The moon provided no light, being lost behind clouds screaming with thunder. Rain and fog filtered through the silent streets, the gaslights of London providing small circles of warmth in the midst of a grievous winter. It was the last year of the 18th century, mere minutes before the 19th would begin. Two shadowed forms whispered through the streets, whisking silently over rain-soaked cobblestones, rushing for the grand, silent manor looming on a distant hill. It was surrounded by an ancient cemetery, haunted by, some said, the vilest beings in British history. But these stories were banished from the minds of those seeking it, being drawn for reasons they knew little about.

Their steps continued to echo off the slumbering structures; two sets of nervous eyes locked on the lightning enfolded silhouette that was their destination, the clatter of distant hooves and thunder the only other sounds. The pair scurried down separate streets, one never seeing the other until they stopped at the manor's wrought iron gate. The tall, thick spikes came apart with a monstrous shriek, the rusted metal rods scraping against the dark soil beneath them. The cloaked figures glanced at each other, hesitating, feeling the darkness draw them closer the door, the brass knocker glinting in the jagged lights that still tumbled from the sky. The younger gulped, stepping forward, seeing little more than ragged trees and naked tombstones as he moved toward the mansion, seeing curtains fly in the open windows on its upper stories. He could have sworn he saw a figure behind one of them, holding what appeared to have been a bloody dagger. It vanished the second he blinked.

"Good God," he muttered, and motioned his companion forward. He moved with more certainty, though his gloved hands shook. His icy blue eyes tilted to the angry heavens, seeing the dark house that devoured the horizon, seeing the front door come slowly open. A short, bespectacled man stepped out, baring a single candle.

"The master welcomes you," he spoke with a bow. Neither saw the evil look come upon his eyes, wide as an owl's behind his glasses. He ushered them from the rain, alighting them of their soaked capes, bringing them to a room with a great fire blazing in its marble hearth. The weary travellers settled themselves in the high-backed velvet chairs, sitting close to the flames as they dared. The tiny butler bowed once more, vanishing with his candle.

"I will fetch the master," he hissed, and left the men alone. They cast their eyes everywhere but each other, taking in the mahogany walls, the portraits lined in ebony, the scarlet rug on which their feet sat. The younger cleared his throat, running his hand nervously through his hair, still keeping his gaze from his elder.

"All this time," he murmured, fingering the paper in his palm. It was the letter that had summoned him here, insisted he leave at such an atrocious hour. "I've wondered what it must be likeā€¦" his companion did little more than shudder, moving closer to the edge of his burgundy chair. He also had the note, marked with little more than an address, 'Come alone' scrawled perfectly along the bottom edge. He too wondered why he'd been asked, too frightened to voice his curiosity. The clock struck midnight, and still the little servant didn't return. Crimson Manor was vast, to be sure, but he doubted it would take this long to find one man. The younger began growing impatient, muttering about one thing or another, shifting uneasily in his own seat, watching the little clock on the mantle as it counted the dwindling minutes to morning. But he never got the chance to leave.

"Gentlemen," the voice sounded just as he rose, forcing him back. The pair watched as a tall figure, shrouded in onyx and crimson, stepped forth from the shadows deeper in the home. "I hope your journeys were pleasant?"

Neither of his guests replied, both becoming chilled to the bone when they noticed his hands, coated in blood that dripped to the carpet at his feet. He clasped his fingers behind him, beneath his cape, watching them both through narrowed grey eyes. His black hair was slicked fully back from his pale face, revealing a scar that ran across his forehead, turning sharply to meet with his chin. The effect seemed to tear his face in half. He turned from them, staring into the fire, lips curling in a smug grin. He lifted a brow when one of them rose, following the man with his gaze, again opening his bloody hand.

The young man stopped, body stiff with his face frozen in terror. He watched as his limbs moved of their own accord, his body turn back toward the fire. The man controlling him smiled, closing his fingers, bringing him closer. With his other hand he drew a black blade, the same dagger witnessed before in the manor's upper story window. Harold watched the knife fall into his palm, unable to disobey the dark creature before. He turned, watching with growing eyes as his arm moved behind his head, liquid ruby falling to his shoulder, tears falling down his cheeks. He fought every step the puppet master made him take, screaming in horror when the blade sliced through his father's skull, watching as the old man fell forward, laughter echoing as the body thudded to the floor. Harold's fingers grew numb, dagger falling, the laugh grating against his ears. Eventually he was allowed to drop to his knees, looking back at this bringer of darkness. Further back in the shadows he could see the man's butler, a gaping wound in his narrow throat. He then switched his gaze back to the one who'd made him a murderer.

The man had vanished, but his presence could still be felt, lurking somewhere in the gloom, invisible to human eyes. The cock of a pistol sounded behind him, and in the next instant his body had dropped to floor, right beside that of his father, their blood merging as it flowed toward the fireplace. The lone survivor laughed, slipping away into the dreary night. No one ever found the bodies, of the one who had killed them, but it is said all four still haunt the grounds, their power at its peak when the sun glows red above the grounds, the light that coats the manor crimson.


A short story I wrote for English. We're studying Gothic Lit.