(Witten Hall is a haunted house horror that I am currently working on at the moment. It tells the tale of the titular Hall, spread over many decades and owners. This is the opening prologue, which hopefully sets the mood. Be aware, this is an early draft and prone to errors. Hope you enjoy. – OJ)
Witten Hall was a quiet place. One that held many shadows in it’s creases. They were shadows that would only exist in the corners of a man’s eye, but they would be there. Dark, void of anything but the black. At times, it would seem like they moved, or housed some awfulness, but one would always consider that the trick of the minds eye.
Such was the thoughts of Bartleby, a watch for the Witten’s. His position was quite clear: to oversee the upkeep and protection of Witten Hall while the Witten family was not in residence. Thankfully, most of the time they were, but in instances such as these Bartleby found himself alone in the walls of Witten Hall.
Well, not quite alone. He had his trusty hounds, Clover and Fez, to keep him company. The two dogs were of the labrador breed, and provided both companionship and protection from any foolish types who would try and break into the large manor. Very few would even dare, but some people are not blessed with the benefit of common sense.
There had been many nights much like tonight, where the air was still and Witten Hall had an unnerving calm about it. Bartleby didn’t much care for the silence, but he cared less for any noise that was born from it. He simply liked to make his notes, keep the hounds fed, and go along his way. Tonight, however, felt different. He had sat in his study, getting great physical comfort from his chair, but having very little mental comfort from his surroundings. Tonight, the manor felt strange. The silence was heavy, and the shadows leaked around Witten Hall’s corridors like a slick oil. Tonight, Bartleby was struck with a sense of fear.
And so he sat there, at his desk within the study, staring toward a space he could not recognise, as Clover and Fez pottered about. The dogs whined an awful sound that Bartleby chose to ignore, but still pierced through him. The only noise he could hear beyond that, was the simple breeze of air that flowed within, still and graceful. Yet, more haunting than calming.
For what seemed mere minutes, soon bled into many hours, as Bartleby felt paralysed by his own ill feeling. He felt distracted from any work he could continue to do for the Wittens, and could not bring himself to leave the manor. Witten Hall was his charge, and he was deigned to serve it. After all, the Hall was as much a child to the Witten’s as any of their own born, passed down through a generation to be passed forth to generations more. If there were anything to happen to it, there would be much pain caused.
So Bartleby sat there, until he could sit no more. A nearby clock chimed for the early hours, and the candle that flickered on his desk danced a final pivot of flame. His hand now forced, Bartleby snapped himself out of whatever stupor had overcome him, and looked to arrange for another light to ease his discomfort of the Hall’s shadows.
Once free of his chair, he now had to navigate the long passages that Witten Hall had. Sweeping hallways that connected the many rooms that the Witten elder had demanded be built. It was a behemoth of a building, but yet quite empty in places. Long stretches of corridors gazed off long and deep, descending into a black pitch that one found their vision lost in. Bartleby had always felt the strength of mood the Hall had, but as he walked to find further light, it struck him heavier than before. The corridor was almost endless, with only brief glimpses of shadow reflecting off the various treasures the Witten’s had accumulated over time.
As he stood outside the study, making sure what little light was left did not flicker to a death, the dogs milled around his feet and suddenly let off with a run. They disappeared into the Hall, and Bartleby lost what little protection of companionship he had. Truly, he was now alone, with only Witten hall for company.
Many of the rooms along the Hall’s passageways were darken by the night sky, no moonlight shining through the slender windows. The stillness chilled, as Bartleby slowly made his way along. He knew what he was looking for, but knew not of where he was looking for it. There was almost a trance about his person, as if his body moved independent of his mind. He was merely a vessel for where the Hall wished to take him, and his heart beat an uneven pattern at this.
Then he stopped. There was no light, nor any sound of substance to alert his cessation of movement, yet this was where he would end his walk. He remaining staring off down the hallway, seeing nothing except the bleakness, while his flame trickled out to a whimpering demise. There Bartleby was, alone and still within the gloom. His body did not shake, despite his mind being most troubled. The atmosphere of Witten Hall began to oppress him, forcing it’s ill will against his person. There was suddenly a great urge to turn back to the sanctuary of his study or sleeping quarters, and yet all Bartleby could do was remain still.
At that moment though, one of the flickers of shadow that he saw just outside where his eyes would let him, came to life. Something moved to his right, in one of the many casual quarters Witten Hall had. The quarters had been a place for people to sit back and lounge, while enjoying a good port, fine cigar, or other indelicate activity. Many tales had been told about the goings on within these rooms, and of now, Bartleby saw one of these taking place.
It was impossible though, as he was the only person there. True, there were the dogs, but it wasn’t animals that made such motions in the room next to him. He did not want to look, but slowly Bartleby turned his head to gaze into the room.
There he saw something that did not make sense to him. Two people, a young man and woman, caught in a passionate embrace. There were not quite there, being almost ethereal in form, and yet Bartleby saw them as they writhed and kissed each other in the beginnings of a carnal act. In addition to their ghostly, shuddering appearance, Bartleby did not recognise their state of dress. It looked queer to him, an almost minimalist and plain form of the clothing that the Witten’s would dress in. This, as well as their general style, did not sit right with Bartleby. They were not of this time, although he could not tell himself what time they belonged to.
As soon as he saw the vision, it blew away like dust on a counter. They faded into nothing, and Bartleby was left with just the dark of the room. He stared for a moment longer, a sickness coming over him, before his body fell carefully to the floor. Once again, he was left paralysed and unable to move, the stillness of Witten hall seeping into his muscles. His eyes remained wide, staring up at the majestic patterns on the ceiling, and his mind kept making motions. Thoughts were en masse as he lay there, unable to move, until he felt the lapping tongue of Clover and Fez arrive back. They tasted the flesh on his face, as Bartleby desperately wanted to swat them away.
But nothing in his body would move an inch. He was condemned to keep still as the dogs went from licking his face with their rough tongues, to commence chewing. Bartleby felt their storng, canine teeth sink into the soft flesh of his cheek, and no matter what pain or horror he felt in his mind, he remained still.
As the dogs continued to feast upon the fallen warden, Witten Hall remained quiet. Nothing but the sound of the air circulating, and wet consumption of fresh meat.