part one of a five part story
I’ve discovered something. What it is I am not entirely sure yet. My hope is to share my tale with you, and perhaps garner some answers as to what is going on.
I work for the National Trust, on an estate in the North West of England. It is a quietly unpleasant place, although the occasional burst of sun does attempt to cheer it up. In a previous life it was a Victorian workhouse. I’m sure most of you would be at least somewhat familiar with this premise, but for those who are unsure, the workhouse was a place of misery and death. A dark side of the Industrial Revolution, these workhouses took in the poor and needy and slaved them to despair. It was not uncommon for there to be accidents or deaths, and it is true that children were given most of the more dangerous tasks given that their small frames could fit easily amongst the cluttered machinery.
My role here is mainly as a guide. I take families and schools around the building, showing them the old machines, telling tales of woe for entertainment and generally making people glad that they are alive in this day and age. I live on site, in the old gatehouse on the road which leads to the workhouse itself. It is peaceful, if somewhat dull at times, but my bills and rent are not my worries. I also act as a watchful eye on the place during the night. Sometimes I will find the mud near the forest at the rear of the property disturbed by feet, although nothing untoward has ever happened to my knowledge. Occasionally I have a visitor, Andrew, a historian who tours National Trust sites filling in the gaps of knowledge that people such as I don’t have.
The gatehouse has lost most of its imposing grandeur, with dry rot and other ailments settling into the old oak beams which keep it together. This problem has led to what I write of now. Restoration workers were called in to preserve the beams and re-treat them. The work itself has kept me out of the house during the day, and each night I return to find another wall missing or another beam coated in some terrible substance. Andrew is currently visiting, wanting to get further into the bones of the property. It was last night when he discovered it.
I awoke in the middle of the night to find Andrew pacing restlessly around the house. I crept out of my own bed and headed downstairs, where I asked him what was going on. He was engrossed in his thoughts, muttering to himself about there being ‘someone in the walls’. Naturally this put my hair on end, and I attempted to talk some sense into him. He stopped and held my gaze before a wide grin cracked his face and he exclaimed, ‘I’ve found it!’
He raced upstairs and immediately placed his entire arm in a recently made hole in the wall. He rummaged for several minutes before smiling again and pulling something out. It was a book, a journal from what we now know. I asked Andrew how he knew it was there, and he described that he had a strange dream in which a man named Tobias told him he was within the walls. In the morning he denied all knowledge of this.
I was too bemused to question this Tobias dream, and instead raced for the light to see what Andrew had uncovered. Its contents were…unsettling. I have transcribed the most important bits below.
The workhouse has become unbearably loud. When I first purchased the gatehouse, it was cheap and quiet, and the workhouse was simply a long empty warehouse which backed onto an equally quiet forest. Since Henry Tanner has bought it and brought in those infernal machines I cannot think for love nor money. The workers are woken early and sleep late, and their wails mixed with the clangs of machinery drive me to despair.
I have noticed in recent days that the carts of workers are increasing. I dared to look out of my window at those wretched souls as they passed by. They were mainly orphans, no doubt scooped from the local orphanage for a few pennies. Some of them caught my glance and stared back as I watched the large doors of the workhouse open like the gates of Hell themselves to swallow them. I did not want to watch but could not tear my face away from those pitiful creatures. I dread to think what has happened to them since.
October 26th ,
The shrieks of the mad and the senseless now persist through the night. Not content with filling the day with waking nightmares, the cacophony continues unabated through the small hours. I watched from my window last night, to see what is causing these unholy noises. The lights of the factory were off, so I knew they could not be working, yet the sounds continued. I have noticed that the carts bringing workers have increased again, but the carts never bring anyone out – alive or otherwise. I shall endeavour to seek out this curious source in the coming weeks.
The shrieks are not coming from the workhouse itself, but the vast estate behind it. After several unsuccessful ventures I found a hole in the surrounding fence, just enough to glance through. It was a ghastly sight. A couple of men who bore lanterns dragged two children out of the workhouse and into the darkness. The young ones quivered with fear, their faces frozen in silent terror. The chains that bound their arms clinked as the were marched towards the forest edge. The men who held the lanterns attached these chains to a metal stake which was firmly embedded into the earth and stood back. They spoke in low, rhythmic tones, words too alien to understand yet their terrible essence disturbed the very air around me.
Whatever it was crept slowly at first, keeping to the shadows of the forest. It was a sickly looking thing, misshapen and crawling where it could. A terrible stench arose, so bad that even at my distance I could smell it. Whatever foul miasma rose from it, it seemed to not affect the men with lanterns. Their voices grew, as if coaxing the creature out. It grew in confidence as their chants gathered pace. The two boys could not take their eyes off of the foulness which stalked silently towards them. I refuse to describe what happened next, but I can confirm that those hellish screams can only come from this one source. I will alert the authorities, perhaps they could be of assistance.
This is as far as we have come with the journal. The pages are delicate, fragile with time and poor conditions – it will take time to free the further entries. In the meantime, Andrew is visiting some of his contacts, to find out who lived here previously and to gather any information possible on this Henry Tanner. I will update when we have found further information.
In the meantime, I will watch the forest from the comfort of the gatehouse. The large fences that surrounded the workhouse are long rotted, allowing me a good view. Although such a thing could simply be a tall-tale or the work of a fevered imagination, the entries put me in mind of the disturbed earth near the edge of the forest. I don’t dare tempt fate until we know more.