‘What was that?’ Abigail whispered in my ear, as we stood in the vast entryway of the Baron’s mansion. The five of us – each drawn here by a mysterious invitation from the Baron himself, now perched smiling above us on a grand staircase – looked around nervously into the darkened hallways that led away from here.
Each of us trying to determine which one the howling had come from.
‘What’s the meaning of this?!’ the man with the bushy eyebrows growled up at the Baron, clinging to his wife, knuckles white around her cane. ‘Why have you brought us here?’
I grappled with the same question – why me? I was just a retired glazier from Melbourne. Why include me amongst this strange group?
‘Simple, scientific curiosity,’ the Baron said, dark eyes tinged with manic glee. ‘I’m collecting data – data that will prove very useful in the wars to come. Please, dear friends, do not feel that this was a personal decision at all; you are merely subjects, sacrificed in the pursuit of something extraordinary.’
The words sent a chill down my spine. They seemingly had the same effect on Hugh, the young aristocrat with big dreams. His foppish hair lay pressed against his skull, dripping with sweat. His eyes flitted madly around the room, taking in the glass balustrade that the Baron leant on, the taxidermied wildlife… the empty, shadowed hallways.
‘Good luck!’ he whispered, then ran in a frantic manner down one of the hallways blindly, breath ragged and feet pounding.
The Baron quickly whipped out a pocket watch, tapping a small silver dial on the side and marking the position of the hands as soon as Hugh disappeared from sight.
‘The young Mister Harlow has the right idea,’ he said to us, almost bored. ‘Although if I were you… I’d pick a different direction.’
A terrible sort of ripping sound echoed from the hallway Hugh had chosen, and the Baron clicked the dial on the side of his watch again, shaking his head in disappointment.
Without hesitation, I grabbed Abigail’s hand and flew for the hallway in the opposite direction.