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Mystery Fiction Suspense

I had hoped to drive through the night and make it to New Hampshire by morning but the rain began to fall hard. This little car of ours was never made for anything farther than 3 miles outside city limits and the last thing I wanted was to be stuck in the mud on the side of the road at two in the morning. The flimsy windshield wipers were beating back the water as hard as they could, but when I saw the neon glow of a hotel I could barely make out that golden ticket I had been hoping for - vacancies. 


In the lobby, the man behind the desk was so preoccupied by the textbook on his knee, I felt a little guilty for walking up and interrupting. I wasn’t a very subtle presence, dripping from head to toe in rain water, my shoes squishing loudly with every step, yet I still had to clear my throat to get his attention. When he looked up I felt even more awkward. 


I asked for a single. 


“No singles, only doubles,” he replied, returning his eyes to the words on the page. A hard-working student, like you were back in your glory days. I glanced down trying to make out what it could be that he was studying but it looked like the kind of business school jargon that always put me to sleep. 


“Alright,” I said gamely, “A double, please.” 


The key that landed in my open palm had a little tag on it that read Room 1C


The rain was still pouring hard as I hoisted my black suitcase out of the trunk. I guess that’s the nice thing about travelling alone is that there isn’t too much luggage to worry about, at least for myself. I’ve always packed light - one bag is all I need. You were different, always had to be prepared for any possibility while travelling. You probably would have thought to bring a raincoat. 


There were only two other cars in the parking lot - a dark and shiny minivan, one of those family-type vehicles. And a light blue Volkswagen with words written in chalk paint on the back window, melting under the force of the monsoon happening - honeymooners, I guess. Other than that, it was a lonely trek back to the hotel, my single bag tight under my grip. 


1C wasn’t too far down the row, and opening the door revealed the kind of room that one would expect in a budget-friendly hotel. Dark red striped duvet, mustard-yellow walls with suspicious stains, a television old enough to be my father’s old set. But the bed was clean and a quick splash under the shower’s warm spray reassured me that I had made no error in deciding to pull over. 


You would have insisted that we find a hotel much sooner, there is simply no way you would have let me drive until this ungodly hour. You were always much more cautious than me, a guardian angel on my shoulder. 


The bed sank low when I sat down, feeling both bone-tired and too wound up to really relax. Maybe I could have turned on a late-night channel but I found myself staring instead at my dark reflection in that black television screen. A shadow of a person, sitting alone on a bed, the light from the table barely enough to keep back the darkness of the night.


At some point I stood up, grasping for distraction. My suitcase opened easily and inside, next to my folded clothing, was the wrinkled manilla envelope. I have to admit, sometimes I would take it and try to feel with my fingers to find out what could be inside. I still had no clue - you asked me not to open it and I would never break a promise to you, even now. 


Still, it drove me crazy with curiosity. Such a simple and understated package, yet infinitely large in my mind. What was so secret that you couldn’t even tell me? My fingers traced your careful handwriting on the front of the envelope - “To be delivered to Tabitha Jones at 115 Laurel Hill, Londonderry, NH 03053”. 


I eventually had to put it back in my suitcase. I’d never break a promise to you, but the temptation to find out what was inside gnawed at me nonetheless. The rain roared outside. Inch by inch, the dawn was creeping closer - and as I sat there, watching the walls, I knew that even if I slept it would be another restless night. 


It’s true that I missed you, but at least I have you here in my head - after all, I was always much too lonely of a person to ever truly be alone. 


The hotel was quiet after that, most of its few travelers had gone to bed long ago, and after a while even the last of the guests finally shut their eyes. The man behind the lobby desk finally closed his textbook, turned off the neon signs and headed to his own bed to rest for a few bitter hours before his morning class. 


The hotel was quiet but the rain was loud, causing the surrounding forest to sway and dance under the force of the winds. A family of deer huddled close under the shelter of a shallow cave, and in the nests high up in the trees, the songs of birds were lost in the crash of the thunderstorm.


Far away, in the town of Londonderry, a small woman watched the rain from a bench in the front porch of her humble home. 


It’s an antique sort of building, with large bay windows and peeling crown molding and a few spreading cracks in the foundation creeping up slowly all the time. She always meant to do something about that but it was the sort of thing she kept forgetting until she stopped caring at all. 


Tabitha was never much of a domestic sort. Her mother tried to change that, her father tried even harder, but frankly this big house she inherited was always just a place to lay a head. When she was younger, she was always too busy travelling to even consider putting much effort into keeping a nice home. And when she lived in Manhattan, well, her apartment was the size of a shoe-box and hadn’t been renovated since before she was alive so what was the point?


It had been a long time since she had made it to New York for a visit. She considered it off and on again, but the older she got the more tiresome the city seemed. It wasn’t the noise or the smells or anything like that, but rather that on every other street corner there remained a memory from long ago - a different Tabitha on every block. And frankly, those days belonged where they were - long ago and far away. 


“Mom?” a small voice piped up from behind her. 


She turned to see her daughter Angie peeking out from behind the front door. 


“Oh honey, what on earth are you doing up? It’s so late,” Tabitha inquired softly. Her voice was quiet from her own fatigue. 


The fourteen year old girl sat down on the bench next to her mother, tugging on her shirt absently. “Couldn’t sleep. Had a bad dream.`` 


“I’m so sorry, sweetie,” Tabitha said before pressing a kiss to the girl’s head, “Do you want to talk about it?” 


“I guess. It was kind of vague. It was just...,” Agatha scrunched up her face, trying to summon the right words, “I had a feeling that something was coming here.” 


Tabitha laid her head on Angie’s, wrapping an arm around her smaller frame. 


“It was something scary,” Angie continued, staring out at the rain with a transfixed expression, “And it was sad. It had big empty eyes. And it was far away, but it was always getting closer.” 


Her voice died down and Tabitha held her tighter. 


“Don’t worry, baby,” the mother said, “It was only a dream.” 


The rain continued to pour hard. The dawn was coming, ever closer, and soon everything would come to light.



August 02, 2021 23:37

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1 comment

Aman Fatima
10:56 Nov 20, 2021

I really like this story. Great work. :)

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