Inspired by another blog that I follow Make and Tell, I thought I’d start my very own Friday Faves to share with you some of my favorite things I come across. Fellow writer and good friend Faith McKay is amazing and is always emailing me goodies to keep me going. Thanks Faith! I know it’s not Friday but since I plan to be offline and spending time with my family, I wanted to share today.

Sometimes just the right video, picture, or song can keep me inspired for days. So here’s to sharing the good vibes.

Friday Faves

INSPIRATION: I’ve been feeling like shit lately. This helps.

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LISTEN: Brand New was one of my favorite bands growing up and I still love them. Listen to their full album on Youtube or buy their music here, because it’s that good.

VIBES: I love fall and this particular Tumblr account Octoberanytime is awesome. It really gets me in the fall, cozy mood. Enjoy! Especially if you live in a place like I do, where it doesn’t feel like fall.

NEED: This alien bag from Modcloth. Especially for X-Files obsessed peeps like me.

FREEBIE ALERT: This November wallpaper gathering. I wait for it every month from Chic Type.  She’s so flipping creative.

MAKE: This drink looks like it’s a fall/Christmas-sy hug in your mouth and really, just sign me up.

READ: Shutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz is on my To-Read list. I love this author and you can read several chapters for free on Wattpad.

SELF-LOVE: I love Rookie mag and I absolutely love all of their articles on self-love. So today, I’m linking to all of them so you can scroll through the one that speaks to you. I also really, really love this one GROSS THINGS I’VE DONE IN THE NAME OF LOVE.

WEAR: Yep, I need this.

 

What are some of your Friday faves? Leave a comment below and tell me.

 

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BBBTour

Today’s book comes from a favorite publishing company of mine, Entangled!

Those of you that know my reading tastes, know that I love YA and romance reads. I also have a special spot in my reading heart for bad boys. This one, The Bad Boy Bargain by Kendra C. Highley caught my attention. The name drew me to it, and the cute cover, but when I read the blurb I knew I wanted to read this. Check it out.

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Baseball player Kyle Sawyer has many labels: bad boy, delinquent, ladies’ man, fearless outfielder… Only one of them is actually true. But then sweet ballet dancer Faith Gladwell asks him to help wreck her reputation, and everything goes sideways.

Faith knows a thing or two about love, and what she had with her cheating jerk of an ex wasn’t it. When he starts spreading rumors about her being an Ice Queen, Faith decides it’s time to let a little bad into her life.

Lucky for her, Kyle Sawyer—dark, dangerous, totally swoonworthy Kyle Sawyer—is landscaping her backyard over Spring Break. Shirtless. And if she can convince him to play along, “dating” Kyle will silence the rumors.

But Faith’s plan threatens to expose Sawyer’s biggest secret of all…and that’s a risk he’s not willing to take.

Disclaimer: This book contains drop-the-book-and-fan-yourself kisses…and touches. Fall in love with a bad boy at your own risk.

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Review

 

As I mentioned above, I found this book through Entangled Publishing, and I love their books and stories, so I’m always scoping out what’s next on the release. The cover caught my eye first, and once I read the description it was game over. I wanted to read this.

You see, I have a soft spot for bad boys and naturally, I love romance so The Bad Boy Bargain was right up my alley.

Disclosure: I’m actually pretty tough on romance novels because I feel like romance has a lot of stupid clichés and more often than not, I end up disappointed or annoyed at how lame the plot or dialogue was. But let me be clear. There was zero disappointment here.

I love love loved The Bad Boy Bargain.

Here’s what I loved about it:

The Build-up: Kendra, the author, does a fantastic job building the world that we meet. We meet the main characters without info-dumping and it’s fantastic being able to see the world through their eyes via the third person perspective.

The Romance: There is nothing I love more than sexual tension. Ms. Highley does a fantastic job creating this tension, building this tension, until as readers we’re ripe with anticipation over what on earth is going to happen between Kyle and Faith.

Sweetness: This book kind of reminded me of A Walk to Remember (the movie and the book). In both the book and the movie (though they were different in many ways) at the essence of the story, was a sweet, true love. Kyle kind of reminded me of Landon and Faith reminded me of Jamie. They both have problems and flaws, but they find comfort, love, and belonging in each other and the journey to being together. It’s the kind of love that you can’t help but cheer for and scream from the rooftops about when they finally kiss.

Sass sass sass: I really loved Faith because she wasn’t meek and mild. She was strong, ballsy, and I appreciated how she carried herself. There were a few times when she had these clutch one liners, “…I like kissing a lot, too…” (don’t worry, you’ll get it when you read it) and I wanted to be there, high-fiving her for putting herself out there like that.

Happily Ever After: I love a good dose of happily ever after and this one has that and more. There’s nothing more satisfying than closing a book (or in this instance, turning the digital page) with a smile on my face when it’s all over. I really enjoyed the ride and I felt happy and giddy when I tried to imagine what their future will hold. And really, I think that’s the key here. I cared enough about these characters at the end to not stop their story there. I thought about their future, their history, long after I turned my e-reader off.

Thank you Ms. Highley for the fun adventure and sweet read! I can’t wait to check out your other books!

If you’re looking for a sweet, fun romance to read, look no further. Pick up a copy of The Bad Boy Bargain!

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Special Sneak Peek Excerpt

 

Chapter One

Kyle

Badass, troublemaker, girl magnet—familiar words always followed Kyle from his locker to his senior English classroom. Or from the cafeteria to the parking lot. Or from the locker room to the baseball field. Anywhere he went, the whispers followed.

Today, it went something like, “Ooh, I know who we should vote most likely to drop out before graduation,” as he walked by. Or, “I heard he banged two girls at once at North Texas last weekend. College girls, man!” Or, “Dude, I heard MLB scouts are coming to the games to watch him play.”

He wished that last one were true.

Kyle zipped his hoodie up tighter, acting like he couldn’t hear a word. The dark red hoodie and a pair of headphones were pretty thin armor, even if he did encourage the stories…the lies. Suttonville High was a big enough maze of suck without letting the truth out.

And no way, no how, was he showing any sort of weakness ever again.

“Dude! Wait up!” a guy called.

For a second, Kyle stiffened. Old habits died hard. But he recognized the voice and let his shoulders relax. Cade Adams, unlike the hundreds of rich, snobby kids crowding the halls, was worth waiting for. He slowed his stride until Cade caught up, looking disheveled. For an amused moment, he wondered if Cade was running from a pack of zombified football players, then he noticed the pleading look on Cade’s face. The same one he’d ignored from a half dozen other guys.

He shook his head. “Nope, still not going.”

“It’s supposed to be a great party,” Cade said, running a hand over his hair to coerce it back into shape. It was a little too long, and curls kept springing up on his head. “First night of spring break, man. All the seniors are going.”

“Everyone except me,” Kyle said, quickening his pace.

“Come on,” Cade pleaded. “I need to be your wingman. Just once. Your leftovers would be a feast to us mere mortals.”

That’s what half the baseball team said, too. But if he let someone be his wingman, they’d find out really quick that he wasn’t what everyone assumed. “Sorry, not my scene.”

“Fine. Okay, I get it.” Cade’s crooked smile didn’t do much to hide his disappointment. “Just…think about it.”

He strode off, breezing through the hall filled with students in designer clothes as if his Iron Man T-shirt, wild hair, and faded jeans didn’t matter to him. And it didn’t—at some point last fall, Cade had become cool. Either that, or he’d stopped caring what any of them thought.

Lucky bastard.

Kyle stalked to chemistry, praying he’d pass today’s test. Being dyslexic turned the periodic table into a medieval torture device, even if his teacher was good about giving him tutoring on the down low. He couldn’t let anyone know he actually cared about his grades, aside from passing to play baseball.

“I heard he’s going out with some girl at Texas Woman’s,” a girl whispered to another as he walked in, as if he couldn’t hear them.

“Wish I knew for sure if anyone here has a chance,” said the other girl, a pretty senior who had a reputation of being a man-eater. “Because I’d ride that pony all over town.”

Kyle’s ears flamed up. To hide his discomfort, he rolled his neck, getting a little satisfaction out of the wary stares after the vertebrae cracked. That’s right, the scary kid just cracked his back. You puny humans shouldn’t try that at home.

The bell rang and he sank into his desk, adopting his typical pose of “I’m only here because the truant officer made me show up today” with his legs stretched out in the aisle. Mrs. Moody, the chem teacher, rolled her eyes. She saw right through him. And if she could, how much longer would it be before everyone else did?

During the test—in which chemical compounds morphed into ancient Hebrew right before his eyes—he couldn’t shake the conversation with Cade. He felt bad about letting the guy down, especially since he hadn’t been much of a friend the last few years, but he hated those parties because of the baggage that rode on them. Namely, his reputation.

Because who at Suttonville would believe that the resident delinquent, skateboard-riding, drag-racing, smart-mouthed chick magnet Kyle Sawyer was actually none of those things?

 

 

Chapter Two

Faith

“Faith Gladwell?” The school secretary’s voice was bored. “Your mother left you a package.”

Faith sighed in relief. She hadn’t meant to leave her ballet shoes at home, but she’d nearly been late for first period, and a tardy on her record was worse than the shame of calling for help.

She took her dance bag from the secretary and flashed her a big smile. “You made my morning.”

Like magic, the secretary smiled back. “Glad to help.”

That was thing most people missed about life—being nice actually worked. And with a name like Faith Gladwell, people expected nice. They wanted an angel with a sweet smile and bubbly attitude, and she was happy to oblige. Most of the time, anyway.

But it was getting harder. Wings were heavy and really hard to keep from dragging on the ground. Especially when you dated one of the most popular guys in school—and you weren’t sure you wanted to be with him anymore.

She hurried to the drama room, dodging past other students as if it were all a dance. Everything was a dance to her, especially now with her big break on the horizon. The musical was in two weeks, and they’d be starting dress rehearsals soon. After Mr. Fisk had learned she was classically trained in ballet, tap, jazz, and hip-hop, he’d insisted she try out for the lead in Oklahoma!

“You’re a triple threat, dear,” he said in his drawling theater voice. “We knew you could sing, and you can certainly act…but you can dance? Well, between all that and your girl-next-door demeanor, and you’re perfect for Laurey. I can just see you pirouetting in the dream sequence. Perfect!” He’d snapped his fingers and strode off, shouting for the costume designers to come take her measurements, not even waiting for tryouts to be finished.

The lead…she still couldn’t believe Mr. Fist had picked her. Mom was thrilled. Dad had taken to singing “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” at random intervals. Even her older sisters had called home to say congrats.

Cameron, though, had frowned and asked how much time the rehearsals would take up. “Will I be able to see you?” he’d asked. “Or will the musical take up all your time?”

Some people would call that sweet. Faith called it “smothering slowly,” especially since she knew he wasn’t really missing her, but a warm body to coo at his football stories and let him stick his hand up her shirt. She’d almost told him, nicely, that he could keep himself perfectly good company, given what he really wanted out of her.

So much for nice.

She hummed as she skipped through the halls. Getting the lead in the school musical was one more box checked for her high school bucket list. Only two marks left:

Get accepted to NYU’s musical theater program.

Have sex with a guy she loved.

Her mother would need smelling salts if she ever peeked in Faith’s diary, but what she didn’t know wouldn’t give her a stroke. Dad? Well, he’d lock her up and go shopping for chastity belts.

Faith snorted. That image was way too easy to conjure up. Dad probably knew someone who made chastity belts. He hadn’t even let her get into a car with a boy alone until she was sixteen. S-E-X wasn’t spoken of.

Faith slowed in front of the drama room, feeling a little pang catch her heart. Her family loved her. They loved her dreams, her dramatic streak, and even her feet, ugly from years of dance. Still, she knew they worried about her. The baby. The one most likely to turn out wild.

And they hated Cameron.

Funny thing was, she was starting to see why. Every time they went out now, his hands got a little more aggressive, and he couldn’t understand why she was reluctant to go past second base after dating for six months.

She didn’t have the heart to tell him it was because she was waiting until she really fell in love…and that she didn’t love him.

God, that was going to be a horrific conversation, wasn’t it?

“Faith! Wait up, you long-legged gazelle!” Violet Moore dashed after her, cursing the fact—loudly—that she was five three and friends with a girl who was five nine. “George Washington on a pogo stick, you walk fast.”

She chuckled. Violet’s ponytail was coming lose from its elastic and her face was red. “How long have you been trying to catch me?”

“Since you left the office!” Her best friend paused to suck down air. “I wanted to make sure you can still meet after school to get ready for the party.”

“Yep. I’ll be there at three thirty.”

“Good, because I’m seeing my hair stylist at five.”

Faith’s eyes widened. “You’re really going to do it?”

Violet swung her ponytail. “Hell yassss. Tell your mom we’ll send her the hair for the foundation.”

“Sweet!” Faith grinned. “I can’t wait to see you with short hair. It’ll match your height.”

“Aw, shut up, Amazon.” But she smiled. The smile faded fast, though. “Great. Asshat at eleven o’clock.”

“Cameron?”

“Yeah. I’m going to blaze before I say something that’ll land me in jail.” Violet gave her arm a squeeze. “You need to turf him. And soon.”

“I know.” She sighed and turned. Cameron was muscling his way past a group of freshmen to get to her. “I’ll…I’ll do it after the party.”

“Good girl. Later!”

Violet left a vapor trail, racing away before Cameron reached Faith. “Why’d she run off?”

“Class.” Faith hid a cringe. “She was asking me to help set up for the party.”

“Getting the weekend started right!” he crowed, throwing a possessive arm across her shoulders and pulling her against his side. “You’ll be ready at eight, right?”

“Yeah.” Her heart sank. “I’ll be ready.”

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Giveaway

There are several prizes to win! Here’s what’s up for grabs! $25 Amazon gift card, a paperback copy of Defying Gravity, and bookmarks from Finding Perfect, Defying Gravity, and The Bad Boy Bargain (US ONLY). Enter now to win! The giveaway ends November 25, 2016.

 

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About the Author

Kendra-Highley-AuthorKendra C. Highley lives in north Texas with her husband and two children. She also serves as staff to four self-important and high-powered cats. This, according to the cats, is her most important job. She believes in everyday magic, extraordinary love stories, and the restorative powers of dark chocolate.

 

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Blog Tour Schedule

The tour has many stops on November 14 – 25. Visit the schedule here!

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Laurie Faria Stolarz is on my auto-buy list. I’ve read and own every single book she’s ever published and I love her writing style. It’s always creative, dark, and captivating.

I was delighted when she agreed to come on my blog today to talk spooky things and books! It only seemed fitting that it would be on Halloween. Let’s dive in!

 

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Hi Laurie! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. Here’s my first question. You are one of my favorite spooky writers. Where do you draw your scary-inspiration from? Have you always loved scary things?

THE_DARK_HOUSE_CAROUSEL_TK_5Thank you! Even though I write scary stories, – I’m the biggest scaredy cat ever.  You name it – bugs, critters, haunted houses, dark places, basements, attics, creaking noises at night, horror movies, abandoned places, creepy dolls, creepier clowns, libraries at night… The list goes on and on.

A lot of people ask me if I ever draw inspiration from nightmares I have. I don’t normally have nightmares, but I did a few years back and WELCOME TO THE DARK HOUSE was the result. In my nightmare, I dreamed about horror film fanatics from around the country – all of them eagerly awaiting the next film in a certain famed director’s cult-followed movie series.  In my dream, the famed director was pretty done with his cult-followed series (in the book it’s called the Nightmare Elf series).  He wanted to pursue “more serious” projects.  But since there was so much interest in his Nightmare Elf movies, he decided to host a contest: fans of the Nightmare Elf series could enter their worst nightmare for the chance to meet the director (in the book, he’s named Justin Blake) and see his confidential new project.

Six teens win and get flown from around the country to stay in a house (think MTV’s The Real World). As the winners arrive, they couldn’t be more excited. They can’t wait to meet Justin Blake and see his confidential film.

That’s when my dream took a dark turn. I dreamed that the winners get taken – by limo – to the screening destination, only once they get there, they find that there’s no screening at all.  I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say there’s a creepy amusement park involved and their worst nightmares come back to haunt them.

 

That book series is one of my favorites! I died when I had to wait for the sequel to come out! Okay, so I know I mentioned I’m a huge fan and own every single one of your books. There are so many and I love to re-read them. Do you have a favorite book that you’ve written?Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 9.15.34 AM

I love BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES because it was my very first book and I learned so much from it. I also love BLEED, because I got to experiment with voice, character, structure, and format, while pushing the boundaries. BLEED explores the idea of chance and consequence and how the decisions we make every day, big or small, can have a domino effect, affecting the lives of others, even those we may not know. For example, your phone rings and you decide to let it go to voicemail. What is the effect of that decision – for you and the other person? How many lives does that decision touch?

BLEED also looks at different perspectives of the same events, the way SHUTTER does. In SHUTTER, my main character Day Connor, looks at the same images from different perspectives to try to find truth. In Day’s case, she’s trying to figure out if Julian Roman, a boy who escaped from a juvenile detention facility as he was awaiting trial for murder, is guilty or innocent.

 

What is your writing process like? Tea? Cookies? Music? Silence? Sitting in a creepy amusement park?

I like black coffee and silence. Music can be distracting unless I’m using it as a tool to get me into a particular mood to write a scene. I also love anything salty, especially popcorn with salt, pepper, and garlic salt.

 

Being that this is a trick-or-treat interview, do you believe in ghosts? Werewolves? Vampires?

Ghosts – yes, sadly, I do, and that makes going into the basement all the more challenging. Do I believe in werewolves and vampires? No, not the way they’re portrayed in movies and books, though I know there are individuals who live a vampire lifestyle. I haven’t met them though, or maybe I have and just don’t know it.

 

shutter150Have you ever had a real life spooky encounter? Tell us about it!

Once when I was in TJ Maxx, Laurie Cabot, Salem, Massachusetts’ official witch, approached me from behind, shoved a crystal cluster rock into my hand, and told me the entire plot of my novel (one that had already been written and was sitting in the hands of my thesis advisor).  She didn’t “sense” it was a novel, however.  She pegged me as the main character and she told me my life was in danger and that I had four days to do something about it (four days, just like in the book).  She went on to describe the killer and told me not to go anyplace alone for four days.  All the while she was talking to me, I just kept thinking: This is my novel.  BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES came out about a year and a half later.  There’s no way she could have read the novel beforehand. Only some fellow classmates and my thesis chair and reader had access to it.

Also, when I was doing the research for PROJECT17, I went to the abandoned mental institution on which the book is based.  Growing up, the former mental hospital was rumored to be haunted (there are actually unmarked graves on the premises).  Once I really started delving into the research, visiting the place took on a whole new meaning.  I was so horrified that I couldn’t sleep at night.

 

 Oh. My. God. I can’t believe that happened to you with Laurie Cabot. I’m in awe right now! It’s insane! What did you say?! I don’t even know what I would have said. The mental institution research sounds spoookyyyy. Speaking of spooky, what is your favorite scary movie?

I Know What You Did Last Summer

 

P17coversWhat is the best costume / most memorable costume you’ve ever had for Halloween?

Medusa. I was in high school. It was the best costume, complete with realistic-looking snake hair, a long gold robe-like dress, and a face made up with white and green make-up, but unfortunately my friend got carsick en route to a Halloween party and I happened to be sitting next to her in the car. Picture regurgitated Halloween candy in poor Medusa’s lap.

 

I love Medusa! That’s such a good one! So, being that you’re an author and all, what is your favorite scary, spooky, or fall read?

Anything by Stephen King

 

What would your fear be if you were entering the contest in your Welcome to the Dark House series?

It’s hard to pick just one thing. Frankie’s nightmare of getting buried alive was horrifying to me. The idea of spending the night in an abandoned mental institution that’s rumored to be haunted, like in PROJECT 17, is also terrifying. Being trapped anywhere freaks me out, as does being chased. Did I mention, I can’t even go into those Halloween-inspired haunted houses you find at carnivals, nor can I do those “fun houses” with the mirrored glass walls.

 

Do you have a favorite Halloween song or creepy album?

I can’t do creepy music. Seriously, not even for a few seconds. It really bothers me – like fingernails down a chalkboard. Music can be so powerful. If creepy music were on in my house, I wouldn’t be able to walk from room to room. I know, right? I’m a scaredy cat.

 

Your new book Shutter sounds amazing! I gobbled up the preview of it on Wattpad and I am freaking out that I have to wait so long. How did this story come about? How is this different from your other books? Can you tell us anything about it or the characters?

Thanks so much! I love the idea of a main character that’s lived her entire life in the shadows of her do-gooder parents. Day, 16, refers to her parents as being superheroes because of all of the amazing things they do each day to make the world a better place, fighting for justice, giving the proverbial underdog a second or third chance.

Up to this point, Day has tried to come up with some super-heroic initiatives of her own, but nothing has panned out the way she intended. She doesn’t realize that something as basic as giving another the benefit of the doubt is pretty admirable and heroic all on its own. As she looks at Julian’s case – the boy who’s been accused of murdering his father – from different perspectives, she treats Julian as a human being, rather than as a criminal. While others are quick to point the finger, Day doesn’t make any assumptions. She simply examines his story from different angles in her quest to find the truth.

 

I have already ordered my copy and it’s supposed to arrive November 1st! Happy Halloween to me. Now let’s move to the lightning round!

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Lightning Round

Say the first word that comes to mind when you see the prompt!

Candy corn – sugar

Ghosts – present

Graveyard – creepy

Deadly – knives

 

That was fun! It was so lovely having you. Thank you so much Laurie for making the time. I can’t wait to read Shutter and I hope that you have a happy Halloween!

 

About Laurie Faria Stolarz


81a7YOlde+L._UX250_Laurie Stolarz
 is the author of several popular young adult novels including the Dark House series, the Touch series, Project 17, and Bleed, (all published by Disney/Hyperion Books for Children), as well as the bestselling Blue is for Nightmares series (Flux Publications). With over a million books sold worldwide, Stolarz’s titles have been translated into over twenty languages, been named on numerous award lists, including the Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers list and the Top Ten Teen Pick list, both through the American Library Association, and have been optioned for TV. Her next book, Shutter, will be released in October of 2016. For more information, please visit her Web site at www.lauriestolarz.com.

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Want to read more

Trick-or-Treat Chronicles?

Check out the interviews with the authors below (in alphabetical order):

Madeleine Roux

The Blood Brothers

Romily Bernard

Debbie Dadey & Marcia Thornton Jones

Laurie Faria Stolarz

Tessa Gratton

Judith Graves

Kim Harrington

Susan McBride


Haunted-Hotel-Showcase

Welcome to day thirty-one of the Haunted Hotel Writer and Illustrator showcase!

Happy Halloween!

You can find a list of all participants here.

Come back each day, the entire month of October for a scare! Today’s story is here thanks to a master key, given out and forgotten about…until now.

Thornewood Hotel master key

 

“There’s no such thing as ghosts, only the emptiness left behind. Everyone leaves. Like this place,” the old man said, straining his thin neck as he craned his head to take in the bustling lobby and bar, the giddy line of people at the front desk. “If not for me, this hotel would be empty, the absence of life the only thing to fill it. No, son. The only thing haunted here is me.”

The kid leaned back from the hotel bar where he shouldn’t have been to begin with. The old man, this skeleton with skin, went back to wiping the bartop with a stringy towel, his naked smile covered again with slivers of lips.  Finally, the kid let out his breath.

Thornewood Hotel was anything but empty. The huge lobby hosted bellhops waiting at the elevators, more than one raucous party of college-age kids staying overnight on a dare, elegant couples lounged across red velvet sofas, lost in the subtle darkness of the place. The upper floors were exposed, baring dozens of people through the iron railings heading to their rooms, or to someone else’s.

All these people were here because of the rumors, that macabre longing to be part of a ghost story.

It was a shitty tourist trap.

“So no ghosts then?” the kid, Brendan, huffed. “All this is crap. This place wasn’t even built until the 1800s it says in that big book over there,” he said, pointing at a coffee table book at the feet of a kissing couple dressed in black. “The Salem Witch Trials were long before that.” And Brendan would know because he just read about them in high school. He put his beer, untouched, down on the bar.

The old man laughed, glassy eyes still on the swirls his hand made with the bar towel. “Boy, Thornewood is like every other hotel; any hint of humanity is washed out with the sticky sheets the next day. My guests get what they want, they go, and I’m still here.”

“So you’re the ghost, right? That’s how this works? Somebody will tell me there isn’t even a bar at the Thornewood, much less one that would serve a high school kid, and we’ll all get chills?”

That bony grin came back. “No, boy, you’ll leave here in the morning like everybody else, with just a story of a creepy old man to tell.” He leaned forward, and Brendan was sure he could hear the man’s bones creak. “That’s the way I get them to keep coming here. I rattle their cages,” he said, tapping his head, “scare ‘em up. Some swear they leave Thornewood feeling different, that once they’re alone in their rooms, something changes.” He laughed, a dry laugh that blended in with all the other laughter around them. “Guess you’ll have to stay yourself to find out.”

“Hey,” Brendan’s girlfriend, Marybeth said breathlessly, coming up behind him. “This place is gorgeous! Everywhere I went there was all this red velvet and gold and black–”

“Like a brothel?” Brendan chided, leaning back against her.

No, like a pretty hotel from like, the fifties or something.”

Brendan turned around on his bar stool and pulled Marybeth against him, her dark hair tickling his face. “I say we treat it like a brothel,” he said, kissing her neck through a leer.

“Now, now, you two,” the old man said gently, coming around the bar and tossing the towel over his shoulder. “Let me show you to your room.”

Marybeth made a face. “Why are you showing us to our room? There are bellhops,” she said, glancing at one of the young men in his tiny hat at the elevator. “Aren’t you the bartender?” A disheveled patron put his empty glass on the bar, nodded at the old man when they made eye contact, and muttered that Steven makes better drinks anyway, to take as long as he needed. The old man patted him on the shoulder as he passed.

“Evening, Charlie,” the handsome bellhop said, nodding at the old man as the three entered the elevator, joining a handful of others.

“Mitch, looking good tonight, you ladykiller.”

“So everyone else can see him, too, right?” Marybeth whispered into Brendan’s ear, strawberry breath lingering.

“Maybe they’re all ghosts,” Brendan said.

“Or maybe we are.”

“Can ghosts do this?” The boy pinched her bottom so hard she leaped, bumping into the woman behind her, who tottered on her heels.

“Sorry,” Marybeth said sweetly, tucking her hair behind her ear.

The woman righted herself, smiling back. “You look so familiar, dear. Are you from around here?”

“I am,” Marybeth said, still smiling. She was like that, smiled at strangers. It made Brendan smile all the time.

The woman took a step forward when the elevator dinged. “So am I,” she said with a sultry wink that neither of the kids understood. She sashayed out of the elevator, alone.

“Total ghost,” Brendan said. Marybeth giggled.

Charlie said not a word as he left the elevator on the next floor, only waved the two kids along behind him. Marybeth trailed her fingers along the wall, smiling still.

“Is this silk?” she asked Charlie about the shining gold wallpaper. Paintings dotted the hallway between rooms. The frames were all different, like they’d been picked up at yard sales, and Brendan suspected they had been. All to lend to the atmosphere of this oddball, beautiful place where things went together, but didn’t and nothing/everything was cohesive. A little contrived.

“That wallpaper was here long before I was, so I suspect so,” said Charlie.

“And the paintings?”Brendan asked.

“Oh, they come and go,” Charlie replied, and stopped in front of a door.

Marybeth glanced at me with a mocking wrinkled brow, and I shrugged.

The room was lovely. Opulent, even. Faint pink wallpaper, silk, like in the hallway. Furniture all painted white. Elaborately carved wood. All the accents shined like the inside of seashells. A small crystal chandelier hung over the bed, which was covered in a maroon satin.

“Oh wow,” Marybeth said, eyes wide. She strode past Brendan and Charlie, mouth open but smiling. “This is unbelievable.” She sat lightly on the queen bed, and Brendan’s heart skipped a beat.

Shaking it off for the time being, Brendan went to the enormous window and pulled the heavy maroon curtains aside. It looked out over the woods, where lanterns glowed like giant fireflies in the closest trees.

The only living trees.

A bony forest illuminated beyond, stretching further than something dead should have reached. No yellow eyes peered between the cadaverous trees, autumn leaves didn’t blow across the brittle ground. The woods were an emaciated shadow of the hotel, staring through its windows, waiting for scraps.

Brendan backed away.

Charlie closed the curtains again with a sharp look at the boy. “Nothing but emptiness back there, son. More emptiness.” He approached Brendan fast, faster than the kids had seen him move yet. “If you need something empty, boy, you’ve come to the right place,” he snarled, then smiled nastily. “Maybe you’ll be the one who stays this time. Maybe emptiness suits you. Maybe that beating heart is too much to bear at times, it scares you, the memories building in your mind, the hopes that spill out, naked and afraid—“

The old man’s gnarled hands were twisting in the air between their faces in his fanatical speech, his eyes bulging, spittle shooting between his yellowed teeth. Brendan whimpered.

“Maybe you’ll find comfort in the dark, boy,” Charlie said hoarsely. A tear trickled down Brendan’s cheek. Charlie clapped him on the shoulder. “Good night, now, kids,” he said warmly, as though he hadn’t just terrified them both to shaking.

Marybeth was frozen to the bed, fingers curled into claws around the covers. But it wasn’t Charlie or Brendan she was afraid of. It was the painting that appeared on the wall in front of her, one that hadn’t been there a moment before.

It was a painting of her. Burning.

“See you in the morning,” Charlie said as the door closed behind him. Brendan and Marybeth both ran toward the door, but neither of them touched the knob—if it could be called that. A deep red porcelain anatomical heart, it turned quickly sticky-looking and pulsing, dripping blood on the floor. A wet squelching sound came from the other side of the door, and the heart twitched, contracting around something inserted inside it.

With a click, the kids were locked inside.

Marybeth swung around, breath short. “Brendan,” she whispered. “What can we do?”

Brendan stifled his own nerves, squinted his eyes to abolish the squirming feelings of bugs skittering across his body that this place had inflicted upon him. “We’re falling for it. This is all a trick, there’s nothing to worry about.”

“I worry about that, Brandon!” she screeched, pointing at the painting.

Brandon crossed the room, despite Marybeth holding her hand out to him, silently begging for him to stay beside her. He touched the painting, and yanked his fingers back, sticking them in his mouth.

“It’s hot,” he said. “Nice touch.”

“That’s me in that painting!”

Brandon couldn’t deny that it was her. Her dark hair, same length; he could make out the cowlick over her right eye where the flames stopped. He could see the mole by her eyebrow, and he would know those eyes anywhere. They seemed so—

The girl in the painting twitched, grimaced. Screamed. A long howl, mournful of her own horrible death, and the moan echoed in the dead woods outside, a single wind rattling the lanterns.

Save me, Brandon,” the Marybeth in the painting choked out.

The real Marybeth screamed, snapping Brandon back to the present, out of the living witch burning on canvas.

Marybeth had dared to put her hand on the doorknob.

She held up her hand, entire body trembling, index finger blistering and red. With a shaking breath, eyes streaming tears, she looked at her boyfriend. “It took my finger inside, I felt it take something from inside me…”

The blistering spread up Marybeth’s arm. It swerved up her neck, and when it reached her hair, it ignited, flames racing down her arm like a match set to gasoline. Brandon fell to the floor, which had begun to smoke, and the room was ablaze, starting with the painting of the dying witch that was Marybeth somehow.

“Help!” Brandon cried. “Please, help us!”

“Help!” the witch in the painting mocked, and she laughed as she burned.

A hideous scraping overpowered the screams and cries, turning Brandon’s stomach. For as certainly as the disembodied heart had taken part of Marybeth, this scraping was something coming for Brandon.

In the chaotic noise and terror of the burning room, of Marybeth being torn away from him, Brandon’s head turned slower than time, his eyes finally resting on the window, where the scraping became more frantic, as if sensing his gaze. Brandon crawled on hands and knees to the window and without the hesitation of someone with hope, he pulled the crimson curtains aside.

The bone white trees howled with the agony of lost and soulless things as they burst through the glass and ripped Brandon through it, dragging him into the lifeless woods, his world burning behind him.

 

* * * * *

 

The stories of ghosts were nothing compared to the real horror that boiled and blistered with fury and sadness in a room without walls or doors in the Thornewood. It was a place that existed, pulsing with a dead energy, an energy stolen and harbored inside this empty prison.

A power that didn’t require spooky stories to keep it alive. A power that thrived on more than words and pounding hearts.

Charlie kept an even pace through the halls of the Thornewood Hotel. He no longer shook when he took this walk, or pursed his lips to prevent vomiting. He passed the ever-shifting paintings, that always called to him, witches crying for the help of a man they never knew. He ambled through the lobby, paying no notice to the increasingly excitable crowd; they didn’t know what they’d felt, but they’d all felt something. A stealing of something, a vague sense of loss and a swelling in the hotel. A growth. Heat and iciness at once. And most certainly screams. Charlie’s eyes lingered on the coffee table book, now claiming the Thornewood Hotel was built during Prohibition.

The truth was that the Thornewood knew no time. The Thornewood owed no greater entity aside from the power in the doorless, windowless room.

Mariah Thorne.

“I’ve come,” Charlie said when he’d wandered the halls long enough to be lost in this place of his own, when he felt no more than a confused old man. Mariah loved this part. The best servants felt they were all-powerful, right up until those moments they came face to face with their master.

Charlie had been heady with the power Mariah allowed him. Charlie never died, never became one with the roots and dry dirt of those brittle, abandoned woods; a gift that seemed bountiful with promise for a man who was forever searching. A search for someone to just stay, and one that always came up empty.

And coming back to Mariah.

She made him wait sometimes. This time she was the one who couldn’t wait.

Charlie couldn’t ever hold back the scream when his index finger elongated, old bones cracking, stretching in a way nothing solid should. He couldn’t stop the tears when the skin split and restitched, forging a shockingly gruesome key of shredded meat, strained tendons, exposed bone. Every time he felt it stretching his soul, drawing him out further than he should go.

Charlie knew all about that. He’d lived too long; no, not lived.

Continued.

A dead, dark heart, dripping no blood, pulsing weakly, materialized in front of the old man, level with his own heart. Charlie gagged as he inserted his finger into the rotted flesh of it, the ashy decay of the barely living thing. The muscle clamped around his finger, and sucked. Sucked until it was throbbing brightly with life, red as a blooming rose and just as fresh. The old man’s eyes twinkled.

He liked this part. Seeing her vitality restored. Seeing how she needed him. Mariah Thorne, everlasting survivor, flawless, radiant, magical immortal, needed him. An old man with nothing. Whose greatest accomplishment was staying alive and opening hotel room doors.

Then she was there.

Mariah Thorne flickered into vision, the form rendered around the beating heart. The burns came first. She’d told Charlie they were her most powerful memory—not her thirty years of life, her daughter, strong and kind, the peace she felt writing pages of words no one would ever read, not the magic that danced on her fingers and in her heart at will. It wasn’t the fury of her neighbors when they saw her slaughter a hen and pour its blood over her garden in the night, or when the vegetables sprouted to life by morning. Her strongest memory was the feeling of the flames scorching her toes first, licking up her legs and arms, and what happened next.

When she realized she had the strength to turn the flames on those traitorous imbeciles that dared to try to kill her. With one flick of her hand, straining against the ropes on her wrist, she incinerated those fools and laughed as she fell to the pyre. The ropes burned away, her flesh burned away, and she cast her smoke-stung eyes to the woods.

Blackened flesh fell from her body as she crawled to them, the fruitful, lush woods.

She would be lush and fruitful forever.

“Mariah,” Charlie breathed.

The witch’s dark hair swam like sea serpents around her head. Her smile was sunlight when she said to Charlie, “I saw her through the eyes of the woods. This…Marybeth. She looks just like my little girl, before they—“ Mariah’s eyes hardened, and her heart coiled tighter around the old man’s finger. “She feeds me like none other. Her soul—I felt it the moment she set foot in the Thornewood.” Mariah’s burns smoothed out, tender skin replacing it, soft around Charlie’s finger as her heart loosened its grip. “Her soul isn’t sedentary like the others. It grows, gives and takes, diminishes and is reborn, every day.”

She released Charlie, who stumbled back in amazement. “Your radiance is too much for my eyes, Mariah. This girl has nourished you beyond anything I’ve seen.”

“And you brought her to me,” the witch said.

Charlie was blindsided by a longing and a fear like nothing he’d ever known.

“Perhaps, Mariah… Perhaps my reward might change in this instance.”

The beautiful witch bared her teeth, eyes aflame, though her voice was gentle. “Our agreement was eternal, Charlie. Is a bit of this impeccable soul you’ve brought me not payment enough? Am I not generous with you, do I not do well by you, that you must ask me for more than immortality?”

“No! No, Mariah, not more. Only…different. Marybeth’s soul flourishes so wildly in you, I can’t help but wonder—“

“—about the woods,” Mariah finished.

Before the hotel, Mariah took her life from the surrounding woods. The creatures that inhabited it, the towering trees, the worms in the soil, the flowers that sprang up in the morning. Every inch of the woods had soul, and while Mariah helped it to grow with her magic, the woods gave back to her. The woods nursed her to health, rejuvenated her until she’d bled it dry in her greed, sucked its marrow, consumed its skin. Until the woods were no longer enough and she needed the souls to flow like a river, constant, teeming with life.  She needed a place of her own. She needed a servant to deliver these souls to her forever. And Thornewood Hotel was born of her sheer will.

“The woods have taken a boy this night,” Charlie continued, hope growing in him. Hope that Mariah might let him free of the gift she’d bestowed upon him.

“Not the woods. Me. I have taken him.”

“Yes! You have done it, through the lifelines that still connect you to those trees! Your magic keeps the woods alive, despite the death that fills them now! You can restore it, if you just let yourself, Mariah. If you don’t abandon them any longer, if you go back there.” Charlie dared to put a hand on her arm, as a friend would. “Mariah, you can be the witch of the woods you once were, not chained to this hotel with need.”

Mariah’s eyes became faraway. “I am stronger than need,” she murmured.

Charlie leaned in closer, squeezing her arm, the thrill of being allowed to comfort her filling him with more life than he’d experienced in these countless years. “You are pure magic, Mariah Thorne, and owe it to yourself to live.”

Her eyes met his, and filled with fire.

The air shimmered around them with heat.

Mariah screamed, centuries of anguish released into a blaze of energy, aching to burn the hotel to the ground. Charlie held her tightly still, now with both hands, ready to burn with her.

 

* * * * *

 

Mariah’s screams were heard for days after the Thornewood Hotel was nothing but smoking cinders. Her wails were louder than those of the hundreds trapped inside—the last guests the Thornewood would ever know.

Mariah incinerated the Thornewood and everyone in it as she ran to the woods, pulling Charlie behind. It’s said that the trail of night blooming flowers leading from the hotel’s carcass to the woods are born of Charlie’s tears as they fell to the ground, though of happiness or despair, no one could know.

When the hotel was no more than a black mark, the woods burst to life. The pained branches fattened and grew luscious leaves to canopy the dense moss and fauna they held close. The life they’d given Mariah, that she so crudely took, never left. It haunted those woods, waiting. And like any carnivorous thing, it took the offering given to it; Charlie and Mariah disappeared into its depths.

The woods thrived year round, through the cold and snow, leaves always a vibrant green. They deserved that magic returned to them. And they weren’t about to let it go again.

Deep in the woods, was a nest of thorns. It cradled a human heart, that it only squeezed too hard sometimes, in the dead of winter, and that heart bled and pulsed and fed the woods that had ripped its owner through a window the night the Thornewood burnt down. And that boy’s heart had found someone who would never leave.

She walked those woods with more grace than she’d walked the halls of Thornewood Hotel, a soul as bright as summer sun, and when she slept beside that nest of thorns at night, the heart and the trees whispered her name.

“Marybeth.”

 

About the Author

julie-hutchings-author-picJulie Hutchings is a pizza hoarding, coffee swilling, karate loving author and editor with a magnetism for the creepy and obscure. It shows in the twisted mythologies of her urban fantasy and paranormal works. She’s the author of  Running Home, Running Away, and The Harpy, forthcoming from REUTS Publications.

Owns a family, Small Mexican Dog and a lizard.

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Julie’s books on Amazon

 


Haunted-Hotel-Showcase

Welcome to day thirty of the Haunted Hotel Writer and Illustrator showcase!

You can find a list of all participants here.

Come back each day, the entire month of October for a scare! Today’s story comes from room #30!

Thornewood Hotel 30

Looking back, I guess right away I knew something was  not right. I was going towards the hotel, a car was coming right at me. I swerved then I arrived at the hotel.

Since I couldn’t recall the rest of the drive the fear gripped me by the throat, choking the very breath from my lungs. I pushed the fear aside as I tried to concentrate on the hotel. I stalked up the steps, noticing the clouds were increasing and hearing thunder starting to rumble off in the distance. I pulled the door to the hotel open and stepped inside.

“Heather,” a voice came from nowhere  and everywhere. It made me pause for just a moment.

As soon as my foot hit the interior a crack of thunder sounded directly overhead. At the same time a bolt of lightning arced towards the ground, close enough the sheer power of it almost knocked me to the floor. The wind increased and the leaves which were lying quietly on the ground began to flow and swirl around me.

I walked up to the almost empty reservation desk.

“Name,”  a harried looking woman behind the desk barked out at me.

“Heather Douglas. Room 30,” I barked back.

I took the key and walked away, the thunder outside loud even with the doors shut. I thought about going back outside in the wild storm for some reason the wildness of it all seemed to thrill and scare me at the same time.

I walked down the hall to my room still wondering why the hotel seemed to bring out the worst in me, all the anger and hatred  ready to burst.

I got into my room and instead of unpacking or checking it out I walked over to the window to stare at the storm. The storm seemed to be a  wild animal, the rain lashing at the windows, the wind  howling like a wolf calling for his mate. The thunder sounded like wild horses running towards sights unseen. The lightning streaking towards the earth and I figured it wouldn’t take very long for it to find it find someplace to strike.

As the thought crossed my mind the power in my room went out, I know this because the heater in the room  grew quiet, I knew where my sweatshirt  sat as I had tossed it onto the dresser near the window so if I got cold it didn’t matter.

“Heather,” the voice sounded more urgent as the person felt a desperate need to get me to hear them.

I stood watching the storm hearing the whispers in the room. I thought about saying something but instead decided to listen.

I couldn’t quite make it out, no matter how hard I tried. At times it didn’t even seem to me the voices were speaking English. This went on for several minutes, I was carefully trying to find my phone to try to record the voices. I couldn’t  make out a single thing no matter how hard I tried.

I began to shake but it not from fear but anger. I could feel my hands clenching into fists and I knew I had to get out of the room, I felt I could be  capable of anything at that point.

I stormed out of the room and locked the door turned and ran right into a young looking girl standing right behind me.

“Oh hell, I am sorry,” I said as she looked at me in utter terror.

“Pardon me, miss.” She was looking around the hall when she spoke. She seemed to be looking for someone but only the two of us were the hall so I had no clue who she thought she would find.

“Are you okay?”

“Oh miss, have you seen Sarah?” she looked around again.

“Who is Sarah, child?” The way she spoke didn’t seem right to me. She seemed as if she had come from a different time or place.

“She is my chaperone, miss. If she is not around Papa will be ever so cross.” She shuddered and I wondered if Papa had shown her his temper.

“Chaperone?” I knew what the word meant.

“Miss, you know how all proper young ladies need to have one with them at all times”

“Can I help you to find her?” I asked.

“No miss, I am sure you have something else to do. I will find her.”

I smiled and kept going.

As I got halfway down the hall a thought occurred to me and I turned to speak to speak to her and she vanished. I knew she didn’t go into any of the rooms since the doors made a distinct sound when the opened or closed so where she went I had no idea.

I looked at the floor because a part of me was too scared to see what might be going on in front of me. Things had been bizarre since I first walked in the doors. I should have run then but I got tired of running away and the pain starting in my head felt as if I hit my head on something. I shook it off and looked down.

The carpet a red and black type pattern which seemed to be changing as I stared at it. The image seemed to resemble a river, the red in the pattern seemed to flow as if moving water. It was fascinating and scary at the same time.

“Now, there is a river of what looks and smells like blood in the middle of the hall.”

I nodded as if this happened on a normal day. “If you are trying to scare me then I suggest you try a little harder.”

“Heather,” again the same voice called to me.

I found a small library on the bottom floor and decided to get a book off the shelf figuring I could read for a while then try to get some more sleep.

I wonder if they have my favorite writer here, I thought to myself and then spied the book The Burning by Valerie Willis. I had read of few of her other stories and thought they were amazing so I felt thrilled to be able to read this one. She’s such an amazing writer.  I settled down on the small couch and started to read.

I decided to head back to my room, the silence in there deafening and I really felt as if someone watched me and a sense of paranoia was not something I really enjoyed. I  also had to take something for this headache, it would just not go away for some weird reason.

I read for a while and felt tired so I climbed into bed wondering if sleep would claim me. I am not sure how I ended up in the hall since I didn’t remember getting out of bed.

The so-called river of blood had gone but a trail of something going from room to room took its place. Also a few feet from where I stood a figure walked, as they got near a room they would try to enter and if the door was locked, they would move on. If a door just happened to be open they would go in, I’d hear screams and they would move on.

I saw the trail  getting bigger each time they would enter a room, the hall no longer smelled fresh, it smelled like raw meat.

Even though I was not close to the person I could hear them muttering as if the words alone kept them going. At first I could only make out “rip them to shreds, make them hurt.” It seemed creepy, no other word for it.

“Heather,” the voice practically screamed my name. For a brief moment I thought I could see someone standing near me but I blinked and they were gone.

I thought about getting closer to the person in the hall maybe figure out more what they were saying. What a mistake I should have gone back to my room and moved the dresser to block the door.

“Reach into their chests pull their hearts out and squeeze until they stop beating. Rip out their intestines and feed the hell hounds. Use my nails and pluck out their eyes like a pimento from an olive. Toss the carcasses to the vultures.” With each word the figure dropped something on the carpet. At first I couldn’t decide what my eyes were seeing then when I realized it, I wanted to vomit. The figure was leaving small pieces of flesh which looked as if they had been bitten off. It seemed like a trail of breadcrumbs only made out of flesh.

Hearing those words made me stop and wonder. “Who or what could have made an ordinary person go to such extremes?”  I knew when they reached the end of the hall they would have to turn around and I would be in trouble but something in me wouldn’t let me hide.

The muttering started again. “Too long, this is taking too long. I must burn them all, cleanse this place in fire. I need to hear them scream as the fire burns their flesh from their bones. To hear them scream will bring me joy for the first time in a long time.” The voice was full of glee as if the thought of causing more pain gave them a high like a drug would.

The figure stopped as if they sensed someone standing behind them. They turned around at first they were looking down. Their face hidden by their hair but I could tell the person seemed like a female which shocked me since most of the time men freaked out and went on killing sprees.

“Nobody will stop me” the woman said as she moved her hair from her face. “Nobody will stop me, not even YOU.” I saw right away who stood before me and I screamed as I looked into my own eyes.

Then I ended up back in my room, shaking from fear as I sat up in bed. I tried to tell myself that I just had a really bad dream but it felt so real. I knew what I had to do, I had to write all that had gone on and what I’ve seen since. If anything happened to me at least people would know I got driven to the point where murder seemed to be the only option.

I had seen shadows, heard whispering in my room which I could not figure out for the life of me. My head would not stop hurting and I swear I keep hearing a drip someplace and have no idea where it is. Some young girl dressed in period clothing looking for her chaperone and then a river of blood in the hall.

Then seeing myself in the hall talking about burning people and ripping out their insides, my sanity seemed to be in question and I’m not sure how much more I could take.

“Heather” the voice still insistent but seemed fainter than before.

I could feel myself getting tired, it felt as if I something pinned me down causing me pain. It almost seemed, for a brief moment,  as if I somehow I hung upside down then the world righted itself.

This place is really messing with my head and it has to stop soon, I thought to myself then decided it was time to really take matters into my own hands.

“Do you really think this is going to work? The mind games, trying to drive me over the edge?  I am not your puppet so why don’t you admit you are scared. You cannot come right out and tell me what you want because you know I won’t do your bidding so you figure you will wear me down and then when I am no longer strong enough you will take over.”

I heard some whispering and knew whatever thought it could control me was paying attention to what I said. I am not sure how I knew but I did.

“I am not sure how you think you will take over but I have to assure you it will not happen. You may think you have won but let me remind you, I have been through so much in the last year your little mind games mean nothing to me.”

I had the urge to get out of the hotel for a few hours so I headed towards the front door. At the door a man standing there and he put his hand on my arm.

“Running away are we?” I looked at him and his face didn’t look right. It looked as if he was put together by someone who had never seen a human being before.

“No, now kindly remove your hand.” I knew my tone sounded haughty but after all, who would be nice to someone so rude.

“Maybe you should.” He released my arm and I left the hotel.

I decided to check out the small strip mall close to the hotel. The sky looked so very dark as if waiting to unleash the fury hidden behind the storm clouds.

I found a small thrift store. It had Halloween costumes in the window and I opened the door and was met by a loud sound which reminded me of a car horn. I cautiously walked into the store not knowing what I would find. An older woman standing in front of a small box which had to be  emitting the sound. She kept hitting it with a small hammer I guess she picked up off the counter.

“My grandson set this up it is supposed to play scary music when someone comes in but all it wants to do is make an awful noise.” She got so mad.

“Why not turn it down?” I found the volume button and turned the volume down. It got nice and quiet again.

“Now since you helped me what can I do to help you?” she smiled.

“Well, I came in for a costume but decided I’d rather get something warm it seems rather cold today.”  I walked toward a sign which read “sweaters.”

“You look rather chilly my dear, let me get you some tea. Be back in a moment” she patted my arm in a blink gone.

I saw a couple sweaters, they looked warm  and comfortable but then I saw one I knew I had to have. It was  plain but looked warm when I picked it up and tried it on I knew it had to be  mine. She came back in with the tea and invited me to join her for a while.

By the time I got back to the hotel the weather  had gone insane.  The wind  almost blew me  off the steps, the rain felt like small knives slashing at my skin. The thunder sounded like boulders being pushed off a cliff.

“Wild weather we are having,” an older woman said as I burst in the door.

“Very,”  I smiled at her and went to my room.  Since the vision or whatever occurred on Halloween I planned on spending the next 2 days in my room.  I tried to figure out where the attacks started so I could avoid the areas. I decided staying in my room sounded like  my best bet, since I had no idea what could have set me off enough to want to kill a bunch of strangers and in such a gruesome way.

“Heather,” again the same voice called to me.

I had this urge to find the person who kept calling to me, they sounded so upset. I had no idea how to get to them to make them feel better.

The next couple days passed rather quiet. Sure when the room got silent I could hear the voices whispering, I saw shadows under the door which should not have been there. My head kept pounding no matter how much medication I took for it the pain would not stop.

“I need to get this head checked out soon,” I said at one point, then felt faint. I guess I passed out because when I opened my eyes again several hours had passed.

The pain was less but the storm still raging. I decided to try to get something to eat since I couldn’t remember the last time I ate.

Going down in the elevator, I heard the same voice calling my name. I wanted to go to them but again I had no idea where they were or why they were calling my name.

I decided to get out my notebook and write more about what kept going on but of course I left it back in my room so I went back up.

As I came back out of my room, I saw something on the floor. It looked like mud leading from the elevator to my door. I didn’t see it anyplace else, just there.

“Curious,” I said out loud. My stomach hurt a little bit but I told myself  the pain could just be hunger. I decided to call room service since going downstairs no longer appealed to me.

There was a knock at the door then someone screamed. Part of me didn’t want to open the door since I knew what would be on the other side.

As usual I opened the door, I never did learn to leave well enough alone. I didn’t see a bloody killer on the other side of the door holding the waiters head while the body flopped on the floor like a dead fish in fact  I saw nobody which to me seemed even more scary.

I stepped out into the hall and the door slammed behind me and I heard the lock. All around me the doors were shutting and I could hear the locks engaging.

“So I am alone,” I said out loud then heard the elevator doors open and knew what just what could be  happening.

A figure emerged from the elevator,  hunched over and dragging something as it got closer to me.  I could hear the storm still raging, to me it seemed as if it would never stop.

The mud back on the floor this time I could see tiny streaks of blood. It really did look as if something got  dragged through the muck.

The figure from before came towards me, this time they were not muttering just walking toward me but I was terrified just the same.

As they got closer the dripping got louder, the pain in my head increased and it blinded me.  I told myself to fight it since I really didn’t know what really was  going to happen to me if they got close enough.

“Heather,” the voice called out to me again. I could feel my arm trying to reach out to them but it seemed to be pinned at my side.

“This makes no sense. How can my arms be pinned when I am standing in a hallway?” Again and again I tried to move my arms but they wouldn’t move.

The figure getting closer and I found I could not move at all. The light in the hall  too bright and I could hear something moving around me but I couldn’t see anything. I am not sure if the blindness could be  from the pain or the fact of the bright light.  I could feel something on my face as if something kept dripping on me.

“Heather,” the voice said again, this time almost demanding I answer.

“What?” My voice sounded weak and feeble.

“She responded. Keep cutting,” another voice said.

“Cutting.” Why did the one word reverberated through my head. I had no idea what or why they were cutting something. I expected the figure to whip out a huge knife and start cutting me.

I could hear something roaring to life and thought to myself, Great now a damn dragon in the hotel wonder if they charge extra.

“Heather,” again I got called. Now it was  starting to make me mad. For days now this voice has been calling my name and when I go to respond I can’t find it.

“Stop calling my name and not telling me where you are,” I finally yelled and to my shock I heard laughter.

“She is getting mad, keep it up. It might be the only way to keep her with us,” a male voice said this time.

“I told you before I’m not going anyplace.” I could feel myself getting tired. “Ok maybe I lied, I think I will go in my room and get some sleep.”

I turned around and there in the hall sat  my bed waiting for me. I didn’t stop to wonder why my bed appeared in the hall or why I would want to lie down and go to sleep when a lunatic kept coming after me.

I closed my eyes figuring when I opened them again I would either be dead or dying. I could feel something cold dripping on my face, the wind  blowing the leaves in my room all over the place.

Wait a minute, I thought. How did leaves get into my room? It took me a while then I realized could not be in my room but in my car which at the moment sat upside down between  two trees. There were lights and people all around me.

“Umm what?” I felt so confused . My head hurt so bad yet I felt  warm for some reason. When I first headed to the hotel I had my sweatshirt off since then it  felt pretty warm.

I looked and I had on the nice warm sweater I had bought at the thrift store. At least I think it looked like the same one. “Did I crash?”

“Heather,” a female was leaning in the car and holding my hand. She looked as if she felt  cold.

“Yes. What happened? Did I hurt someone?” I felt  so scared that the vision came true and I could be running away.

“No, someone hit your car as you were going to the hotel. We have been trying to get you out for several hours now. The storm has not being very nice to us.” She told me she put the sweater on me since she thought I would be cold with all the rain.

“So all I saw could still be a dream?” or quite possibly a nightmare, I couldn’t believe.

“You hit your head really hard,” she told me. The ambulance stood waiting and as soon as they could get me out they would.

“I didn’t kill anyone, what a relief.”  I smiled and she said as soon as the doctors  released me, the hotel would hold my reservation until the time I could get there.

“They are just sorry you will be missing the huge Halloween party. This year I hear they are putting on a murder mystery which should be great.” She smiled as I winced.

“I may not go after all.” I was thinking about all that had happened.

“I don’t blame you at all,” she smiled as if she knew something I didn’t.  I closed my eyes and tried not to think about the cold look she gave me as she patted my arm.

 

 

About the Author

Kim-Plasket-AuthorKim Plasket is a writer, mom, and poet who can never ever get enough caffeine.

I live for scary and spooky. Even better if you can fit it into a well-written book with excellent characters, writing, and pacing.

That’s how I discovered Madeleine Roux.

I picked up a copy of Asylum and never looked back. Of course, Asylum isn’t her only book. The New York Times Bestselling author has written a myriad of wonderfully dark, macabre, and spooky things.

And to my delight, she agreed to come on the blog today to chat!

Trick-Treat-banner-Roux

Hi Madeleine! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. I’m happier than a kid-eating monster on Halloween. The Asylum series is one of my favorite YA series out there. It’s such a creepy, fun concept. What inspired the series (Asylum, Sanctum, and Catacomb)?

Asylum-CoverThis is always such a tough question to answer, because I don’t really draw total inspiration from one thing when I’m writing a book. Little ideas and thoughts and details add up to a larger picture. Things like: I would like to try writing from a male perspective. I’d like to have a narrator that is struggling with mental illness and some of his issues can be resolved with medication and therapy. It’s a fine line to walk when you’re dealing with things like asylums, because you want it to be scary but you also want to avoid exploiting real horrors that happened to real people. The idea to add images came from the team at Harper, they were really keen to try and do a mixed media piece so we collaborated on the visual aspect, but that also gave me deeper inspiration, too.

I love how images and the story are interwoven in the Asylum books. I know you’re a huge gamer and I watched an interview with you from Epic Reads where you mention how much you like the interactive story-telling aspect of video games. Did video games inspire the mash-up of images and pictures as a sort of mixed-media novel or did that come to fruition later?

Like I mentioned, the publisher was the driving force behind the pictures, and I loved the idea of mixing historical photographs with images that they created with photoshoots and so on. I think my love of video games is more noticeable in wanting to create a totally immersive atmosphere, one that relies on sounds, smell and touch as much as it relies on what the characters are seeing (or think they’re seeing).

 

Sanctum-CoverDo you have a favorite video game?

Oof, that’s a tough one. Can I pick a franchise? If so, it’s the Dragon Age series.

 

So I have to ask because your books are so wonderfully unique, what is your writing process like? Tea? Cookies? Music? Silence? Sitting in an abandoned sanitarium in the dark?

It can be anything these days, to be honest. Once you get to a certain place in this career you can’t be too precious about your surroundings. I’ve finished books on planes or in a coffee shop or wherever. I definitely prefer to be in my apartment, preferably with some atmospheric music and a nice long chunk of time to kill. These days I have to make sure the dog is walked before I start or he will try and interrupt, so I use those walks to brainstorm and come up with some new ideas for what I’m working on that day.

 

I love it and that’s sound writing advice. Write wherever and whenever you can! Since this IS a Halloween interview, do you believe in ghosts? Werewolves? Vampires?

I’m firmly undecided, which is such a cop-out, I know! I think I’ve had a few brushes with ghosts, but the mind is so unreliable, and memories especially, that I don’t even trust the things I’ve seen and felt. Never say I never, I suppose, and I’m always open to having my mind changed!

 

Catacomb-coverHave you ever had a real life spooky encounter? Tell us about it!

I may or may not have seen a ghost in my bedroom when I was a little kid. He was a nice ghost, but still, you know? It’s disorienting. It was so long ago that I’ve probably filled in the details to be more exciting and dramatic, but I just remember a man in a military uniform standing over my dolls in the middle of the night, looking at them with a sad expression. He wasn’t even threatening, just melancholy, but it was enough to send me flying under the covers. Could’ve just been a lucid dream, too, but who knows?

 

Whoa! That’s amazing and such a cool experience! Speaking of spooky encounters, what is your favorite scary movie?

Cabin In the Woods – can’t beat scary and funny. I’ll give The Ring a solid runner up spot.

 

Ah! I love them both. Cabin In the Woods is one of my favorites! I read a lot of author blogs and interviews and I hear Halloween is your favorite holiday. What do you love the most about it? Do you have a favorite costume?

I just love the feeling in the air – I love that people are sort of indulging in this huge, collective fantasy about spooky things, allowing themselves to believe in ghosts and so on for a little while. I’m not actually much of a candy person, but I won’t turn down cider or pumpkin pie. Carving pumpkins and making costumes from scratch was a huge part of my childhood, so those fond memories will always be with me. These days I actually go for the cheap and cheerful costume, I cosplay quite a bit so by the time Halloween comes around I’m exhausted from working on things. As you might guess, I don’t bring out the expensive, time-intensive cosplay outfits for Halloween parties, as they tend to get ruined. Last year I spent about 10 minutes making a Pizza Rat costume.

 

11394846What is your favorite scary, spooky, or fall read?

I’m pretty sure I’ve recommended The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter eighty times this year but I’ll keep doing it. It’s the perfect haunting autumn read.

 

Oh, thanks! I’ll definitely check it out! I’ve been hearing great things about that book. Now, if you could choose what goes on your tombstone, what would you have it say?

Here lies Madeleine, she died doing what she loved: Snuggling her dog and eating pizza

 

I think we’re kindred spirits in that aspect. Pizza and dogs are absolute life! Do you have a favorite Halloween song or creepy album?

I’m a big sucker for that KVXO “Pumpkin Dance” video, every October 1st I send it to my brother as a warning that the season has started.

 

House-of-furies-coverI almost passed out when I read the summary on Goodreads for your upcoming work House of Furies. It. Sounds. Amazing. I haven’t read any more about it other than what’s on Publisher’s Marketplace but it reminds me of H. H. Holmes with a twist. Can you tell us anything about it or the characters? Where did this inspiration come from? And how can we time travel into the future to get our hands on all three books now?

I seriously wish I could tell you everything about it, but I want readers to be surprised. In a lot of ways it’s a big departure from Asylum – it’s a period piece, for one, and the main character is a young woman this time. It’s also in first person. There are going to be some dazzling illustrations to go along with the book, all custom created by a talented artist, and possibly some photographic elements as well. I wouldn’t so much go to Holmes and his murder hotel for reference, I’d put it more in the park of Jane Austen meets Penny Dreadful. I’d love to spill everything about it, but May will be here before you know it!

Ahh! Jane Austen meets Penny Dreadful…be still my heart! I absolutely love it! Let’s move on to the lightning round!

 

Lightning Round

Say the first word that comes to mind when you see the prompt!

Trick

Flinch

 

Treat

Sweet

 

Boo!

Who?

 

Candy

Crush

 

 

Ha! I love it. Thank you so much Madeleine for stopping by! It’s been an absolute pleasure and I’m such a huge fan. You’re the best! And I’ll be counting down the minutes until your next book!

Happy Halloween!

 

 

About Madeleine Roux

 

Madeleine-Roux-pictureMADELEINE ROUX is the New York Times Bestselling author of the ASYLUM series. She received her BA in Creative Writing and Acting from Beloit College in 2008. In the spring of 2009, Madeleine completed an Honors Term at Beloit College, proposing, writing and presenting a full-length historical fiction novel. Shortly after, she began the experimental fiction blog Allison Hewitt Is Trapped. Allison Hewitt Is Trapped quickly spread throughout the blogosphere, bringing a unique serial fiction experience to readers. Her new YA series, House of Furies, debuts summer 2017.
Born in Minnesota, she lives and works in Seattle, Washington.

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Madeleine on Amazon

 

Want to read more

Trick-or-Treat Chronicles?

Check out the interviews with the authors below (in alphabetical order):

Romily Bernard

The Blood Brothers

Debbie Dadey & Marcia Thornton Jones

Laurie Faria Stolarz

Tessa Gratton

Judith Graves

Kim Harrington

Susan McBride

Madeleine Roux

 


Haunted-Hotel-Showcase

Welcome to day twenty-eight of the Haunted Hotel Writer and Illustrator showcase!

You can find a list of all participants here.

Come back each day, the entire month of October for a scare! Today’s story comes from room #128.

Thornewood Hotel 128

 

The Legend of Thornewood

 

The Legend of Thornewood 128

 

Medium:

Pencil, ink, charcoal, & scratches on paper

Original: 9 x 13.25

 
 

About the Artist & author

Erica Secor FaceErica Secor writes middle grade horror and nonfiction humor. She frequently uses storyboarding to plot her novels. She has worked in higher education since 2006 and currently teaches with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. She is a chapter leader for the NonFiction Writers Association, writes for Authors Publish Magazine, and is a contributing member of The Midnight Society.

Erica grew up across from a graveyard near Buffalo, NY. Now, she lives with her husband and two dogs in South Carolina. Learn more at her website or on Twitter @TheDavisGirl.


Haunted-Hotel-Showcase

Welcome to day twenty-seven of the Haunted Hotel Writer and Illustrator showcase!

You can find a list of all participants here.

Come back each day, the entire month of October for a scare! Today’s story comes from the residents’ bar!

Thornewood-Hotel-bar

 

“So what’ll it be, sir?”

The barman leans towards me with a smile: his blue eyes and his strong jaw remind me of the boyish looks I once had. But then again, everything reminds me of the past in some way. Every. Little. Thing.

I shake my head and he raises an eyebrow as if to ask if I’m sure, but he’s already started to move his way along the empty bar and leave me to my misery.

But I think the better of it.

“I’ll have a whiskey sour.” He nods. “Make it a double whiskey.”

“I’ll need your room number, sir. Resident’s only at this time.”

He tosses a look back at the ornate clock that hangs behind the bar, a large art-deco affair, each tick of which seems to fill the bar with an ominous tick. Or maybe the tick is just the blood rushing through my body, still pumping in my ears after the argument I’ve just had.

I show him the room key, but he doesn’t pay much attention to the number: he just needs to see that I’m meant to be here and he’s not going to be fired for serving me in this hallowed place. Despite the clock, time doesn’t move in a place like this. Once you have the room, they have the booze; once you keep the cash coming, they’ll keep refilling the glasses.

He moves around the bar to prepare my drink, glancing back at me every few moments. I can’t tell if he’s judging me or trying to read me. Maybe it’s both.

“I’ve only ever been asked to double the whiskey once before. And that didn’t end well.”

“I don’t really care.” The words snap out of my mouth unexpectedly. Do I actually mean that, or am I just still bitter and sore? “It’s already over anyway.”

“Relationship trouble?”

It’s not his job to ask these questions: that’s what we paid the marriage counsellor for. But yeah, that didn’t work and I’m now at the stage where barmen and barbers are more interested in my relationship than my own wife.

No, she’s not my wife: she hasn’t been my wife in five years, not since the first time she slept with him then confessed everything to me, real tears and real words covering up those fake emotions. Since then, I’ve learned every one of her tricks: the working late, the long weekends with the girls, those nights when she just wasn’t in the mood.

“It’s not really a relationship any more. It’s over.”

There’s more noise from the other side of the bar, metal and glass clicking and touching like an industrial process in the making.

“I’m sorry to hear that. Were you together long?”

That youthful face says everything. This man, this guy, this kid, he’s from a generation that’s used to choosing their words carefully, not making assumptions about my relationship issues. Man or woman, wife or mistress, married or still mildly flirting.

And like you do with every bartender and barber, I open up. I share the whole story.

“We’re married twenty years, but there’s someone else. There has been for a while. I’ve given her everything, a home, kids, a life.” I lean back and look around the lounge, wondering if there’s anyone else around to share in my sorrows. I don’t need to find myself a one-night stand; I don’t even need to strike up conversation. I just want to drink myself into oblivion and have someone who will nod and smile along to every heartache that I share.

“We came here to put things right. We came here to make it all better.”

The barman nods and he smiles with that weird emotion, that mix of pity and understanding. He places a glass in front of me, a short glass of orange and white and yellow, a glass that should be comfort and warmth and escape.

I put my hand on this glass, ready to drink and his eyes light up, as if waiting for confirmation of a job well done.

“Can you believe that we came here to put things straight, to put it all between us? It was even her idea.” I look deep into this powerful, understanding blue eyes.

“She’s been here before. She’s been in that room before. With him. This isn’t about making it better; it’s about making it final.”

I take the glass and I drink. I drink as much of it as I can and I let it burn my throat. It burns all the way down, far more heat than sweet. Maybe it was a bad idea to double the whiskey? I don’t know: I’ve only had this drink twice before, such a long time ago that it was a lifetime away.

I realise then my regrets: this is her drink, not mine. She introduced me to the whiskey sour on our honeymoon, something that made her feel warm and comfortable. So why would I ask for this drink now? So I still want that connection to her? Even after everything she’s done to me?

I cough. That whiskey burns already, more than it should. Maybe it’s just because I doublet it up, maybe it’s because I wanted comfort and all I remember is heartburn.

But no heartburn has ever felt quite like this, never so intense.

I reach for another glass, a water that he offers without being asked, a glass that takes forever to empty and does nothing to soothe this pain. If anything, this just adds to the burning in my throat.

“It’ll be over soon.”

I look at his blue eyes and they look so familiar, so welcoming that there’s a reason this man-child makes me so comfortable. He reminds me of a four-year old boy at home, a child I’ve called my son, a child with blue eyes and a strong jaw.

He’s not my son.

The burning is intense now, and I drink some more water, but it’s no relief. My mouth is running and when I spit back into the glass, the water turns red with my own blood.

When I look at the barman, he smiles, but this is not a welcoming smile. There is a devious threat there, and I know now that was no ordinary cocktail.

“She doesn’t just want a divorce, Mike. She just wants you gone. You get that, right?”

The bar, the barman, the cocktail, everything fades to white as I cough again, as I feel my throat fill with blood.

 

About the Author

Ken-MooneyKen Mooney was born in Dublin in the middle of the 1980s; he still lives there. He holds a degree in English Studies from TCD, which he totally uses every day during his day-job in TV advertising…totally.

He’s always been obsessed with stories, reading, writing and playing them; that explains the massive collection of books, comics, video games and discarded Word documents. His writing is a combination of all the things that he’s passionate about, all the way through high-and-low-brow.

Twitter

Ken on Amazon


Haunted-Hotel-Showcase

Welcome to day twenty-six of the Haunted Hotel Writer and Illustrator showcase!

You can find a list of all participants here.

Come back each day, the entire month of October for a scare! Today’s story comes from room #04!

Thornewood Hotel 04

She couldn’t contain the desire within her anymore like an animal wanting to break free, and that was when she found him. Sophie Roberts traveled to the Thornewood that day of her own accord, ignoring the stares and whispers following her out of town. She knew the stories, heard of them from the gossips in surrounding towns on her walks for water and supplies. The dead and unnatural not only lived in the infamous hotel in the middle of the New England countryside, but also controlled it. The beings were always driving out or imprisoning its living tenants in a war of violence and seduction that shook everyone to their very cores.

They said the 666 rooms were the cause of the chaos; the seven stories didn’t alleviate the evil within. Minor case studies of flying chairs escalated to vampires and werewolves raping the women and wives that occupied their spaces, the legends of mummies dragging witnesses of murder to their graves to bury their secrets and even a case of a dancer transforming to dying flesh and bones after teaching children how to do the waltz. She was always seen bribing the parents beforehand so they could be alone for a few hours and to keep them from knowing the truth.

If only the living stopped building rooms at 600, or less.

Sophie’s cobalt cloak over her long periwinkle dress swayed in the breeze that morning, twirling small cyclones of leaves against the side of the carriage. She wasn’t a descendant of any scorned ancestor nor drawn into the occult as mischievous youth were at her age. Thankfully, accusations of witchcraft like those who were burned at the stake in nearby Salem all those years ago were never spoken or given out.

The priest warned everyone around this time of year to show no sympathy to the devil. But, Sophie did, to a certain degree. For the ghosts who lost their lives before their time at the hands of monstrous killers, she was compassionate and grieved for their souls. For the creatures of the night, however, that was another story.

When she arrived at the hotel, she was greeted by a seductive woman at the front desk: the Queen Vampire with black long sleeves against shimmering blood red fabric that stopped at the floor. A black laced corset was attached to the chest. A golden necklace with a ruby in the center was attached to the high collar. The necklace matched the centerpiece of her golden crown. A thin spider web wrap covered the top of the dress. She also took quite a while grabbing a room key.

She had set her hood down once inside, revealing thick, curly black hair. Her dark blue eyes showed fear but determination. But under the surface there was sadness, but hope. Then virtue, with desire knocking for freedom.

“Number four shall be your room my dear,” her chilling voice said, “Carmen! Please show this lady to her room, please!”

A young Spanish dancer dressed in red and black like the Queen Vampire, with the exception of her three layers of ruffles, a flower in her hair and on the waist and her fan, sauntered out. “Sí señora,” she said politely.

The Queen Vampire handed her the key. “This is a very special room, dear girl. Don’t think because you’re not in room 166 or the beyond evil 666 that you are safe. Even the lowest numbers in this hotel hold its deadly secrets and desires.”

“What about the muriendo rosas dama Lenore?” the Spanish dancer said.

“Ah yes! Thank you, Carmen. I must warn you as well, there are dying roses in this room—”

Sophie stared coldly at Lenore. “Guess you follow the living closely. You must have known I’ve never married.”

The Queen froze. “Fascinating. But, no. Room 4 is occupied by dead roses. It’s a specialty of the man who occupies the room. If you are allergic to them—”

“I’m not,” Sophie sighed. “Just seems fitting.”

“You must be watched closely,” an evil scientist with a bad hairdo cackled walking by the desk. “Lenore! We have another dead body! Room 246.”

“Oh, very well. I’ll get Lucius to clean that up,” Lenore muttered. She lifted the board. “Early dinner awaits do excuse me.”

Sophie shivered from disgust while the Spanish Dancer led the way just down the hall of the first floor to her room. A burnt out “4” greeted her.

“You will love him, hehehe. Have a lovely fright!” the dancer laughed skipping down the hall and up the stairs.

Puzzled, Sophie slips the key in the lock. She jumped back with a yelp; fire was emerging from the lock spewing flames and smoke. The key turned itself clockwise, opening the door. She shielded her eyes with her arm from any hellish displays that would greet her.

Except, nothing did.

Setting her arm down, she saw a medium-sized room covered in the same dying roses Lenore gave her. The canopy bed was nighttime blue against dark as night black in contrast to the mahogany fireplace. a The wooden floors didn’t creak but were worn and splintered from past tenants. A huge stained glass window caught her eye where a window seat of white and blue pillows lay. The other amenities were there of course, but the bed drew Sophie into the room as if she were hypnotized. The door slowly closed behind her, until a foot stopped it.

“Room service!” a small crew of creatures greeted.

Turning around, Sophie observed a scandalous swordswoman dressed in pink and black, a green marionette, a Queen of the Nile, an undead Spartan warrior, a black water Siren and a coughing bat-monster. They entered with her luggage, a platter of pastries that looked edible and an envelope.

“Hope he likes you,” the siren hissed in jealousy.

“Who?” Sophie asked.

“The warlock that occupies this room,” the Queen of the Nile said kindly. “He has an obsession with dying roses and unmarried women.”

“He should be ready to—” the swordswoman started.

“Enough.” An elegant witch dressed in black said in the doorway, “Stick to your duties. You may socialize later.”

The Siren smacked the swordswoman upside the head with her tail. Sophie’s face took in the sinister, kind and perplexed stares of the undead, strange and unnatural creatures in her room. A slight chill went up her spine but when she turned to her right, she saw no one there.

“You are a spy,” a snake-man slithering his head in hissed. “Sent here to eliminate us.”

“I don’t think every single living person is a spy,” the Queen of the Nile argued as her snake slithered down her arm. “You of all creatures should know that.”

“The living want their place back though, your majesty,” the bat-monster hacked. “They have been at it for centuries.”

“Again, 666.” The marionette spoke. “If anything, this lady is in one of the least horrific rooms of this entire hotel!!”

“‘Least horrific?’” Sophie choked out.

“Indeed,” the elegant witch pitched in. “The Warlock, Bejamar, is a young man banished for what he embraced within himself. He fits in quite well here. I should know, I have worked with him closely.”

“I see.”

“I mean, he is a nice guy. Just lonely,” the marionette pitched in.

“Too bad he doesn’t kill them off—” the bat-monster started.

“—because some of them become witches and serve him for eternity,” the undead Spartan warrior quickly added, “But, he is good to them. I would also claim he is misunderstood.”

“That’s enough, and we don’t serve him for eternity. That depends,” the witch spoke. “You have your stories for the evening. Now, please torment elsewhere.”

Everyone but the witch began to exit the room, grumbling. The snake-man hissed as he slithered down the hall mumbling about his next guests to digest for lunch. Sophie looked down at the envelope. “What’s this?”

“A ball this evening. Wait for his instructions, you will have the time of your life,” the witch said. “Enjoy your stay.”

The door closed with a loud bang, making Sophie jump. Fire began to rise in front of the door, the flames touching the already dead roses and setting them ablaze.

As Sophie retreated to the bed, flames shot out of the dresser, making her gasp. Dying roses began to sprout from the bedframe, emitting a strong, perfumed scent.

“I have come to love you, dear lady,” a deep, soothing voice said.

As Sophie stood hypnotized by the scent, thorny vines sprung from the bed, but didn’t harm her. Instead, the thorns blasted a spell at her dress, turning it rose red and destroying her cobalt cloak. When the smell died down, Sophie’s eyes widened at the dress.

“I look forward to seeing you this evening,” the voice said.

The fire died down just as quickly as it began. The dying roses remained, however, as if they were watching her every move, ready to strike like a predator watching prey. A vine took the envelope near the pastry plate and gave it to Sophie. It simply read:

There’s a door through the fireplace leading to the ballroom. Wait for it. You will never know another again after tonight as I will take away the pain they gave you.

Bejamar

Sophie sat in the window seat to distract herself, watching the bare trees blow against the chilling winds. One of the janitors on the property came out with numerous trash bags. He began to create a hole with a shovel, later dumping bones and someone who was still alive and screaming for help.

As a chill formed in the room, a small fire suddenly bloomed to life. Startled, Sophie noticed the small mahogany fireplace giving off a golden glow. The floor shook as the small fireplace transformed into a door. It opened with a creak. Sophie heard chatter and merriment on the other side.

Leaving her room, she spotted numerous dead and living cohabiting with each other or keeping their distance. Sophie looked around the giant room mixed in red, gray, black, white and purple against gentle blues. Before she could observe further, a young man walked up to her and knelt. She could see his tense light blue eyes under the hood and black robes.

“Bejamar? Is that your name?”

He took his hood off to reveal gray hair and a faded scar over his left eye. “I am, dear lady.”

Sophie’s body relaxed. “You don’t live in the room?”

“No, because it would be rude to spy on a lady.” He kissed her hand as a melody rose from the skeletal orchestra. “A dance?”

Sophie reluctantly accepted as they moved to the ballroom floor. The melody was surprisingly gentle, soothing and romantic. Sophie’s legs shook the entire time. When she glanced at a blob monster attacking a couple, she turned away in fright. The warlock was surprisingly kind. “Don’t be afraid. You are under my protection.”

“I heard you’re obsessed with unmarried women and dying roses.”

“The roses part is correct. They keep the loneliness at bay. The women, depends.”

“Depends?”

“Some bore me, or some amuse me. Others I realize are married, so I just chase them out of the room with natural things.” He smirked.

“Natural?”

“Nature. Flowers, vines, bushes things like that.”

Sophie looked up at Bejamar. “You don’t look—or sound—that horrid.”

Bejamar chuckled. “I will take that as a compliment, dear Sophie.”

“I never married,” she blurted out with a flushed face.

“I know. That’s why we’re here.”

“—was always the bridesmaid,” she quickly added. “I guess wasn’t attractive to them.”

“Tsk tsk such a pity. Well, don’t mind the past rejections.” He twirled her around. “That will change after tonight.”

Sophie felt something stir in her heart, rising rapidly and making her face sweat. She looked deep into his eyes. “I feel like kissing you, but I don’t know why.”

“Then do so.”

“I’d rather not.”

They continued to dance in silence. The melody never changed throughout the evening. Yet, the more she danced with Bejamar, the more Sophie felt desire rocking against her ribcage. “So…you loved these women? Then tossed them aside?”

“No. They usually recoil at me once…they are awakened. Embrace a natural appetite that is forbidden to them. That’s why they banished me. Why hide such a desire from the world? The desire turned me…to this,” Bejamar looked at his hand. “This creature—”

“The priests say to show no sympathy to the devil—”

Bejamar’s eyes darkened. “Are all creatures so devilish? Did the dead ask for this? What about the ghosts who cannot cross over to paradise because they are trapped in purgatory?”

Sophie stepped back in horror, but looked at the warlock with sympathetic eyes. “They never did. We all have our reasons for embracing the dark, or even carnal, desires we are supposed to suppress.”

“May I ask you a question, Lady Sophie?”

“OK.”

“…why are you here?”

Sophie paused at the question. “I came of my own choice.”

“All by yourself? Isn’t that…unwise? No one to accompany you?”

“No one. It does sound unheard of doesn’t it? But, the stories and gossip keep people away. I tired of the loneliness. Plus, it is forbidden to go here because…of the stories that have been told. Maybe that’s why I never married. I never fit, nor will I ever.”

“Well,” Bejamar stepped closer to her, conjuring a small red rose in his hand. “I might say instead of never fitting in…you were never afraid of the darkness, and people are frightened of you for your compassion for the dead. I am not afraid of you.”

“God help me.”

“God help us all.”

With albeit reluctant, her lips met his, moving slowly and cautiously. Then, as if by magic or the hunger of night, the kiss turned passionate. When he escorted her back to Room 4, he remained.  They kissed each other again. Bejamar picked Sophie up and led her to the bed. With the wave of a hand, curtains surrounded the canopied space.

As they kissed wildly in the darkened space, Sophie froze. “Wait.”

Bejamar stopped, a small ball of fire appearing in the darkness. Dying roses began to bloom from the wooden pillars and bedframe. Sophie breathed out in fright.

“Dear lady what troubles you?”

“I can never return after this. If this goes on…” she trailed off.

A vine tilted her face to his. “Then let me take care of you. You can stay here…live in my realm of nature.” He kissed her neck. “I can awaken you in ways you never imagined.”

“There have been more of those cases as time went on—”

“Yes. But, those were rapes. How traumatizing for those women and their families,” he looked at her. “I thank God you ended up here, Sophie. You are in good hands with me.”

“Why me?” she said in fright.

“Because you and I both know,” he slowly kissed her neck again, “the living and the dead have more in common than they think.”

A puddle of mud suddenly formed under Sophie. Gasping, she clutched on to Bejamar as the mud tried to grab her and suck her in. With a wave of his hand, the mud stopped. Sophie’s eyes were wide as cylinders, chills moving through her body.

“You will learn to embrace nature’s call dear Sophie,” he whispered in her ear. “You know you want to…”

After composing herself, Sophie turned to face Bejamar again. Even in the darkness of the canopied-covered bed, she was not afraid. He had been nothing but kind to her, not seductive as the priests warned.  She reluctantly laid back on the bed, closing her eyes. She could feel the mud puddle moving under her, slowly consuming her legs, covering her back and moving up her body.

“This isn’t real,” she whispered. The mud gurgled while holding down her hair. She felt like she was disappearing through the bed as her legs vanished, the mud moving up her stomach. Sophie panted out of fear as she tried to escape. That just made the mud move faster up her waist and to her chest. Her arms were free as they were around Bejamar’s neck. Yet the more she tugged, the more the mud sucked her down.

“My lovely Sophie,” Bejamar whispered seductively when the mud reached her chest, “It is more than real.”

“Where is the mud taking me?” she begged.

“Nowhere. It is transforming you. I assure you it will not kill you.” The mud stopped at her ribcage. “Embrace it now.” He stroked her hair. “Remember, you are in the least horrific place. You cannot imagine the horrors that go on here.”

Sophie’s face hardened. “Yes I can.” The mud hardened then, breaking apart to reveal a dress as blue as her eyes. “What happens now?”

“The awakening begins,” Bejamar leaned down to kiss her. She fell into his arms then, a giant wave of fire swirling around them.

She woke up the next day sighing happily. He returned every night loving her and they kept dancing together in the ballroom. No one, dead or living, entered Room #4 since her stay. No one came for her either, which no one wanted.

She screamed one night in blissful and insane agony; the transformation was complete.

 

About the Author

kristin-riversKristin Rivers is a fiction/short story writer, blogger and aspiring playwright. She is a recent graduate of Smith College with a Bachelor’s in English Language and Literature and also holds an Associate’s in Creative Writing from Holyoke Community College. Since graduating, she started her own blog, The Writer’s Soul, chronicling her post-college writing journey. She has also contributed a blog post to Dear English Major in June 2016 and had two short stories/writing contest entries recently published online: “Lost and Found” on Wordhaus and “The Book Club” on Short Fiction Break.
She currently lives in Massachusetts as she continues job searching and struggling to get her first novel off the ground.

 


Haunted-Hotel-Showcase

Welcome to day twenty-five of the Haunted Hotel Writer and Illustrator showcase!

You can find a list of all participants here.

Come back each day, the entire month of October for a scare! Today’s story comes from room #668!

 Thornewood Hotel 668

Jeremy finds me in the lobby hiding behind a potted fern. I honestly didn’t think he was smart enough to notice me behind the bloated leaves, my outfit blending in with the navy drapes framing the floor to ceiling windows along the south wall. Normally I’d put more effort into hiding, especially from someone who wants what I know Jeremy wants, but I didn’t think I needed to.

“Come on, Lissa. Just one catch. It would be so easy for you and save me so much time.” For a boy the size of a full grown, well fed, professional football player, he has perfected the art of the pathetic whine. “I don’t have time for this. One little catch, that’s all I’m asking for. That’s basically nothing.”

“I’m not throwing a catch so you can slack off in First World.”

“First World is pointless anyways. Come on, I’ll even trade you for it. All the chocolate mint tea you could possibly drink?”

“Please. If I’m throwing a catch for you, it’s going to cost you a lot more than a beverage I can get for free from room service any old time.”

“So you DON’T want tea?” Jeremy studies me suspiciously.

“That’s going a little too far.” There’s a chill in the air, even in the Thornewood Hotel’s spacious, well-appointed lobby. The lush carpet sinks under my flats as if it’s brand new, and the overall attitude presented by the overstuffed velvet furniture and the roaring fireplace large enough to roast a full-grown human in is presumptuous wealth. But even the Thornewood, a hundred year old palace impervious to change, has to admit winter is coming. Winter in New England can chew up your bones and spit them right back out. Even October is a reminder that something much worse is on it’s way.

“You know what I mean. You don’t want tea in exchange for the catch?”

“I can get free tea, coffee, and hot chocolate any time of day, in any amount I want. Why would I let you off that easy?”

Jeremy grimaces as we pass the front desk and through the French doors into one of the five side parlors. This is my favorite, done in shades of black, gray, and silk. The lamplight is low and evening is descending in a blaze of fiery pink and deep purple glory through the windows. “It’s not my fault you live in the world’s most expensive apartment.”

“Not that expensive for us.” I can’t help bragging a little. It’s good for Jeremy to never be right. Everyone else lets him spout nonsense.

He sighs, flinging himself onto a delicate-legged settee. It quivers under him. “Fine. Fine fine fine, you’re right, Lissa. As usual. About everything. From now to eternity.” He props his head against the narrow silk-covered arm. “I’ll give you whatever it is you want, and I won’t complain for more than one year. Now will you please throw a catch for me and get me through this assignment?”

With his hair all mussed up like that and his legs folded to cram himself onto the elegant couch, he looks like a Greek painting done all in heavy oils, the light directed right onto the breadth of his jaw.

“Fine.” I fold my arms over my chest. My sworn duty is to serve as Jeremy’s sense of balance and proportion. Agreeing to throw a catch for him, when I know my mom will murder me if she ever finds out and the entire town would be scandalized, doesn’t seem like I’m doing my job quite right.

But who can resist the idea of someone owing them a no-holds-barred anytime anywhere favor?

“You know I can’t choose who or when.”

Jeremy lets his head fall back casually against the arm of the settee. It would have worked, too, except that settees are not couches and his skull bounces loudly off the stern wooden backbone. “I don’t care. It’s First World; she just wants some kind of writeup on some kind of historical figure. I bet I get bonus points for not covering Benjamin Franklin or Paul Revere or whoever.”

“Is that literally all you know about history? The old white guys?”

Jeremy groans. “No.”

“That means yes. I can feel it.” I hesitate again. This is all wrong. When I throw a catch, whatever spirit is closest will arrive. They could have died yesterday, and I’d be disturbing their rituals for nothing.  They could have died a hundred years ago – the Thornewood is chock full of interesting spirits, which is why the Catch Keeper’s apartment is here – but have private stories, things they don’t want aired in someone’s junior level History of the First World class. Besides, if all Jeremy knows is a handful of dudes who died a really long time ago, he deserves to do his own research and find something more interesting to know. “This would seriously take you like an hour on the internet. It’s one of the easiest assignments in the entire grade. Not just in First World – in the entire school. Are you sure this is what you want to put yourself into debt for?”

“Just throw the catch,” Jeremy snaps, overenunciating his vowels.

Fine. I warned him about a hundred times.

I close my eyes and open my hands, immediately sensing the hum of spirits gathered close by. The Thornewood always feels this way, like a low-level electric buzz in my bloodstream. I don’t drink coffee or take energy supplements, and I rarely need more than a nap’s worth of sleep. Something about that constant pulse of living and formerly living things makes me impervious to most natural human needs.

Jeremy finds it creepy. My mom, after decades of catch keeping, is starting to find it alienating. I just really enjoy feeling powerful.

The catch is already forming between my hands. Invisible to most human eyes, unbearably attractive to ghostly ones. I make the catch a pleasing shade of turquoise, brilliant in this grayscale parlor. My mom can form catches with her eyes open, but I always find the environment too distracting – particularly when that environment includes Jeremy. I prefer to see the catches in my mind.

This one is a curved U, glittering with broken glass imbedded beneath the smooth as ice surface. The color intensifies until it resembles an ocean at dawn. My back starts to sweat.

My shoulders feel tight and the tips of my fingers shake against the delicate lines of the catch. My mom’s been teaching me the anatomy of catches since before I knew any human anatomy, and I know how to make a catch that works. This one has substance and strength, but the beauty factor is strong in this one and even though I know it’s origins, the allure is enough to entice even me.

Which means it should work pretty quickly.

I open my eyes. Jeremy is still sprawled on the settee. His eyes are on me, on my hands, but to him the catch will look something like an old, chipped teacup. Mom prefers to make her catches look like hairbrushes or contact cases or some other random thing. I’m too afraid of someone picking one up by accident. Bad things happen when ordinary people get curious about catches.

“Is that it? Did you already catch something?”

I roll my eyes. “No, genius. I can’t just catch something with a snap of my fingers. This entire job wouldn’t exist if catching was that easy. I have to find a good spot to lay the catch and we’ll check it tonight.”

“Tonight?” Jeremy’s voice slides up an octave.

There are rumors the Thornewood is haunted. They are, of course, true. The Catch Keeper wouldn’t be housed here if the place weren’t full of ghosts. It’s a hotel – stands to reason that significant portions of people’s lives and huge parts of their stories have happened inside these walls. But haunting is a thing that the average person doesn’t super want to know more about, I guess. To me, signs of a haunting are like the bell in a firehouse or the crackle of a dispatch radio or the chime of someone’s bed alarm in a hospital. Just a call to work.

“Yeah, tonight. It’s the easiest time to check catches without people getting curious. Besides, I have a feeling about this parlor.”

Jeremy leaps off the settee, studying the corners of the room. He brushes off the front of his shirt, as if some ghost has decided to take a snooze on his powerful chest. “Where? What? Do you see some now?”

“I can’t see ghosts.” It’s probably time to give up trying to teach Jeremy about catch keeping or ghosts or anything else that has to do with what I do. He has his job – playing football and getting nerdy about biology sometimes – and I have mine. Never shall the two combine lest I lose my mind.

“Are you sure we have to come back at night? Really, really sure?”

“Swing by the apartment. Room 668.”

Jeremy glares at me. “The Thornewood only has 666 rooms.”

“That depends on who you ask. And how smart you are.” I smile smugly. Jeremy Rutgers might be an attractive, usually thoughtful, occasionally intelligent boy, but I am the catch keeper’s kid and he’s never going to completely outwit me. At least not at the Thornewood. “If you can’t find my place, you probably don’t deserve my help.”

Jeremy pleads all the way back to the lobby, but my favorite hobby is making life hard for him and he should have just saved his breath. Each time I issue him a challenge he can’t complete, it’s a reminder for him of how much he needs me around. Not that he needs the reminder. I’m delightful company. But I don’t think it hurts.

“Making a nuisance of yourself?” Giselle watches Jeremy slink off through the main doors, still casting pitiful glances my way and muttering something about what will happen if he gets caught coming back here after his curfew tonight.

I hand her a peppermint patty. There’s a stash in every bag I own, and while my backpack is a bitter reminder of the homework waiting for me before I check Jeremy’s catch tonight, the accessibility of perfect chocolate and mint almost makes up for it. “I just like to be Jeremy’s wiser and more worldly voice of reason as often as possible.”

“Funny. Voice of reason is your favorite role and yet most people call it voice of annoyance.”

“Are you coming over for dinner?”

Giselle checks the wall clock. “I have another hour before I could reasonably squeeze in a dinner break. Laura was on me for that on my last time card, so I have to watch when I clock out. Apparently an hour long dinner break 45 minutes into my shift is not considered a wise use of my time.”

“Can’t your brother just cover for you instead of you even clocking out?”

“I think they’re catching on to that. They let things go for me a lot because of the whole privileged citizen business, but I can’t take advantage of it. I might need to leverage all that pity at some point for something that’s a bigger deal than dinner.”

“I don’t know. Mom’s cooking, not me. This might be worth using up some pity points for.”

Giselle’s face brightens considerably. I would be offended, if it weren’t for the fact that I suck at cooking, and I’m feeling pretty relieved myself that my mom is in charge tonight.

When the builders created this place way back when, hotels were a big deal. An inn or a motel was nothing, you paid for a night and slept on some hay in an ale-drunken stupor and then carried on the next morning. Hotels, on the other hand, were places the wealthy went to show off being wealthy. They expected comfort, glamour, sophistication. They wanted to be wowed while pretending very hard not to be.

When the current owners took the Thornewood over and got her all restored from the spider-infested hovel she’d become in the early 1900s, they decided to turn some of the servant’s quarters into serviceable low income apartments. There are three fairly decent apartments down there now, which means there are four families who live permanently at the Thornewood. One apartment is occupied by Wilmar, the 97-year-old human relic who enjoys walking around with a cane to shake at everyone except pretty college girls and men in suits. Another hosts a family with seven kids that all wear a lot of jean material. The last one is home to Giselle, her brother, and her uncle.

Mom and I live upstairs. Room 668, despite Jeremy’s insistence that such a thing is impossible. And up until now, aside from a bevy of ghosts, Wilmar’s mumbling, and the annoying habit the nighttime desk clerk has of staring down his nose at Mom and I, the Thornewood has been as close to a happy, cozy home as I could imagine.

The thing is, I’ve never thrown a catch my Mom didn’t approve of before. I’m confident in my catching abilities. I’m comfortable with ghosts. I’m…well, I’m whatever I feel around Jeremy. This should be fine.

Which is why I am equal parts worried and embarrassed by the trickle of fear sliding slowly down my spine as Giselle and I make dinner plans and I ride the elevator up to my apartment.

Dinner is sweet and sour chicken with slightly crunchy brown rice, which is five steps above my usual Thursday night plain chicken with super crunchy brown rice offering. Giselle hums appreciatively as she helps clear the table and promises to glue some pages of the nighttime desk clerk’s log together for me tonight.

Mom settles into the wingback chair by our nonfunctioning fireplace as I fix my hair in the mirror behind the door. “Going somewhere?”

She’s right to sound surprised. It’s after 7:00, and traditionally I like to go to bed at the same approximate time as preschoolers and elderly grandmothers.

“I’m just helping a friend with homework.”

“Jeremy.” Mom sniffs as she turns a page in her book. She’s never been a particular fan, ever since Jeremy spilled an entire can of Coke on a batch of fresh catches disguised as household bills.

“It could be someone else too. It could be for Giselle. Or Sarah, or Amanda. Or Nick.”

“Why do you even bother? Your mom is way too smart for you to try to pull off some nonsense.” Mom turns another page. There’s no way she’s reading that fast and her unease makes me uneasy too.

“What’s wrong?” I ask casually. I put on a coat for dramatic effect. Just to be clear, I could actually be leaving the Thornewood and dropping a study guide off at Nick or Amanda’s house. I could.

Mom sighs, rubbing her temple. “Something’s off. I should throw an extra set of catches tonight and put up a few barriers. I haven’t felt one like this in a long time. It’ll have to be just the right catch to keep whatever this is, and I don’t know if I even have the energy. It’s making me tired. I feel a migraine coming on.”

That’s definitely not a problem. Out of all the ghosts in the world, my catch definitely did not keep a dangerous one. Nope. Everything is completely fine.

My throat is a little too dry. “But you’ve gotten migraines before. Remember that set of brothers a couple years ago? They gave you such a migraine you threw up.”

“And they were extremely dangerous.” Mom closes her book aggressively and stands up, brushing her hand on my shoulder as she walks to the kitchen to make tea. “Just keep an eye out. Don’t let Jeremy get you wrapped up in any stupid schemes. I’ve got a bad feeling about this one. This is the kind of catching that gets people killed or lost.”

Our eyes accidentally meet. Mom and I prefer to have all our serious conversations while staring into the broken fireplace, or up at the stars, or at the couch cushions. It’s much easier to be honest when we don’t have to see each other being so honest and vulnerable.

The thing about lost people is that my dad is one of them. Back in my mom’s heyday, when she was a roving catch keeper and would take on anything, anywhere. She was invincible, and worth a lot of money to people with unsolvable ghost problems, until the day my dad was too close, and the ghost was too strong, and instead of her catch keeping the ghost, it kept my dad.

What I remember about him is a reddish beard and a laugh that seemed to shake the floorboards. I was two, though, so I suppose a lot of earth-shaking things happened.

I break eye contact and zip up my coat, stuffing my feet into a pair of boots. “I’ll be back in half an hour or so. I can make you some hot chocolate then, if you want. If you’re still working.”

Mom frowns. “Apology hot chocolate? What is it, exactly, that you’re going to help Jeremy with? You better not be cheating. Or encouraging cheating. That boy’s got to learn to get by on something besides his looks.”

“We’re not cheating, Mom.” Much.

“Watch out for signs. If you see anything-“

“Leave a marker behind so you can find it. I know. I’ll text you if anything weird happens.”

“Don’t text me. Get out of there and come home safely.” Mom shakes her head as she puts the kettle on the stove, muttering something to herself about teenagers and their nonexistent understanding of the frailty of human lives.

There are things about having a parent for a roommate that are less than pleasant.

I open the door and walk out straight into Jeremy. He’s standing hunch-shouldered and wide-eyed, looking slightly bewildered. His hair is all on end.

“You scared me,” he says, pouting like a toddler.

“You scared me. Why are you lurking in front of my apartment?”

“You said I had to find your place if I wanted help. I’ve been here for two hours trying to find it.”

“You could have just followed me home.”

“You would have noticed.”

He’s not wrong.

Our apartment, Room 668 of the Thornewood, is only accessible via a spiraling metal staircase inside the wall of Room 666. Nobody is supposed to know exactly where we live- there’s still a few people who think ghosts should be free to roam regardless of the havoc that can cause, and think catch keeping is cruel. There’s other people who want to use catches for their own purposes, as if the stories of a handful of old ghosts are going to somehow make them powerful or wise. Most stories are nothing but first kisses and ancient petty arguments, but try telling that to a muscle-bound mustachioed dude who thinks a ghost knows the location of the treasure he’s been searching for all his life.

There’s a lot of reasons for keeping the exact location and access point of our apartment under the radar.

“How did you even find it?”

Jeremy taps his head. “I am much smarter than you give me credit for.”

“Who’d you flirt with?” I ask, narrowing my eyes.

Jeremy makes a point of focusing on his feet finding rungs on the slippery, rusting twist of the metal as we descend. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Flirting would be cruel, when I’m so beautiful and people are so vulnerable to my powers.”

“You are a huge idiot.”

“But you love me.”

There’s an uncomfortable twinge in my chest at the word ‘love’ that I’d rather not stop and consider for too long. I’m busy rushing headlong into foolish danger. No need to look too closely at my motivations.

Room 666 is, thankfully, occupied by an elderly couple who go to bed around six each evening and sleep like mountains, unyielding and emitting a faint whistle of wind. The front desk doesn’t often rent 666 for an assortment of fairly obvious reasons, but when they do they try to keep it to customers like these. I have crept past far more than my fair share of weirdly sleeping people. There are a lot of people who do weird things in their sleep.

It’s no problem getting past them, but working our way back to the parlor is a challenge. Everyone knows I hate being up late at night – late, in this case, being around 8:37 pm – and everyone knows I shouldn’t be ready to throw catches on my own yet. There’s a whole licensing process, and since catch keeping isn’t the easiest thing in the world, it’s a big deal when someone gets licensed. They would know if I’d made any progress in that regard.

It takes impersonating a waitress, army crawling behind the partition that separates the wait staff hall from the dining room, and literally sprinting down a back hallway with the night manager’s voice growing ever closer behind us as he waxes wise to some unfortunate soul, but we manage to slide into the parlor without being seen.

My skin immediately crawls. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up and my heart is beating much faster than it should be. We did just escape danger. It was a harrowing journey into this parlor, and required a lot more acrobatics than someone who is usually in bed at this time of night should ever have to perform.

Of course that’s why I’m so uneasy. Of course that’s why a knot forms in my stomach as I step cautiously toward my catch.

The smooth glass sides of my catch are covered in spider vein cracks. The entire catch shudders and heaves, as if something is about to hatch like an egg.

I swallow a hundred misgivings and reach out my hand.

“Did you get something? I hate First World, you’re saving my life! I could kiss you right now.” Jeremy comes up behind me, so close I can feel the warmth of his body down my spine.

There’s still time to turn back. I could listen to my gut, the catch keeper’s best friend, and walk away. I could stop lying to my mom and let her help me. I could bring the catch to the restored tavern down the street, home to half a dozen roaming catch keepers, and get one of them to tackle whatever it is inside there.

I have a lot of options, and all of them would be better than doing this myself. Every instinct in my body screams no.

Except the instincts that are all too aware of Jeremy’s eager face and the hand he rests on my shoulder.

It just can’t be as bad as my mom thinks. She’s poisoned by what happened with my dad.

Jeremy’s hand slides over my shoulder and curves around my bicep.  He laughs, and it tickles behind my ear.

I touch the catch.

It shatters under my fingertips, something dark and malevolent and HUNGRY swarming through the room with a sound like birds’ wings and a gasp like a thousand creatures have just come to life.

The force that ricochets off the walls should belong to a thousand ghosts, but there’s only one. I catch the shape of it as it swirls into form; a girl with the shadow of long dark hair and furious eyes. Then she vanishes down the hall. A moment later there’s a scream, and then another.

I turn slowly, and meet Jeremy’s terrified gaze. “It’s a snare,” I whisper. “I threw a snare somehow. We didn’t get her story. We gave her back her soul.”

 

About the Author

jamie-adamsJamie is an MG and YA writer, among other things. She has a minor shoe addiction, major coffee addiction, and the ability to read multiple books in a single day if left uninterrupted. Christmas is her favorite holiday: colorful lights, peppermint candy, and sweet, sappy stories included.

She can be found at jamieadamswriting.wordpress.com or on Twitter at @jamie_adams22.