My aunt used to work nights at a hotel. She never could get the knack of sleeping through the night, so it made perfect sense to her to have two jobs to have something to do. One night, the front desk got a static-filled 'call' from an empty room. It was a phone system glitch but it scared her.
I could probably win a medal if there was a sleep competition and can only write about creepy things instead of experiencing them firsthand.
Also note, while my aunt did work at a hotel and has fantastic red hair that turned into a stunning blonde color when it 'grayed', my aunt is NOT Sonia. Also, Maudit features once or twice in my short work but it's also not a real place.
For the fourth time that morning, Sonia straightened the front desk. She placed the candy bowl full of hotel mints just off to the right of the front plastic mat that served double purpose of saving the desk under it from being scratched and told all incoming guests some of the amenities the hotel had to offer.
Just to the right of that, Sonia moved a few pamphlets that showed local interest sites.
Pens were moved fractions of inches, as were other hotel booklets and pamphlets. She even pushed her short, now mostly gray, strawberry-blonde hair behind her ears and smoothed imaginary wrinkles from her pale green work jacket. All told, even with her perfectionist care, the tasks took less than three minutes.
Sonia sighed and went back behind the desk. To say she was bored was an
understatement. It was four in the morning and she still had four more hours before Janice, the morning receptionist arrived.
It wasn't like this was Sonia's first night as the front desk clerk for Holiday Inn, it was closer to her fifth night. She was new, but not new enough to be surprised by the mid-shift boredom, especially not on a Tuesday.
The problem was she didn't feel like doing anything. She had brought a book, a portable dvd player and even a cross stitch pattern to work on, but she was too restless to do any of that. Sonia wanted to move, to walk around and just not sit at the front desk like a zombie.
She wanted to move even if it meant vacuuming or dusting, but she couldn't do any of that. She had to be at the desk in case a late traveler came in looking for a room or a current guest needed something immediately. Sonia had to stay within a few feet of the front desk, just in case.
She felt it wouldn't have been so bad if she had someone else to talk to, but the front desk receptionists worked alone. Plus, at four in the morning, Sonia couldn't think of anyone to call and talk to. Just about everyone she knew was asleep or at jobs much more interesting than hers.
Her grade school friend Hunter came to mind. Hunter was the head emergency room night nurse at the local hospital. Sonia knew he was working but she didn't dare call him on his cell phone. She was convinced he was doing something that involved life or death of a patient.
In her mind, ER nurses and doctors were constantly dealing with such emergencies, especially at four in the morning. Also, according to her, you worked at work and called friends after work.
At fifty years old, she might be considered old school, but it was what she believed. Her job actually challenged her work ethic. After a certain time at night, there was no work to be done and it was a sort of unspoken agreement that night staff could bring various items to keep themselves occupied as long as their work was done and they stayed awake.
Sonia considered getting online again but couldn't think what she'd do online. She'd checked her email twenty times already and had gone to all of the sites she liked. Just randomly trolling the internet wasn't something she felt like doing. It was still too boring and sedentary for her.
Finally giving in, Sonia went around the corner and plugged in her portable dvd player. She didn't feel like watching a movie but she wanted some noise. Maybe living vicariously through the actors would make her feel like she was doing something.
From her vantage point, Sonia could see the entire front lobby but no incoming guest could see her or what she was doing.
The movie began and Sonia got as far as the movie production company clip before she fell asleep.
When the phone rang, Sonia jumped up, frantic that she was going to get caught. The one thing the hotel did not allow was its graveyard shift employees to fall asleep on the clock. That was definitely grounds for dismissal if Sonia was caught.
She raced to the phone, glancing down at the pixelated numbers on her screen. It told her the call was in-house and that room 238 was on the line.
"Front desk." Sonia said in as chipper a voice as she could manage after having been startled awake. "How may I help you?"
Instead of a voice of an irate or drunk guest, Sonia got nothing but static on the other end. A sort of garbled noise came through suddenly, making Sonia frown as she tried to make out any intelligible sounds.
"Excuse me, but I can't understand you." Sonia explained. "I believe something is wrong with our connection. I'm going to hang up and call you right back."
Sonia put the receiver back down just long enough to disconnect the call. She picked it back up and put it to her ear as she dialed the in-house number to reach that particular room.
Instead of answering, the phone rang and rang. Sonia gave it ten rings before hanging up.
Part of her worried about what the call could have been about. What if the guest had been calling for help and was even now bleeding to death on the carpet in their room?
Sonia woke her computer up and pulled up the program that would allow her to access guest information. She typed in number 238 and was met with a surprise. The computer declared that room was unoccupied.
Sonia frowned at the monitor, pushing her lower lip out. It didn't make sense.
"Maybe I saw the number wrong." She told the empty lobby. "Heck, maybe it was just a crossed line."
The more she thought about it, the more viable excuses Sonia could make for the strange call. When no one called back from any other room, she calmed herself into believing it was indeed just a crossed line.
She looked up at the large lobby clock. To her chagrin, she found her little nap had lasted over an hour. She hated the idea that she fell asleep but was now thankful the strange phone call had come.
To kill time, Sonia worked on processing guests that would be leaving that day. When the days receptionist came in, she could take her time over her coffee because Sonia was insuring all she had to do was push a button and print out bills.
She was halfway done with two guests when the phone rang again.
Sonia reached out to grab the phone, but stopped short when she saw the screen.
In-house call, room 238
Sonia hesitated, listening to the phone ring for the fourth and fifth time. On the sixth ring, the noise jarred her nerves to the point that she had to answer it.
Sonia was cut off by a loud garbled sound that made her pull the receiver away from her ear. The static was still there, loud and hissing, but it was the garbled voice behind it that frightened her. It almost sounded like words, only not any Sonia could make out. She found it creepy and somehow perverse. Sonia slammed the phone back down.
The phone rang again instantly. The same room number flashed on the screen. Sonia shivered for reasons she couldn't explain. Instead of answering, she picked up the receiver just high enough to be able to hang up on the line.
Before the phone could call back, Sonia picked up the line and dialed out. She knew the main manager's phone number. Every employee did, because if anything went to hell in a hand basket, you were supposed to call Joel Trent without delay.
It took three rings before a sleepy sounding man answered.
"Joel, it's Sonia over at Holiday Inn." She jumped in immediately because she could now see the second line light up, showing room 238 was calling the front desk again.
"Yeah, hey, Sonia, is anything wrong?" Sonia could hear him move, probably looking at the clock. "What's going on?'
"I'm sorry for calling so early, but there's a problem with the phone system." Sonia wasn't sure how to phrase what she had to say. She actually felt a little silly now that she had the manager on the phone.
"Obviously they're not down because you called me." Joel was trying to reason his way awake. "If it's a broken phone, make out a work order and maintenance will get to it when they come in at eight."
Line two blinked off and Sonia sighed with relief.
"I guess that's what the problem is." Sonia said. "It's just that it's kind of creepy that an empty room keeps calling the front desk."
Silence on the other end made the hairs on the back of Sonia's neck stand up. The silence was one of knowing. She got the impression this wasn't the first time Joel had heard about this situation.
"What room keeps calling?" Joel asked. Sonia could tell from his tone he knew what she was going to say.
"Room 238." She said, knowing she was confirming something. "I checked but no one's in that room. When it calls I keep hearing static and some garbled voice-like sound."
Another moment of silence.
"It's just a messed up line." Joel said in a tone that tried too hard to sound comforting. "We've had this problem before. It's a system malfunction. I'll make sure to check into it whenever I get in. Apparently we didn't get it fixed the last time."
Sonia waited, not sure what else to say.
"Just ignore calls from that room, okay, Sonia?" Joel sounded happier than he should have. "It's annoying, but just hang up every time they call. Don't bother trying to listen in because there's no one there. Got it? There's no one on the other end of that line and you already know the room is empty."
Sonia was even more worried when the phone call was over. She wanted to believe what Joel had told her, that the phone problem was simply a system malfunction, but his unnatural insistence worried her.
When the phone rang again, Sonia jumped. The numbers on the phone made a shiver run up her back.
"It's just a system malfunction." She reminded herself as she picked and replaced the receiver. She truly hoped she didn't have to do that until eight in the morning. The constant ringing was jarring.
Something deep inside Sonia told her that the phone call was more than a system malfunction. When the phone rang again, Sonia immediately hung up without looking at the screen. She left it off the hook after she was sure she had disconnected the call. She didn't care if anyone else needed something. They would have to come downstairs and she would explain about the system malfunction.
On a hunch, Sonia pulled up the internet browser on her work computer. She searched for any incidents that involved her Holiday Inn. To her dismay but not surprised, she got a few hits.
The first was very recent and even Sonia knew about it. She had gotten the position because of it but until that moment she hadn't taken it seriously. Not any more seriously than any other gossipy bit of news that passed through Maudit, Louisiana.
Only a few weeks prior to Sonia's getting hired on, the woman who had her former position was found by the morning kitchen staff. The woman was moaning and rocking, clearly insane. She was bleeding from her scalp where she had pulled clumps of her own hair out and deep self-inflicted scratches were found all over her body.
A Detective MacKenzie had investigated and found, much to the surprise of the woman's family, that the woman had high levels of hallucinogenic drugs in her system. She was hospitalized but her brain was more or less fried. Sonia didn't know what had happened after that.
That's why when Sonia was interviewed, Joel had made it a point to talk about the former night receptionist and insure that Sonia took no drugs whatsoever. Sonia had never taken any drug stronger than an aspirin that wasn't prescribed by her doctor in her entire life. She had always lived a clean life and assured her now boss that there was nothing to worry about in that area.
The other hits on the search engine left Sonia torn between comfort and being on edge. Over the twenty years that the Holiday Inn had stood on that spot, several guests, both adults and children, and employees had disappeared. In each case it was determined that the missing had been the victims of kidnappers, drug addicts or they were murdered by someone they knew.
Since the hotel was so close to the interstate, it wasn't too hard to believe that happened every few years. Every strange event could easily be explained away. It wasn't like Sonia had to worry about being kidnapped anyway. Ever since violent incident over two years ago, the detective in charge of that case, MacKenzie, had Holiday Inn make a deal with local police. Even though they did not come in the main lobby unless there was a problem, they were
always nearby, patrolling the lot or simply sitting in their vehicles and watching over whoever was working the front.
Even though it was the last thing she wanted to do, Sonia replaced the receiver and quickly picked it back up. She wanted to make another phone call. She dialed the number quickly, thinking somehow room 238 would be able to break through if she didn't.
After only one ring, the person on the other end answered.
"Hunter here." The wide awake voice said. She could picture him, three years her elder, but you'd never know it. Hunter was the kind of man that exuded life and vitality without trying. His hair was still a deep brown and his face would have made you knock at least 15 years off his actual age.
Sonia could hear a small amount of bustle on the other end but it sounded to her like Hunter was moving away from it. She assumed he wasn't completely busy if he could answer his phone.
"Hey, it's Sonia." She said, knowing he wouldn't have recognized the hotel number. "Got a minute?"
She didn't hear Hunter's response because her attention drew to the phone screen. Somehow all other lines she was not on were lit up. All were incoming calls from room 238.
"You still there?" Hunter said, bringing Sonia back. She closed her eyes so she wouldn't have to see the screen anymore.
"I'm here." She said, trying to keep her breathing steady. "I...I just wondered about something, if you have the time to answer a question."
"Like I said a second ago." Hunter's voice seemed to be laughing. This was a Hunter trademark. "It's been a thankfully quiet shift. Monday nights Tuesday mornings that aren't full moons tend to be quiet. It seems you have a quiet night too...how's the new job?"
Sonia peeked at the phone and, to her relief, room 238 seemed to have given up for the moment.
"New job is..." Sonia trailed off, not sure what to say. Before the calls from the empty room, the job was boring, just something to bring in a little extra money. Now she didn't know what to tell her childhood friend.
"That much fun, huh?" Hunter said, still with a laughing voice. Sonia was glad he couldn't hear the worry in her voice. "You said you had a question? I know I said it's quiet, but they don't take well to us being on the phone too much."
Sonia nodded her head and took a deep breath.
"The woman who worked here before me." Sonia started. "The one who took the drugs and went crazy. Do you remember her? You were on duty the day they brought her in, right?"
Sonia could hear a squeaking sound she could only guess was a cart being wheeled past Hunter.
"Oh, yeah! Nora Cash." Hunter said. "Poor thing, so young and with those three kids. She more or less ruined her brain on those drugs. How she got that much into her system, I'll never know. We were afraid to sedate her, but we did have to strap her down."
Sonia paused for a moment.
"Did...did she say anything?" Sonia asked.
"Anything when?" Hunter asked. Sonia could hear an intercom voice in the
"When she was in the ER." Sonia explained. "Did she say anything to you?"
"Mostly junkie rambling." Hunter said. "I really didn't listen much since we were trying to stabilize her before sending her up to the 7th floor."
Hunter emphasized the floor number, making it sound ominous. It was a joke between locals. Act a bit weird and someone was bound to say they would refer you to the seventh floor.
At Howard Phillips Memorial Hospital, the seventh floor was the psych ward. In a town as small as Maudit, the psych ward was something gossiped and speculated about. If a person went there, they rarely came out. Of course, no one would admit to a family member going in, but, like all small towns, it happened.
"Do you remember anything at all that she said?" Sonia tried hard to remain calm, but she knew what was coming. Hunter was jovial but not stupid.
"Any particular reason for the sudden interest in your late lamented predecessor?" He asked, finally catching on that it was a rather odd thing to ask.
"Just curiosity." Sonia decided to go with a half truth. "This place can be kind of boring when you're alone and I was thinking about her tonight."
One by one, the lines on the phone began to light up. Each was somehow from room 238. It wasn't finished with her yet, it seemed.
"Yeah, well, that's probably why she was doping in the first place." Hunter said. "Though she did keep it hidden. Her family never knew. Probably took drugs for years and finally got into a bad batch. I don't doubt she had her supplier come straight to the hotel to give it to her."
"But did she say anything?" Sonia insisted. "About what actually sent her over the edge?"
"Eh, probably just drug related paranoia." Hunter made his voice sound like a shrug. "Freaked the hell out when the phone in the ER rang. Went absolutely crazy and nearly took out another nurse. I heard even with all the meds they had her on upstairs, she still went nuts when a phone rang."
"Is...is she still on the 7th floor?" Sonia asked, somehow the answer was important to her.
"She's not going to come back looking for her job, don't worry about that." Hunter said.
He coughed discreetly and lowered his voice. "Honestly, I shouldn't have joked about that. She actually killed herself. I'm not sure how though. Didn't hear the whole story because they keep that floor hush-hush."
"What--" Before Sonia could finish her question, noise erupted from Hunter's side.
"Hey, got to go." Hunter said. He hung up without explaining but she knew it must have been some emergency.
Sonia hung up the phone and the ringing started almost immediately. She instantly pulled the phone off the hook and, without thinking, put it to her ear.
The garbled sound became louder than ever before.
"Stop it!" Sonia yelled into the phone and pulled it from her ear.
The static on the line lessened.
Sonia dropped the receiver on the desk and back away. She had heard the voice. There was no mistaking the words for static. Though it had sounded far away,Sonia knew the voice was feminine and young. It reminded her of her daughter Michelle when she had been much younger.
Scared as she was, Sonia's motherly instinct kicked in. What if a child was locked in that room? It was possible a kidnapper or worse had broken into one of the rooms and left a child there. Sonia had been told that a cleaner had found one room broken in to and junkies were arrested for camping out. Her own computer search had proven things happened at the Holiday Inn, cops or no cops outside.
She picked up the phone cautiously. Sonia could hear quiet weeping on the other end.
"Sweetie, are you there?" Sonia said in what she hoped was a soothing voice.
"Help me, please." The young voice sounded very frightened. "It's dark and I don't know where I am."
"Are you alone?" Sonia asked. "Is whoever brought you there with you?"
The crying gave way to near wailing.
"I don't know where I am!" The little voice sobbed. "I'm scared and I want to go home! Please come get me!"
"I'll be right there, sweetie." Sonia said. "Stay right where you are. I'm coming to get you with the police."
"Hurry, please! I'm so scared!" The line clicked off.
Sonia considered calling the line back but didn't know how much time she had. She rushed straight outside to the parking lot. She searched frantically for the police cruiser that should have been in the front lot but couldn't see it. She knew it was possible they were patrolling the back and she might be able flag them down as she went to the room.
She ran off to the side of the building. All hotel rooms were accessed from outside, which made it ideal for a kidnapper to stash a victim in a room without being seen. Room 238 was on the second floor walk-up. A corner room with only one adjoining one.
Sonia sprinted across the parking lot and up the metal stairs. Her hard heeled shoes clicked loudly on the concrete and metal structure. She didn't care if she woke anyone up. Sonia knew she had to get to the child. She'd spent the better part of two hours ignoring the child.
Scaring herself into thinking it was something supernatural when all along it was a child, terrified and possibly hurt. Sonia knew she couldn't forgive herself if...
As she turned the unlocked doorknob and pushed the door open, Sonia saw the small little girl, no more than seven, curled up in the corner of the room, clutching the phone.
The child, wearing a light blue dress, torn and dirty, looked at Sonia with frightened green eyes. Her heart broke when she saw how much the little girl looked like her Michelle at that age.
"It's okay." Sonia crouched down, speaking in a low voice. "I'm here to help you."
The child reached out a small hand towards Sonia, who immediately moved forward to take it. When Sonia cleared the door, it slammed behind her, plunging her into the darkness of the room.
It was the giggling that paralyzed her where she was kneeling. Her mind, so concerned for the child, had pushed bits of evidence that should have warned her it was a trap.
Every line on the phone had lit up. Sonia had watched it happen more than once but especially when she was talking to Hunter. Even if the little girl had been calling out for help, there was no possible way every line should have lit up.
Joel had known. He had warned her to stay away from the room. He didn't tell her why, but Joel had known something was wrong.
The last receptionist killed herself because the sound of a ringing phone sent her into fits. Sonia briefly wondered what the last woman had heard that drove her insane. She also wondered if she would meet the same fate.
The temperature in the room suddenly rose, bringing Sonia back to her senses. She turned around and reached in the dark for the door. She twisted the knob but it was firmly shut. No matter how she turned the locks, she couldn't get it to open.
Banging and calling out, Sonia could hear the giggle getting closer. She knew there was no getting out the way she came.
She ran her hands against the wall, making her way towards the window. The walls turned from dry and bumpy stucco to being obscenely wet and warm, bringing to Sonia's mind what she thought the inside of a human body would feel like.
In the darkness of the room, her hands didn't meet with anything other than the sweating walls though she should have been touching cool glass or at least the thick light canceling curtains.
When her hand sank into the wall she could feel a pulsing surrounding her wrists. Sonia pulled back, disgusted at the sucking sound as the wall reluctantly released her. She could feel something dripping off her fingers and a slight tingling sensation all along where the goo was coating her.
Sonia moved away from the wall, trying to orientate herself to her surroundings. All the rooms had the same layout, with the only difference being how many or how big the beds were. If she had followed the door towards the windows, she should be within inches of the bed.
She stepped forward, hands in front, hoping to bump into the familiar shape of queen size bed that should have been in the room. She counted steps as she walked and at ten she knew something was very wrong. Ten steps should have put her halfway across the small room.
She had touched nothing.
A humid and stagnate breeze came from in front of her, making Sonia take a step away. The smell was what hit her worse. It was the smell of a rotting animal on the side of the road, of spoiled food left too long in the sun. It was the smell of decay and death.
Giggle came from directly behind her, making Sonia spin. Her heel caught as the floor turned instantly soft. Sonia fell down, but not onto the carpet, but on more soft and warm wetness.
Sonia tried to stand but kept slipping on the floor. In desperation she took off her shoes and tried to gain traction but it didn't help. The slime now coated her body, stinging her flesh.
She cried out when something fast and sharp opened her right cheek. Sonia couldn't see what it was, but the giggling that followed made her crawl in the opposite direction.
It was impossible to tell where she was in the room, but Sonia was delirious with pain and fear. She didn't believe she was in the room anymore anyway. She fully believed she had reached some portal of hell that she wasn't sure she'd make it out of.
The demon child giggled again, this time to Sonia's left. Before she could react, sharp claws slashed out at her arm, cutting deep ribbons into the already burning skin. She hurried away, not knowing where she was going but now going slower, only being able to use her one good arm to crawl.
The smell and humidity was getting worse but Sonia had no choice but to go in that direction, away from the giggling evilness.
It wasn't until her hand slipped off the edge that Sonia stopped her frantic crawling. The source of the stench was coming from what she could only guess was a hole. The air came up as if from deep lungs, bringing the warm decay of death with it. Sonia felt around but the hole seemed to go on forever on either side.
Without light, she couldn't tell what was a safe direction. Sonia risked backing up. She might be able to fight the demon, but something in her told her to stay as far away from the hole as possible.
She had made it back only three steps when the talons returned, pulling Sonia's short hair out in painful clumps. Sonia grabbed the claw-like hands and wrenched them off of her head.
The giggling deepened, no longer sounding like a small child but something
unimaginably old and evil. The thin wrists in her hands thickened, becoming muscular in a way that Sonia knew she had no defense against. The laughter grew louder as Sonia let go of the being and backed straight to the edge of the evil smelling precipice--the hole into hell. Sonia would have been hard pressed to say whether her screams or the evil laugh were louder when
the sharp claws dug into her chest, pushing her over the edge.
When the kitchen staff began arriving, they saw a small crowd of very angry guests near the front desk. Though it was only six in the morning, some guests were trying to get on the road early. There was no one at the front desk to sign them out and they were rightly irate.
None of the staff stopped to help the guests. They went directly into the kitchen. Marta, the employee that had worked at the hotel the longest, was the one who assembled her staff.
"Kyle, run around the side to make sure the room door is closed and she's not
anywhere on the ground." Marta didn't have to tell the young black cook what room to check. It was unspoken knowledge.
She nodded towards to women, a small middle-aged blonde with bored blue eyes and an older, brown eyed, iron-haired and ironed willed woman.
"Check the possible hiding spots." Marta told them. "I doubt it let a second escape, but we should check."
The two left without fuss. Marta started the others in on breakfast while she made the call.
"Another one is gone, sir." She said politely. "The front desk was empty when we arrived."
She listened for a moment.
"Yes, sir." Marta responded. "Hector took the phone out of the room last time this happened. He sealed the door and windows too, just like you asked. There's no way she should have been able to get in there."
Kyle came into the room and silently shook his head. Marta nodded and waved him towards the stove.
"She's not outside the room, sir." She said into the phone. "The door isn't open, I've had someone check. I have others looking around the hotel."
Marta nodded and looked with faraway eyes past the white kitchen tile where her coworkers were working but obviously listening to her.
"Yes, sir." She said again. "I liked her too, but since she went through the portal, at least you won't have to worry about losing another receptionist for a few more years."
Marta listened again, still nodding her head.
"Yes, sir." She said. "I'll call up Janice and have her come in early then I'll call Detective MacKenzie's direct line. He can give the night cops their story."
My lofty dreams of being a famous & brilliant writer were literally smacked out of my head. Now I plan to fill the void with copious amounts of subpar writing!