A group of kids explore an abandoned hotel but what they encounter is not a ghost.
|A fat turkey crow bellowed from a nearby tree, making us all jump several inches, all except for Elaine. She peered through the bush at the abandoned hotel, her gray eyes cold and hard as steel. If she glanced my way, my unrequited love burned across my face. I wasn’t worried about being busted though, she rarely ever saw me standing next to Aiden. |
Aiden, tall and muscular with bleached blonde hair and the authority of being the oldest boy, completely held her interest. They made out once, and he told me he got to second base with her. I hated him in the way only a jilted little brother could.
Alex, my best friend, said, “We’re not really going to do this, are we?”
I tore my attention from Elaine’s trim figure to the thin waif of a boy. Alex was a year older than me, but no bigger than Elaine’s younger sister, Camara. His blue eyes looked twice as big behind his thick rimmed glasses, and at the moment, I thought they might pop out of his head.
“You can totally stay here,” Elaine offered, shrugging her shoulders. Her voice carried indifference, but we all understood the tone.
Alex whined, “And you’ll totally call me ‘wuss’ forever.”
“Yes, I will,” she rsaid matter-of-fact, never even turning to look back at the delicate boy.
Alex’s face fell. Hopelessly in love, like every other boy who met Elaine, he didn’t want to risk failing in her eyes. The stupid things we participated in just so she wouldn’t think us losers.
She glanced back at us, flipping her straight blonde hair over her shoulder in the process. A quirky smile blossomed across her pretty face, and she asked, “You boys ready?”
Aiden shot from his heels, his voice echoing the enthusiasm lighting his face, “Heck yeah! We are so ready!”
“I still don’t see why we can’t go,” Camara, two years younger than me and four years younger than Elaine, griped.
Baxter, my other best friend, sat on the tree stump next to where she stood, holding his crutches in one hand and chewing on a granola bar with the other.
Even though he broke his leg four weeks ago while rollerblading, part of me wondered if Baxter did it so he could legitimately get out of going in the abandoned hotel. The logic didn’t make sense since Elaine suggested this adventure only a couple of weeks ago, but I envied him so much right now. He got to stay behind while not looking like a coward to Elaine. Hell, she probably thought of him as her hero since he was willing to stay with her ten-year-old sister.
Elaine pointed at his scribbled-on cast. “He can’t go where we can, and he needs the company.”
Camara crossed her thin arms over her flat chest and stuck out her tongue, she wasn’t stupid.
Baxter patted her on the back. “Seriously, I scare easy. I don’t want to sit out here all by myself.”
She looked at the dark haired pre-teen and shook her head. With an exasperated sigh, she flopped on the huge tree trunk next to him, burying her chin in her hands.
“Let’s get going!” Elaine grinned and shoved through the bush.
Aiden charged out after her, but Alex and I gave each other a nervous glance. Neither of us was real keen on venturing into a place reputed to be haunted.
“Dammit, grow a set,” Aiden shouted over his shoulder.
We leaped through the bush, unwilling to be shown up in front of beautiful Elaine. The path used to be well manicured, but now it was choked with weeds and random debris from people who dumped their trash out in the neglected stretch of forest. I jumped over a rotten tire, the rubber cracked, revealing the metal teeth inside, and narrowly avoided a broken bottle with the shards glinting like diamonds in the sunlight.
Alex wheezed behind me, trying to dodge the same obstacles, but I heard him trip over a cardboard box and curse when he hit his shin on the broken cinder block. Ahead of us, Elaine moved like a nimble-footed mountain goat, avoiding the smattering of dangerous trash with ease. Aiden picked his footing behind her, not as smooth as she was but doing better than we were.
I envied my big brother. Somehow, he always had all the luck.
We reached the poor excuse of a chain link fence separating the wild from the hotel property. Aiden peeled back a broken section from the pole and I ducked after Alex, stepping second into no man’s land. I looked back in time to see Elaine give Aiden a flirtatious wink before she followed us in. My heart hurt at that expression. I wanted her to look at me like that.
I turned away before my brother stepped through, but I heard the fence fall back in place. Sometimes, I really wish he’d go somewhere else and leave Elaine to the guys who actually cared about her.
I stared at the six-story decrepit building towering in front of me. Six stories in town didn’t even seem worth mentioning, but out here, it rose like a monster looming into the sky. Chunks of red brick lay scattered about in the tall grass and on the broken driveway, testimony to the decay of the once proud hotel. Some of the broken windows were covered with graffiti-laced plywood, but most of the thin boards lay snapped in pieces near their perspective window.
A fountain perched in the center of the driveway, the basin cracked and filled with dry weeds, but you could still see this place used to be grand. Elaine pushed through Alex and me, her right breast rubbing my shoulder. Alex’s cheeks darkened at her contact and I wondered if he’d been boob brushed too.
One lobby door hung upright, still covered with its plywood, but the other dangled on one hinge, ready to fall off if someone blew on it too hard. Elaine wrapped her tan hand around the ornate handle, and wiggled her eyebrows suggestively at us.
“Come into the hotel with me, boys,” her voice purred, a sexy sound that made my blood boil in my veins.
None of us needed more suggestion than the implied promise in her sultry voice, and we all but ran up to her. She pulled a large flashlight from her pocket and I followed suit. We clicked them on and shined them into the unwelcoming blackness of the hotel lobby.
The floor was as scattered with crap as the outside, and the wallpaper peeled from the walls with moldy looking water streaks. Elaine stepped in first, an elated expression making her gray eyes almost glow in the dark, but the rest of us covered our noses and gagged.
“What’s that smell?” Alex choked out.
“Homeless people sex,” Aiden stated in a matter of fact tone, and Alex made dry heaving noises. Elaine just shook her head and walked over to the check in desk. She rang the bell still sitting upright on the buckling wood counter. It blasted a sharp peal through the silence.
I jumped at the sound, and Aiden hissed, “Don’t do that.”
“Why?” Elaine laughed, “Are you afraid of ghosts?”
“No. But I don’t particularly want to alert any homeless people we’re here,” he retorted.
She shrugged her shoulders, the damage was already done.
I could tell from Aiden’s stiff shoulders and the way the nerve in his cheekbone twitched, he was lying to her. He was afraid of ghosts, but so was I.
The hotel carried a sordid past, and stood abandoned due to a disgruntled employee poisoning the staff and half of the guests. If that weren’t enough to stir up ghosts, the fact the madman proceeded to cut the owner up while he was immobilized with pain sealed it. Rumor claimed the man was never caught, but I believed he killed himself when he finished his gruesome act.
Either way, I hoped him and his spirit were far away from this place.
“Where are you going?” Aiden whisper-shouted. Elaine glanced over her shoulder, her foot poised over the first step of the grand staircase.
“I didn’t come in here to admire the lobby. I want to see some of the rooms,” she said. Her flashlight illuminated more debris and dangling ceiling tiles, not exactly inviting.
Aiden groaned, but stalked over. I trailed after him with Alex hyperventilating behind me. It was too late to back out, not without looking like a wuss to Elaine forever.
Her waist-long, blonde hair glistened in our flashlight beams like gold, and I noticed Aiden kept his light firmly fixed on the rear pockets of her tight jeans. When we reached the second floor, Elaine motioned for Alex and I to check out the room across the hall. She didn’t make a sound. I figured she was giving serious consideration to Aiden’s concern, or she feared the ghosts too, but she’d never admit it. Elaine never admitted being scared of anything, she said she was too much of a girl to fear silly things. I never understood what she meant by those words, but I understood she would never allow us to see her be scared.
I walked over to the door and pushed it open, shining my light into the empty room. Most of the furniture was missing, though a broken table lay in one corner and the curtains hung in tattered remains on the partially boarded window still. I glanced behind to see Aiden standing in the hall, his back to us and the rest of the hallway.
Jealousy flared again. I wanted to be the one guarding Elaine from the spirits, but no, she always chose to go with him. I felt like Velma, watching Fred always choose Daphne. It wasn’t fair. I may be two years younger than the two of them, but I was just as mature. And, I was definitely smarter than Aiden. At least, I liked to think so.
Alex hugged so close, his chest kept bumping my elbow as we stepped into the room.
“Dude, back off!” I jerked my elbow back and took delight in the sharp intake of breath.
“What did you do that for?” he grumbled, rubbing his diaphragm and glaring at me through his thick rims.
I gestured to the mere inches of space between the two of us. “You’re my best friend, not my girlfriend. Quit trying to dance with me.”
He grinned sheepishly and stepped a couple more inches away. I knew that was as good as I would get, but I didn’t mind as much as I acted. I didn’t like being in here and wanted to get out as soon as possible.
A shout of terror echoed through the silence. We raced out of the room, tripping over each other and almost falling in the process. A tall shape stood in front of Elaine’s door, Aiden was on his butt and elbows on the floor in front of it. His face was so white I think it would have scared off ghosts, if one weren’t in front of him.
It leaned towards him and my flashlight beam sparked off something shiny in its hand. It had a weapon!
“Hey!” I yelled, terrified for my brother’s safety.
“Uh uh, sorry man, you’re on your own!” Alex bolted down the stairs and disappeared out the front door.
The thing, whatever it was, turned its attention on me and I saw a filthy face peering out from under layers of clothes and plastic bags intertwined into an odd coat. Not a ghost after all, but the knife he held in his hand was a threat anyways. Aiden scooted backwards, putting distance between him and the deranged looking man.
Elaine must have moved from wherever she was hiding in her room of exploration, for there was a thud and the sound of something glass breaking followed by a quiet curse. The man lost interest in me immediately and turned back to the room. When she saw his attention on her, Elaine gave one desperate shriek.
Her only moment of displayed fear motivated me into action. I ran across the hall and leaped full force into the back of the man’s gigantic form. Though he looked huge because of his getup, I could feel how frail and thin his actual frame was and easily outweighed him. He fell forward in a heap of rags and the knife scittered across the floor, into Elaine’s room. I fell on top of him, but was up so fast I wasn’t even sure I actually fell. Elaine bolted out of her room, leaping over his fallen form and grabbed me by my arm.
My brother was up at this point and he grabbed the other arm. They raced down the stairs, dragging me with them, and we launched ourselves into the safety of the sunlit courtyard. Alex barely escaped being bowled over in our attempt to get to the chain link fence. Aiden peeled broken metal aside and shoved me through it. Adrenaline surged through my system still; I wanted to throw up.
Once we were all safely on the other side and confident the frail man wasn’t chasing us, Elaine turned to me. She stared at me in stunned silence and shook her head. I didn’t know what to make of it and I could feel Alex and Aiden staring too.
“You saved me,” she blurted, “You actually saved me!”
I nodded my head. I couldn’t let him hurt her. Without another word, she grabbed me roughly by my cheeks and planted her soft pink lips firmly on mine.
The kiss couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, but to me, it felt like a lifetime.
She broke apart from me and ruffled my hair affectionately. Then she spun around and marched off across the landmine of trash. I watched the way her hips swayed and her long hair waved back and forth and touched a hand thoughtfully to my mouth.
Sure, we were idiots to go into the hotel in the first place and we almost died at the hands of a crazy homeless man; but at twelve and in love with the fearless queen of danger, I would do it again in a heartbeat for another kiss.