Galleries... and it's dark, and bottles. Since I awoke I haven't seen anything else in the flickering light of the candle. Not even a draught, only when I'm walking. Nothing, no sound, no light. I'm afraid of putting out the candle by accident, then I wouldn't be able to light it again. When I awoke it already stood there beside me. It's burning and nobody knows that I am afraid of the dark. Its glow protects me like an aura, a Faraday cage that conducts all evil influence.
Since my holiday last year this cellar has been keeping me busy. I had taken some pictures with my camera - just shots into the dark, into the wide galleries that branch off from the illuminated main path. In the light of the flash I could see for a fraction of a second what the darkness cradled. When I had the photographs developed I saw it for the first time: a little foot and the half-covered face of a figure. Where it came from I didn't know. It spied out behind a shelf of wine bottles. First I thought it was a child playing, but what sort of kid likes to play in a complete dark cellar gallery?
From what I could deduct from the other photographs it seemed to hate light, yes, on one photo it almost seemed as if it held a bottle in its hand, ready to throw it. Or was all this only a play of shadows?
I wasn't quite sure what could actually be seen on the pictures. I started to research; whom did those cellars belong to, how large were they, who used them, etc. I didn't come up with anything unusual: They were used by an old wine estate that charged an entry fee for visitors. The cellar had been built in 1452 - at least parts of it - and has been enlarged and restored many times since.
On my last visit I was impudent enough to have a closer look at the dark corners, equipped with a helmet and a torch, but without success. What was I looking for anyway? For a kid that was frightening tourists?
As I went up the steps I heard a whisper. The owner and his wife were talking vehemently. Their faces were disfigured by sorrow, she was almost crying.
I didn't get everything - their daughter had obviously disappeared in the cellar, she had gone there without anyone looking after her. He was trying to calm her down - I turned silently and went into the cellar again, made some noise so that they had to hear me. When I arrived on the top of the stairs nobody was there anymore.
Got lost in the cellar? It wasn't that big. Well, she surely would turn up again sooner or later, wouldn't she.
I decided to leave on that day and strolled to my car. It was parked in front of the village church. Somehow I was in the mood for a short visit and having a little walk through the graveyard. The church's interior was very plane, which was typically for churches of this region. I went on the choir loft and sat down on a bench. Someone entered the church. It was the priest, followed by the couple whose daughter had disappeared. She was weeping, he kept silent. The priest was muttering something when they walked in a hurry towards the altar. Then they disappeared in the vestry, the priest shaking his head continuously. The couple followed and the door closed.
I sneaked down the stairs, out of the church. I could see them on the graveyard again, and I hid myself, had to duck so they wouldn't see me. The priest pointed his finger to a place beside a few graves that were situated apart from the others. She was crying. After a quarter of an hour they were gone and I sneaked to the place where they had stood. Those graves were children's graves, and the dates on them were three years apart each, almost to the day.
I was astonished and something told me that these weren't normal graves. Finally I drove away to a nearby inn.
When I returned the next day, there was a new grave just on the place where I had been standing. The tombstone showed the name of the winemaker's daughter. I was shocked. Had they found her? I couldn't believe it. Even if they had discovered her body on the same day she never could have been buried so soon.
My suspicion was confirmed, when I opened the grave at night. Absolutely nothing was in there. Not even a coffin was burried inside.
As I visited the cellar again the next day everything seemed to be normal. The father of the dead daughter even started a chat with me and persuaded me to degust some of the wines in his cellar.
He had plenty of vintages, he told me. Old ones as well, and in his cellar there was plenty of space, he couldn't complain, even the storage was perfect - he could be content. We started with some young wines, and he opened one bottle after the other. I really started feeling uncomfortable, because I didn't want to buy anything. At the same time he talked my head off.
The last bottle of his Riserva 1888 was opened, and I felt a deep affection for him, like a feeling of trust.
He took me by my hand, the bottle in the other, and showed me around. He explained that beneath the floor there was an additional cellar with two entrances, a little shaft just wide enough for a child to get through. The other entrance was a trap-door - locked up. He hadn't found the smaller passage so far, it was hidden, but as soon as he'd find it, he'd seal it.
I only nodded while he was talking, telling me how he inherited the estate from his brother. At first everything had been perfect, but things had become suspicious when suddenly animals had started disappearing. His two dogs, a cat, some chicken and, every third year, a child from the neighbourhood. His sister-in-law has gone mad, so he couldn't ask her for advice. But the priest had told him everything. He spoke to me with a lightheartedness in his voice that seemed to me out of place in the situation. Meanwhile he kept on refilling my glass. I must have been very drunk. It hated light, he said, and loved flesh. The only reason why he attracted tourists to his place was its appetite for meat. Then he laughed.
I awoke here in the cellar. The candle was nearly burnt down. There had to be another exit besides the locked trap-door. It is soundless, and yet I feel that it is watching me. Sometimes I believe to see how I sit with my back to the candle. It has eyes like me, I think, and hands and legs. It isn't large - for sure - and most likely it's hungry.
The exit, the candle, minutes of my life burning down. And I already feel how it is going to touch me within the complete darkness - but there was still enough light - how it sneaks around me. Will it blow out my life like a candle?
Jaws? Perhaps a cracking sound, I feel warm liquid on me, my clothes are getting sticky, and everything's happening silently. My heartbeat is speeding up... But there is still light! I'm not dead already, I'm still alive, still
Translation: Tomas MacGiollaPadraig
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