~ PART TWENTY-ONE ~
Sadly, we have come to the end of The Hotel Unicus. Thank you for keeping Maggie and George company – I hope you enjoyed the journey.
Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Have you read Part Twenty? You can catch up *here*.
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.
No, our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be. Instead of the relaxation we’d sought, we’d got more than we’d ever bargained for: We’d lost our lives. But, Mary, had – and, together with Pendleton and the other nice enough spirits – kept our souls safe. The Tall Man, although killing us that fateful evening in the dining room, would never take that from us.
As I’ve already said, time has no bearing here; the days pass unremarkably, flowing into night, and the night flowing into the day, though not as rhythmically as the tide. Sometimes, it seems, a day has passed in a minute and the night goes on for eternity. Other times, a moment is stretched, revealing afore hidden details, secrets. The seasons fade in and out. Generally bland, that is, unless, the heart of Hotel Unicus starts beating again.
With no way of measuring time, my awareness stripped until Unicus breathes, it seems many years have passed by.
You came that day, walking along the shore in the early hours whilst everyone else wisely slept. The sun seeming to rise from out of the sea, the sky striped purple and orange and yellow, a clean new day to start again. You walked up the sandy beach until reaching the pine trees. I’d quite forgotten the pattern I’d left, made from the fallen fir-cones. Their woody bracts snow-kissed now as if perfected for Yule. Nature’s frosted cupcakes. Why they were still present when it felt like a hundred years had passed, I don’t know.
The Hotel Unicus had never made sense. Why now?
Shuck hadn’t been able to claim us either. Those eyes of his, enormous, as large as tea-cups, filled with fire and dread, turned on us. He inhaled deeply – the breath exhaling as small clouds of red smoke – for our mortal bodies. Then, a sharp snort of regret, before turning away; skulking off into the darkness until we saw him no more. In search of more souls to damn.
Black Shuck had lost this fight.
George and I held on to one another, no issue of words, because there was nothing more to say. Then, we reached for the others to join our hug.
“I never told anyone, other than you, Fred, that I came here. Who will find my body now?” Sedgewick said.
“We just said we were spending some time in North Norfolk. Did you mention the name of the hotel, dear?” George said.
“No. I don’t know why not. Or, maybe I do…” My voice trailed off. I knew very well of the magnetic pull and control Unicus had over us. “What about you, Fred?”
“I wasn’t called here, like you others were. Sedgewick called me – not Unicus. I might have left a message to my daughter.”
“Might?” I asked.
“I really can’t remember. You know how it is – I notice the same thing has happened to you all. You can’t think straight anymore, can you? Everything’s fuzzy.”
He had no reason to lie; and no, none of us was able to think clearly.
“We will never be at rest, unless our bodies are found.” I said and couldn’t help but begin to cry.
“Don’t give up hope. Not ever.” George said, kissing my forehead. “Hope is what kept me going through the hardships at work. It will work for us here, too.”
“Never give up the hope.” Pendleton echoed.
I knew you might come.
You solemnly observed the fir-cones, as they quietly sparkled in the half-light; the message I’d left with them.
HELP US RIP
When the anxiety seeps into my addled thoughts, yes, I do worry for you. Not wishing this fate, this limbo on anyone. It’s confusing here, empty, miserable. The cold – stark and biting – chills my soul.
Beware of Black Shuck, keep away from the Tall Man. I want to warn you.
However, I know you possess inner strength – the faith, the courage, and the diligence. And, also, the tenacity to fight the darkness.
You wiped your tears. “I will find you!” You called out into the thicket of trees that surround the boardwalk that leads down onto the beach and to the sea, and up, the opposite way, through the marshes in the direction of Hotel Unicus.
I know you will.
Save us all.
Brave daughter of Fred.
~ To be continued? A sequel perhaps? ~
Please let me know your thoughts.
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.