Adrian looked at the bottle, confused. It should have been an excellent drop. She too, sipped at the cup. "Yeah that's got to be off or something. Try it" I took up my glass and looked at it, swirling the liquid. It was deep red and thick, but some merlots were just like that. I smelled it and took a sip. They were right.
At first it tasted good but the after taste was tangy and bitter. I called Helen over to ask for another bottle, but before the words could escape my mouth a stricken look crossed her face before she smiled and gathered the glasses and the bottle saying
"I'm sorry dears, I grabbed the wrong bottle. That rot is the darndest thing!" and she hurried away to the kitchens. Adrian looked at me "yeah that was odd". Before she could say anything more, dinner was served. "Wait, where's Geoff?" I looked around the table not seeing my uncle in his usual seat next to his son, Matthew.
"He wasn't feeling well" said Matthew "he took his dinner to his rooms". I nodded and started to eat.
The next night, Geoff still wasn't at the table. Matthew hadn't seen him since the day before and said his mother had now fallen ill as well. Their meals were sent up to their rooms. "Hopefully no one else gets it" said my father, Peter "That's the last thing anyone needs". We all agreed.
As I headed to bed that night, I went past Geoff's room. The maids were taking full plates from the sitting room and taking them back to the kitchens. The meal from the night before was among the plates. I peered into the room but only saw the soft chairs within. The door to the bedroom was closed and there was silence.
"Does it feel strange to you?" I jumped as Adrian came up behind me. "We do seem to be saying that word a lot lately". "Strange? Yeah. It doesn't feel right. Has anyone called a doctor?" "Not that I know of. Might be a tomorrow morning problem if they haven't come good." And she left off to her rooms.
As I went into my sitting room that night, I locked the door; something I had never done before. Something felt wrong in the house. I woke up to darkness. I was in my bed, but it was far from morning. Something had startled me awake. I heard a thud coming from down the hall.
My heart started racing and I slowly got up sitting still on the edge of my bead, listening for anything else. Another noise, like something heavy being dragged along the carpet. The sound was getting further and further away, moving down the hall. I got up and put my shoes on. I crept out of my bedroom, across the sitting room to the door, unlocking it as quietly as possible.
I opened the door a crack and looked down the hall but there was nothing and no one there.
I looked the other direction, poking my head out a little further and saw only that Geordi's door was open a little at the far end of the hall. It spilled a small piece of light onto the carpet. There was blood on the floor in the doorway.
Panic filled me. I stepped out the door and crept to Geordi's door. There wasn't much, but it was definitely blood on the carpet. I kept going along the hall to Adrian's room. Her door was unlocked so I walked in and closed the door behind me. I went to her room where she was sound asleep and began to wake her.
"What's wrong?" she asked wearily. "Somethings happened to Geordi, we have to go find him". Immediately she was awake and pulling on her shoes. "What's happened?" As we left her room, I explained the noises and the blood. As we passed back by Geordi's room she had a look for herself and went a little pale.
"We should try and get to the kitchen. We might need a weapon" Adrian just nodded and followed me. We didn't run into anyone on our way and when we got inside the kitchen, we each grabbed a large butchers knife. "What do we do now?" Adrian asked, "Where would he be?" "I have an idea. The staff said Helen had been acting strange. She wouldn't let me in the cellar. We should try there first."
We left the kitchens and headed for the cellar. The door was shut. I tried the handle, my palms sweating. It turned and we crept in. As soon as the door opened, we were met with a horrible smell. It was far worse than it had been a few days ago and it wasn't a rotting barrel of wine.
It was tangy and metallic and it made the air heavy and thick. We stepped onto the landing and looked over the rail down into the cellar. There were tables set out in the middle of the room.
On one lay Geoff, his wife on the table next to him. There was blood everywhere. Their bodies had been cut into pieces and laid out in anatomical position. My aunts chest was cut open and there was a tube connected to her heart.
As we watched, Helen moved over to her, squeezed her heart a few times and watched as the blood was sent through the tube and into a bottle of wine. Aside from the obvious cacophony of blood and bone and skin, Helen didn't look right. Her hair, usually neat and well kept, was a tangled mess and had blood streaked through it.
She moved in a rigid way, like she had little control of her body. She was muttering to herself like a madman "fill the gaps, fill the gaps, fill the gaps". She removed the tube from the heart and walked over to another table in the corner. Geordi was lying on it but still appeared to be breathing. Adrian and I headed down the stairs.
Helen stood next to Geordi and picked up a large knife from a bench behind her. "Stop!" I screamed. Helen looked up, clearly surprised to have been caught. I turned to Adrian. "Go and get help! Run!" She nodded and ran back up the stairs. I could heat her yelling already, alerting the household.
Helen started walking toward me. As she did she stepped into the light cast by the moon through the stained glass windows. Her face was a mess of open wounds, stitches and was oozing blood and pus. The skin that was barely holding together in it's segments was green and gold, tinged with red.
The stitches were all different colours, like she'd had to repair her face at different points with whatever thread she had. The facial muscles and layers of fat were visible through the straining seams. "I had to fill the gaps dear. I didn't want to hurt you. I told you, you had a lovely head." She started muttering to herself again. She rolled up her sleeves.
Her arms were the same as her face, all torn apart and haphazardly stitched back together, oozing and bruised green and yellow. Rotting. Her whole body was rotting. My heart was pounding and I was terrified. She lunged at me with the knife. I put my hand out to meet her shoulder and pushed her down as I stepped out of the way of her knife.
Her own momentum caused her to overbalance and she went down to the floor. I didn't hesitate as I punched my knife into her shoulder. It was hard to keep pulling it in and out, but I couldn't stop. The fabric of her dress tore. Her blood soaked into it and my nightgown was drenched in it. It stank of infection and had a horrid brown colour to it.
I didn't stop until my father pulled me off her disgusting corpse. I hadn't even heard him come in. He grabbed me and pulled me into his arms, taking the knife from me. "Geordi" I gasped. I looked around, but he held me still. Mum and Adrian were by Geordi's side trying to rouse him.
"Matthew's gone to call for help" Father whispered. "You can stop now. It's ok" He stroked my hair and rocked me back and forth like I was a child again. In less than half an hour the room was filled with people. Police, paramedics, God knows who else of what profession. Eventually I was taken back to my rooms and given a sedative.
Geordi was fine, in the end. He had a serious concussion but nothing any more major than that. He hadn't seen Helens true face and had been removed from the cellar before regaining consciousness. I was thankful of that. I would never forget what I had seen, nor would my sister.
A month later at the turning of the season, when the vegetable gardens were to be rotated, Sophies body was found in a shallow grave. Though she was partially decomposed, it was clear that she had been cut open in places. She filled the gaps for Helen for those first six months. All the wine in the cellar was inspected.
Many bottles contained human blood, pumped from Sophie, Geoff and his wife.
Adrian, Geordi and I left the house soon after. We bought a cottage out of town with fresh air, a fenced garden and no staff. Best of all, there were no stained glass windows of green and gold, laced with red.