for us. We need to find a way out.”
It was then, after my deliverance, that the fire flickered out, and a scream pierced my ears. As the screams faded, a whining began coming from the wall nearest to the statue. The whining intensified until we all felt our ears ringing painfully and then a loud crash resonated through the room. As the noise ceased, a gloomy light appeared. Everyone’s eyes drifted to me, like in some unspoken way they had designated me leader of our small group. I looked around the room for a way out, but we were trapped in the dining room.
So with a feeling of uncertainty, I proclaimed, “The exit must lay through there,” pointing my finger to the aperture that had opened with the thunderous noise of the crumbling wall.
“One of us is missing,” commented a smallish man I recognized to be a professor at the city’s Wimberly University. We looked around and realized five men had indeed become four.
Chilled and taunted by the dread seeping into us, we stepped through the opening and into an eerie passageway. A sickness gathered in the pit of our stomachs as we imagined what horror had stolen a man from right next to us. Torches lit the narrow, stone passage. I took a torch from a scone and gestured to the other to do the same. Barely able to see by the warm flickering light of the torch and shuddering from the sudden cold that engulfed the passage, I led us forward. When the passage came to an end, we halted in front of a tall, splintering wood door. As we stepped through, I silently counted us. There were only three. Somewhere along the way, one of us had been silently taken. We all acknowledged the disappearance and looked around frantically. Terrified, the evil thing still lurked around us. We saw nothing, only the dull stone wall and damp, cold floors. So, we continued on.
We walked faster this time through the door and into another room — this one illuminated by a glowing symbol of solitude carved deeply into the ceiling. We quickly searched the room for an exit as the glow began to dim. The light diminished, and we were in the dark yet again. Another thunderous collapse shook the room bringing an eerie light. The light came quickly and only quick enough to see I now stood alone in the room. The others had been picked off so fast it seemed they had never been there at all.
Terror blazed through me, clouding my mind’s ability to think and racing my weak heart. Alone in the dark, twitching with adrenaline, I stood petrified. Blackness spread across my vision and then my thoughts, and I was falling.
When I awoke, I was fettered to a stone platform with one candle as my light. My cries echoed back at me as if I were in a large cavern, deep underground. Horrified, I realized as soon as the wax of the candle puddled and the wick became a stump, I would be alone again in the dark. Terror plagued the blood in my veins; terror of the shapeless creatures that lurked in the shadows surrounding me. Those above in the sullen city would walk through their forbidding towns unknowing of the horrors that had taken place here. And I would be left unredressed and forever in solitude. Curiosity had damned me to darkness, leaving me to become one with the imprisoning stone until my violent screams became silent.