~ PART SEVENTEEN ~
Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Have you read Part Sixteen? You can catch up *here*.
“I ran out of the maze in the other direction, towards the end of the walled garden. And, almost into the arms of another living hedge creature! It was some kind of a starfish of all things, and it tried snatching me up in its outstretched arms. It belched and I smelt the sea – albeit a darker version of the sea – the saltiness, and the sweet sickly decaying of its dead beings. Grains of sand – of a thousand years – poured out of its body with every rippling movement; sea water gushed out of its mouth. And, its eyes, they were black and shiny like pools of shadowed water.
“Yes, I screamed, I screamed with the insanity of it all. This evil place, Hotel Unicus.
“Then, arms of another kind, from someone good and kind, hugged my legs. Instantly, the starfish creature vanished.
“I looked down at my saviour, and saw it was Pendleton.”
I had been surprised at my ability to sleep – with head resting on arms, on the hard table, with all the dark commotion around me. I was out like a light.
I dreamt of following George out of the window and into the unknown, but not as my physical presence, because I was invisible as Mary could be. At whim. I resented his apparently easy way of leaving me behind, as if I – considering my poor health too – was sufficiently able to defend myself against the growing evil. Mary’s help or not.
I re-ran the memory of what had only just occurred in the dining room.
The Tall Man blocking the doorway, the exit into the hall, with his long lean darkness. The yellow light of the hall dimmed and dirtied into muddy mustard, the fixtures and points of the dining room and its contents picked out by it. The scuffles and cries. The banging of the fists against wood. The atmosphere thick with the urgency and the dread.
George’s staring eyes.
The horror reflected in them will be forever etched on my soul.
So, I took off after him, through that small opening in the kitchen, as light and floating as a feather. The small courtyard, the swimming pool area, the open door in the wall, that led to the rose garden. With ease, directed by my determined purpose. There were moments, whilst traversing the maze-like path, surrounded by the roses and hedge creatures, when I could have touched him. But, I didn’t. He had left me and I was in no mood for his argument of me having to have stayed behind.
I saw him stop, several strides in on the path. I heard Fred’s whisper; although, of course, it wasn’t Fred who had whispered. But, George answered it. I saw him then move on and pause at the sundial. The moon swept across the sky and at the same time, the garden turned to night. In a panic, he yelled for Fred. The running footsteps came, alerting me; I saw it was Pendleton. The closer he ran to George, the further and faster George ran. George only had to look back to see it was a friend. But fear had replaced the wavering courage, sending him into the arms of the hedge creature – that had been animated by something dark.
Then, Pendleton did his thing – as ghosts tend to do – and the unfriendly entity was banished.
Neither Pendleton nor George was aware of my presence.
It was, but a dream, wasn’t it?
Satisfied that George was now in safe hands, I proceeded out of the walled garden and back into the hotel. Passing – floating – along the corridors and up the flight of stairs until I reached Elizabeth’s quarters. En route, I noticed that the door of the dining room was shut – and the Tall Man was gone.
She had already manifested as if she were expecting me. “Did you see my William?”
I stretched out my arm towards her, uncurling the fingers of my closed hand. Revealing the treasure inside.
She gave a long drawn out sigh, one which conveyed the agonised waiting of many, many years. She took the ring with its single modest ruby. “His mother’s ring. He said she wanted him to give it to me because we loved one another.”
Behind me, at the bottom of the stairs, the door creaked open.
“Thank you dear one!” Elizabeth smiled, her cheeks pink as roses, as if now of flesh and blood. “You have released me from my prison; I can now go to him.”
The colour spread from her cheeks, seeping into her eyes, hair, turning her greyish dress white. She glided past me, the long white dress reminiscent of dove wings. So soft and delicate.
She turned her head, giving me one last grateful look – from eyes that were now green and the lips, now reddened, turned upwards into a smile. I also noticed that her hair, the long curls worn loose framing her warm face, had become chestnut brown.
“Wait!,” I said abruptly, “if this is only a dream, tell me, how do I really give you his ring when I’m hiding from danger in the kitchen?”
“Who said that this is a dream?” Elizabeth said, pausing at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at me through the winding steps.
“The deceased Sedgewick: you will find his body buried on the marshes.”
“Under a tree.”
Elizabeth had waited too long, to be held back any longer. I perfectly understood her impatience when she left when she did. William was waiting. Two lovers to be rejoined after more than a hundred years.
All that was left of her now in this once-segregated space was her signature smell of roses.
George awoke me by softly calling my name. I saw Pendleton beside him, but no Fred.
“Fred?” His name came out as a cry. I feared the worst.
“He must have took off onto the marshes – but it’s too dark to see your way round now. We’ll look for him at dawn.” George said, his voice grave.
The sinister words the Tall Man had uttered, came back to me –
“Black Shuck. The Hound of Hell. You better keep off the marshes.”
~ 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 rights.