by S. E. Mabson
A car wreck leaves her family wandering in the woods that just don't seem to end.
Prompt: 'an odd place for a hotel'
Word Count: 1497 on google docs, 1492 on here? strange.............
“It’s been 3 days! We couldn’t possibly have fallen that far! I’m done foraging!” Bri stomped over to a log in the clearing with her arms crossed and flopped down on the ground leaning against it. “Just let me die already ugh”
“Sweety I know its rough, surviving in the woods. We couldn’t have wrecked in a worse spot, but we will survive this...alive.”
Her words faded in the background as she continued trying to comfort Bri and her brother Craig. Bri’s thoughts drowning her out. Alive, yeah like dad. Thoughts of her father’s body bloodied and gouged, hanging out the windshield flooded down her face like a waterfall. Through the waterfall, through the trees, she saw something flashing. Like the signal on a tv going in and out. Bri wiped her face and got to her feet, squinting her eyes. Her thoughts drawn to it, hyper-focused. Curiosity swept her across the clearing. A black button knob appeared.
“Mom, what’s wrong with Bri?”
“It looks like she is turning a knob, dear. I fear the woods have overtaken her brain. Wooo.” she wiggled her fingers toward him.
“I’m 13 mom, not 8.” he smirked, “Should we stop her?”
“She knows not to go too far. Let her explore.”
“I don’t know, mom, there is something weird about these woods.”
“Looks like any other forest dear, we’re all just ready to be home that’s all.”
“You don’t think it’s weird the road was nowhere in sight, or that we haven’t seen or heard a single animal, or that these woods don’t seem to ever end! Mom, come on it’s all weird. We shouldn’t let her explore alone.”
Bri turned the black button knob, and the picture became clear. A hotel? Of course, this was fake, like a mirage in the desert, right? I have clearly gone loco in the woods. But...it’s better than thinking about my dad laying on top of the hood covered in blood and glass, she thought. So, she took a step closer, testing the waters...pictures still here. So, it definitely isn’t a hologram, since I can climb the stairs. At the top of the stairs, she took a moment to take in the beautiful garden and old architectural style of the hotel. It was like the hotel was back in its prime. Let’s see how far this mirage lets me go.
“Too late, she is already gone, like you said we haven’t seen or heard any animals. Sounds like these are as safe as woods could be. Try and relax dear, I promise we will all be ok.”
“I’m going after her.” He got up and ran so fast he was on the steps of the hotel before he had time to notice it.
“NO! Wait!” He stopped, realizing he was on steps. He looked around, eyes wide, and his mouth too, before taking another step. His mother grabbed him by the arm before he had a chance to turn the doorknob. When his eyes met hers, the picture became clear. Well clear that he was right, but she, his mother, was scrambling along with the hotel like an antennae tv.
“Mom, what’s going on?”
“I can’t let you get your sister. She has to do this alone.”
Bri was greeted by a grand lobby, bustling with life. Oh yeah, I’m taking this mirage all the way! Please tell me hot tubs have been invented already! “Give me a room, please. I need a bed!” She turned around about to race up the stairs to the next floor, intent on jumping on the bed, but her feet didn’t move. The picture was being interrupted. Bri looked around waiting for the signal to fix itself, imagining a satellite in space. The black button knob appeared again. After turning it, the picture became clear again. So, she headed for the stairs but didn’t touch them. “Dad?” His face clear, body healed. I know it’s a mirage, but. It was hard to resist the urge to hug him. His expression kept her at bay. His eyebrows were raised, his eyes filling up with fear and regret.
“You shouldn’t be here Bri. Hurry, run while you still can!”
“What are you talking about dad. This place is awesome!” I jogged up the stairs. And the picture went unfocused again.
“Run, Bri, Run!” She reached for him and he was gone before Bri could wrap her arms around him. Ok so, mirages and dreams definitely don’t work the same way. I am definitely not controlling whatever this is. Shaking her head, she continued on to room 124. She opened the door and went straight for the bed, of course.
“Do what? Mom!” He paused waiting for a response. “What do you know? I knew something weird was going on. I have watched way too much horror and ‘Man vs. Wild’ to believe this crap is normal!” She was still flashing, but her expression grew grim. She lowered her head for a moment, embracing the whispers only she could hear. Then her eyes, not her head, just her eyes, popped up engaging in ominous eye contact. The left corner of her mouth rose. “Mom?” He took a step back, but she still had a tight grip on his arm.
“You want to go in? Fine, we’ll go in.” He didn’t follow her when she started off. “Are you coming, dear?” He took his first step and then another, regretting each of them as he went. The lobby was empty, overrun with plants and vines.
“What is this place?”
“It’s a hotel dear. It answers the call of frightened souls.”
“Huh? What does that have to do with Bri?”
“They say she is special. The one who can focus in is the one that can free.”
“They?” She smiled and walked into the hallway to the right. He let his fingers glide along with the vines adorning the old hotel, mesmerized by the intertwining. So much so he didn’t notice the room full of people. Faces contorted, bloody, dismembered. All looking like they died a few minutes ago, but dressed in clothes from past eras up to the present. “Mom?” She wasn’t beside him anymore.
Bri’s stomach growled, but she wasn’t quite ready to part with the bed. She took a deep breath and headed for a quick shower first. The room scrambled as the water flowed, splashing onto her head. “Get out Bri, run!”
“Dad? Why are you being so creepy.”
“Find Craig and GET OUT! Don’t trust anyone else.”
“Craig is in my mirage? Where is mom?” The scrambling stopped. She waited for him to reply but he didn’t. “Dad?” She peered out from behind the curtain. This mirage is getting creepy, I am getting out of here...after I eat. This place feels too real to pass up. She finished up and headed for the door. As she reached for the doorknob, the room completely lost signal to its imaginary satellite. The black button knob appeared and she was once again able to tune the picture. She turned the doorknob but it wouldn’t open at first. She yanked on it, and jiggled the doorknob, and pushed her shoulder into it, and finally, the door budged.
The once beautifully decorated walls now embraced the years of abandonment with overgrown plant life. And, of course, a hallway full of bloody people, some missing body parts, some just broken and hanging, some cut up, some pale and discolored like they were poison. They weren’t quite zombies, though, they looked fresh. Fresh death was staring her down. After a moment of standing there in silence, she let out the massive breath she had built up and loosened her grip on the doorknob. Definitely not a mirage.
The deadly masses opened a pathway leading her...somewhere. “Bri! Your alive!”
“Yep, what’s going on, I thought I was in a pretty sick mirage until dad kept showing up warning me.”
“Dad? What did he warn you about?”
“Just to find you on my way out and trust no one else. Let’s get out of here.” She grabbed his arm in retreat, and the signal went completely out. Loud static fizzed through their ears bringing them to their knees. The black button knob appeared and she pressed through to tune it. Loud murmurs and gasps spread among the dead.
“Follow me, children.” She led them into the crowd of souls as they split open a pathway to a makeshift stage in the ballroom. Bri stepped on the stage but Craig disappeared. Bri’s heart quickened, and she looked in all directions, searching the crowd for her brother. She flung her arms and legs around as they held her down to the floor. “Don’t be afraid sweetie, You can release us all from this prison.”
“I died in the crash sweetie, I have been guiding you here. I didn’t want to at first but they sent someone to uh, convince me”