Monday, 18 June 2012

Chapter Sixteen

Winter couldn't be sure, but she thought that the mother was asleep. There had been no movement and no sound from the dark hole in the wall for a good ten minutes now, and most of the little spiders had disappeared back into the cracks and crevices from which they had emerged. Everything was peaceful, and but for the few remaining bloodstains on the concrete, she could have been in an ordinary basement.

Biting down on the gag, Winter pulled at the restraints again. Dull pain sawed at her wrists like a rusty blade, but she ignored it, thinking of Christopher. Poor, sweet Christopher, who had died without even knowing what was happening to him. Who had been torn apart and eaten. She pictured his face in sleep, calm and unworried. He always looked different without his glasses: younger and less troubled.

She pulled at the chains. Harder. Gritting her teeth against the pain. She thought of Christopher at work, the intent look of concentration. When he kissed her, the way his breath felt and tasted on her lips. She felt a trickle of blood making its way hotly down her arm.

Above her head, something creaked. Dust settled into her hair like snowflakes.

She pulled harder, a small noise of exertion escaping her lips. On the other side of the basement she saw the stirring of tiny creatures. Something scuttling along the wall, wriggly and quick. She ignored it. It was nothing. She had to get out, had to get away, whatever the cost. Anything was better than what waited for her here.

There came the creaking noise of metal in concrete again, and another shower of dust. This time she felt a definite movement. She yanked at her chains again, harder than ever, throwing her whole body into it. Her shoulders twisted painfully, pulling tight as ratchets, and then suddenly something above her popped free. Dust and small bits of wall cascaded down her back, and she toppled forward onto the floor, scraping both knees raw through her pyjamas.

Her arms, numb and lifeless fell to her sides, trailing long chains behind them. She saw blood there, and rubbed raw skin, and hissed in pain as pins and needles erupted from her shoulders to the tips of her fingers. Unsteadily Winter stood. Across the basement she could see many spiders moving now, crawling from cracks and holes, massing before the big dark cave where their mother slept. They were chittering frantically, sounding the alarm, waving spindly legs in the air. She didn't have long. If she was going to escape, now was the time.

She ran to the door through which Garmondy had left, heart thudding rapidly. She was clumsy in haste, and felt bizarrely guilty as though she was trying to sneak out of school. The penalty for being caught this time didn't bear thinking about. She grabbed the handle with both numb hands and frantically tried to open it. It was locked. Thoroughly and completely locked.

Almost sobbing, Winter stumbled across the room to the other door, but on opening it she saw only a tiny cupboard lined with tools and spare bits of wood, wheels and cylinders. No exit, not even a window.

She slammed the door and glanced towards the hole in the wall again. There were more spiders than before, and the chittering and squeaking was reaching a fever pitch. Dimly in the dark, something stirred, massive pincers yawing, massive legs unfolding.

Fear coursing through her now, Winter cast around desperately for an exit. There were no windows, no other doors. Nothing but that great black hole in the wall, big and deathly as a mouth. Nothing except...

In the corner there were a pair of tiny doors, set at about waist height from the floor. Beside them was a set of brass and ivory buttons, gleaming dully in the low light of the basement. Winter ran to the doors and flung them open. On the other side was a tiny box of a space, dusty and cobwebby, but mercifully free of spiders.

It was a dumbwaiter. Winter had only ever seen them in films before, but she recognised it immediately. It was her only chance, and it filled her with dread. What if it wouldn't work? What if she crammed herself into that tiny space only to become stuck between floors? The little spiders would find her, come squeezing into that tiny dark space to eat her alive.

But she had no choice.

Winter threw herself into the tiny elevator, torso first, drawing her legs and arms after her. She fit, just, elbows and bloody knees wedged uncomfortably against the walls of the compartment. But she fit. She felt the whole thing sag with her weight, dropping a good few inches as the little used cable above stretched. Another fear added itself to the list: what if it snapped and she fell to her death?

No time to think about that now. On the other side of the basement something huge and black was emerging from the hole in the wall. White, filmy eyes gleamed at her like incandescent bulbs. She saw pincers moving, and a sound that could have been a scream filled her ears. Inhuman, terrifying, shooting through her like nails on a blackboard. As one mass the little beasties swept around the feet of their mother and across the floor towards her.

Reaching out with her one free arm, she felt for the buttons, found one, and stabbed down at it. It clicked, and somewhere distant in the house a bell rang once.  Winter felt herself moving slowly, jerkily upwards, the basement and its horrible company disappearing from view little by little until there was only a tiny sliver of space left over.

In the last moment, the very last moment, a hairy bundle of legs forced its way into the gap. Winter screamed around the gag, recoiling as much as she could in the confines of the dumbwaiter. The elevator didn't stop, and a second later the legs were caught and--with a crack and a squelch--sliced cleanly away.

Winter was plunged into darkness, rising steadily through the depths of the hotel.

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