Lights Out in the Wine Cellar

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Lights Out in the Wine Cellar
Lights Out in the Wine Cellar

Walking around the aisles of shelves and racks in the Haunted Wine Cellar, you find yourself thinking about how great electric light is, and how terrible it would be if you were stuck in total darkness in the basement of the spookiest house in the Kingdom.

You might also think that, as an adventurer, you would know better than to have thoughts like that.

As the lights flicker and go out, leaving you in utter and complete blackness, you hear a grandfather clock somewhere upstairs bonging out the hours. All thirteen of them.

Try to find a light

Okay, you think to yourself, stay calm. They didn't always have electric lights in this house, so there's probably still a torch around here somewhere. It's just a matter of finding it before something else finds you.

You find a wall, and run your hands along it at head height until you find a sconce, which thankfully has an old torch in it. You pat your pockets frantically, looking for matches or a lighter.

Someone taps you on the shoulder and puts a book of matches in your hand. "Thanks," you say gratefully, and light the torch.

It doesn't occur to you to freak out until the torch is already lit. You're all alone in the flickering circle of firelight.

Commence freaking out

You make a noise that is basically your entire month's allotment of A's all in one go as you rush up the stairs, out of the house, and down the street.

Keep your cool

Well, you reason, whatever was there before is gone now, so there's no point in freaking out about it. Out of sight, out of mind: it's out of sight and you're out of your mind.

Might as well get on with... well, whatever it was you were down here for.

What was that, anyway?

I don't remember either

With a shrug, you head back upstairs. The lights in the house come back on, so you find a fireplace to ditch the torch in and continue about your business.

Investigate the wine racks

There is an awful lot of wine down here. Actually, most of it is probably vinegar. But vinegar that would fetch a real price on the collector's market. Sadly, the time and effort that would be required to claim any of that money is way above your boredom threshold.

The racks appear to be divided by type of wine: there's a rack for chablis, a rack for merlot, a rack for pinot noir, and so on. Lots more than those three, but let's try and keep things reasonably simple.

Examine the Chablis rack

Chablis is a dry white wine similar to Chardonnay, but less fruity, less oaky, and more tasting of the flints they use in old rifles.

Sounds delicious, huh? Honestly, I will never understand wine people.

Anyway, it's a bunch of dusty bottles with curly letters on the labels and sometimes a drawing of a picturesque country manor house. Aaand that's about it.

You poke around until the electric lights come back on, then shrug and go back upstairs.

Examine the Merlot rack

Merlot is a dark red-purple wine that tastes much better than Pinot Noir, if the two $5 bottles I bought at the grocery store last week are an indicator of global quality, which I assume they are.

All of the bottles here are very dusty, and most of them are more than a hundred years old, which means they are probably a) very valuable and b) undrinkable.

You amuse yourself for a while by writing "WASH ME" in the dust, as well as drawing pictures of... things, until the electric lights come back on and you return upstairs with a shrug.

Examine the Pinot Noir rack

Pinot Noir is a type of red wine that is very popular because 'Noir' means 'black', and is associated with old movies where serious men in hats smoke cigarettes and shoot each other, and that's way cooler than pretty much any other kind of wine except for Gewürtztraminer, which means "The Death Train".

For some reason, though, wine makers generally fail to capitalize on this, and they give the bottles the same boring old labels with fancy cursive writing and a charcoal drawing of an old house or maybe a dog. If I were designing the labels, it would be a picture of a slinky blonde dame in a red dress showing a lot of leg, pointing a smoking .45 revolver at you, and the smoke looks like a skull.

Also there's an actual bullet right there in the bottle, and on the back of the label there's a coupon for a pack of Lucky Strikes.

Nobody ever asks my opinion on these things.

Oh, anyway, the lights come back on, and you go back upstairs.

You find the rack where all the bottles of Pinot Noir are stored, and -- much as you expected -- there's an empty shelf where the bottles you found upstairs ought to have been.

You feel around in the back of the shelf, and find a handle-like notch cut in the back of it. When you pull on it, the entire rack swivels away from the wall on hinges, revealing a concealed closet. Awesome!

Depending on your point of view, what you find inside the closet is either even awesomer, or absolutely disgusting, or both. It's a collection of large glass jars, ranging in size from about a gallon to large enough to fit a small child, each one filled with formaldehyde and... some sort of creature.

They're animals, basically. Except... changed. There's a housecat with bristle-haired, hooved legs, and a huge bulge underneath stitches on its chest. And next to it there's a small dog, most of whose skin has been replaced with shiny gray-green grafts.

There are dozens of them. The firelight from your torch dances on the glass, and on their staring eyes. You find a ledger on one of the shelves, and look up the serial numbers on the jars. The one for the cat says:

Dirigible (Cat). Congenital weakness of heart. Replaced with boar's heart and legs (to bear add'l weight). Deceased.

The listing for the dog reads:

Scraper (Terrier). Severely asthmatic. Removed lungs, replaced with octopus hearts, skin, and gills. Drowned.

It is, of course, Stephen's handwriting, though identifiably more mature than in the child's diary you found earlier.

You notice a rather large jar in the corner, which is empty apart from a few inches of gray ash, and what appears to be dried rose petals. You look up the number in the ledger; it's the last one listed.

Crumbles II (Wolf). Canine epilepsy. Replaced brain with one acquired from [scribbled out]. LIVED.

Below that there's a date roughly a month later, and the note: STILL ALIVE.

Then there's another note, about another month later: It grieves me to report this, but I was forced to put Crumbles II down. As he healed fully from the surgery, he became more and more aggressive, even towards me, whom he had never even growled at previously. Couldn't bear to bottle him like the others, but didn't want to bury him either -- hate the thought of returning to the old, bitter, sorrowful ways. Cremated him instead.

Despite this setback, I know that I am on the right track. I will refine my chemicals and my methods. Soon, I need never bid another friend farewell. I will be with them forever.

That's the end of the book. As you return it to the shelf, the lights in the house come back on, and you head back upstairs.

Investigate the... other stuff?

There are a couple of shelves down here for storing things that are not wine. Things like antique jars of pickles, and a box of antique glass electrical fuses, and a basket of dried-out vines and little brown wads that you think might be antique potatoes.

Nothing very useful. Not even anything particularly scary.

Not unless you count the... severed human head!!!

No, just kidding. There's no severed head. But there is a bowl of HUMAN EYEBALLS!

No, just kidding. They're peeled grapes.

Man, get your hand out of there. Gross. Go back upstairs and wash your hands. Even I don't know how long those have been there.

Get out of here right now go go go

You make your way back to the basement steps as fast as you dare, not wanting to accidentally knock yourself out by slamming into a wall. Is it just your imagination that something takes a swipe at the back of your pants leg as you climb the darkened stairs? Sure, probably!

Upstairs, you can see a little better, due to starlight and the haze of distant streetlamps coming in through the windows of the house, and you rush out the front door and into the street.

As the front door slams behind you, the lights in the house come back on, as though mocking your flight.

Occurs in The Haunted Wine Cellar.