I.  The Old Haunted Inn

Written and Illustrated by Benjamin Andrew Fouché

The most fitting word, for which can effortlessly describe the inexplicable man's rotting face, is simply corpselike. He wears a rich-ebon suit with a blood-red waistcoat, and beneath the waistcoat is a formal cravat. “Greetings; my name is Mansfield. And please excuse my dead appearance, for I am a very aberrant man with many aberrant conditions. Nevertheless, may you rest assured that I do not pose harm. Now, please allow me to direct you to your room. I shall guide you up the stairs to the floor above.” Cautiously striding behind the odd-mannered gentleman, you push the abandoned works of spiders aside, and curiously glance over your shoulders every so often. When you and Mansfield reach the curving stairwell, he stops abruptly and faces you with an earnest expression upon his face. He motions his hand up the curving steps, purely meaning, “you first”.

Now, after ascending the narrow stairway, Mansfield continues past you. Down the hallway, you warily move beyond more antique and tattered chairs, also mummified in cobwebs, and heavily layered in condensed dust. The timeworn sconces hanging from the walls are undoubtedly spaced far apart, so that very scant light can feebly illuminate the melancholy hallway. While you near the end, Mansfield abruptly seizes a key out from his waistcoat's pocket. Handing the silvery skeleton key over to you, Mr. Mansfield peers into your eyes deeply, and thereafter, grins with every single one of his skeletal teeth. When Mr. Mansfield finishes, he leaves sluggishly––and before Mansfield begins his descent down the vertiginous stairwell, he pulls a candle from a tarnished, brass candelabrum. The glow of the flame casts a towering, grim shadow upon the deprived walls. Mr. Mansfield's mannerism is all too strange, and there is a baleful sensation, developing within your disconcerted soul.

Precisely as every other forlorn apartment in the Inn's gloomy interior, a weak flame is the only source of light in your quarters. Your bed is made rather neatly, and a small, oaken nightstand rests beside it with a candleholder placed atop a book. The gale prolongs its atrocious rage over the lugubrious dale, and its unrelenting howls become even more menacing, prior to your arrival. But all at once, you hear a distinct knock on your bedchamber's door––slightly turning your head, you become increasingly hesitant of answering, acknowledging that whoever could stand behind the door is, in all probability, Mr. Mansfield. While you noiselessly pace over to the chamber's door, you listen carefully––there is yet another knock. “Mr. Mansfield?” you ask apprehensively––yet nobody answers.

You decide that it is conspicuously best not to open the door, since whoever it was never responded to your mere enquiry. While you continue listening intently, you hear footfalls resound down the hall, and gradually fade with the dreadful silence. Your immense unease of this old Inn is strengthening by the hour. You must not return to the parlor until dawn––something is not quite right. Endeavoring to ignore whoever it may have been, you prop yourself up against a pillow and two cushions. Lifting the candleholder above the book, you read the word, guestbook, which is engraved deeply into the time-faded cover. Meticulously opening the book, you cannot help, but notice that the pages are exceedingly aged; all the way through they have yellowed. You begin reading each entry––they are accordingly thus:

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Beyond the Gates by Midnight Syndicate

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