Candlelight- NaNoWriMo 2013

Trapped. Six people, struggling to survive in what is probably the most hostile environment in the whole of the UK.
Questions of all sorts run through their minds, dancing in circles within their head. Why on Earth are they here? What are they meant to do?
They're here because they're all part of a test. A test of strength, willpower, and many other different... skills. However, there is one thing that none of them know. One, single thing that could save their lives. They don't know what the test is, and it won't be long before the candlelight comes.

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1. Candlelight

There was no way I could -or even would- stop now, not after I'd come so, so far. I had made my way up the driveway, ignoring the strangely fitting shapes in the trees on either side. They almost suited the large, dark pines. I'd passed the fountain, the water in which was now stagnant and green- the pump had stopped working years ago. I'd passed windows on either side of the manor as I walked closer and closer to the front door. I caught it all on my old camcorder. Every single moment. Each windowpane (Smashed, damaged, and some were strangely intact) with its own set of faded red curtains drawn across inside the window, with the occasional one too moth eaten to even hang.

My muffled footsteps echoed in the hallway. The dim beam from the torch, which I somehow still held firm, despite the sweat dampening my palms, showed a grey layer of dust over the floorboards and faded red carpet. A prominent musty smell accompanied it well. As I took tentative steps further inside, the afore mentioned carpet sinking slightly, the door gave one last creak before clicking shut. (What the carpet was oozing out, I wasn't particularly sure. I didn't fancy looking down to find some vile... stuff stuck on the sole of my shoes.) Swinging around on the balls of my feet in a futile attempt to catch it on my camera, I felt a tingling sensation down my spine. It felt like eyes were watching me, from somewhere nearby, somewhere behind me. I whipped back around, scanning the darkness above the banister. As nothing emerged from the black, although I saw... something, nothing more than a shadow stepping back into the dark, I had to resist the urge to turn back. I'd come this far. There was no way I was going to go back. Not even if there was someone watching me.

With a gulp, I began to walk faster, rotting floorboards bending beneath my feet. I shone the torch around, catching glimpses of the broken little horrors this once-grand manor had been reduced to, and I paused to admire them. Tattered dusty animal heads hung on the walls, snarling down at me. Tarnished silver trophies stood in cabinet upon cabinet, with intricate engravings telling of a past long forgotten. The entire entrance hall was dominated by the chandelier, that had somehow stayed up, despite the age of its metal. It reflected the light as though it were new, glittering brilliantly. Dust fell from the ceiling, almost as if someone were walking above. Whether any sound accompanied it was another matter. A lump rose in my throat, and I hurried onwards.

I didn't feel like going upstairs, or at least, not until I'd regained my confidence. It was allowed, wasn't it? I was allowed to be scared. Although, scared was quite an under-exaggeration. I was terrified, and there was no way, no matter how hard I tried, that I could hide that. Just being in the house made shivers run up and down my spine, like electric shocks tingling up and down my body. It quickened my breathing, my heartbeat, causing my mind to go into thinking overdrive. It gave me countless possibilities of what could be in this house. It kept thinking of completely unrelated things, pulling them up from nowhere and tossing them into my current thoughtstream.

Instead I scurried forward, moving at a pace not too far from that of a mouse, into what seemed like a ballroom. It was a large open space with what would have been a polished, white marble floor. The stones were cracked, and the elegant design, filled to the brim with gracious curves, swooping curls and a wonderful balance of grey and white, almost couldn't be seen under the dirt. Two cuboid shapes sat at either side of the room, creased and dirty white dust sheets cloaking whatever lay beneath. In a spurt of curiosity, I sauntered over, pulling back the large length of cloth, revealing a smooth oaken table. The legs of the table were intricately carved, perfectly depicting those of a lion.

I stopped to appreciate it's dark glory, before I turned back, skipping toward the centre of the room. In the space closest to what would be the centre of the room there was a little stage, most probably where a band of some sort would play. Small, squat and generally little, it provided barely an elevation from the main floor. The tall windows had boards across them, and not a shred of cloth remained on the curtain rails. Thin metal guides -revealed as I managed to tear one of the rotting planks from the window- once more twisting the rules of general architecture. It didn't take much effort - the board literally came apart in my hands. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I didn't spend particularly long in the room. There was a certain feel of death within it, and the very feel of somewhere that should be filled with people being completely empty set me on edge. Instead, I came back out and turned to my left, hurrying into the right wing of the manor.


 


With my mingling thoughts, I'm not particularly sure why I was there. I remember being asked by the locals of the area. They asked me because I was the only one they thought would actually be able to defend myself. I'm the only one who can concentrate, despite my fear, the only one with even a spark of proper thinking in the case of a tragedy. Or at least, that's what they think.

Recently strange noises have been heard from the manor, only ever at night, clanks and groans, screams and snarls. Only recently, too. Both inhuman and human shadows have been seen in the third and fourth story windows, walking around, watching, and in some cases, hanging. No one really knows what they are. No one's been up there in years. No one's lived there, no one's done anything up there. It's just been... empty. The little room at the top of the manor, the smallest one and the only one up there, seems just as abandoned as always. Not a single shadow has been seen cast from there, but there is the light. For the past few weeks, everyone has seen the flickering orange-yellow light. It's like someone has lit a candle up there. The only problem with that theory is no one could have gone up there. There is always someone watching the manor, and there have even been people exploring. Over the past few years people have explored. Some have returned, whilst others haven't. The ones that have don't really like to talk about it. Or so I've heard. None of the other locals want to explore. Me? I'm new to the area, some could say I'm a little unaccustomed to the way they do it around here. But I reckon I could find out what it is up there.

They're all suspicious. Every single one of them, woman, man and child, they're all terrified of the manor on the hill. With its winding gravel drive, its massive pine trees, which somehow fit so well with the foreboding atmosphere. They're all scared of the large- massive, even -overgrown garden, the grass like vines, snagging at your feet at every given opportunity, littered with rabbit holes of all shapes and sizes. The once-grand lower windows boarded up, not allowing even a crack of weak sunlight to show, the higher windows with massive, dark curtains, made to black out anything from outside. No one had lived there for years, and all inside had been abandoned when the last owners had moved away. Such a massive building, once astounding to look at, so beautiful was its majesty. Now, though... Now the manor on the top of the hill is a dismal sight to see. It looms above the village like a massive tidal wave, dark forests threatening to overcome every aspect of the cheery little village. And yet, so many decided to ignore it. Most too scared to think of what drove out the previous inhabitants, too scared to wonder, even for a moment, what it was that scared the explorers into silence. So many rumours circulated, like the way that the manor is haunted- another, rather untrue, twisted version of the truth. Or at least, that's what I believe. And hope.

I, Kyra Lund, am here because of all this. I'm here because no one else dares take one step of the threshold of the gates. No one else laughs at the supernatural, and believes that none of this could possibly be true. But then, perhaps it does exist. Perhaps there is a ghost, perhaps there is something beyond our own beliefs. Perhaps there is something that ignores the very forces of nature, going against everything that we, as the human race, stand for. Perhaps there is something in there that defies science, that defies reason. Whatever it is, it is my duty as a member of Whiteash, to find it. My duty to discover what is terrorising the village I live in.


 

Old paintings in varying states of decay covered the walls around me. Some of them were rotten, the faces that used to be seen as perfectly respectable people, landscapes or animals were now mangled and deformed, unidentifiable as anything other than twisted monsters and masses of multicoloured messes. A shiver ran down my spine, chilled by the strange feeling that I was being watched. Within seconds, I had quenched my momentary fear, forcing myself to go onwards. I was slightly disheartened as my thin beam of white torch-light illuminated a dead end. I turned away, and the pointless section was plunged once more into complete blackness.

The white beam picked out a large, purple-black frame in the room directly ahead of me. Curiosity stirring, I quickened my pace a little, my brow furrowing. I entered the little room, my heart's pace hastening slightly, quickly scanning all eight corners of the room, before taking a deep breath. I reached out tentatively, my fingers just about to brush the rock, before I pulled away suddenly. Who knows what touching it could do. I withdrew my hand, instead watching it suspiciously for a while before I moved around behind it. It was like a massive doorway, completely hewn out of purple-black rock. A doorway to what, though... Now that was something worth finding out, but another day, perhaps. Right now I had a job to do, and I intended to complete it.

In the space around the frame, two odd bits of... mud? Stood, encased in dark stone, apparently caked in blood. It was thick on the sides of the large blocks, coating both faces visible. Within the stone was a mud-like substance with the consistency of quick-sand. Strange, small plants grew on both sides, almost like mushrooms in appearance. They were a deep red, almost the same as that of the stone around them. The leaves on each stem curved around it in their growth, almost shielding the plants from something. The leaves themselves were coarse and shiny, smooth on the upper side but incredibly rough underneath. After a few minutes, my curiosity faded as I discovered nothing else of significant interest. I turned out of the room, back into the corridor.

Further down the hallway, I found a storeroom. Shelves lined the walls and the little island in the middle. Shelves filled with more dust, bowls, plates and a whole collection of cutlery. Every single bit of wood, china or ceramic was crammed into the small spaces, at least three deep in some places. Very few of the bowls and plates actually had something in or on them. When they did, though, it was little bits of bread, stale, cracked and completely untouched. I found it slightly odd that mice and rats hadn't found it yet. The fact that it hadn't completely rotted away yet was curious as well. Not as worrying- loaves of bread has been found in 3000 year old tombs -as the mice and rats, but still... strange. Although, there was always the possibility this room could be airtight, however unlikely that was. A quick search behind the pots and bowls revealed nothing more than a few startled spiders, so I decided it was probably best to move along.

A little further down the corridor, and a little bit more toward the centre of the house, there was a short flight of stairs, leading down toward what I expected to be a basement. I was rather surprised when I found a kitchen. The main room led off to two others, filled with wooden cubicles, which I discovered contained little more than beds and shelves. I came to the conclusion they were probably for servants, and continued swiftly, moving back into the first room I had come to. A fire-pit had been dug into the centre of the room, and above it a large metal stove had been built. Large hooks also swung eerily from above, much higher, further away from the heat so it did not cook swiftly, but higher up where they could smoke. Vents near the corners of the room were obviously designed to carry the smoke away form the kitchen and direct it through one of the five chimneys that one could see from the courtyard before the house. Aside from this, the only thing in the main kitchen were rather uninteresting cupboards, drawers and shelves piled with what had to have been literal tons of wood. Then there was a large, rather heavy-looking door, with a little glass window near the top. It was completely dark, but then so was the rest of the room without my torch.

Seeing nothing else to do, I walked up to the door, putting my torch between my teeth and my camera in one pocket, so I would have both hands free. I didn't need to try to know that the door would be heavy. With a short count of three, I grasped the handle and started to yank it toward me. It took a while to get started, but after a few moments it gave way, the seal on the door sucking in air as I dragged the door outwards. The first thing that hit me in that instant, was the cold. Already I could feel it boring into me, starting to work through my clothes. With shaking hands, I took hold of my torch once more, my free hand -I decided it was too cold to continue to film in the room- slipping into the baggy sleeve of my trusty red coat. I always used it, no matter what. Not once had it actually succumbed to the elements. But I suppose that isn't too hard in England. All a coat has to do is shield you from the rain.

In the room, large to massive chunks of ice littered the floor like hastily discarded litter. I guessed the room must have been air-tight, completely sealed from the world outside, preventing any heat from leaking in. The walls were cold stone, unlike the warm panelling of the house above. I pulled my coat closer around my shoulders, taking a moment to try and warm my hands. Amongst the ice, the odd chunk of meat was visible, lying on raised bits in the floor and some atop the frosted shelves which ran around the room. As I moved deeper in the room, not only did my torch visibly get dimmer, but I discovered something... different. Something completely off the scale of creepy-ness. Something that chilled me even more so than the cold. A large, dark shape lay ahead, its outline distorted by the solidified water I saw it through.

I took a few steps closer, feeling the dread rise up within me. I felt my stomach turn, and I stared in horror at what lay before me. I would have dropped my torch had my hands not been so cold and numb. Behind the pale, blue-tinged block, a small human child lay. His little body was curled in a half-hearted ball, arms frozen around his legs, his eyes were nothing more than chunks of ice with the remnants of irises once hazel. His little hands, curled around his frail knees, were encrusted in a coat of pure white frost. His clothes were completely stiff, more like sheets of solid snow than cloth. His hair was almost white, his skin a pale blue, and his mouth was partly open. I didn't want to think of how frozen his insides would be.

Only one thing about the little boy seemed out of place -save the fact that he was down here in the first place. His clothing was much, much older than that of the family who had just moved out. His soot-stained face didn't help disprove that. He almost looked as though he had been pulled straight from the Victorian era, perhaps as a chimney sweep for the resident family in that time. But that was impossible, wasn't it? The previous owners had only moved out twenty years ago- in 1987, so the locals had told me. Although I suppose they'd told my brothers, then the pair of them had translated. Unless this boy had been dressed up in some sort of costume, then they had to have lived here with him down here, cold, frozen and lifeless.

In that same instant, I felt as though something was watching me. The feeling of something staring at you, the feeling that made your spine tingle and your blood turn to ice. I whipped around, just to see the door about to close. In a sudden rush of fear, I darted forward, stopping the door just as it was about to shut. With all my might, I pushed, as hard as I could, and the door swung open at an annoyingly sluggish pace. It was much, much easier closing it. It gave way instantly, swinging shut with a loud groan. Through the gloom, I swear I saw the head of the corpse turn to look at me through the ice.

Running as fast as I could through the tight space, I hurried through the much warmer kitchen, tearing up the stairs and into the next room. It, at least, had windows. Even if they were boarded up, they were more comfort than the damp gloom of the basement. Never again would I feel the same about things underground. Never again would I like the cold. Never, ever.

Within a few minutes, I had managed to get my breathing back under control, and found myself looking around once more. It was a dining room, I suppose. Ornate mahogany chairs, these too covered in large dust sheets, were set at numerous places around the large table, which, as well, was clad in a dust sheet. On the walls, even more distorted paintings hung, some completely askew, hanging lopsided on the wall. A few shafts of moonlight drifted through the air. I frowned, looking up toward the windows. The boards were almost completely rotten. That didn't really surprise me. What did, however, was the time. I had entered this manor at noon, and now... now it was dark outside, the moon glittering in the sky.

I spent only a few moments puzzling over this, dismissing it as my own, incredibly bad sense of time. Instead, I turned into another room, directly joined to the dining room. To my disappointment, I found it empty, with only incredibly tasteless, peeling wallpaper and a rotten, stained carpet. Rather than spend my time fruitlessly exploring rooms with nothing in them, I moved on to the next, putting one hand on the doorknob and twisting it open. Only then did I remember that my camera was still in my pocket. Cursing my forgetfulness, I retrieved it with a flourish, lifting up the lens and allowing it to refocus.

It seemed as though I did this for nothing, though. The room beside the last was empty, almost mirroring the previous one. I turned into another room, directly joined to the previous one. It was empty, with only peeling wallpaper and a stained carpet inside.

With a rather drawn-out sigh, I stepped into the final room in this chain. It was significantly larger, with a lot of different furnishings. These formal bits of wood and fabric weren't hidden under dust-sheets, which struck me as slightly odd. As I moved further into the centre of the room, a large cloud of dust fell from the ceiling, trailing off through the door through which I had just come. I swallowed my fear, trying to keep it at bay, trying to stop myself running from this house. I was nothing it I wasn't brave. There was no way I would leave this place without finding out what it was that kept scaring people off. I shone my torch briefly around the room, deciding that I would first explore the piano. It was large, white, and actually intact. A spark of curiosity fluttered through me, and I bit my lip. What if there was something beneath the lid? I put my camera and torch on the keys. Whether it made a sound or not, I didn't know. A few moments later, making sure nothing was going to jump out at me, I started to lift the lid up. It was hard work, certainly, and it wasn't too rewarding, either.

As soon as the lid started to move, a smell became apparent. As I lifted the lid further and further up, the smell just got worse and worse, until it was unbearable. I risked a glance inside, having picked up my torch and camera. Dead mice and rats lay, rotting, between the strings. The smell that wafted out was ungodly.

I didn't stay too long in that room, letting the piano's lid fall shut as soon as I'd seen enough. It didn't take long. After that, I scanned the rest of the dismal room. The fireplace was... strange, though. In the bottom, right down in the grate, not only was it completely devoid of all ash of any kind, but there was an old, black stain amongst what little dirt there was


 

The rest of my examinations of the ground floor revealed nothing if interest. There was nothing else creepy; nothing else that deserved to be called scary; there were no more dead people; and I no longer felt like I was being watched. In fact there was nothing on the ground floor, except everything I mentioned before, that was really too out of place for an old manor such as this. So, after all of my searching, I found myself back in the main hall, my eyes fixed on the space just above the top of the stairs. Whatever had been moving earlier would be up there. It would be up there, and it would be waiting for me. Rather understandably, I was reluctant. I trembled with fear, every muscle in my body screaming to me to turn and run.

So why on earth did I go? I mustered the courage after a little while, taking a deep breath and starting up the stairs. They were not the most pleasant things to step on. With each step I took I felt them sag slightly, trying to bend under my feet, trying to join with the earth once more. A few of them were missing, and some of them did give way beneath my feet. After about half-way up, I decided stepping near the edge of the steps, where they would be most supported, was probably be the best idea.

As I reached the top of the stairs, I once more felt the paranoia run circles around me. My breathing was heavy, fear eating away inside me. I had regained myself after a few moments, though. No hidden monsters had leaped out, with high hopes of trying to eat me. I viewed that as good.

Where should I go next? I looked around, shedding new light on the dusty hallway. No longer was I scanning for monsters, no, now I was looking for places to explore. I had three options. There was straight on- which looked clear for now at least- there was to the left- which was currently illuminated by a silvery shaft of moonlight- and there was right. Both left and right paths met in a full circle. I picked straight on, once more for no real reason, heading into the room directly ahead.

Inside there was an almost untouched bed, covers and sheets made as though a servant had left just moments before. The only thing that seemed disturbed were the blurred footsteps inlaid into the thick coating of dust on the floor. I distracted myself from those instead taking a step inside, toward the bed, and feeling the teak absent-mindedly tracing the pattern with one finger, camera strap hooked around my arm the camera itself dangling dangerously. I paid no attention to it, shining my torch on the sheets and the rest of the room. A tall, dark wardrobe stood in one corner, one door open, displaying its varied array of moth-eaten and mouldy coats.

As I turned back to the bed, I took note of the vibrant, un-faded red of the covers, the crisp white- almost like snow -of the sheets and pillows. I frowned for a moment, putting it down the the way that so many of the rooms in this manor had no natural light gracing the walls. These rooms would have looked almost lived in, had the spiders not found them. I tried to make myself look confident, like there was nothing in the world that could scare me (If there was someone watching me, then I might as well look brave), deciding I'd spent long enough in this room. There was no point spending longer than I had to in this damned manor, and hanging around in here was not going to help.

I moved back into the dim little corridor, turning to my right as I left the room. Directly opposite from the way I had been before. Once more did I take note of the dark pictures, the warped and distorted paintings that were so numerous in the manor. The deathly silence that had surrounded me my entire life, once feeling so comforting, now feeling so lonely, so empty, so dark.

I hurried into the next room- a dark room with an over-sized fireplace dominating the far wall. In one corner there was a little bed, tucked away behind a low table and small chairs. It was much less fancy than the previous four-poster bed that had taken up so much of the last room. It was much closer to my own personal experience. I looked back to the fireplace, finding, on the mantle, a varied array of dead plants, almost turned to mush by the years that had passed. Only the vague remnants of browning leaves and cracked soil remained in the pots. Inside the fireplace, much unlike the ones downstairs, was a large collection of soot and charcoal.

Again, I found nothing other than what I mentioned before. I left the room, continuing down the hallway to the next door. Inside was something like a dining room. High-backed chairs bordered another, high table. A white dust sheet covered the table, hiding what it was made of. Although, it was much more formal than a meeting room than a dining room. It struck me as the sort of place large gatherings would be held, where adults and perhaps adults only would eat. One thing that did catch my eye in the otherwise standard room was the darker panelling on one of the walls. It was darker than the rest of the wood around it, and strangely door-shaped. I frowned, tilting my head in curiosity. I stumble over, running my hand over the wood, letting the camera strap slip down my wrist once more. It felt considerably less varnished than the rest of it, much rougher than the smooth, polished wood on the rest of it.

Shrugging it off as something unimportant, I left the room, continuing along the corridor to proceed with my examinations of the first floor. Excluding the dust falling from the ceiling, as though someone was following me from above -It was really rather disturbing- there was nothing particularly out of place in the left wing. Everything was in its own normal disused state in the majority of the right wing as well, apart from the chimney in the room directly above the other front sitting room. Incredibly curious of the black stain I had seen below, I had headed down to the room straight after I had finished the left wing. Through the grate I could make out the silhouette of boots. Large, heavy boots, the kind you would wear if you were... a groundskeeper. The kind you would wear if your job revolved around the great outdoors. I felt my heart sink as I saw what seemed to be a pale stick holding the boot up, reflecting the moonlight. Just in my field of vision within the chimney, I saw the beginnings of a tattered trouser leg, which seemed to fit the same disrepair the boots were in- cracked leather with ten-year-old mud. It was another dead person.

I swallowed down my disgust, shutting my eyes and turning away. If anything, this was worse than the little boy in the basement. At least he was still... intact. This person was nothing but bone and a few old ragged clothes. Thoroughly disturbed, I stood up from my knees, turning the camera's lens away from the chimney, shining it around the rest of the room. It was pretty much like the one below it. A small bar took up most of the space beside the chimney with shelves full of green bottles. Various bookshelves filled with old tomes with magnificent dustcovers, revealing nothing more than a few outdated facts, were in every single nook and cranny.

I continued out from this room, coming to the room on the opposite side of the wall with the strange wood. Once more, it was much paler, almost discoloured. The furniture within the actual room was almost identical to that of the one on the other side. I frowned, watching the wall intently for a few moments. After a little thinking, I came to a rather confident conclusion. There had to be something in that space, some old passage that had been blocked off. I hadn't yet found any stairs or any way to get up to the highest floors, and there were at least three. So why cover up an entrance? Why block it off? I felt a tingle run down my spine. This was it. This is what drove everyone away. This was what I came here for. Somewhere deep inside me, I felt fear gnawing at my skull.

It took me a few moments to actually test my theory. I crouched beside the space, placing one hand on the wood. There was no point putting my ear to it. With a deep breath, I knocked. The wood vibrated rather drastically. If it were not hollow, then there would be very few vibrations. I pulled myself away, staring at the wall in horror mingled with excitement. It was too late to turn back now. Not now, after I'd come so far. There had to be a way inside.

I stood there for ages, looking for some way of getting through, searching for a secret lever or button, a secret passage or some way of getting inside. I lifted paintings, tearing them from the walls, searching harder and harder. It must seem mad, wanting to enter this creepy house, where I'd found human corpses. Eventually, I pretty much gave up. There was no instantly visible way of entering the room save the panelling. It was slightly darker than the rest, less sun bleached. Instead it was newer and strangely door-shaped. Once I had established that there was no hidden mechanism of any kind, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Not that I hadn't already. With a quick glanced around the room, I once more found the chairs. Rather than seeing them as furniture used to sit on, this time I viewed them as a weapon. A thin smile spread across my face, and I took hold of the nearest one- a rather large, head-of-the-table sort of chair. I held it above my head, straining with the effort, before rushing forward. The torch was in my mouth, and I tried not to gag as I lurched forward, the camera dangling precariously from my arm, the weight of the chair dragging me forward faster than the force of my run ever could. Sometimes I wished my brothers would follow me everywhere. They were so useful at times. Either way, The combined force and weight of my attempt and the chair's own eagerness to fall somehow managed to smash through the slightly thinner wood. I stumbled inside, dropping the chair before me.

In an almost impulsive reaction, I darted back out, doing a little jig whilst I turned back around to face the wall. Otherwise, I was rather spurred on by my little victory, I shone the torch in the room. The first staircase was dark as ever. The falling clouds of dust had stopped, much to my relief. Stepping through the opening, I started my ascent up the stairs.

The hairs on the back of my neck prickled, and I felt my spine tingle. I was in... a storeroom? Everything in here was all clean. Strangely clean. Everything polished to gleam, shining brightly in the light of my torch. My shoes had a bit of trouble finding purchase on the floor, almost slipping from under me. Large chests, their leather supple and soft, bordered the small room, as was the room beside it, where the second staircase led to. What surprised me most of all on the second floor was the working fountain in the front room. The only feature in an otherwise empty room still worked to its full potential, churning out a decent amount every minute. I frowned, curiosity once more growing within me.

Once I had gotten over my curiosity, I turned back into the first room, shining my torch up the stairs, before continuing up them. The dark above was so thick that even when shining the torch up into it, I couldn't see anything. As I stepped into the room, my torch dimmed considerably. I felt the pressure building up in my ears as blood rushed through them, pounding inside my head as unwelcome fear mounted, growing greater and greater. So why did I continue? Why did I walk into the front room of the third floor? What I can't change is the very fact that I did. My torch gave one last, feeble flicker, before it extinguished itself. Everything shuddered slightly as the obviously heavy footsteps shook the ceiling above, dust falling in capacious amounts. I glanced upward, cringing, before I noticed something. There was still no staircase. There was no way of getting into the room above me. In a sudden wave of paranoia, as I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, as though something were looking right at me, I hurried over to the window, drawing back the curtain and peering outside. Just in time to see a little figure disappearing inside the front door.

My heart nearly stopped right there and then. Nausea trickled through my body, and I turned around. It felt so slow, as though I were moving through treacle or something of a similar density. As I turned, I saw a white glow coming from the stairs that led up. It grew in brightness, until a little figure appeared. That... that was when I knew it was over. I stared in horror, frozen in sudden realization. This was it.

The figure started walking toward me, hand out. Like the fool, I was, I dropped my useless torch, instead reaching out. The last thing I remember... Is taking that cold, cold hand, and looking into the thing's harsh, black eyes.

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