1 week earlier
Miss O'Brien sat at the table in the servants hall sewing up a rip in the hem of her ladyship's white lace ball gown with neat little stitches wearing her usual expression of boredom. The room had its usual chatter and bustle which annoyed her greatly. Daisy was loudly and nervously trying to engage Thomas in conversation and in response he was ignoring her. Mrs Hughes was fussing over the week's menu with Mrs Patmore.
It was all incredibly tedious.
O'Brien sighed to herself and continued on, unaware that her prayer for a different life had been answered in the most unexpected of ways.
Lady Grantham's bell rang for the dressing room; the noise seemed to jerk the servant's hall awake.
Her footsteps echoed around the hall as she swiftly made her way through the house to attend her charge. O'Brien smoothed her dress down, ridding herself of the non-existent creases in the stiff black fabric. Mr Lang, the nervous valet, passed her on his way down the stairs and shot her a brief nod of recognition. O'Brien nodded back, un-smiling; friendship had never been her strong point.
Lady Edith Crawley lay wrapped up in her bed clothes, which were currently her favourite cream cotton with pink embroidery. Lazily she traced the bumpy material and brushed her hand through her blonde hair, twisting it around her finger in boredom.
Slowly she dragged herself from the comfort of her bed and padded across the cold room to the frosted windows, with all the grace of a high born lady Edith swept back the curtains slightly and lent against the windowsill. Watching the mist over the estates vast grounds she yawned loudly.
She longed for excitement. For adventure.
A dry laugh escaped her lips.
Was it too much to ask for some attention? Edith bit back a scowl as she thought of her beautiful older sister. It was so terribly unfair. It was all about Mary; who she was to marry, the estate, even the money was all for Mary.
Poor Edith, she let herself slip back into the familiar sad frame of mind.
Her nightgown was thin and she hugged herself, wrapping her thin arms about her. How she wished there was a man who could do that. Just once. That would be enough.
Dr Clarkson was having a busy day. Three patients had come in complaining of fever. Different ages, genders and none of them seemed to be showing any signs of getting better.
He had given them all medication.
He wiped his aching brow on his sleeve and thought over the unusual patients...something about this was not right.
The youngest of the sick was a girl, maybe 5 or 6 years old.
She wasn't from the village and, as yet, no parents had come to claim her. She could be a beggar he supposed, rubbing his tired temples with a natural reflex to thought, but she was dressed so nicely. With ribbons and a soft green felt coat.
He was so lost in though he didn't he the nurses screaming for him.
"She bit me! Good God, help me!"
The woman's voice was shrill and angry. The girl was pinned down to her bed by two other matronly looking nurses both fighting to keep the rabid girl's teeth away from their exposed skin. The young nurse held out her arm to Dr Clarkson and he, a trained surgeon, flinched at the gruesome sight.
The girl had literally taken a bite. A huge chunk of flesh was missing from the woman's forearm. The blood was now dripping noisy to the floor. Anne, for that was the nurse's name, blanched with a deathly pale glow to her face and stumbled into the nearest chair.
"Stitches, perhaps?" One of the nurses attempting to restrain the child called over to him. Her sharp voice brought him back to the girl and for the first time he looked properly into her face.
Her grey eyes were dead.
Her teeth snarled and she writhed against the women, not pulling away but rather bringing them towards her, snapping and growling like an angry dog.
This was not the feverish child he had checked an hour ago.
This was a demon.
One of the nurses screamed at him. No, at something behind him. Suddenly Clarkson was very aware of heavy breath against his neck. The last thing he saw before a searing pain poured though his body was the little dead girl biting the poor woman's finger off.
Sarah opened her eyes sleepily. The room around her was dark and dusty. She was lying on a bed, her bed. Fully clothed.
Too quickly she sat up and the world blurred before her eyes.
Slowly she pulled her legs up to her chest and hugged her knees, the action was comforting and brought some much needed warmth. She ignored the pain of her corset digging into her ribs, it was nothing compared to the pounding in her head.
The house creaked around her, empty and silent.
It was then that she remembered the blood splatters, the mess of her room...and the barricaded door. How had she come to be like this?
With the courage that she had lacked before Sarah slid uncomfortably off the bed and stumbled to the barricaded door. Her legs weak and resistant from the lack of food.
The chair slid away and she pulled the door back.
The hallway was dark, empty.
"Anyone there?" She called with more courage than she felt.
The silence looked back at her.
Her footsteps echoed loudly as she began to walk unevenly along the hall. The floor was dirty and sticky. At the top of the stairs she paused and looked back over her shoulder, aware of something watching her.
For some reason emptiness filled her, she felt, dare she say it? Lonely.
A wave of overwhelming emotion filled her and she laid her head against the cool wall for a moment to clear it. A lump stuck in her throat, where had everyone gone? Why would they just abandon her like this? She knew she was generally disliked but she hadn't realised she was hated so entirely Would she wake up from this nightmare in a moment?
Turning her head a little to feel the stone of reality against her cheek she open her eyes warily.
Next to her eye was a trail of bloody hand prints.
Sarah reeled back in horror and stumbled over her own feet. Running away from the stairs and back towards her room.
"Fer Gods sakes woman!"
The sound of her own voice scolding herself brought her to a sudden halt. It was as if her mind and heart were inwardly arguing with each other.
A light flickering caught her eye.
A dying candle from across the hall, behind the door that separated the men's quarters from the women's. The light caught the blood on the walls and floor, lighting it up with enthusiasm. The frosted glass had been smashed, making the terrible jagged shadows across the hallway.
Sarah shakily stepped up to the closed door and winced at the crunch of glass beneath her stockings. She could feel the crumble of little, sharp jewels but ignored them as the pain in her head worsened with the frantic beating of her heart.
There was something lying across the gentleman's hallway.
Head turned away from her.
The rest of the figure was mangled and horrific, raw flesh clung to the pale bone and blood oozed against the stone floor.
The flickering shadows made the body look as if it were moving, twitching this was and that. Sarah held down her nausea with a shaking hand.
Please God it was not Thomas. Or William. Or nervous Lang. Or foolish Mr Bates.
Or that damn Carson. Not that she cared anything for them…but she would never wish this upon anyone.
Sarah O'Brien closed her eyes for a moment. A silent prayer running though her veins, her hands clasped over her heart, cold and alone.
Let me wake up from this bloody nightmare.