~ PART TEN~
Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Have you read Part Nine? You can catch up *here*.
“Are we still staying now?” George asked me.
We decided to take a stroll on the marshland, we thought it would clear our minds. Hotel Unicus, was in its monstrosity, not making it easy to think clearly.
It was a bright day with squawking seagulls overhead, singing birds in the trees and the sun promising it would heat up. George and I had dressed light, in cotton trousers and t-shirts under summer hiking jackets that moderated the body temperature well. We wore the brand new hiking boots we’d bought a week earlier, in anticipation of the holiday. We still had some bottles of mineral water in the camper van, so we brought one of those; it was packed together with George’s wildlife binoculars, my camera, and a couple of apples Mary had given us, in a black rucksack that George carried on his back.
From the front of the hotel, we followed a meandering earthen path eastwards. It wasn’t a formal path really, just one that had been made by many a person as they had trudged through the grass. At a bramble hedge with a wooden stile for climbing over, the path momentarily stopped.
“How are you doing?” George asked, referring to my physical abilities – or lack of.
“Not too badly. And, yes, I can manage climbing over a tiny stile.” I knew he was only concerned for me.
The earthen path picked up again, soon becoming something official with a well-constructed boardwalk and a sign stating it was a Public Footpath. Another sign asked the visitors to not feed the wild small horses. The marshland stretched from left to right before us. Scattered about were various trees – Silver Birch, Oak, Sweet Chestnut, Ash – and by the hedge, Hawthorn, still in flower. The ground was covered in long grass and moss; somewhere was a large pond where the Natterjack toads lived.
I thought of the horsewoman Joan and the neighing of the horse, earlier. Perhaps she was out riding now? And what of Pendleton, where was he?
“That chap in the 70s’ disco flares is another strange character.” George said as we walked.
“But he’s certainly not affiliated with Hotel Unicus.” I pointed out.
In the near distance, some fifteen feet away, under the canopy of a bowing oak, stood three small horses. They chewed the long grass, oblivious to our presence.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Mary, Joan and Pendleton, don’t they give the same impression to you that they know one another? But, Fred, he’s a stranger here, like us.”
“Yes and yes – except for the poor dress sense.”
George’s critique – and the thought – of the neon-yellow and grey striped trousers made me smile.
“I wonder if we’ll bump into him.” I said.
“Why don’t we have a sit down here?” George indicated a bench that seemed to have miraculously appeared as if heaven sent. My aching body was complaining to sit down. We sat and George pulled out the binoculars from the backpack.
“We might see Terns – or Natterjacks – or even strange characters.” He said, lifting the binoculars to his eyes.
I sighed. I didn’t care in that moment; it was just bliss being able to sit for a while.
“Oh, here’s something! At two o’clock I see Lady Joan in the saddle of her steed. She’s exchanging words with Yellow Stripes. It’s a pity I can’t lip read.”
I stared in that direction, unable to see more than a couple of faint tiny figures and that of the horse. I heard the click of my camera and saw that George was photographing them.
“Maggie, the zoom function on your camera isn’t bad.” He said, handing me the camera, and returning to the binoculars.
The thought of ghosts entered my mind. How their presence shows up as transparent figures or bright lights, known as orbs, in photographs. Would the sad ghost, Elizabeth, in the stairwell, show up as either in a photograph if I took one?
“Oh, they’re leaving one another now: she’s riding off in the direction of the hotel; and he’s walking in this direction, I believe.”
The warmth of the day was increasing. It must have been around eleven and I could feel my face and backs of my hands burning.
“Funny how the marshland is supposed to be a place of fear once it’s night – and yet now, it’s one of the loveliest, most tranquil places I’ve visited, in the day.” I said.
“To be honest with you – and only you – that Black Shuck story is beginning to creep me out.” George said, resting the binoculars against his chest, as they hung around his neck.
“George, I don’t know if it’s real, but I believe there is something dangerous out here at night. Somehow Sedgewick was killed. Yesterday we saw a ghost for the first time. And nothing is how it should be…reality, as we know it, since coming here, has been turned upside down!”
“I know, Maggie.” George lifted the binoculars to his eyes again. “Hello…I see that Yellow Stripes Fred is coming our way. Give him ten minutes.”
As Fred turned the corner on the boardwalk and saw us sitting on the bench he seemed genuinely pleased to see us.
“Hello, you two!”
“Hello, Fred.” I said and George nodded.
“Strange place this isn’t it.” Fred said without preamble. I waved a hand, indicating for him to sit beside George where there was space for two more.
“Thanks…I could do with a rest. I’m not really keen on too much walking.”
“The hotel wasn’t what we were expecting!” I said lightly.
“Were you really not here when Sedgewick was?” George enquired, rooting for valuable information.
I noticed Fred drop the bubbly mask – beneath it was an expression of utmost seriousness. “I see that you’re not part of this…this game.” Fred said. “Therefore, I’m only telling you this: Sedgewick was someone I knew. He had a dreadful time getting a signal on his mobile phone and the telephone at the hotel wasn’t working – so they said – but then he got through to me. I think he used the phone in a private office. I never heard him so scared before…he wasn’t making much sense.”
“What did make sense?” George asked.
“He said they weren’t like normal people here and that he was afraid for his life. That was the night he ran off onto the marshland. That’s what they say – but when I got here the next day, yesterday, I wasn’t allowed to see the body. And, now, apparently, the police have been and gone.”
“Why don’t you go to the police?” I said.
“I’ve nothing concrete. I decided to poke about a bit, first. They don’t know what he told me – at least I don’t think so, unless they overheard the phone call.”
“What do you make of this Black Shuck business?” George said.
“Another lie to try and scare us?” Fred guessed.
With some difficulty, I stood up to stretch my stiff legs.
It was then we saw the deep grooves on the bench seat. Two sets of three. They looked like they were issued from large claws of a large beast.
~ To be continued! ~
Photographs and digital manipulation by me, 3rd May 2016, Great Yarmouth Row Houses.
My day out at the Great Yarmouth Row Houses.
Writing prompt: Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Writing inspiration: A strange dream. And a little Hotel California.
What’s a Short Story Series?: A short story written over several parts, around 1,000 words for each part.
Copyright Faith McCord 2016
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide right