Nuggets of Wisdom

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Nightly Frights: Stay In Bed

Before you check into a hotel that you’ve never been to before, always make sure to check the Yelp reviews to make sure there haven’t been any reports of anything less than desirable: cockroaches, water stains, the ghosts of murder victims that wander the halls and force the hotel to enforce a strict curfew:

The room was everything I had expected. Cramped, windowless, musty, and slightly damp. Nothing was specifically wet, and yet when I touched the walls I felt as if there was the slightest sensation of moisture on my fingertips. Similarly, the blanket and sheets felt as if I could ring the slightest drops of water out of them if I tried hard enough.

I had wondered if the promise of a "VHS player in every room" would be fulfilled,. To my surprise one resided on top of the dresser, next to the outdated cinderblock of a television. The bent antenna and no visible cable connection didn't bode well, and I turned the damned thing on only to receive static and white noise.

The din of the static was deafening, at first. The last resident, or at least the last person to try the TV, had left the volume at its maximum setting. All at once I was assaulted by the ear-splitting hiss.

As I spun the volume knob downward, my face mere inches from the screen, I caught sight of movement within the snow.

It wasn't like the random, frantic motion of the static. The small, strange blob of discoloration within the mess was moving in a fluid, constant manner. The amorphous color spot grew slowly in size, and soon it appeared to be the outline of a man... of a person, at least... walking slowly toward me.

Convinced this was nothing more than my mind trying to make sense of the senseless imagery, I backed away from the set and focused hard. The static man kept walking toward me, nothing more than a dark discoloration of the endlessly stirring visual catastrophe.

It drew closer... closer... until a face nearly filled the screen. I call this a face, but really all I could make out was a slight shine in what would be the eyes and the slightest hint of a mouth.

The face drew back as if looking at me down its nonexistent nose, then the head tilted to one side. As I quickly and silently moved to turn off the set, the static man dodged downward and to one side. All at once, he was gone.

After turning off the set, I unplugged it from the wall. Knowing, logically, that this was nothing more than a mental misreading of the non-picture, I still felt the need to turn the set facing the wall.

Feeling now as if the entire room were to be somehow feared, I dressed for sleep and buried myself in the bed. I figured my imagination was not done playing tricks on me as I could've sworn I felt the fleeting touch and tickle of cockroaches moving against my bare skin beneath the blanket.

As I twitched, turned, and repeatedly studied my bedding I could consider it nothing more than the phantom itches one experiences when made to feel uncomfortable.

I fell asleep quickly, or at least I suppose I did, and it wasn't until exactly midnight that I was cruelly jarred out of my slumber.

A slight sound... barely a sound at all... caused my eyes to flash open as if I'd been awake all along. I couldn't place the sound, though it struck me as sort of a wet, sick groan. In the seconds that followed, I decided that it must have been some quirk in the pipes. If they still had VCRs, then what I couldn't see must've been positively ancient.

The sound came again, stifled by the walls of my disheveled tomb.

Cursing the noise and cursing the hour, I turned and exited the warm bed. The chill in the air hadn't struck me until I left the relative comfort of my resting place.

"Is someone there?" I called to the front door, careful to keep my voice low enough to avoid waking others.

My bare feet seemed to squish against the slick carpet as I moved to the door, arms wrapped around myself for heat.

"Hello?" I leaned in and brought my eye level with the peep hole.

Beyond the door, an old flood light suspended from a wooden beam illuminated the parking lot. Weeds that had seemed merely unsightly in the early hours of the night now cast long, tendril-like shadows that swept the pavement as a frigid breeze blew.

Beneath the wooden beam, swaying slightly as if going along with the overgrowth, was a young woman. Her hair was jet black, and she wore a sheer nightgown through which the light exposed all that was meant to be hidden. The young woman clasped herself in much the same manner I was, and I figured she must have been utterly frozen out there.

Though her back was turned to the door, I could see by her pale skin that she was in trouble. Thinking quickly, I threw on my shoes and removed my robe, which would soon be wrapped around the girl I was about to save from exposure.

I moved to the door again, gripping the knob. I had given it a half-turn when I once again peered through the peep hole.

No longer did I see the young woman. I didn't even see the parking lot. All I could see was a span of bright red.

Finding this a bit odd, I released the knob and searched the image for any sign of an explanation. Had someone heard me calling? Had they hung something on the door to block my view?