Monday, 23 July 2012

Chapter Twenty-One

With two tyres shredded the Peugeot was almost impossible to control. It moved in a series of skids and lurches, veering so heavily to the left and right that Mark had to haul the steering wheel back and forth just to stay on the narrow lane. The back windscreen was broken completely, allowing in a steady flow of cold night air, and the front was webbed with cracks that made it near-impossible to make out anything beyond.

Nevertheless, Mark was driving it. He was halfway up the narrow lane that lead to the old hotel. Locked doors or not, he was going to rescue his friends. Garmondy was out of the way, incapacitated if not dead, and if he went for help instead of returning to the hotel there was no knowing what might happen to his friends while he was gone. He had vivid and frightening mental images of Christopher, his best friends since secondary school Christopher, lying bleeding in a cellar somewhere. And what about Winter? The poor girl was bound to be traumatised from whatever the old man had done. He would get them out, get Jenny, and they would all make their escape together.

The head of the lane and the dark bulk of the hotel hove into view. Mark gritted his teeth and cranked the steering wheel around to the left to keep his course. There was the empty car park, and there the big old front doors. No doubt they would be locked, of course, but Mark had a plan for that.

Gripping the wheel so tightly that his knuckles went white, Mark stamped on the accelerator. The Peugeot shot forward, fishtailing, bare wheels clanking and rumbling across the gravel. He heard the undercarriage strike the stone step with a heavy, expensive-sounding crump, and then the car bucked violently, mounted the step and crashed head on into the doors.

They opened. Not gracefully or willingly, but they opened. Mark's head smacked into the windscreen, which finally cracked all the way and fell from its frame. Dazed, he slumped back into his seat as the car rumbled to a stop, the front end of it protruding into the lobby.

The scene that met his eyes was one that Mark would remember vividly for the rest of his life.

On the far side of the lobby, as though they had been waiting specially for him, stood Jenny and Winter. Both looked scared out of their wits. Winter was covered in dust and dirt and had a pair of heavy chains dangling from her wrists. Jenny's leg was bleeding. The floor around the girls appeared to be moving, shifting like a living carpet.

Mark didn't look closely enough to ascertain what was causing the movement. He didn't look because his attention was captured entirely by the monster that stood almost directly in front of him. It was a spider, but not any kind of spider Mark had ever seen before, even in his nightmares.

"Mark!" sobbed Jenny.

"Jen!" he said, still dazed and unsure of quite what was going on. "I'm here to rescue you."

"About bloody time," said Jenny. And then the mass of wriggling spiders that surrounded her swept suddenly forward, swarming up her legs, biting and biting and biting.

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