Paul had seemed a decent guy; met us at our “Freedom” barbecue – both of us newly single, having given the heave-ho to our errant lovers. He’d brought venison – delicious - grinned when I said it tasted like pork. Paul made us laugh; he wasn’t particularly handsome, but the possessive look he gave me sent shivers down my spine.
‘What do you say, Donna?’
I’d had one – or two – too many, but it seemed like fun, and well - I’d had experience in doing-up old houses. I grinned at him, teasing. ‘Only if Cheryl comes too.’
He looked at Cheryl, she was nodding. ‘That’s a date, then. Wear old clothes, it can get pretty messy at the Manor.’
I hadn’t meant to pry, but the stone steps from the kitchen leading down to the barred wooden door intrigued me. It had been a week – a welcome break. Cheryl was upstairs painting the guest bedroom; Paul - shirt off - was laying tiles in the downstairs bathroom, and I was watching him.
Quite a craftsman. Quite a stag.
When Cheryl called out for a strong man to help, he shrugged, his concentration broken, and headed off upstairs.
Now it was my chance. I grabbed a torch…
…In the torch’s beam I could see a row of lifeless misshapen bodies. The nearest - her bare breasts sliced open and crawling with fat maggots - made me gag. When she whimpered, a scream froze in my throat; I felt blackness overtaking me; my legs gave way. And came to, shackled naked to a wall. Paul was shining the torch at me.
‘You shouldn’t have come down here,’ he said.
‘Cheryl, you mean,’ he said. ‘She’s quite a catch.’
And so it began…
Something was crawling over my body, bigger than the hairy spiders. I could hear laboured breaths, consumptive wheezes. But it was the smell that scared me the most. Rotting flesh - a doe hung and quartered.
Only that the doe was Cheryl. She still clung to life; still clutched a forlorn hope that she would see her family again; her ravaged feet still scrabbled at the damp brickwork in the cellar.
Soon it would be my turn. When Cheryl was ripe. When the muted laughter from the kitchen above was stifled.
When the new doe was dragged down to stare at me...