THE EARL OF REDCREST
By Ashley Bailey
as the moon rises. For these past nine nights I have been tormented by a
torrent of horrendous and inhuman screams, striking from without like a
thunderclap against the window. I am a prisoner in my own home.
And I dare
lugubrious moon seeps into my room. I watch as it casts dancing shadows,
projecting a silhouette performance onto the wall canvas. Another sleepless
substantial, yet sleep remains always out of reach. I wrench the covers off my
body, moist with sweat, and drag myself up off of the bed. Time to drown myself
in the burning caress of brandy.
antediluvian and unearthly, stalks out at me from the shadows. Long bony claws
reaching, ready to tear. I jump back, gasping so harshly it produces no sound.
But this is another cruel trick of the laboured mind. A mere spectre. The
shadowy invasion of the pine tree which sits outside of my window.
once filled with the warmth of roaring fires and the clinking of wine glasses,
has become a place of oppression. Growing ever hostile as the nights in exile grow longer and more numerous. Gone are the
banquets and balls, visits from the lords and ladies, many joyous hours spent
in the parlour room.
master bedroom, is my last bastion as the horror without closes in. Redcrest
county’s rabble openly speak against their Earl in their dank taverns. My own
servants all think me mad. They share knowing glances and mocking whispers as
their broken master stumbles past. They Mock me as I cry of brass round sconces
transforming into evil faces, and wicked beings appearing from the shadows to
inch of brandy from the decanter, I listen to the cacophony and ponder my
unusual fate. These wails, by creatures I wish to know nothing of, seem to come
from the night-time air itself. Wrought with such agony, they tell of a hellish
landscape of abject misery. Perhaps these screams will rend apart the heavens
themselves, and usher in a deluge of blood.
to be unaware of these ghastly happenings. Ignore the impassioned pleas which
rattle the windows and rock the foundations. One servant, a Miss Cotton,
looked, actually looked, as a face leered out of the dark. She said nothing,
other than that I looked unwell and poured some foul remedy onto my food.
only one of
my kind in the house, I am truly alone in this nightmare. Locked away in my
increasingly smaller bedroom, as Crowhead Estate is usurped by outside forces.
hands of the Gods of War and Pestilence have passed over the Coldwell line,
returning all but me back to the Earth. Elizabeth, my Elizabeth, was the last
to leave. Stricken down by poisons unknown. Our son died with her. For
centuries my family’s enemies have utilised the blade and scroll to their
nefarious end. Paid assassins to rake daggers across my ancestors as they
slept. Stolen my family’s property. Lied, slandered, manipulated. Turned the
common folk against us. This nightmare is but surely yet another Machiavellian
plot to destroy the Coldwell name.
Coldwell Earl seem insane.
another drink, depleting the decanter’s contents. The glass shakes in my hand
and most of the brandy sloshes onto the floor. Outside the ongoing barrage of
discordant screams continues.
my beleaguered face, though I do not know why. Stretched and curved to the
point of pain, the maddened grin fills out my hollowed cheeks and sunken eyes.
Stood in the timorous light adorning such a grin, I must appear positively
remember my disturbing appearance. The bloodshot eyes. The deep ridges around
my eyes and nose which cast the most perturbing shadows on my mien, lending me
the appearance of the common ruffian. Though only forty, I resemble a man
twenty years my senior. Worst of all are the constant convulsions, the shaking
of my hands and head as though fearful of some concealed beast.
am a broken
man, and nobody gives a damn.” My snarl, both a condemnation and a pitying
glass aside and stumble over to the window.
WANT?” A scream. My scream. Though it is lost amongst the merciless tirade.
estate below is dying a slow death. No work had been performed on it for weeks,
the hedges overgrown and statues of my ancestors knocked over in the wind. Even
the estate’s namesake, the onyx crow’s head, sits forgotten. But there’s
something else. Not too far below my bay window. Naked. Sexless.
laid on the long grass. Wide-eyed and basking in the moonlight. Hideous grins
on their faces. A look of complete peace. As I observe the intruders, the
window is shattered by a tremendous bellow, knocking me back onto my knees.
I cover my ears and scream. It’s as though the world’s rage and pain is focused
on me. An aggression as old as time itself that has found an outlet. My shouts
go unheard, drowned out, I’m cast out to sea on a rapidly sinking raft. My
servants are not coming to my aid. I must save myself.
the glass and debris, I go to my bedroom door and open it. The stench of
carrion immediately hits. Something sploshes behind a door to the left. With
only the baleful celestial illumination to guide me, I crawl over the
threshold. The shadows press upon me, unseen creatures glare, teeth gnashing.
the walls. A portrait of my father, abandoned at the top of the stairs, has its
throat torn open, eyes gouged out. Defeat takes over, I beg the gloom to
swallow me whole. My enemies have won.
For a moment,
contemplate again seeking solace in my room. But the sanctuary has been broken.
That room will never again be safe. The screams have found me and I have
nowhere left. One by one I descend the cold marble stairs and into the darkness
of the landing, where not even the moonlight can reach. Into the abyss.
lifeless, touches my foot. But I make no noise as I know it belongs to a dead
man. I can feel his skinless touch. My determination to stop the screams is all
that drives me now. I reach the bottom and make my way through the manor,
ignoring the savage struggle around me. The screams billow. Down more stairs.
doors to the grounds have already been flung open. Damaged by the madness that
overtook the estate. A man sits alone in the lounge to the right. Washed in
moonlight which reveals his knife-ridden body. A human pincushion.
my home for
the first time in weeks to a violent downpour of warm, sticky rain. Tears roll
down my face. Strengthening my resolve I head over to the pale, forsaken forms
that must surely be responsible for this terror. I look down upon them.
sprawled before me. Stripped, mutilated and defiled. Looking up at me with an
expression of fear and accusation perpetually set onto their faces. An axe, my
vintage Flintedge, is on the ground, cracked and stained with claret and bone
powder. The men have been gelded, the women brutalised.
mad. Told the villagers of their Earl’s monstrous ways. I had to stop the
incredulous rumours. I flop to the floor and look up at the abysmal sky. Do the
screams even exist beyond my sick mind? Does it even matter? The servants were right:
Crowhead Estate is indeed home to a monster.
scream rings out, and all becomes quiet.
Bailey is 27 years old lives in Hull, Yorkshire, England. His affection
for his wonderful, yet oft neglected, home city deeply influences his work.
When not writing, he likes reading, taking scenic walks (through nature and
through sites of social decay), and he collects old books. He is a fan of
H.P. Lovecraft and his anti-humanist brand of cosmic horror. He also maintains
a blog where he publishes weekly reviews of video games, books, and movies,
largely to work on his writing skills in a less stressful manner.