[This is a very short continuation of the Hot Wells Hotel series. You can read the scenes just before here. Thanks to a writing exercise with DWWP and a very helpful review from a writing workshop with CHI PRC , I was able to move forward with this story and get some ideas for future series. Enjoy!]
We heard skittering behind us, and turned to see a snake close behind us, the gleam of its waxy skin is picked up by the sun, the glint of its eye searching for a victim. The serpentine slither isn’t close to us by it was followed by another snake, that inched closer and disappeared. But then, that was followed another and another getting closer and closer to our feet. We ran up the stairs to the first landing. Véro tried to use me as a human shield but I looked down the next hallway lined with doors upon doors. I had to see them. I started to leave Véro behind as I took the faded, carpeted steps. She ran to catch up with me.
We passed by room after empty room, most with their doors missing or on the hinges. The powdery smell of dust almost covered the pungent sulphur smell of the baths furthest from the rooms. Almost to the end of the hall, we came upon a room with double-doors and we could see that there were many rooms attached to it.
This room had some faded floral wallpaper with the exposed gauze showing through. We saw the glinting sun bounce off of something as a reflection. I couldn’t help myself, I needed to see more.
“Please,” Véro said, sounding far away.
The wallpaper seemed to ripple like a breath. I turned to one wall where it was barely flapping and started to peel it away. There was something cold underneath it, not like wood or another layer of paper, but like a metal plate.
My first thought was being electrocuted by a control panel, but I knew that this hotel hadn’t had power for decades. As I peeled the paper, I saw designs in the metal: vines, flowers, smiling skulls. My heartbeat throbbed in my body. The metal plate seemed to hum under my fingers like the way it felt when I slept on my mom’s chest during church when she sang.
I started to see what looked like a keyhole. It was a door. But how could it go anywhere? I was at the back of one wing of the hotel. Under the keyhole was a flat piece of metal, flush to the surface. I used my fingernail to flip it up toward me and it fell down with a clank, making me start.
I pulled the handle and dust started to fall around me. Véro and I reached to hold hands as I heard her rapid breathing next to me. She squeezed my hand with a quiet and surprising strength. With the door opened a crack, we looked into complete darkness. Slowly, we saw some lamp lights, flicker on far ahead of us.
There was a rustling and we started to hear the humming again, only slightly louder. It looked like there was another hallway, smelling of damp earth and clay and faint incense. We stepped back as a figure came toward us. It looked like a young woman with a growing smile on her face. She was wearing a beautiful ruffled dress. In her hair, there were vibrant flowers of white and pink and red and yellow. The wind from the tunnel pushed the door toward us and I had to loosen my fingers from the handle so that they didn’t break off.
Before we can run away, she said, “Welcome.”
Véro and I couldn’t speak, calm washed over us and helped us ignore the setting sun.
“I’m here to help you step over the threshold,” she said as she held her hand to me. I look at Véro, whose eyes resembled a cat in fear. My arm lifted to the woman as her smile grows wider.
“Come with me. You’ll want to see what we have here.”
We crossed over the threshold together, stepping up and then down onto a dirt floor, each lamp light smelling like high holy days at church.
To be continued…