Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Young adult or teen  ➡  Horror  ➡  Paranormal

Blackwood Manor





Sandra Madera




Shakespir EDITION


[ * * * ]





Blackwood Manor

Copyright © 2017 by Sandra Madera


Ebook Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be altered, re-sold, or given away to other people. This story is FREE and does not require payment. If you’re reading this book and did not download it from SandraMadera.com or other legitimate online bookstore, please download a legitimate copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.


[ * * * ]


Standing at the foot of the front steps, I stared up at Blackwood Manor as a cold wind brushed dry leaves across the stone treads, suitcase in hand. This was the home of my ancestors, the house my father left for unknown reasons many years before he met and married my mother. Now, I was returning back to the place of my forefathers as an orphan.

Forced to leave home, I traveled across the pond to live at Blackwood Manor with, my grandfather, Alric Blackwood. I didn’t even know that he was still alive as my father never spoke of him, but after the death of my parents, social services located him.

Before I knew it, every possession I had was packed up, and the house was sold, the money from the sale placed into a trust. There was no time to say goodbye to my friends, not that I was able to speak after such a tragedy, but still, it would’ve been a proper farewell. After the funeral, I was told to pack a bag, and a court-appointed guardian drove me to the airport, handing me off to the staff of a private jet, eager to be rid of me.

Now, I was standing in front of Blackwood, shivering and staring up at the structure against the backdrop of an overcast sky. Blackwood was a daunting place, an onyx fortress nestled in the middle of the woods, far from the probing eyes of the townsfolk. It was a huge, three-story Gothic manor house with numerous arched windows and doors that held decorative stained-glass inserts. The glint of light on the jewel-toned panels made the building look as if it had eyes that were moved by emotion. These were the many orifices from which the house could see and speak. In my mind, it was as if the house was alive, having much to tell since its construction hundreds of years before.

Granite ledges crumbled like sand after many years of neglect. The stone facade was stained and cracked, collecting moss in-between the gaps. With its sharp angles, the roof sagged after a considerable amount of water damage. The slate shingles which hadn’t fallen off were cracked and chipped from years of turbulent weather. The house was topped off with gargoyles that sneered at visitors from their perches on the peaks and pitches of the turrets.

As the temperature began to drop to a point that was uncomfortable, I knew that I couldn’t remain outside much longer, but the idea of approaching the house made my spine tingle. Balling my hands into fists and setting my jaw, I summoned all the courage I had within. Fighting a shiver, I climbed up a single tread, proud to be a step closer to the front entrance.

The house groaned, and in my surprise, I jumped back, startled. With my heart traveling through my chest and lodging in my throat, I was unable to scream as I watched the mahogany door creek open, exposing the darkness within.

Without warning, a petite woman stepped out and beckoned to me with her long, skinny fingers. She couldn’t have been more than twenty, having beautiful porcelain skin and rosy cheeks. Her heart-shaped lips pursed as she looked at me, her eyes reading pity. Her dark hair was pinned back into a sleek bun. She wore the garbs of a maid, a dreary gray dress that ran a little past her knees and a crisp apron around her waist. “Come in, Miss, before you catch your death in the moors like the others,” she squeaked with her childlike voice, waving her hand at me. “Ms. Sweeney has been waiting for you, and she hates to be left waiting.”

Without further hesitation, I skipped up the steps, rushing to meet her. When I entered, she closed the door behind me and led the way through the dimly lit front hall, passing the grand staircase. As I lagged behind her, I looked up at the second floor landing, trying to peer into the dark corners.

The interior of the house felt heavy, having a dark and creepy atmosphere. I coughed, my lungs rejecting the stale air. With a growing sense of hopelessness in the pit of my stomach, I took in the scene around me with a frown.

The wood-paneled walls and dark furnishings didn’t do much to raise my spirits. The few lamps that were on left most of the shadows undisturbed by their glow. The stained-glass panels defused whatever exterior light which would’ve streamed in, and heavy curtains blocked the rest as they were drawn over almost every window.

“Who’s Ms. Sweeney?” I asked her, absent-minded as I tore my eyes away from the staircase towards an adjoining parlor.

“The head housekeeper, Miss,” she answered, stopping mid-stride. “Oh, where are my manners? I’m Maud, Maud Launders. I work under Ms. Sweeney.”

I nodded in understanding, placing my suitcase at the foot of the staircase.

Maud seemed to sense my insecurity as her eyes brushed over my face. “You can relax, Miss Meliah. You’re home now.”

I knew that she was trying to soothe my frazzled nerves, but it reminded me of how far I was from my real home and that I would never return. It reminded me of my parents and… the accident. Before I could contain them, tears burst forth from my eyes like a dam giving way, running down my cheeks. Unable to wipe them away fast enough, I gave up and sobbed, letting my emotions out.

Maud’s eyes widened. She leaned forward, placing a hand on my shoulder and rubbing it gentle manner. “Oh, I’m sorry, Miss. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

There were three loud booms that shook the walls.

With a gasp, I stopped crying and looked at Maud with my mouth ajar.

“That would be Master Blackwood,” Maud said, her eyes shot to the ceiling as she watched the crystal chandelier rock, back and forth. She explained that since my grandfather’s recent stroke, he was less mobile and knocked his cane on the floorboards for assistance. He wasn’t fit enough to spend time socializing,but once he showed improvement, she assured me that I could meet him.

Wiping my face with the back of my hand, I nodded. I felt as if I was going to lose my grandfather before we were even introduced. Memories of my parents flashed in my mind, and I tried to reign in my heightened emotions. I knew I couldn’t face another death, another funeral. I couldn’t be without any family, living in the foster care system until I turned eighteen. I wouldn’t survive it.

Three more bangs shook the house, sending Maud into motion. Rushing towards the stairs in a frenzy, she pointed towards a dark corridor and gave me directions to the scullery, informing me that Ms. Sweeney would be waiting for me there. Then she excused herself to tend to Master Blackwood’s needs.

As I watched her dash up the stairs, I found myself alone and felt my nerves elevate. I wasn’t sure about stepping forward, and yet, there was no turning back. Stepping towards the corridor, my moisture-filled eyes adjusted to the growing darkness. Hesitant, I moved forward, every creak of the floorboards causing me to quiver.

When I stood outside the door, I straightened up and pushed it open. I was shocked by the light as I entered. After a short moment of blindness, I noted that the windows in the kitchen were plain glass, and although grimy, allowed more light than could be seen in the rest of the house. My eyes glanced about the room and rested on an older woman seated at a table, peeling potatoes.

She stood up, walked towards me, and took my hand into hers. “You must be Meliah,” she said with a smile. “I’m Anne Sweeney, the head maid of Blackwood.”

I greeted her, managing a faint smile.

Anne Sweeney had a kind, round face that was framed with curls of dark, graying hair, pinned back. Her pale skin appeared delicate but was free of wrinkles. Her thin lips turned upwards into a pleasant grin as she looked me over, appearing warm and friendly. She looked at me with her bright green eyes that glistened in the light. She had a thin frame and was quite tall, standing at about five foot eight. She wore the same gray dress as Maud.

Letting go of my hand, she removed a set of keys from her pocket. “You must be tired after such a long journey. Let me take you up to your room and get you situated,” she said, leading me up the back staircase. “There are a few rules of the house. For one, Master Blackwood hates noise. Harsh noises give him headaches, so you must be sure to keep quiet, especially on the upper levels. Second, he’s also particular about the light. Sunlight also irritates his migraines, so we tend to block it out with the curtains,” she told me. “Dinner’s served promptly at six o’clock in the dining room. If you miss it, you’ll have to go without a meal for the night. Do not expect your grandfather to dine with you. He’ll be served in his room for now.”

I nodded, showing my understanding.

“But it’s more than the migraines,” she said, continuing to guide me through the windowless corridor with only small sconces to cast light. Stopping in front of a door, she pulled out her key ring. “Here it is. I picked this room for you because it’s away from everything.”

I watched as she unlocked the door and held it open for me so that I could enter. I took a few nervous steps across the space, noticing a four-poster mahogany bed first. The room was large, having a seating area and fireplace to the right. To the left, there was a set of windows that overlooked a garden. Weeds had overtaken this strip of land, and it was in desperate need of a gardener, but I was appreciative to have windows that I could see out of, even if the view wasn’t great.

“It gets cold at night, so we’ll have to make you a fire. For now, get some rest,” she said, walking halfway through the threshold and grabbing the door handle. “Another thing, it’s not a big deal, but your grandfather demands that all the doors be locked at eight o’clock.”

“Do you mean the front door? Is eight o’clock my curfew?”

“Curfew? No, all doors. We lock everyone in their rooms at eight.”

I gawked at her, dumbfounded.

“The noise travels more at night than it does during the day. Master Blackwood doesn’t want anyone trampling through the house, causing disturbances,” she told me, sounding as if this was all quite normal.

With that, she closed the door behind her before I could object. Hearing a click of the lock, I realized that she locked me in and ran to the door. I pulled at the handle, but the door didn’t budge. I didn’t want to call after her, knowing that it would disturb my grandfather. Inspecting the latch, I noticed that there wasn’t a lock on this side of the door, only a keyhole. It seems that the doors were able to be locked with a master key.

Frustrated, I knew there was nothing I could do but wait for Ms. Sweeney to return. This was my new life, and it would take a lot of getting used to, but I needed my parents. I couldn’t reject my grandfather’s rules. I had nowhere else to go. So no matter how eccentric these rules seemed, I had to go along with it.

Being forced to rest, I yawned and moved towards the bed. Thinking of my parents, my heart began to hurt as moisture fell from my eyes. It dawned on me that I would never hear their voices again. Reclining, I cried into my pillow until I fell asleep.

As a spasm rippled through my muscles and a sense of sinking into a dark pit overtook my dream state, my eyes popped open as I flailed my arms in an attempt to free myself and came into full consciousness as if awakened by a deep inner knowing that something was wrong. I shuddered as I struggled to remember my surroundings, and despite the haze of my thoughts, my heart sank in my chest, losing its warmth, as I remembered the horrific events that sparked my depression. Feeling a tickle on my cheek, I ran my fingertips over it and noticed the moisture my eyes had released without my knowing. I brushed the tears away and squinted to overcome my blurry vision, taking in my surroundings with a clearer head.


[ * ]


The afternoon had given way to the darkness of the evening as I scanned every shadowy surface. Realizing that Ms. Sweeney must have entered while I was asleep, my eyes noted the fire that had been started in the fireplace, a dinner tray that was resting on the nightstand, and my luggage which was placed by the door.

With a yawn, I stretched and sat up in bed, swinging my legs over the edge of the mattress and lowering my feet onto the cool floorboards. My eyes found the door in the soft orange glow that the fire was casting across the room. Still feeling exhausted, I dragged myself towards my suitcase and rummaged through my things, pulling out a nightdress and inspecting it in the light.

Then I heard the unmistakable sound of the doorknob. My heart stopped as my eyes shot to the door, wondering if it was being turned. I held my breath, trying to hear anything other than the sound of my own inspiration and expiration.


The house was dead silent.

After a moment, I summoned up my courage and crawled towards the door with caution, lining my eye up with the keyhole. It took my brain a moment to register what I had seen, but once it had, I screamed as loud as I could, dropping the nightdress and crawling backwards away from the door. As tears flooded my eyes, I trembled as my mind was unable to overcome what I saw.

Once my back touched the footboard, I heard three loud bangs that radiated through the stillness. My heart rattled against my ribs, trying to break free. I whimpered as I cowered in a fetal position.

Before I knew it, Ms. Sweeney and Maud came rushing into my room, their eyes wide and questioning. I watched their mouths move as they spoke, but for a split second, I couldn’t hear anything other than my own heart, drumming in my chest.

Maud knelt on the floor beside me, rubbing my shoulder.

Anxious, I shook my head, glancing at the open door. “I saw… I saw something in the hall.”

Ms. Sweeney looked skeptical, pursing her lips. “The door was locked. How could you see anything in the hall?”

“Through the keyhole….”

Maud gave Ms. Sweeney a look before she reached around my shoulder, offering words of comfort.

“I saw an eye!” I cried, my voice shaking. “A glowing yellow eye was staring into my room.”

Ms. Sweeney placed her hands on her hips and said, “Rhydian.”

“Rhydian is Master Blackwood’s adopted son,” Maud explained. “He was an orphan from the village when Master Blackwood invited him to live here. He has this huge, black dog, a Great Dane named Shadow, and I bet that you saw Shadow looking in at you.”

I moved away, feeling foolish. “The eye was glowing.”

Ms. Sweeney crossed her arms in front of her. “Eyeshine,” she retorted, matter-of-fact. She backed out of the room, eager to check on my grandfather after hearing his cane. With her keys hanging from the latch, she twisted them out of the lock and disappeared down the dark hall; the echo of her footsteps faded as the distance grew.

As Maud began to rise up, pulling her own set of keys from within the pocket of her robe, nagging questions ate at me, and I had to know the answer before I could be put at ease. “Maud, are Ms. Sweeney and you the only two people in this house with a set of keys?”

She nodded.

“Then, how could Rhydian or Shadow be out in the hall?”

Maud averted her gaze, appearing to consider my words. “I’ll find out when I see him at breakfast. Get some rest now, Miss. There’s nothing to fear in this house,” she told me, her voice cracking as she walked towards the door and grabbed the knob.

I trained my eyes on her as she walked out of the room and locked the door behind her. Although I felt more relaxed, there was something about what Maud said. It appeared that she didn’t even believe her own words.


[ * ]


With my folded arms resting on my chest, I followed Ms. Sweeney towards the dining room, hypnotized by the rhythmic clicking of my shoes on the floorboards. As we crossed the threshold, I noticed Maud speaking in hushed tones with a young man who was unfamiliar to me, observing the tail end of their conversation before they were aware of our presence.

I assumed that he was Rhydian Blackwood, although he was older than I anticipated. Standing at over six feet, Rhydian had a commanding appearance and dominating presence which was palpable. He appeared to be in his late teens with a pale complexion and thick, black hair. His features were aristocratic and delicate. Yet, he appeared to be quite masculine, having a straight nose, angular eyes under thick eyebrows, high cheekbones, an angular jaw-line that culminated in a cleft chin, and full lips which formed a pout. He wore a simple black sweater, jeans, and boots, dressing in all black gave him a mysterious allure. With his brows drawn inward, he shook his head at Maud, crossing his arms over his broad chest.

When they noticed me, they ended the conversation immediately, and Maud rushed towards the kitchen, announcing that she was ready to serve breakfast. Ms. Sweeney attempted to introduce me to Rhydian. However, he seemed more interested in taking his seat at the table. He averted his eyes and managed to mumble a greeting.

Ignoring his behavior, I took my seat and asked, “Can visit with my grandfather today?”

Rhydian grinned. “Yes, Ms. Sweeney, can she visit with her grandfather today?” he asked, mocking me.

After casting a disapproving look at Rhydian, Ms. Sweeney shook her head, dismissive in her stance. Without further explanation, she left the room to assist Maud.

“It wasn’t Shadow,” he said, keeping his hazel eyes trained on the wood table and tracing the grain with his finger. “He was in my room the whole night.”

Realizing that he was bothered by the accusation and by my presence as well, I remained silent, and we ate with very little conversation. When he left the room, I felt relieved, sensing the tension in the space deflate as the distance grew between us.

Soon after, I pushed my plate away and stepped outside for air, seeing the garden as a good place to explore. As I entered the kitchen, I heard Maud’s excited voice chirping about something in the moors, her voice high pitched and her hands moving in an expressive manner as she spoke. Standing behind her, I listened as she explained to Ms. Sweeney and Rhydian that there were bodies found near the property.

My muscles tensed.

When Maud became aware of my presence, she grew quiet, turning around to look at me.

Rhydian reached for the folded newspaper next to him and tossed it at me. “Bodies have been found nearby.”

Catching the paper, I gawked at him for the moment it took to register the information. When I unfolded it, I saw the headline: “The Wraith’s Killing Grounds Found!”

“It seems that the remains of countless people have turned up in a swamp past the moors that are north of here,” Rhydian explained, watching my reaction.

“Those remains have probably been there for ages,” Ms. Sweeney interjected.

“At least one is not ancient. A local girl… Eloise Vicars. She turned eighteen the day before she disappeared from a local pub about three months ago.”

Ms. Sweeney brushed her hand in the air. “No more talk of this. There are things to be done while the day is young.”

Everyone soon disbursed, and I moved outdoors without another thought about it, believing it was, as Ms. Sweeney indicated, something that was done long ago, an old burial ground that had been unearthed. As I trampled through the weeds, my ears were overwhelmed with the sound of the dry foliage cracking and crunching beneath my shoes.

I felt the weight of someone’s stare on my back, felt eyes burning into me. I felt a chill run up my spine and pulled my jacket tighter around me. Cautious, I turned my head, my eyes drifting back at the house. I gasped as I caught movement in one of the windows, noticing a lace curtain shift of its own accord.

I screamed and ran towards the house. Storming into the scullery, I explained what I saw to an open-mouthed Maud. She placed a hand over her heart and gawked at me, unable to speak at first.

“Your room overlooks the garden on this side of the house.”

I gasped, shivering but not from the cold.

Ms. Sweeney entered the room and immediately dismissed our concern. “Impossible! I locked the door after you.”

Maud glanced at Ms. Sweeney, her eyes wide and fearful. “Is it the Wraith, the Wraith of Blackwood?” she questioned, her voice shrill.

She shushed her. “Stop your ravings!”

Feeling my heart begin to pound hard in my chest, I moved towards Maud and forced her to look at me. I questioned her about the wraith, but she remained silent and refused to say explain, shaking her head at me.

The walls shook with thumps on the ceiling.

I gasped as my eyes drifted upwards, realizing my grandfather was beating his cane on the floor so hard that the light fixtures shook. Ms. Sweeney moved towards the exit, calling for Maud to assist her. In an abrupt fashion, Maud excused herself and hurried away, passing Rhydian as he leaned on the door frame.

With his arms crossed as he approached, he stood in front of me, his eyes meeting mine. “The Wraith of Blackwood is a soul-sucking ghost. The towns-folk have been harping about a wraith since the place was built.”

My hair stood on end as a violent chill ran up my spine. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” I told him, standing up a little straighter in my defiance. “I believe in the things I can see.”

He leaned forward until our noses almost touched and smiled, appearing impressed by stubborn nature. “Whether you believe or not is irrelevant to its existence. Your disbelief serves to make you a blind target. By the time you see it coming, it’ll be too late.”


[ * ]


The house trembled, creaking and cracking, as it settled deeper into its foundation, giving the impression of that it was a living thing. Lying in bed, I was a bit unnerved. I clutched the sheet, ready to throw it over my eyes at any second. I glanced about, watching shadows duck and weave out of the dim light that the fire provided. My thoughts were cloudy as I struggled to rationalize my next steps, telling myself that I was almost eighteen, would be off to college soon, and wouldn’t have to return to this creepy mansion ever again. Still, I couldn’t piece together what I was feeling, knowing that it wasn’t all together logical. There was something about this place that made me uneasy, although I couldn’t be sure if my experiences were supernatural.

My eyes felt heavy, although my thoughts were weighed down by notions of unnatural creatures roaming the halls. I tossed and turned, unable to fall into a deep sleep. The ramblings of my reeling mind kept me in a state of unrest. After rolling around for another hour, I felt myself sinking into a light sleep.

Unaware of how much time had drifted by, I was jolted into consciousness by a piercing scream that sounded like the whistle of a kettle. Sitting up in bed, I scratched my head as my eyes drifted towards the bedroom door. I wondered if I had been dreaming. A cold, dark energy washed over me, prickling my skin as if it were ice water.

I felt my heart flutter.

My mouth was agape, and I gasped when I realized that the door was ajar.

As if on cue, I heard the bangs of a cane, rattling through the air.

Jumping out of bed, I grabbed my robe and stepped towards the doorway with careful steps. Peeking out into the corridor, I didn’t see anything unusual and felt it was safe enough to step out. I heard movement just around the corner and found myself drifting towards that end of the hall… in the same direction of my grandfather’s room.

I held my breath and turned the corner, expecting to see the wraith wandering through the corridor. Instead, I saw another door was ajar, rocking, back and forth, with the draft that blew through the house.


The walls shook, and I felt my heart stop. In a state of confusion and panic, I froze in place. My hands covered my mouth as I stifled a scream, catching my breath in my throat and choking it down before it moved through my vocal cords. With my eyes darting towards the sound, it took my brain a moment to register that the door had slammed shut.

I rationalized it, feeling foolish for an instant. With my hand guarding my heart, I felt beat back into rhythm, and I released the breath I had been holding, sensing the tension in my shoulders dissipate.


I covered my ears, feeling a tinge of annoyance. The sound of my grandfather’s cane on the floorboards became increasingly unpleasant, radiating off the walls until they shook. I rushed towards his room, becoming evermore confused over which way to turn. Finally, I reached the correct passageway and turned into it without looking. Surprised, I stopped short when I noticed a large, black dog resting outside the door.

It growled at me, baring its teeth.

Inching away with my nerves frayed, I tried to remain calm and placed my hands up in the air in an act of surrender.

The dog stood up, dripping saliva from its exposed gums. The guttural sounds, which escaped its throat, were frightening. It began to bark at me.

I stepped backward into the hall. My eyes drifted from the dog to the end of the hall, expecting Ms. Sweeney or Maud to come to my rescue, but no one came. When I backed further away, the dog seemed to relax, sitting down once more. Taking another step backwards, my eyes swept towards the end of the hall, seeing the farthest sconces flicker before burning out, one by one. The next set of lights blew out and then the next, the darkness growing and moving towards me.

“M… E… L… I… A… H…”

Hearing my name being called by a voice that was nothing more than a breathy moan, I took a step backward as a gust of cold air move through me, chilling me to the bone with an ominous energy. Covered in gooseflesh, I heard warning bells, blaring like a siren and ricocheting off my temples. My heart pounded hard in my chest like a gavel against my rib cage. Clumsy on my feet, I turned and ran back around the corner.

Without warning, I hit something hard and almost collapsed to the floor. A strong hand prevented my fall, pulling me upright. After the initial shock had worn off, I looked up and saw Rhydian staring back at me. His expression read of worry, although his concern was unexpressed.

“The Wraith!” I choked out, unable to speak and breathe at the same time.

He immediately moved past me and glanced around the corner, shaking his head.

Shivering, I peeked around the corner and stared down the empty corridor. Dumbfounded, my eyes scanned the end of he hall, finding nothing was amiss. All of the sconces burned as bright as if they had never been extinguished. I rubbed my eyes. Recalling what I had seen, I wondered if I could trust my memory.

Running his hands through his dark hair, he shrugged. “For someone that doesn’t believe, you seem convinced you saw something.”

Sensing he didn’t believe me, I tried to explain what happened, but he seemed more interested in whether I would tell Ms. Sweeney about him sneaking out. I was sure Ms. Sweeney knew that a guy like Rhydian wouldn’t say locked up on a Saturday night, but I agreed not to utter a word. Then he was more attentive to my story.

“Doors don’t unlock themselves,” he cut me off, peering at me with curiousity.

“Mine did,” I insisted, crossing my arms over my chest.

“I wonder, why is that?”

Eying him suspicion, I said, “I heard grandfather’s cane, and I tried to go to him, but your guard dog was in the way. Tell me, is that dog there to protect my grandfather or prevent him from leaving?”

He grinned at me, his hazel eyes appearing more soulful than usual. “Maybe both,” he replied, biting his lip.

Watching him turn on his heel and walk away, I walked with some reluctance towards my quarters, and as I moved, something on the floor caught my eye, a metallic glint in the dim light. I knelt down and took ahold of it, placing it in the palm of my hand. My eyes narrowed as I inspected the object, realizing that it was a single dangle earring, a round-cut topaz surrounded by a sterling silver bezel.

It was a curious thing to find, but something about it nagged at me, begging me to find its meaning. I placed the earring in my pocket, vowing to look into it in the morning.


[ * ]


Entering the dining room, I overheard Maud speaking with the others about the Vicars’ girl. My appearance was hardly acknowledged as she continued to update everyone on the latest developments. As Maud placed my breakfast plate in front of me, I settled in my seat and reached for the newspaper that was lying on the table.

My eyes drifted to Ms. Sweeney who was sweeping up shards of glass on the floor. It was apparent from the billowing curtain and the rock on the floor that some of the locals were blaming the Blackwoods for the bodies found in the moors.

Maud explained that Eloise left home for a possible job interview at a local eatery, but no such employer could be identified. She said that the other bodies were to be matched up to other missing persons reports in the area.

Unfolding the paper, my eyes swept over the image on the front page, an old school photograph of Eloise. The girl was about my age, having long, dark tresses, light green eyes, and a pale complexion. She was dressed in a crisp, white shirt and red-striped tie. Her smile was innocent and made her appear even younger than her years.

It dawned on me that her angelic face would be fixed in that smile forever, never changing just as the image never would. As if frozen in time, she would never cease to be this young girl, never grow old like others. No—she was doomed to forever be the girl who was discarded in the moors by a crazed killer, serving to further perpetuate the myth of the Wraith of Blackwood.

Rhydian leaned forward, glancing at me and then the paper. “She looks a little like you, doesn’t she?”

I paused, his words floating in my mind before registering. Unbeknownst to him, the notion of any similarity sent a chill up my spine. As I bit my lip, I allowed my thoughts to drift, considering the fragility of life, and in that moment, family ties seemed evermore important to me. I wondered if my grandfather knew about what was happening in the swamp past the moors. If he did, would he approve of my staying at Blackwood, considering the proximity to the crime scene and my apparent resemblance to the victim?

I turned to Ms. Sweeney and asked, “May I see my grandfather?”

“Not today,” Ms. Sweeney responded in a firm tone, crossing her arms over her chest.

I began to protest, but as soon as I started, Ms. Sweeney stood up and moved into the kitchen, leaving me with the unexpressed words in my mouth.

Maud came up behind me and reached for my shoulder, giving it a light squeeze. “Soon, Miss Meliah,” she told me with a soothing smile before heading into the kitchen.

Although I was comforted by Maud’s words, I didn’t understand. There was something odd about the entire situation; locked doors, a grandfather I couldn’t bond with, bodies found nearby, and a legend that made me quiver with fear. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were lying, contemplating the possibility that my grandfather was being kept from me. I felt as if these people formed barriers between us. But why? Why would they keep him from me?

Glancing back down at the paper, something caught my eye that hadn’t previously. I had been so focused on Eloise Vicars’ smile that I hadn’t noticed her ears. She wore dangle earrings, sterling silver earrings that framed topaz stones. Holding my breath, I recognized them immediately since I held one in my hand only the night before.

This new revelation sent my mind reeling. Ripping the page out of the paper, my eyes lingered on Rhydian. I held my breath as scenarios popped into my mind. If he could sneak out, then he could sneak back in… perhaps with someone else. No one would be the wiser with everyone shut in their rooms. What if he knew Eloise Vicars and was responsible for what happened to her?

“Why are you staring at me like that?”

I averted my gaze, stuffing the newspaper clipping in my pocket.

Rhydian pursed his lips and wiped his mouth with his napkin. “I didn’t know her,” he said before rising from his seat and exiting the room.


[ * ]


Reaching for a piece of toast, an idea came to my mind as I spread jam over the surface. I decided on my plan and rose from my seat, moving with haste towards the staircase and marching towards my grandfather’s bedroom before anyone could stop me.

When I reached his door, Shadow spotted me as he reclined in front of the threshold. As if denying my access, the dog stood up, lowered his head, and growled at me. His nails dug into the wooden floorboards, affixing himself to that spot as if daring me to make him move.

Beckoning him forward, my stomach was in knots as Shadow bared his teeth. I held up the toast until he sniffed the sweet scent that lingered in the air between us. With his muscles relaxing under his skin, his eyes locked on mine, and he licked his lips, staring at the sweet snack.

Teasing him, I threw the toast down the hall. As Shadow ran after it, I seized the opportunity and moved towards the door, finding it unlocked. Holding my breath, I twisted the lock and peeked into the room. The space was blanketed in shadows, except for shafts of light which entered through gaps in the curtains.

Stepping inside, I allowed my eyes to adjust as much as they could to the darkness. I knew that there was no time to waste and moved towards the bed with slow and careful steps. When I approached, I heard a moan and saw the outline of a body as it shifted under the covers. I rushed towards the closest window and opened the curtain, allowing the sunlight in before moving closer to his bedside. Seeing him clearly for the first time, I reached for his arm and shook it.

Alric Blackwood’s appearance shocked me, not because he appeared sick. On the contrary, he seemed healthy enough as he slept. However, he looked like an older version of my father which jarred me.

He had salt and pepper hair that was cropped short, framing his masculine features. With a long face that culminated in an angular jaw, his pale skin had only a few fine lines, and there was a natural blush upon his cheeks. Having broad shoulders and toned arms, he appeared strong for someone who was almost sixty or so.

“Grandfather, wake up,” I pleaded, glancing back at the door and hoping that no one would come looking for me.

Medicine bottles lined his nightstand catching my attention. I reached for them and realized, only after closer inspection, that he had been prescribed sedatives. In my attempt to replace all the bottles that I had collected, I placed them down in one heap, dropping one on the floor. Watching it roll under the bed, I knelt down and froze.

Stunned, my eyes caught something unusual which didn’t belong in setting of a bedroom. Narrowing my eyes, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at, but I reached out as if to be positive that I was seeing something tangible. Holding a heavy, metal chain in my hand, there was no further doubt.

Starting from the end that was bolted to the floor, I followed this chain and realized that it went up towards the bed. I rose to my feet and pulled the sheet back, exposing one of my grandfather’s legs. As a chill ran down my spine, I noticed that his ankle was shackled.

With my emotions lodged like a ball in my throat, I moved towards the head of the bed and inspected my grandfather’s sleeping face with regretful eyes, wondering what they had done to him. “I should’ve come earlier. I should’ve never listened to them, never let anyone stop me,” I whispered to him, reaching for his hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. “I’ll get you out of those chains, out of this horrible place. We’re both leaving tonight.”

Without warning, his hand shot up and latched onto my wrist. Surprised by the blur of sudden movement, I gasped, my breath hitched in my throat. I tried to pry his fingers off, one by one. Recoiling and wincing, I watched as his long nails dug into my flesh like talons. I cried out, unable to loosen his hold.

Lifting his head mere inches from his pillow, he opened his eyes as his head bobbed, weak and unsteady. Released from under the curtain of heavy lids, his pale blue irises were revealed, surrounding dilated pupils. Struggling to focus, his eyeballs shifted, back and forth, in their sockets. He attempted to speak, his lips quivering before he opened his mouth wide and gagged.

“Let go,” I begged.

His brow was knitted as he tried to focus on my face. He appeared to choke on his own words. The only sounds that escaped his lips were short gasps. All of a sudden, his eyes fixed on me, and his pupils constricted into the size of two pin-pricks, appearing horrifyingly unnatural.

My heart pumped hard, out of sync with my respirations.

I choked on my breath, unable to summon the courage to scream.

Trembling, my legs grew weak and began to buckle.

Something flashed in his irises. His eyes reflected yellow before dimming, a light similar to eyeshine. He blinked, shaking his head before opening his eyes again. They flashed again, but this time, they glowed with more power, sucking me into them.

“Stop! Stop, Alric!”

I recognized Rhydian’s voice but couldn’t turn my eyes away from my grandfather’s glowing orbs. “Let go!” I cried, my voice weaker than I intended.

“She’s your granddaughter!”

Alric ignored him, transfixed on me.

I watched as he inhaled, taking in my scent through his flared nostrils. As the ends of his mouth turned upwards, he ran his tongue across his lips in a slow fashion. Before I could register what was happening, he opened his mouth wide and sucked in the air between us.

My legs couldn’t support my body, and I fell to my knees, weak and shaking. Any energy I had to fight back instantly defused, and my ability to think was affected. The fear and panic that reached a crescendo subsided, fading until I felt numb. In a daze, I stared into his eyes, unable to look away.

“Don’t!” Rhydian screamed. “Take her instead!”

I was aware of something hitting the floor beside me like a boulder, but I couldn’t rip my eyes away from my grandfather to inspect my surroundings.

I snapped into consciousness as my grandfather’s eyes moved away from mine, sensing some kind of release from their hold. I fell back as he let go of my wrist, resting on my calves. With my thoughts still jumbled, I turned my eyes towards the heap on the floor.

Reaching up and rubbing my temples, I realized that it was Maud was lying beside me in a prone position. Her eyes fluttered, and she raised her head from the floor. Her shirt was torn at the shoulder, and the white fabric was stained red with her blood. The torn flesh beneath was revealed, appearing as if Shadow had mauled her.

I watched as she shook her head, appearing to come into her senses. Rising onto her elbows, she saw Alric for the first time. “What is going on?” she asked, her tone shrill.

I looked at her, my reaction delayed.

She gasped and screamed, my grandfather’s glowing eyes reflected in hers.

In a flash of movement, Alric stood up and latched onto Maud’s arms, bending over so that his face was inches from hers.

She attempted to pull away, beginning to cry. “Help me!”

He opened his mouth and sucked in the air between them.

Unable to move, I watched in disbelief as something was taken from Maud which would have ordinarily seemed incomprehensible. A white mist seeped from every orifice, and Alric appeared to breath her in. Maud quieted as she gasped for breath like a fish out of water. Her spine arched backwards as she tried to pull herself away, but she froze as if ossified in place. As Alric continued to breathe her in, her young flesh withered, becoming leathery like a mummified shell; the essence of her life drained.

Alric dropped her corpse on the floor like a bag of bones and dust. I looked back up at him, noticing his renewed strength and youthful appearance. His eyes dimmed and returned to their normal pale blue hue as his eyes met mine. He smiled, his mouth moving but his words alluding me. Feeling as if the room was spinning, I collapsed and drifted into unconsciousness.

I squeezed my lids over my eyes and shifted my head as I came back into consciousness. I inhaled, feeling the need to stretch. Confusion set in when I realized that I couldn’t move. The hard surface beneath me causing my muscles to stiffen and my back to ache. I moaned, opening my eyes for the first time.

Rhydian’s eyes bore into mine, and with his brows drawn together, he inspected me. “She’s awake, Master.”

Memories of Maud flooded into my mind, and my heart began to race. Panicked, I attempted to get up but became aware of the ropes that held me in bondage.

As Rhydian moved away from me, Alric came into view. He wore the same ritualistic black garment as Rhydian, his face hidden behind his erect hood.

Tremors swept through my body. “Rhydian?” I called, my voice shaking.

“He’s not going to hurt you,” Ms. Sweeney said, trying to assure me as she stepped into view. “He’s going to give you a gift.”

“I don’t want whatever he has to give!” I spat, struggling against my binds.

Alric poured himself a drink from the crystal decanter and walked over to the fireplace, resting his hand on the mantle. “Place her in the chair,” he ordered.

Without question, Rhydian lifted me from under my arms, dragging me across the wooden floor. My shoes grazed a large pentagram carved into the floor, screeching as I tried to use the rubber soles to brake the flow of movement. As strong as Rhydian was, he had no problem forcing me to the middle of the symbol and throwing me into a tufted chair located there.

Alric stood silent, sipping from a glass of whiskey. His stare was transfixed on the flames. The orange glow of the fire reflected in his eyes, giving him the appearance of a demon.

I cringed.

“She’ll do just fine,” my grandfather told Rhydian.

Rhydian nodded with a pout, averting his eyes from me. “Of course. She’s a Blackwood.”

“Her father was a Blackwood and look where it got him,” Ms. Sweeney said, her tone bitter. “Coward! He could’ve had it all, but he wasn’t strong enough to carry on the family legacy.”

I gritted my teeth, glaring at her. “Don’t talk about my father!”

“He ran from his birthright, but he couldn’t contain the hunger.”

Rhydian knelt at my feet and whispered, “She’s bitter because your father rejected his inheritance… and her. She was so willing to serve him, to give him heirs, but he ran away, starting anew. But the past caught up to him, and he killed himself and your mother in that car crash.”

I shook my head, feeling tears roll down my cheeks at the mention of my parents. “It was an accident,” I told him, my voice breaking. “The car flipped over….”

Rhydian shook his head, placing his hand on my knee. “It wasn’t safe for your father to leave. Half of the transfer had been accomplished, weakening Alric’s body and giving your father a taste.”

I narrowed my eyes. “A taste?”

“Your father couldn’t control the hunger anymore. He turned on the one closest to him, because he refused to feed. He lost control in that car.”

I shook my head, unwilling to listen.

Ms. Sweeney stood behind my grandfather and placed a hand on his shoulder, a twinkle of affection in her eyes. “Alric has been so hungry, nothing has been able to satisfy his hunger. I had to lure girls with the promise of work in order to give him a respite from the pangs, but not even their youthful life force could nourish him,” she told me, her eyes never leaving Alric.

“He has outlived all of his children, none were worthy of the gift that he is about to give you,” Rhydian told me.

“Don’t let him do this,” I begged Rhydian, shuddering at the notion that Alric would steal my soul.

“At first, I couldn’t foresee it, but now, I see the fire within you… and I know that you’re a worthy choice. As long as I live, I vow to serve you, the new Lady Blackwood.”

“Enough talk!” Alric said, throwing his glass into the fire and moving towards me. “There’s no time to waste. My body grows weaker by the minute. It’s time to give up the ghost.”

Ms. Sweeney followed close behind.

Alric stood before me, grabbing my chin and forcing me to look into his milky eyes. “The gift that I bestow has been handed down for generations of Blackwoods. It’ll strengthen you, but it’ll also deplete you. It’ll sustain your life, but it’s a never-ending hunger. It cannot be given away to anyone less worthy and to attempt to do so is certain death for the chosen. You’ll outlive your heirs, Meliah. You’ll conquer death, but you’ll feel the reaper licking at your heels when your body weakens with time. You’ll feed and feed until nothing can resurge you anymore… until one of your kin has proven himself worthy. Then it is time to pass it on.”

They formed a triangle around me upon Alric’s order and raised their hoods, creating dark shadows over their faces. With their dark robes outlined by the light of the fire, they began to chant in unison. The language they spoke was foreign to me, but soon it reached such a fevered pitch.

I shook, feeling a heaviness in the air that I hadn’t felt before.

My heart pounded against my ribcage.

My hands struggled against my binds, the top layer of skin peeling off as the ropes slid, back and forth.

As the level and speed of their chanting increased, I gasped for breath, feeling that the air was too dense to breathe. The atmosphere in the room swirled, creating a vacuum. I gasped, trying to force as much air as I could into my lungs. As my chest felt like it was collapsing, pain shot across my torso. My fingers curved into claws, my neck veins bulged, and my back twisted, forming an arch with my spine.

The darkness under Alric’s hood shifted and swirled, drifting out like a snake formed of black vapor. The blackness crackled and sparked with energy as it grew into something substantial. This dark cloud pooled in the air between us before uncoiling. It floated towards me like a dark arm of a hellish creature.

I attempted to scream. Being asphyxiated, I couldn’t use my vocal cords without ceasing my attempts to filter any oxygen left in the air. I watched, helpless and fearful, as the darkness spread, inching closer to my mouth. It licked at my lips as a dilemma was forced into my thoughts; damnation or death. I could keep my airway open and submit, allowing a dark parasite to share a space in my body. Or I could close my mouth, discontinuing airflow and preventing entry of this unknown entity.

Since I couldn’t consciously choose death by suffocation, I had no choice but to keep struggling for breath. I watched as the darkness entered me, unable to fight. My gag reflex was incited, and I began to spasm, rejecting my invader. The pain was intense as it entered through every orifice, giving me the sensation of drowning.

I cried on the inside, wanting to beg for mercy. Believing that I would die anyway, I braced myself mentally for the inevitable. When I thought I could take no more, the ordeal ended. Exhausted, I slumped back into my seat.

A cold gust of air swept through the room, extinguishing the fire and leaving us in complete darkness.

Footsteps could be heard in the silence, and I heard Rhydian fumble with matches, starting the fire again. When the fireplace was lit, I realized that my grandfather had disappeared. Nothing remained of him, except for the dark robe he wore and a pile of ashes.

“He was so old that he disintegrated,” Ms. Sweeney said, removing her hood and looking down at Alric’s remains.

“Watch what you say, Anne. I’m still here,” I heard myself say, although I wasn’t consciously aware that I was speaking.

I leaned forward, feeling something stirring within me. Although I felt a surge of power snaking through my nervous system, I was famished. My eyes were opened with new awareness, my sight was keen, and my hearing was acute.

“You must feed,” I heard the voices of my ancestors whisper to me, taking up residence in my head.

Rhydian came to my side, his eyes searching mine with concern. Kneeling beside me, he reached out, his hands finding my wrists. He untied me. Once I was free, he held onto me, holding my hands to his lips and kissing them. “Give me an order, Mistress,” he told me, his face buried in my hands. “I’ll do whatever you bid of me.”

Looking at Rhydian, I saw the obsidian waves of his life force which emanated from his body. I heard the thumping of his heart within his chest. I licked my lips and breathed in his bitter sweet scent; a scent that instinctively told me that he wouldn’t do.

“Tell him we’re hungry!” all the voices cried at once.

Moving my finger across his chiseled jaw and finding my way under his chin, I brought his face up so that we were inches apart. “Bring me a snack, my pet. Find something innocent and sweet.”




[ * * * ]


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List of Literary Works by Sandra Madera

Short Stories:

Blackwood Manor

The Collector

Monsters of Men


Sangre Falls



Weeping Willow – Part One

Weeping Willow – Part Two


Novels and Trilogies:


Restraint Trilogy:





Wicked Willow Series:

Wicked Chemistry

Wicked Magic

Wicked Love

Wicked Voices (Coming Soon!)


Blackwood Manor

After the death of her parents, Meliah is shipped off to live with her astranged grandfather, Alric Blackwood, in the family homestead of Blackwood Manor. Knowing nothing of the history of the house, she encounters supernatural events that make her believe that there is more to the manor than meets the eye. Locals tell of a spirit that haunts the long corridors, a spirit that kills young girls. Is Meliah its next victim? Check out Sandra Madera's other free short stories, novellas, and novelettes on her Smashwords Author Page!

  • ISBN: 9781370780723
  • Author: Sandra Madera
  • Published: 2017-06-09 20:35:09
  • Words: 9092
Blackwood Manor Blackwood Manor