(Inspired by a 1970s song. Written for a challenge last year)
The dust drifted up into little swirls around the horse's hooves as she slowly walked down the deserted trail. Her rider, weary in the saddle, placidly stared ahead. The sun had just dipped below the horizon leaving the small valley covered in the blue gray haze of twilight. The rider's eyes began to get heavy. It was all he could do to stay awake having been riding since just after sunrise that morning. He had wanted to make it to the next town to meet up with his partner, but some stray rain storms and curious lawmen had slowed his progress. He finally admitted to himself that he was going to have to stop for the night.
He started searching for a good secluded place to camp when a flicker of light caught his attention. The light had come from within a narrow hollow situated between two close ridges. Curious, he turned his horse and rode into the hollow to investigate.
The trail into the hollow was starting to grow over. There obviously wasn't much traffic up this way. After a while, the outline of a house came into view. It looked large, as big as a hotel. The thought of a hotel brought the thought of a nice soft bed to mind. As he got closer to the house, he saw that the three story structure actually sported a sign that said 'hotel'. He thought it odd that there was a hotel this far out in the middle of nowhere, but his curiosity and weariness got the best of him. Besides, it wasn't unheard of.
He arrived at the front of the building and dismounted. Walking onto the porch, he found a vacancy sign hanging on the door illuminated by a hanging lamp. He was just about to enter when the door creaked open. In front of him stood a tall, beautiful woman with coal black hair and dark eyes wearing an equally dark dress holding an unlit candle. She turned the sign over to show 'no vacancy'.
"Welcome," she said looking him up and down. "Need a room for the night?" Before he could answer, she lit the candle and turned to go down the dark corridor. "Follow me." He hesitated, trying to see past the woman down the black hallway. His eyes showed the conflict he was analyzing in his mind. Should he or shouldn't he? Something about the place just didn't seem right. He was still contemplating the pros and cons when the woman reached out the door, grabbed his shirt, and jerked him inside. The door slammed shut behind them.
The extra wide corridors seemed neverending as she led him deeper into the house. They came to what he thought must be the lobby. The woman didn't stop. She headed toward an elaborate flight of stairs.
"Shouldn't I register my name?" he asked slowing slightly.
"There's no need for that here," she answered. "C'mon." She waited for him at the bottom step. He hesitated for just a second, then joined her. She led the way up the stairs, then another flight of stairs to the third floor. At the top, on the other side of the balcony, there was another corridor. This one was lined on each side with doors. It too was a long stretch of blackness except for an occasional candle mounted on the wall. The building was turning out to be larger than what it had appeared. As he followed along behind her, he could've sworn he heard whispers coming from behind some of the doors. Oddly, a couple of them sounded like they had said 'welcome'. He slowed giving the doors an inquisitive look. She gently but firmly reached back and tugged at his arm, urging him forward.
Finally, she stopped in front of one of the doors a few rooms away from the end of the hallway. By this time, the full moon had risen and was bathing the end of the corridor in an otherworldly pale blue color through the one window in the wall. She opened the door and stepped aside, pointing for him to go in. He obliged and as he investigated the dark room, walked across to look out the small window next to the bed. He looked down on what appeared to be a courtyard in the middle of the hotel. One flickering lantern shed little light across the yard. He could just make out the outlines of some people dancing in a circle. Yet, he could hear no music playing. He furrowed his brow and bit his lip letting the surreal scene sink into his mind. This place was certainly strange.
Deciding to stay sociable for fear of upsetting the odd population, he turned back to the woman who had walked in behind him and smiled. "I think I could use a drink. Is there anywhere on the premises I could get something?" he asked politely. She raised an eyebrow and nodded her head. Producing a small bell from somewhere within the folds of her dress, she leaned out into the hallway and rung it. A few awkward minutes passed and a rough looking older man appeared at the doorway. He and the woman looked at their new occupant.
Realizing they were waiting on him, he asked, "Could I get some whiskey?"
The old man got a crooked smile and looking at the woman said, "We ain't had no whiskey here since 1869." As soon as the grizzled man quit talking, there seemed to be faint voices coming from behind him, out in the corridor. The old man stepped in the room to stand beside the woman as their suspicious guest walked past them to the doorway and looked out. He looked to his left back toward the staircase, but saw nothing. Then he looked to his right toward the window at the end of the hall. What he saw made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. It was like he was seeing a vision. He saw what could only be described as a ghostly version of himself being chased, running to the window, and jumping through it. He blinked his eyes rapidly a few times, not believing what he just saw. He shook his head and looked back but nothing was there. With a concerned frown, he turned to ask the lady and old man if they had seen that. The next thing he knew, he was falling on the floor, blackness engulfing him. His last visual being the lady withdrawing her arm out of the corner of his eye, after smashing a vase on the back of his head.
He woke up confused. He was lying flat on his back on a table. The good thing was that he wasn't restrained in any way. He shook his head to clear the cobwebs then looked around. Apparently, he had been carried to the kitchen. There was a sink and a stove that sported a large pot. Above him on the ceiling, he noticed mirrors. 'Odd place to put mirrors', he thought. As he stared at his reflection, a figure walked up to the table. The woman had returned to look down on him.
"What is this place? What do you want with me?" he demanded.
"You're now a prisoner here," she replied. "We all are. But we've come to embrace it. Now, the mistress has special need of you."
"Our matriarch. The one by which we all live now."
"Exactly how many is 'we'?" he asked as his hand slowly reached to get his gun, his eyes never leaving hers. But to his dismay, he had been disarmed.
"Quite a few. Some have passed on, but they're still here in 'spirit'. That's enough talk for now. Tonight is a very special night. You're just what we needed. You're to be the...'guest of honor'...tonight. Everyone is gathering in the master dining room. We mustn't keep them waiting."
As she finished speaking, she raised both hands high above her head, wielding a huge knife. His eyes widened as he realized what she was about to do. He immediately leapt off the table just as she brought the knife down to wedge in the spot he had just vacated.
'I've got to get out of here', he thought as he ran from the kitchen. He entered into a huge common room that had two corridors leading off from it. He skidded to a halt as he tried to remember which one led to the front door. Footsteps were heard coming from the kitchen. The lady had removed the wedged knife from the table and was coming after him. Taking a chance, he bolted down the left hallway.
He saw the outline of the doorframe at the end of the dim hall. As he reached it, the grizzled man he had asked for whiskey earlier stepped in front of the door stopping him.
"Relax," the rough man said with a menacing smile. In the man's hand was a six gun that he slowly raised to point at him as he spoke.
"You can check out whenever you like, but you can NEVER leave." And with that, the gun fired at his head. Luckily, with the dim light and the old man's degrading eyesight, the shot whizzed by his ear, barely missing him. The only thing that saved him from a second shot was that the revolver jammed. Knowing there was no way to get out the front door and reach his horse without probably getting killed, he turned and ran back down the corridor in a zig-zag pattern as the old man eventually fired a couple more shots.
He reentered the common room where the woman saw him. She had started to go down the right corridor to pursue him, but stopped when she heard the gun fire. She still brandished the rather large knife. Her eyes widened at seeing him and she threw the knife straight at his him. He ducked just in time and headed for the staircase.
When he reached the second floor, he ran into one of the rooms and shut the door. He hurriedly pulled a nearby dresser in front of the door to barricade it. Turning around, he noticed there were two more doors leading out of the room. But he had no time to relax as one of the doors opened and a couple of more of the residents entered. He ran toward the opposite door and flung it open. It led to an adjacent room. Running in, he looked for the door that would lead back to the hallway. He ran through it and exited at the same time the woman was trying to get in the first room he had been in. Her head jerked in his direction and she yelled, "Get him. Don't let him escape!" She advanced towards him as another door opened and yet another resident emerged to chase him. This one had a bow and a few arrows. He really didn't enjoy this being hunted indoors, or anywhere else for that matter.
The woman and her minions were blocking the staircase going down, so he turned and ran up the other staircase to the third floor. They followed closely behind. Running down the third floor corridor, he jerked on doors as he went. They were all locked. He reached the end of the hallway where the window was. An arrow embedded itself in the wall next to his head. He was cornered. Another arrow flew at him as he moved to the side. He knew he had no other choice. Either stay here and get killed, or go through the window.
He looked out and saw a large tree next to the house. Bringing his leg up, he kicked the window out. He looked back to see people advancing towards him. He leapt through the window and landed in the top of the tree as an arrow flew above his head. Moving as fast as he could, he descended through the branches. Another arrow flew by as he finally fell to the ground. A couple of the residents had jumped out the window into the tree after him as the lady turned to run back downstairs. Picking himself up, he ran around to the front of the building where his horse was still standing. He had the horse moving even before he was fully mounted. Horse and rider flew back down the trail at a full gallop. He gave a quick look back, but nobody was following him.
The lady in black emerged from the front door. As she watched her escaped victim ride out of sight, she smiled deviously and turned the sign back over to read vacancy.
Come to the dark side...we have cookies