Terror is the absolute equation of a suspense unfolding and a mystery of heightened anxiety yet to be resolved. It is harrowing and provoking in its masterful dissimulation and similitude, towards the development of sequential episodes of horror that are essential, to the hysteria that binds us gradually in diffidelity. Hitherto, through my vivid account of these events that I seek to procure its effect, I bear witness to the singularity of the quiddity of its existent composition. The absorptive thought of an indescribable horror manifesting within this world is forever linked, to the invariable intervals of death. None of us realise the actual conception from whence it originates.
The fascinating tale that I shall disclose is fraught of a daunting nature and the peculiar manner of its concealment I shall relate, with the utmost discretion. By overtly acknowledging the apodeictic admission and asseveration of this account, the baleful curse will be exposed. What you will read is considered unnatural, but it is due to the origin within the distinguished lineage of my descendancy. It is clearly intertwined, within the irresistible rigmaroles of the lore of a lineage that is noble in prestige, and exceedingly of impeccable reputation. I am Sebastian Belanger, a distant cousin of the last scion of the Ainsworths, Sir Thomas Ainsworth the third.
It was midday, when I arrived at the eldritch Ainsworth Estate in Leicestershire, beyond the dene of the anfractuous road. The year was 1908, and the Victorian Epoch was replaced then, by the innovative Edwardian. It had recently rained, and the droplets of the rain had trickled down the bedoven rooftop slowly, also covering the verdure of the gardens and the foliage of the sylvan woodlands, by the sinuous rill. The manor had a broad demesne that extended several acres in width and length. What arrested my attention was the impressive Gothic architecture of its original design. The manor was balanced in proportion on each side symmetrically. The east and west wings of the manor were very descriptive and picturesque in appearance. The stunning parapets and gables were as steady, as the cloisters of the antiquated abbeys. The ornately carved bay windows were overshadowed, by the turrets of such stately height and the old age moss that covered the outer edges of the mansion on one side. The bustling winds of the hurst stirred and the clouds of the sky were swathed, with a Cimmerian tincture of dreariness I had seldom seen, in the colourful countryside of England before. Its Gothic portico had a dim and drab façade that revealed the entrance to the isolated Ainsworth Manor.
From the correspondence I received, Sir Ainsworth had an urgency to see me and speak to me of a matter of great importance. The letter was simply incoherent, and if I had not known he was a distant relative of mine, I would have concluded the letter was written by a madman or a desperate individual eloigned. Nevertheless, this did not preclude my visit to Leicestershire and my curiosity to meet him. When I finally did it was inside the cold long narrow opaque corridor by the great hall, where he came down from a mechanical contraption that was operated by the currents of electricity. It was a very fascinating device, but at the same time eerie and unforeseen. When the gate opened wide, I saw the inimitable guise of a macilent middle-aged man, whose eyes were covered by large dark spectacles. His appearance reflected the disconcerting ordeal that troubled his poor soul with indisposition. He was accoutred in the eccentric attire of a Gothic nobleman. His vintage cisvestism was not according to his aristocratic name and patronage. The black long sleeves shirt with ruffled cuffs and the straightened collar that accompanied the tight fitted trousers and luculent shoes that he wore conspicuously baffled me. His particular clothing was completely the opposite of my fashionable suit with a white shirt and waistcoat, over my necktie.
My plain trousers and shoes were more suitable to the occasion. Indeed, my presumption of my distant kindred was drastically altered and erroneous as well. And what compounded the peculiarity of the encounter was the fact that he was not demure in his erratic idiosyncrasy then. I had sensed immediately that my visit was not of a mere conviviality partaken. As he had descended from the electric mechanical contrivance known as a lift, I thought in the back of my perceptive mind, the certain nature of my visit and the contradictory composition of the house. The once aesthetic beauty of the manor was sadly replaced by the lustreless shade interspersed, through the atrabilious apartments adjacent to the main hall beyond the alcoves. The sombre velvet curtains of the lounge were closed, and only a token gleam of light was seen from inside the swart manor. I felt the cold draught, and I had never witnessed such a demonstrative remnant of a gradation before, within the decadence of the manor I had visited on that day. I was face to face then, with Sir Ainsworth, as he stood firmly. He introduced himself, with such a prosaic and stolid expression at first that I had construed as perfunctory.
'Welcome to the Ainsworth Manor, Mr Belanger. It is a pleasure to meet you', he said in a salutation that was indifferent, as he shook my hand.
'I am Sebastian Belanger from London and the pleasure is mine. Am I to assume you are Thomas Ainsworth the third?' I enquired.
'Yes Mr Belanger, and do forgive my impudent oversight and ken, for impropriety is not a common consuetude of mine. Ever since I have begun to suffer degrees of hysteria, I have not been the same lately'.
'Degrees of hysteria you say, Sir Ainsworth? What exactly do you mean by that inusitate declaration?' I asked deliberately.
'Oh forgive me, you do not know Mr Belanger, I was referring to my-how would I call it, my profound episodes of delirium that Dr Remington had diagnosed me having', he replied.
'You look too gaunt and frail in your all-overish features Sir Ainsworth. Good God, but you must be suffering from some physical illness also'.
'I suffer from an acute form of an unknown disease that has begun to disable my functions. You see the bright light triggers forthwith my hypersensitivity, the warmth, my body temperature, the sounds, my sentience. It is the ingravescent atrophy of my affliction and foreseeable athanasy. Even the thonest dews of besprent rain I can perceive. Oh, do I seem pale, feeble and sweer to you?' He explained and then asked, with a sudden sullenness that had shent him.
'If I must be truthful, then yes Sir Ainsworth'.
'It is not often that I have visitors anymore, Mr Belanger, and I dread to stare into a mirror. After all, mirrors are nothing more than the representation of self-conceit. Now, you are probably wondering, why I summoned you in the first place to the estate'.
'Yes Sir Ainsworth!"
'Let us enter the main hall, where we could discuss this matter in privacy. I shudder to the thought of us being overheard by them', he told me, before we sat down in a pair of chairs, around an ebony oak table.
'What do you mean Sir Ainsworth?'
'Soon, you will know Mr Belanger, but I am afraid there is an exigency that is pending', he remarked in a low whispering voice.
'Why are you whispering Sir Ainsworth?' I asked dumbfoundedly.
He looked around, before he answered in a plain Dunstable manner, 'Because they are everywhere-for there is no sanctuary'.
'The swike boggards of the manor!'
He began to explain to me the unwonted story of the curse, and why I was asked to come, 'It all began one day in the year of 1768, with my ancestor Sir Geoffrey Ainsworth. He was the first to succumb to the horrible effects of the curse of the manor, and died at the age of forty. Ever since then, every male descendant of the Ainsworth has died at that age. It was said that he was visited, by the horrible spectres of the deceased and buried Ainsworths, whilst he was in the manor'.
'Surely, there is a logical assumption for that. It is perhaps mere coincidence Sir Ainsworth. Of course, you cannot expect me to believe that superstition is the cause to a Boeotian curse and fate', I had ejaculated.
'It is no superstition, the apparitions exist. Anon, I shall be possessed by them in the end and die, as the curse indicates. There is not much time to dawdle in details, and I don't have much thild. I am slowly dying Mr Belanger, and time is of a vital importance. I have included you in my will. The manor is yours to have, if you decide to accept the terms required. I have instructed my sister Esther to see that your stay in the manor be satisfactory to your delight, and the servants have been informed. Now, I grow weary and must return to the comfort of my chamber. I tharf the necessary repose, but I shall need to know your decision by tomorrow'.
'I was not prepared for this surprise, but I shall definitely have an answer'.
He handed me a copy of the will, and then excused himself. His hands were cold and bony, as his slim enervation was plainly displayed, with the evident blains and wens smittled. His teeth were xanthodontous and crooked, and his hair was thinning from the shoad. Yet, I could not forget the unique nature of his story and his desire to bestow me the manor, when we were practically strangers. The stipulation imposed was that I took care of the affairs of the estate. Oddly enough there was little mention of his sister who was not living in the estate, except that she was to receive, a great amount of the inheritance. I was definitely not expectant of these revelations, but my fascination with the supposed Ainsworth curse had impelled me to know more information of my kin.
Afterwards, when I was in the corridor, I noticed the ample gallery ahead, the hanging chandeliers, the paintings above the overmantels and the etchings besides the ceiling spandrels were tainted in decline, including the rickety stairway. It was obvious that something of a terrible nature had befallen upon the house that was more evident than a foolish curse. Despite the gloom that enveloped the furnishings were refurbished, and only needed to be dusted and polished I surmised. I was escorted to the guest room, where I was to sojourn during my stay in the manor, by one of the diligent servitors of Sir Ainsworth. I had perceived as I passed the stairway, such a mystic intangibility, surrounding the house that I could not decipher. The chamber was very commodious and prepared for my stay, but it was a contrast to the dishevelled appearance seen in other parts of the home that were undesirable. That striking impression was difficult to overcome. My pensive thoughts were consumed in profound circumspection.
Sir Ainsworth was a very selcouth fellow, but he was determined to award me the manor and its estate, by dint of our esteemed consanguinity. This act of loyalty demonstrated that his pretension was not to be understood parsimoniously, with the distribution of his wealth and aver. I had heard of many unusual stories in my life, but one filled with the absolute suspense and superstition of this nature was unfathomable.
Soon, I was sitting in the dinner table of the dining hall downstairs, with the beloved sister of Sir Ainsworth the Lady Ainsworth, as we were discussing the issue of the will and the particular disease of her dearest brother. She was very winsome and trig in nature. I had noticed she was wearing an elegant lace dress, and it matched her pale complexion and accessories; although the pattern of the dress was garish, and the periapt was telling. I had no inclination to be meddlesome in their affairs, but my inquisitive mind was yearning for answers to my questions. After all, the situation I had encountered upon speaking with Sir Ainsworth was equivocal and beclouded in immense dubiety. Indeed being his sibling, she would know more of the grievous nature of his vulnerable predicament and prothymia. When I made my enquiry, she was not timorous or diffident in disclosing what she knew.
'Sir Ainsworth my brother is going totally mad Mr Belanger, and the illness that he claims has stricken him with a haunting malediction is a fanciful exaggeration or a fabricated conjecture. The supernatural beings are a myth invented, by his rapid and psychosomatic hysteria', she told me.
'I am no doctor my lady, but judging from his dissipating physicality, he does seem to be suffering from some aggressive malady', I retorted.
'I can understand that interpretation, but his careworn and nesh guise although disturbing, is nothing more than an unsettling paranoia that has obsessed him, ever since he learnt of that absurd notion of the family curse', she exclaimed.
'But, why create an incredible tale of unnatural beings? And what can you tell me of the encounter of Sir Geoffrey Ainsworth with the ghosts, in the year of 1768 my lady?'
'The circumstances involving his death are in sooth mysterious, but the doctor who tended to him diagnosed insanity as the cause of his death. Sadly, madness has been the cause of death to many of our male members of the family'.
'It does seem to be a logical conclusion, but the fact that they died at forty, is a bit strange my lady'.
'Because, you are a stranger Mr Belanger, and here in these parts of the country, superstition is common and spreads rampantly. In particular, with the peevish and blithering curmudgeons', she explained.
We abated the parley, and she headed upstairs to her room. Meanwhile, I stayed downstairs in one of the private apartments near my chamber. I perceived that a stranger was observing me from behind, whilst I was standing in front of a portrait of Sir Geoffrey Ainsworth. At first, the presence was barely noticeable, but as I stared at the portrait, I saw a pallid guise that was similar in the state of severity to Sir Ainsworth. Was this a mere coincidence, or was the affliction mentioned contributive to his pallor revealed?
I heard the eerie sound of heavy breathing and grating of nails, coming directly from the corridor. I saw only an indefinite image of a hand with elongated fingernails that then disappeared, into the umbriferous shadow. When I had investigated, the breathing had ceased for some uncertain reason. Did I hear things that were not? Was it a servant-or was it the irregular noise of the wind at that hour? Since it was unilluminated for the most part in the manor, I struggled to discern anything that was pellucid. I had dismissed the occurrence and returned to my chamber in the private apartments that were in the first storey. That night I pondered the events that were beginning to unfold in the manor.
In the morning after taking breakfast, I found the Lady Ainsworth in the main hall conversing, with one of the servants. I was not certain of what was transpiring, except that she seemed to be giving the male servant orders. The obscurity of the corridor at night and its candles were replaced at day, by the incandescent light of the sun, when Sir Ainsworth was not present. It had seemed inusitate, but the fact there were candles only used at night for visual assistance was a common usage amongst several Edwardians, who did not want to waste electricity prodigally. I did not want to appear to be prying, so I waited at the edge of the stairway, as if I had recently exited my chamber.
When she saw me, she had kindly informed me that Sir Ainsworth would be coming to speak to me. He took breakfast in his room, and this was normal procedure for him. She told me to wait in the main hall for Sir Ainsworth. He was prompt, as he was meticulous, and then once more, he came down from the mechanical device to address me. Dressed in the familiar dark colours of his Gothic attire he spoke. His enfeeblement had worsened, and he had staggered somewhat from the lift. He had appeared to be in a half sweam that required a roborant treatment. I had attempted to assist him, but he insisted that with the support of his walking stick, he would be all right.
'Good morning Sir Ainsworth!' I said.
'Good morning Mr Belanger. I am afeard that my valuable time is expiring. Have you made your decision, concerning my generous offer?' He enquired.
'Yes Sir Ainsworth. I have decided to accept your conditions', I answered.
'Good, then let us enter the main hall to finalise the will, Mr Belanger'.
I had followed him into the main hall, and we sat down. The room was dull as to be expected, since Sir Ainsworth was present, and his hypersensitivity was to be considered. It was apparent that he was past the inchoateness of his physical ailment, and the beleaguering psychalgia as well that he was suffering would soon manifest beyond his cark. I signed the will, but there was a sequence of events that had bemused me. First, I had to sign the will dipped within my blood and second, I observed the long fingernails that were protracting so patently. The fingernails quickly reminded me of the bizarre incident of the grating fingernails I heard yesterday in the night. I was astonished by the length, and the blood and the fingernails I could not comprehend. I had realised that he was a man of eccentricity, but I failed to see beyond this anomaly. He was wearing the usual spectacles, and his voice had become more broken in speech and enunciation. I did not want to opportune him, with my persistent interrogation, about his deteriorating health. Thus, I listened attentively to every word he said, but it was uncomfortable to see him languish and be racked in that form of decrepitude and fugue. Once more he whispered, as he exhibited his inquietude.
'Now, that arrangements of the will are finished, I can die in peace and be rid of this damnable imprecation forever. I have never beguiled any man of a farthing. My only regret is that I am the last of the Ainsworth. With me will perish the noble strain of the Ainsworth name. I was not blest or bain to have a child to frover me when I waul-perhaps it was better this way. How could I condemn with guilt, a son to this unbearable and dysphoric curse he cannot eschew? I cannot tell you anymore-for they are nigh listening. Do you not hear them? They will be coming for me to take me. Soon, you will know Mr Belanger', Sir Ainsworth replied.
His fatidical admission of his imminent death and the reiteration of the so-called ghosts had stirred an impassioned maelstrom of angst within him. He then rose to his feet with the aid of the walking stick and was escorted back tardigradously to the lift and chamber upstairs, by his servant. His hallucinatory tale of otherworldly beings had occupied his ill-fated life, and the course of its finality had evidently descended, into endless phantasmagoric episodes of niddering fright and athazagoraphobia that had no actual commiserative surcease. This was his imprisonment and inexorable detachment from his reality. The unappreciative aspect of his appearance was as distressing, as his unsolicited remarks. I was even more intrigued, to unravel this insoluble enigma. His atavistic obsession with the family curse had driven him into an intense desperation.
In the days that followed, I noticed fits of babbling from him and substantial lacerations in his arms. With every passing day he got worse and worse that he was totally incoherent in his bavardage, and only spoke of the dreadful apparitions and putative curse again. It was a Friday evening when a peal of thunder was heard forcefully, as I saw Sir Ainsworth in the corridor quobbing in a grovelling fright. Thereafter, I went to where he had knelt on the floor and asked him what had affrighted him to cause him to shiver uncontrollably. I could not see his eyes, with the spectacles he wore, and I thought that he was having a sudden reaction of hysteria. He began to have a brief convulsion, and one of the servants had rushed him to the lift to take him back to his chamber afterwards.
Naturally, I was concerned about his well-being that I suggested to Lady Ainsworth that he be examined at once by a doctor, since his guise was reflective of his unhinged mind and the terrible pain he swand. I thought it was too inhumane to allow the continuation of his eventual death, but she was wither my suggestions. Lady Ainsworth had elaborated that there was nothing a doctor could do for him. She insisted that it was insanity that was the cause of his deplorable deterioration, and not a curse or a physical disease. I could only share my genuine complaint and nothing more, since she was his closest kin in family. How was I as well to convince her of his apparent disease, if there was no recognition in her of this obvious allusion of his scatheful demise? Her negation was very unsettling to bear and to accept. She was indeed too uppish in her arrogance and quirk.
A storm was approaching from beyond the horizon. I had continued to feel the nocturnal presence and footfall of a being that I perceived was not an invisible wraith. I was in the lounge when, from the corner of my eye I saw a glimpse of a shadowy figure passed. The coldness in the innermost recesses of the manor had reached me. The shadow startled me, as I heard the deep breathing that would cause uneasiness in me. I had paused for a moment before I asked who was there. There was no response, and then the breathing continued, as I followed the noise outside. I had smelt an insufferable reek nearby. It was then at the wald's rand by the sere leaves and shaw, I saw a gangling figure eating the tharms of a wild boar, with a ravenous appetite that was sickening. It was a surreal image that I espied, and one that was so hideous in nature. My presence startled the stranger, and he scurried away into the forest. I was not able to see clearly, the appearance of the comeling. Thus, I was left with a depiction of a being unfamiliar to me.
Soon, I returned to the manor, where Lady Ainsworth had seen me entered. She was carrying a parasol, as rain was forecasted. The unexpected occurrence had left me speechless at first, but then, I told her of the awful stranger I had seen in the wald. I told her that I had witnessed transiently, a hirsute being consuming the flesh of a dead boar. Since the individual was vaguely seen, I could not truly provide an accurate description, because there was little visibility during the night. Lady Ainsworth questioned whether or not I had mistaken the revolting stranger, for a wolf or a hound that was a hybrid. Truthfully, I was not confident of what I saw, but it did not seem to be an animal that I had seen previously in these bosky parts. Lady Ainsworth had advised me that it would be better, if I did not wander off the property at night, especially alone. I thought it was best to adhere to her logical admonition, whilst I was a bidden guest.
With each day that I had spent at the Ainsworth Manor, I was feeling the effects of the madness that encompassed the house. An intuitive sense of being watched had prevailed over me unhurriedly. There was a certain trepidation that was beginning to preoccupy my thoughts internally, as I pondered the strange occurrences of the home developing. I had returned to my room, but I did not sleep much. I had to speak to Sir Ainsworth in the morning, since it was imperative.
When I awoke, I got dressed, and I headed upstairs to the chamber of Sir Ainsworth. Lady Ainsworth had seen me walking up the stairway, when she notified me that Sir Ainsworth was not feeling well in his chamber. The distressing revelation had prompted a sudden chill in my body, as I listened. I had expressed my desire to see him subsequently, but she refused my request, since he was not vigorous enough to have a visit by anyone. I had concluded that her reaction was perhaps an unnecessary overreaction or an overprotecting solicitude of a sibling.
After a few hours had elapsed, Lady Ainsworth departed the room, as I remained behind in the corridor. I was then in the gallery, when I heard a loud vociferation coming, from upstairs. It was coming, from the chamber of Sir Ainsworth. There was nobody in the closest proximity, and the clamour was of alarming distress. I clove the stairway blive and reached his chamber. I knocked on the door, but the door was not closed. Therefore, I entered, bedaffed and found him in the most atrocious manner of hypochondria and hypertensive behaviour. Hysteric had manifested, and wielded dominion over his will and actions. It was dark and dismal, when I went in, but I could see him lying in the bed through a stime. He was shackled to steel chains and was screaming. He had perceived my presence in the room. He said a despairing utterance of 'Beshrew me not!'
I had understood this, as a terrible plea for help. There was profuse perspiration coming from his swollen cheeks. The shittle yells and twitching made me cringe nervously, until I could bear no more, and I took off the spectacles he was wearing and saw his horrendous eyes. His eyes were possessed and were the dilated eyes of a madman in composition. They were large and fathomless, and his nose and jawbone had begun to deform, due to self-inflicted wounds. I was petrified by absolute fear, as he had screamed again. I fled the room and alerted the servants, who refused to do anything.
Afterwards, Lady Ainsworth had arrived and had seen my consternation. She enquired about my troubling comportment, and I responded by telling her that upstairs her beloved brother was agonising in death. Her reaction I did not anticipate and she proceeded to tell me to not get involved, with the authorised supervision of her brother. She went upstairs to his room, whilst I stayed downstairs. Thence, I heard a stentorian scream. It was the shriek of Lady Ainsworth, who had shrieked so frantically. When I hastened to the stairway, I stopped and realised that the lift had been used, and someone was descending. The question was who? It could only be either Lady Ainsworth or her brother, Sir Ainsworth.
Soon I would have my answer, as the lift reached the first storey, and the door opened. There inside the lift stood the ghastly image of a madman. I do not know how to describe with facile words, the ineffable image of the teratoid man that stood, except that he was wretched in nature, and unrestrained in his mobility. He had a maniacal face, dripping saliva, and chattering teeth. There was blood covering his hands. It was an evident sign that the derf madman had recently murdered, and I was to be his next victim I feared. When the gate opened, Sir Ainsworth lunged at me, but as he did, a bullet in the arm from one of the servants had halted his advance. He rose to his feet, and once more another bullet had stifled his attack. Sir Ainsworth yelled the boggarts were coming for him, as he leapt through the window, shattering it into shards. The shot of the rifle was heard, and the bullet proved to be fatal. Sir Ainsworth was dead, as he lay within the welking shrubbery of the estate so listlessly. There was this eerie phosphorescence that permeated inadvertently, over the cadaver of Sir Ainsworth. When we reached him, I had recognised the disfigured Sir Ainsworth in a certain transmogrification. A horrid infarction was found in the olid flesh, and putrefaction then slowly emerged from his emaciated body, as the shadow of darkness had loomed over the sky. It was impossible to remove the indelible look of evil in his diaphanous eyes.
Sir Ainsworth's madness had manifested completely, into the primordial fright he had alluded to before. How ironic that his insanity was only a precursor of the horrible curse that persecuted and tormented the Ainsworth surname. An enraptured vision of vitality and adventure had been altered dramatically, by the grisly consequences of a terrible curse that benimmed his life and was his hamartia. I had discovered that Sir Ainsworth had brutally murdered Lady Ainsworth.
Upon a dwindling dusk of the next day, the unrecognisable remains of the last scion of the Ainsworths, Sir Thomas Ainsworth the third was buried and laid to rest, within a solitary tomb in a secret vault underneath the estate, where all the male Ainsworths of arete were interred. I was the absolute proprietor of the Ainsworth Estate then, and it was my decision to stay and honour the wishes of Sir Ainsworth. I chose to remain in the manor, despite the shocking events that took place there. My deference to his prodigious surname and the cognate lineage we shared had intrinsically persuaded me to uphold that sworn commitment that transcended the simple stipulations of the will. It would be a misguided determination I would sorely regret in the end. Even the posthumous souls have their reckoning fitfully, amongst us the mortals.
Lady Ainsworth was buried in the local graveyard of the Anglican Church her family appertained. I had entrusted the righteous vicar to safeguard the tomb of Lady Ainsworth. The years had passed and the memory of the horrific deaths of Sir Ainsworth and Lady Ainsworth were effaced and had been forgotten with time, but not the roaming spectres of the dead, who I began to see and hear therewith. They began to vex me and had attempted to drive me mad. The unyielding clamour that Sir Ainsworth had once claimed he heard I listened to also, as the comparative calm was interrupted amain. The constant ringing in my head and the wicked spirits that bedeviled Sir Ainsworth started to haunt me quotidianly in aberrant delusions. I had understood then the madness of Sir Ainsworth, and the terror of the Ainsworth curse.