“The Haunting of Room 812”

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"The Haunting of Room 812"

Written by Blair Daniels, Craig Groshek

It was the most haunted room in all of South Dakota. Haunted by the lady in white – a bride who was left at the altar, and jumped from the window to her death.

Or, if you asked some… a woman who was brutally murdered by her husband-to-be.

“Are you picking up anything?” Darren asked, staring at his K2 meter.

“Nope,” I replied. “No activity so far.”

“How about you?”

Darren turned to Annabelle, the red-headed woman holding the camcorder. “No,” she said, looking at the screen. “Nothing.”

“Let’s go in, then, and see if we get anything.”

I pulled out my keycard and shoved it into the door. The lock clicked, and I pushed the door open.

The room was dark. And cold. My hand skimmed the wall, searching for a light switch. Even as a “ghost hunter,” I didn’t like walking into totally dark, strange rooms.

The lights flicked on and we found ourselves in what appeared to be a normal room. Perfectly-made bed, small windows, cream-colored walls.

We all stared at our meters, and cameras, for a good hour. Unfortunately, not so much as a glowing speck of dust made its appearance. Darren was the first to give up – he groaned in disappointment and flopped onto the bed. “Man, we’re not getting any breaks here, are we?”

“Nope, and I was sure we’d catch something,” I grumbled. “This stinks.”

My thoughts weren’t on spooky ghosts, but our dwindling YouTube ad revenue. Every ghost-hunting video we posted garnered fewer views. We needed this. One blurry silhouette, one bout of flickering lights, one chair moving on its own accord. Something.

“Maybe it’s time we hire a video editor,” Darren said, staring blankly at the meter. “I mean, all the other channels do it. Add a little blur, some glowing orbs—”

“No! Our whole thing is that our videos are real. We don’t Photoshop. We don’t edit. We post real stuff only.” I crossed my arms and glared at him. “You want to sell out? Resort to forgeries?”

“I want to be able to pay my rent,” he said into the pillow. “And eat something other than ramen.”

“Guys. Ssshhh.”

Annabelle brought a finger to her lips. The tinny ding of the elevator pierced the silence, followed by heavy footfalls outside.

“Someone’s coming off the elevator,” Darren said. “What’s the big deal?”

“It’s 1 AM,” Annabelle whispered. “Who’d be up this late on a Tuesday night?”

The three of us swarmed the peephole. From what I could see, the elevator doors were open. And I heard faint footsteps.

But no one was there.

“Probably just some guy going down to get a snack,” Darren said.

“Looks like this place really is just a tourist trap,” I said, spinning the hotel pen between my fingers. “Just like most ‘haunted places’ are.”

“The night’s not over yet, boys,” Annabelle said. But her tone wasn’t very convincing.

We returned to our stations around the room. Annabelle set her camera on a tripod and remained filming, but pulled out a tabloid magazine and turned her attention to that instead. Darren played games on his phone. I collapsed on the bed and stared at the ceiling.

The hours ticked by. Around 3 AM, Annabelle caught a glowing orb on film. But, upon closer inspection, we realized it was just a mosquito flying near the lens. “We’ve gotten better footage in the Wal-Mart parking lot,” Darren complained. “This blows.”

It was around 4 AM that things started to get interesting.

At exactly 4:11, the familiar ‘ding’ of the elevator sounded again, followed by the same heavy footsteps. Annabelle leapt up and pressed her eye against the peephole.

“Guys! Guys, come here!”

We crowded around. The elevator and the hallway were both empty. The footsteps, however, sounded like they were inches from our door.

She flung the door open. We walked out, cameras out and recording. As soon as we did, the footsteps ceased. But, strangely, the elevator doors remained open.

Annabelle ran inside and motioned for us to follow. “Keep recording!” she said, breathlessly. “I feel like there’s something… here.”

My gaze fell on the elevator buttons.

The buttons for the third, fifth, and seventh floors suddenly lit up at once. Without being pressed.

“Did you see that?!” I cried.

Darren and Annabelle nodded.

“A haunted elevator, huh. That wasn’t in our research.”

“Of course not,” Annabelle said, as the elevator slid to a halt at the seventh floor. The doors opened with a whoosh, and the empty hallway presented itself. “The Alex Johnson Hotel wants tourists to get creeped out and buy their spooky little ghost package. They don’t want tourists to hurt themselves communing with an actual spirit.” Her eyes met mine. “Or worse.”

“Why’s it only stopping at odd-numbered floors? The third floor is where Alex Johnson lived… but why the fifth? Why the seventh?”

Annabelle shook her head. “I have no idea.”

“Or, this whole elevator business is the result of a technical malfunction, and the floors are chosen at random.”

“Shut up, Darren!” Annabelle said, rolling her eyes. “The elevator is haunted. I can feel it.”

We came to a stop at the fifth floor. The doors parted, revealing an empty hallway that looked exactly like the hallway on the seventh and eighth floors. Then they quietly slid shut, and the elevator descended. This time, it seemed to go twice as fast as before. I gripped the bar, steadying myself.

Another high-pitched ‘ding’ signaled our arrival, and the doors slid open.

“What the hell?”

The third floor was dark.

Not completely, I’ll admit. There was a dim light coming from somewhere—but it was much darker than any other floor we’d stopped on. I could barely make out the beige carpeting, the cream walls, and the doors extending into the distance.

“Holy crap!” Darren said in disbelief. “Are you getting this?”

I peered at my camera’s viewfinder. In it, the floor was fully-lit, and identical to every other floor we’d stopped on. “No, that’s impossible,” I said, my mouth growing dry. “I, uh… there’s something wrong. It looks normal on the screen…”

I looked back up, and nearly had a heart attack.

A figure stood, barely visible, at the end of the hallway, its head canted to the side, as if out of curiosity. It was unsettling, how perfectly it blended into the shadows.

“There’s… there’s someone out there!” I whispered hoarsely. Instinctively, my hand reached for the ‘Close Doors’ button on the elevator.

The doors didn’t close. The elevator didn’t respond at all.

The specter continued to stare at us, its head cocked at an unnatural angle. It was too dark to make out anything else about them. Their hair, their clothes, their gender… it was impossible to tell.

I only knew one thing.

They were getting closer.

I reached for the elevator button. My fingers touched the plastic.

And then I flew forward.

I crashed hard into the carpet, the air rushing from my lungs. I sucked in a choking breath, and tried to regain my composure.

The elevator doors were closing. And in the quickly-narrowing gap, I saw Annabelle and Darren’s faces, staring back at me with an odd combination of horror and satisfaction.

“Wait!” I screamed, frantically clambering to my feet.

I was too late. My hands fell on closed doors. I pounded my fists against them – they didn’t budge.

I was trapped.

I whipped around, my heart pounding. The wraith was gone.

“Okay…” I reasoned aloud, “Just call back the elevator, and everything will be fine.” I turned back to the elevator.

The call button was gone.

Where it had once been, a blank wall surrounded the doors.

“What the hell is going on?!” I shouted.

My only option was to make my way back to our room the old-fashioned way. The stairs.

With a nervous gulp, I traversed the dimly-lit hallway, half-expecting the closed doors flanking me on either side to burst open at any moment. An odd static buzzing came from behind some of them, like the sound of thousands of flies struggling against their restraints.

As I passed one of the doors, I heard the muffled voice of a man. Maybe he knew where I could find a working elevator. I wasn’t looking forward to walking up five flights of stairs.

“I’ve been tryin’!” I overheard them say. “I’ve been tryin’ to leave for three days, and I –”

I raised my fist and knocked. As soon as I did, the voice abruptly cut off. I waited, staring at the door.

That’s when I noticed the numbers hanging on his door – 308 – were upside-down.

The door cracked open, revealing the sliver of a wild eye glaring back at me. It was that of an old man, from what I could tell. The deep wrinkles of his face were bathed in shadow, making it look as if he’d been carved from wood.

“You’re not one of them,” he growled, as if it were some sort of shocking revelation.

“Uh… no? Listen, I came down the elevator but there doesn’t seem to be a call button down here. Do you know if there’s another elevator?” I glanced around, at the dark hallway. “And why are the lights so dim on this floor?”

He stared at me for a moment.

“Get out!” he rasped. “Get out before it’s too late!”

“What–”

“Find a door! A window! Anything! And get out!”

The door slammed in my face.

Confused, and slightly disturbed, I continued down the hallway. The lights dimmed nearly to the point of extinguishing, flickering softly in their glass bulbs. Over and over I lost my bearings, unable to determine which direction I was going. For what felt like an eternity, I felt my way along the walls, desperately trying to find my way, until finally I arrived at the stairs. Then I began the long, hard climb to the eighth floor.

With every step, the man’s words echoed in my mind. Get out. Get out. What did he mean by that?

And the figure in the hallway… I’d been ghost hunting for five years, and I’d never seen something like that. Standard fare included glowing orbs, odd tapping sounds, shadowy figures in the corner of my eye. Things that could, technically, be explained away by logic.

This couldn’t.

By the time I got to the top, I was panting, and sweat clung to my shirt. I pulled the door open with a groan, and walked down the hallway.

The hallway was dark. Just like the third floor.

It must be some sort of hotel-wide power problem, I told myself. That actually made me feel better. Maybe everything that happened – the elevator buttons, the dim lights – was due to an electrical issue. It was an old hotel, after all.

Maybe, in all the confusion, I’d imagined the shadows. And the old man was just some lunatic.

I walked down the hallway, my shoes thumping conspicuously against the carpet. The silence was ominous, though not unexpected. After all, I reasoned, everyone was sleeping at this hour.

I arrived at room 812 and inserted my key card into the door. The lock clicked, and I pushed the door open.

The room was pitch-black, even though I was sure we’d kept every light on when we left.

“Annabelle?” I called. “Darren? You here? We need to talk!”

Silence.

I walked down the short hallway, into the main room–and froze in my tracks.

Frigid air rushed in through the open window. On the windowsill, surrounded by billowing curtains, there stood a feminine figure, facing away from me, wearing a white wedding dress.

“Hey!” I called out to her. “What are you doing in our roo–”

The words were barely out of my mouth when she pitched forward. I heard the soft rustle of fabric and the whistling wind as she plummeted towards the ground.

Then, with the sickening crack of flesh against pavement, everything went still.

Nausea washed over me. I fought the urge to vomit.

I pulled out my phone and dialed Annabelle, my fingers nervously slipping over the screen, and was met with a busy signal. Same for Darren, and for the police. Each and every time, I failed to get through. Then my eyes fell on the hotel phone.

I ran over to it and dialed ‘zero’ for the front desk. It rang. A moment later, a man’s voice answered.

“Hello?”

It all came rushing out. “Oh, thank God! Listen, I need your help! I just saw this woman–she jumped–and I can’t find my friends, and–”

“Come to the front desk,” he responded in a slow drawl.

Then the line went dead.

I stared into the abyss of the desolate room. Then I got up, averted my gaze from the window, and walked back down all eight flights of stairs.

When I finally wandered into the lobby, I found it deserted. The only faces I encountered were decorative and inanimate. The Alex Johnson Hotel had no less than six faces, wearing feathered headdresses, carved into the beams of the hotel. When I looked up, I could swear I saw a flash of darkness in the balcony overhead. In an instant, however, it was gone.

I ran toward the front desk. “Is anyone here?!” I shouted.

“Hello!” a voice called out of the darkness.

A man bustled out of the back. Portly, middle-aged, with a carefully curled mustache and a pair of round glasses. “What may I help you with?” he asked, lips curling into a smile.

“I just called from upstairs. Someone just jumped from the eighth floor win—”

“Not to worry,” he said, cutting me off. His eyes locked on mine. “She does that every night.”

“I’m sorry, but… what?” I responded incredulously.

“My dear boy, if you haven’t noticed… you’re not in South Dakota anymore.”

I looked around. “That’s ridiculous! Of course I am. This is the Alex Johnson Hotel. What are you talking about?”

“It certainly looks like the Alex Johnson Hotel, doesn’t it?” he said, casting an adoring glance at the ceiling. “Ah, yes. The attention to detail is remarkable. We have Agneta to thank for that. Lovely woman. Have you met her yet?”

“Listen. You tell me what the hell is going on right now! I just saw a woman jump from an eight-story window. And this crazy guy on the third floor told me to get out. And when I try to call my friends, I just get a busy signal!”

“Of course, my boy. If it’ll make you feel better, allow me to explain.” He leaned over the front desk, his mouth stretching into a smile. It was only then that I realized there was something wrong with his face. His eyes protruded too far from their sockets, and his lips were so thin, they were barely visible.

“The lift that brought you here,” he said, gesturing to the elevator, “travels beyond the veil.”

“Are you saying I’m… dead?”

“No, no. Well, not exactly. But if you don’t find your way back soon, you’ll find escape quite impossible, and you may as well be.”

“How do I get back? I need to get to Annabelle and Darren–”

He cut me off with a peal of laughter. Shivers crept down my spine. “Why so much concern for them?”

 “They’re my business partners, my friends. My…” The words caught in my throat. “My teammates.”

“Are you certain of that?”

I nodded.

“They lied to you.”

I balked. “What would you know? I’ve never met you before in my life. Besides, you’re just a… front desk clerk.”

“On the contrary, my boy, I know many things.” His eyes twinkled, and he leaned forward. A musty, rotten smell came off him, and I cringed. “When you were ten years old, for example, you stole a pack of gum from a shop on 4th Avenue. When you were 18, you were heartbroken when you walked in on your girlfriend–”

“How do you know about that?!” I demanded.

“I have my ways, Kyle. And I’m certain you weren’t pulled from the lift by some supernatural force.” His bulbous eyes stared me down. His lips curled into an insidious smile. “You were pushed.”

My mind raced. I tried to think back to exactly what had happened when I fell onto the third floor. I couldn’t recall. One minute, I’d been standing in the elevator. The next, I’d been thrown to the ground.

“It’s the human condition, you know. Greed. What did your companions stand to gain by pushing you? Control of the business. Under new management, they can run things how they see fit.”

Rage burned within me. I didn’t want to believe it, but I knew he was right.

“How do I get back?”

The clerk grinned rapturously, revealing rows of yellowed teeth. “Oh, I’m afraid it’s too late for that now.”

I turned around. Dark silhouettes filled the lobby. Just like the ones I’d seen on the third floor. Their crimson eyes flashed as they stepped toward me.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a newcomer,” the man behind the desk said, practically salivating in his excitement.

At that moment, against all odds, above the fear and terror, an unexpected courage surged within me.

It’s me against this world, I realized. I wasn’t going to go out like a coward. Not now, not ever.

I watched the shapes swirl and advance in my direction. Across the dust-covered floors and faded carpet, they came, the very foundation of the hotel quaking beneath their feet. Meanwhile, shadows coalesced on the balconies overhead, watching hungrily.

I was completely surrounded.

I sprinted to the stairwell. The shadows pursued me with superhuman speed, spiraling around the staircase.

In an effort to lose them, I exited on the third floor and dashed toward the elevator, hoping to reach it before they realized I was no longer on the stairs – but to no avail. The ominous static sound returned. As I ran down the hall, each door I passed swung open with an ear-splitting creak, and the buzzing intensified. Innumerable shadows emerged on both sides, blotting out what little light was available. Their red eyes flared in the darkness.

I came to a halt at the end of the hallway. The shadows swarmed and quickened their pace. Once again, there was no call button on the elevator, but I didn’t care. I wedged my fingers between the doors and pushed with all my might.

With a grunt, I forced them open and squeezed into the elevator. As the cacophonous wail of the wraiths reached their crescendo, I pressed the button for the eighth floor. With a shriek, the doors came to a close, mere moments before a horde of outstretched arms arrived.

With a shudder and a groan, the elevator reluctantly ascended. With each second, the din of the screaming specters lessened, until at last they were little more than a gust of wind in the distance. I took a deep breath and did my best to calm down.

My relief was short-lived.

A moment later, the floor shook beneath my feet. I grabbed the railing, as my heart skipped a beat and threatened to evacuate my body. The lights began to flicker. The buttons flashed in a strange, syncopated rhythm.

And then the elevator stopped completely.

Dread settled in the pit of my stomach.

I’m going to be stuck here. Forever.

I ran to the doors and pounded on them, as the lights oscillated madly. “Let me out!” I screamed. “Letmeout!”

Hissing whispers filled the elevator. At first, they were scattered and unintelligible. But then they snapped together, forming one voice.

“Exchange,” they said in unison. “We require an exchange.”

“Whatever you want!” I screamed. “Anything but me! Just name it!”

“Two,” the voices hissed through the static. “We demand two in your stead.”

“Yes, yes, fine! Just, please–let me go!”

The elevator trembled.

And then it plummeted.

I screamed the whole way down. I didn’t stop until the elevator made impact and the crushing pain consumed me, and everything went black.

* * * * * *

My eyes fluttered open.

I was lying on something soft. Up above me, light shone from an outdated fixture on the ceiling.

Where am I? I wondered.

 I sat up and glanced around. The hallway, the armchair, the bed… I was back in room 812. And across the room, looking out the window, were Annabelle and Darren. Hatred burned within me at the sight of them.

“This must’ve been the last thing the lady in white saw before she jumped,” Annabelle was saying, holding her camcorder. The window was open, and a cool breeze blew inside. They were oblivious to my presence.

“Or, was pushed,” Darren corrected her.

Silently, I rose from the bed and approached the window. The spirits had demanded an exchange, two in my place. The choice was clear. Darren and Annabelle wouldn’t get away with what they’d done. They’d get what they deserved.

Smiling ear-to-ear, I made my approach. Distracted as they were, my former friends never saw or heard me coming.

Without hesitation, I shoved both of them out the window. Their screams echoed for a second or two before the unforgiving pavement put an end to that.

With a smirk, I considered the irony of the situation. Darren and Annabelle would finally get proof of the afterlife—just not in the way they expected.

I walked back over to the bed, picked up the hotel phone, and dialed the front desk. “Hello?” I said, in the most-convincing panicked tone I could muster. “My friends–they just had a terrible accident. They were leaning out of the window, filming, and lost their balance–and–oh my god!” I faked choking sobs. “I think they’re dead! Oh my god, they’re dead!”

I hung up the phone.

The wintry air swept across my face, as I imagined the whereabouts of the two who had tried to take everything from me.

I grinned.

If room 812 wasn’t haunted before… it certainly was now.