Chapter 10: Violet
My breathing was only coming in shallow gasps. The floor beneath me was damp and cold and my muscles ached. I didn't know how long I'd been down here. The basement was large, hot, and damp. There were so many rooms it was a miracle I hadn't gotten lost, running down here in the dark. Pipe water would drip now and then, but I had managed to find a place that was mostly dry. All of the heating mechanisms for the entire hotel were down here as well.
I didn't know how long I'd been down here. After Poppy had killed Raven and chased after Rosalie I had panicked and found myself down in the basement. I'd tripped over the skirts of my dress and tumbled down the last few steps, getting up and then running as far as I could until a collapsed in a dark corner. I must've fallen asleep, for when I got up on my hands and knees I could hear my bones cracking. I went up to rub the sleep out of my eyes and remembered too late the excessive amounts of eyeliner I had put on.
I pulled my hands away to find black smudges on them and was glad there were no mirrors nearby. Getting up, my foot bumped against a small tower of cardboard boxes. One of them fell over, spilling its contents; books mostly, and a few pieces of paper. One volume in particular slid across the floor, a dark red one with a tattered cover and yellowing pages.
I bent down and picked it up, my curiosity getting the better of me. Opening up to the first few pages, I noticed that everything was completely hand written in ink. Some paragraphs were accompanied with images, some of which were very odd and disturbing. I recognized a drawing of a Ouija Board, the instructions on how to perform a séance, different ceremonies to worship the devil. Not fazed at all by its contents, a thought occurred to me and I started rapidly flipping through the pages. I caught my breath when I found what I was looking for: Exorcisms.
Maybe I can somehow rid Poppy of her…condition, I thought. I read over the instructions and looked at the picture. The pages were crumbling at my hands, they were so old. The pages said I needed holy water and some sort of Christian symbol, such as a cross or a statue of Mary, and that Poppy would need to be lying down, tied to a bed somewhere. I didn't know where I would get those things, let alone get Poppy tied to a bed.
I squinted in the dark to see the writing better. There was a dim light bulb hanging from the ceiling near the front of the room, providing just enough light to see. I suddenly heard a thump coming from upstairs, something (or someone) falling, probably, shaking the bulb. I stood completely still, not daring to breath. After a few minutes of silence I breathed a little more easily and continued to study the pages. Maybe just using natural water would work instead of "holy water". There was a lake behind the Verthollow Hotel, I might be able to get some water from that.
But what if Poppy is up at the top of the stairs, ready to bring an end to your very existence? The voices in my head had begun to talk to me ever since last night, and they hadn't let up. She won't, I promise you. Just walk up the stairs. Sometimes another voice talked back- my own voice of reason.
I started walking up the concrete steps, book in hand, both palms sweaty. My heart was going a mile a minute and I had to bite my lip to keep myself from breathing too heavily. The sound of my own breath was known to scare me. Seeing dead things and feeling fear usually gave me pleasure, but now that I knew I was utterly alone with a possessed little girl in the mountains, the unease started to truly sink in. When I got to the top of the steps I put my hand on the doorknob.
You could turn back now, The voice said, Stay down here forever, This gave me the courage to twist the knob and open the door. I poked my head into the hallway and breathed a sigh of relief when all I saw was the ugly gray walls and the lone elevator. Creeping out, I reached out and pressed the "Up" button. A thought suddenly occurred to me, What if Poppy is inside the elevator? What if she sees the elevator moving and decides to wait for me to come out? The dinging sound of the doors opening broke my thoughts and before I knew I had stepped in.
Clutching the book to the underside of my arm, I pressed the "1" button and slid my body up against the side wall next to the doors. I could feel my heart drop as the elevator started moving up and then come to a halt. It dinged again and the doors opened. I waited a second, then peeked around the corner. The lobby was empty and neat, undisturbed. The only signs of humans ever being here were the lit chandeliers and other lights that illuminated this site of death. I took a few steps out of the elevator and spotted the door that would lead to the back of the building where the lake was.
But what am I going to carry the water in? I thought. There might be a bottle I could use in the kitchen, but was I really going to risk going into a labyrinth full of knives? I decided I would, if it meant saving Poppy and myself. It was already too late for Raven, who's insides were still rotting upstairs. And for my mother. I shivered and my vision blurred. Taking another look around, I ran quietly to the kitchen doors and, closing my eyes, pushed them open. I was met with a blast of cold air and my eyes shot open. There was no breeze coming from everywhere, nor did anything look out of place or tampered with. I began looking through cabinets, trying to find a cup or water bottle.
I was reaching the back of the kitchen, having no luck, when I slipped on something. I grabbed the nearest counter to steady myself and looked down. Parts of the floor seemed to be iced over, some of them connecting before my eyes, as if forming a trail. Following it, I came to the freezer door. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small water bottle lying on its side. I walked over to pick it up and heard an awful moaning sound. It was muffled, but it sounded like it was coming from inside the freezer. My heart stopped.
The moan came again, followed by a soft scratching noise. I dropped the book and the bottle and ran over to the large table of knives. As I reached for the handle of one of the bigger shears, the moan came again, louder this time. I ran back over to the huge door and noticed that more ice had come out of the bottom. I grabbed the handle and swung it open as best I could, the knife thrust out in front of me. As the visible air came hissing out I took a step forward, my arm shaking, my eyes straining to see what was in front of me.
When the mist cleared I was surprised to see nothing there. Then again, the freezer was huge, with rows and rows of shelves containing various meat. If there was something in there, I decided I wouldn't stick around to find out. The moan suddenly came again and I screamed, dropping the knife and dashing back outside. I scooped up the bottle and the book and ran as fast as I could toward the door that would lead back to the warm lobby. I came outside, my hands dropping to my sides, my breath coming out in gasps. I noticed that while I was in the freezer I tear had frozen to my cheek and was now melting. I wanted to fall and cry, but then I remembered Poppy. She would've heard me scream in the kitchen and was probably coming for me now.
As I thought this I suddenly heard a door slam from the second floor and footsteps running above me. Without thinking I ran to the back door, going faster than I had in the kitchen and bursting out into the nice sunny outdoors. I dropped the book onto a table the guests would've normally used to eat outside. Where are the other guests, anyway? the voice asked, That seems like something you should be worrying about I pushed the thoughts away and continued to run down the hill to the lake, bottle in hand. When I got there I immediately dashed behind a weeping willow and found a spot where I could collect water without being seen from any windows in the Verthollow. After I gathered some water and closed the lid I slumped against the tree, finally letting myself cry a little. I wiped the tears from my eyes and took a deep breath, looking up at the tree and the sky. If all of this hadn't been happening, I could almost imagine it was a normal summer day.
A normal summer day. Something told me I wouldn't experience one of those again.
I got up again once my breath was under control. I ran back to the hotel, picking up the book along the way. I remembered what I'd heard above me and slowed down before I opened the door to go back inside. Silently praying, I opened the door and took a step in. No one was there, although there was a change in the atmosphere. Everything seemed…quieter. I told myself that wasn't possible, there hadn't been any noise in the first place.
I felt like I was afraid to breath. Every step I took could lead me to my untimely death. I knew where I had to go next: upstairs. There was no avoiding it. I ran along the wall until I came to the back stairwell. I opened the door and was met with the dismal gray walls and red plastic stair-covering. I quickly made my way up the steps, careful not to make too much noise. I got up to the second floor and hesitated, remembering the sounds I had heard. I decided to go up one more flight, just so I could prepare myself before I faced Poppy. I got to the next landing and to the door to the 3rd floor. I opened it and began walking to one of the rooms I knew was vacant. As I passed by the bathroom I thought of Raven. I felt myself start to throw up, but I held it back, knowing that any extra noise would alert Poppy.
I came to room 328 and just as I opened the door I remembered something; the Christian object. Where could I get something that could help? I asked myself. And then it hit me, We hung tiny crosses at the back of the bathrooms for good luck, My mother had considered them good luck tokens and had decided to place one in rooms that she knew people would go in the most. I turned around and saw the closed bathroom door.
I walked over cautiously, the horrid smell of vomit and decay beginning to reach my nose. I took a deep breath, squinting my eyes, and thrust open the door. I quickly walked over the back of the room, trying to ignore the sensation of stepping on things that weren't originally there when the bathroom was built. I yanked the cross off of the ring on the towel dispenser and ran back to the door, almost slipping on liquids I didn't want to think about. I choked a little as I closed the door behind me, running back to the room. I had the cross, I had the water, and now all I needed was to prepare myself to get Poppy to lie still.
Book, water, and cross in hand, I opened the door and took a step inside. There were no lights on, the only light that came into the room was coming from outside, filtered by the closed shades. The single bed was up against the back right corner of the room, which was unusual. As I got closer I noticed there was a small lump in the bed, almost human shaped. I started feeling dizzy as I approached. I put my hand on the covers and pulled them back, revealing Poppy as she reached up with both hands and scratched my face.
She snarled and I screamed, but I jumped on top of her and tried to pin her down. Poppy thrashed wildly, screaming, her eyes rolling into the back of her head. My blood dripped down from my face onto hers, but she didn't seem to care. "Mother fucker!" She screamed, "You bitch! You fucking bitch!" As my grip around her wrists tightened I could feel them getting hot. I let go of one of them and reached for the bottle of water. Poppy screamed as I twisted off the lid and doused her face. Her face twisted into one of agony and steam covered my vision for a second. I grabbed hold of the cross and, not really knowing what to do with it, pressed it into her forehead. The area around it seemed to glow red and Poppy screamed again.
Then, suddenly, she stopped. Her body went completely still and her eyelids folded over her eyes. Shaking, I stood up, dropping the bottle and the cross. I suddenly started to feel relieved, but something in the back of my mind was trying to get attention. Oh my God, I thought, I forgot something. There was something in the book I had forgotten. There three things I had to do, including the water and the cross. I reached for the book and flipped to the spot I'd had marked. But the page wasn't there.
What was left was a few yellow scraps that clung to the binding, but that was all. I looked over at Poppy, who had begun vibrating. Soon, the whole room started shaking and the door slammed shut. Poppy sat up suddenly and shrieked. I screamed and ran for the door. I pulled open the door and slammed it behind me, just as I heard a dull thump against the other end. As she banged against the other side of the door, it came to me that I had nothing the bar the door with. Hoping that she wouldn't notice I was gone and just think that I'd locked her in, I left the door and took off running for the stairs. I didn't bother with the back stairs, I just took the main ones.
I got down to the lobby and didn't hesitate to get to run out the front door. My mother's purse was a few yards away from her shredded corpse and I tried to ignore the remains as I dug inside, looking for her keys. I found them and got up, running over to her car and starting the ignition. I slid in and shut the door, hearing Poppy's screams from outside start to get louder. I pounded the gas and sped away, not taking one last look back. Maybe I could get help in the city, someone might know what's going on.
As I headed toward Reyesent, it occurred to me that similar things might be going on down there too. Maybe I should try to get away from Washington, I thought, /iYeah, I need to get away./i I switched my direction and got on the deserted highway that led from Reyesent to the next city over.
I knew I was going well over the speed limit, but I didn't think anyone was going to stop me. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the sign "Walden County, 1 mile away". As I drove that mile I kept on thinking of what I was going to do when I got out of this nightmare. It had been less than 24 hours, but already my family and closest friend….
I decided I wasn't going to think about the past, only what was ahead of me. And as my car came to a slow stop, I realized that I really should be thinking about what was ahead of me. The road just stopped. At least, the parts I could drive on. My car had stopped a few inches away from an ocean. Only a few inches away the road, the earth around it, all of it just stopped, and beyond it was a never ending body of water that stretched out infinitely in all directions. There was nothing on the horizon.
As Violet began the drive back to Reyesent, her new hopes of a life outside this city shot, she lived unaware that everywhere in the country, every town was facing the exact same problem.