Chapter VI: The HotelNo wonder the builders assumed the place was haunted. From the outside, the hotel was grim and forboding, stark sandstone walls illuminated badly by the moonlight and lamps.
I entered the guardhouse and took the key off the wall, then stood in front of the hotel, looking up at the solid oak doors.
I squared my shoulders, and began to walk up the stairs. The sooner I did this, the sooner I could be on my wa-
I was jolted out of my reverie by a sudden flash as the bulb on my right shattered, sprinkling me with fragments of old glass. Dumbstruck, I brushed the tiny pieces off my shoulder, out of my hair.
Pure coincidence, I told myself. I knew that all this stuff about hauntings was exaggerated. Ignoring my shaking hand, I unlocked the door.
I stepped into the hotel, closing the door behind me, cautiously surveying the room. The lobby was grand, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, every crystal still intact. Seemed unusual, giving what I knew of builders. A thick covering of dust lay over everything. In short, an old, unused building. Nothing to be worried about. Grab some personal possession, get out.
I spun to my left, gripping the handle of the .38. That was definitely a woman's scream. It seemed to come from right next to the door to the bar. I walked over there, investigating. There was no sign of a woman anywhere, and the sound had come from this side of the door. I tested the door, which felt bolted from the other side. Unusual, for the type of building, and the time it was built.
Alright kid, the atmosphere is getting to you. That and Therese's bullshit. What next, a mummy coming out of the bar, whisky in hand? Get a grip.
I walked back to the main foyer, my footsteps echoing in the silent building.
The chandalier dropping from the ceiling was definitely unexpected. I jumped back, a startled cry issuing from my lips. I'd looked at the chandaliers carefully when I had entered. There had been no sign of any bolts coming loose, of the plaster cracking around the base. Yet here it was, now a smashed and crumpled ruin. I stepped closer to investigate. Running a hand along the chain to the base, I found that the bracket affixing it to the ceiling was bent. The bolts still firmly in place. It was if someone had wrenched it from the ceiling and thrown it to the floor.
I stood slowly, and called out.
No response. I began to step up the stairs to the upper hallway.
Creak. Creak. Creak.
As I stepped onto the fourth step, I felt an itching sensation crawling up my spine. The same insight I had experienced when talking to the man in the diner came to me again, and several objects in the room glowed with a pale blue light. Hesitating, I looked down. The step I was standing on also glowed that colour.
Desparately, hopelessly, I attempted to jump up the remaining stairs. Such an attempt was folly. With a tortured groan, the stairs collapsed under me, and I fell into the cellar in a mass of broken woods, sharpened splinters piercing my skin as I fell through them, decades old dust settling like a mantle over me.
I groaned, sitting up, looking up.
The stairs I had been standing on, and only those stairs, had completely given way. The boards underneath the others were still secure, not even a hint of damage. That was foul play. Even worse, it was foul play that I could not detect until each trap was sprung. But who was setting the traps?
The only way from here was down a narrow corridor. Both doors in the cellar were locked. I uneasily made my way down the corridor, coming to a crossroads.
I stopped, listening as a voice carried up from my left.
'No, please no! Oh god oh god oh god...PLEASE NO!'
The image of a terrified woman in white ran past, down the corridor to my right, where she faded. So, Therese was right, and spirits were very real. I sprinted up the corridor, turning right, heading in the direction the woman disappeared in.
This led me into an empty store room. The bricks around one corner of the wall were loose however, with a small beam of light coming through a crack. Using my tyre iron as a lever, I pulled the bricks out, and carried on through to the next room. This room was as empty as the last, save for a newspaper discarded on an overturned desk. I picked up the newspaper, scanning over the headline with a growing sense of displeasure.
I shuddered. Dropping the newspaper, I made my way to the door, which easily opened as I turned the handle. I stepped out, stunned. I was back in the main cellar chamber. I turned again. This door was definitely locked mere minutes ago. I watched in nauseous horror as the other door also slowly creaked open, as if inviting me to enter. What choice did I have?
I was in the laundry room. Washing machines covered almost every inch of floor-space, organised into rows. Dryers were mounted on three of the four walls. Remembering the picture from the newspaper, I determined which dryer was the one photographed. I moved towards it, my breath drawing in short, panicked gasps.
C'mon, get a grip! Not like you need to breathe anyway!
Untouched, the dryer door creaked ajar. Closing my eyes, I ripped the door open, looking in, expecting to see a severed head. Instead, all that I found was a key.
Boiler room. That must have been at the end of the corridor I was walking down initally. I headed in that direction, watching for any further signs of paranormal activity.
I unlocked the door at the end of the corridor, and stepped onto a small stairway which glowed an ominous red.
I crept down the stairs, unsure of what to expect. I had come into a generator room, with giant pipes on either side of the room, dwarfing the walking space.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
I looked up, trying to determine what that noise was.
Footsteps! Coming from behind the pipes in front of me. I looked closely, attempting to determine where they were coming from.
A man! Coming towards me! His hands stained bloody, carrying a large axe. I raced around the pipe to confront him. The idea that there was another person here, no matter how psychotic, seemed almost comforting.
No-one there. I should have assumed as much. Desperation does strange things to a guy's head.
'Right, that's it!', I yelled out. Unnecessary, perhaps. Stupid, most likely. 'I'm sick of all this supernatural crap! Stay out of my fucking way and I'll be gone, alright?'
I waited. Silence.
Sighing, I walked to the end of the room and flicked the large switch, causing the boiler to heat and the generators to come back into humming life.
The corridor had lit up, lights-by-rail illuminating the hall. I walked the only way I hadn't gone yet, praying that there was a way out of here.
Puzzled, I turned the corner.
An elevator. The doors had opened just as I had come to the bend. I knew by now that nothing was happening here by coincidence. Knowing this made me dislike the idea of stepping into this steel cage. Knowing that it seemed to be the only way out wasn't much of a consolation though. Lesser of two evils. I stepped inside.
The lift opened up onto the second floor, above where the stairs had collapsed. The painting ahead of me had begun to shake violently.
Without hesitation, without thought, I unholstered the .38 and fired a round off into the painting. It immediately stopped shaking. Maybe my act of futile, petulant defiance had actually paid off. I walked past it, out on to the main corridor, and winced as shards of the picture frame penetrated my head and neck.
I guess not.