Alone in the wilderness, bathed in moonlight and caressed by fog, stands the edifice. Blackened and brooding, it rides hard against the night sky, at once decrepit and crumbling, sickly even, yet towering and proud.
Around it, the woods are a mausoleum – no movement, no sound, smothering stillness everywhere. It is as if nature has fled this place, leaving dull remnants of life, dirt and dying foliage, empty nests and dens.
Yet something watches. Something is there, in the darkness. You sense it in your mind. You feel it, in your body. You hear the sound without sound, heavy, muffled breathing, as that of a wounded animal.
As you make your way forward, you shake off the uneasiness in your gut and the unformed thoughts in your head.
The path to the mansion is nearly imperceptible. You rush over the dry ground and crunching leaves, through the crisp autumn air to the doors. Your breath comes out in short wet puffs as you make your way to the looming structure.
All around you the night encroaches. As you move through the dense blackness of the comatose forest, you begin to see movement in your peripheral vision. You see figures, large and small, sliding and folding into one another.
They seem to oscillate, shimmering like heat on the horizon. The longer you ignore them, the more insane and feverish their dancing becomes, emerging from and melting back into the inky blackness all around you.
And every time you turn to look, they fade into the recesses of the woods, just quickly enough to avoid detection.
The mansion sits in a clearing, sainted by the glowing moon above it, but the surrounding woods appear to darken in proportion to the soft, ghostly moonlight, affording the dwelling an even more exaggerated stature.
As you come up to the steps in front of the great doors, you realize something is off. Something here in this bright clearing is . . . not good. The light seems to infuse everything with a sickly luminance.
You look around now, more consciously and with deliberate attention. Everything is wet, almost melting with radiance. You look at your own hands. They appear translucent. You swear can see the bones through the skin and muscle.
You stare at the lone ring on your finger, in a reverie, mesmerized by the glinting of the light from the gold cross.
After what seems like many minutes, you wake from the trance and bound up the stairs to the entrance. You push on the doors without thinking, intending to use your momentum as a substitute for courage.
They open slowly from weight and age, and despite your expectation, they make no sound. Inside is more darkness. A small doubt, a pestering of whispered concerns in the back of your mind, and you linger at the doors.
You look back to the woods for a few seconds, then back to the entrance. Your thoughts are overwhelmed as indecision gives way to a cascade of mindless terrors, and you bound through the doors.
What may lie in wait within the walls of this ancient dwelling does not terrify you as much as the contagion laced moonlight around it and the unnamable things in the darkling woods beyond.