3

The beginning

Well, not the literal beginning. The literal beginning was, according to Barry if he thought a guest was even mildly interested, was seven and half years ago when Cosy Inn Manchester first opened its automatic doors to the public. Following the delivery of this useless tidbit of information, Barry would always slap a hand over his heart, eyes glistening with unwept tears as he announced his unwavering loyalty and love for the hotel. This public display of emotion would have guests casting confused glances in Emma’s direction who, to her credit, always managed to swallow back the bile rising in her throat. How could someone get so passionate about a budget hotel chain that prided itself on the fact that each of its hotels had the smallest of workforces? Head office claimed that, for the guests, seeing the same faces day and night instilled a sense of security, a security that arose from the familiarity of recognising the woman serving you breakfast as the woman who checked you in the night before. Emma scoffed – quietly of course – knowing it was simply a way of cutting back on costs. Security and familiarity her ass. Their policy on staff numbers simply meant their job description included everything from pouring glasses of wine to scrubbing limescale from the underside of the toilets with a toothbrush. It also meant that they could clock off at ten at night, only to find themselves mashing scrambled egg at six in the god-awful morning.

The beginning Emma was currently thinking of, as the bits of the maintenance man they’d found were carried out in several black bags, was the beginning of the incidents that had been plaguing the hotel for the past three weeks.

Not so coincidentally, Emma suspected, it had also been three weeks since that woman had checked out of room 613, her ice blue eyes glaring at Emma as she’d slammed her key card down onto the front desk. Despite the fact that the woman’s pale, unblinking stare had unnerved her, she’d plastered on her most beaming smile and asked if everything had been okay with her stay.

This hotel is the hotel from hell,” the woman had rasped, leaning forward and baring an impressive albeit terrifying set of seemingly serrated teeth, “And believe me, I know. I’ve been there.”

Fucking Supernatural fans, Emma had thought, arching an eyebrow, they always took their fangirling one step too far. Hah. The poor dear had probably got her teeth professionally fanged to blur the lines between fiction and reality. It was no different to the Twlight dildos that had gone on sale in the wake of the movie’s release so fans could get that, ahem, “authentic experience”. It was tragic. It was creepy.

Oh yeah?” she had replied, not even attempting to inject concern into her voice, “And why is that?”

I lived there for a few short years while I was studying and – “

For fucks sake.

No, why is this hotel the hotel from hell?”

The woman straightened and Emma realised that she was a lot taller than she’d initially seemed. Damn, she had been nearing six and a half feet at least! The woman glared down at her and Emma, sick to the back teeth of idiot guests, had tipped her head back, determined to meet her gaze with just as much malice. Like hell was she going to back down.

What she saw made her blood run cold.

The woman’s eyes were completely and utterly black. No irises, no pupils. Just pure obsidian. The woman snarled, her lips pulling back over rust-coloured fangs that seemed to grow impossibly sharper. She gnashed her teeth together with a growl and Emma staggered backwards, hoping to whatever gods existed that this creature wasn’t a mind reader. If she’d heard her previous assessment of her…Emma shuddered, imagining those blade-like teeth sinking into the soft flesh of her throat.

You dare cut me off, human?” she said, her voice low and guttural.

Emma opened her mouth but nothing happened.

Not so cocky now, huh?” the woman grinned, “You’ll soon see what happens when you challenge the authority of those bigger and more powerful than yourself.”

And with that, she was gone. She had vanished in the blink of an eye. The automatic doors hadn’t opened. She hadn’t ducked down out of sight.

She had simply melted into nothingness.

Emma had run into the back office and after hitting a few buttons and dials, rewound the CCTV tape. The woman’s head had been lowered so the cameras hadn’t captured her unearthly stare. Despite watching it six times, though, Emma couldn’t see where the disgruntled guest had gone. The timer on the tape simply showed a jump between 08:57:06 and 08:57:09.

Barry returned to the desk moments later and Emma could have kissed him she was so happy to see him.

Still, she had naively thought, at least the woman from 613 is gone.

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