Today has been such a strange day! A few days ago, I received a mysterious letter from a man going only by the pseudonym The Librarian. Apparently, he's a prolific book-collector and he requested I attend his get-together of the descendants of famous horror authors. Although I didn't know it, I'm actually a distant relative of Ambrose Bierce, the writer of The Devil's Dictionary, who mysteriously disappeared without a trace in October 1913- 101 years ago today.
Dusk was descending as my cab shuddered down the narrow gravelled path towards a pair of rusting gates. To my surprise, there was no modern intercom system, so the driver had to climb down from his seat and heave the gates apart, which creaked open with an eerily lupine howl. Despite this unsettling introduction to The Librarian's home, my driver showed no concern and merely looked at me darkly as he re-entered his car. Maybe it was my imagination, but I thought I saw a flicker of wry amusement cross his face.
We continued rumbling into the depths of the unfamiliar estate, trees thickening on either side as I felt myself become more and more disassociated from my life at home. Gradually, a dark silhouette loomed on the horizon and, as we approached, it became apparent that this was The Librarian's mansion.
With a shudder, the taxi halted at the foot of this strange, imposing building. A bitter wind whipped around me and took me by surprise as I opened the door and clambered down from my seat. Without a word, the driver took off but, when I looked behind in shock at his sudden departure, he had vanished. I was left alone outside a dark, unfamiliar building, clutching my jacket around me for comfort.
Looking toward the deepening indigo above me, I could see turrets that jutted into the starless sky like daggers, twisting into gnarled branches that caught my breath and threw it out into the vicious, biting wind. Leaves twisted and twirled at my feet in a macabre, silent waltz, leading to the blackened stone of the building that stood guard before me. No hint of light or warmth flickered from within; although I could see many windows, they were soulless mirrored eyes that cast judgement on me from above.
In the distance, an inhuman screech shattered the silence. I was involuntarily thrown forwards by my own feet in an act of fear, which was enough to knock me out of my wary stupour. Taking a deep breath for courage, I determinedly stepped forwards and knocked with conviction on the sturdy oak door, half-expecting it to creak open of its own accord.
Of course that didn't happen. My knock was attended to by The Librarian himself, a tall, slender man who, despite his aging years, appeared surprisingly lithe. Remnants of grey hair still clung to his temples, astride piercing storm-grey eyes that stared inquisitively into my own. Reaching out to shake my hand, I noticed that he had extraordinarily long, pale fingers, at the ends of which were slightly pointed, almost claw-like nails.
"Ah", he started, with a not entirely pleasant grin, showing a row of yellowed teeth that were crammed crookedly into a too-small mouth. "Don't tell me! With those curls, you must surely be the relative of Ambrose Bierce! Becky, unless I am much mistaken? A real talent, he was. A pity, really".
His voice was thin and reedy, which did little to put me at ease. However, in spite of my misgivings, his home was surprisingly warm and he did appear to be a kind-hearted gentleman. After taking my jacket, he lead me into the parlour where the other descendants were gathered. We chatted for a while, during which time I began to relax and forgot about my initial fears. The other girls were friendly and, as we settled down in front of the crackling fire, we warmed to each other. One of my companions, Georgina has the most beautiful dog named Piku. He is the cutest little thing, and we all had a wonderful time petting and fussing over him. The Librarian was nowhere to be seen, which was strange, but he returned at around 11pm to explain that he had had rooms made up for us and would show us to them.
Leading us around his home, The Librarian shared the story of his book-collecting. It all started when he was a small child, and his mother would read to him each night. A rather unusual boy, he always preferred the spooky stories but after her unfortunate, yet unexplained, death when he was 10, he began seeking out horror books of his own accord. Over time, his collection grew and grew, until he became the respected collector that he is today. Supposedly, there are books in every room of this rather gigantic house, including a whole archive in the basement. I can't wait to find out more!
My quarters are, like everything in this house, unusually old-fashioned. The stone floor is softened only by a threadbare Persian rug at the foot of my walnut four-poster bed. Heavy burgundy drapes hang from the intricately carved posts, and drapes like a waterfall onto the matching duvet covering a fairly firm mattress. Bare of excess furniture, my room merely contains an old, ornate chest below a narrow pointed window that overlooks the mysteriously swirling lake. Unlike the parlour downstairs, this room is cold and unwelcoming, but the weighty bedlinen provides all the warmth I need.
Whilst I was getting ready for the night, I couldn't shake off the feeling that a pair of unseen eyes were watching me. There are no curtains at the window, but I am high in one of the rising turrets and there are no windows overlooking my room. Opening my bedroom door to peer into the hallway, I saw nothing and was slightly reassured but, just as I pulled the door to, I thought I caught the wisp of a shadowy figure in the corner of my eye. Squinting down the narrow walkway, it was clear that nobody was there. To be honest, I was very tired from all the travelling, so I wrote it off as a figment of my imagination and crawled into bed.
The next thing I knew, my room was filled with a weak grey light. It was morning, but I could hear no birdsong, nor sense any sign of movement around me. Pulling my clothes on, I headed downstairs groggily, where I bumped into Sian. She looked strangely nervous, and the reason why became quickly evident. Georgina and Piku, her adorable little dog, have both disappeared. Although I don't want to worry, her room was discovered covered in blood, with a diary found open on the bed. I'm sure there's a perfectly rational reason, and the police have been called, so I'm not too concerned at the moment, but it is a bit strange.
Stranger still is that, during breakfast, Daisy mentioned that she had seen a mysterious grey figure the night before. As it turns out, all of us have had a similar experience. I am starting to feel a little uncomfortable, but there's surely nothing sinister going on.
I'll let you know how events unfold.