Sam turned to the girl. She was watching him with that same smile on her face, but her eyes were a darker shade of blue.
He stood on the far corner of the elevator, as far as he could reach from her. Fortunately, the elevator itself was larger than normal.
“It’s quite late in the day, Sam, everything is closed for the night,” she said. “You should go back to your wife.”
“That’s all right, I just needed to stretch my legs.” He said, trying hard to keep down the images that tried to rise in his head at the reminder of Jess. He visibly shook.
“Well, I am sure you can manage within your suite. It has ample space to stretch your legs.”
“I also want to get some fresh air while I am at it. I thought I would explore the grounds of the hotel if that’s Ok with you?” he said.
“Of course! We’re here to accommodate all and any of our guest’s requests. So long as their ‘reasonable’” she said, placing added emphasis on the last word. “But wouldn’t you better be able to see all the beauty of the hotel in daylight. I can arrange for a tour personally and explain everything in detail.”
“Actually, I find that natural beauty really shines in the moonlight,” he said.
“But there’s no moonlight tonight. There is no moon at all outside.”
“Funny I remember seeing it on the way into the elevator”
“You must have mistaken,” she said, the smile never wained for a second. “I really must insist that you return back to your suite, Sam” she continued. “You don’t seem to look good, Sam” which was probably true. He had woken up in quite the huff and he could feel the sweat still covering his face. The images were also still playing in his mind; the girl not providing much of a distraction for him to forget what he saw.
“Let me help you back to your suite,” she said and started moving towards him just as he heard the bell announcing that the elevator had reached the ground floor.
Sam had no idea what she was planning to do. But he could see her edging towards him. Her slim and long fingers reaching towards him. He had a bad idea of what might come next.
He turned around in a flash, before she had gotten close enough, and slammed his fist against her face.
The elevator almost shook as she slammed hard against the wall on the other end. As the doors opened, Sam rushed out on to the lobby.
Sam had punched girls before. But then, they were not really girls, they were demons or monsters of some kind. Sam wanted to believe she was too:
‘But what if she wasn’t?’
He didn’t have time to worry about that problem then. What he had to worry about was what happened next. Sam knew that if the girl was waiting for him in the elevator there was a chance that there would be others waiting in the lobby. But he found that he was pleasantly wrong. The lobby was in fact empty. Even the reception desk lay vacant.
No guests, no staff, nor anyone else.
Sam turned back towards the elevator, but it was already closed. He couldn’t see inside to the girl. He knew she wouldn’t be down for long and that she would be waking up soon enough.
For a second he considered making for the reception telephones.
‘But who would he call?’
Somehow he doubted that there would be any help coming for him from the outside.
Instead, he started fast walking towards the main doors. His eyes darting all around him expecting at any moment for someone to rush in and stop him.
No one came.
He was at the doorway, and out the door when he heard the elevator doors open behind him.
For whatever reasons he turned and found the hostess standing in the elevator doorway.
“Where are you going, Sam,” she asked, only, the voice came from the doorway behind him and not from the elevator.
He turned to find her blocking the exit.
Her eyes were as dark as the night sky.
She reached out towards him again.
Sam moved fast and grabbed her wrists and pulled her hand away from his face. Her hands were soft and felt delicate, but still, he could feel the extraordinary strength in them.
He pushed towards her. Moving fast so she would have no time to react.
He grabbed her and pulled her towards him. One hand across her waist pinning her and one of her hands and the other pinning her other hand against her chest.
Her hair was touching his face, and he could feel the rich texture of it and the sweet aroma that flowed from it. She was unlike Alice, everything about her felt commercial. Her face was untouched and pristine. No sign to show that she was punched. It took him back for a second.
“What do you think you’re doing Sam?” she asked. All sense of friendliness had disappeared from her voice. He could feel her tone shattering. “Who do you think you’re running from?”
“I don’t know. But I plan on finding out. I also plan on finding out just what you’re doing here and I’m not going to let you stop me” he said and pushed her away.
She went a few steps backwards before falling on to the ground. She lay there for a few seconds staring down at the floor.
Then she started to laugh. It was a creepy sound that seemed to vibrate through the whole hotel. Sam felt a strange feeling of dread fill him.
He found he couldn’t move.
All he could do was stand where he was, staring at her laugh; as she sat on the floor staring down at its marble floor.
“You’re right, Sam,” she said turning her head towards him.
Her body still faced away from Sam, but her face was once more turned towards him. Her locks fell across her face like a gold veil on fire. From behind those gold curtains, he could see her dark blue eyes glaring at him and the smile etched on her doll-like face. But the smile that was there was different. It was not the smile she had before. There was no sense of friendliness in them, not even a fake one. Instead, it was a twisted sneer of a smile. As if someone had carved a Glasgow smile on her face; stretching from ear to ear.
It scared him more than anything he had seen before.
He took a step back, but that was as far as he got before he froze again.
“I can’t stop you. What can feeble little me do against a formidable, strong man like you?” she said, still smiling.
Sam could no longer feel his heartbeat.
“But then, they can,” she said. Her smile, somehow, growing bigger like the smile of the Cheshire Cat.
Sam looked away from her and raised his head.
And in the distance behind her, he could see two men making towards him.
The two men were dressed in bland security uniforms; towering behemoths like men who, even from where he stood, he could tell easily towered over him. The men’s shirts seemed ready to burst from the force of the muscles that strained against the material. They looked formidable enough to burst through the walls that formed behind them. Like bouncers on steroids.
Sam had no doubts that a hand to hand battle would be decided in their favour. Maybe if he still had his powers he could have put up a fight. But with no weapons, the two men could easily snap him in two.
He turned away from the two guards and back to where the hostess had lain. But when his eyes turned to the spot he found it empty. He turned around him but couldn’t find any trace of her.
He fought the panic and turned his attention back towards the two security guards that were slowly closing in on him.
Sam searched around him for any other possible way out or even any kind of tools to use against the guards. The armchairs in the lobby looked too big and heavy for him to lift, and the coffee tables looked too bulky. He could possibly run back into the hotel and find another exit, but…
Suddenly he felt a soft, gentle, touch on his shoulder, and a voice near his ear calling out his name.
Sam turned, his fist raised ready to punch the blue-eyed girl, but then froze when a scream greeted him.
Sam found himself staring at two troubled hazel brown eyes.
“Alice!” he remarked almost involuntarily
“Sam what is going on, what are you doing here?” she asked. Her smile was gone and so was the joy that was there before.
Sam turned away from her towards the two guards.
“There is no time to explain,” he said and grabbed her wrist.
He turned towards the doorway and rushed out; dragging Alice behind him.
He paused halfway down the marble pathway as the two behemoths had already reached the steps leading up to the walkway.
He turned around him and then dragged Alice towards the side. Over the small and intricately carved parapet wall. Clearing it in a single bound.
Fortunately, he heard Alice’s feet splashing on to the water of the small moat that ran around the hotel walls. He hadn’t realized what risk he was taking just leaping like that with the poor girl dragging behind him until he felt the relief at the sound of the splash.
However, he didn’t have the time to look back and make sure she was OK.
Instead, he pushed on.
The two guards were already turning away from the walkway and towards them.
He wanted to run. But, even though the water was just ankle deep, the bottom of the moat was very slippery. He didn’t want to take a risk of Alice falling down and hitting her head on the edges of the moat.
So he slowly waded through the moat until he reached the other end.
Fortunately, the two guards didn’t seem to be in a hurry to reach them. So Sam and Alice managed to reach the other end before the guards reached them.
By the time Alice was over the sides of the moat, however, the guards were on to them.
Now, up close and personal, Sam could get a good look at the two. Though he wished he hadn’t. There was nothing different about them at first glance. But, in his state, Sam saw everything with unnatural clarity. And he saw that the men’s faces were inhumanly calm and still. But more importantly, their eyes were ghostly pale; not demonic white but still inhuman.
From the way they moved and reacted, it hit him.
They were mindless drones. Created to do the heavy lifting.
However, even with their stiff movements, Sam barely survived a wild thrashing from one of the zombie guards. He ducked as the massive hand swung hard at him. The wind that it created struck him as hard as a slap.
The creature let out a heavy moan as it missed.
Sam didn’t want to give it a second chance to get him.
Still holding Alice, he rushed down the gravel roadway towards the massive gates. Running as fast as he could without putting too much strain on Alice.
As he ran, however, he couldn’t help but notice that it was, in fact, a moonless night. The only light came from the stars above.
The guards continued to amble along after them and they managed to reach the gates without any further troubles.
He stared at the heavy wrought iron gates, stretching high above him. Then turned towards Alice and the distant guards.
“We need to climb this,” he said and then turned down at her feet. He realized that she was still barefoot. Sam felt like an idiot. He made her run through the gravel and didn’t even bother to make sure she had some kind of footwear. The hard pebbles must have caused much pain on her soft soles.
He then turned towards the wrought iron gate. It was unlike most gates of its type. It had an iron back that prevented anyone from seeing what lay beyond. He wondered if it was meant to prevent those outside to see in or those inside from seeing out. But whatever its purpose there was an obvious problem. There was not much foot space between the heavy iron body and the iron carvings. What space there was there were a few sharp edges close together that could cause trouble for her soft bare skin.
‘How could he ask her to climb this?’
“Sam,” she said as he turned back to her. She must have sensed his dilemma because she immediately turned and walked towards the gate.
Sam wanted to stop her but he couldn’t find the words to say anything.
However, he found himself even more speechless as she, instead of climbing the gate, merely pushed them open.
“This is not the Hotel California,” she said as Sam stared at the open gates and the world beyond. His eyes open wide, surprised.