I awoke to the sound of my alarm blaring like an annoying siren, I slapped the snooze button to shut it up. I had always slept in since being made redundant from my job a few years ago which eventually resulted in losing my house and the marriage.
The sky was still dark blue outside from what I could tell by the small gap in my curtain, so it didn’t hurt to get a few more hours of shut eye. As I tried to drift off to sleep again the buzzing of my phone forced my eyes wide open. I let out a groan of discomfort as I slid my hand under the pillow to grab it. I wondered who could be calling me at this time since no one rarely did anymore.
Jenny’s name popped up on the caller ID. Why would she be calling me at this time? She had never once called me since we signed the papers to call it quits on our marriage.
‘Hello?’ I called out holding the cool metal surface to my ear.
‘It’s me Jenny,’ she answered in a sombre tone, ‘Brian… It’s Ellie, she’s gone missing.’
‘What?’ I sat up fully awake, ‘How?’
‘A few days ago, she went hiking with her friends and never returned.’ She whimpered.
‘What! And you never thought about telling me this sooner. Have you called the police?’ I questioned her; it was as if she didn’t even care enough to tell me all this when it happened.
‘Yes, they’ve been searching everywhere. They asked me to call anyone who might have taken her in if she ran away from home.’
‘I’ve not seen her. You should have told me this earlier. Did she say where they were going?’
‘I wanted to tell you this but I know how much you really hated that place. They went hiking in the woods near your father’s old house.’
As soon as she mentioned that house, my heart sank like a rock in the ocean. The hairs on my neck erected and a cold shiver trembled throughout my body. ‘Fuck!’ I finished before putting slamming the phone down.
Harrison Manor, my families ancestral home since the founding of the gold mine on Dark Mountain. From what little I could remember my grandfather Jeremy passed away when it was passed down to my father, Thomas. I fucking hated the place. The creaky door’s, rumbling floorboards and that weird aura surrounding the place just stank of death. My mother had died in that damn place. From what few accounts I could find she had apparently fell off the bedroom balcony straight on to the hard-concrete floor underneath. A tragic accident they called it, but I knew exactly what went on in there. The footsteps you would hear at night pacing through the hallways and the creepy whispering from the corner of the room. That place sent shivers down my spine!
It took my mother’s death at the hands of that cursed house for my father to realize we needed to high tail the fuck out of there. I still vividly remember my father trying to shove me awake.
‘Brian! Brian! Get up now. We need to get out of here.’ My father shouted whilst continually yanking me backwards and forwards.
A strange woman’s voice maliciously laughed in the hallway jolting me awake as soon as I realized it was my mother’s voice. But how could that be? I asked myself, we had just buried her two months earlier.
The next thing I remembered was my father’s tight grip around my petite arms before he tossed me on to his shoulder covering my face with a towel before sprinting faster than an athlete down the curved wooden stairs to the ground floor. As he made his way down the bed-sheet had fallen just seconds before he got through the front door of the house, enough time to see the silhouette of a woman. I still have nightmares to this day about them gleaming crimson eyes that peered deep into my soul.
All these years I have kept my distance from that damned atrocity of a house but now the time had come for me to face my fears. I had no choice but to go back there, my daughter’s life depended on it. I picked my phone up and scrolled through my list of contacts, I pressed the screen on my father’s number and called him. The call went straight to the payment service, I had missed my payment. I hung up the phone before jumping out of bed and made my way to the restroom.
I rushed to get changed into warm clothing, the mountain had always been a cold and damp place regardless of the season. I left the apartment on an empty stomach ignoring the piles of final notice letters and unlocked my old beater of a car before twisting the key to start her up. The fuel light lit up and flashed.
After topping her tank up with the last ten dollar left in my wallet I set off towards my ancestral home. The tip of the mountain peaked above the heads of the nearby tree’s, getting bigger as I neared the demented clutches of its grasp.
I arrived at the dilapidated dirt path that lead towards the old town. It had been abandoned for more than half a century since the eventual demise of that cursed mine. My feet dug through the layers of decomposed leaves which had almost turned to soil. It had once been neatly kept by Mr Wilson, the caretaker. I remember my father had once told me the story of how he lost his eye in a mining accident. The pick-axe had slipped out of his hand and ended up bouncing off the wall so hard it landed in his eye socket leaving him blinded for the remainder of his life. I had only seen him a couple of times as a child, his tall slender body, wrinkly skin and that intimidating leather eye patch he always wore. My grandfather Thomas felt sorry for the man and gave him the job of taking care of the manor. When the other miners abandoned the village after the mine ran dry of precious ore he stayed behind and worked without pay, owing him a lifetime of servitude.
The unnatural fog that had always surrounded this damned mountain began to surround me as I neared the heart of the lonely village. It became so dense I couldn’t see further than a few meters.
‘Ellie!’ I called out at the top of my voice, only to hear the echo bounce back.
‘Ellie!’ I shouted once more, there was still no response. I turned to shout once more when I noticed the small silhouette of a child. I ran towards it but It disappeared before I could catch it. ‘Hello!’ I called out, ‘you can come out. I’m not here to hurt you. I’m just looking for my daughter, Ellie…, hello!’ Damn it.
I noticed a small pathway in the ground, I followed it until I reached a set of old rusted gates which lead me into the graveyard next to the old church. The graves of my ancestors and deceased townsfolk were scattered around me. I reached the thick wooden doors of the monastery which had been left open. Once abandoned the town had been subjected to the occasional looting by lowlifes. Nature had crawled inside through all the nook’s and cranny’s to reclaim the land which it had once ruled. Nothing but a cold darkness blanketed the once warm interior of the chapel, I grabbed my lighter and lit one of the old lanterns and checked to see if it would still ignite. Luckily there was enough fumes in the relict to give me a viable light source.
In the far corner of the nave a child’s figure hid behind the alter. ‘Hello!’ I called out.
The child peeked from the side, watching me as I approached.
‘It’s alright, I won’t hurt you.’ I softly said in the nicest tone I could muster. ‘What’s your name?’
The child moved away from the alter until there was enough light for me to see. It was a young boy younger than ten years of age by the looks of him.
‘I thought you was the one-eyed man.’ He whimpered.
He couldn’t have meant the caretaker; it must have been decades since his death. He was a wrinkly old man when I was a little boy in the 1960’s. ‘No. Why would you say that? He’s been dead for years. Come here young man.’
The boy moved closer, once in the light of the lantern I noticed his cold blue skin. ‘What are you doing here? Where are your parents?’ I asked determined to know what this little boy was doing out here in the middle of nowhere.
‘My names Timothy,’ He said looking down before I noticed a tear roll down his cheek, ‘My mother was killed by the one-eyed man, he’s been trying to get me ever since.’
Everyone knew the mines had been abandoned due to the fact they had been ran dry and not a soul had called this town their home in over forty years. Something was off about this whole situation. ‘You keep mentioning this one-eyed man. I’ve told you he’s been dead for many years now. There’s no way he could still be alive after all these years.’
‘Your wrong, I saw him the other day. He was carrying a girl on his shoulder back to Lord Harrison's house.’
‘What? Did you see what the girl looked like. My daughter went missing around here a few day’s ago. What did the girl look like?’ I asked dropping down to my knee’s to grab the boy’s arms. A cold dreadful feeling erupted in my hands as a cold energy froze the tips of my fingers to a point where I thought they would fall off. I winched them back before I noticed the boy had vanished. I looked around to try and find him to no avail. ‘Hello?’ I called out. ‘Where have you gone?’ The words echoed a few times until noting but a deafening silence filled my ears. What on earth just happened?
The path lead me back to town where I followed the old cobblestone road to the great wooden doors of my ancestral home. I pushed to open them but they were welded shut, without the key I needed to find another way in. Luckily the time I spent here as a child did not go without adventure. The nostalgic rush of running around in the garden brought a tear to my eye. I had ran in to the shed whilst my father was building a new fence for mothers flower garden, he had needed to go in to the basement to gather some of the tools, hiding the spare basement key behind a pile of old cobblestone which had gathered nearly a century of dust.
I pulled the stone’s apart causing some to hit the moldy floor, a dark metallic texture dotted with spots of rust greeted my eyes, Hopefully this works. Whilst in the shed I found a small container of kerosene; I filled the lantern I had found earlier and made my way to the rotten doors of the basement. The doors opened their arms, creaking and crashing to the ground as I let go of their grasp. The thick fog flowed into its dark depths as I ignited my lantern and stomped down the sandstone stairs.
I had never been in the basement; my father had always told me to wait in the garden whenever he had gone inside. ‘There’s decades of dust and mold down there… and spiders as big as your hands.’ His voice echoed in my head.
I hated spiders with a passion as a kid, this house was always so full of them. Crawling up the wall’s, hanging from the ceiling and leaving cobweb’s as big a person in their wake. The basement was full to the brim with their dead carcasses along with webs that were so old they were covered in thick dust like every other square inch of this damn place. The dull light of the lamp illuminated the area enough so that I could see rows of junk and cardboard box’s full of old family heirlooms. An old bookcase full of leather journals caught my attention near the stairs leading up to the ground floor.
I randomly selected one of the books and wiped the dust off with my hand. It was an aged journal belonging to the man that had built this house, Jonathan Harrison, the man who discovered gold in the mountain and founded my family’s reputation. I stuffed it into my jacket’s pocket to read once I had found better lighting conditions. I stomped up the stairs leading up and kicked the door wide open, snapping the rusted iron lock in half.