Description: The mysterious death of a benevolent recluse prompts his nephew to investigate the cause. But what he discovers in truth is by far stranger that what he’s led to believe. The old leather book that lies in the dead man’s study holds the key, he’s sure, but nothing can prepare him for what lies inside The Journal of Edwin Grey.
The circumstances surrounding the death of my Uncle, and of how I came into possession of his curious journal, have forever changed my attitude on things unknown. I, who am not prone to flights of fancy and consider myself a rational, sane man, find myself staring more into conditions that cannot possibly be rationally explained, with the creeping dread that there may be more in our world that neither science nor faith can adequately unmask. And yet, now, I must relate the story and weather the notions that I am more moved by the superstitions of the uneducated than the logic that befits my station, for such a tale must be told, lest history repeat itself on some unfortunate.
I first recall meeting my uncle, the late philanthropist, Edwin Grey, in the waning months of the summer of 1923. I say recall, for, although I’ve been assured that I’d met him before when I was a boy, I have no memory of the occasion. My only impressions of the man came from newspaper clippings and family gossip, both of which painted distinctly different portraits of the same man. The former gave accounts of his seemingly endless generosity toward his fellow man by endowing poor houses, schools and the like. Great respect was given whenever there was mention made of his name. The latter, however, told tales of his reclusive nature, and of how he’d dismissed all but one of his serving staff, and that he’d not been beyond the walls of Grey House for more than a year. To the other members of the family, save for his only sister, my mother, he was the eccentric rich uncle who gave away the family fortune and shunned the daylight. There were those, cousins from my father’s side, who whispered that it was his dabbling in something arcane that had driven him quite mad, and away from the company of man. Those rumors were silenced, however, with a withering glance from my mother.
It was toward the end of July when I received word that my application to continue my studies at the prestigious Syracuse University had been accepted, and my mother joyfully sent a wire to her brother giving him the happy news. Edwin soon replied with warmest regards, insisting that I lodge at Grey House instead of the men’s dormitory on campus. Though we were quite well off, my mother was raised to believe in frugality, and since Grey House was near the university, it was agreed.
I arrived in mid-August by train and was met by the only manservant Grey House had left, a large African by the name of Molen, who greeted me formally and helped me place my belongings in the automobile, an arduous task for he ended up having to bind my trunk to the backend. He seemed something of a curiosity, as his manner of speaking denoted one of high education and breeding, a thing rare for a manservant, rarer still for a black one. But his thick-calloused hands told of a man no stranger to physical labor. Once my belongings were settled, and we were on our way, it took more than an hour to reach our destination of Grey House.
Its name of “Grey” would, if not for the owner’s last name, have been a great misnomer, as it was anything but in both appearance and personality. It was surrounded by a great stone fence with pink streaks in the grain of the rocks, broken only by the wrought iron gates that stood sentinel on the drive. Inside the gates, the house itself resembled more of a castle than a home in modern America, with its great peaked roofs and stretching arches. On first glance, it seemed intimidating by its sheer size alone. The grounds, I noticed, were badly in need of care, and it was no wonder, as Molen could not possibly be expected to maintain the house and the lawn.
As we pulled into the carport, Molen informed me that my uncle was, most likely, anxiously awaiting my arrival in the lounge, the second door on the right from the house’s main entrance, and that he’d bring my things to my room presently. I thanked him as I went inside, eyes agape in wonder at this place that was to be my new home. The interior mirrored the outer grounds in that, though still inhabitable, the hallway seemed neglected and dark, the only light coming from windows across the front of the house. Thick with dust, the hallway was congested with stacks of newspapers, some in languages I did not immediately recognize.
I nearly missed the second door, as it blended in with the surrounding walls. Only the tarnished doorknob gave a hint that this section of the hallway was meant to be opened. I felt my stomach flutter as I screwed up my courage to knock, having only the most vague of ideas of what to expect from this blessed lunatic. I was pleasantly surprised when it was a kindly voice that answered my report on the door and bade me enter. Edwin Grey fairly leaped from the chair as he saw me, seeming to instantly recognize my face from many years ago. He called me “dear Christopher,” as though I’d grown up under his watchful eye, and shook my hand vigorously. We then sat and chatted about his latest obsession, the Oriental game of MahJongg, my course of study, and anything else that struck his fancy.
When I retired, later on that night, I imagined that I would sleep well from having been exhausted, not only by my uncle’s inquisitiveness, but also from the day’s travel. Restful slumber was not to be mine, however. It was not that the bed was uncomfortable, nor that my accommodations were inadequate, but that I was awakened by the most peculiar sound of my uncle shouting in the darkness. So full of venom and hysteria were his shouts that, at first, I scarcely believed Edwin to be the source. I rose from my bed and, finding my robe and slippers, followed the din down the stairs to a door well past the lounge where I could distinctly hear Edwin arguing with someone.
His voice was shrill with rage and he spat curses and oaths at the unknown other in the room, whom I’d assumed to be Molen, but I could hear no other voice. I tried the door, only to find it locked. As the intensity of his shouts grew, my own fear for his wellbeing increased, and I took it upon myself to rap at the door, and call his name. The shouting ceased, and Edwin threw the door open before me. When I’d met him earlier in the day, he’d been dressed comfortably in a satin jacket and looked the model of his aristocratic station, but now, in the dim candlelight, he appeared gaunt and haggard, his hair standing on end in all directions and his eyes wide with what seemed to be an unabated rage. Upon seeing me, his anger did not diminish, rather it increased at being disturbed. He ordered me back to my room and instructed me to never again approach this door so long as I resided in his house, punctuating his growling by slamming the heavy wooden door in my face.
I stood there in shock, for how long I cannot say for certain, for when I had spoken to him earlier he did not seem capable of such ire. I spun on my heels, my every intent to return to my room, pack my belongings, and seek lodging elsewhere, when the ebon face of Molen emerged from the darkened hallway into the flickering candlelight. The suddenness of his appearance startled me and sent me reeling backward a few steps until my back was pressed firmly against the wall. My uncle’s protestations began anew from inside, softly at first, then growing in volume and intensity. Molen gestured for me to follow him back toward my room. Once there, and out of earshot of my uncle, he explained to me that Edwin was not a well man, and that it was his delirium that had driven the rest of the staff to seek employment elsewhere. Only Molen had stayed, though he would give no reason as to why.
He pleaded with me to stay, to not take the old man’s threats and oaths to heart, telling me that what he needed now was family and human contact to save his beleaguered soul. When I asked with whom my uncle was arguing, Molen made a dismissive wave of his hand and told me that there was no one there, that he took to that room every night, and some nights the house remained quiet. Most nights, however, the halls echoed with the madness that it seemed only Molen could bear.
Such dedication I had never seen before, nor have I seen since, as he seemed more of a worried friend than a manservant, and in the end, his persuasive nature convinced me to stay. He assured me that Edwin was harmless, and in the morning I would see again the man I met earlier in the afternoon.
When he was certain that I would not flee in the night, Molen left me to my own devices to try to sleep through the echoing tirade of my uncle’s madness. When morning came, Edwin Grey seemed himself again, with no sign of the menace from the night before. Before he served breakfast, Molen cautioned me to make no reference to the previous night’s events, and I complied with his wishes, though questions burned in my brain.
And so it was to be for the next two months. My uncle, who never left Grey House, seemed the picture of health and sanity during the day, but in the late night, behind the locked heavy door, he digressed into a frothing madman. I came and went as I liked, taking much time away for studies and always returning just before Molen set the sideboard for supper. Occasionally I would venture out again into the night to converse and carouse with my contemporaries, but always I returned to Grey House to find Molen watching guard over my uncle, and always seemingly grateful to see my return.