“There’s something here,” muttered Rachel as they walked along the corridors of the hotel. Aaron scoffed from a few steps behind her in response to that and she turned to stare wildly at him. “I’m serious!”
“You’re just saying that because we haven’t seen anyone on the way to our room.”
“Exactly, Aaron! No one! No other guests, no staff, no cleaning service. I mean, they should be cleaning rooms at this time, y’know?” Rachel drew in a breath as she added, “Plus we walked up four floors since the elevators aren’t working. We should have seen someone.”
He rolled his eyes then yelped as they turned a corner and he ran full pelt into his friend’s back. “What the fuck?!”
“Shut up!” hissed Rachel. As Aaron opened his mouth, her hand whipped up to cover it and she dragged him back against the wall. He squirmed, trying to talk past her hand and tell her she being a bit too much of a crazy bitch right now, when she snarled in his ear, “Listen.”
With a huff he decided to humor her and stilled, tilting his head as he pretended to listen. Then he heard the sound of low, heavy breathing coming from ahead of them in the hallway. “What the fuck?” he breathed into her hand. Then he pushed himself away from the wall and out of her slackened grip, ignoring Rachel’s gasp of protest, to look at what was making that noise.
It looked like exactly the same type of hallway they had been walking through since beginning the search for their room but it felt different. Aaron couldn’t exactly put a finger on just how it felt different from the other hallways. Part of him though – a deep-seated animal part – responded to that feeling with a primeval fear that started in his belly and radiated outwards. He suddenly felt small and hunted, like there was some predator lurking at the darkened end of the corridor.
As he looked at Rachel to ask if this was what she’d been feeling, his mouth fell open in a silent scream. His friend still stood against the wall where she’d flattened herself a moment ago but now she was part of the wall. She continued sinking into it as he watched in horror, her skin shifting to the colors of the hotel and her clothes melting away.
“Rrrrrrrrruuuuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnn,” she groaned and Aaron turned to bolt as that primeval fear spiked.
The floor seemed to twist under him as he turned, though, and he hit the carpeted floor hard as he tripped. Instantly that low, heavy breathing was all around him, coming from everywhere, and he heard Rachel groan again.
He glanced up to see her almost fully integrated into the wall, nothing but her frozen horrified face exposed now. Then he realized that her lips hadn’t been moving and he’d been hearing her voice from everywhere like the breathing.
Aaron reached down to scramble up but it felt like he was moving through quicksand. He couldn’t get a grip with his feet and for some reason he couldn’t find the floor. The thought of quicksand flashed back through his head and he froze, not wanting to look down but unable to stop the inevitable tilt of his head downwards.
His arms were elbow deep into the carpet already and it rippled as he watched it suck him another few inches downward. Panicking, he began to flail wildly and dimly heard Rachel scream, “Nnnnnnnnnnnooooooooooooo,” while the breathing became louder and faster.
As the same stiffness Rachel had exhibited came upon him and the pattern of the carpet began to creep along his still exposed skin, Aaron became aware of the sound of footsteps. His last movement was to tilt his head back and his eyes to widen as he saw the man that had checked them in only moments before.
With a smile the man intoned gently, “Welcome to my hotel.” He then reached out to touch the nearby wall and Aaron watched it ripple in response. “No more playing, sweetheart. We have other guests to entertain.”
There was a growl of disappointment then he began to sink quickly into the floor. In response he started screaming, fully aware that his voice was now being broadcasted from the walls like Rachel’s had been but unable to stop himself.
Before he fully slipped beneath the floor, the last thing he saw was the man waving goodbye. Then Aaron became aware of the whole of the building, of its being. He felt Rachel and so many others who had come before them and been consumed.
Amidst the sick feeling and terror he felt, Aaron felt a secondary emotion beyond him of amusement and hunger. After a moment he realized it was the hotel and he tried to pull back from it but, as with his melding, it began to permeate him. Despite his lack of a body, he could feel himself starting to grin in anticipation even though he didn’t want to. He felt the hotel’s hunger, its amusement, its pleasure from devouring the unknowing and the terrified, and began to laugh.
As the sound of laughter echoed behind him in the hallways, the man smiled and walked into the elevator to go down to meet his newest guests.