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There is a way to the basement through the servants’ passage. Samuel showed me once, when I was a child and he was still alive.

“If you ever need a place to hide, Master Madigan,” he said, “take this secret route.”

I’m living in the walls now like some kind of weevil. Every time I think it might be safe to go outside, I hear that thing moving around the halls, tapping on the walls. It sounds as big as a bear but I’ve caught glimpses, here and there, through the cracks. It’s human, or it was once.

I think it must be Castile’s gardener. I don’t even care how that’s possible. I’m flying by the seat of my pants here.

So I took the route to the basement. It’s a staircase I can barely fit through sideways and I had to appropriate an old half-burned candle from the piles of stuff around Castile’s corpse.

I had to stop every few steps to cough. There are tiny white twigs coming out now, peppered in with the blood. I’m coughing up twigs.

Why am I still doing this?

Who am I writing this for? My name is Benjamin Farrow. I’m twenty-eight years old. I came to this estate to gather notes and materials for a museum exhibit. Now I’m dying, and I don’t know why.

I have not seen any ghosts except my own.

I’m trying to figure out what this is. It isn’t a cry for help or a manifesto or a last will and testament. It sure as hell isn’t notes for a museum exhibit or the outline for some book I’ll definitely never write.

I think it may be a warning.

When I was into urban exploration I learned about the Sandia report, which contained suggestions of ways to warn future societies about the dangers of buried nuclear waste. Keeping in mind that future societies might not have a way to read or understand modern languages, the Sandia report proposed non-linguistic messages like pictographs and illustrations to communicate its meaning.

The meaning being this:

This place is not a place of honor. Nothing is valued or commemorated here.

What is here was dangerous and repulsive to us.

The danger increases toward a center … the center of the danger is here, and it is below us.

The danger is present in your time as it was in ours.

This place is best left shunned.

I used to wonder how a warning like that would work. If future societies are anything like us, a big sign saying “DANGER - KEEP AWAY” only pulls in idiots like me who just have to know what exactly all the fuss is about.

And it’s like a glue trap.

In here, this is the only place I’m safe. Stuck inside the walls with Castile Madigan’s FUCKING corpse. I couldn’t leave if I wanted to, and do you want to know the worst part? The really wild, fucked up crazy shit?

I don’t want to leave.

It’s like I’m addicted to this place, like if there were some kind of graph charting everywhere I’ve ever been or will ever go, the origin point, X, Y, and Z, would be right here. I don’t know what changed, I don’t know if this is just me accepting my fate or whatever, but I feel like I want to be here now. Like I’m meant to be here.

All Hazel wanted was to be free from this place. In the end, I couldn’t even give her that. I couldn’t let her go.

I couldn’t let her leave me alone.

How can a place be so haunted and so empty at the same time?

I feel so alone.

By the time I realized what I had done, her corpse had already taken root.

The basement …

The basement is full of branches.

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