Relationships: N/A

Characters: Unnamed Characters, Manor

Tags: Sentient Building, Ghosts, Sacrifices, Loss of Memories, Mentions of Religion, Entrapment (Briefly), Breaking and Entering

For many centuries the old manor stood atop the hill overlooking the city, never changing never aging in its eternal elegance. No one knew of its origin or how it had survived for so many years without someone to maintain the structure. Many rumors floated around, saying that the manor was inhabited by beings of the night which is why no one has ever seen a person there during the day, while others say it's the work of spirits who use their immortal lives to help with the preservation of the home. None have been confirmed as no one who's ever entered the home has ever spoken of what they've seen. All they ever seem to willing share is that the manor isn't meant for us at least not yet.

It was from these rumors that lead a small group of young adults towards the manor late one evening if they were to see anything of the manor and how it operates it would be best seen at night. Making their way up the hill with their backpacks filled with supplies for the night was simple enough. Getting through the large locked metal gates was slightly more difficult but still not very challenging to get over once they got a boost. Upon landing on the other side of the gate everything seemed to change-the air grew still, their breaths could be seen even though it was early summer, and there was an unsettling silence. Slightly freaked but not willing to back away just yet, they continued forward towards the large ornate door of the manor.

Gently knocking received no answers even though they could clearly hear shuffling on the other side of the door. Taking a hold on the doorknob they slowly pushed open the door to reveal the manor's inner walls. It looked normal, nothing special, it was something you'd see at those old homes turned into museums, long corridors, paintings with faces no one knew the name of and old furniture carefully taken care of to stand the passing of time. Nothing seemed strange or otherworldly as they were led to believe so they went in farther. Carefully walking through the winding halls and climbing the old creaky stairs they looked at everything-the paintings, the vases, the fresh cut flowers resting in them.

Around midnight they heard the first sign of life in the house the soft clicking of heels on hardwood flooring never breaking stride until they stopped right in front of them. Scared they would be in trouble for trespassing, they quickly turned to explain themselves but stopped upon seeing who it was standing before them. The woman was ethereal in her beauty dressed much like them though she was pale, nearly white, with soft white hair and light blue eyes to match her soft look. What she said startled them completely: "The manor wants you to leave this instant before you can no longer escape. It has been biding it's time for this long but even I can't stop it from reaping you." She spoke as if reciting the orders of a higher-up. Though the manor told her this that's not possible; when they tried to speak she only repeated it, stepping closer and forcing them back until they stood at the large doors they originally entered.

Turning to finally leave, seeing how they had overstayed their not-given welcome, they found the doors locked and unable to budge no matter what lock they turned or how hard they pushed. "It would seem you've been here for longer than I was told," the woman sighed, "you've been puffing out your soul for hours it looks like."

Puffing out our souls? What could this woman be talking about? The manor was simply cold and they'd been breathing out vapor, nothing more. "So you would believe," the woman hummed looking at them closely, "This manor has been here since the dawn of civilization in these parts it serves as a gateway for those who have passed and a resting place for those not yet ready to face eternity. Only they are welcome here as they are not bound to this land. You, however, have trespassed onto a world not your own and the manor will take part of you as payment."

They panicked, thinking they would be forced into slavery or to never see their families again. As each terrible thought zipped through their minds like a flash of lightning, the woman spoke once more, sounding softer and almost sympathetic, "You can pay off your debt to the manor and get the fragments of your soul taken from you by giving something of importance in return. This can be a fond memory, a piece of jewelry anything so long as it means something dear to you. If the exchange is of equal value then when you return home you will be whole and you will not be allowed back to this manor until your time."

Thinking it over they all agreed what's a lost memory compared to their lives so one by one they stepped forward to offer their trades. The first was simply an old book they always carried, well worn with bits of the print on the cover flaking away, given to them by their late grandfather. They carried it with them and read it whenever they missed him. The woman took the book, examining it and accepted the offer allowing them to leave the manor freely.

Next was a memory of their time out fishing with his father and his friends, though the trip didn't go well and they couldn't catch anything the experience was something they always cherished because of the fun they experienced. Just like that, as if materializing from their own thoughts a picture was formed and the woman accepted the memory, wiping it clean from their head and wished them farewell.

The final offer was the person's faith. They've followed and practiced Buddhism for their entire lives and held it very near their hearts but without their soul, they would never find peace. The woman pondered on this offering for a moment thinking it over before accepting it. Forming from their beliefs was a small palm-sized buddha figurine with that she bid them farewell.

Running all the way back to the gates and leaving the manor was like lifting a weight they never knew was slowly crushing them and let out sighs of relief upon stepping out of the gates and hearing the wind rustle the leaves of the trees surrounding them. Though they lost things very important to them, they accepted it and were just glad they could be out of there. Now they see why anyone who enters the manor comes out changed and talks about it like they do. They narrowly avoided their own demise-best they try and keep others from facing the same fate.

Back atop the hill within the manor, the woman walked through the winding halls to a large room littered with small items, books long having faded away and being unreadable, and broken little knickknacks. She smiled looking over the mess and placed the three items on shelves to join the ever-growing mound of clutter from centuries of making deals with those foolish enough to trek inside. She'll see them again when they're old and fading, and when she does she'll greet them and welcome them to wander the halls without risk.