Tuesday, April 16, 2019
OBLIVION: PART TWO
By Daniel Skye
PART TWO: THE FURNACE
Stephen Rhodes covered the body of Warren Holly with a thick, dark comforter to hide all the blood and locked Room 11 from the outside.
They tried their cell phones first. No bars. Reception was always weak inside the walls of the Starlight. Often times Stephen had to venture outside to get a stronger connection. No way either one of them were stepping outside in this storm, even if they could get out with all the snow piled up against the doors.
The accumulated snow was waist high and still falling rapidly, and the temperature had dropped to single digits. It could take days for the town to clear all the roads.
Diana Rhodes tried the landline, but there was no dial tone.
“Fuck,” she muttered. “The storm must’ve taken out the phone lines.”
“At least we have power,” Stephen said, trying to find some silver lining. “Don’t worry. We’ll notify the police as soon as we can. In the meantime, take the key to Room 11. Nobody goes in there unless it’s you or me.”
“Should we alert Ms. Tremont? Or any of the other residents?”
“Ms. Tremont can barely remember her name. I’ll mention it to Lisa later. We can trust her. And I wouldn’t breathe a word about it to Mr. Spiegel. I don’t trust him. He spends all that time locked up in his room. Who knows what he’s up to in there.”
“You think that Mr. Spiegel had something to do with this?”
“Did you see how his throat was ripped apart? Somebody did that to him, mom. And it sure as hell wasn’t you or me. And it definitely wasn’t Sara.”
His mind jumped back again to his little sister, to the doll that was left behind.
She told me her name was Zelda, his sister had said.
Zelda bites. She has teeth.
Stephen went to his room, rolled a joint and smoked to clear the fog from his mind and figure out the next move. He checked in with his mother a short while later.
“How are you holding up?” he asked her.
“I have no idea. How are you doing, kiddo?”
“Could be worse. Where’s Sara?”
“Playing with her dolls. Kids. They have no concept of death. To her it’s like nothing ever happened.”
“Keep an eye on her.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Just keep an eye on her. Watch her closely. It’ll be morning soon. I’ll talk to Lisa then. You haven’t said a word about this to Ms. Tremont or Mr. Spiegel, have you?”
“No. Maybe we should keep it that way.”
Basements are naturally creepy places, don’t you agree? Dark, musty, moldy, dirty, dusty, riddled with cobwebs and crawling with spiders, or the occasional crickets. Rats scampering through the walls like they’re trapped in a maze.
The basement of the Starlight Inn always gave Stephen the willies. But he had to put that fear aside if he was going to get to the bottom of this.
It was early morning when Stephen and Lisa Ambrose went downstairs, the Ouija board tucked under one her arms. Stephen had told her everything about Mr. Holly. It only added to her trepidation about messing around with the Ouija board, and Lisa was not one to startle easily.
They sat Indian style and placed their hands in the center of the board, atop the planchette.
“Is there anyone in the room with us?”
The planchette nearly ripped from their hands as it slid across the board. It circled around the word YES.
“What is your name?”
The planchette skated across the board. They did their best to keep their grip. The thing had a mind of its own. There was indeed a presence in their midst. Powerful. Undeniable. He could feel the negative energy in the air, like static electricity. It made the hair on the back of his neck stand up and his arms break out in gooseflesh.
They watched as the spirit spelled out their name.
They exchanged looks of disbelief.
“Aviana, who killed you?”
The planchette danced all over the board, circling the letters.
“Maniwa?” he whispered, then repeated it. “Maniwa. Maniwa. Why does that sound so familiar? I’ve heard that name before.”
“Aviana, where are you?” Lisa inquired.
She left them with one final cryptic message.
CHECK THE FURNACE
Lisa kept her distance as Stephen sifted through the soot and ashes in the furnace. That wasn’t all he found.
He found bones, and fragments of teeth. And among the scorched remains, he discovered an old locket that he recognized as the one Aviana Phillips had draped around her thin, swan-like neck.
He turned to Lisa, looking as pale as the ghost he had encountered the night before. “Don’t breathe a word about this to anyone. Are we clear?”
“Crystal clear,” she nodded.
“If I were you, I’d go back upstairs and stay in your room. I’ll talk to you soon.”
“Where are you going?”
“I have an itch I need to scratch.”
Stephen met up with her later to discuss his recent findings.
“I can’t get any service. No internet, no reception. But I found some old newspapers we keep for burning in the fireplace. Nick and Toby Maniwa were brothers, about our age. They lived in the area. They both went missing, presumably around the same time Aviana was murdered.”
“You think they killed her and ran?”
“Either that, or they’re still here…”
“You can’t be serious. I’m curious, but I’m not using that Ouija board again in this hotel. If the Maniwa brothers died here and their spirits are roaming the hallways, I’ll find out.”
“My grandma. She knows way more about this stuff then we do. Time to call in the big guns. I’ll get back to you soon. Don’t go too far.”
It was around noon when Stephen decided to check in with Gloria Tremont. He hadn’t seen her since the previous afternoon, when he found her wandering outside in a daze, mumbling about some unseen entity she referred to as Mr. Oblivion. He had an itch. And where there was an itch, there was a desire to scratch it.
He knocked on her door. No response. But Stephen had the master key that opened every door in the Starlight Inn.
“Ms. Tremont? Ms. Tremont? I’m coming in.”
He braced himself for the possibility of seeing Ms. Tremont in her birthday suit. But the room was empty. It reeked of stale smoke and her ashtray was filled to the brim with cigarette butts.
It’s a miracle she hasn’t burned this place down, he thought.
He checked the bathroom. Empty. He checked the sides of the bed in case she fell off. He even checked underneath the bed and looked inside the closet. Nothing. No sign of Ms. Tremont.
“I hope she didn’t wander outside again.”
He recoiled at his own reflection in the mirror, twisted and distorted. He watched as the mirror changed before his very eyes, transforming into a black abyss.
“Hello, Stephen,” said a voice that was anything but human.
“I must be hallucinating. My dealer laced the weed. That’s the only reasonable explanation.”
“No hallucination, I’m afraid. I’m speaking to you from the void. Ms. Tremont says hello.”
“Where is she!?”
“She’s in here, with us.”
“She’s in the mirror? This is a nightmare. It’s just a bad dream. Come on, Stephen. Wake up! Wake up!”
“You’re not dreaming, Stephen. But you are trapped in a nightmare. I can explain, but I won’t. It’s more fun that way. Don’t worry about Ms. Tremont. She’s with the others.”
“Who are you?”
“You know who I am. Ms. Tremont told you my name.”
“And I’m not alone. We have been here even longer than you can imagine. And we grow tired of this realm.”
“We? Who are we?”
“The Forgotten Ones.”
“Who else is in there with you? The Maniwa brothers? Aviana Phillips? Let me guess, is Reed Bennett in there too?”
“Reed is a loyal puppet. An integral part of the Forgotten Ones. But I’m afraid Mr. Bennett’s spirit is elsewhere. You won’t have to look too hard to find it. By the way, Stephen, you really should go check on Mr. Spiegel.”
It wasn’t long before Stephen checked back with Lisa. He wanted to make sure she was okay, and more than anything else, he needed clarity. He needed someone to help him make sense of all this.
“My grandma says that Nick and Toby Maniwa are here,” she informed him.
“So you’re saying this place is haunted?”
“Not quite. When somebody dies, it’s possible that they open a gateway, a portal to another side. Who knows what can squeeze its way out of that gateway. Who knows if the gateway ever closes.”
“That’s not the problem.”
“Then what is?”
“Ms. Tremont is missing. And I just had a conversation with an entity called Mr. Oblivion. I’m pretty sure I should be in a straitjacket right now.”
“On any other day, I’d agree with you. But there’s something going on here beyond our understanding, even beyond our reality. And the Ouija board isn’t going to cut it. And my grandma is too old and too weak to help us. We’re on our own.”
“You have a plan?”
“We can try and summon this entity with a séance or an act of evocation.”
“Why would we do that?”
“We get it to expose itself so we can destroy it.”
“Destroy it with what? A fire extinguisher? Cutlery? A barrage of snowballs?”
“No, with this.”
She took out and unfolded an ancient looking cloth to reveal a crescent shaped blade with a blunt wooden handle.
“A knife? We have plenty of kitchen knives.”
“This is a boline, passed down to my grandma. It once belonged to a powerful warlock, or so she claims. They say his essence is trapped within. His power is enough to rival even the toughest demons. This blade is our only chance. Unless you’ve got a better idea. I’m open to suggestions.”
“Give me some time,” Stephen requested. “I need to think this through. And don’t go doing anything without me. I don’t want you getting hurt.”
“I didn’t know you cared,” she said and almost blushed.
The Starlight Inn had four fulltime residents. Gloria Tremont, Lisa Ambrose and her grandmother, Esmeralda, and Simon Spiegel.
Mr. Spiegel resided in Room 39. Stephen knocked several times with no reply, then he let himself in.
Standing in the far corner of the room was a face he recognized only from old pictures and newspapers. Reed Bennet. Or the ghastly apparition formerly known as Reed Bennett. The man who had killed dozens of innocent people before taking his own life in that very hotel.
“They thought I was a madman,” Reed spoke. “They thought I was the face of evil. But I have looked evil in the face, stared deep into its fiery eyes. And that is the source of all evil. Evil has a face. And that face is death personified.”
And as quickly as Bennett appeared, he was gone. Evaporated into the walls. And all that was left was the terrible screech that emanated from the other end of the hall.
Stephen bolted from the room, running as fast as his legs could keep up.
“Sara is gone!” his mother shrieked when he reached the den. The fire was going and the flames danced and swayed with the heavy winds that blew down the chimney.
“Mom, listen to me and listen to me very carefully. Go to your room and lock the doors. Do not come out under any circumstances. No matter what you see or what you hear. And stay away from the mirrors.”
“Stephen, what the hell is going on here?”
“I can’t even begin to explain. Please just do what I say. It’s for your safety. I’ll find Sara. I promise, I won’t let anything happen to her.”
He ran up and down every hall, every corridor, checked every unoccupied room. The only place left was the basement. He stood in front of that tall, red door and steeled himself for what horrific sights awaited him downstairs.
But a noise at the other end of the hall made him freeze like the fallen snow outside. Footsteps.
Not heavy footsteps. Not the footsteps of a man. Not even the sound of his little sister. This was a light tapping sound, like somebody tip-toeing through the first floor of the Inn.
He turned and caught a brief glimpse at the end of the hall as it ran across the adjacent corridor.
He chased after it. His eyes had to see it to believe it. And there it was. Its black, button eyes had come to life. Its stuffing had turned to flesh. Its arms and legs were malleable.
The dolls head spun around without turning its body. Its mouth dropped open, revealing its thin, needle-like teeth.
Zelda has teeth. She bites.
There was no time to react. He had to formulate a plan in mere seconds. He turned and ran, and the doll followed. Its tiny feet skittered across the floor like a cockroach.
He led it to the den, where the fire was still roaring. He grabbed the fireplace poker and stood his ground, let it get close enough.
Then he rammed that poker through its fleshly exterior and hurled it into the fire. He closed the mesh cover and let the flames consume it.
A round of applause stunned Stephen. He twisted around and saw Reed Bennett standing beside the sofa. A pale, sickly man with gray, dead eyes. A shell of his former self, but every bit as threatening as he was when he was alive.
“Well done, Stephen. And thanks for getting me out of that ‘body.’ But what are you planning to do about him?”
He pointed with one thin, bony finger to the man standing in the threshold of the den door. Simon Spiegel was standing in Stephen’s way, brandishing a fire ax.
His eyes were as gray and numb as Reed’s. Something had taken hold of him, possessed his mind, body, and soul. He was no longer in control of his actions. Mr. Oblivion was calling the shots, pulling his strings like a puppet.
“Mr. Spiegel, please, if you can hear me, if you’re in there, you have to fight it. Don’t let him win. Don’t let him take you over. You’re a man of free will. You’re not one of Oblivion’s puppets. Fight it! Fight it!”
“Ahhhhhhh!” Simon Spiegel came charging with the ax. Stephen dove over the couch, rolled to the doorway, and got back to his feet. Then he ran like hell, Spiegel chasing him every step of the way, the ax cutting through the air, coming mere inches from Stephen’s head.
He turned one corridor, fumbling for the master key in his pocket. He pulled it out, but it slipped from his trembling hand. He went to pick it up, and that was the only thing that saved his life as the ax was buried into the wall, ripping through the plaster and molding.
He retrieved and key and his legs burned as he took off. Spiegel struggled momentarily with the ax before he jerked it from the wall.
Spiegel was relentless as he gave chase again, never stopping, never slowing down, never running short of breath.
Stephen reached another corridor and went right.
With his back against the wall, Stephen feared this was the end. He wanted to cry out for help, but his throat was drier than a desert, his tongue like sandpaper.
“HEY!” a voice shouted.
Simon Spiegel spun around and boline ripped across his throat with one quick slash. The blood spurted from his neck in fast jets as he dropped the ax and crumpled to his knees.
Stephen sighed heavily. “I owe you one.”
“You owe me a lot more than that. But I’ll let it slide for now.”
“Mr. Oblivion has Sara. I have to go in and find here.”
“Go in where?”
“Into the mirror…Into the void.”
TO BE CONTINUED