"Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm'.-Robert Louis Stevenson
Vecordy, the masked culprit of my phantasmagoria, haunted and taunted me, with such a relentless obsession. I felt its illimitable dominion wielding over me, like a towering edifice, as that ghastly vertical clock in the Great Hall sounded loudly its echoes of tick-tock reverberating so impigrously. It is that colossal and abhorrent mechanical contrivance that knows no surcease or respite. Its devious hands turn and turn clockwise, until they reach the next hour to begin anew the horrible, horrible process of strepor that deafened my ears constantly. This duplicitous fiend is called madness. It is a sound that drowns even the threnetic ullagones of the sepelitions of dormant tenants of quietude. The large linear roman numerals of elongation are covered, by a glass oval casing that is bound by the hardened steel surface of rigidity protecting the clock.
Every night this exact nightmare haunted me, with a funest passion of iteration, as the surreal image of the clock had appeared to me gigantic and overpowering. I was extremely fixated with the clock, like a magnet that had drawn my vision and soul, into a profound hallucinatory trance I fought to resist mightily. It felt like an opium dream that had gone astray, as the porcelain dial arrested my attention devilishly.
My tale began upon a foggy autumn late midday of 1808, in the Lower Engadine region of Switzerland, as my carriage had arrived at a small hamlet that existed amongst the high rocks, and the placid lake that was beneath a mountain range. My name is Walter Sherrington, an Englishman by birth, and a nobleman who had arrived from London. I was in these parts of the country, to visit the castle of an old acquaintance of mine. He was a fine and dapper gentleman, by the name of Lord Hasper, who had been living in this region for decades, and had studied in Oxford with me years ago. However, I had discovered through a disturbing correspondence that he had been suffering from a peculiar form of dementia. The reason of his insanity I did not know, at that exact moment in time.
From below, I could descry the daunting image of the isolated and imposing Hasper Castle. It was located, upon the slopes that were covered by a vast tract of forest, which stood on a steep craggy plate that once protruded over the ruin fortification. Afterwards, the carriage proceeded to go up the arterial long narrow cobblestone passage and gate that led to the spiral front door of the castle. There was a decaying decadence seen of its façade, when we reached the proximity of the castle's front entrance. I had noticed as well, the massive towers that were surrounded, by a high enclosure wall nigh the strange burr of the hilly terrain. On the east of the gate, there was a passage that had been covered, by a vault, since the Middle Ages. I could see the central inner court, from which the buildings were connected to the wall.
I was also informed that Lord Hasper's servant and doctor were to be at the castle awaiting my arrival. My stay in Switzerland was to be temporary and within the estate. Although the castle was in decline and needed to be restored, I had told the solicitor in my correspondence that I was eager to visit my dear friend Lord Hasper's castle. But I would never imagine that my time within the castle would almost drive me into complete madness too and unveil a shocking secret that existed in the castle.
As I got off the carriage, I saw a rusty heavy medieval door knocker on the door of the main entrance to the castle. Slowly, I began to tap on the door, and was soon greeted by the caretaker Alexander who took care of the castle. He was an old short and stocky fellow. I was then escorted by him to the dining hall, as I glanced at the rooms of the lower storeys that were equipped with vaults, the countless windows, and the wood paneling erected in the elevated buildings. I found interesting the white plastered façades that were adorned with the quondam Prussian coat of arms that was evident, as I walked over the cerulean deft tiles that covered the floor. Immediately, I had perceived a cold draught inside the ancient castle, as I walked steadily. The cold draught had gradually increased, as we headed towards the dining hall. The manifold hanging chandeliers, the wrought tapestries, the fine Ottoman rugs and the oil lamps that hung from above in the corridor were indeed impressively displayed. There in the luxuriant comfort of the dining hall was Dr Dumengia, who was waiting for my presence. He was a proud Bündner or a Grisonian commonly known, and was from the region.
Despite the dim and drear façade outside of the castle, the castle was much more elegant and appealing, with its interior appearance. In the dining room was a unique 17th century candelabrum, upon the mahogany table with several French Walnut Gothic chairs aligned and adjacent to the table. The colourful paintings in the hall gave a clear tincture of distinction as well in the antechambers that were attached to the apartments below on the first storey. The rear arches had sheltered the oval windows ahead, where the fitful clouds of the hillside mist swathed the landscape of the canton of the Grisons that extended to the Alps of the tramontane Italians. I had been told much of this enchanting and mysterious scenery ere, but upon seeing the mist that formed, I was in absolute awe of the majestic surroundings nearby.
'Welcome, to the Hasper Castle my lord. I regret the fact that Lord Hasper could not be present to welcome you today. But he has appointed me to see that your stay in this castle be the most pleasant', Dr Diumengia said.
I shook the hands of Dr Diumengia and presented myself to him, with a sense of sorrow and regret that he perceived in my eyes instantly, 'It is a pleasure doctor, and your regret is respectfully shared by me. 'Tis a shame that Lord Hasper has succumbed to this dreadful illness'. I stated.
I had paused before I asked the good doctor, 'If I may enquire Dr Diumengia, was his dementia gradual or forthwith?'
'Sadly, his affliction was a gradual process at intervals. It was then that I had diagnosed his insanity. It was not a facile matter my lord, and after thorough deliberation I reached this dreaded conclusion', Dr Diumengia responded.
'Where is he now Dr Diumengia?'
'Presently, he is in the Great Hall'.
'I would like to see him, but I don't wish to disrupt him. Therefore, I shall wait until you have recommended my visit'.
'There is no need to wait my lord, for you may see him now. However, I must advise you that he does not seem to be coherent, when speaking to him'.
I followed him to the Great Hall then, where sitting in a wheelchair was lo and behold, my dear friend Lord Hasper, who I had not seen in years. His back was facing me, but I noticed that he did not flinch much. When the good doctor informed him of my visit, his reaction was very disconcerting. As I got closer and descried Lord Hasper, I was extremely startled to see his gaunt and depleted guise that resembled a living corpse. There was no sentiment emoted at first, and his eyes were covered by some dark spectacles that he wore. He was void of any reasonable volition whatsoever. His absorbent stare was directed at a large vertical vintage clock in the hall that was standing firm. This I had perceived, with a sudden admission of astonishment. Although I was explained his deteriorating condition, I never imagined him to be in such a pitiful state of mind and paratonic rigidity. He did not answer to my voice, nor was he aware much of my presence. His apparent madness was something I was not prepared to witness. Even though I was warned of his deplorable affliction, never did I ponder the severity of its unhinged nature. The only thing he expressed was an utterance that he repeated over and over, with urgency.
'The clock, the clock, beware of the clock, its power is unrelenting! It calls me. Do you not hear the voices?'
His once luminous eyes were then full of intense hysteria, as he spoke with such irrationality. It was as if the clock had been mesmerising him, much like the apparent sway of the pendulum. I had noticed the monotonous movement of the porcelain dial that hung underneath the clock. It was an eerie attraction that I felt and was gravitated towards for a brief moment, as I stared at the commanding hands of the clock, whilst I heard the sound of a peculiar tick-tock coming, from the clock in the Great Hall. For some unknown reason, the mechanical contrivance arrested his complete attention and interest. Soon, I would discover the immense influence of the clock on the psyche of a human being, and the hidden mystery that remained to be unfolded afterwards. I had been captivated by the clock that I did not hear the voice and words of Dr Diumengia talking to me before.
I reacted, 'Oh, do forgive me doctor, for I was lost in my thoughts. You were saying?'
'As you can see my lord, Lord Hasper has lost his sanity, and his faculties have dissipated substantially. I fear that his madness is permanent', Dr. Diumengia confessed.
'Egad, that is such a dreadful admission to have to accept unwillingly doctor'.
'Unfortunately, phrenesis is an actual existence that we are currently examining thoroughly. But naturally, there is still much to be learnt, about the complicated complexity of the mind of an individual my lord'.
'Is there no hope, no cure for Lord Hasper doctor?'
'Perchance, there is one in the end. Only time will tell, my lord', he admitted.
'I would hope so, for his sake doctor'.
'If you will excuse me my lord, I must be on my way. I must tend to my other patients and duties. I shall return to the castle in a week, to see his progress. In the meantime, I shall instruct the servants to tend to your needs, during your stay here in the castle'.
I shook his hand and was grateful for his dedication and diligence to Lord Hasper. He was escorted to the front door, by one of the servants, whilst I remained in the Great Hall with Lord Hasper. He was still in that deep fixation with the clock, when I observed him even more. My desire was to speak to him, and know what had caused his madness. However, he was in no state of mind to converse in coherence. Therefore, I thought it prudent to not antagonise him or upset his pacific mien. Instead, I allowed the servant to take him back to his room, after being sedated.
I then began to notice the weapons room, kitchen, festival hall with a piano and large mirror. There was a particular inscription that seemed to be a motto, written in the local tongue of Romansch (In per tuts, tuts per in). Although I knew French and Italian, I was not truly familiarised with this unique Romance language. I had pondered for a few minutes the significance of the inscription, but after contemplation I failed to decipher the words completely. I then heard a voice of a young woman speaking to me. She was standing directly behind me, dressed in an elegant blue gown and with a virtuous repute.
'Bainvegni al Chastè Hasper, Lord Sherrington'.
'Good God, you scared me young lady. Who are you, if I may ask?' I enquired.
'I am Sidonia, the sister of Lord Hasper', she answered.
'Sidonia, I had forgotten that Lord Hasper had a sister. And if you may permit me to say my lady, a very beautiful sister'.
'I shall take your words of blandishment, as a fain compliment my lord. But surely, you must be weary from the trip. Alexander will escort you to your chamber. Once dinner is prepared, I shall summon you then'.
'What does the motto I saw before mean in English, Lady Hasper?' I asked her with curiosity.
'Oh the motto translated would be, 'One for all, all for one', in English my lord. I would much prefer that you call me Sidonia'.
Immediately, I was taken to my chamber upstairs to rest. I was to stay in one of the guest rooms afforded. The furnishings in the bedroom were stately, and the canopy bed had a rectangular bedstead. There was a hand wash basin nearby to clean up, and I did. Naturally, I was still troubled by the abhorrent condition of Lord Hasper.
After my repose I awoke to hear the door knock. It was one of the servants that had informed me that dinner was ready. In the dining hall was Sidonia, who was seated in the end of the table facing north. Of her appearance I shall disclose the following, she was slender and attractive. The remarkable contours of her countenance were pale but elegant. Her round eyes of viridity, her narrow nose, her florid cheeks, her long brown flowing locks defined the transparent beauty of a Roman Goddess of the days of yore. I had noticed the illumination in the dining room, as the lights of the chandelier were bright and lively. They gave a special but imposing charm to the dining hall that I perceived intuitively. Lord Hasper due to his afflicted state of mind did not join us in the dining hall instead, he remained within his private chamber lost in his thoughts. I could not help but pity his condition. Nevertheless, I did not want to interpose a personal remark dealing with the insanity of Lord Hasper, or incommode upon Sidonia. Thus, I sought to refrain from any redundant enquiries at the dining table.
'Good evening my lady. I see that dinner is prepared now. I thank you once more for your cordial hospitality', I answered.
'I hope that your repose was not interrupted much, by the frequent noises of the castle my lord', she replied.
I smiled and responded, 'Oh, no more I suppose than the sounds of any other castle that is more dank or damp in its structure'.
'Lord Sherrington, you are a foreigner in our land. What is your general impression of the Engadine valley? Is it what you imagined it to be essentially, before you came to our region?'
'I must admit you have surprised me with this question. If you must know my lady, I find the Engadine valley to be very fascinating and wonderful also'.
'And there is so much that is fascinating and wonderful about your England that makes me want to know more. I have read endless books in the library about England. I hope one day soon in the future, I can visit your beloved country Lord Sherrington'.
'It will be a pleasure to have you in England, but you must know that I am envious of the valley landscape currently I find myself in, my lady'.
She smiled and responded, 'Oh my lord, the valley can be at times a dull and murky place to be in, especially when alone and unaccompanied. Ever since Lord Hasper lost his mind, things have not been the same as before'.
Her admission was plainly expressed and commiserated that caused me to say, 'Your words are truly felt and expressed my lady'.
We discontinued the sullen nature of the discourse and instead spoke of pleasant things. After dinner, we recited poetry together and shared a bottle of wine before we were interrupted, by one of the female servants, who had told Sidonia that Lord Hasper was awake. She excused herself, whilst I remained in the dining hall. Shortly, I returned to my chamber, and relaxed in my bed still pondering about the events unfolding.
That night in a profound sleep I began to dream, about a very frightening episode with the bizarre clock in the Great Hall. The hall was dark and gloomy, as I heard the absolute sound of a tick-tock from that large clock. The noise resounded in a heavy echo that grew and grew, by every passing minute. I did not understand what was betiding, or why was I standing before the clock. It was all beclouded and vague, and the influential power of the clock was visual. Its duration seemed to be eternal, as I felt a magnetic impulse draw me closer to the daunting clock that stood. There were eerie sounds of voices then, around me within the Great Hall.
Suddenly, I awoke from my phantasmagoric dream, with the sound of the clock that rang at the beginning of every hour of the day. The glint of the sun had entered my chamber through the velvet draperies. When I realised that my nightmare was only a subconscious episode, within my unconscious state, I immediately had risen to my feet. Never was I inclined to having nightmares of this horrific nature ere in my life. I had cogitated, the significance of this occurrence, and had allowed myself to be relaxed, by the anodyne sounds of the valley.
After I had got dressed, I walked down the stairway and entered the obscure corridor. As I passed the apartments below, I saw a fainting light coming exactly from the Great Hall. When I approached the hall, I found Lord Hasper sitting once more in his wheelchair staring at the clock ahead, and with his dark spectacles and callous face of expression that had left me disconsolate, since yesterday upon my arrival. I then attempted to open more the crimson lining draperies of the Great Hall, but as I did I heard the emphatic voice of Sidonia.
'Do not open wide the draperies Lord Sherrington!'
When I enquired, her reply was, 'Lord Hasper, suffers from hypersensitivity and the acute illness of hypochondria as well. I regret that I did not inform you of these important details before'.
I did not think much of this unusual affliction, nor did I question its severity, since it was evident that for some reason he was wearing those black spectacles in the first place. Thus, I did not wish to inopportune Sidonia. Perhaps my enquiries involving the terrible condition of Lord Hasper were best to refer to Dr Diumengia, upon his next visit or consultation. It was plainly seen that Lord Hasper was completely absorbed, by the figure of the clock. What could cause his queer fixation, if his vision was impaired by the light? The more that I espied of him the more, I pitied his lamentable ordeal. It was becoming less of a merry visit of an old friend, as I contemplated the misfortune of Lord Hasper. He was extremely fortunate enough to have the dedication and care of his devoted sister Sidonia beside him. But he was already impervious to that realisation it would seem. Such a once learnt scholarly man he was, who was now reduced to a helpless infant trapped in the body of a deranged man. There was little I could have done to allay his madness, and return him to his former jovial self. His mind was occupied, with the giant clock that stood before him in the Great Hall. If only there was something I could have done.
I saw the ponderous look of despair in the glassy eyes of Sidonia, as she sighed with such sullen despondency. If I could have effaced even for a brief interval, her laden sorrow I concluded. I invited her for a jaunty stroll in the valley. At first she was reluctant, but she had acquiesced. I promised her we would not tarry much, and we would not stray too far from the area. She had personally instructed one of the servants who she most confided to tend to her brother Lord Hasper, while we were away from the castle.
Once alone, we took the carriage down the passage to head towards the valley. I had made the insinuation of visiting the village along the way, but she was not receptive to that idea. I thought it odd that she would not desire to go into the village with me, nevertheless, I understood her direful preoccupation with her brother. We heard the chirm of the sparrows and saw the numerous rows of lush trees that were aligned along the ridge of the hillside. This time there was no mist to be seen encompassing the Engadine Valley. We had discussed the interminable beauty and the serenity of the swire, as Sidonia explained to me the history of this region.
From afar I saw what appeared to be a grave, hidden behind a tree. When I asked about the grave, Sidonia said it was the grave of one of the servants who was buried there, due to the fact that he had no immediate family to be located. I thought it was an honourable thing to do, since his loyalty to the Hasper family was impeccable and endearing. Sidonia then requested if we could return to the castle, since she was solicitous about the care of Lord Hasper. Naturally, I did not want to disturb her, and we had returned to the castle.
Once we returned, Sidonia excused herself, whilst I wrote a pressing correspondence back in my chambre to Lord Tittingham, informing him that I would probably be remaining in Switzerland more than I had expected. The mysterious grave that I had descried had caused me to wonder why a lone grave was found in a remote hillside. There was a dubitable nature surrounding the grave. However, I quickly dismissed this curiosity of the lone grave and took dinner as was the custom then, in the dining hall with Sidonia. I noticed a preoccupation that was becoming unsteady, by the minute in her. When I enquired, she simply acknowledged that it was nothing more than the strain of the weary day that had drained her vigour momentarily.
After dinner, she excused herself and went to her chamber to rest. Meanwhile, I returned to my chamber, where I had read a book I had borrowed from the library of the castle. Had Lord Hasper's condition worsened? This I thought then once. Soon, I slept and left the pensive enquiry for the morrow. As I had retired for the night and was slumbering, the recurring nightmare with the disturbing clock resurfaced. But the nightmare would be a precursor to a horror that would occur upon that horrendous night.
As I awoke from the terrible dream and drenched in a heavy perspiration, I heard strange noises coming from outside the chamber. The noises sounded like voices, but the noises were foreign at first. An unrecognisable force of gravity was luring me to the Great Hall. Thence, I bore no more the doubt that was accumulating by the second. I had opened the door of the chamber, and headed to the hall after closing the door. I looked around to see if any of the servants were awakened or near. When I saw that there was no one present, I began to walk through the corridor, and towards the Great Hall. It was there, where I sensed and heard the source of the unusual noises resounding. As I walked forth prudently, the voices started to become more audible. I could not distinguish the voices except one, and that was the voice of Lord Hasper, who was mumbling to himself. The corridor was opaque and only a fainting gleam of light was seen coming directly from the Great Hall. The light flickered from the distance, and it was not until I reached the Great Hall that I would be startled to see there in front of the colossal vintage clock that stood towering was Lord Hasper, in his wheelchair alone in the stark darkness.
There were no servants around to tend to him at that hour, and apparently not even Sidonia was present. His presence within the hall was inexplicable and unexpected. Was I experimenting, another phantasmagoric episode of total dissimulation, and was asleep in my chamber unknowingly? A fundamental problem had still to be addressed. Was I truly witnessing, a portentous occurrence that had no logical explanation of such a feasible nature to be attached to? But there had to be pertinency or relevance to this vivid episode. It could not be a mere coincidence that Lord Hasper was alone in the Great Hall at such a late hour.
It was passed midnight by then, when I had discovered him in the Great Hall. I was not certain whether or not to confront him, as I approached closer. The insurmountable voices had suddenly ceased, including his. Naturally, I did not want to alarm him, or stir him into a heightened vexation that would worsen his condition. In the end, through my deliberation, I confronted him, with my posture of intrigue and enquiry. His back was facing towards me, when I called his name.
'Lord Hasper, can you hear me my lord? Why are you presently in the Great Hall alone?'
Not a word came from his mouth, as he did not answer my question or adhere to my voice. Perhaps he was in his hypnotic trance that he did not hark, my words. Thus, I called on his name anew. But once more, he did not respond to my words. My instinct then prevailed, and I turned him around. When I did, he was not moving or complying. I had removed his spectacles and saw the ghastly image of death. His emaciated brows were overshadowed by his glassy white eyes, as his aquiline nose that protruded was cold. His cheeks were pallid, and the pallor that encompassed his lifeless body was manifest. He was stone dead, and something undefined had caused his death. His mouth was agape, and there were signs that some malevolent thing was present.
Perhaps the shock of that unimaginative horror of his madness finally was too unbearable to escape. It was the harrowing madness that he had succumbed to. Amidst this distressing revelation and circumstance stood the horrible clock, with its constant tick-tock that reverberated indefinitely. The horrendous clang of the clock had rung, as a new hour passed. I thought of Sidonia. How was I to inform her that her beloved brother Lord Hasper was dead? I was not even certain that he died of natural causes. What if he was murdered? But if so, who would murder Lord Hasper I pondered.
Oh sundry thoughts hastened in my head, and it was so late in the early hours that I did not know whether it was wise to disturb her sleep. I had dreaded the pall that would betide. But what if one of the servants was observing and precluded that I was the culprit of Lord Hasper's untimely death? I began to fret, as I quickly meditated my options. There was no other rational course to take then to inform Sidonia of her brother's death. This was the logical assumption to conclude. Hence, I went to her chamber and knocked on the door. I had knocked and knocked, and she did not answer. I called on her, yet there was no actual response. Perhaps she was in a profound sleep that she could not hear me I speculated. I headed back towards the Great Hall, where then I was confronted by one of the servants present.
'My lord, what are you doing awake at these late hours?'
I did not want to stir a commotion, or awaken the other servants. I took him to the side and softly spoke to him. I had immediately revealed to him the death of Lord Hasper, 'Lord Hasper, is dead. His body is in the Great Hall! I was sleeping in my chamber, when I heard odd voices and noises coming from outside of the chamber. When I had investigated the sounds, I found Lord Hasper in the Great Hall in his wheelchair stone dead I tell you'.
He was not overtly surprised by my disclosure, and his reply was somewhat indifferent, 'Oh my lord, 'tis regrettable; and no need to worry, I shall take care of the matter at once. I feared that this day would be coming, and that Lord Hasper would one day soon yield to his troublesome insanity'.
'You are correct his tormented psychosis must have triggered a cataleptic paroxysm in him suddenly. An irregular heartbeat must have contributed to his death as well. 'Tis a terrible manner to die, and such a terrible nemesis to overcome. He could not placate the dreaded voices from inside his head. If only he could have died in peace! We shall never know. But what are we to tell the Lady Hasper of her brother's death?'
His reaction was bizarre, as were his words, 'The Lady Hasper, my lord?'
'Yes the Lady Hasper, I knocked on her door, and she did not reply'.
'Oh my lord, she cannot answer you!'
'What do you mean?' I enquired.
'You do not know my lord?'
'She is dead my lord!'
His disconcerting admission had left me aghast, 'Dead, what in bloody hell do you mean?'
'Oh my lord, perhaps it will be better if you return to your chamber and rest. The castle can play devious tricks on one'.
I was in an unsettling state of disbelief, 'No, no, this is nothing more than a devious nightmare. I shall awake in the morning, and this will be gone and forgotten'.
I had returned to my chamber, and after several hours of frantic perturbance, I finally slept. It was a cathartic release of tension and anxiety I was experiencing afterwards. It felt so vicarious that I was contemplating my own vecordy and intuitive logic. Did I just have an encounter with the praeternatural phenomenon of the castle? Was the servant, a ghost, and Sidonia was indeed dead, as her brother Lord Hasper? Egad was if so?
It was in the early afternoon when I awoke, as the clang of the clock of the Great Hall had awakened me. The first thing I did was rise from the bed and to wash my face. I then got dressed and quickly went to the room of Sidonia to speak to her. There was a pressing urgency to know what was transpiring in the castle. However, as I was in the corridor, she was in the Great Hall standing dressed in all black. Lord Hasper was no longer in the Great Hall. For some apparent reason untold to me, he was absent from the Great Hall. Had they removed the body and prepared it for burial? I thought, she is not dead-nor is she a ghost. I saw Sidonia, and she was alive.
'Sidonia, you don't know how saddened I am, with the passing of your brother Lord Hasper. Words are not enough to comfort one. However, I do hope mine can at least be consolation for you, in your hour of grief and need', I told her as we embraced.
'I shall be fine Lord Sherrington, for the death of Lord Hasper was foreseen. He is where he belongs in the corridor of his madness', she replied.
It was not the heartfelt response I waited to hear-or the response that a bereaving sister would profess so coldly, so boldly. I had deduced ere that I would encounter her taciturn and morose, upon knowing of the death of Lord Hasper the following day. Perhaps, I had misinterpreted her words and conviction. After all, I could only imagine in her situation, how it must have felt to have lost such a loving sibling. She had informed me that the burial would take place in two days; although she was not specific in divulging many details of the burial. When I asked where the interment would be at, she was not certain at the moment. But, she would inform me as soon as the preparations were undertaken and finalised.
The day was sombre and eerie, and I sensed a certain change in the behaviour of Sidonia. She was becoming distant and callous towards me. I had surmised her indifference, as part of her grieving process. As we gathered in the dining hall for dinner, she was quiet and reserved. However, I also perceived her selcouth attitude that expressed her grievous predicament. How could I retrieve her quondam smile and resolution? I left the dining hall and passed the Great Hall. I had sought to speak to the brash servant, who had told me before that Sidonia was dead. That was the reason I stepped into the Great Hall. I had thought to have seen him there. But as I entered the room, there was no sign of his presence. The only visual thing that I noticed was the object of the clock. The mechanical tick-tock of the towering contrivance sounded and sounded. It was drawing me, under its influence and dominion gradually. There was something powerful of the clock that commanded and had mesmerised the human mind of Lord Hasper deceptively, including mine. Had the clock verily caused not only his madness but also, his imminent death? Had the clock contributed to his erratic phrenesis? His isolation had compelled him to drift, into the world of an absorptive aberration.
I began to hear strange voices speaking, and the wails of the afflicted souls that were circumjacent. Hitherto were the effects of the death of Lord Hasper affecting me too? Or was I yielding to the perilous isolation of the castle? A tingling sensation then echoed constantly within my brain, and I felt a heavy pounding consuming my thoughts incessantly. I could not resist the unyielding force of the clock. The sound grew louder and louder, as the intensity was severe and inscrutable. It possessed an irresoluble determination over me, as if the clock had controlled and spellbound my pattern of thinking. I was totally submissive to the devious will of its puissant grasp upon me.
Then the caretaker Alexander had seen me in the Great Hall staring at the huge clock, as I was unaware of his presence. He started to call my name several times, but I did not respond once. It was not until he grabbed me, by the shoulder that I had reacted suddenly. It was such a haunting and realistic episode that I was shivering constantly.
'Lord Sherrington, Lord Sherrington, are you all right my lord? You were shaking. What has frightened you sir?' Asked a bewildered Alexander.
I looked at him and uttered, 'The clock!'
'The clock my lord?' He asked.
'That dreadful clock! Do you not sense its haunting presence?'
'Oh, it is indeed, a rather eerie sound to listen, but it is the familiar sound of the castle'.
'What are you saying for God's sake? Are you jesting?'
'Oh, perhaps I am! I am afraid there is something about this castle that you do not fully understand'.
'I don't have time for your games of mystery. The only mystery that is pending to solve is the mystery behind the vintage clock'.
'Soon, you will understand everything about the clock and this castle, my lord'.
I calmed myself and regained my necessary composure. If not, he would think me mad. Once in my room, I bethought myself to linking the sequence of events that were transpiring. Lord Hasper was obsessed with the clock-or was his fixation, not the sole cause of his death instead, the unseen and unknown force of evil that had a compulsive need to drain the thoughts of the human mind? I was referring to the uncommon occurrences that had been happening in the castle, since my arrival.
That night I was determined to solve this mystery, about the clock. I had dinner in the dining hall with Sidonia, and I was interested in knowing more anent the vintage clock. When I asked her of the clock, her reply was queer and unsettling, 'The clock has always been here Lord Sherrington. Father built the clock himself. It was a gift Mother cherished passionately. But poor Mother went mad as well. You see Lord Sherrington unfortunately madness is all too common in our family. It is an intrinsic legacy of the castle. You are wondering if the clock had killed Lord Hasper. It was his madness that killed him and not the clock'. Indeed, I was respectfully astonished by her words of candour. It was clear that I was not going to discover anything pertinent about my investigation, with Sidonia. Therefore, I would have to rely on my instinctive awareness to assist me in this relevant endeavour.
Thus, that memorable night I waited until the late night, when the servants and Sidonia were asleep, or in their chambers. Once I had sensed no one was roaming the corridors, I opened the door of my chamber, and began to walk through the corridor that led to the Great Hall. When I approached the Great Hall, I saw the luminous orbs that shone bright, as I lit the tapers in the silver candelabra that I carried in my hand. I heard the familiar voices once more, but I could not detect them. It was then as I finally entered the dining hall, I saw the ghosts of the castle seated in the table of the dining hall. They were all laughing including Lord Hasper, Sidonia, within such a devilish manner. Then, they stopped laughing, and they were gazing into my eyes. But they began to laugh at me.
I ran away from the dining hall, and reached, at last the Great Hall, where the ominous clock stood. I heard the tick-tock of the clock, as the sound intensified in nature; and through the darkness of the hall, shone the clock that towered over me, like the mountains of the Engadine region. The porcelain dial below swayed and swayed, with such a relentless fervour I could not eschew. The voices, the laughter, and the tick-tock grew louder and louder, until I could bear no more. My head rang and rang, as my eyes were being blinded, by the imperant fixation of the clock. My heart beat faster and faster, and I felt it was to burst. Gradually, I fell on the floor, as I remained motionless and consumed by the illimitable dominion of the clock. Then, a heavy and obstreperous clang sounded. It was the new hour that had passed of the night.
When I awoke the next day, I was still lying on the ground. There was absolute silence. The ringing in my head was gone. The strange voices were gone. The dreaded wraiths were gone. Apparently, Alexander, the caretaker had discovered me in the Great Hall. He was standing there with Dr Diumengia, who was calling me. He shook me to awaken me, from my deadly trance.
'Lord Sherrington, are you all right my lord?'
'Dr Diumengia! Good God, it is the clock. It is evil, and you must destroy it now!' I told him.
'What do you mean Lord Sherrington, about the clock?' Dr Diumengia quaeritated.
'The clock-do not stand long looking at the clock-for it will drive you mad!' I ejaculated.
'Calm down my lord. What are you saying?' He continued his questions.
'Where is Sidonia? She knows what I am talking about. The clock murdered Lord Hasper doctor!'
'Sidonia, she is dead Lord Sherrington. She was killed by Lord Hasper, her brother. This is the shameful secret that I did not mention to you before I now confess, is only known by few', Dr Diumengia explained.
'Dead-but how can that be? She is in her chamber. Go and see for yourself. I tell you the truth!' I yelled.
Subsequently, I would discover the haunted truth that had eluded me since the very beginning. Sidonia was dead and buried in that lone grave by the hillside I had seen before. The horrific ghosts were part of the castle and the victims to the unsettling madness of the castle. I was fortunate to have survived the madness of the castle and the clock.
Shortly after the funeral of Lord Hasper, I departed the Hasper Castle and had returned to familiar surroundings of England, with my sanity salvaged and intact. However, I could not forget that horrible, horrible clock of the Great Hall that tormented me forever it seemed. Poor Lord Hasper, who died a miserable death that was worse than his insanity, his isolation in a world many people fail to realise or discover so easily. But I, who experienced that terrible encounter with the clock, shall never-never dare to forget. How can I forget that contrivance, when it stands still in the Great Hall?