The Birdcage

The Birdcage

I am writing this in the hopes that whoever discovers it will be able to prevent themselves the torrent and evil I have endured. It is with the last remnants of my strength that I put words to paper, the darkness is descending upon my door.

The terror began on my arrival to my childhood home, a large mansion in the middle of the Scottish Highlands. Do not take me for a wealthy man however, I was simply the son of the head butler of the McTavish family estate. I had long since left the estate to forge my own path, but news of the death of my father had demanded my return.

I approached the large house with trepidation. My memories of the home were not always fond as the master of the family did not take kindly to my childish antics. Despite this, however, I was welcome with open arms by Lady McTavish upon my arrival at the estate.

Before long I was unpacking my belongings in one of the guest rooms. The funeral was scheduled for the following day, the estate being gracious enough to honour my fathers service of over 50 years with a plot in the main cemetery alongside the other members of the house.

My travel had been long and the night was closing, so rest was my main priority. However, I struggled to sleep, feeling an impostor in the guest bedroom, knowing I’d be more suited, and comfortable, in the servant quarters I had lived in during my youth. It was in this evening that the darkness began to unfold, creeping along the foundations of the house.

It began with a sudden drop of temperature. I thought nothing of it at first, my memories of the house recalled a chill which always ran through the building like a vein of ice. Deciding that sleep was not forthcoming I rose from my bed and, lighting a candle to arm myself, ventured into the darkness of the house.

My memories did not fail me as I found my way through the house with ease, despite the half-light. I was working my way down towards the kitchens, following my youthful routes, which passed through the large dining room.

I was here I caught a glimpse of the horrors that were descending. In the flickering of the candlelight a face emerged, cast from the shadows before me. Hollow eyes seeming to bore deep into my mind. The bolt of fear froze my blood and shook my nerves, causing the candlestick to slip from my grip, plunging the room into a deep darkness.

Fumbling for the candlestick, I crawled across the floor, my eyes stretched wide to adjust to the gloom. Footsteps at my side grabbed my attention, I held my breath, hoping to not alert the beast of my location. As I crouched, unmoving, my eyes began to make out shapes in the shadows. A glint gave me the resting place of the candlestick, a mere foot away from me. I reached forwards slowly wrapping my my fingers around the metal. Once it was fully in my grasp I pulled it closer, lighting it from a match in my pocket. The light illuminated the room, as my eyes leaped in an attempt to find the beast.

Instead, a shriek filled the air, as though a demon of hell was being ripped apart. The sound stopped as suddenly as it began, but the echo of the scream was still ringing in my ears.

I was left, paused in silence in the centre of the dining room, the candlelight dancing off the walls. Being a man of reason I desperately tried to make sense of what I experienced. Perhaps my own reflection had caught the light in a window and a wild animal outside calling in the night had caused an illusion. Resolving myself I began to stand, acting more confident than my consciousness felt.

I expected to hear the sleeping residents stir following the commotion, but nothing seemed to have woken. I decided that the servant quarters would still be my best destination, as the time I was sure someone would be up preparing for the morning breakfast.

Testing my steadiness, the adrenaline still rushing through my veins, I began my steps towards the kitchen.

A glimmer of light shone form the kitchen door, the sight filling my heart with joy, at least I would no longer be alone. Speeding my pace I entered the archway into the kitchens, hoping to see a friendly face. I had been a favourite of the chef, a large lady whose name escapes me. She had always given me leftovers of the finest cuts of meat and sips of the cooking wine whenever she had it.

Inside the kitchen, I felt a drop in my heart drop. The light was coming from the large open fire which was being used to boil water in a large cauldron, but other than that the room was empty. I moved towards the fire, curious as to why a pot would be unattended. Looking closely into the fire, the blood from my face drained and a clammy dampness clung to my skin. Amongst the coals and flames lay a collection of bones, cracking and splintering in the heat. Daring a glance into the cauldron my mind reeled backwards with my body following.

A thick glutenous liquid bubbled inside, I was unsure if it was the glow of the fires, or the colour of the liquid that gave it a sanguine hue, but there was no denying the mass that lay in its centre. Being nudged by the erupting gases from the boil. The half fleshed skull of the chef stared back at me, one eyeball remained whilst the other had long since dissolved in the stew.

My hands clasped to my mouth, both in horror and to hold my churning stomach inside.

Before I could react further, the shriek returned. This time sounding directly behind me. The noise made me dive forward in fright, towards the fire. My foot caught the hearth and I stumbled, my left hand plunging into the white hot embers. The pain clouded my senses as I pulled my blistering hand away, the force pulling a pile of glowing bones scattering across the stone floor.

I turned, clutching my hand to my chest in protection, and looked towards the source of the sound.

Before me, glowing in the light of the fire, the hollowed eyed demon stood. Humanoid in shape and dressed in tattered clothes, the creature seemed to have no sense of life about it. Devoid of the glow of a soul, the creatures hollowed eyes seemed to follow my own.

I have no qualms in telling you of the fear which held me to the spot. Unable to move, the creature approached me. It’s mouth opened, revealing a set of teeth that looked like fine needles. It’s jaw extending beyond human means, and the building up of the sound of the shriek started to reverberate around the room.

The sound stoked the spirits within me, raising energy flooding to my feet I scrambled across the floor. Ignoring the pain in my left hand through pure adrenaline. Fleeing the kitchen by running past the horror who turned it’s gaping jaw towards me.

Stumbling into the dining room I saw I was not alone. A line of the horrors were blocking my route, each one opening it’s ghastly mouth to begin a chorus of screams. Clasping my hands to my ears in an attempt to block the sound, I noticed something. The clothes of the beasts bore the crest of the house, a bird upon a branch. It dawned on me, that each of the beast resembled, in a fashion, a member of the household.

A flood of memories descended into my mind, fragments of childhood visions seeped in. A sudden urge to visit my fathers quarters hit me. A memory of that room faded into my mind. I saw a cage, a small wire framed bird cage placed upon a pedestal. The memory of a key hanging from the perch inside the cage. My father had once warned me that the key was the most important item in his possession.

Whilst I couldn’t explain the any rhyme or reason to it, I knew the key was what I needed to save me from the horrors.

The creatures were closing in, behind me the one I had escaped was cutting off my only other path. The only was out was through the crowd.

Somehow my right hand was still clutching the candlestick, the flame long since extinguished. A fire inside me gave me the energy to rush towards what looked like the smallest of the beasts, perhaps the young master of the household. The whole chorus of six turned towards me as I swung the candlestick across the dead eyes of the creature. It’s screams turning into a gurgling of blood as its skull cracked from the impact. I had to admit I was surprised the impact had caused such an injury, but I didn’t stop to investigate as the others wailed an inhuman sound in retaliation.

Pushing the bleeding best aside I ran for the stairs, and headed up towards my Fathers quarters. Being the head Butler his chambers were close to the master suites so he was at hand at any time. Bursting into the room I slammed the door closed, pulling a chest across the space to hold it. I had not looked behind me to check for my pursuers, but the wails informed me they were not far behind.

Searching the room my eyes landed on the pedestal, still in the centre of the room. Upon it the cage sat, it’s door had been ripped open and the key nowhere to be seen. I despaired at my folly, I had sealed myself in the room with no hope of escape. The shrieking was at the door now, and the darkness of the house descending.

I scanned the room in full for something I could arm myself with.

It was then I saw the body on the bed. Blood soaked and barley recognisable, but there was no mistaking it was my father. I had been told his death had been a tragic accident, but the scratches across his body were akin to that of a wild animal, or the teeth of the horrors at the door. In his hand I saw a small note, his death grip clutching it close. I pried it from his hand, trying to avert my eyes from the corpse.

The note was scrawled roughly, written in a hurry. As I read the note, the last hopes in my mind dissipated. He spoke of the creatures which possessed the McTavish clan. An ancient evil, having spawned from the pits of hell itself and walked the earth. He described how his ancestors before him had trapped the demonic essence of the darkness within the cage by melding the dark energies into the metal key. The cage containing a power to hold all evil at bay. The human forms of the clan were left unaware of the curse, containing their lives. My family had taken on the burden of guarding the clan and preventing the curse from the key being released.

The revelation dawned on me, that by leaving the house in my youth I had severed the lineage that protected the curse, my fathers death ending the chain of guardians. After his death, someone, or something, must have opened the cage and released the curse upon the McTavish clan and the world again.

These writing are my last effort to ensure the next poor soul to enter this house can find a way top stop the curse. Find the key! Lock it in the cage!

I can hear the wailing at the door, the wood is splintering as they scrape and claw at the old timber. I hope you fair better than I dear reader, for when you hear the shrieks echo through the night air, it will be too late….