Madison left out a soft sigh of exhaustion as she got out of the car and looked over the manor. She could think of countless other things she'd rather be doing than going over the place, but money was tight and this job paid far too well for her to pass up. She looked over the grand structure, dabbled with patches of snow. A little early, given it was mid November, but not uncommon in this part of Norway.
Her job seemed simple enough- spend a month living in the manor cataloging furniture, heirlooms, documents and the like and tidy the place up a bit. She looked at the looming building in front of her and pouted a bit. "A month might not be enough time..." she said softly to herself as she got her bags out of the trunk and headed inside.
The building was obviously Rococo in architecture, giving it a very luxurious look. The walls were covered in ornate carvings painted in with silvers and golds between the large windows spotted around the building. The roof tiles were a beautiful, deep blue that gave the manor a cold feeling against its white walls. Overall the manor was breathtaking.
Once inside she looked around, catching herself letting out a small gasp. She was taken in by the dark wood floors, marble columns with gold accents and all the luxurious and ornate looking furniture. She understood now why her client was willing to pay so much to have it taken care of, and why it had to be discreet. Should anyone know about what was locked away inside these walls...it seemed a single looter could make a cool few million on just a few pieces alone.
Once she closed her dropped jaw, Madison grabbed her bags and headed up to the extra room she'd be sleeping in. It was a large storage room on the ground floor, not far off from the entrance. It was the only room that had been cleared out, save a bed and dresser for her things. Before she could unpack she heard someone from the foyer.
"Maddy?? You here yet?" the thick, Irish male voice called out.
"Yes, I'm here!" she called out, trotting over with a warm smile at the man that was making this mission of a job worth the effort.
"Morning Mr. Fergison."
He made a mock sour face and shook his head. "None of that, Junior is fine." he chuckled.
Junior Fergison was a self-made billionaire, decent looking too now that Madison got a good look at him. Staple Irish gingered hair, very faint freckles, bright emerald eyes...she found she had to keep herself from swooning a bit as he smiled and looked around.
"Breathtaking, isn't it?" he said, gesturing around the building. "I dont think the old lady knew what she had here to have sold it for so cheap. I think some of the artifacts alone are worth what I paid."
She nodded in agreement. "Ive been meaning to ask Mist- Junior. Why did you request for me to categorize everything alone?"
He gave her a smile. "Do you recall a few months back an obscure little coin I brought to your company to have appraised?" She nodded. "It was a test. You were the only historian there to know what it really was. No one else came even close, so you are the only historian I trust to properly handle and categorize the treasures inside this manor."
"....about the time limit of a month...." she started, feeling a little shy after such praise, not wanting to disappoint him by her uncertainty that a month would be long enough. She went to continue when he cut her off.
"If you need to stay longer its fine with me. I want you to be as thorough as possible. I'll take care of any additional expenses you might need to get the job done *properly*."
She smiled and nodded. "Thank you."
He looked around again, walking the halls, Madison not far behind. "So why was the previous seller so eager to get rid of the manor?" she asked out of curiosity.
Junior shrugged a bit to himself. "Depends on who you ask. Some will say her husband died here and it brings bad memories, others say she was seeing things, and some say the community treated the family horribly when they went into town."
"...have you asked her yourself?" she questioned, worried she was prodding too much.
He nodded a bit. "I did, but her mind is so far gone it's hard to tell. Probably also why I was able to nab this place for so cheap." he grinned.
It took the two an hour to walk through the interior of the manor. Once back in the front foyer he gave Madison a warm smile.
"Well, I shouldn't keep you any longer. Just wanted another look of how it all was before its bagged away."
"I plan to take pictures of all the rooms before I start sorting and bagging things away."
His smile grew to hear that as he reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a business card. "My personal cell is listed, call me if you need anything." he said with a dashing smile before leaving her alone in the large manor to swoon a bit.
She stood at the doorway, waving him goodbye as she watched him drive off. Fanning herself off a bit with his business card, she headed back inside, pocketing the card in her wallet for safe keeping. With a deep breath of determination, she marched back to her room and gathered what she'd need to start her work.
Armed with a notebook, tape recorder, digital camera and tablet, she got to work. She moved throughout the manor first, taking various pictures of the rooms and furniture in their original state. This wasn't just for Junior, she felt they could maybe be used one day in a book or catalog of how the house was decorated during its time of occupancy. She eventually noticed the light outside the windows fading, looking down to see she had been snapping pictures for a good deal of ten hours. She looked down at her watch to see it was already six in the evening, surprised hunger hadn't hit her at all. Chalking it up to excitement of all the treasures in the manor, she made a note of what room she left in and headed down to the kitchen to make herself dinner.
Once satisfied, she curled up in her bed, reading over old documents about the manor and its history. Built in 1873, the manor housed a few dozen families in its years. She couldn't help but notice that no one family lived in its walls for more than twelve years. In fact, it seemed the manor would be back on the market for sale almost exactly twelve years to its previous date of purchase. The only exception to this was Phillys Madour, the woman Junior had purchased the manor from. Despite the property being in her name for fifty years she had only taken residence in it for a few months before moving out and into another home in Wales.
Madison sat there, musing over the details. Did her husband die? And if so, why keep the house regardless for all this time? What bothered her even more still was the dozens of families that moved after twelve years. She sighed to herself and rubbed her eyes, looking to see it was already 10:48. She set her research aside and set her alarm for an early start the next morning.
Madison woke the next morning feeling a little sore. She took in a deep breath as she turned off her alarm and stretched, curious as to why her body seemed to ache. Figuring it was the mattress, she headed for a quick shower and breakfast before finishing off the last few rooms for pictures. She set another alarm as a reminder to take lunch, which went off as she finished her photos of the last room. She set for her photos to transfer to her laptop as she went to make herself a meal.
Her spoon stirred her bowl of soup as she watched the photos transfer before taking a spoonful, silently cursing at how hot it still was. She went back to stirring as the transfer finished. She flipped through them to see if any would need to be retaken, giving them all a quick glance over as she went. She smiled to see re-shoots didn't seem to be necessary as she focused on eating.
After her meal, she collected her things and set out to start the next phase of her job. She headed for the last rooms of the place, wanting to work her way to the front. "Alright, lets get to it." she smiled, walking down into the wine cellar. She was engrossed in her work, stopping only to take a quick glance at how many more bottles and barrels of alcohol she'd have to go through before finishing when she noticed something move out of the corner of her eye.
Something small, vaguely humanoid looked as if it was crawling along the path on the other side of the wall. Her head quickly snapped in its direction, letting out a shaky chuckle to see nothing there. 'Must be the dim lighting playing tricks on me' she thought to herself as she went back to work, jotting down the next bottle before recording it on her tape recorder. "Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Ermitage Cuvee Cathelin, Rhone, France." she said, feeling even sillier as she turned her head again, still catching glimpses of it from the corner of her eyes.
She checked her watch once the cellar was done and saw it was already past 7. She quickly headed up the stairs, happy to be out of the creepy cellar and made her way to the kitchen to prepare dinner. Even in the safety of the first floor she felt shivers as she ate, as if someone was watching her. She berated herself for being so foolish to think she saw something....but the image of what she thought she saw lurking in the corner refused to leave her mind. "Suck it up, you're a professional." she scolded herself before enjoying her meal, deciding to treat herself to a little entertainment as she moved to bed. She catch up on a few episodes of her favorite shows she had missed on her tablet before setting her alarm again for another early morning, then drifted off to sleep.
Something touched her. As she laid there sleeping, something touched her. She felt paralyzed as she felt a hand touch her face, as if examining it, before pulling away. She could hear it scuffle across the room, going through her research, pushing it off the table, then her clothes. She mustered up enough courage to slowly open her eyes and watch as the humanoid creature looked through her things, scattering it about the room. Her eyes went wide as she watched it, its back to her. Long, boney fingers and arms that seemed ready to fall off its misproportioned torso. Her eyes made their way down to its legs, seeing it had four of them, allowing it to skitter around the room like some sort of demented spider. She held her breath an forced her eyes closed as she watched it start to turn towards her, as if sensing she was awake.
Silence. She waited there for what felt like an eternity before allowing her eye to open just a bit, peeking to see what the creature was doing. There it was, right by her bed, its face inches away from hers. It looked like the flesh had started to melt off its skull, its eyes sunken in deep. It had no nose or lips, its teeth exposed, chattering a bit as it started at her. She felt her heart pounding her her chest, ready to burst as she tried to pretend to sleep, watching as it opened its mouth and moved closer to her face. She screamed and shot up in bed, looking around in a start. She was alone and drenched in sweat. Her eyes watered as she saw everything was in its proper place, undisturbed. Trembling, she rested her head in her hands, taking in several deep, shaking breaths.
"A nightmare, just a nightmare." she whispered to herself. She glanced over at the clock. 4:32 am. She sat in bed for a few more minutes, trying to calm herself. Unable to do so, the very air in the room feeling oppressive, she got out of bed and headed for the shower, figuring the warm water would calm her shocked nerves.
A shower and fresh pair of pjs later, she came out of the bathroom, towel drying her hair as she continued to look around the room, confirming it was exactly how she had left it. She had never been so shaken from a dream before....but it felt so real. She could still feel those boney fingers touch her face. She shivered a bit as she looked around the room one last time, confirming it was just a dream. Her things would have been strewn about if it wasn't, but it was all still neatly in its place. She sighed and climbed back into bed, figuring the nightmare came from the stress of possibly disappointing her client. Unable to fall asleep, she laid in bed with her eyes closed until her alarm went off at 7, waking her for a new day.
The next few days went by as well as they could have. The nightmares came and went, which Madison was grateful for. This morning she'd work on one of the more daunting rooms of the manor- the library. She looked around, estimating a few thousand books neatly displayed around the room. Not wanting to tackle the mass of books right away, she set to work on the furniture first.
Once she reached the large, oak desk in the center of the room she started going through the drawers. Old paperwork, paperweights, office supplies, and an old journal. Curious, she opened it up and read a bit. "Of course it's in Norweign..." she sighed to herself. Being raised in Maine, she knew a bit of French from the Canadians who traveled down into the states, but that was about it. She flipped through the pages, noticing the dates. "1908....this is in fantastic condition for being so old." she said, a little surprised as she flipped through the pages.
Pausing, she pulled up the list of families who occupied the house in its years. "The Östberg family, moved out in 1909." Her curiosity grew. The journal was dated a year before the family packed up and left. Flipping the pages, she decided to take a little personal time using an online translator to translate the pages. It wouldn't be perfect, but it would be enough. She was about to put it away and continue with her work when something caught her eye. The page had fluttered a bit, revealing a peek of the next page before resting back down. In that peek she saw something. Something familiar. Something she convinced herself was just a dream. Holding her breath, she turned the page and felt her blood turn to ice through her.
There it was. A detailed drawing of the creature she thought she was seeing lurking in the corner of her eyes and in her dreams. Under the drawing, in large letters was "Blek Død". Trembling, she reached for her tablet and typed in the name, crying softly to herself as the name translated to 'Pale Death'. She screamed out as she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket, mistaking it for the creatures touch. Shaking, she answered it, trying her best not to sound absolutely petrified. "....hello?"
A small wave of comfort washed over her to hear a familiar Irish accent on the other end. "Sorry to bother you Maddy, I got your number from the company. I was hoping you could send me a few photos for a catalog. Id like to be able to start auctioning most of it off as soon as possible and deliberate keeping a few items for myself. The designer I have wants to start touching up photos and getting things laid out as soon as possible for the printers."
"Of course, I'll send you what I have now." She took down his and his designers emails before hanging up with him. She looked back at the journal, taking it with her as she left the library to start the file transfers.
As the transfer went on, she used her tablet to look through information on the manor and 'the pale death' creature from the journal. Smiling softly to herself as she read about urban legends of the pale death and the manor. She reasoned she must have come across the urban legend in passing while pulling up research on the place and now, being here, her subconscious brought it back up. Judging by the journal, the legend went back for years. Yes, that had to be it. Reasoning it that way, she felt silly for reacting the way she did.
Once the transfer was done she made a quick lunch and went back to work. By the end of the day she had dented about an eighth of the library. Pulling only a few valuable items aside, she started her auto log. "One autographed book 'Frankenstein', first edition." she started, continuing through a few more books before going over the furniture. She'd have to transfer over the audio logs soon too, her recorder almost full. Finishing up, she headed down for dinner, going over all her audio as it transferred, making sure her written list matched her audio list.
Crawling into bed, she made herself comfortable while looking over the journal. The further in she went, the more the 'Blek Død' came up on the pages, including some very detailed drawings of the creature. "I'm going to keep having nightmares if I keep going this late." she sighed to herself, putting the journal aside before rolling over to fall asleep.
She woke up and stared at the clock. 11:59, almost midnight. She watched it for a moment as the digital display changed to 12:00. Something felt...wrong though. The digital display, once red, was now a deep blue. She sat up, looking at the clock, wondering if it was malfunctioning.
Creeeeeeeeek. Creeeeeeeeeek. There was someone walking out in the halls. She quietly got up from bed and tip-toed out of her room, taking a large flashlight with her as a light source and weapon. She quietly moved through the halls, trying to find who else was in the manor with her.
The further she went in, the more lights she turned on along the way. Before she knew it, she was back in her room, the place empty. She set the flashlight down and sighed to herself, chalking it up to an overactive imagination given she was looking at creepy drawings moments before going to bed. How late was it now, she wondered? 'Its probably already after 1 am.' she thought to herself, rolling over to look at the clock. 12:00 AM.
She blinked, thinking it was her eyes. 12:00 AM. She stared at the clock for what felt like five minutes. 12:00 AM. "Twelve houses, twelve hours, twelve months, but there's a hidden thirteenth." a soft voice said, breaking her concentration. She turned to see a small girl on the other side of the room. She had long, white hair, pale skin....and no eyes. She watched as the young thing walked closer to her.
Madison was paralyzed with fear as she watched the young girl move closer, opening her mouth again. "That's where it lives, in the thirteenth. They opened it, no one ever closed it, so now it roams in the hidden hour." Creeek creeeeeeeek. "It took me, it took others too....it wants you next." she said in a whisper, now face to face with Madison.
A jolt. She sat up in bed, covered in sweat, trembling. "A nightmare..." she said to herself, looking over at the clock. 12:00 AM, the digital display a deep blue. Creeeeeek creeeek. Holding her breath, she turned her head to see herself face to face with the creature again, it opening its mouth as if it wanted to bite her face clean off.
Screaming at the top of her lungs, she shot up in bed again, sobbing. "Oh God, Oh God..." she cried, realizing it was another dream. She glanced at the clock, crying in relief to see it read 4:38 AM. She looked around the rest of her room, happy to see it empty. She sat there for a while, trying to calm herself down. She took in several deep breaths before she stopped shaking. She sniffed, wiping her eyes before letting out a small chuckle to herself. What would Junior think if he could see her now? "How unattractive." she said out loud, chastising herself from being so worked up over nothing.
Hearing a soft rumble accompanied by a light tapping from outside, she smiled to herself as she laid back down. Thunder storms always calmed her for some reason, so hearing one start up now was a God send. She closed her eyes, focusing on the sound of the rain and was happily taken by sleep once again.
Madison slowly woke up and looked over at the clock. It was well after noon as she dragged herself out of bed, cursing herself for sleeping in so late. Despite sleeping well over her alarm, she still felt drained. Hoping a shower would help her feel better, she started up the water, hopping in as soon as it was warm enough.
Feeling refreshed, she wrapped herself up in a towel and stepped out, moving in front of the sink. The mirror was covered in a thin layer of steam, obstructing a clear view of her face. Still, she could see something was wrong. Her skin looked very blue in the mirror and where her eyes should be were just two black masses staring back at her. Holding her breath, she reached her hand out and wiped away the steam clinging to the mirrors surface.
She let out a small gasp as she stared at her decaying reflection. Skin blue and sunken, eyes completely gone, teeth falling out of her open mouth. As her brain was still processing the vision, she blinked. Opening her eyes again showed a perfectly normal reflection aside from how pale she looked from the blood draining from her face. She blinked a few more times to make sure it wouldn't change back again. Her hand came to her forehead as she shook it. These nightmares were getting to be too much.
She left the bathroom and dressed, grabbing the journal again. She needed this translated and soon. In her mind, knowing what this damn thing was and what these drawings were about would help her overcome the nightmares. People fear what they don't know, so knowing should take away the fear. Flipping through the pages, she sighed to see all the special characters she would have to struggle with typing everything into an online translator.
She loaded up her laptop, still slipping through the pages and diagrams drawn on its pages. More of the creature and a few of some sort of hierarchy involving clocks. One drawing she stopped on was of a clock with thirteen numerals on it. "...the hidden hour." she said softly to herself as the chime from her laptop promoted her that it was finished booting up. Immediately she posted an ad on craigslist looking for a translator to translate a few books into English for her. With that set, she headed for the library in search of more journals, books, or drawings of this 'pale death'.
Madison applauded herself for at least having the sense to sort the books as she pulled them off the shelves one by one. There was a pile of 'junk' books, a pile she would have to inspect further, and a pile she neatly stacked of rarities. At the end of her search of the library, she had found nothing. Tired and sore, she stood and looked over the vast room and stacks of books all around her.
Her stomach rumbled, angry at her for neglecting to eat all day. She sighed softly, still overlooking the library as if what she was looking for would dance for her, making itself easier to find. She forced herself to leave, her hunger winning over her desire to keep looking.
She ate slowly, her thoughts still consumed with the journal. She didn't know why, but something deep within her told her that there was more than one of the damned things. It was then that her thoughts were pulled back to the first journal and her ad for a translator. She headed over for her laptop and opened her email, seeing a few offers waiting for her. She read through them, deciding to call the person who lived closest to the manor.
"Hello?" a male voice answered after a few rings.
"Yes, hello. My name is Madison, I placed an ad for a translator...is this Evan?" she asked, surprised by how American he sounded.
"Oh right, for the journals. Yeah, hi. It's funny, I was thinking of trying my hand as a translator but wanted to practice written stuff before I tried verbal translating."
She nodded, despite him being unable to see her do so. "Yes, well, I found a journal that seems to be about some sort of legend. I wanted to look into it a bit but its completely in Norwegian."
"That sounds like perfect practice." he said with a bit of a laugh.
"Perfect....think you can come by tomorrow morning?"
"Tomorrow sounds great."
After giving him the address she went back to finishing up her dinner and headed back for her room, curling up with her tablet to watch cartoons from her childhood, hoping it would curb the nightmares. She smiled to herself as she hummed along with the theme song, eventually singing along with it. "Gummi Bears~ Bouncing here and there and everywhere..." She was happily absorbed in her shows, unaware of what was lurking through the manor.
Madison was passed out in a deep sleep as something tugged on her. She groaned and rolled over, trying to get more sleep. The little hands pushed at her back, trying to shake her awake.
"Wake up, hurry." the tiny voice whispered to her.
"Five more minutes..." she grumbled, pulling the sheets over her head.
It took her a minute to remember where she was and that there should be no one else in the manor with her. She froze. Maybe it was just a dream. She laid there, afraid to move, and listened for silence to confirm she was woken from a dream.
"Wake up." the voice said again firmly.
She slowly rolled over to see the little girl from her previous dream standing there. She looked just as she did in her dream. Silky long, white hair, pale skin...and those deep empty eyes, the skin around them looking corroded and diseased. Madison's mouth opened to scream only to have the young specter place a cold, clammy hand over her mouth before raising a single finger to her own.
"It'll hear you. Its not fully awake yet, but it will be soon." she said softly.
"....who are you?" Madison asked in a trembling voice.
"Elizabeth. Papa called me Eliza."
She knew that name. Elizabeth 'Eliza' Maxwell, daughter of Richard Maxwell, one of the previous owners of the manor. But it couldn't be...she had to be dreaming. Despite her appearance, Madison couldn't help but pity the poor thing. She seemed so sad somehow. Eliza reached for her hand, pulling her out of bed.
"We have to hurry."
"You only found one journal, but there are more hidden away. Papa had been close to finding them, but it was too late. The last lady disappeared when I tired to tell her."
"You mean Phillys Madour?"
The small girl shrugged as she lead her out of her room. "I don't know, she left too soon."
"Why do I need the other journals?" she asked, seeing as how this seemed to be a great concern to the small thing.
"They will help you reverse what has been started. We can be free when you do."
She nodded, leading her further into the manor, down into the wine cellar. Once they reached the back of the cellar the small girl pointed to a slightly off colored stone before disappearing through the wall. Confused, Madison ran her hand over it, finding it fit loosely into the wall. She tried to pull it out, nearly screaming when the wall started to open, revealing a hidden passage.
Eliza was waiting for her on the other side. She didn't say anything and kept moving further down into the passage. Madison stared in awe for a moment before following her down into what seemed to be a dungeon. Bones littered the floors as she followed, Eliza pausing by a smaller framed set.
"That's me." she said softly with a sad face before continuing further down. It was then Madison noticed things out of the corners of her eyes. She looked to see what Eliza meant by *we*. Several more mournful spirits watched them walk by, many far more gruesome than the little spirit leading her. One woman had her jaw completely ripped off, a man had a large hole where his heart should be, another man who seemed to be just a torso and a head. All of them were missing their eyes.
Madison started to panic as they moved closer to her, Eliza's small hand taking her hand into it. "They wont hurt you. They want to warn you so you don't become like us. They want you to free us."
She nodded. "When it took us, it kept us here. We cant move on."
"It?" she asked, dreading the answer
"Blek Død" a woman missing her lower half answered, dragging herself closer with her mangled arms.
"Papa said the manor was cursed." she said as she moved further down into the crypt. "It would come every twelve years and claim a life, keeping it forever. It feeds..." she said as she looked back at the others. "Even when our bodies are gone, it feeds on us. If it devours us completely, we become a part of it. No afterlife, rebirth or death. Just eternal pain." she explained sadly. "It always has twelve, when one is gone it searches for a fresh one."
"Why twelve?" Madison asked, still wondering if she was dreaming.
"I don't know, papa said he was close to figuring it out." she said as she lead her into another room passed the crypt. In the middle was a pedestal, on top of it a journal. "There are twelve papa found, but he said there was a thirteenth book."
Madison moved and picked up the journal, flipping through it a bit. "So I need to find them all?" she asked as she turned back to the young girl. She nodded and started fade away.
"I know where the twelve are, I will help you find them...but none of us have found the last one." she said as she disappeared.
She left the room to see the others were gone too. Was she really awake? Exhaustion took over her, hitting her hard from no where. She dropped to her knees before falling over, passing out right there among the bones of the others.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
Groaning, Madison shut off her alarm and curled up back in bed. She felt like she hadn't slept at all, probably from the weird dream she had last night. The more she tried to remember it the more it seemed to escape her. It didn't matter right now, all that mattered to her right then was sleep. She wrapped her arms around her pillow to snuggle up to it when she felt her hand hit something. She sat up a bit and looked under the pillow finding the journal from her dream waiting there for her.