Welcome to day twenty-six of the Haunted Hotel Writer and Illustrator showcase!
Come back each day, the entire month of October for a scare! Today’s story comes from room #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 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.
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.”
“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.
“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?”
“…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.
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