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The Wine Cellar

by Kelly Mintzer about a year ago in fiction
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curiosity, as a danger to more than just cats.

If I hadn't worn the white dress; if he hadn't spilled the merlot. I'll never quite understand which was contingent upon the other, but there was cause and effect there, I'm certain of that. I knew better than to wear white; if he hadn't spilled something on me, I certainly would have before the end of the evening, so maybe it was a relief, some of the pressure removed, to have the crimson stain spreading across my torso be his handiwork instead of the inevitable result of my own unfathomable clumsiness. Let's call it that.

All things considered, not the best start to a first date. Not the worst, but there was definitely some room for improvement. Robert was appropriately apologetic, and it seemed wiser to not mention that I was sadder to lose the glass of wine than to bid adieu to a thrift store dress I had bought on impulse for 3 crumpled dollars I had just happened to have in my jeans. And anyway, the spill gave me a good reason to excuse myself, and if I was sneaky enough, to get a peak in that wine cellar. The wine cellar was half of why I agreed to the date in the first place.

"It's astonishing", Margot had told me. "Or at least I assume it is. He never lets anyone go down there."

"No one?"

"No one."

"Then why do you assume it's so great?"

"Because why bother keeping people out of it if it's not?"

"Is that sound logic?"

"Yes."

"It doesn't seem like sound logic..."

But the longer I considered it, the sounder it became. It followed the basic dragon hoarding theory. The better the haul, the more precious you keep it.

So, sure, yes, I was motivated a little bit by the desire to see if I could get into that cellar. I was going to solve this mystery for once and for all and be embraced for the pioneer I was, just tromping my way into brave new worlds.

Robert was really making me work for it, though.

"Oh, it's not so interesting. Just a dusty, smelly wine cellar."

"I love dust and smells!"

He'd laughed, which I suppose was a nice enough response, but not really the intended effect.

"Maybe after dinner", he'd said, and it was a mom-maybe, said simply to placate a pouting child, or, in this case, a pouting me.

The wine had helped. Until I was wearing it.

It was sticky against my skin, as I tiptoed down the hall, towards the wine cellar door, and periodically top notes of plum would overtake my senses, making me wish that I'd actually been able to drink that glass of merlot, my nerves could use a drink right then.

The door was unlocked.

Well. Wasn't that lucky.

An unlocked door is an invitation, that is understood. I believe it's been addressed in every possible book of manners and comportment. It would be rude for me NOT to open that door and go down those steps.

The stairs creaked softly beneath my feet and I mentally told them not to ruin this for me. All the secrets were about to be revealed, hallelujah, and I was hoping that most of those secrets were very old vintages.

When I reached the bottom of the stairs, the door clicked behind me. A lock, then. This seemed like less of a good sign.

I turned abruptly to rush back up the steps, but before I could complete the pivot, a hoarse voice said "It's no use, you know."

"It might be some use", I said, backing away. I am open to expanding the utility of wine cellars, but generally speaking, not to human storage.

"I've tried. I've tried to get out. Many, many times."

I squinted into the dark. I could make out the loosest possible outline of a silhouette and nothing more. "Who are you?"

"I'm his pet."

"I don't think that provides quite the clarity you think it does."

The voice snorted, a rasping, hollow noise. "It was a good first date. He wanted to keep me. So he did."

I backed up a stair. "Is this...real? Is this some weird prank? Is Margot in on this?"

"I don't know who Margot is. And I was never one for pranks."

"Pranksters never admit to their pranks", I said, because it felt better than full on panicking. The merlot had spread through the cheap weave of my cotton dress, and a slight breeze pushed the wet fabric against my skin, so I was cold, uncomfortable and at least a little terrified.

"This is home for you too now. You can't leave now...."

They were getting closer, pushing the shadows back. I could feel them stepping into the light, when the door clicked again, and swung full open.

Robert leaned his head in. "Carrie? What are you doing down here?"

I sprinted up the stairs and into the hall, closing the door behind me and pressing my back to it.

"There's a person in your wine cellar."

Robert wrinkled his nose. "That's a weird joke."

"Not a joke. I just spoke to them. They said...they said they live there."

"Carrie, no one lives in my wine cellar. Why would they?"

I appraised him, and considered just how little I actually knew about him. I wondered again how anyone ever convinces themselves to go on a first date with a relative stranger.

I nearly answered, but a basic survival instinct kicked in. I have seen the movies. I know what happens when you say too much.

I forced a laugh. "Haha. Got you. No, it was a joke." On the bright side, any sense of humor so devoid of any actual components of comedy was pretty sure to eradicate any thoughts of a second date.

Robert stepped back. "Maybe I should drive you home."

"I'll walk", I said, and stepped as quickly as I could into the cool autumn night, leaving the raspberries and jam of spilled merlot in my wake.

fiction

About the author

Kelly Mintzer

Writing weird, dreamy, horror adjacent stories, with a terrible sense of humor since '86, y'all.

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