I don't think I remember my mother – she died when I was little more than a baby, so this lack of recollection is hardly surprising.
I spent my childhood and the majority of my teenage years living with my father, but we were never very close. Don't get me wrong, he wasn't a bad parent by any stretch – he provided for me, and I grew up comfortably in a large townhouse in the city.
My father, Ted, was a banker, and I remember him working long hours since I was only an infant. I didn't see him much, due to this, and he was a serious man, with a sense of humour akin to that of a goldfish, but I loved him in my own way nonetheless.
I'm sorry to say, therefore, that he himself died of a heart complication when I was nineteen, and so, being an only child with my my nearest relatives being my aunt Laura in Boston, and her elder brother Robert, who lived in Sydney with his wife and children, I grew quite close to my grandfather of eighty-three years.
Thankfully for you, dear reader, this is where my story may begin to interest you somewhat more. You see, my grandfather was a somewhat eccentric old man, but wealthy, having inherited a sizable fortune from an unmarried great-uncle of his when he himself was merely a young man.
Apart from the copious amounts of money which he gained through this twist of fate, though, he also became the sole proprietor of a rambling old estate, situated on a couple of hundred acres of land up the country. This uncle, it seems, had held the title of “Lord Mayfeld” during his life, and so, this too fell to my grandfather.
During the decade-long gap between the loss of my father and the eventual death of my grandfather, I began to visit him increasingly frequently. I am a writer by trade, and the success of my novels grant me a lot of free time, you see, and besides, his home at Mayfeld Hall was grand indeed, and I was glad of the company.
What first struck me as odd, though, was the fact that the old man himself had seemingly no problems when it came to loneliness.
Despite the isolation of the house, and the surprising lack of maids or handservants in comparison to my grandfather's wealth, whom I would have presumed would have helped with the hall's upkeep, I never sensed any sadness or despair from a lack of company in the man. When I finally decided to broach the subject, though, the answer I received left me all the more baffled.
“I'm never truly alone,” he replied, after a moment's pause, “not really. Not with him around.”
This, of course, surprised me, as I had never seen anybody else on the premises, nor had my grandfather ever mentioned a companion of any kind to me, or to anyone else, as far as I was aware. Understandably, I decided to inquire about the identity of this individual, which drew a laugh from the elderly man.
“It's strange, really,” he replied with a curious twinkle in his eye, “I've never really gotten around to asking his name. He doesn't speak much anyway, so I doubt it would much improve our friendship.”
At this point, I truly was worried about whoever this person was that my grandfather conversed with on a seemingly regular basis, and so I asked whether I myself could meet him sometime.
This shockingly, made the old man grow rather quiet indeed. After a few moments of silence, he explained that this friend of his was very reclusive, and would I mind not mentioning the truth of his existence to anybody else.
Needless to say, I left Mayfeld Hall with a deep sense of confusion mingled with apprehension that day.
Upon my return to my spacious apartment back in the city, I resolved to get to the bottom of this mystery, perhaps more for my grandfather's sake than for my own. Recalling that my aforementioned Uncle Robert had once been close to his father also, I decided to send him an email regarding close acquaintances that my grandfather may have had at the hall when he was younger.
The response was short and somewhat blunt – I was to forget the conversation I had had with my grandfather, and I was under no circumstances to speak of this mysterious stranger again, either to Robert or his father. Apparently, said Robert, there was more than one reason why had wished to move to somewhere as far afield as Australia.
I am sorry to say, though, that by then, my interest and concern were truly piqued.
Driving up to my grandfather's the following morning, I was shocked to see a sleek black Mercedes exiting the winding country road which led to his home, its tinted windows glinting in the sunlight just as I turned the bend. Waiting until the car had turned the next corner and disappeared from view, I drove as quickly as I could down the overgrown lane which led to the driveway proper, a growing feeling of apprehension building in my gut.
Sprinting from the car to the hall's great double doors, I hammered heavily on the brass lion's-head knocker which adorned its oaken surface. In seconds, the door swung inwards, and I was greeted by my grandfather. For some reason, he seemed a lot older today.
By the time we were seated in the first floor lounge, my patience had all but worn out. Before my grandfather could offer me refreshments, I had already blurted out my question regarding the Merc. I don't know how I gave it away, but he looked at me then, and somehow he saw it in my eyes; nervousness, maybe – or guilt.
“I told you,” he asked, his voice low and hoarse, “I told you not to tell.”
And then I was out in the driveway with the door slamming shut behind me, with nothing to do but face the long drive home, with nothing but my fears and doubts for company.
I never saw my grandfather after that fateful day. He made excuses whenever I suggested calling over, and on the few occasions that I arrived uninvited, he was out, or at least he pretended to be.
He passed away quietly in his sleep three years later. I was twenty-nine, and I've never felt quite so regretful as I did at his funeral.
It's probably worth pointing out that it was only a couple of my grandfather's surviving friends from overseas and I that arrived at his funeral, and they told me in hushed, saddened tones that they themselves hadn't seen the poor man in over a decade.
Also, it may have been my imagination, but to this day I fancy that I saw a sleek black Mercedes pull away down the street as I left the church on that wet December evening.
Despite our sharp final meeting, my grandfather left me Mayfeld Hall and its titles in his will. I suppose I was the only one left at that point – the only one who had ever shown any real care in those final years.
So, I suppose that I am Lord Mayfeld now, and that this hall will be my resting place, like it has been for countless Lord Mayfeld's before me, including my grandfather. He sleeps in the catacombs below the house, in the dark with nothing but the stone and the spiders for company.
But what of me, you ask? Do I get lonely out here on my own? The simple answer is no; I feel no more lonely than my grandfather was when he lived here.
Besides, I'm never truly alone. Not really. Not with him around...