I was a landscape architect once. I had mastered my craft to perfection. My designs were renowned for their opulent beauty and spectacular composition. I was the pre-eminent artist of my time and famed for my abilities far and wide. Naturally, it came as a shock to the public, when I retired from my successful vocation and retreated to the seclusion of my villa in the countryside. Many years have passed since then, and time has dimmed the memory of one and all. But today something urges me to recall the events that happened and put down on paper the reason for my sudden withdrawal and immurement far away from the crowds.
It was a windy night. The pale moon played hide and seek with the drifting clouds high in the sky. I was returning from another triumphant assignment in a remote part of the country. Afraid of getting caught in a storm, I decided to halt for the night. But there were hardly any signs of lodgings in that godforsaken place.
By and by, the weather got wilder and a fierce tempest seemed imminent. It was at that point that I spied shelter at a clearing on the roadside beside the somber forest. A decrepit old building, a feeble remnant of a mighty baroque structure, stood before me. Its fading glory was undergoing renovation. As I neared the building, I discerned a large hoarding glowing in the dull lights from the hotel.
Fen Bloom Manor
Hotel for weary wayfarers
Resting place for spent souls.
The eccentric diction did not perturb me, for I had seen weirder things in my life. I decided to spend the night in Fen Bloom and wait for the storm to pass. The host, a hoary old man of advanced age, showed me to my chamber of repose. A long staircase led to the room, decked in lavish aristocratic style of a bygone age. In the middle stood a king-sized bed befitting a royal slumber.
I closed the door and lay down to sleep. Outside the storm had abruptly ceased, and silence shrouded the ponderous night. Exhausted from the journey, I dozed off as soon as my head settled on the downy pillow.
It must have been past midnight when I woke up, disturbed by odd sounds outside the door. It was as though somebody was lumbering up and down the staircase to my room. I tried going back to sleep, but could not as the steady prattle of feet was singularly disturbing. Soon I discerned what appeared to be multiple laggard legs laboring up the stairs.
I decided to investigate the matter and opened the door. What I saw caused me to faint and collapse on the floor, and pass out.
On the staircase were creeping barely human-looking forms. The flesh on their bodies was peeling from their bones. Their frames were bloodless and emaciated. They crawled up the stairs like half-starved withered demons searching for food. A cadaverous smell permeated the air and suffocated me as I swooned and fell by the door. Before I lost consciousness, the last thing I glimpsed was the frail zombies, their feeble arms extended, writhing forth towards me in the dim lamplight of the stairway.
It must have been past sunrise when I regained my consciousness and was wide awake. Sweat drenched my body, and the odor of fresh corpses exuded from it. There were uncanny marks of feet everywhere around me. The miasma of putrefaction suffused the whole chamber. Little pools of greenish fluid reeking of rotten flesh lay scattered on the floor.
I jumped up and fled from the chamber. I scampered down the staircase and bolted from that eerie hotel. I did not stop till I reached home and barred the door and fastened the windows.
The following day I quit my calling and retired to my villa in the countryside. And ever since that morbid night, my fear of strange places grew by the hours. Until at last this creeping dread paralyzed me to such an extent that I am altogether housebound. I have blocked and secured every possible entry to my house and stocked myself with supplies to last a lifetime.
But even in the safe confines of these four walls, an unnatural agoraphobia envelops me every passing moment. Very soon I will be unfit to leave my study, sitting in which I pen my tale of terror. This room will be my graveyard and tomb, as I slowly perish in fright.
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