The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Ben was too exhausted to move the covers, even though he was roasting alive. The light that came from the window seared through his closed eyelids, save for the dark shape that darted back and forth when it thought he wasn’t looking. His throat was raw, his whole being ached, and he felt like he hadn’t been part of the physical world for some time, even though the aches and general feeling of blech was enough to tell him otherwise.
He hated being sick, and he wasn’t going to stop just because he was on vacation. Especially since he was on vacation.
The tour group had left him to keep to their itinerary (the traitors), the doctor (who even made house calls anymore?) was taking a million years, and he had never been the most patient soul.
He should have stayed home. At least then Martha would be there to tend to him, even though the whole point of the trip was to have a little time away. It was times like this that made him hate being alone, despite the front desk being at the other end of the phone, the whole world being available at the touch of a hundred apps on his cell. He needed someone there. It was almost a paranoia. The room felt to small, too large, too empty, too bright at the window.
The hallucination had decided to stop darting and instead glided past the picture window. It reminded him of an old-fashioned maid, maybe from Victorian times, or whenever the inn was founded. He really hadn’t paid that much attention.
He shuddered under the covers, though his skin was clammy with sweat, his muscles steaming. Just a hallucination. Fever dream.
The barest of touches flit over his brow, so light and cool he barely felt it. “Shhhh.”
It was probably the pipes, or someone in the hall. And yet, he responded, relaxing under the imagined touch. It was like the first bite of a favorite candy – he craved more, needed to know that wasn’t the last he’d ever get of it.
The contact returned, gentle, but a little firmer this time. The coolness was wonderful on his brow. It seemed to dial down the heat throughout his body. Maybe the doc made it up. Or one of the maids. “Who-”he croaked, but couldn’t finish before a cough racked his lungs in a painful dance.
“Shhhh,” the voice urged again. His eyes were so heavy as fingertips stroked his damp hair away. As much as he enjoyed the dance, the hand never seemed to stray to his glands or even make sure his eyes were focused. The touches that at first felt sweet and giving now had more pressure, more intent, the fingers not as smooth but rough and almost brittle.
He tried to sit up, but couldn’t move against the hand on his forehead. His body was so heavy, and it was so much better to just lay there in the dark and wait for…what?
“SHHHHH…” The urge had become a rasping hiss. It startled him into opening his eyes.
He couldn’t scream. He wanted to cough but the mucus was stuck in his throat, rattling in his lungs, choking him. The darting shape, the hallucination, the thing was in front of him: a dark silhouette with no details, no hints of origin, save a feminine silhouette.
He could feel its hunger, though, even as it pressed harder and more of his life drained away through the fingers on his forehead, making it thicker, more substantial.
“Please,” he wheezed, and his chest hurt more than he realized it ever could. “Pleash…”Peashhh…shhhhhh….” He managed a few weak coughs, but they were hidden under the phantom’s soft, almost mocking noises that only sounded soothing if you didn’t know what they meant.
By time the doctor came and commiserated with the desk clerk that more people seemed to get sick in the room, Ben was cold and dead and the phantom was blended back into the shadows, waiting for its next patient.
Fiction © Copyright Selah Janel
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Author Selah Janel:
Like many young men at the end of the 1800s, Bill signed on to work in a logging camp. The work is brutal, but it promised a fast paycheck with which he can start his life. Unfortunately, his role model is Big John. Not only is he the camp’s hero, but he’s known for spending his pay as fast as he makes it. On a cold Saturday night they enter Red’s Saloon to forget the work that takes the sweat and lives of so many men their age. Red may have plans for their whiskey money, but something else lurks in the shadows. It watches and badly wants a drink that has nothing to do with alcohol. Can Bill make it back out the shabby door, or does someone else have their own plans for his future?