Supernatural Fiction posted October 12, 2014

This work has reached the exceptional level
Gothic story for contest

I Wish I'd Known

by Drew Delaney

Darkness threatened the pathway to the castle with the occasional streak of light from the slivered crescent moon. The moon slipped in and out between dark, gloomy clouds that hung low on the heath and the moorland. A misty fog clung to the trees with skeletal branches, and some of them creaked and cracked on occasion. Perhaps, a bat hung on a limb too tiny to carry its weight. I could not blame a gust of wind, for it was a quiet, though eerie evening with not a squall in the air.

I forgot to inform Mrs. Stockwell that I yearned to go for a leisurely walk to get some fresh air. I felt compelled to get away for a time and contemplate my imaginings. Going for a walk alone at this time of the evening gave me the creeps. The walk felt exhilarating until I realized the time had slid away so quickly. Autumn designated the light hours to pass suddenly and almost without warning. Nevertheless, my thoughts consumed my mind and time did get away on me.

The odour of the castle brimmed with a mouldy, death stench. The strange thing is that it battered me with short whiffs, nearly strangling me on the spot. The scent, so strapping, I might have toppled, had it not disappeared as quickly as it entered. I had no one to share this strange fearsome foreboding. There were a multitude of maids, cooks, and the butler bustling about the castle walls, preparing for a large gathering. Nevertheless, how could I convey such a thing? They would think me daft without proof of my account.

I could not share my fears with the child to whom my charge was designated. She was a bright child of twelve years of age. The last thing I would care to do would be to frighten the child unduly.

Another strange thing was that nobody seemed to have had the experience of this excruciating odour. At least, they did not come out and discuss the matter, as far as I knew.

Finally, I arrived in close proximity to the castle's stepping-stones. Lit lanterns eased my fears as I strolled up the gray stoned steps. However, the rule was not to be set aside; staff must use the back entry. I still must find my way alongside the dark castle walls through the ghastly gnarled branches dressing the outer walls. The English Ivy's leaves had turned red, yellow, and gold and spread like a blanket on the ground. However, their twines, twisted and tangled, tripped my footing as I trooped through with my long dress. Why didn't I go the designated way? Taking a short cut became pure drudgery.

I wanted to scream for help, but nobody would have heard me. The way, long and arduous, to the other side frightened me. The twines had twisted around my legs so that I couldn't move.

Trapped and sitting on the soil, my hands struggled to release my legs from the twisting vines. While tearing the vines and tossing them to the side, my hand ran across something hard and feeling nearly frozen. I screamed, but it was useless. Tears gathered in full force only causing me more problems. I could see nothing. Clearing the tears from my eyes with my coat sleeve, and wiping the mucus from my nose, I spoke aloud.

"Hello! Do you hear me?" I listened for a response, but all I could hear was a groan. Not loud, mind you, but loud enough to realize it was the sound of a human. I nearly lost my mind. My heart began to race, and all-at-once it felt like it stopped. You have to get a hold of yourself or you will go insane. Nevertheless, what am I to do? Somebody is here and I cannot see within the confines of this utter darkness.

"Who are you?" The words formed between my lips were hushed and filled with unease. I listened for some kind of sound, but alas, there was no answer.

I continued to try to unravel the snakelike grip of the vines around my legs waist down. Had I known this was going to occur, I would have remained in my room and been satisfied to read my book in front of a nice cozy flame.

How stupid. Not to tell anyone where I was going and when I would return? If I do not learn anything from this venture, then I am not teachable. Suddenly, I got a whiff of the stench that was in the castle. Oh, no. Not that. Please, not that again. It was even worse than feeling the frozen stone, and hearing that hideous groan.

I felt around as I ripped at each strand of difficult vines. The odour lingered longer than usual. It was terrifying. My breath was taken aback. There I lay amongst the heap of dead vines, and felt trapped for I still was not released completely. It was like a thin, scrawny arm wrapped around me and unwilling to let go.

Managing to move now that I was on the ground, I slithered like a snake forward. The stench seemed to get worse, if that could even be possible. I coughed and gagged, and my stomach felt about to heave. I moved forward progressively. I did not care to go back, nonetheless I struggled with the question. Which way? Forward. Back. It must be forward or I will just fall into the hands of that monster that groaned and felt appallingly cold. Confusion began to envelop my soul.

Whilst moving forward, I arrived at a descent. I felt around with my cold hands. It seemed a pit of sorts? A pit uncovered would be a strange thing for the lord of the castle to not attend. I continued forward, the stench forcing me onward. If I did not get to fresh air soon, I would be consumed by it. My only chance was to keep moving until the air cleared.

All at once, I felt myself falling. The pit, filled with bones and bodies half rotted, while other bodies still stirred and were, indeed still alive. I could hear groans and wailing unlike anything I ever heard before. This must be hell. I realized finally, where the stench was coming from, and at least, it gave me my answer I had been pondering upon for ages. I lost consciousness.
"What are you doing down there?" I heard a voice shout awaking me.

I looked upward from where the sound came. The sun shone bright, and the sky looked clear and blue.

"I fell into this horrible pit in the dark." Looking around, it looked like I was at the bottom of a well or mine shaft. Nonetheless, the bodies and bones had disappeared. I could not believe my eyes. And the awful stench? Why, there was no stench at all.

Had I dreamed this all or was it my imagination?

"Please, may I get out?"

"Catch this rope, and wrap it around your waist. Then tie a double knot." It was the lord of the castle himself. Embarrassed and confused, I did as he commanded. I must look a mess. Silly of me. How shall I explain myself to his lordship?

"Alright? Are you ready? Try to get a foot-hold on the edge as I pull on the rope."

"Yes, my lord." He pulled and I managed to get one foot dug into the soil, then the second. It was like climbing a ladder only with a tug securing me. Soon I crawled out of the pit, than he pulled me to my feet.

"Oh, my lordship. I am ever so grateful for you finding me and helping me. How could you know where I was?"

"You were nowhere to be seen, and my daughter came to tell me the news that you had fled the castle. The maid checked your room and nothing had went missing, other than your coat. Therefore, we all assumed you had gone astray."

"Oh, I must look a fright. Please excuse me. I must get cleaned up and attend to my duties."

"But of course. I think I ought to tell you that a graveyard right here where we are standing, and some distance under the castle has been found, and the corpses are being transferred to another gravesite. The water is contaminated, and disease could spread rampantly. The castle will close until all the remains are transferred, and the water is once again drinkable. It would be best for you to leave until further notice. I am sorry for the inconvenience."


Gothic Contest contest entry

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