Monday, 23 April 2012

Chapter Eight

Later, when Mark awoke in the middle of the night he wasn't at first sure of what woke him. He lay in the unfamiliar bed, staring at the unfamiliar ceiling, all his senses on edge. He could feel the comforting weight of Jenny lying on the bed beside him. He could smell the vague, musty smell of the hotel. He could hear...

He could hear footsteps. And along with the footsteps a metallic squeaking noise. They were coming from the corridor outside. Lying as still as possible, Mark listened as they moved past his and Jenny's room and stopped a little way up the corridor. Outside Christopher and Winter's room? Maybe, but he couldn't be sure.

There was the rattling sound of a key being inserted into a lock, and then a door opened. If it was indeed Christopher and Winter's room then surely they would be woken by all the noise. But there were no voices to be heard at all. Mark lay and waited, trying to make sense of the sounds he was hearing.

What came next was a loud thump, as if of someone tumbling out of bed. Followed by another, and a series of scuffling, grunting noises: someone struggling with a difficult door or a heavy weight. Then came the squeaking noise again, and the same footsteps as before. This time it was accompanied by a slight drone, the kind of noise Mark would associate with a wheel running over a hard surface. Once again the noises approached, passed the door to his and Jenny's room and then receded into the distance.

Mark checked his watch. It was three AM in the morning: a very weird time indeed for anyone to be moving anything heavy around. And who could it be anyway? The old man would surely be asleep at an hour like this, Jenny was right beside him, and neither Christopher nor Winter would have any cause to be moving anything anyway.

He rolled over and nudged Jenny to wake her. She didn't respond.

"Hey, Jen, wake up," he said. He grabbed her shoulder and shook her gently, and the quickly let go again in shock. She was cold, her skin clammy and chilled. "Jen!"

He threw the covers off and, with some fumbling, flicked on the beside lamp. Jen lay curled on her side in her usual sleeping position, dressed in her white pyjamas. She looked pale, but otherwise normal. As he watched he saw her back rise and fall in breath. Shallow breath, but breath none the less. He heaved a sigh of relief and felt her forehead, which was as cool and clammy as the rest of her.

"Come on Jen, wake up," he said, alarm deepening. He shook her, gently slapped the side of her face, called her name. Nothing he did made the slightest bit of difference. She was in a sleep so deep and impenetrable that he could not reach her. Mark swore beneath his breath. First aid was not a subject he knew anything about, and with no phone and no mobile signal he could only hope that it wasn't anything serious. In the two years that he's known Jenny she'd never mentioned any medical condition before.

Christopher. The thought came to him after just a moment of wondering what to do. Christopher had always been the smarter one of the pair. Hopefully he would know the right thing to do. Mark leapt out of bed and--having forgotten completely the strange noises he heard just a few minutes ago-- ran barefoot to the door of the bedroom. The corridor outside was dark, unlit. He jogged down to Christopher and Winter's room and knocked on the door. It opened without any resistance beneath his hand.

"Guys?" he called. "You awake? Listen..." But he trailed off when he saw the room. The bed was unmade and the bedside lamp switched on, but there was nobody to be seen. He took a few steps inside, wondering if he had somehow got the wrong room. But no, there was Christopher's bag and Winter's distinctive white watch on the bedside table. This was definitely their room, so where had they got to?

For a minute or two Mark dithered, but he was not a man prone to inaction. Better to be doing something--even if it wasn't the right thing--than to stand around doing nothing. They must have left something in the car, Mark decided. It was a bit stupid of them to wander down to get whatever it was in the middle of the night, but there was nothing he could do about that now. He would go down to reception and wake the old man: hopefully he would have some knowledge of first aid. You couldn't be a hotel keeper without knowing what to do if one of your guests fell ill.

Mark ran back to his own room to check on Jenny. She was where he left her, lying on her side sleeping peacefully. "I'll be back in a minute, Jen," he said, even though didn't think that she would be likely to hear him. As an afterthought, he grabbed his shoes while he was there and pulled them quickly on. Then he was off down the corridor at a run, not caring how much noise he made.

The door at the end was locked. At first Mark though he might simply be turning the handle the wrong way, or that it might be a sticky door, but after he found a light switch, flicked it on and bent down to look through the gap he realised that it was lock. He could see the metal latch and bolt through the narrow space between door and frame.

He tried the other direction, flicking on light switches as he went. The corridor turned a corner and then ended in another locked door. In between the two there were nothing but guest rooms and single small housekeeping cupboard. He was locked in.

Frustrated, Mark kicked the door. It was that stupid old man. He probably locked guests in at night to stop them stealing his fortune or something. How ridiculous. How foolish. Did he not realise that something like this might happen? And where were Christopher and Winter? They'd decided to wander off for a midnight walk just when he needed them most.

"God damn it," said Mark, and kicked the door again, hard.

2 comments:

  1. "At first Mark though he might simply be turning the handle the wrong way, or that it might be a sticky door, but after he found a light switch, flicked it on and bent down to look through the gap he realised that it was lock."

    Locked*

    By the way, the arbitrary, but standard, Horror Story Idiocy is a little bit of a turnoff.

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