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Fiction Horror Thriller

Staring out the window, watching each snowflake increase in size as time passes. Inch by inch, snow builds up on the window seal. Ice forming around the edges of each of the four window panes, the centers fogging over from the warm fireplace inside. The past few months have been real lonely with only a few customers taking refugee at the Inn on their journey through the mountain pass. Most snowy mountaineers will camp during their hikes over the mountain side. Unless a storm blows through forcing them into a sturdier structure.  A storm like tonight will certainly push a few off the path, he tells himself. Wind howling like a coyote calling others for a feast, old wood shutters repeatedly slamming against the building side. Temperatures dropping below freezing, visibility down to zero, perfect conditions for visitors. 

             The Inn keeper fills a cast iron pot with fresh water from the wooden barrel in the kitchen. Hunched over with a heavy limp on his right side, the Inn keeper makes his way to the fireplace. Reaching inside, he slings the cast iron pot over the dangling hook so the pot of water is resting over the open flame. He wants to make sure there is boiling water ready for fresh coffee, hot cocoa or tea for any poor soul that stumbles through his front door. Soft classical music playing from behind the front counter keeps a peaceful tone in the old wooden lobby. It’s been a couple weeks since he has seen anyone, “don’t start flapping your jaw as soon as someone walks in”, he tells himself in a low voice. He doesn’t want to scare his patrons into hiding in their room or running straight out the front door.

             Shoveling two heaping spoonful’s of sugar and one giant mound of instant coffee into his favorite ceramic mug. The Inn keeper scoops a ladle full of boiling water from the pot over the fire, filling his mug to the brim. Gently stirring making sure all ingredients are well blended, can’t enjoy a half mixed cup of coffee he thinks to himself with a slight chuckle. Walking back to the front counter with his mug tight in hand, keeping it from spilling with this terrible limp is not an easy task. Every time he thinks he should fill it less, but never does. The Inn keeper leans against the counter resting on his left elbow, his left cheek being embraced by an open hand. Grabbing his coffee cup in his right hand, he lifts the brim to his lips taking a slight sip to test the temperature. Still to hot to drink but just cool enough to sip on, just the way he enjoys it. 

             Setting his ceramic mug on the front countertop, he picks up his lead pencil with a rough tip, a tip that has clearly been sharpened with a pocket knife. Tap, tap, tap the eraser of the pencil slaps against the paper of his crossword puzzle. The Inn keeper deep in concentration trying to find the answer to ten across somewhere within his brain. The front door flies open uncontrollably smashing into the coat rack sending the Inn keepers overcoat and wool cap sailing across the front lobby! A blast of cold air, followed by an over whelming abundance of noises come rushing in through the front door all at once. The wind hissing through the entry way, noise from the window shutters hitting the sides increased, clanking of metal tools hanging from eave of the front porch, the distant sound of men shouting.  Snow invading the lobby, melting as it hits the warm floor soaking the front entrance mat. Three average sized men stumble through the front door.  Followed by a taller, broader, stalky forth gentleman with a limp body strung over his shoulder. A grin from ear to ear appears across the Inn keepers face.

             “We need help”, the first three men said simultaneously, “where can we put our friend.” The Inn keeper motions for them to lay him on the couch by the fire. “What happened to your friend”, the Inn keeper asks. With their friend lying motionless on the couch, the four other men look around at each other in silence. “Ah, a secret among friends, admirable, foolish, but admirable”, the Inn keeper says with a devious tone and a smirk. “With this storm ravaging through, there won’t be any medical services for days. What kind of supplies are you in search of, I just may have them”, he mutters while rapping his fingers together. Getting a closer look, the Inn keeper doesn’t see any signs of blood or broken bones. He notices their friend laying motionless on the couch, his eyes and mouth gapped wide open. It’s as if he saw something he shouldn’t have, or was caught by surprise leaving him in total shock. 

             “What’s your name Inn keeper”, says the man with the tattoos on his hands. “Never mind my name good sir, your friend doesn’t need medical attention. He needs to see Viola from the village at the Rim. She is the only one that can cure an illness of this magnitude.” Pulling down the hood from his jacket and removing his beanie exposing a head with a two day stubble of salt and pepper hair. “You mean the old voodoo witch doctor from all the stories that are told in the village below?”, he says as he removes his jacket. “I’m Taylor”, he tells the Inn keeper as he picks up the coat rack and hangs his wet jacket up to dry. The Inn keeper waves off the mans name with his right hand, he is not interested in names. He wants to know what made this man turn ghost white and freeze like a mummy. “Is it still out there, Viola swore she rid of it years ago”, the Inn keepers speaks nervously looking at the outside window and then back at the men. “How do we get to the Rim in these conditions”, they ask.

             “If you want to save your friend, someone needs to go to the Rim and seek out Viola. Tell her what happened, what you saw, bring her to your friend. You will be indebted to her, she doesn’t seek money or possessions. She takes debt in the form of favors, you will be called upon at some time in your life to assist her. You won’t know when or for what, but she will find you when it comes your time to pay.” The group of men look intensely at each one, “if you accept those terms, I will draw a map so you can find her. While two of you seek out the voodoo witch of the Rim, the two left behind will help me tend to the stiff on the couch.” 

             Gazing around at each other with concern, is their friend worth going back into the storm. Possibly encountering, well whatever it was they encountered in the narrow pass, going into a servitude debt with a voodoo woman. The short man with dark curly hair paces to the fireplace, turns around, looks at his friend on the couch. “He would do it for us, we owe it to him after what happened, after we convinced him to come along. He tried to warn us but we laughed at him, we were convinced the legends were not real.” Neatly arranged on the small wooden table next to the fireplace, was sugar, powdered creamer and a jar of instant coffee. “You mind”, says the curly haired man to the Inn keeper. Gesturing his right hand towards the pot of water above the fire, “please help yourself.” 

“You will need to decide fast, it’s not an easy trip to the Rim, specially in this storm. Your friend won’t last the night without Viola’s help”, the Inn keeper speaks in a suspenseful tone. The gentleman who resembles a barbarian, the one who carried their friend in on his own, stood up from the chair in the middle of the lobby. “Taylor and I will go”, he says, “we are the strongest and are more adapted to the colder weather.” The Inn keeper looks and points at the curly haired fella, “maybe you should take him as well”, speaking in a raspy voice. “Who me?”, Keith says while running a hand through his curly hair. “Keith, Taylor and I will take the journey to the Rim. Cam, you stay and tend to Jim with the Inn keeper.” Cam waves his hands in front of him, “you’re leaving me alone, here, with what just happened.” The Inn keeper looks at them with a pleasing smile. “This guy creeps me out guys, don’t leave me here alone”, says Cam

The Inn keeper hands Taylor a folded up piece of paper. “Keep this close to you, without it, you could end up anywhere on this mountain side. That wouldn’t be good under these conditions, not with…….you’ve seen it or maybe just heard it. I don’t have to tell you what’s out there, it will take your soul if you’re not careful.” The Inn keeper pulls a silver coin from his pants pocket. Take this, give it to Viola, she will know it came from me. “Will we be safe here?”, Cam asks with a tremble in his voice. The Inn keeper gives a sly smile, “we will be fine in here my boy. Your friend the stiff however, he doesn’t look to good.” 

Taylor, Keith and Tom layer their winter gear back on. A gust of wind slams Tom against the wall behind the front door. Laughter from the Inn keeper fills the lobby, “the elements are either with you or against you”, says the Inn keeper. Looking over in Cam’s direction, “don’t worry my boy, you will be fine here with me.” The Inn keeper’s head flies back belching out a deep cynical laugh. Pointing his long boney finger at Cam, motioning towards the front door, “shut that thing before we freeze to death.” Cam reluctantly scoots to the front door and pushes it closed with great might fighting the wind. Tossing a warm wet cloth to Cam, “place this on your friends forehead. It will keep him in a calm state.” Looking around in a paranoid manner to make sure there was no one else near, even though the Inn keeper knew it was just them. “Was he the only one to see it, you know the woman in white? She will take your soul for her own pleasure, leaving you lost to walk the dark space between this realm and the other side. She has claimed many from this mountain side”, the Inn keeper states in a low tone. Cam stares with a blank face, he doesn’t know what to do or say. Is what the Inn keeper saying true, are the village stories true. Five guys from the city don’t belong out here, Cam thinks to himself. “We…..found him like this. He scouted out ahead of us to find shelter. We heard a shrill of a scream in the short distance. When we arrived, Jim was laying face up in the snow. He was like this, frozen in time, alive but yet, not here”, Cam says with fear in his voice. “He is wondering around the blank space between this world and the next. Oh my boy, his soul isn’t sure if it’s dead or alive. This is what we call limbo”, says the Inn keeper.

Wind blowing the edge of the map back at them, folding in half.  Taylor and Keith attempt to keep it as flat as they can while Tom holds the lantern for light. That must be the ridge we have to climb. “Once at the top, it looks like a short passage through a cut out in the hill side”, Tom says. Keith looks at them and with a shout over the blistering wind, “real short I hope.” Half way up the cliff side, a shriek from below echoed up the snow packed rock cliff, the same one they heard before they found Jim. “Faster”, Tom shouts to Keith and Taylor below. Climbing as fast as they can, hands barely gripping ice covered rocks, feet losing traction in the snow. Taylor being the bottom climber, feels a tug at his right foot. Looking down, he sees a woman in a white dress with long black hair, floating below him. It’s as if she is real but, yet not real at the same time.

As Taylor is lost in the trance of her mesmerizing eyes, her mouth opens wider than humanly possible. A loud high pitch shrill comes from deep within the ghostly woman. The sound wave from the pitch pulsates through Taylor. Losing his grip on the rope, his feet come out from under him. Taylor falls from the cliff side, as he plummets, the safety rope tightens. Keith and Tom are yanked downwards supporting all of Taylor’s weight. A sudden slack comes into the rope taking strain away from Keith and Tom. They look down in time to see Taylor fall into the darkness. No scream, no sound of his body hitting below. Keith looks up at Tom, “climb as fast as you can Keith.’’ Keith and Tom look down to see if they can see Taylor. The woman in white is right below Keith, they both are in shock, unable to move from fear. The menacing shrill comes out again. Keith and Tom’s souls are extracted from their bodies, drifting into limbo. Their still breathing but lifeless bodies fall from the cliff side landing next to Taylor. The fall from the cliff side was high enough to cause bruises and if it wasn’t for the built up snow, more serious injuries.

Staring at the Inn keeper with worry and fear in his eyes, “shouldn’t they be back by now?” The Inn keeper sitting behind the front counter sipping at a fresh cup of coffee, “yes they should, it’s been a couple of hours since their departure.” Standing up from the chair by the fireplace, Cam walks past Jim still motionless on the couch. “Should we go look for them, did you give them the right directions?”, Cam questions the Inn keeper with accusation in his voice. “There’s only one way in and one way out my boy. If they can’t read a map, that’s not on me.” Looking at Cam with a devious gleam in his eyes, “we can take a trip to the bottom of the cliff side.” With a long silent pause and an awkward stare between them, Cam breaks the silence, “yeah, we should go look for them.” The Inn keeper pulls a pair of thick, insulated ear muffins from behind the counter. Slipping his jacket on, pulling his wool cap over his head, the Inn keeper snuggles the ear muffs so they fully cover his ears. Cam tells Jim, “we will be back real soon with the help you need.”

Walking out the front door, the Inn keeper grabs a rope that was tide to the porch. With a sturdy yank on the rope, a sled wagon popped out of the snow. “What is that for”, Cam asks? The Inn keeper looks at Cam, “you never know what or who you may need to drag back.” Cam is starting to doubt his decision on finding his friends. Having to lean forward to walk, fighting the wind as they trudge the path to the bottom of the cliff. “There up ahead, I see the cliff side”, Cam shouts. The Inn keeper with his head down, continues trampling forward through the knee high snow. As they approach the cliff side, Cam sees his friends laying face up with the same facial expression as Jim. “What have you done”, Cam yells as he lunges forward reaching both hands towards the Inn keepers throat. Before Cam can grab his throat, the woman in white appears behind the Inn keeper. The Inn keeper drops to his knees while pressing his hands against his ear muffs. The deafening shrill echoes through the pass, vibrating the ground. The Inn keeper looks up to see Cam face down in the snow. As he slowly turns around, the Inn keeper watches the woman in white fade into the flurries of snow falling. He loads all four bodies into his wagon.

Dragging the sled wagon behind him, the Inn keeper approaches the backside of the Inn. He opens both cellar door and drags each body down one by one. The Inn keeper emerges from the cellar closing both doors behind him. He slides a flat metal plate through both handles, clasping a pad lock on both sides. As the Inn keeper enters the warmth of the Inn, he removes his wet jacket, ear muffs and wool hat. Lifting Jim’s body onto his hunched shoulder, he opens what appears to be a closet door revealing a set of stairs.  Following the staircase down, small lanterns giving off a slight glow that light the path. The Inn keeper carefully descends the staircase while balancing Jim’s lifeless body on his shoulder. Once at the bottom of the staircase, the room opens up exposing a room full of stainless steel tables and shelving covering every wall. Glass jars fill the shelving, each jar contains a form of mysterious liquid and human organs. The Inn keeper places Jim on a table next to his other friends. Looking over each body, the Inn keeper is proud of his soon to be harvest. The Inn keeper stays wealthy while keeping his stock supplied and Viola torments and feasts on the lost souls. There is some truth to all stories, but beware of who is telling the story, is it the whole story. Don’t be a lost soul in a world of deceit and despair. 

January 15, 2022 16:27

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1 comment

Lyndsey La Van
21:46 Jan 26, 2022

This was a great story. My only critique is to separate the dialogue into their own paragraphs so that it's easy to follow who is speaking. Other than that... creepy. Great job.


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