I came here looking for spirits, and all I could find was wine. The deep cellars were lined with bottles and the dusty cobwebs of generations of spiders that had probably never known natural light. Row after row in shelf after shelf, with only a gently humming flourescent strip in the vault ceiling for company, the cellar waited.
Careful not to disturb anything, I made my way through the room. Some of the newer bottles, the ones that had not yet had time to accumulate their shrouds, threw my reflection back to me in miniature, curved as the glass around me.
The noise that had drawn me down here was elusive. I wasn’t entirely sure that it wasn’t just oddly attenuated echoes, but my host had been certain that the long history of the mansion included more ghostly candidates for their source.
That’s the problem with old houses like this – the stalwart sons and daughters of the nobility had never heard of feng shui or put any thought into the geometries of these places. It had tended to be a case where someone had looked at a plot of land and said: put something big here to impress how rich I am for the commoners. I want places to party and be seen partying, so get on with it. There were exceptions though, either where someone had read something they probably shouldn’t, or where the architect had gone more than usually insane with the pressures if trying to create mansions where the owners changed their minds every five minutes.
Sancroft House seemed to be an example of the latter, built in different styles by every generation that had claimed it, and with rooms that had been repurposed every fifty years or so. Unsurprisingly then, stories regularly cropped up about previous tenants being restless and disturbing those living there now.
So, a big rambling mansion with strange noises in the wine cellar? That’s where I come in. Call me Dorian, or possibly Door.
Nine times out of ten; ninety odd times out of one hundred, there’s nothing really going on except wishful thinking and some settling timbers. This place though had the hairs on the back of my neck prickling, certain there was someone behind me. I’ve learned to trust instincts like that, so that’s why I planted my feet and looked around closely.
They’d done a good job plastering and rendering the walls, but not good enough to quite conceal the shapes of filled in openings. I felt sure that this space had seen use as a crypt of some sort at some point, so maybe some of the old inhabitants were still feeling a bit attached to the place? Now the only question was whether the noises were to warn off, or to attract attention.
I decided to follow the tapping noises to see what happened. What’s the worst that could happen? I asked myself; carefully not thinking of the many ways in which I could meet a horrible end in a room full of glass, liquid, and old wooden shelving.
The tapping led me past the oldest bottles, to a newer part where the dust and cobwebs were not quite Hammer House of Horror levels. Back and forth, like a game of Marco Polo, the tapping led me, until I stood in front of a very nice bottle of red wine that looked like it might go very well with tonight’s meal. The air seemed to thrum with tension as I paused, and then it all disippated as I took a chance and reached for the bottle I’d been led to.
“Thank you!” I called to the air, and then I made my way back upstairs to my host. I wasn’t sure if he’d be bemused that he didn’t have a ghost, or grateful that he had a family of Brownies in the basement with impeccable taste in wine. The real challenge now was going to be telling him without doing it in such a way that insulted the fickle creatures. Perhaps laying out a small portion would appease them and encourage their continued helpfulness.