Lucinda Haynes was a widow of 24 when she found a new man. Her previous spouse, Malcolm, had died from a sickness of the stomach when she was 22.

Two years, it was proclaimed, was the proper amount of time for a lady to grieve, or at least that’s what the young women of the Women’s Institute of Huxley told her during their monthly meetups. It had opened four years ago, in 1923, and Lucinda had been eternally grateful for the support and understanding they’d given her during Malcolm’s difficult times.

And now she was grateful for something else. Something new. Last week, they’d introduced a new young man by the name of Lesley Grant, welcoming him to the small town. Normally, men were not allowed to attend WI meetings, but Lesley Grant was royalty. Literal royalty.

Lesley was a duke, staying at the large Victorian manor that perched on the hill overlooking the town like a giant wooden black and white vulture, with the old beams often letting out their own hisses and squawks from age.

He had inherited his wealth from his family, a wealth that spanned into the many millions. Throughout his house, there were dotted portraits, vases, and other eclectic eccentricities that were worth tens of thousands of pounds each.

Lucinda sat looking at some of them as she sat in the foyer of the gargantuan house, waiting for Lesley to descend the staircase.

When he did, her heart jittered to the point where she was concerned that she would faint. The man was gorgeous. A complete catch.

“Lucinda Haynes, I presume?” he began. “I hope you were able to find my little hideaway easily.” Lesley grinned, showing a row of immaculate, but curiously pointed, teeth.

“No trouble at all,” Lucinda started, worrying that she was about to stammer. “Not a jot.”

Lucinda and Lesley hit it off and within six months of courting, Lesley took Lucinda into a large room of his mansion.

“I have never showed any other woman this room before, and you mustn’t tell anyone about what is inside,” were Lesley’s exact and anxious words. He had been nervous and edgy for the past week, and Lucinda had noticed him furtively checking the bolt iron padlock on the door every couple of hours and finding excuses to walk down the west wing of the mansion, darting his eyes at the door as he did so.

She never expected it. Not in a million years.

It was an empty room with absolutely nothing inside. No furnishings, no decorations, nothing. Even the walls were bare and devoid of wallpaper. The entire room stood in stark contrast with the rest of the elaborate house.

However, that’s not entirely true. There was one thing, balanced on a rotting brown table. And I think you already know what it is.

A perfect cube, about six inches by six inches, black as night and as shiny as a chunk of obsidian.

Lucinda reached out to touch it, but her hand was slapped away by the duke.

“Not yet,” Lesley said. “You must wait until one year after our marriage before I permit you to touch the Black Block.”

Lucinda’s hand stung and she bit her lip and nodded as tears slid down her thin face. The duke put a comforting arm over her shoulder and led her out of the room. “It is the only thing I ask of you,” he whispered to her.

In time, Lucinda Haynes and Lesley Grant were wed in the most magnificent celebration that the town of Huxley had ever seen. Indeed, the wedding ceremony was the most extravagant in all the country, with singers, dancers, and magicians from all over the realm.

There was only one thing wrong with the party, and that little niggling problem came to Lucinda in the form of an old hag, as ugly as sin and dressed all in black. Throughout the dancing, laughing, and streamers, she just sat in the corner, staring at her.

It irritated her. Here, on her special day, was a woman who wasn’t happy. All she did was scowl her angry and wrinkly scowl from beneath her veil and keep her vulture’s grip on some object in her hand that she couldn’t quite make out.

She asked her fiancé to get rid of her, but he seemed confused. When she asked the duke’s guards, they responded as if they couldn’t even see her.

Apart from that one incident, the wedding went smoothly. And that night, the duke consummated it.

Nine months later, Lucinda gave birth to a healthy young boy, and Lesley, Lucinda, and the newborn baby all lived happily.

For about a month, tops.

Then the duke started getting mood swings, getting angry at the slightest provocation and lashing out at his wife constantly.

But that was only the first month.

By the second month, he fell into a madness from which he never lapsed out of, eventually hanging himself in the lobby of his own mansion.

And on the third month, Lucinda was grabbed in the middle of the night by the duke’s own guards and taken to the empty room. They forced the cube into her hands as she screamed and pleaded.

A black ultraviolet light clouded her vision as she felt herself falling.

She fell for what felt like decades. She closed her eyes.

When Lucinda opened her eyes again, she was sitting in the corner of a room she remembered well, as revellers and partygoers laughed and danced merrily. Across from her she saw herself and the duke, smiling happily, about to take their vows.

She tried to scream, but no sound came out.

She wanted to get up, but found she could not move.

So she sat in the corner, scowling, the Black Block clasped firmly in her withered hand.