Megan and Elliot held hands as the plane wobbled up and down. Elliot looked over at her twin sister, flashing a smile of sympathy, ever since she was little she had hated flying.
Megan opened her right eye and squeaked out, “You’re enjoying this aren’t you.”
Elliot giggled, “ A little,” she surveyed the plane only to see the others in their AP French class. She pointed to the obnoxious jock, Luke, and his blonde girlfriend, Leila making out while everyone else was in distress.
Megan leaned over to take a look. They both burst out laughing.
Leila and Luke turned around to glare at them, the seatbelt sign chimed on, and suddenly a huge drop in the plane.
Everyone gasped and anyone who had faked putting on their safety belt had secured it on this time.
Megan squeezed Elliot’s hand so tight. All Elliot could think of how manic their mother would be on this flight. She normally let her neuroticism keep Elliot and Megan from going anywhere or doing anything. But she couldn’t stop them from going to France with their school. Their dad made sure of that. After they turned 18 they could live with him and get away from all the craziness.
Megan kept on squeezing Elliot’s hand till it began to turn blue and purple. Elliot’s mind was elsewhere could they just leave their mom for good? Could two girls from Bay Area manage themselves in New York City?
Elliot’s thoughts were interrupted when the captain made an announcement.
This is your captain speaking. Due to an unprecedented storm, we are going to have to land just outside of France. But don’t worry JetFranceAir will be accommodating you for your troubles. There will be a shuttle outside of the airfield that will take you to a hotel for the night, free of charge.
The plane cheered leaving the last bit of information unclear.
The plane made its sketchy dissent and soon they were on the ground. Their chaperone Ms. Marianne hurried them off the plane and into a group, not to be separated.
What a Motley crew they seemed to be Elliot thought.
You had your jock and cheerleader couple that came straight out of a movie. It wasn’t like Luke and Leila were bullies, they didn’t go out of their way to make fun of people but they knew how stereotypical they were from looks to personality, basic. They kept to themselves.
Leila and Sarah used to be best friends. But it was never going to last, they were always competing against one another. In the year before we all moved to high school, Sarah got a trio of piercings; one on her eye, her tongue as well as a belly ring.
Leila retaliated by getting a small butterfly tattoo on her right ankle. The two were always getting into arguments about who was the most original. Over the summer, Leila’s bra size changed dramatically from a 34B to double D’s, it officially ended their competition and eventually their friendship.
Then there was the trio of nerds, Abel, Sarah, and Fatima. Abel was known for his love of anything to do with space and time, Sarah was a horror fanatic and Fatima fanned over anything ancient and fabled from Druids to Yeti sightings. Last year she tracked a lead to Scotland for a glimpse of the loch ness monster. Two months ago I caught Sarah and Fatima making out behind the lockers in the changing room. Now that I think about it all the signs were there. They were always together and Sarah would stare down anyone that strayed too close to Fatima. I’m sure that Abel was fully aware of the relationship but maintained plausible deniability to keep up with the dynamic of the group. He was the top nerd of the group and liked being the quote leader unquote of them.
Then you have me and my twin sister Megan. We’ve been best friends for forever; sharing a womb will do that. We have our group of friends but no one can replace your twin. We know when the other one is in pain even if we’re not in the same room. No one believes us, but one time when Megan and I were twelve, she was climbing a tree. I was waiting for her at the bottom and too scared to go after her. But I could feel every branch, brush off a leaf, and tickle of a bug crawling on Megan. As she made her way down I could feel her fear as well. Then she slipped and broke her arm and I did too. Everyone believes she fell on top of me or we climbed and slipped together. But the x-rays showed two different arms broken in the same place. Enough of us creepy twins. Let’s take a look at our guide for France.
Out of all the teachers we had to chaperone the trip and Marianne was the worst she was the kind of teacher that never really experienced high school when she was a kid so she tried to become our best friend to do so. She would always teach us to curse words in French and try to watch all the shows that we like to have something to chat about. The most embarrassing time was when she showed up at one of the after party’s of a school dance, someone invited her as a joke and she still came. You’d think she’d head for the hills or change schools but she stayed. She was suspended for a few months as a result but allowed to come back if she promised to not do it again. I felt kind of sorry for her in the end. The other teachers made up all kinds of rumors while the parents made it an effort to exclude her from any PTA meetings. The students continue to mercilessly tease her. It was so bad about a month ago when a mystery student made a rumor about their affair, there were posters of Ms. Marianne’s head photoshopped onto a naked woman’s body. The students who did it never got caught but still, she stayed on. As preparations were made, she was given an all-paid opportunity to take us to France, without a lick of French in her studies. So here we are.
The aircrew shuffled everyone into separate vans and put group was the first to leave. It was a long journey from the airfield to the hotel. The hotel seemed to be smack dab in the middle of a small town. Not much to it but an old sign for a butcher with a smaller sign that read the best meat in town. Only a few people are on the street. Megan waved hello and no one responded.
“Don’t worry Meg,” Elliot pointed to her nose and then up, “the French are known for not being very nice.”
After two uncomfortable and hot hours, the van finally arrived at our hotel, L’estrange Hotelier. The hotel was huge and it seemed that it was under construction still.
Our group stood in front of a circular metal door. Luke went up to open it for Leila but it wouldn’t budge. The sun beat down on us and there was nothing for at least twenty minutes. When suddenly the doors opened, the left and right sides moved away from each other in a criss-cross pattern.
A very neat woman in a white pantsuit and a short black bob emerged with two other identical-looking women behind her holding glasses of water.
“Bonjour! My name is Ms. Virginia and I am very sorry for the wait our staff had a hard time getting ready for the last-minute accommodations.” Virginia clapped twice and the other two looked likes presented everyone with water.
“Now everyone please drink your water and follow me. Your bags and things are still with the airline but we have provided you with some tracksuits waiting in your room.”
Everyone hurried to follow the woman while finishing their waters. The hotel was deceiving because as soon as you walked inside it was like being in a palace. The ceiling was record high and the main hall seemed to go on for miles. The interior was white. Not eggshell not créme but white that the lights hitting off of the walls were bright enough to fuel three towns.
There was little furniture, only a few chairs to decorate the main hall, along with large neat framed pictures. There was a picture of Virginia and next to it was a man who looked like her who also had a small bob, again dressed in pristine white suits. More pictures were carried along the wall in an orderly fashion. Elliot began to follow them to see rows and rows of pairs of what seemed like twins all with the same whacky bob and suit.
Eliot began to stray further and further from the group as she followed the photos. She almost lost them when another look-alike stopped in front of her.
Elliot tried to maneuver around her by stepping to the left but the look-alike stepped with her.
“Sorry, can I get past you? I want-“ before she could finish her sentence the look-alike let out an electronic-sounding response.
“No. Guests are only permitted on the floor of their rooms. You must return to your group. I will assist you.”
The look-alike took her hand and dragged her back towards the group. She gave a sharp nudge making sure Eliot knew her place.
“Ouch !” Elliot rubbed her arm as she approached Megan who also found herself rubbing her arm.
“ This place is weird isn’t Eliot “ Megan seemed unusually drawn to the lights like a moth in heaven.
“ yeah, those bob freaks are out of control. And get this that Virginia one is a twin.
“Cool, maybe we’ve encountered alien twins.” Megan and Eliot laughed until interrupted by a familiar nerdy voice.
“It’s more likely that our plane was overtaken by an alien species looking to experiment with us. This will all seem like a dream and when we wake we’ll still be on the plane.” Able snorted and raised his hands in a check me out kind of gesture.
Fatima pushed Able out of the way, “ no way then we wouldn’t have remembered how we got here and everyone remembers your IBS on that 2-hour ride from hell .” Fatima grinds her teeth while holding her chin, “ it’s almost like this is a town stuck in the past. They pray to an ancient forgotten god that requires a yearly sacrifice. Most likely a twin sacrifice that will help them to survive another year.” Fatima threw her head back and laughed.
Eliot was bothered by the twin comment but she could see how much Megan was enjoying it. It was as if she could feel the connection between Fatima and Megan. No matter how much she disliked Fatima and her teasing she couldn’t never hater her because Megan loved her.
The last of the nerds waltzed over from the strange door. “Guys it’s obvious we’re in some hostel-like horror movie where now we’ll all be separated and die one by one. For one we were separated from the rest of the passengers. Like where is everyone else ?” Sarah said resting her arms over both Fatima and Ables shoulders.
Everyone looked around to see that only a few look-a-likes floated around and the hotel lobby was not busy.
Sarah continued, “ Also most airfields have signs or other businesses attached to it but this was literally like an empty field. Then what’s with all the creepy twins -“, she looked at Megan and Eliot, ”no offense you guys and the weird outdated jumpsuits”
Everyone burst out in laughter, even Luke and Leila, who. had been secretly paying attention. It must have scared the look-alike because Virginia noticed and ran over to hurry us into our rooms. Everyone had their very own room and everyone was on the same floor.
Virginia led us down the opposite hall of the creepy twin portraits. It was hard as well as confusing to keep up with every turn that Virginia led us through. Megan managed to see a pattern that no one else realized when following Virginia. It was almost as if every corner of the carpet laid out in front of them had a different design, subtle but different. The carpets changed the design at least every two turns. Virginia suddenly held up her hand and then proceeded to place each person in front of the door to their room.
“Now we have arrived at your hall. Please do not leave your room unnecessarily until you are called for supper which is in 3 hours from now. The other guests are here to relax not talk to children. If you need anything there is a phone in your room you can use it for emergencies. Also, no going into each other’s room, especially at night,” Virginia turned to look directly at Luke and Leila, “Please now everyone-“, Ms. Marianne waved her hand to interrupt.
“Hi, everyone, just remember if you need to call your parents or those of you with any medicine, Please come to my room,” She looked at the door of her room for a number but there were only symbols, she held up a peace sign,” marked with a V symbol at your designated times. Oh and please remember to set your phones to the correct time zones.”
Virginia clapped her hands, “Now everyone into your rooms,” the doors seemed to open by themselves, “Your things will be brought to your shortly, in the meantime garments have been provided for you.”
Megan gave Eliot a sheepish wave goodbye and sent her a text. This is so weird. I’ll call you when I’m inside.
Eliot walked into her room to find a neat and white room. There were no windows but a giant protected square that acted as one. It had scenes of a waterfall cascading and birds flying in and around the top of it. She followed the light that projected from across the room to find a small remote, with only three buttons, ON, CHANGE, and OFF. She pressed CHANGE to find two other scenes, a rainforest, and an ocean. To the left of the projector was a pristine white bed with just a fitted sheet and a small blanket folded over along with two pillows neatly placed at the top. There was a single nightstand that was empty. On the opposite side of the room was a white wardrobe with a few hangers and a mini-refrigerator that had only small water and yogurt bottles.
Eliot released a big sigh. “At least it’s clean.” She said out loud. A small robot-like voice repeated back the word “CLEAN.” Within seconds there was a small knock at the door. Eliot opened the door to find a look-alike waiting in hand with what seemed to be a cleaning kit.
“Did you need your room cleaned, Ms. Eliot Weaver?” The look-alike stood there froze as if she was only to move if Eliot commanded her so. “No, I just said it was clean.”
“Sorry. I need a clear answer, No I don’t need it to be cleaned or Yes, I do need it to be cleaned. Thank you.”The look-alike awaited an answer.
“No I don’t need it to be cleaned, but can you -“ The look-alike left without a hesitation before Eliot finished her sentence, “- tell me, and you’re gone.” The look-alike scurried down the hall disappearing after one turn. Her white jumpsuit blended into the wall and carpet patterns.
Eliot began to close the door as Megan opened hers, “Hey!”, Eliot opened her door again and smiled.
Megan ran over and burst into Eliot’s room, “I’ve been texting you! How come you haven’t answered?” Eliot grabbed her phone, no messages.
“Look, there’s nothing here. Must be bad service.” Eliot said while shoving the phone into Megans’ face.
Megan took out her phone from her pocket, “Look it says delivered. What kind of fancy hotel like this has bad service anyway? And why is your room so different from mine. Why don’t you have a real window?”
“Whatever do you mean?“ Eliot answered as if Megan had been convinced the projector was a real window.
“Look at my room in compared to yours, different colors, a terrace, and a big fluffy comforter just like the one I have at home.” Megan showed Eliot the pictures and selfies she took in her room while she waited.
Eliot was shocked, she knew depending on how much you paid was the difference in the room, but they were accommodated because of a storm.
“Let’s go back to my room, I even have better snacks,” Megan said definitively as she slammed Eliot’s fridge in defeat.
As Eliot and Megan opened the door to switch rooms. There was a scream coming from the hallway. It was Fatima.
“HELP! It took her. “ Fatima screamed falling to her knees. The front of her shirt was covered in blood and her phone was cracked.
“We were just watching TV-“Eliot and Megan ran over to help her up. They helped Fatima back into Eliot’s room. Eliot grabbed water and tried to calm down Fatima.
Eliot turned towards Megan,“ Meg, go try to get someone to help, take my door key in case. Megan grabbed the key and ran out of the room, just before leaving she hugged Fatima and left.
Fatima’s hands shook violently as she desperately tried to drink the water. Eliot grabbed her hands softly and asked, “Fatima are you hurt? what happened?
Fatima shook her head and began to sob again. Eliot hugged her as she sobbed. Nearly ten minutes later, Megan came back into the room holding Abel’s hand in tow.
Megan was out of breath, “We tried to knock on Ms. Marianne’s door but she never responded. I even went to the main hall to find someone for help but there was no one. I only found Abel knocking on Sarah’s door when I came back so here we are.” Megan fell onto the bed in exhaustion.
Abel walked slowly over to Fatima and grabbed her hands, “ Are you okay Fati? What happened? Where is Sarah?”
Fatima looked at him with big doe eyes, “As soon as we were put into our rooms, Sarah snuck into mine. We-“ she paused hesitantly, looking at Abel as if she had hurt him too, “we were together you know,” Abel stared at her in shock slowly coming into a realization that he was last to know, “we wanted to tell you but it was all too new for us and honestly we liked having something just our own.”
Abel grabbed Fatima’s hand “Fati you and Sarah don’t owe me anything. I’m happy for my two best friends.”
Eliot interjected as patiently as she could, “ Fatima I’m sorry but can you tell us what happened?
Fatima let out a big sigh, “ We were being intimate when there was a knock at the door. I opened it slowly for Sarah to get dressed and makeover the bed in case it was you, Abel, or Ms. Marianne. Behind the door, was one of the hotel maids. She asked if she could turn down the room. Of course, I said no, but her eyes scanned the room and when she saw Sarah they widened as if she knew exactly what we had been doing. She left as quickly as she came. We laughed it off and then went back to talking on the bed, “ Fatima put her hands in her face, letting out a silent scream, “Then ten minutes or so there was another knock at the door but this time when I opened the door there was no one there. It was the same knock as before and I opened it faster this time since we had just been talking, it couldn’t have been more than a second later when I heard her scream,”
Fatima paused, “She was just gone. At first, I thought she was kidding around, maybe hiding in the bathroom but she disappeared. Like she was taken.”
Fatima got up, “Look, I know we can all be kind of nerdy with our weird interests, but something is not right. There was nowhere else for Sarah to go and she didn’t have a reason to leave. We need to go to the police.
“Eliot broke the award silence, “Fatima what took her?” Fatima didn’t speak and pointed to the bed wither right index finger.
Megan jumped off the bed quickly and ripped the sheets to see if there was anything there. Nothing.
Everyone looked at Fatima like she was crazy until Eliot lifted the mattress to reveal a type of trap door. It was like a meat grinder with two metal fasteners at each end. Eliot guessed it was to hold down whatever poor soul laid on top of it.
Abel began to hyperventilate,” This-this, can’t be real, What kind of places this?”
Then a knock on the door froze everyone in their place. Another knock. Megan went to the door to open it and Eliot stopped her.
With two fingers she pointed to both Abel, Megan, and then the bed.
Eliot cleared her throat, “Just a minute. I am getting dressed.” Eliot took off her top shirt, leaving her in a tank top that smelled like she had been traveling for two days now.
Able, Fatima and Megan managed to get the mattress on while laying the covers on as best they could to make it seem as before. Eliot motioned for them to go into the bathroom.
Another double knock. As soon as the three were hidden in the bathroom, Eliot opened the door, it was Virginia and two of her look-alikes, as well as Ms. Marianne, Leila but no Luke.
Virginia smiled wide, “Ello, we are here to collect you for dinner. Are you ready?
Eliot pretends to put on her top shirt again, “ Almost, Can I meet you down there? Do I need to freshen up?
“Oh, we can wait. We must all go to dinner together.” Eliot sighed and nodded okay trying to close the door behind her but Virginia keep the door open with her foot.
Eliot grabbed a brush, attempting to brush out the end of her curls while standing in between the side table and the bathroom door.
Virginia entered the room holding a booklet and hitting a pen on top of it while looking around, “Also, can you tell me where your twin is Megan? Has she been with you?”
Eliot knew there were would be more questions and time wasted if she got caught with everyone in the bathroom. “No, she’s probably in her room or already downstairs waiting to go to dinner.”
Virginia didn’t look too impressed and almost like she was waiting for one of them to talk so she could expose them in the bathroom, “Strange because no one has seen her.” With each word she stepped closer towards Eliot, ”It is okay to have people in your room you must tell us that’s all. We like to know where everyone is.”
Eliot had to think fast to get this crazy hotel lady out of her room and get out of this creepy hotel. “Ms. Marianne can you please come in here. I have to talk to you about something important?”
Ms. Marianne got so excited she exclaimed a squeal. She brushed past the look-alikes and kindly pushed Virginia back towards the door, “It’s okay Virginia I will take it from here. As their chaperone, I will go and personally find the other students who are also not in their rooms. They are great kids just a little mischievous.” Ms. Marianne nudged Eliot’s arm and chuckled obnoxiously.
“Okay then everyone else with me. Also, Ms. Marianne, I will tell you that one of your students Sarah is ill and is in the infirmary at the moment. She will be escorted back to her room when she is feeling better.”
“Okay well, then that’s two students that are in the infirmary. I will talk to Eliot then go check on the students. Thank you, Ms. Virginia.
Eliot’s eyes widened and she waited for Virginia to close the door. As soon as the door shut Ms. Marianne sat on the edge of Eliot’s bed.
“Don’t sit there!” As Eliot yelled Ms. Marianne jumped off from the bed, holding up her hands, while the three in the bathroom burst out of there.
Ms. Marianne jumped back, “Well there are all the students, I knew you guys weren’t doing anything wrong but you don’t have to hide from Ms. Virginia. She’s only trying to do her job.”
“Did you hear what she said about Sarah? She’s not in the infirmary or wherever they have her. We have to save her.” Fatima rumbled out in a full rage.
Eliot looked at Ms. Marianne then back to Megan, Abel, and Fatima. They all turned to Ms. Marianne and started talking at the same time.
“Stop.” Ms. Marianne shouted, “ now everyone calms down. Now one at a time, Can you please tell me what’s going on?”
Fatima took a deep breath and then explained how she got here and what happened to Sarah. Eliot, Megan, and Abel all nodded in agreement.
Ms. Marianne stood tall in front of the four of them, “Look guys I’m sure that there is just a simple explanation for what’s going on.
Eliot lifted her hands in the air in frustration. Then went back to the bed and ripped everything off again, “Look, Ms. Marianne!”
Ms. Marianne slowly approached the bed, her mouth aghast in shock at the weird trap door in front of her. She reached out her palm in the middle and pushed at it firmly with her right.
“Now do you believe us, there is something wrong with this hotel and those weird look-alike maids,” Eliot exclaimed.
Ms. Marianne looked up while still pushing her hand against the center of the trap door, “ This is France, and there, maybe things that are different about this place.” Fatima and Abel walked over to the bed.
“Maybe Sarah fell through and they took her to the infirmary.” Abel put out his hands in an open gesture.
“Exactly,” Ms. Marianne gasped, “they must have-Ahhhh!” The trap door opened and Ms. Marianne fell through, Elito tried to grab onto her but Ms. Marianne’s trousers slipped through her fingers.
“Ms. Marianne are you okay?” Eliot couldn’t see Ms. Mariannes figure the hole was deep and dark. Fatima took out her phone and shined the light on Ms. Marianne. Her face was once again visible.
“I’m fine you guys don’t worry. My leg hurts though. I think my arm is broken from the fall.” She quivered as she spoke. Fatima led the light down Marianne’s leg and arm. She was broken, the bone was sticking out from her skin. Ms. Marianne screamed.
Everyone looked on in shock, Abel jumped up, “I’ll go get help.” He left leaving the door open before Eliot, Megan or Fatima could respond.
Megan reached out her hand, Ms. Marianne do you think you could use your other hand to reach mine? We could try to pull you up.” Ms. Marianne reached out trying her best to reach Megan’s hand.
“Come on, you can do it, just a little further Ms. Marianne. Eliot helps me.” Eliot kneeled over the trap door beside Megan to reach down.
“Shhh, I think I can hear someone coming. There’s someone down here with me.” Ms. Marianne said.
Fatima flashed her phone to the sides of Marianne while she called out, “Hello please help me I’ve fallen and I am hurt. I am the teacher with the school.”
The mysterious person didn’t reply but their steps quickened. Fatima Megan and Eliot still couldn’t see anyone.
“Oh thank god, shine the light on this side, I think someone is here. Hello? Hi, I think I’ve-“ Before Ms. Marianne could finish her sentence she began to make a sort of gurgling noise. Fatima’s hand trembled as she followed the light back up to Ms. Mariannes’ face. There was a type of hook lodged into her mouth caught on the back of her throat. Fatima in shock, drops her phone through the trap doors, followed by the screams of Megan, Abel, and Eliot.
The camera light on and now facing up allowed the four of them to see Ms. Marianne’s blood gushes all over the floor while being dragged away into the darkness. Megan turned into Eliot and Abel pulled Fatima away from the trap door.
Abels looks to Eliot. As the four of them died to compose themselves, Megan started to have a panic attack. Eliot began to see tunnel vision and Abel began to chew viciously on his fingernails. Fatima snapped out of her chance and began to slap each of the others.
“Snap out of it guys, look Abel how many times have we seen his scenario in every horror movie, this is the part where we need to focus on how to get out of here. ”
Eliot took a deep breath and held on to Megan’s hand she nodded at Fatima and then looked at Abel.
Fatima fixed her hair into a tight bun and faced everyone, “Now let’s go over the rules, we don’t know what we’re dealing with exactly but we know that we cannot trust the hotel or anyone working for the hotel. We’ll have to leave the room one at a time and try to pretend like we don’t know what happened to Ms. Marianne. If we see Luke or Leila or anyone else, let’s just tell them there’s an emergency with our bags and we have to get outside. We don’t have any weapons so if you have to fight remember to use anything you can get your hand on, a pen, suitcase anything. And do not, whatever happens, split up. Does anyone remember the way back to the lobby?”
Megan pipped up, “I do.”
“Okay, let’s go.” Fatima opened the door and peeked her head outside, “We’re clear.”
Megan hopped in front and the four of them quickly made it down the halls of clean patterns and white walls. Abel left a mark on each wall in case they had to backtrack. The four of them approached the hotel lobby and spotted three hotel maids. Fatima Abel and Megan froze but Eliot was able to compose herself.
“Hi, we were looking to see if we could go outside to smoke.” The look-alikes looked at each other as if they couldn’t answer them.
“ Oh there you are,” Virginia entered the hall enthusiastically, “everyone is waiting for you all in the dining room.”
“We were wondering if you could open the front door so we could smoke,” Eliot revealed the pack of cigarettes she had smuggled onto the plane.
“Don’t worry there is an open terrace at the side of the restaurant let’s go. Let’s go.” Before they could resist any longer, Virginia and the look-alikes had blocked the entrance and began pushing them down the hall that Eliot was restricted from going down earlier.
Eliot, Megan, Fatima, and Abel sheepishly made their way down the hall. This hallway was different, although the walls were white, the pattern on the carpets was much different from those Megan had seen before. Megan followed these patterns as closely as she could, when she looked over
she could see Fatima telling her to take a photo by gesturing with her hands. Megan took a few photos stealthily and slipped her phone back into her pocket.
The lights became brighter and brighter as they reached the end of the hall. The lights were so bright the four of them shielded their eyes as they continued until the look-alikes parted from behind them to open two heavy steel doors.
“Great more ways to be further trapped inside.”Yelped Abel.
Behind the doors was a great big hall. There were large gray walls with three long stained windows. In the middle of the hall, there were three rows of long wooden tables with chairs on each side. Sitting at the table was Kevin by himself.
“Finally you guys are here. Where is Leila?” Kevin shouted, forgetting that he was there when Ms. Virginia had announced she was also in the infirmary along with Sarah.
“Now now everyone is here that can be here. The terrace is that way.” Ms. Virginia elongated her arm to show tri-colored doors with two round windows parallel to each other, with the same stained glass as the windows on the walls.
“Ah yes for that smoke. Right guys come on let’s all go smoke.” Abel looked at the girls as they headed towards the terrace. He looked over at Kyle, “Hey Kyle do want to come smoke with us?”
Kyle seemed to hear the question but couldn’t quite respond with a well-formed sentence, instead, he just blurted out an alarming sound that soon turned into a humming.
“We will serve the food when you all get back from your smoke break.” Ms. Virginia grinned.
The way she looked at Eliot made her stomach twirl. Was this even real? Was she not dreaming and meant to wake up on the plane already? Then laugh it off as she told Megan about her wild dream.
Fatima pushed open the doors to let everyone out. There was a pergola but the rest was an open terrace. Beside the building, the wall stopped where an industrial-styled fence took over. Eliot was the tallest out of all of them but even on her tippy toes, she couldn’t see over the fence.
Megan looked at Fatima then at Abel, “Hey maybe if I can get on either of your shoulders I can see over the wall. I can see if we have a way out of here.”
Abel held up his hand, “I’ll do it.” Megan nodded.
“Eliot you keep a lookout for anyone coming and Fatima you spot me.” As Abel knelt to the ground, Megan carefully climbed onto his shoulders while Fatima held up her hands in case Megan were to fall.
Abel gave a good grunt and lifted her high into the air and went up close as he could to the fence.
“Hold it there Abel, Megan squealed, “Guys I can see the top of the van, the one that dropped us off. If I could just get a little higher. I could see if there was anyone in the fan,” Megan stood on top of Abels’s shoulders making him whine even more. She then got on top of the ledge and slowly stood up.
“Megan get down you could get hurt,” Fatima protested.
“Guys we could walk the fence and get to the van from here. We just can’t fall because there are thorn bushes everywhere.” Megan shot a look back at everyone with such a look of hope.
Eliot turned around to warn them, “Someone is coming this way, Shit it’s Ms. Virginia.”
Megan made her way back to where Abel was desperately waiting to catch her. Eliot turned again to see Megan slowly making her way back onto Abel’s shoulders, “Faster, you have to jump! Jump Megan.”
Megan jumped on top of Abel, causing them both to fall into an awkward position. Megan straddled the top of Abel’s chest.
Eliot ran over to Fatima who in all of her fretting had managed to light a cigarette.
Ms. Virginia pushed open the doors, “Now children come along, you’ve had enough time to smoke and I guess do boyfriend and girlfriend things.”
She turned up her nose in disgust at the sight of Megan and Abel but it was better than getting caught.
The four made it quickly to their seats only to find Kyle smiling an eerily goofy smile. Abel leaned over to him to ask if he was alright.
“Hey, man are you okay? Have you noticed anything strange lately?”
Luke turned towards Abel pushing his face so close to his own Abel could smell his breath. Abel scooted back and shot a concerned look to the girls.
Before Eliot could open her mouth to talk to them, Ms. Virginia clapped her hands and three figures appeared in the doorway. More maids but this time they were male, they looked like the man from the portrait in the hall. Eliot turned her chair towards Fatimas and Megans, “We need to get back to that terrace.”
A few more claps and the male maids began to bring the food and lay it out on the table. Platters and dishes of meat on top of the meat. Hardly any vegetables or garnish.
Then Megan nearly got sick, instead of water bottles of what looked to be dark thick liquid was put on the table to be served.
“Now eat !” Ms. Virginia clasps her hands together letting her single cap echo in the empty hall while throwing her head to laugh maniacally.
Abel let out a big gulp, “ we need to get the fuck out of here.”
Eliot looked around at everyone, Luke was the only one who had begun to dig into the food and he did not hold back. He ate like a ravenous animal.
The male maids came around the table and took portions of the meat and began placing it on everyone’s plate.
Eliot watched as her plate became fuller and fuller. First a turkey-shaped piece of meat, then a rasher serving, soon she even had what looked like pudding on her plate. She watched it all pile on till she holdout her hands in protest. The male maids waited for the four of them to start eating. Neither of them knew what to do. Should they use the silverware to fight their way out of this one?
Eliot looked around at everyone and nodded her head. Abel must have been starving because he wolfed it down. Then Elito saw it, something strange and a black mark on the skin of her turkey leg. She leaned in to get a closer look and froze. It was a small butterfly tattoo just like the one
Leila used to have. She spits up the meat immediately and shook her head not trying to get everyone’s attention.
“ Don’t eat it.” She whispered in a strenuous manner trying to get. Megan twirled the meat on a stick contemplating whether to try it or not.
Abel took a bite and shrugged his shoulders while Fatima tried to chew it but it was too hard to swallow, “Guys this food isn’t bad but there are some hard parts.” Fatima pulled out what was to be a piece of metal. The further she inspected, she drew a shallow breathe and screamed. It was Sarah’s purple tongue piercing!
Eliot got up from her seat grabbing a platter as a weapon, Abel spits out his food and grabs a knife yelling, “Fuck the! Runnnnnn!”
All four scrambled to get around the long table and head back towards the terrace. They look-alikes and MsVirginia all in a frenzy trying to block them in. From the kitchen, door entered three huge men who donned back hoods to cover their faces. Their arms were exposed. Unlike an arm with regular definition, their arms were bloated and strained the veins pulsed through and they were covered in pustules.
Eliot dodged one of the men and used the silver platter to hit one of them, look-alikes. Fatima and Megan hopped on top of the table, dodging swipes from the look-alikes and hooded men. The three girls made it to the door. They look back waiting to check Abel and Like are close behind.
Abel tried to stop Luke and pull him from the chair, “Come on man. We need to go. We have to get out of here.”
Abel pulled and pulled only to hear a splat come from Luke’s chair. Luke swiveled around to reveal he was missing his leg and foot. His stomach was also cut open. Abel jumped back in horror almost landing into the arms of a hooded man. The man swiped at him, catching his shirt. Abel took the knife and stabbed the man in his neck. The man let his grip go and in shock, ripped off his hood to reveal a monstrous face, with boils and a misshapen head as well as two eyes that he couldn’t quite place.
Abel caught up to the girls and they caught the door behind them. There was a single bench they were able to use to block in the doors. It was so heavy it took the four of them to move it.
“Quick we need to get to the van,” Eliot shouted. One by one they hoisted each up onto the terrace wall, First, Fatima then Abel, and Megan. They began to pull Eliot up
“Hurry they’re pushing through the bench,” Megan warned.
Just as the hooded men and the rest of Ms. Virginia’s entourage pushed through the three pulled Eliot up to safety. The four carefully rushed on top of the ledge. Shakily trying their best to get to the front of the hotel. The look-alikes grabbed onto the ledge of the fence and pulled themselves up.
“Come on you guys we’re almost there. Don’t panic now they’re right behind us.” Fatima yelled looking back while leading the pack.
They were so close. Just at the edge of the wall, they stood. “Come on you guys we have to jump, it’s the only way,” Abel yelled.
“We’ll break our legs or arms.” Megan pleaded.
“It’s a risk we’ll have to take,” Abel said dangling from the ledge he jumped, knowing tucked in to protect his legs. He fell hard onto the ground but put up a thumbs up.
As Megan looked on Fatima followed Abel and Eliot as well. No broken bones.
“Jump Megan! You have to jump!” Yelled Eliot. The look a likes were gaining on her. Megan had to jump she had no choice. Just as she dangled from the wall before she could let go, a look-alike took a hammer-like tool and smashed her left hand.
“Let go Megan you have to let go,” Eliot screamed from the bottom.
Meanwhile, Fatima and Abel headed towards the van. “Come on you guys hurry!”
Eliot looked back up at Megan, “Megan, please!” Another slam of the hammer and the look-alike had broken both of Megan’s hands. Megan’s body felt as she screeched in pain. Eliot stood under her trying to catch her. Megan feels directly on top of Eliot’s body causing them both to hit the hard ground, knocking them out cold.
Fatima screamed, “Nooooo!”
Abel locked the van door and turned to Fatima, “they’re gone let’s go”
“There aren’t any keys we are fucked” Fatima shouted to him.
Abel reached under her steering wheel and ripped out the wires. Fatima stared at him in awe, “When did you get so strong?”
It’s only a few wires retorted Abel, “Connect these two wires Fati and the engine should start .”
Fatima tried connecting the wires, on the second try it sparked and on the third, the engine roared. Fatima put her foot on the engine and pushed the gas pedal down hard.
They flew down the long road they entered in and just as they were approaching the big gate, the engine cut out.
“Oh no, what do we do ?” Fatima pleaded to Abel but he was just slumped over in the passenger seat.
Fatima shook Abel in an attempt to wake him but he didn’t stir. Fatima tried to restart the engine but there was so spark. Fatima looked in the rearview mirror to see the hotel maids running towards the van. Fatima got out of the driver’s side and ran around the front of the to open Abel’s door. She shook him and shook him until he finally sat up, staring straight ahead.
“ Abel comes on we need to go. They’re coming for us. Abel, please come one.” Fatima tried pulling him out of the car.
“ Abel please I don’t want to leave you. Snap out of it.” Fatima screamed as she looked to see the hotel look-alike getting closer and closer to them.
“Fuck this.” Fatima turned to leave when Abel finally grabbed her not letting her move.
“Abel! What are you doing let go!” Fatima screamed at him, “LET GO OF ME!”
Abel finally turned his head towards Fatima, revealing red-like eyes that glowed. A slow menacing grin spread across his face.
“Now, now, Fati. Don’t fight it anymore. You’ll see this is a good thing. Soon you’ll be just like me.”Abel took his other hand, grabbing the back of her head and smashing it into the open door window.
Abel grabbed Fatima’s unconscious body and carried her to the back of the van. He carefully placed her body and closed the doors. He reversed the car.
The other hotel maids nodded their heads at him as he drove past. The gate sealed behind them.
Abel took another metal table down from the wall. The sound of the legs unclasping from the table woke Megan. Megan watched in shock as Abel, a boy she’s known her entire life, place his best friend on a cold metal slab and strap down her arms and legs. Megan knew whatever was going on it was smarter to not alert Abel to her consciousness. Abel left down the dark hall again, leaving only a small light on.
Megan rushed to wake Eliot up.
“Eli, wake up. Please.” She strained her voice as much as she could without trying to yell. A few nudges and body shoves and Eliot came too.
“Ugh, what’s going on?”Eli responded wearily.
“ I don’t know where we are but Abel just came in hiding Fatima. Look. He put her up there. He can’t be trusted.” Megan gasped.
“Can you move at all? “ Eliot asked.
“Only my feet but the rest of my body is tied down to you.” Responded Megan.
“I think if we crab walk we can reach one of those tools to cut the rope. But you need to guide us since I’m facing the wall. I’ll lead us back over here.” Eliot suggested.
“Okay let’s do it.” Megan took a deep breath and counted down, “On three, one, two, ready, three.”
The two girls began to crab walk towards the tables between the two metal tables before Fatimas. Then the sound of footsteps interrupted them.
“Hurry, he’s coming back!” Eliot urged.
The two girls rushed their walk, falling over in the process. When they arrive at the table, Megan tried to use her foot to knock something off of the tray. She was successful but unlucky. A sharp knife fell from the table but landed straight up and deep into her left thigh.
She tried her best to hold in her scream.
“We need to get back over there and act like we’re still asleep,” Megan said. The footsteps quickened, Megan and Eliot made it just in time to the wall. Megan raised her right knee in order to knockout the knife, which now lay on her left side. She strained her free hand as much as possible to grab it in her hand. Abel was close. He was almost in the room. Megan managed to get hold of the knife. Megan and Eliot slowed their breath and pretended to be knocked out. Abel walked over and kicked them both to get a response. Just then, Ms. Virginia walked into the hall, Abel turned his attention to her instead.
Megan peeked out to see what was going on.
“Well, Abel or rather Abel 2.0. How are you feeling now? Is this body up to your standards?” Ms. Virginia held open her hands awaiting a response.
“It’s alright. I’m not surprised I took to this body so well. Did you see the boy’s charts? He was way above his peers in math and science.” Abel noted.
“Fantastic. Now, do you think this female will make a suitable host as well?” Ms. Virginia’s eyes glowed red as her eyes grazed over Fatima’s body.
Megan and Eliot placed the knife between them and began to shimmy it up and down as quietly as possible.
“I’m running some tests now and you can watch as I transfuse her body for the transmission. If you have time that is?” Abel prepared by putting on some medical gloves and grabbing one of the tubes he needed for the procedure.
“No, another time. I have to organize another van to collect more humans from the airport. That previous group only gave us more trouble than they were worth. We only had ten functioning specimens. The rest were killed or damaged while trying to flee.” Ms. Virginia held her hands up.
“Another time then.” Able placed a strong lamp facing Fatimas’ body and placed a strange device on Fatimas’ face. It beeped red twice then, once yellow. He then drew her blood into a tube and placed it into a funny-looking canister that contained a green liquid.
Abel sighed and touched the side of his head. “We have another suitable host. Will someone bring down the exchange pod?”
Abel touched his head again and responded,” Hello is anyone available?” Abel turned to check on Megan and Elliot who went back to pretending they were still unconscious. He left down the dark hallway again. Megan jumped up as soon as the echo from Abel’s footsteps couldn’t be heard any longer.
“Let’s grab Fatima and get out of here.” Megan pulled Eliot to her feet. They crept up to Fatima and tried to wake her up.
“ Fatima Fatima wake up. Fatima, please get up.” Eliot shook her awake.
Fatima gasped for air,” Ahh no, no, where - “ Megan covered Fatima’s mouth with her hand.
“You have to calm down Fatima. Don’t scream or they’ll hear you.” Megan assured.
Fatima nodded her head in agreement. Eliot untied her from the table and the two girls helped her to her feet.
“Abel is not normal you guys. We were at the gate and he just turned.” Fatima tried to explain.
“ We saw him bring you in here and talk to Ms. Virginia. They’re not what they seem. I mean Abel isn’t Abel anymore. Whatever happened to Abel they were getting ready to do to you .” Megan grabbed Fatima’s hands to reassure her.
“ That tunnel is the only way out. It’s pitch black but it’s all we have. Everyone grab a weapon.” Eliot said while taking an electric saw from the bench.
The three reached out their hands to feel the wall. Weapons in the other as they made their way down the dark hallway.
“Guys I can’t see a thing,” Megan said weakly
“Just keep going Meg, it’s the only way out,” Eliot whispered.
“It can’t be too far, keep going. And swipe at anything that you feel.” Fatima said.
The girls continued to walk for the next fifteen minutes.
“There’s a little light coming through it must be something.” Megan reached back to touch Eliot.
“Here you guys help me push. I think this is the way out. “Megan pleaded.
Megan, Fatima, and Eliot used all their combined strength to push open the secret door. Finally, they made it to another room with more light. What was this place? There were huge screens and monitors. The girls looked closer to see what they could see on the screens. There was footage of the hotel but then of the airport where they were collected as well as different cities, Paris, Moscow, and New York.
Eliot pointed to the bottom right screen, “Guys I don’t think they were supposed to pick us up in the first place. Watch it’s the same black van that collected us earlier. They’re just taking random people. How are they getting away with this?”
“They’re everywhere how can we escape them. I can’t believe that Abel was right. WE are not alone in this world. And they do not come in peace.” Exclaimed Fatima.
“Here look,” Megan toggled with one of the controls for the screens, “We can see where there is a safe passage through the hotel. If we can get to this backlot. There are more vans and another route out of here. It means crossing the lobby and going back through the hallway with all the portraits.”
The three girls crept up to the door and managed to sneak down the hallway with their previous rooms. Not a look-alike insight.
Megan led the group back to the main lobby as they looked left and right to see if the coast was clear they could hear Ms. Virginia’s voice calling to assemble a few hotel maids to greet a new group.
“If we can through those doors before they close we can avoid that hallway,” Fatima suggests.
“Yes, we just have to cause a distraction when the new group comes in.” Megan nods.
Ms. Virgnia enters into the girl’s visibility, “Okay, open the door.”
The heavy metal door beings to part in the middle like it did before. Megan screamed, “NOW!”
With weapons in hands, the girls came fast and hard, Megan slashing one of the hotel maids across the face. Eliot stabbed Ms. Virginia in the lower back and Fatima knocked her over as she yelled in agony.
“STOP THEM!” Hollered Ms. Virginia.
IT was too late the girls barreled through the new group, pushing the unsuspecting victims back out.
“Run for your life. They’re trying to kill us!” Announced Eliot. This caused a frenzy of people to scream and run back towards the van.
Fatima headed to the driver’s side and ripped him from the driver’s seat and pushed Eliot in his place. Megan piled into the back of the van, horrifying those who had no idea what to make of the situation. Eliot called for Fatima to get in the fan.
“No someone needs to hold them off! You go get help,” She lifted up her shirt to reveal a terrible wound, “GO!” Fatima pushed off a look-alike. “GO NOW !” She screamed.
Eliot floored it and made her way to the gate. Screams from the back of the Van made it impossible to concentrate. The gate was beginning to close.
Megan jumped into the front with Eliot, “Fuck it! You’ll have to drive through it!”
They both clicked their seatbelts on, “ You all better buckle up.” Warned Eliot
Eliot nodded and pushed the pedal even further down! Everyone screamed as they crashed through the gate causing each side to fly to the side and crack the windshield of the van.
They made it out alive. They drove as far away and as fast as they could, through the long drives and creepy towns till they found an embassy.
The girls told their tale as best as they could. They were able to show real concern with their wounds. But everyone looked at them like they were crazy. The embassy said they checked the story with the other van passengers but none of them could back the story since they only arrived. Also, none of the other passengers could remember what happened except for the girls taking the van.
Megan and Eliot felt defeated. They told the embassy to check with the airport. After two hours the airport confirmed that the girls were separated from their group and the rest of their class and teacher were waiting for them back at the airport.
The girls felt like their whole world was turned upside down.
“They’re all working together.” Huffed Eliot.
Megan nodded in agreement. “We should just go along with what they are saying so that they let us go. Once we get back to a bigger city we can call dad to get us tickets home.”
Eliot sighed, ” Sure we don’t have a choice,” she grabbed Megans’ hand. Megan reached in for a hug, Eliot smiled while resting her chin on Megan’s shoulder. Her eyes glowed red.
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