I found the following manuscript in the crawlspace of an old home in Baltimore in February 2014. It chilled me to the bone. It is undated, but is quite old and crumbling.
Today I am free. Truly free. And alive. It is 13 days since I escaped and I was all but sure I would die out in the snow. A smarter man would have perhaps waited until the spring, but then again, maybe not. They did not see it coming. Who escapes from prison in the dead of winter? It appears I have fooled them all. Five years. Five years of my life gone into that place. Man was not meant for a cage – certainly not for a minor offense such as mine.
And yet it seems that Providence has shined upon me. For He is the one true judge and He has led me here – an abandoned townhouse in a rather upstanding looking middle-class neighborhood. Of all the doors to try and find unlocked and empty! I was on my last legs for sure and I’m not out of the woods yet as the possibility of frostbite remains quite possible. It is not telling when the owners shall return – for it appears they left in a hurry – but I shall remain tucked away here as long as possible. All were asleep in the neighborhood when I found my way here and I didn’t pass a living soul. The cupboards are fully stocked for winter and there is enough to last for at least two months – maybe three.
Finding this small empty pad of paper on a bookshelf I have begun writing as I feel no one would otherwise believe my story. The world shall hear of the injustices I was prey to and see that it continues no longer! A man must be a man and recognized as such. The world will come to know the name of Alexander Gray!
For now, though, I am tired and sleep is descending upon me once more.
In a curious development I was awoken during the middle of the night by a noise in the cellar. The possibility of my time here being threatened, I armed myself with an iron poker from the fireplace and proceeded to investigate. I felt my heart once again pounding with the furiousity I had only felt during the first hour after escaping. Swinging a lantern into the darkness, I was fully prepared to do what was necessary in order to keep this safe haven for myself and preserve the possibility of the future.
And what do I find? – Two cats! Ordinary housecats! They are both male and have black and gray stripes. One of them, who I’ve named Pip, has white paws that give him the appearance of wearing white boots. The other wears no boots but has an orange tint to his fur. I have called him Oliver. Upon seeing me they stood stark still, but in a moment were rubbing on my legs and instantly became a most friendly sort. They are wonderful creatures and I am happy for the companionship. They followed me to the bedroom and I had the first good night’s sleep I have had in more years than I can remember.
I still do not have full feeling in several toes on my left foot, but what is a toe or two when compared to freedom? This is the first break that I have had in this otherwise miserable life. I don’t know how long it may last and so I am pledged to enjoy every moment of it.
I have begun to try to gather my thoughts regarding the past five years behind bars but so far have found it difficult. I have become so caught up in simple, wonderful things such as being able to walk from room to room as I please. I keep the curtains shut lest any neighbor should catch a glimpse of me, but it is a small price to pay for this treasure trove. Keeping myself from lighting a fire has proven difficult, but that would give me away for sure. There are plenty of blankets and I have not eaten this well in all my life, and so I shall not dare to offer up a complaint.
I found some photographs of the couple who resides here – they are a handsome pair and appear to have been well off since birth. If I had been born as they were I am almost certain I would never have fallen to the depths that I did. Still though, I am proud of all the things that I had the opportunity to partake in but willingly chose not to. Everything I have, every skill and ability I have was earned, and earned hard.
Pip and Oliver continue to be still exceedingly friendly, but they have made it clear that this is their home. I cannot blame them – their mister and mistress have gone and they know not where. They, as any other creature of this world, simply want to be loved and they attach themselves to the first ones who show it to them genuinely. At first I simply believed them to be hungry, but I offered them nearly everything in the larder, but they took not a bite. They appear in good condition and so I must assume they have a secret crawlspace or some such way to get out and hunt at night. No worries! – all the more food for me, chaps! Why, I must have lost 50 pounds on the scraps they were feeding me in there.
There has been a shocking break in the temperature today. The sun is out and it must have risen 20 degrees already since the morning. The snow is melting and I am free to walk around unencumbered by many layers of blankets.
I have rediscovered my love of reading. It had been so long since I picked up a volume and held it in my hands. Today I have poured over page after page, delighting in the stories and craft of the thing. Reading stirs thoughts in me I long thought dead. I have questioned whether I will be able to write what I planned on or not, but once I begin reading I know that I too will be able to, and in doing so change this godforsaken land for the better. There were good men in there with me. Good men who don’t deserve that sort of treatment. When good men are locked up long enough, they stop being good.
Reading has also made me remember things about Molly that I had pushed out of my mind. When you have little to no chance of seeing someone again you force yourself to forget certain things. After this winter is over I shall make my way to her. Oh! May the owners of this place be gone for the season! If the others could see me now…
There was a bit of a funny moment earlier with Pip. As I lay napping on the sofa I awoke to find him nibbling at my toes. As he happened to choose the ones that have lost feeling, (and I now fear shall never have it again), I remained unaware of what he was doing for quite a bit of time. Silly bugger.
Molly. Ah, Molly. Last night I had a dream of her. She showed up and told me that everything was going to be okay. I caressed the soft skin of her back, breathed in the sweet smell of her hair. I still felt her in my arms when I woke. Despite what she said, I do not expect that she has waited for me. And yet, I know no one has ever known her better than I and I intend to make her mine again.
It continues to be strangely warm. I glanced out the window for a moment this morning – the snow is all but gone. After that dream my instinct was to dash out the door and straight to her, but thankfully my head got the better over my heart and I was able to restrain myself. I know the smart thing is to stay here as long as possible through the winter, for the winds here have a way of changing in the blink of an eye. Just as I waited for the opportune time to escape, I must not take any unnecessary chances. Once it is reliably warm enough I shall leave here under cover of darkness and do whatever I need to do in order to make her my wife. We shall have to go into hiding. Better yet, we could leave this country and return to the land of our ancestors. From there I need not worry.
I wish I could take Pip and Oliver with me. Perhaps I shall. They are remarkably self-reliant, wanting me only for my lap to sit on or my hand to scratch them. I love to watch them play with string or a bit of wadded up paper. In such manner they can occupy themselves for hours. And I want them for no other reason than their companionship. I imagine Molly would love them. She has such a big heart. Sometimes it seemed big enough for all the creatures in the world. Ah! But enough of that. I must stop thinking so much of her or I shall find myself attempting to bolt out the door once again.
I am feeling strong. Good and strong. I wish to never look back upon those two weeks out in the cold again. I cannot imagine how I survived. Surely I had some help from above.
The winter heat wave continues. I believe it is that which is responsible for the foul odor in the home. The smell is of a dead animal but I can find nothing. It must have found its way into the walls of the home and died, the cold keeping it until now. I’ve tried to find it to dispose of it, but the smell does not seem to have a central location. One would think the cats would have a desire to ferret it out, but they have not paid it any mind. Hopefully we shall find it. Otherwise let us hope the cold will return in short order. I have dealt with worse smells for a much longer period of time, but once it starts to decay further it shall be unbearable.
I hoped to dream of Molly once more last night, but she did not come to me. Otherwise the days here have taken on a delicious routine. I wake, eat, read, exercise, play with Pip and Oliver, and write. I imagine after long enough of being unable to leave, even this place shall take on the guise of a jail, but until then I am happy and safe here.
Dear God, I have found the source of the smell. Once again I was awoken in the middle of the night by noises in the cellar. As Pip and Oliver were not in my room, I assumed it was them, but for some unknown reason I found myself anxious and decided to investigate anyway. A more horrible sight I have never seen! I thought it was a rabbit or perhaps a possum they had caught and dragged back here, but no, it was an arm – a human arm! I spun around but the cats were nowhere to be found. Looking further I found loose masonry in the wall and, opening it, found the rest of the two bodies. The owners of the house laid there, in pieces, partially eaten!
In horror I dropped my lantern. When I righted myself once more I found them staring at me, the fur on their faces and paws shining crimson in the light. They arched their backs and lunged at me, tearing into my flesh with their razor sharp claws and teeth. My arms went up to protect my eyes and I ran up the stairs into the darkness, locking myself into the small side room. It is here now that I sit. There is little in this room with which to protect myself. In trying to escape through the skylight I fell, opening several of the wounds of which they had started. I am bleeding pretty well now.
They are letting out the most ungodly of howls and scratch at the door constantly. It is unclear how far they have made it, but the wood shavings increase hour by hour. They smell the blood – I know they do. The sound has increased as well. I believe there are more of them now, how many I can not be sure. I cannot see any escape.
I have found the matches in my pocket with which I lit the lantern. It is face them or burn this entire place down. Despite the horrors, I still find myself wanting to preserve them. I do not wish to be responsible for taking any more lives. Molly. Oh, Molly. Oh God, Molly! I’m sorry. I’m so terribly sorry. It was me. I was the one. How could I have forgotten?!? I suppose I shall see you soon after all.
The door is shaking as they have begun to throw themselves at it and the next step is clear. The only thing to do is take my chances in a mad dash for the front door. After seeing what they have done to the former owners of this place, I cannot imagine I shall survive, but it is the only way.
And so this is how I die. Remember the name of Alexander Gray.