I quickly dropped the shawl, skin crawling with fear. This place was getting even stranger. Briefly I felt the stab of envy the woman in the hallucination felt when I looked around at my surroundings again.
What were these hallucinations? I began to wonder if there was a gas leak, or radon poisoning, or carbon monoxide.
I sniffed the air to see if I could smell gas, and wondered if you could smell radon. The only things I smelled the mildew and that dead animal smell. I would have to mention that to the manager too when I saw him. I struggled back to my feet looking around the lobby again. Still not another soul in site.
I desperately tried to ignore the chill I felt on the back of my neck as I started back up the poorly lit stairs. Don’t think of the dogs, don’t think of the dogs I told myself over and over. Naturally, I could thin of almost nothing but the dogs. The huge beasts had barreled up the stairs so fast, Jennifer never had a chance.
I stumbled when my foot failed to find another step. I had made it to the top. I looked around. The hall was no better lit than the stairs or lobby. I was beginning to wonder what the owners might be trying to hide. The only thing I could hope for now was that my room would be nicer than the rest of this dump. The “four star experience at a two star price” promised on the brochure was a blatant lie. Of course I already knew that was going to be the case. Since when did I ever get that lucky?
My room was at the end of the hall next to the single window looking out over the woods surrounding the lake. I could hear the old wooden floor squeaking under the carpet pad as looked out. During the day, it was probably a lovely view, but here at night it was creepy. Like Halloween creepy. The moon as full and the trees were shivering black blobs out there in the dark. It did give me just enough extra light to get the little worn brass key into the scratched lock.
One last glance outside showed the trees swaying violently as their leaves were cruelly tugged by a now frantic wind. I was almost certain that there was no storm forecast for tonight. It figured. It would rain all week and I would be cooped up in a little moldy room with nothing to do. Just my luck. The feeling of lethargy and hopelessness tried to drag me down. My therapist said I needed to learn to get a handle on the negative spiral of thoughts, but here in the middle of nowhere, with no one around, no car, no dinner, and tired to the bone, it was going to be hard.
My hand searched for a light switch near the door, but found nothing but slightly peeling wall paper. I dropped my bags heavily onto the carpet. Of course.
The room itself was small but neat. A tiny table with two chairs was set up near the window. It held a small brass lamp whose shade pressed the sheer window covering against the glass. Condensation had formed on the glass and small drops ran down the surface to soak into the transparent fabric.
Where was the moisture coming from; it was easily 85 degrees outside and not much cooler in the room, why was the window damp like it was cold?
I reached behind the filmy curtain and ran my finger through the condensation, the glass was cold under my finger and I could hear the whistle of wind along the eves of the building. For a brief moment I thought I saw bare trees huddled for winter out by the lake. I blinked and they were full again.
I was about to turn back to the little room, maybe take a shower when something caught my eye. Down in the little parking lot, near the trees. There was spot where the shadows lay deeper and the trees looked more ominous and forbidding. From the window it looked like dogs, but they were too big, and moved in a curious way, like puppets guided by a child. The limbs seemed to move out of sync and the heads jerked too sharply. Were there wolves here? Were they rabid?
I didn’t want to think about dogs any more. Especially giant black ones. I reached for the lamp, but the moment my fingers brushed the brass I knew it had been a mistake. The prickling in my finger tips was just enough warning that I did not hit my head on the table as the world gave a sickening tilt and the light changed again.