Into the Small Hours, страница 1
Into the Small Hours
By Patrick C. Greene
Copyright 2012. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Originally published by Hobbes End Publishing in Vincent Hobbes Presents: The Endlands Volume 1
Table of Contents
Into the Small Hours
About the Author
Connect with the Author
Other books by Patrick C. Greene
Richard Booth sat up so fast his head throbbed. Staring into the near perfect dark, he determined he was not in his bed, at his spacious home back in Irvine. Something had reached into his sleep and snatched him into the waking world, apparently depositing him in a strange room. Another scream sounded, weaker, but in the same voice as the one he had just heard... that was it. He had been awakened by a scream, and was in a hotel room somewhere in New Hampshire.
Richard jumped out of bed, nearly stumbling face forward as the heavy covers snared him tightly. Recovering, he stood listening in the blackness for several seconds.
The bedside clock read 3:33. A strong gust assaulted the building, reminding Richard of just how boldly the winter asserted itself upon this remote part of the country.
Though it had just happened, he couldn't be sure that the scream wasn't just a piece of dream that had followed him to the edge of waking. Still, real or not, it had been enough to jar him from peaceful slumber to heart-hammering, wide-eyed lucidity in a flash. An investigation was in order.
On edge and disoriented, Richard made his way to his door, groping about in the unfamiliar surroundings. Opening the door enough to lean his head out, Richard had a sudden image of decapitation -his own. He jerked back inside, then chided himself for being childish and paranoid. Too many E.C. Comics as a kid. The scream, real or not, had regressed him to that ten year old who hid under his covers, imagining all sorts of leering, lumbering entities in the dark just out of sight. He took a breath and stepped out, scanning the right side of the hall, and finding only an endless line of doors, like rigid soldiers assembled for duty.
All was quiet. No parties or night owls on this floor.
On the other side, seven rooms down, a door stood ajar about two inches.
Through the crack, there was only darkness.
Richard pulled the privacy latch over to keep the door propped open and stepped out into the hall, intending only to walk close to the room, see if he could detect any sound.
An idea prompted Richard back to his room, where he grabbed his ice bucket. If someone caught him, he could make like he was merely going to get ice. Sure it was after 3:30, but it was his business if he needed ice at this hour, wasn't it?
Richard returned to the hallway, the bucket tucked under his arm nonchalantly, and took several slow steps.
The door creaked open a hair, stopping Richard cold.
He stared at the door, trying to decide whether to just walk on, or stay there a moment and watch for... well, what? Richard became aware of his own heavy breathing and tried to bring it under control. The darkness of the room, number 442 on the door tag, was impenetrable.
Richard wished he had donned his glasses before making this venture.
The door was only seven or eight feet away. Richard took one more step forward, watched a moment, then felt compelled by some sense alien to him to move on.
Parallel with the door, Richard couldn't resist a side-wise glance.
No movement. But there did seem to be a slight shooshing sound.
Richard went on past the door and down the hall, tempted but afraid to look back and see if someone had stepped out to watch him. At the end of the hall, he opened the exit door and shot a quick glance back. No strange faces stared back.
Richard filled the ice bucket, somewhat ashamed that he had been so immature and nosy, and now had to continue with the pretense just to make it back to his room. The hallway made an open rectangle- so that one could walk the hall endlessly without having to turn around. He could simply take the long way around, and avoid the mysterious open door.
But he felt the need to prove he wasn't snooping. He would walk by, making the ice bucket obvious, and return to his room. End of story.
The scream. Could it have been playful, sexual?
He considered the still-fresh mental echo. It seemed desperate, frightened, not pleasurable. But why hadn't anyone else been disturbed? Maybe he would call the front desk when he got back to his room.
Back in the hallway, Richard ambled to his room, still mildly curious. Passing the open door to room 442, he managed to avoid actively listening or watching. He carried the bucket on the side closest to the door, just in case he was being watched through the peephole. He even rattled the ice a little.
Yep, just a guy on his way back to his room with some ice. No big ordeal.
When Richard had made five or so steps past the door, it suddenly slammed shut.
Richard quivered with a wave of sudden fright, stepping up his pace, feeling his legs preparing to run.
He forced himself to stop, and glanced back toward 442.
Just the door. Closed now. Like all the rest.
Richard went in his room and turned the bolt. Dumped the ice in the sink. Turned on the bedside light. And stared at the phone for several moments.
"Yeah, I heard a noise from... This is Richard Booth on the fourth floor, I... Excuse me, have you had any complaints about noise from...?"
Richard rehearsed these and several other versions, realizing just how silly and paranoid he would sound. He decided against making the call, and turned out the light, settling back into bed.
After fifteen minutes, he realized he wasn't about to nod off anytime soon. He sat up and turned on the television. Infomercials, news, and talk shows were the only fare available on no less than twenty four channels.
An extended testimonial about getting rich through real estate investments managed to catch his attention. The insincere droning soon began to work its magic, and Richard felt his eyelids drooping.
He was reaching for the light switch, when he saw shadowy movement at the crack under his door.
Something seemed to linger there. As if listening.
Richard felt his heart beat increase.
He considered his options, and made a decision. He turned up the volume on the television, stopping every few increments so as not to make his strategy obvious. Easing out of bed, he treaded over to the door. Just as he peered into the peephole, the shadow under the door moved back toward the left end of the hall. Toward room 442. Richard caught only a glimpse of a moving black shape in the tiny lens.
There was no sound to accompany the movement. Richard had a sudden image of a skulking ninja, hunkering low with a deadly hooked blade in one hand, and some esoteric lock-picking device in the other.
He would have laughed at himself, if he weren't on the verge of panic. He clutched the door handle, determined to frighten his would-be stalker as he had been frightened earlier when the door to room 442 slammed just behind him. But his hand, which he now noticed was shaking, would not obey. Instead, he went to the phone and dialed the front desk.
After nine rings, Richard hung up. He looked at the door, thankful that the shadow was not there. The real estate moguls continued their pitch on the television, oblivious that many months from the time the
Richard watched for twenty minutes, glancing often at the bottom of the door. With a long day of driving ahead, he knew he would have to get some sleep. Tomorrow, he and whoever was on the other side of room 442 would be far away from each other, and this would seem like nothing more than a mildly disturbing dream.
Richard turned off the light and the TV, and buried himself in the safety of the covers. After a moment, he turned himself on his side, facing away from the door, so that he would not be tempted to engage in any more silliness.
As another massive blast of wind jarred the windows, Richard burrowed into his pillow. Soon, sleep found him.
The phone, so much louder than his phone at home, startled Richard out of his sleep even more forcefully than the scream had earlier.
He fumbled with the handset, playing hot potato before finally bringing it to rest against his ear.
There was no discernible sound on the other end.
Richard listened intently, hearing only his own strained breathing for several seconds. The clock read a flashing 12:00, indicating the power had gone out at some point. Perhaps this power outage had triggered the phone?
A busy signal soon replaced the silence, accompanied by the sound of another strong gust.