Chapter 1: Mind The Thirteenth Floor
The door slammed open, rebounding off the wall hard enough to cause dust to fall from where it hung from the ceiling. The hotel hallway was dark, even when I hit the lights the area seemed a bit too dim and a bit too yellow, giving off an air of stale age.
Floor thirteen of the WestCreek Hotel was the unused floor thought haunted and cursed by its own superstitious owners and half the small city of WestCreek Texas. It’s a good thing as the CEO of MatthewsCorp’s American division I was a man of science, not blind belief and superstition.
A deep voice cleared behind me and I turned to see two brawny young Half Humans, bear variety, staring at me in question while they attempted to balance a giant wolf head that seemed to stretch out of a picture frame. Half Humans where normal in this city, it was the one city in Texas they seemed comfortable in after the wars not being the most acceptable place when it came to people who were not rich white humans.
I am a rich white human, but I didn’t count myself of that crowd.
Flashing a thin smile at the two young men I waved them in, “Sorry, if it fits through the door take it to the back of this hall where it’ll watch from the shadows till the unsuspecting get too close.”
One of the guys flashed a sharp toothed grin back at me while the both of them, brothers for a local movers company, struggled to get the giant thing through the door and down the hall, trailing the electrical and pneumatic cords and tubes that would cause hydraulics to move the beast.
While they worked I took a small tour around the dusty corridor, the main hall was long, a good forty or fifty feet, with an intersection every dozen feet or so that broke off into six foot long hallways surrounded by dozens of rooms. The interior was up to date with the rest of the open hotel, but its dusty walls and yellowing lights kept it feeling old and unused
I opened a single rooms red front door, inside was a small, cozy, bedroom with a queen sized bed and a television. On the far wall was a white door that was chained shut which could be opened up into another hotel room to connect rooms for multiple parties staying together. During the party all of the red and white doors would be propped open allowing me for one giant sectioned party room.
It was good to be rich, you could afford a dozen friends, lavish parties, and to pay an elderly Half Human couple who owned a hotel so much that they reluctantly granted you use of a floor they were sure was going to kill you. I tried to feel unsettled about the allegedly haunted room, it was how I wanted my guests to feel, but the feeling escaped me.
The lights buzzed and flickered rapidly, which was a good way to make someone feel unsettled. There was a loud, long hiss, like steam escaping, and a low growl over the high pitch whirr of something small and mechanical moving. My imagination was able to conjure up a werewolf, a killer cyborg, and the boiler room of a certain sharp clawed child killer.
That was better, it wasn’t even dark and I was already improving the room’s atmosphere. Turning I watched one of the movers walk towards me while the other walked side to side at the end of the hall watching the wolf creature follow his movements precisely.
“It’s hooked up boss,” the older bear said, constantly smiling, it was the smile of someone hoping they had pleased their boss, but Half Humans sure did have some sharp teeth.
“Good, get the lights ready to go but keep the real ones on, we’ll set the mood after catering has arrived.
The halls where dark, lit sparsely by the original yellow lighting down the halls in just the right areas, the D.J. booth, the snack bar full of Halloween themed snacks, like ground ham molded to look like sections of throats covered in bar-b-q sauce, and of course the rest rooms. The rest of the halls and the rooms where lit by red and green track lights, keeping it dark enough to be spooky, and dangerous to walk. It was a party stocked with alcohol of different kinds I’m sure was meant to numb you from the music with base that thrummed so loud about an hour into it I was sure my brain was going to melt right out of my ears.
The place was packed, especially for a party in this tiny town, made mostly of my own employees, their adult relatives and friends. It was a loud, fun, and friendly party. Every few rooms people where engaged in various activities, horror video games where in quite a few rooms, other’s displayed cheesy horror flicks you’d balk at while watching yet fear while trying to sleep later. A rabbit man with big white shoeless feet, one of the many employees I didn’t know the names of, at a pong table playing beer pong with his friends, only judging by the state of their inebriation and stench of the table, they were playing with something stronger than beer. Somewhere under all of the party noise, in the only closed room of the entire joint, somebody was wailing to Karaoke, I could barely make out the words to a famous Halloween ballad, though the singer couldn’t hold a candle to the recently dead pop star.
On the front of the D.J. booth where a crow woman was currently shuffling through records while her booth auto played a digital track I eyed the time, it was just turning eleven, one hour till we sprung the surprise. The D.J. chose her next record, I couldn’t read it well in the dim lighting but I recognized the robotic helmeted artists, the cheeks at the sides of her beak pulled up while she went to work, her version of a smile I had admired many times.
I first expected something amiss when I saw someone that didn’t belong. Busy drinking a cola and whiskey near the D.J. booth, where I and the few knowledgeable people with me, the two movers, the D.J., and my assistant manager who was keeping a close eye on the front door for me, would most likely hide during the chaos I was about to unleash.
Suddenly the few hotel lights flickered, each second they were off I noted that none of the other lighting let out enough glow to be safe, throwing the party into near darkness. No one seemed to have noticed the lights, but after the last blink I saw him. He was just shy of six feet, in dark leather and jeans with long curly hair that was bald at the top and muscles bulging under sun baked arms. He was human, which was such a rarity in my company that I was supposed to be the only full human at the party.
I blinked, watching him walk down a stretch of hall, catching only a glimpse of his face in the shadows, his downturned frown pulled hard at his muscle toned face. He looked like a hells angel about the beat the shit out of somebody.
I turned to the D.J., who was reading a manga about assassins while her booth blared out scream rock featuring a woman singer, “Don’t start the party without me.”
She nodded but I doubted she heard me, still I had to find that man, find out who he was and why I didn’t know him. Walking away the list of people coming in what they wore played through my head, making sure I wasn’t just about to harass some guy legitimately at my party. Some half humans looked human enough to pass, maybe he was a guest and under all that black material that screamed either Harley, or hurt me, he was hiding a friendly puppy tail.
But what I had seen of that face hadn’t seemed friendly at all.
Turning down the hall he had I had fallen far enough behind him to lose track. Along the wall just to my right was a Dalmatian lady who giggled while her mostly human looking boyfriend, with floppy golden dog ears himself, sucked on her neck. Clearing my throat got the reaction of them jumping to a stand and turning towards me, the human skinned one blushing, like they were kids caught necking in the high school highway.
Rolling my eyes at them with a smirk I looked around the otherwise vacant hallway, there were four doors, two on each side of the hallway, and each room opened into another room, the man had many ways to escape, “Did either of you see a large human looking guy in a bikers jacket walk past here?”
The more human one, Frank, or maybe Fred, shook his head, still blushing “I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Obviously,” I said arching an eyebrow at his date, she wasn’t one of my employees so she must have been his plus one, betting money said fling for the night or recent girlfriend, no one in a long relationship paid that much attention to their loved one at a party.
She shook her head, around us the music roared into a full death metal track with orchestral backing, forcing her to shout to be heard, “I saw a few people when I wasn’t… distracted, but no one that looked like that. Sorry.”
Shrugging I made my way past them, hoping the young lovers would keep to the no sex policy for the party, and chose the left door at random, coming upon the scene of a hero being decapitated by a chainsaw welding psycho with a paper bag over his head. A tuxedoed feline, his fur was black and white, he wasn’t way over dressed, cussed and threw his controller to the next in line. I would’ve asked if they noticed the man but once gamers where in their little world they noticed nothing else but it.
Flowing through the next room back into the main hall I came out just in time to see a jean clad leg attached to a black boot disappear into the deep darkness at the end of the hall. Whoever he was he didn’t seem to catch much of the red or green lighting throughout that area.
Staring after him in thought, an uneasy feeling rising in my chest, it didn’t take much for my second in command to make me jump by placing a hand on my arm.
“You ok boss?” The mostly cougar half human, dressed in a white dress shirt under a blue vest that sported white pinstripes, asked as I tried to still my heart.
“Yeah, did you let in a guy who looks like he belongs riding west on a hog?”
He squinted at me, “You mean a biker?” I nodded, Bridges did his best attempt to purse his lips around his feline muzzle, his brows lowering in thought, “Not that I know of, you welcomed everyone in with me and no one’s been in since.”
“You haven’t left your spot?” He shook his head, “Even to take a piss?”
“No sir, I’m not snacking or drinking and I went before I came.”
I felt my eyebrows rise in disbelief, “At all? It’s a party man.”
My assistant manager shrugged, “The moment those in charge start getting drunk all hell breaks loose. That plus we apparently have biker party crashers, I don’t want to face that drunk.”
I nodded, squinting into the darkness, damned my human eyes, “What do you see at the end of the hall.”
Bridges squinted, “It’s hard, the multiple color lights are screwing with my night vision, I see maybe four or five people in the hall, none of them are very clear but I don’t see your biker, and I see that creepy fucking thing watching them like its hungry.”
I smirked ,”Maybe it ate him.”
Bridges frowned at me, “Not funny, I seriously hate that thing. Hey, if you need help radio me, and I’ll rush right over.” His brows creased in worry “Less it ate him, then I’m staying put.”
Shaking my head at him with a smile I started my way back, passing the D.J. again still deep in her book, the red LED clock read five minutes to midnight and this biker jackass was going to ruin my fun. Heading past the great smelling gore food I passed out of the bright yellow lighting into the horror section of our halls, I could hear the beast on the far wall growl as hissing hydraulics turned it to watch my approach.
It took a moment for my human eyes to adjust, throwing me into complete darkness filled with echoing voices, bad singing, and a monstrous growl. When finally shapes faded out of the nothing I looked around the six before me, a group of costumed people, the only group that seemed to have come in Halloween costume, and the dark mass on the far wall which watched me with hungry illuminated yellow eyes.
A black cat ironically dressed up as a witch, carrying a wooden straw broom, and a flat human face dotted with a pink nose, turned to me.
“Mr. Derricks,” she said walking over to me, her gate was a little loose giving her a sway which was a little past seductive, leaving me to assume like most others here she had drank her fair share, “it is a bit creepy isn’t it?” She glanced back at the barely visible wolf on the wall, now that my vision had become the best it would I could see the nearby red track light shining off its black fake fur and its sharp white teeth.
“Yeah,” I said blinking, “Look, have…”
And it happened, we were thrown from somewhat dark into pitch black. Not a beam of light broke that darkness, the pretty co-worker in front of me gasped in both fright and surprise, which was, I’ll admit, a kind of erotic thing to hear. What drove otherwise sane men to want to hear women like that make whimpering sounds?
Shaking the sudden lust from my head I waited it out, any moment now it’d happen, the lights would flood on and the troop of actors I had hired would be here to scare the crap out of my guests with bloodied fake knives and a collection of horror movie masks.
Only the lights never came back on, for the longest it was just dark. Though I didn’t walk I felt as if the walls were closing in on me, my breath felt close, as if I was breathing onto one and it’s heated stink was blowing right back into my face.
Needing company to break this claustrophobic feeling I reached out without thinking for the woman I had just been speaking too, but folded my fingers around nothing but air. “Debra?” my voiced echoed in the silence of nothing, I couldn’t hear her or her friends chatting, shifting, or breathing. There were no sounds of feet stomping around, tails swishing, dishes clinking, or anyone at all.
“Hello!?” The hall echoed emptily, my heart seized the fear in my chest and fed it, cold welled up and stretched through my neck, becoming scrambling panic in my mind. Turning, my hand outstretched for anything I cursed loudly when it crashed knuckles first into the very nearby wall, then palmed it with both my hands while trying to feel my way around.
There was a whisper behind me and I turned, leaving the safety of the wall to face the pitch darkness, “This isn’t funny guys,” I said, my voice panicked edging with anger at the thought of having my prank turned about on me. “Ha ha, ok, it’s a little bit funny,” I conceded, “but I’ve had enough to drink and I’m about to throw up if I can’t get my bearing.”
Silence, the whisper had been short and didn’t continue, I waved in front of me, hoping to slap some jackass who was laughing quietly at me, but found nothing. Instead I backed up, into the familiar wall, missed half of it, and fell through a doorway onto my right temple on the carpeted floor.
I don’t care how plush carpet is, hitting the floor head first hurts like hell. Palming my head and cursing my luck I rose and crawled on my hands and knees until my face mashed into something firm and leafy. That wasn’t right, this place was unkempt and had no living foliage.
Pushing on it, the brush gave way and I fell through right into a dimly lit dirt path. The dirt path was damp and something that was half mud clung to my hands. “The fuck,” I muttered rolling back to my knees but keeping crouched, ready to take defense should someone come at me.
How had I gotten outside? My only plausible explanation was some jerk, maybe the biker, had slipped me something and out of my mind I raved right out of the party and right into a forest. Guess I was lucky I hadn’t raved right into someone’s bed to lose my anal virginity.
Something was wrong with the forest, it had the quality of irregularity, like a small piece of reality was stretched over a large area of space. The distance was blurry and too magnified, fucking drugs.
Standing I turned, and faced four trees like none of the others. I was in the Tall Tree forest north of the city, on the hill that rose over the city and held Old Town. Most of the trees around me were ponderosa, out of place naturally these pine trees with mud brown bark grew here for a reason no one knew, and they had flourished to become a thick forest, the trees on the dirt path ahead of me where not the same.
Equally as tall with cream colored wood and knots every few inches up, they held no foliage at least until their length disappeared into the rest of the thick foliage above me. They were spread in an odd equal distance, a pair about two feet apart from each other, the first pair about four or five feet before the second pair, between the back pair swung what appeared to be an ineffective wind chime, a spiral shaped wooden spindle hung on some kind of rope like string.
I shook my head, looked back towards the warped distance, which made my head spin and stomach churn, then looked back upon the trees, which gave me a start. Stumbling to my butt and quickly rising to my feet I backed up a good yard, which was still closer than I had been before. The trees had come upon me, yet aside from the spinning, swinging decoration there was no evidence of their movement. Instead, glancing back towards the disorienting distance, I noticed my own tracks walking up to this point.
Turning back as I stood I slammed right into one of the trees, spun into a fall and hit the damp earth with my side, watching the wooden spindle swing above me. “My face,” I croaked, between the floor earlier and this I was going to have a shiner on each side in the morning, people would say someone beat me.
Sitting up groggily, facing the blurred distance but no longer capable of walking since I was on my ass, I tried to organize my drug addled brain. These where trees, fuck the trees, the trees where no danger to me if I could keep myself from beating myself to death on them, the only danger to me was myself.
Then I heard something scrape behind me and turned.
The spindle was lying on the ground, a good inch of its rope loosely playing in the dirt. It was an odd and beautiful wooden thing for being so simple, domed at the top and coned at the bottom it was shaped not that different than some Christmas ornaments.
I picked it up, handling it with my right palm. It was warm, like a living thing, it held weight and moisture, and suddenly there was wooden creaking from all the trees around me. My eyes grew wide, realization dawned on me too late, before I could toss the bait away it spun with an impossible strength of its own, breaking my pinky as it spooled around my right hand.
I screamed, in both pain and fear, it wasn’t a macho scream either, I’m not sure anyone would have screamed like a man at this point. I tried to pull my hand out as its thread began to become taught, in an instant it dragged me between the back two trees from which the spool hung and began to lift me without a hint of effort.
I wanted to curse, I wanted to fight, but found myself frozen by fear, my heart beat loudly in my ears, all of a sudden my bladder cried for relief. Then I fainted, but only for a fraction of a second, still that sudden looseness in my body caught the thing off guard, my damaged hand slipped from its spindle and I hit the ground, waking myself from my fear fed nap.
Without a second thought I leapt to my feet, beating the path towards the brush I had come from as I cradled my injured hand, and fell through. I fell into clothing, out of a closet door, and hit the ground again.
The three guys playing the horror game leapt to their feet, one shouted in surprise, the lady in the room screamed like a masked killer had just gutted her.
I cursed at the pain in my pinky.
“Derricks?” the shouter, a mostly human man who looked fresh out of high school said, “I-I mean Mister Derricks?”
“Present,” I groaned on the floor.
The lady screamer helped me up, “What are you doing in the closet?”
“Getting lost, apparently.”
The group looked at each other, then the shouter looked back at me, “Are you on something?”
Laughing I shook my head, “I wish, it’d hurt less.”
The woman brushed my pinky with her hand and I brought it back with a hiss, “You hurt your hand?”
“Just jammed a finger in the fall, I’m ok, go back to your games.”
Without waiting to further my embarrassment I walked out of the room, nodded to my Assistant manager who glanced at me oddly, and walked back to the D.J. booth, where my feathered D.J. was still reading the manga.
“Manga aren’t that long,” I stated, “Are you reading it or sleeping?”
She glanced at me, arching a brow, looked at where I had been an hour ago, then back at me, “Where did you go? Why are you covered in dirt?”
I grinned, “Went to go get some fresh air, hit the dirt instead.” I wasn’t sure why I lied to her.
My best friend rose the cheeks behind her beak again, “Clumsy ass, did you hurt your finger?”
I showed it to her and she reached for it, the hand under her arm length wings, covered in soft feathers and softer skin, was careful, “Must have fallen on straight on it.”
Her right brow rose “Looks out of joint, not broken, your hand looks pretty beat up though. Here,” she grabbed the pinky and pulled, I heard things snap and had to stop myself from soiling my already dirty jeans.
She rolled her eyes at me, “Don’t be such a big baby, it’ll be swollen for a day or so but it won’t keep you from playing… whatever instrument you might play.”
Grimacing in pain I decided to sit, glancing around, keeping an eye out for the biker, wondering if he too had been an illusion, but if it had all been an illusion why where my pants covered in dirt?
“How’d it go?”
She arched her brow at me again.
“Midnight, the surprise?”
“Are you on something?” she said shaking her head and returning to her book.
“I’m beginning to suspect so,” I said blinking at the repeated question.
“It’s only eleven dork, you went out and hit the dirt but you didn’t land in a coma.”
I blinked at her, leaned over the counter to glance at the clock which read eleven thirteen, and sat. Was the entire party having me instead? Had the seemingly inter-dimensional trip through closeted forest been a trick or a hallucination of something slipped me?
I watched my best friend, still in the early pages of her book, and kept an eye out for our mysterious biker to make his play.
The biker never came back, instead a new man who hadn’t been on the list and I hadn’t seen earlier caught my eye. He was a good seven feet, at least, with gelled down hair that swirled up in the front like a bad nineteen eighties leather clad gang member. Only his outfit didn’t match his style, the tall strange man wore a white suit with grey pinstripes and a pink undershirt, I couldn’t decide if he was unfashionable or ahead of trends.
The first time I eyed him he just stood in the middle of the room, his hands in gloves as pink as his shirt fidgeting with a toothpick he was chewing to splinters, sign of a smoker. Like the biker he seemed to be fully human, though he seemed more bored than upset. He swept his brown eyes around the room, across me without pausing for a moment though I was staring directly at him, before moving down the hallway towards the closet I had spilled out of.
Checking the time I noted it was eleven fifty, ten minutes.
Turning to my best friend, and part time D.J., I found her asleep, something she hadn’t been doing last time I’d gone through this. Deciding against waking her I made my way for the hallway he had gone down. Of course the hallway, thought lit better than the lengthy end past the DJ booth was still dimly lit, and there was no sign of the intruder.
The couple where here necking again, but I ignored them, assuming they weren’t going to be any more help than before, backtracking in hopes of catching the guy.
I did, sort of. I ran into him and he pushed me down with one long arm, then he reached in his coat and produced something like a gun, but not. It was long, with a curved handle and curved slimmed nozzle, and seemed to be made of obsidian. I should have made my move, but I just waited for him to shoot me.
Instead he moved on, towards the darkened end of the hall past the DJ booth and into the shadows. Leaping to my feet, seeing that nobody else had noticed our altercation, I ran for him, afraid of catching him too late.
I was, the party’s lights shut down just on time, throwing me into complete darkness in which I tripped over a soft, furred, warm form. Touching the body it felt normal until I tried to touch its face, which was just bone, bone that, I thought as I touched it, felt like dry teeth.
I hadn’t heard him fire, assuming that this was a gun we were dealing with, and I couldn’t hear him walking, but I did hear something. I guess the best way to describe it was the hum of electricity an old refrigerator would make. With nothing else to lead me I crawled towards that sound, passing over more fur covered bodies and one that felt human.
After about six feet on my hands and knees the tip of my head cracked against a metal wall, with a curse my hands reached for the top of my skull, it hurt as bad as it did hitting ones funny bone. Blinking tears of pain out of my eyes I palmed the impossible metal wall and found a crease in the middle, it felt like an oddly thick elevator door. Grabbing each side with my hands, though my right one was still stiff and lightly swollen from when that wooden thing grabbed at it, I pulled. At first it didn’t give, it seemed whatever held the door shut was engaged, or maybe it was a powered door and with the power off it wasn’t operating.
I was about to give up and backtrack when the door parted only enough for my fingers to slip into the tiny gap to stick. I panicked, the door was squeezing all eight of my digits, minus my thumbs which had escaped entrapment, painfully.
I pulled but they felt like I was going to pull them, yet the longer they stayed in the little gap the more they lost feeling, either way it seemed I was on my way to losing almost all of my fingers.
I cringed and cried out in pain as I pulled again, my busted pinky screamed right back at me, and then the door I was stuck in buzzed and hissed open on hydraulics spilling out blue grey light and a cold fog that rolled across the ground. It said something in Dutch and I stumbled out of the dark into an octagonal metal hallway full of similar doors, and about ten degrees cold.
The moment I was in I started shivering, most people would shake their head at knowing how badly I react to cold, but as a Texas boy most of our state didn’t do cold, with our cold season lasting days. Looking left and right in the long hallway that was apparently some type of cooler I saw more and more doors and intersecting hallways, but no signs of life.
Of course what would live in a metal cooler?
Across from me was a black panel with long orange, brown and blue LED buttons, it reminded me of the digital buttons from the nineties Star Trek show I had watched as a child. Unfortunately it was all in a language I didn’t recognize, assuming by how the door had spoken to me earlier I’d say Dutch. I fumbled with the controls, which beeped and bleeped at me, before a voice spoke again.
“Why is it so cold?” I asked the foreign electronic man.
He spoke back to me in Dutch, but the screen had swiped aside some of its displayed buttons to show the universal number and measurement for negative ten Celsius, it was fourteen degrees in here. So it was below freezing and I was dressed for a party in air-conditioning of a super hot state.
I found the fact that my mind was freezing to death acceptable.
Moving down the frozen hallway, with no moisture to create ice anywhere and cause me to slip, I turned about three different directions before I realized I was becoming hopelessly lost.
Then I came across my first visible body. The fox boy was young, really young, really dead, and frozen like a Popsicle. He had a gaping gash in his stomach within the odd blue and grey uniform he was in, which exposed his intestines but none of them had spilled out. Due to his iced status, with frost fallen upon him, being the only source of moisture in the room, I had no idea if he was fresh, but the frozen bloody hand print on the door behind him told me it was here he had died.
Blowing a hot breath between my lips, not even glancing at his forgotten weapon, a pistol, I walked up to the door which didn’t react to me. I touched a lit panel to the side and again just fumbled with controls, but all it gave me was an angry buzz. Frustrated, and a little frightened I was in here with someone who’d gut me the same, I hammered on the door.
Something on the other side hammered back, slowly and more deliberately. I stepped back as the hammering became more violent, I saw dents push out of the door from several behemoth blows. The seal popped with a hiss and the doors midsection pushed open enough that I could hear what sounded like dry rock rubbing metal, like sound of somebody grinding their teeth.
I ran, it slammed again but I didn’t care to look to see if it had come through. I had forgotten the cold, my legs burned with adrenaline while they brought me around corner after corner. Originally shooting for my way in it was obvious after about six corners I was once again lost, but made the assumption that as long as the halls didn’t backtrack I was doing my best in this endless collection of hallways at escaping whatever had beaten its way through a thick steel door.
I slipped on the first patch of ice I’d encountered since coming into the cooler and went down hard on the frozen metal floor. Lying there, my spiked adrenal slowing, the cold caught up to me and numbed my senses against everything but the pain which seemed to sharpen. Sitting up I could see that the ice I had slipped in was red and had leaked from under a door. I could also see I had reached a dead end full of tinted windows in the wall opposite the door.
Using a window ledge to pull myself to a stand it was clear that I had been wrong, the windows were not tinted, the darkness was from beyond it. The darkness was nothing, the emptiness of the void that was space, with stars burning light years from whatever I was in, the only light outside the running lights that lit the metal hull of our craft.
I turned as the bone grinding sound mixed with the skittering noise of bugs came around the corner. My mind couldn’t get a grip on what it saw, it was horrible, and impossible. It was some kind of long round bone like creature, segmented like an earth worm with thousands of thick bone white legs. Instead of raising and lowering the legs to move it rotated them, like each was a propeller, to roll itself quickly forward, slowing when it came upon its prey.
I had no doubt that the sharp points at the end of its legs could have killed that boy, the ones at it fronts where twice its own height and about as long as my lower leg. I faced it, knowing now it was a game of chicken, eyeing the door where the blood leaked out from, my only way out.
The thing had stopped and skittered from side to side excitedly, about the size of a short medium sized dog, like a Corgi, there was no way safely past it, so I took my chance and ran. It rolled for me, just the sight of its segments spinning and it’s legs rolling made me break out in gooseflesh, I wanted to do nothing more than avoid the thing, thinking if it’d touch me it’d infect me.
I dunno why I thought that way, but it seemed to fit the horror movie motif I had been involved in lately. It was an alien in a space craft and if it touched me I’d become one, or birth one, or something.
My mind wondered again if I’d been slipped something and this was just a fitful dream or detailed hallucination, revenge for my attempted plans at scaring my own employees. My throbbing, chilled face helped me decide that there was no way this was a dream.
It reached the door first, leaping into the air to meet with me, or my face. When it was just about waist level I bent my leg back and forward in stomping motion, shoving my foot into the blank bony section where the things face should have been. There was the snap of bones, and it rattled angrily, like the tail of many a snake I’ve had to deal with in my own backyard, while it reached all of its forward legs, long and short, to tear off a section of my pants and rend my leg.
By the time I kicked the thing to the wall, where it lied twitching in shock, its legs still rolling while on its back, my leg was a torn, bloodied mess. A new surge of adrenalin pumping through me, I blocked out the pain in my leg, reached for the door, and pushed through. It swung out instead of hissing to the side, and once again I was in the game room, only this time was different.
The gamer crew was gone, the zombie game was still on screen, on it was a big You’re Dead sign in leaking blood signifying a game over, but the shouters and screamers and extras where all gone. Shouters and screamers, I thought, my workers and I couldn’t even place a name to their faces.
Exiting the room my second in command looked at me with wide eyed shock.
I nodded, “To the booth, there’s something wrong going on here.”
He eyed me before supporting me best he could with his short fingered paws as I limped my way back to the booth. It was quite, too quite, there was no muffled singing, no chatting, no partying or laughing, no giggling from a couple who where no longer necking on the wall. At the booth my best friend, the ironically named Raven, because her parents where bigger dorks than we were, was still reading her Manga, in fact she was still near the beginning, and once again the clock had rewound, eleven five pm.
At the thump drag sound of me creeping up to her Raven eyed me, frowning. Her eyes widened and she stood with enough force to noisily nock over the stool she had taken up all night… several times over.
“You’re leg, your hand! Where you attacked?” she nearly squealed at me.
Bridges set me down on my own stool, my adrenaline had gone and now I was all pain, “People seem to have gone missing, find who you can and come back here, quickly, it has to be before midnight.”
He nodded, unsheathed the claws on his right hand, and disappeared into the dark hallway. Pain shot through my leg and I grimaced glancing down, I don’t know where Raven had gotten a towel but she was using my small glass of whisky to clean the half dozen tear wounds on my leg.
“Some of these are not too bad but two of them are deep enough I can see bone, did a cat attack you?”
I shook my head, “It’s going to be hard to explain.”
“Try me,” She said, sitting back on her stool and tossing the bloody towel which smelled like whisky aside, so I did.
“I’d ask if you where on drugs… but.”
I nodded, “No drug in the world can do…” I watched the LED’s reflection in a picture across the hall hit twelve, the power went out, despite that I was sitting at the D.J. booth and neither of us had made a move.
Quickly I grabbed at Ravens hands, she squeezed back, an odd static sensation lit my palms as her soft feathers brushed my skin.
“What’s going on?” she squeaked.
“It’s happening,” I said tightening my grip, “but if we sit still maybe it’ll pass.”
We sat in the darkness, in the dead silence, and that’s when it got me. I should have heard my Assistant Manager rummaging for survivors, unless he had gone the way everyone else had.
“I can’t,” she said, breathing hard, “Oh Bran.”
I squeezed her hand, I knew of her claustrophobia, had been her strength on many an attack, this darkness was smothering me and I didn’t have such problems. Then it hit me, maybe we wouldn’t have to sit here, if I could move her through the darkness and to the entrance we could escape. I don’t know what would happen to all the others but I needed to get us out.
I rose, “Come on.”
“Where to?” she started, rising without a fuss despite her hesitant question. Leading, my free hand feeling its way along familiar halls, we dodged furniture and party supplies. We where only one intersection from the front door, so, towing her in hand, it only took us five minutes to arrive at it, and only that long because it was dark and I was limping.
The door opened into the party hall, bodies were piled everywhere, blood soaked the floor and walls in the dark atmosphere and copper scented the air. The metal record that had been playing around midnight was skipping.
Looking back with no recollection of having passed it I noted the door behind me was shut, Raven hadn’t come through, maybe she hadn’t been able to. My foot kicked a limp cold fur covered paw that belonged to Bridges, his throat had been cut, his right eye was hanging lose upon his bloodied muzzle from its socket on the bundled nerves and organic optic cables that lead into his brain.
With a sick feeling in my stomach I limped past the dead towards the DJ booth where I couldn’t see Raven. I realized now that I loved her, I had always loved her, and I wouldn’t be able to stand having something happen to her.
Passing up the game room I noted that the four where back, but they had been cut into several pieces, dismembered at the elbows, shoulders, knees, waist and neck, their parts spread about a blood soaked bed. Almost slipping in a pool of blood I passed the hall way and eyed the couple, they were still intertwined, with what appeared to be a spear or metal pole stuck through the back of the young man and chest of the young girl, into the wall, keeping them standing. The woman’s eyes where opened but dulled, the bottom of her muzzle hung loose.
I slipped, and tripped again, smearing blood all over my arms as I crawled up into the DJ booth and up to the lying figure of Raven. She had slits running down her arms, bloodying her dark feathers, her beak had been split down the middle which allowed it to flop around unnaturally in four sections, but she was still breathing and whimpering.
I scooped her up but she eyed me in maddened fear and fought strongly against me despite her wounds. She threw herself onto the floor to crawl away about a foot before she sagged with one last weak breath. I crawled after her as a cry escaped my closing, panicked throat to push my fingers into a wound in her neck, there was no pulse. With an anguished cry, once again scooping her now lifeless form into my arms, I rose, slipping a bit as I stood and turned to the door. Maybe if we left, maybe if we could escape, I could fix this and she’d be alive again.
Making my way through the dimly lit littler of bodies I was about four feet away when midnight hit.
I could feel it, the coming of midnight, and I waited for the darkness, but instead came the tolling of bells, dozens of big metallic bells found in the towers of ancient gothic churches. I wanted to hold my ears, block out the noise, but kept Raven held close to me.
The door before us flew open and rebounded off the wall as I had done to it earlier, a figure was darkened into shadow by the ghostly light that backed it, until it stepped in. Beyond the door was a hallway, just a normal hallway, and from that hallway had stepped a man, dressed in a grey business suit, with black hair peppered in grey, and shiny brown shoes which didn’t seem to be able to hold any of the blood he stepped into.
I stared at him in awe, not because he was a formidable figure, an older middle aged man leaning on a cane, but because I knew him. The famous horror author Stephen Combs.
“This… is a mess.” He said, exasperated, “I’ve never had one make this kind of mess,” he eyed me warily, “but then again I’ve never had one this stubborn.”
I watched him, “I’m sorry?”
With a shake of his head he waved his hand from side to side, and like he was some kind of magician the bodies, all of the dead, began to disintegrate, their particles flowing into the air to wink out of existence. I felt my best friends form turn to sand and then just float away from me.
I gasped and grabbed the super famous author by the collar, though it was not surprising I wasn’t strong enough to hall him to me in my state, “What did you do to her?”
Combs frowned at me, “You don’t know? After doing all this you have no clue?” He eyed me, “You don’t, you poor fool.”
Combs hit the real lights and there was a crash, I turned to see the tree legs of the wooden thing reaching up into the ceiling, a ceiling upon which rolled the bone bug thing from the ship, Goosebumps lit my arms. On the far wall was the unhappy biker, where the DJ booth had been, on the bloodied stool that was the only part of it left now, was the pinstripe suited man, he was reading Raven’s manga. I glanced back at the writer, “What the fuck is going on here?” I demanded.
The writer leaned on his cane with both of his hands, “The party, the people in it, and the woman you carried to the door, none of them where real. Figments of your imagination.”
My jaw slacked open, “It can’t be. I’m the CEO of MatthewsCorp, some of those people where good friends of me, I’ve known Raven forever!”
The writer frowned, his face was wrinkled and kind, “You are not and never where the CEO of a company Derricks. That too was your imagination, everything that happened tonight happened mostly because you couldn’t accept what you are.”
“Which is what?”
“A killer,” the writer almost growled.
My heart leapt, I had spent all night trying to not be killed and now this crazy writer was claiming I was a killer. I suddenly recognized all the creatures behind me, monsters and murderers from Comb’s novels. “I am not!”
He raised his brow, “You did a number on your imagined up crowd.”
My brow furrowed, “Shut up, I don’t know what’s really going on here but you don’t know me, I’m compassionate, I wouldn’t have hurt a fly.”
Combs studied me thoughtfully, his tongue played at his lower lip, “Maybe you aren’t ready after all.” He turned to open and exit the door, I followed closely, causing him to turn, “Where are you going?”
“With you, fuck this haunted hotel full of your imaginary monsters and hallucinations.”
Combs grimaced, “You have to stay here.”
“I do not, I am not some character in a story for you to lock up in here with these freaks.”
He looked down, I followed his eyes to see that I was now for some reason carrying a large bloodied machete’. I barely heard him say “But you are,” before closing the door in my face. My new attire was a khaki fishing vest over a blue T shirt and khaki cargo shorts, my clothes, arms, and fingerless gloves where soaked in blood yet none of it seemed to be mine, as I was no longer injured.
I backed away from the door and wandered into the game bedroom, where I sat on the no longer gore covered bed, placed the oversized knife down, and placed my face into my hands to let out a moan of sorrow. Before I could moan my fingers touched a rubber mask and I removed a sad clown’s face to stare at it, the outer edges of its jowls sagged like a bulldogs though it was human in form.
One by one the creatures and murderers opened the closet, walked, stomped, or crawled in before closing it behind them. Don’t ask me how the tree thing fit or the bone creature shut the door, I wasn’t paying attention, and killer or not that bone thing still gave me the creeps.
The last through was the murderer in the pin stripe suit, he laid a compassionate hand on my leg and gave it a squeeze before moving through the door on his own, and then I was alone. I missed Raven, even if she had been imaginary, even if I had killed her, I missed the comfort she had brought me, a comfort I needed now more than ever.
I thought about her, imagined carving her beak and slicing open her arms, and suddenly I felt a different kind of comfort. My heart stirred and my belly warmed, imagining, or maybe remembering, her death helped me a little. I imagined or remembered my assistant manager’s death, his had been quick, after all he had been the first and the only guard, but I still managed to find time to pop out his eye with the tip of my knife. My memories turned to stuffing the twit witch at the end of the hallway into the bladed gaping jaws of the mechanical wolf which I had forced down on her and made a mess with. I could call her a twit, she wasn’t my co-worker after all, just my victim with her guts all over my waders.
I remembered carving the gamers to pieces the moment I had popped out of the closet door, they hadn’t helped me because they had been too busy dying. Suddenly I felt better than ever, adrenaline pumped through me like it had been in the space ship, and I rose filled with purpose. I shoved the blade into my chest diagonally, having it run from my right chest muscle into my firm abdomen, because it felt right to carry it like that, and stepped through the closet door one last time.
I stepped into a thick fog in darkness lit by something further within it. Fog this thick in darkness should have filled me with apprehension, but instead it filled me with exhilaration, I felt like the fog was my own home. I stepped through it into the light, under a streetlamp a tabby feline woman was fidgeting with her purse over an old baby carriage which seemed to be from the nineteen seventies, from which some impatient child was cawing, the woman’s tail twitched with annoyance.
At the sound of my feet loudly stomping up to her the woman looked up at me, she screamed like the gamer had, I removed the blade from my chest, and I got to work.