I slung my backpack over one shoulder, closed the door of my truck, and found my way inside the hotel. The lobby was modest and the rooms would probably be worse, but I didn’t turn around.
At the front desk, I laid my keys on the counter as I pulled out my wallet from my back pocket.
“Just one night, please.”
“Sure, one moment,” the young lady said. She seemed nervous. First day on the job? “I’m sorry, sir. There is only one room available and the room is haunted.”
“That’s fine. I’ll take it,” I said, thrusting my credit card out to her. She didn’t reach for it.
“You don’t want to stay there, sir, I assure you. Management says a man died there in the 50s and still haunts it.”
“I don’t believe in superstitions, darling. I just need a bed and a shower.”
“Room service swears—”
“That’s fine. I’ll take it.” She paused and blinked at me, unsure of how to proceed, then finally reached out and accepted my credit card and license.
The room was on the ground level, all the way at the end of the hallway. I opened the door, grumbling about someone feeding the new girl lies.
There were two twin beds, a small television set, and a glass door that led out to a fenced-in patio. It had a table and two chairs but it was far too muggy to sit outside and smoke. The bedding was white and even the carpets were fresh.
I dumped my stuff on the bedside table and headed to the bathroom but, when I fumbled with the knobs trying to crank on the shower, nothing happened.
“It’s the ghosts,” I said, mimicking how this conversation with the front desk was about to go. “No ghosts, honey, just a broken shower.”
Back in the room, I picked up the phone and searched for the number. Before I could dial, however, the shower turned on. I was tempted to call the front desk anyway to complain, but ended up rolling my eyes and walking back instead.
“Obviously didn’t renovate the piping system since the 50s if it takes that long to get some water over here.”
I even bothered to shave because the water was clean, warm, and relaxing.
The lights flickered twice while I was in there and whoever was staying above me must have been jumping up and down, with the racket they were making. It actually made me laugh.
“Room service probably does believe this place is haunted,” I said to myself as I finished shaving, “nothing a bit of money and hard work couldn’t fix.”
I patted my face dry on a towel and the steam followed me back to my room, freshened for the first time in days. I unzipped my bag for a clean pair of boxers, put them on, and walked to the door casually to peer through the peephole. There was no one in the hall but I wasn’t expecting there to be.
Turning back, I noticed ‘I won’t hurt you’ drawn on the bathroom mirror. I grunted. Someone must have been really hurting for money. They went out of their way to scare someone, maybe hoping for more business from thrill-seekers.
What’s that old trick? Shaving cream keeps a mirror from fogging?
I wondered briefly if there were cameras in here, watching like a hidden prank show to see if I would write back to this ‘ghost’ or try to talk to it.
Certainly, if that were the case, they’d have speakers and all sorts of hidden equipment to make effects in this room and they were doing a pathetic job.
Part of me was ashamed that I went around checking, just in case. Having found nothing, I turned on the TV as I slipped into clean clothes, then climbed into the bed closest to the patio.
It was finally quiet, just the background noise of some late-night re-runs of a game show that failed years ago. My eyes began to droop and I was just beginning to dream when a whisper startled me awake.
I rubbed my eyes but no one was there. I was more annoyed than anything that I couldn’t get away from superstitions, even in my sleep.
I sat up and turned the TV off before rolling over. In the darkness, my eyes started playing tricks on me. For a moment, I could almost have sworn I saw someone standing on the patio, staring at me through the glass door, but I blinked and they were gone.
I rolled onto my other side, trying to face away from the door so I could get some decent sleep before getting back on the road early tomorrow.
Sometime later, I woke when my phone buzzed and lit up. I tried to ignore it. It was probably my wife checking up on me again. As soon as the first call failed, whoever it was was calling again.
I huffed and opened my eyes reluctantly, already reaching for it. If it was the wife, she’d call non-stop until morning or until I answered.
I paused, more confused than afraid to see a man lying in the other bed, facing away from me. My hand hovered over the phone as I stared at his back.
Each time the call ended I was bathed in a darkness that terrified me more each time. More and more I expected that when the light came back he would be standing over me with a knife or a gun. I was praying to God that, for once, the caller did not give up trying to contact me.
On the fifth call, the man rolled over and met my eyes. Blood was dried on his face like a spider web, dark bruises patterned his skin, and the left side of his head was caved in.
“You gonna answer that?”
Mackenzie Marie Butcher is currently attending Full Sail University to earn a BFA in Creative Writing and she is serving active duty in the United States Navy, where she has deployed once and served at three commands around the world to date. She is married with two cats. She has three published fiction novels by the names Ellis, Ellis2, and Runaway, which she published as early as sixteen years old under the pen name Aislinn Cruse. She won third place in a short film contest her senior year of high school, as well as an award for ‘most artistic’. Mackenzie has been writing fiction since she was only nine years old.