~ PART TWENTY ~
Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Have you read Part Nineteen? You can catch up *here*.
I suppose I had expected Sedgewick to disappear back into his body in a dramatic kind of way; instead, after George had re-covered the face with the sheet, he remained with us. The marshy soil was again, shovelled, to cover the body.
The bright white light faded away. The mist around the area dissipated.
We walked on, the five of us. Back down the boardwalk, going east, in search of answers.
Black Shuck howled. It was so far away that the sound meshed with the faraway crashing of the North Sea waves.
“Black Shuck. Black Shuck. Black Shuck.” Whispered the voices.
We all heard them. We couldn’t see from where they came – but I very much doubt that they were hidden in the ever-thickening mist.
Those kinds don’t have a physical presence.
We’d walked on for an hour – or so it seemed – going east along the boardwalk. East towards the sea. Our footsteps soft, barely audible. My body wasn’t complaining. We talked easily of ourselves to one another as if we were lifetime-long friends. We spoke of the ‘why’; the reasons why we came to Hotel Unicus. Soon realising that the pull of the place had been immense; that although our reasons differed, we were united by its stranglehold over us.
“I’m sorry I got you into this, Fred.” Tony said.
“If I hadn’t responded to your urgent call, what kind of friend would that have made me?”
Tony Sedgewick gave his sad smile. “I do feel awful that you’re stuck here.”
“Look!” George pointed towards the horizon where the mist had thinned exposing the top of the sand dunes meeting with the sea-line.
The boardwalk sloped downwards onto the beach and we walked in between tall pine trees. Fir-cones littered the way like a chaotic crumb trail to the sea. The crash of the waves was now louder. The salty smell of the sea and the pine smell of the fir-cones were somehow different to what I’d remembered from previous times.
“If the mist had been a helpful gift from Elizabeth, does that mean she’s reunited with William?” George wondered out loud.
I felt in my pocket, the one where the ruby ring had been briefly stowed away. I hadn’t thought of checking before. Yes, the ring was gone; yes, I had really passed it on to Elizabeth.
“Yes,” I answered George, “yes, she’s reunited with William.”
He gave me a puzzling look.
We walked on.
We came to the end of the boardwalk. So, we stepped out onto the soft yielding sand.
Galloping from the north towards the south, along the shore, through the drizzling mist, appeared Joan on a white horse. She seemed to be flying, as she neared us.
“I don’t think she’s in a bad temper anymore. Riding always soothes her.” Pendleton said whilst we watched her fly passed us. The firey red hair streaming behind her. She chose to ignore our presence, only tilting her head slightly in our direction.
“She must have been a handsome woman.” I said to him.
Pendleton smiled. “And clever. Those were harsh times towards women, people like me, and people of colour like Mary. Despite that, Joan was a brilliant businesswoman. She founded a successful millinery business.”
“Really? Were you friends?”
“We were never really friends – she was always too conniving; I couldn’t stand that side to her. I was her business partner.”
“Ah. I thought you had an appreciation for fashion considering your tartan suit.” I said sincerely.
I could imagine the two of them working side by side – Joan’s outspoken rudeness, and, Pendleton walking on egg-shells, placating her, trying to make things work.
We stared out at the sea. George, Fred and Sedgewick were further ahead, right up to the shore; gesticulating while they talked.
I heard George shout out: “No, we can’t be!”
Sedgewick began to throw small pebbles into the water. One after another. Plop! plop! plop!…
“We were financially well off, but working with her made me ill. The doctor suspected cancer. So, under strict doctor’s orders, I came to rest at Hotel Unicus; thinking of the health benefits of the sea air. Joan wasn’t supposed to follow me here. After all, I was trying to get away from her!” Pendleton chuckled. “We were like a couple in the worst kind of marriage.”
“It must have been awful for you. Like I said before, we came here because we needed a break from all the stress. What I didn’t mention was that George had had a sort of nervous breakdown because of some problems at work, but he’s much better now.”
“I am glad.”
We stood there for a while, immune to time, unrestrained by the real world, watching the day become slightly brighter as the mist dissipated. Then it rained and we stood under the canopy of the tall pines to keep dry. I gathered the fir-cones and made a pattern in the sand. The rain eventually ceased and the afternoon sun burnt brighter. We sat in the dry part of the sand, in a space between the trees and watched the sun set in the west.
Turquoise, mauve, lemon, coral and peach coloured streaks against the darkening sky. The ball of the sun, orange and burning…
Nightfall eventually came, cloaking all with its darkness. The coppice of pine trees looked a fearful place. Soon, we heard what we had been waiting for: the howls of Black Shuck.
The sound was haunting, pitiful. But, he wasn’t to be pitied because he was a monster.
Though low at first, the howls gathered volume as the otherworldly beast neared. He had come to sniff us out.
We made out his shadow at the periphery of the pine trees, only a five-minute-walk away: he was larger than I had envisioned, easily the size of a small pony. A soft green glow surrounded him. He skulked low to the ground with his muzzle raised high. His eyes as big as tea-cups and ablaze with red.
The harbinger of death.
However, it didn’t matter anymore to George, Fred and myself. He couldn’t touch us. We were already dead.
~ To be continued! ~
…..THE CONCLUSION OF THE HOTEL UNICUS NEXT WEEK…..
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.