SHELTER FROM THE NIGHT
She stood on the side of the road. Torn, faded
black dress and gloves, short hair blowing over her
face, hiding her eyes. She seemed to come from
nowhere, she just appeared in my headlights, thumb
outstretched. I was not one to pick up hitch hikers,
but I couldn't live with myself if I left her there.
She climbed into the car and thanked me. I told
her my name and she told me hers was Melissa. I
noticed as we drove on down the highway, whenever I
reached down to shift the car it felt like an icy cold
breeze oozing from her. We came across an exit and she
asked me to take it. I did so and followed the curb
around to a small town called Johnson Creek. Melissa
asked me to turn right onto the main road and follow
it to the second light. During this trip she sat in
total silence. That is, until we reached the second
light, then she started to cry. Not a bored out scream
fest, but a soft whimper. I turned to ask her what was
wrong and realized she was no longer sitting next to
me. Her whimper was there, plain as day, but I was
looking at an empty seat. Adrenaline rushed through my
veins along with the cold chill of fear. I pulled to
the side of the road, trying to get my bearings back.
I looked around at my surroundings: a grocery store
across the street, a few houses, and a chapel on the
corner. I had pulled up next to a hotel, the vacancy
sign winking at me in the darkness. A hot shower and
some shut eye sounded like the perfect cure for frayed
nerves, so I drove on into the empty parking lot and
The hotel was massive. Hardwood floors with huge
rugs tossed across them, High ceilings draped with
chandeliers, the lobby was decorated with leather
furniture, and glass end tables. It was like something
out of a Victorian novel, and it looked way out of my
price range. I started back towards the door when a
voice stopped me.
"Welcome to the Roadside Inn. May I help you?"
The man looked to be a hundred and fifty, skin draped
tight against his skull. There was something cold
about his smile.
"Hi, I was just leaving. I didn't realize how
high class this place is. It looked different on the
"No reason to leave. Don't let the extravagance
fool you. We are very affordable. In fact, some stay
so long, they never leave." Again with the cold smile.
I walked over to him at the front desk and the smile
widened. He took a huge book out from behind the desk
and dropped it on the counter top. It landed with a
thud that echoed through the whole lobby.
"Sign here please," he said, handing me a pen. I
felt an odd chill as I scribbled my name in the book.
The old man watched me with an insane look on his
face. When I was finished he yanked the book away from
"Good. I'll have my night bellhop show you to
your room." He dropped his decomposed hand on a bell.
A young lady stepped out of the shadows, her eyes
hidden under short brown hair. I nearly collapsed when
I saw her again. My mouth was wide opened. I knew I
looked like an idiot, but I couldn't stop staring.
"Any luggage sir?" She asked in that same sweet
voice. I could feel that cold air coming off her
"How did you get here? You never got out of the
car, but you were gone." I was stammering horribly.
She smiled slightly.
"Sir, you are starting to creep me out," she
replied, pointing down a darkened hallway. "This way
I followed her, babbling on about her
disappearing from my car in the middle of the night
and she kept assuring me she had been working all
night. She offered to bring her time card by my room
to prove it to me. Hearing this, I realized how
foolish I was being and I apologized to her. We walked
the rest of the way in silence. I thought I could hear
voices, soft ones saying welcome. Melissa didn't seem
to notice and I wasn't about to bring it up out of
fear she would have me committed. She took me to the
last door on the right, room 302. She handed me the
key and walked away, not saying a word. Not that I
could blame her. I was acting like a mad man.
The room was as amazing as the rest of the hotel.
Massive bed, with a closet off the left side of the
foot and a bathroom with shower on the right. I took
full advantage of the shower before turning off the
lights and climbing into bed. It didn't take long
before I was asleep.
Strange images filled my mind. A young couple
dancing in the courtyard of the hotel, both of them
badly decomposed and well past death. That image
changed to another room, in the hotel but not like my
own. A man was being stabbed repeatedly by several
others. It was like a party. They people were dressed
up nicely, drink in one hand and dagger in the other.
Both men and women. My mind's eye moved from guest to
guest, as if I were a witness to the party. I didn't
recognize any of the murderers, but I could never
forget the two in the doorway: The old man and
Melissa. My attention switched back to the victim of
this massacre, and I realized it was me that was being
I sat up in bed, cold sweat pouring from my body.
I could hear something, and as my mind caught up with
the rest of me I realized the water was running in my
bathroom. I could see the light on under the door, and
a shadow dancing in the light. Someone was in my room.
I unplugged the bed side lamp and carried it with me
as I crept to the bathroom door. I took a deep breath,
then yanked the door open. There was no one there. The
water and light were both off. I turned the light back
on and checked the sink. It was dry. I looked at
myself in the mirror and noticed something in the
reflection. Melissa was standing behind me. I turned
around and she was gone. I had enough of this place,
it was time to leave.
As I stepped into the hallway, I could hear the
voices again. This time they weren't whispers, but
cheers and shouts of excitement. I remember the front
door being a straight shot down the other end of the
hall, so I broke into a full run. Someone shushed the
voices to silence before saying: "He's in the
Doors on both sides of me flung open all the way
down the hallway. People in party dresses and tuxedos
filled the doorways, daggers in hand. They watched me
run past, all of them wearing the same look as the old
man at the front desk. The young couple from my dream
were sitting in the lobby as I entered it. They
pointed to the door and shouted:"GO NOW!" The old man
appeared in front of me, blocking my only way out.
"Relax," he said in a soothing voice that didn't
match his expression. "You are a welcome guest. You
can sign out whenever you want. We are always happy to
receive others. But once you sign out, you can NEVER
I felt something sharp ram my back. I turned to
see Melissa holding a knife with blood dripping from
it. Instinct took over.
"Bitch!" I shouted as I slammed my fist into her
jaw. She stood there and smiled, totally unfazed by
the blow. I could see the party-ers filling the room
behind her. In desperation, I turned to punch the old
man, but he wasn't there. Without hesitation I ran
through the glass door, not bothering to open it
first. I was bleeding profusely, leaving a dark red
trail behind me as I staggered to my car. I climbed
in, fumbling for the keys. The broken doorway was
filled with guests, all watching me, probably waiting
to see if I keel over. The car came to life with the
first turn of the key. I fought the clutch until I
found the right gear and took off towards the road. As
I pulled out of the lot the pain that was shooting
through my body suddenly stopped. I looked down at my
tattered, blood soaked clothes and couldn't see a
smear of blood on them. I looked in the rear-view
mirror at the hotel and stopped dead in the street. I
had to get out to see this for myself.
The hotel looked condemned. The windows were
boarded up, the broken glass door was replaced with
plywood. Curiosity getting the best of me I pulled
back into the parking lot and drove up to the door.
The sun was just beginning to creep up on the horizon,
giving the place a pale image. I took the flashlight
from my glove box and went inside.
The lobby that earlier looked majestic was now in
ruin. Dust and chipped paint was everywhere. The guest
book sat on the counter top among cobwebs and cracked
wood. I opened the book to the last page and stared in
disbelief at my signature. I felt a familiar cold
chill and decided it was time to leave.
Melissa was hitchhiking along side the road as I
pulled out of town. I honked and waved and kept on driving.