To Elizabeth, From Anne [Part 3 of 3]

Twenty-seventh of May, Seventeen Fifty Three

Liz, I am unsure if you received my previous letter.  The watchman, Thomas, spied a column of troops marching into town.  They veered toward the house and two of them broke through a window, the monsters nearly followed them into the dining room.  At this point, only three windows remain intact, all on the second story.

The two fresh-faced young men reported that the town was overrun.  They had been ordered to “secure the area” and keep the beasts from attacking the outlying estates, such as ours.  Louis laughed, desperately, for the first time in weeks as he gestured to the decaying arms clawing through the space previously filled with crystal clear glass.  The soldiers looked somewhat abashed and admitted that command underestimated the “re-animation threat.”

I gave them the letter I wrote, the shorter one promised to post it straightaway.  The taller one assured us that help was en-route.  Another battalion would bring weapons, food, and water before the end of the week.

He lied.  Perhaps that is unfair, perhaps something went wrong, perhaps he was unable to send my letter to you.  Perhaps perhaps perhaps.  Nothing is certain anymore.  Apart from those soldiers, we have had no contact with anyone since this debacle began.  If the town is destroyed, how much longer do we have left?

Elizabeth, something happened.  Shouts and shots echoed down to the cellar, which almost feels like home.  The men had all the muskets, so we took a few kitchen knives and rushed upstairs.  The beast-men filled the house, reeking and howling in every room.  The shrieks had ceased, sounds of ripping and tearing took their place.  A cook and a maid, Isobel and Marie, stabbed one of the attackers.  Another shambled forward and bit Isobel’s neck.  It bit her like a toffee and chewed.  I— I tremble to think about it.  Her screams were horrible.  We ran back into the cellar and barred the door.  That was four days ago, we can still see shadows moving around the kitchen through the gap along the floor.  They moan and bang against the door, the bar has held thus far.

The lantern was smashed in all the confusion, so it is quite dark down here.  But after all this time, I know the cellar better than I remember my old rooms.  Sometimes, light peeks under the door, but the tiles are covered in blood, so no one wants to spend much time at the top of the stairs.  That is where I write to you.

I pray that the situation in Warwickshire is preferable to this.  Stay safe.

The water is gone.  We tried choking down the dry cornmeal, but it was impossible, and decidedly unladylike, not that it matters anymore.  My mouth is so dry.  Victoria cannot stop coughing and the beasts have started hammering on the remains of the door.  We set a guard at the top of the stairs, to cut down any of them that break through.  There is black blood all over the steps, I

[The enclosed document was recovered from the Carter Estate outside Halstead, Essex on the fourteenth of June, 1753 by the Colchester Garrison.]

To Elizabeth, From Anne [Part 2 of 3]

Third of May, Seventeen Fifty Three

Elizabeth, I write to you now from my new quarters; a tidy, albeit dank, corner of the cellar.  The ladies of the house, including the servants of course, moved down here ten days hence.  I apologize for the state of this letter, my nerves are too jangled for proper penwomanship.

I suppose it would be proper for me to begin at the beginning.  You remember how travelers had vanished?  A messenger delivered a bulletin two weeks ago.  The newsletter proclaimed that a horde of feral men were approaching from every corner of Essex.  Families with other estates immediately dispatched carriages, either to fetch their kinsmen, or hide them.  The townspeople barricaded the roads, but that later proved futile.  Louis and the men nailed stout boards over all the lower windows and locked the front gate.  They trampled all my flowers in the process.  Louis snapped and shouted that we had more pressing concerns to tend to than my “womanly whims.”

The mob arrived that night.  Is mob the right term?  I saw shapes through the wooden slats, heard them clawing and howling at the brickwork.  Oh God, Elizabeth, the ceaseless howling!  It is quieter in the cellar, I could not sleep upstairs in the suite.  All through the night, groaning and banging.

The stable-boys fire our muskets from the roof.  The cooks say we are nearly out of provisions.  More than enough tea, of course, but insufficient meat and potatoes.  The well is outside, I can hardly glimpse it through the roiling mass of filthy shuffling bodies.

What are they?  I know it is proper to ask “who,” but we have tried reasoning with them, shouting over their incessant clamor, but they pay us no heed.  They have no leader, not that I can discern.  They follow no battle plan or tactic, beyond trying to knock down the walls.  I am at a loss.

The ladies and I make bandages.  I fear we will need to use them soon.  Proper decorum has fled the premises.  All day, I sit with the other women around the lantern in the center of the stone floor.  The maids tell the most bawdy jokes!  I hesitate to laugh, since I must maintain an illusion of propriety, hunched on the dirty floor, but they brighten the day.  They are lovely girls, but after so long, I grow weary of their company.  At least their laughter drowns out the sound of black powder, thumping footsteps, and gnashing teeth.

Three days ago the monsters broke through the East drawing room window.  Splinters and glass covered the distressingly filthy carpet.  Bony arms stretched into the room.  The footman pulled me from the threshold and shot at one who bled black on the chaise.  My ears rang until I stumbled down the treacherous cellar steps.  There were too many shots to count, but eventually they blocked the shattered window with the oak bookcase.

Is this happening everywhere?  How is Warwickshire?  Are you safe?  Is the town overrun?  Are we the last ones left alive in Essex?  I do not know.  I pray that you are doing well.  I fear for Louis.  He jumps into every surge, every breach like a general astride a fiery stallion.  As if he will save us all through his own strength.  I hope he can.  I hope the food and water lasts.  I hope everything gets back to normal soon.

-Anne

To Elizabeth, From Anne [Part 1 of 3]

Twelfth of April, Seventeen Fifty Three

My Dear Elizabeth, the news of your springtime escapades never ceases to thrill me.  I read your latest missive just this morning, my peals of laughter startled the gardener who was shaping a nearby hedge.  When he jumped, his shears closed on his thumb.  I do hope he is alright.

As for the current Essex fashions, many ladies of respectable lineage have taken to wearing more elaborate hats.  Even the simplest pieces now have three or even four layers of embroidering or lace.  The milliners must be terribly busy.  One of the local ladies, Georgiana, commissioned the most intricate formal hat I have ever laid eyes upon.  Pale blue, trimmed in textured silk and satin, with an entire bouquet circling the brim.  She says they are real flowers grown especially for the purpose, but I believe they are carefully wrought out of fabric.

It is such a shame that you and the family could not join us at the Vernal Ball.  Louis and I had a marvelous time.  As you well know, I am not fond of dancing.  Nevertheless, I found myself positively transported by the music.  The orchestra boomed and sang across the hall, we have not danced like that in years.  I wish you had been able to attend, I fear long-distance travel has become increasingly perilous this past fortnight.  Several prominent guests, who never miss an event of this scale, were absent.  Trouble on the road I suppose.

Elizabeth, I hesitate to mention this, as I write, there are birds chirping on the grounds, it all seems so ridiculous.  I saw the constable in town this past Tuesday, and he was not his usual chipper self.  I did not mean to pry, but I asked him if he was quite alright.  He hastily grinned and walked down the boulevard.  “Everything in order madam,” he harrumphed, “nothing for you to worry about.”

Later that afternoon I spoke with Mary.  Her sister said that the patrolmen barricaded some of the western roads and would not allow travelers or merchants on the lane.  I confess, I did not understand at first.  I thought perhaps it was some social movement going on.  Rumors have spread quickly over the past few days, stories of an attack.  They speak of feral beasts waylaying anyone caught on the road, day or night.  Even well armed caravans have disappeared.

There may not be any substance to this.  It is a tragedy, but people get lost in the wilderness and carriages break at the worst possible time.  At any rate, Louis wanted me to tell you that we will not be able to see you in Warwickshire before June.  He says it has to do with the shipping schedule, but I think he is concerned about what might be happening in the North.  It pains me not to see you, and the children, but it might be for the best.  If there is any unrest in the countryside, Louis wants us to stay safe at home.

The footman just informed me that my presence has been requested in the foyer.  I do hope it is not Georgiana again, that woman, or her hat, will be the death of me.  I wish you all the best, take care of yourself.

-Anne