Saturday, April 21, 2012
What Goes Chomp in the Night (Short Story)
Another drop of sweat dripped down John’s back as he packed his things into the car. The heat was unbearable on his sunburned skin. He kept thinking that he should do it later and leave the next day. He was in a rush ever since he got the call from his brother that their father had passed away that morning. But time was slowly running out, and the shadows knew it. As John stood in the sun, the shadows looked like they were running away. Away from a condemned soul.
The highway was bustling with cars. Some were moving as if time was moving too fast for them. For John, time couldn’t move more slowly. John turned on the radio, hoping that it will pass the time.
“Good evening, folks!” the radio announcer exclaimed, “It was a scorcher for June 13th here in Houston, the hottest June on record! Anyway, President-Elect Nixon announced today that the race to the moon would end with Apollo 11.”
“Heh, Nixon, he’s not gonna last long in office,” John mumbled to himself as he turned off the radio.
John looked out at the highway exit, no cars were exiting here. “I should just take the longer way, it’s probably faster than this traffic mess,” he thought.
Without much thought over the subject, John exited the highway onto a muddy two-lane road. The road winded through the forest that transformed into misty bayou. About ten miles into the road John saw signs of the nearest town being about five miles away and Baton Rouge fifty miles. He never looked at his fuel gauge since he got off the highway. As soon as he saw the gauge, his car slowed to a steady halt. Smoke started to rise from the hood.
John took his journal and marked where his car was. When he got out, it didn’t take long for him to hitch a ride into town. As John got into the tank of a truck he said to the driver, “Thank you so much, my car broke down from all this heat, I guess.”
“No problem, Lee Ann has an auto shop and’ll tow it back to town. I’m Billy Joe,” the driver held out his hand so he could shake John’s hand.
John wondered about something. Billy Joe was incredibly short, like he should still be in school, but his voice and eyes were so old. John noticed that Billy Joe’s teeth were all green and black, probably from all the tobacco. Billy Joe had to use blocks of wood to reach the pedals. Seeing that almost made John chuckle.
“Now, listen, Lee Ann is a pretty weird town,” the seriousness in Billy Joe’s voice startled John, “just stay away from the Madame De Pompadour Hotel. I’ve dropped off countless people who have broken down at that mile marker to that hotel, but they never come back out. I call the hotel, but they say that that such person checked into a room. I don’t like the place. I’ll drop you off at the auto shop, but don’t set a foot inside that hotel.”
“How many drinks have you had, sir?”
“It doesn’t matter how much I’ve had!” Billy Joe swerved around down the road.
John could now smell the liquor on Billy Joe’s breath.
“I think I’ll just walk from here,” John said. And without much thought John got out of the tank truck.
The walk into town was split between is he right or is he just a crazy drunk. One he got to the shack that is Lee Ann’s auto shop, he thought it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at the hotel.
“He did say don’t go into it,” John thought.
So John walked the two blocks to the Madame De Pompadour Hotel. The hotel looked like it could fall apart at any time. The bricks were chipping away, the windows were yellow shades, and the door had holes from what looked like termites. Who would want to stay in the shipwreck?
“Crazy drunk,” John said to himself.
John walked back down the dark streets to the auto shop. There looked like there was no sign of life in Lee Ann. He paid the towing workers to get his car, but they said it wouldn’t be until morning.
“Crocs flood the streets at night,” one of the workers said.
“Well is there anywhere I can stay that isn’t falling apart?”
“Could I just sleep here?”
John knew no one in Lee Ann, no one he could stay with. There was no other option, he had to go to the Pompadour. Thoughts and scenarios were racing through his mind. “What is in the hotel that people would go missing? What would happen to me if I go in? Would I come back out?” The questions flashed as he stepped up to the rotted front doors of the hotel and opened the door.
He was in awe. The interior of the hotel was nowhere near the outside he saw when he first arrived in Lee Ann. Chandeliers, marble counters, and A/C. Why would someone ever turn you away from this place? The building was stunning, John walked up to the attendant at the front desk.
“I need a room for the night, please,” John said to the attendant.
“Sure thing, darl’!” the attendant turned to reveal a figure that nearly sent John screaming. This thing that appeared to be a woman had a very slender figure, her left arm was much disfigured, and her right eye seemed to be jumping out of her face. He had patches of bald spot in her hair. John looked to notice a nametag that read: Idris.
“So, Idris, there are a lot of rooms here for a small Louisiana town.”
“There’s a room for everyone,” she lifted her head and stared at John, “even you.”
John felt a bit weird around Idris, “So, er, um, which room do I have?”
“Room 2214, just down the hall to the left.”
“Thanks,” John couldn’t be more relieved to get out of the sight of that woman.
And so John started to walk away, but he heard Idris mumbling. He wasn’t sure what she was saying but he was pretty sure she was saying, “Here comes the night to put you to bed. Here comes a croc to chomp off your head. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp.”
John started to get worried about what might be waiting in his room. He walked down the hall and took a left down another hall. When he reached a balcony, he got confused. So he walked back, but could never find an end to the halls. Elevator music began playing through the speakers. He quickened his pace almost to a run when something ran into the right side of his body.
It was woman, the exact opposite of Idris. She was shorter than John, with long blonde hair curled to her shoulders. She looked as stunning as the hotel they were trapped in.
“Sorry about that, my rooms keep changing,” she said.
“What, do they keep changing your room to a better one?”
“No, the doors literally change,” there was no sign of sarcasm in her voice, “along with the halls.”
“Are you sure you’re not just getting lost?”
“I’m not lost! Look at the room numbers, if you leave and come back the next second they all will be different.”
“It could just be a trick, they do it all the time in films.”
“You calling me a liar!? These words coming out of my mouth are the truth! You must be new to this hotel. I’m the last one out of my group of five.”
“What happened to the others?”
“Well, they might come back.”
“No, they all are dead. And I’ve got to get to my room before it comes out.”
John didn’t want her to be alone, but she looked like she could handle herself in a bad situation. “Well, my name is John, in case the halls decide to split us up.”
“Kathy.” And in that moment, she was gone.
But another moment was when he heard the scream. John sprinted to see Kathy’s legs at the end of the hall, there was a bloody gash in her left leg. As John ran for her, she began to be dragged. When John turned the corner, he saw the long tail. The lights made it hard to tell what the tail looked like. But when John blinked, it was gone, along with Kathy. John kept running trying find the beast that took Kathy. After about five minutes of constant running, John stumbled into a hall which only contained one door. His door. Room 2214.
After what he has seen this past day, he didn’t want to see what was waiting for him in his room. But another blink of his eyes, and he saw a note taped with his name written on it. Curiosity took over as he went to examine the note. The note read: John, HELP ME!
John figured that Kathy might still be alive right now. So without thought he entered the pitch black room, but only to find it empty. He searched for some lights, but could never find a switch. As the door closed, the lights instantly turned on. The dim glow from the bulbs revealed a large and long shadow across the room. He could spot red eyes that were fixed right at him and nowhere else. The unblinking eyes showed that John was not getting out of that room alive.
Then the lights went out. John dove for the bathroom door. The thud from his head let him know he was there. The lights faded back on to the dimness that it had before, but only to show those eyes staring back at him through the door. The lights started to flicker, and with every flicker the shadow moved closer. John began to hear a growl that sounded similar to the devil’s laughter. He saw teeth that were jagged and dripped of blood, Kathy’s blood.
John thought of her in those moments, “What is left of her? Was she in this room when she died? Was that the reason for the note on the door?”
But before he could get answers, the lights went out for the final time.
Morning rose over Lee Ann. Even then, no one left their home. John’s car was towed into town, but no John there to claim it. All of his belongings were found in a small wooden crate on the bayou. A body was never recovered.