This story is a part of a blog hop anthology all taking place within the WFGC Hotel. You can see the full list of stories in this blog hop anthology here: http://www.amberfyre.com/rhiannon-amberfyre-author/the-worlds-of-amberfyre/short-breaks/hotel-blog-hops/
Aaron walked into the hotel, head down, not wanting to look at anything or anyone. Rain poured off the brim of his hat. It was a good portent, this weather. It wasn’t necessary for what he had come here to do, but it gave him a good feeling. Taking a chance, he looked up and watched a couple walk through the doors.
They were young and laughing. Him in his suit, her in a white gown. Drunk on love as much as the champagne that had flowed earlier that night. The man shook off the oversized umbrella before closing it and wrapping an arm around his bride. Aaron could only stand there and watched them as they stumbled towards the night receptionist and then faded away before reaching the desk. That happy couple was only one of many ghosts that he couldn’t escape.
Though he knew he must look a fool, standing here dripping water in the foyer, he stared with regret as another spectre stumbled through the door. His nose was assaulted by whiskey fumes that he knew only he could smell. He watched, his heart breaking as the rough looking drunkard, a hand stuffed deep in one pocket and a bottle only half hidden by a paper bag held in the other. He didn’t stop at reception but headed straight for the elevator before fading into the past where he belonged.
Aaron gave his head a shake. He hated when these things intruded on his life. It seemed to happen more frequently these days. He strode up to the desk and waited for the night receptionist to acknowledge his presence, but their eyes were glued to the computer screen.
He cleared his throat to get attention and was rewarded with a response. “Can I help you?”
“Is room 426 available?” He asked. A part of him hoped that it wouldn’t be, but tonight was the night. Everything was lining up for it to be the perfect night to do what he’d come here for. These ghosts were proof of that.
“It is, but it’s in need of repairs.”
Aaron wanted to curse, but in need of repairs didn’t mean that he couldn't get the room and he had no intentions of sleeping here tonight. He was here to do one thing and one thing only. Sleep didn’t play into that equation. “Oh. I really wanted to rent that room tonight. For, uh, sentimental reasons. I’ll pay extra if necessary.”
“That’s not necessary. We’re always accommodating here at the Hotel. Please sign the guest book and I’ll get your keys.”
Aaron signed the guest book as ‘John Smith’ and paid his bill in cash. He was grateful when the night receptionist didn’t even give him a strange look for either. He was handed his keys and told to have a pleasant night. It seemed far too simple to be real.
Sweet perfume engulfed him as the elevator doors closed and the young couple reappeared beside him, locked in a passionate embrace, believing themselves alone on their ride to the fourth floor. Though he stood apart from he could feel those sensuous curves against is finger tips, her tongue on his lips.
Aaron looked down at his trembling hands and clenched them into fists, digging his nails into the tender palm of his hands. It didn’t help, even the pain couldn’t make it go away. He knew it wasn’t real. These ghosts taunted him with things that he didn’t want to feel. Words he didn’t want to hear. Her voice detailing everything she would do when they got to the room.
Ding. They disappeared as the door opened and that drunk stumbled out of the elevator with him instead. He cursed under his breath as he steadied himself against the wall. Aaron’s head spun with as the smell of whiskey overwhelmed him, drowning out everything else. It hit him hard and he found himself reaching out to touch the wall as he too stumbled through the hall.
As quickly as it had affected him. it was gone. His world stopped spinning and he was alone in the hallway. He straightened himself out and hefted his bag higher on his shoulder before checking his watch. He hadn’t lost any time, he was still on track.
He hurried down the hall before any more ghosts could assault his senses, keys clutched firmly in his hand. He got to the door marked ‘426’ and paused. His hand hovered at the lock, not ready for what might happen when he crossed the threshold. They would be stronger here, those ghosts, but justice had to be served and he could only do that if he entered the room.
He opened the door and the musty smell of water damage assaulted him. This wasn’t a ghost, but reality. He now understood what the night receptionist had meant about this room needing repairs. He had no idea how long ago the flood in this room had happened, but it couldn’t have been long ago judging by the smell.
He almost expected the carpet to squelch beneath is shoes, but it was dry. Only the persistent smell of mildew and some marks on the wall hinted at what had happened. He dropped his bag on the floor and leaned back against the door, his eyes closed.
He opened them as that sweet perfume wafted around him, but this time he had fully replaced the groom from his visions. Her hands roamed over his body, her lips pushed against his willing them to open. He knew it wasn’t real, it couldn’t be, but it felt like it was.
He opened his eyes as her hands tugged at his belt buckle. He grabbed her wrists to stop her, amazed at how real she seemed. Wide blue eyes stared up at him. “Why’d you stop me, darling?”
What could he say to a ghost? Tell her to stop, that he wasn’t who she thought he was? It wouldn’t have mattered. She pressed her supple body against his and smiled. “Oh, fine, but don’t blame me if you get impatient.”
As quickly as she had appeared, she was gone, taking the smell of perfume with her and leaving him with the less enticing smell of the room as it was now. There was little he could do about how the encounter had left him feeling, but those emotions disappeared as the smell of whiskey returned once again.
“Becca!” He could hear the name shouted as the door shuddered against his back. He couldn’t believe he could smell the sound of whiskey from inside the room when the ghost was on the outside. “Goddamn it, Becca! I know you’re in there, you worthless whore!”
Aaron winced at the language as the door shook painfully against his back. He was almost afraid that it would break, but he knew that wasn’t going to happen. Once again, as suddenly as it had begun, it ended and he was left with just the smell of moldy carpet.
They were getting stronger, more real. He looked at the time. He had less than an hour to prepare the ritual. He opened his bag and began to pull out everything he needed. Blood. A bag of bones. Hair. One red candle. Two black candles. Dirt from a grave. Silver coins. He’d remembered everything he needed to bring about the justice that needed to be done.
He’d done his research. He drew the vevè with the blood and placed the red candle at its centre on top of the dirt and a black candle to each side. He checked the time again as that sweet perfume returned. She left him alone, but her leg curled out from the bathroom adorned with a bright red stiletto. “Hey, lover, are you ready for this?”
Aaron turned his attention back to the ritual. It required focus and these ghosts were distractions. As hard as they were to tune out, he had to focus on the now. On this room, on the ritual he had spent the last two years researching. If he failed, then the only relief he would get from these visions would be found in death – and he wasn’t even sure about that.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
This time, the ghost wasn’t banging on the door, he was shooting at it, weakening it before crashing through. A revolver held in his hand, tracing unknown symbols in the air as he stared at the empty bed, only for him it wasn’t empty. Aaron drew a sheet of paper from his jacket pocket, it was damp. Rain had managed to soak through his coat and smear some of the words but most of it was legible.
Aaron cast the bones and tried to interpret what he read there. It seemed right. There was one configuration he didn’t understand, but it wasn’t important. Everything else was right. This was time. He read through the ritual as the giggling bride jump on the bed wearing next to nothing.
“Come on, don’t make a girl wait.” She purred at him. Aaron ignored her. Just as he ignored the drunk man who wobbled where he stood, yelling at the same bed that she laid on. Neither of them saw each other, they were stuck in their own loops, their own times.
Aaron read the words as he had practiced a million times. He placed the coins, a payment to the spirits for helping him in this matter. This was his only chance. One year and one day. If he waited any longer then his chance would be lost. He pushed that fear from his mind and grabbed the lock of hair. He said the final words and burnt it in the centre candle.
As the hair burnt, the smell overpowered everything. Smoke drifted into his eyes, stinging them. He wiped away the tears to find that the bold bride had disappeared. So had the smell of mildew. He stared up to see the drunkard staring down at him, seeing him for the first time.
“Who the fuck are you?” He slurred, and the gun weaved its way to point at Aaron.
He had no idea if this was going to work, but he stood up slowly, holding his hands in the air. “I’m the man who is going to stop you from making a terrible mistake.”
“Only mistake I made was marrying that cheating bitch.” His gun waved back towards the bed. This time Aaron could see what he saw. It was the bride from his vision. She wasn’t young anymore and the man with her was not her groom. He looked nothing like the young man from those visions, no, this rough looking drunk beside him had once been that young man.
“Shooting them would still be a mistake,” Aaron assured him. “You need to trust me on this. It isn’t worth it.”
“She broke my heart.” He cried and looked down at the gun. “If she doesn’t love me then I won’t let her love anyone.”
“Darling, darling,” Becca cried from the bed. “You don’t want to do this. I’m so sorry. This was the first time. I’m so sorry.”
Tears ran black down her face, smearing her mascara as the man in the bed beside her tried to shrink into the mattress hoping to not be noticed. For the moment, his presence did go unnoticed as the drama played out before him.
“Don’t you lie to me, Becca.” He growled, his gun moving in her general direction as he took another swig from the whiskey bottle in his other hand and found it empty. He threw at the wall behind the bed eliciting a scream from the woman. “I know he’s not the first.”
Aaron stepped between them. He needed to stop this from happening and if this argument continued then there would be nothing he could do to stop it. “She’s right, though. You don’t want to do this. Don’t do this. Please.”
Whether it was the please or the sound of Becca sobbing behind him, he didn’t know, but Aaron breathed a sigh of relief as gun dropped.
“S’okay. I won’t kill her.” The man slurred as he stared at the stranger that had appeared in their midst.
“Thank you.” Aaron smiled and reached out to touch him only to realize that in this time, he was a ghost. His hand passed directly through the man’s shoulder before dropping away. His eyes went wide as he backed away from Aaron. He tripped over his own feet and landed hard.
All eyes were on Aaron as he stood there in shock. As far as he knew, he should be as real as anything else in this time. As he stared at his hand, he realized that he could faintly see the pattern of the carpet beyond it. He began to wonder what that one symbol the bones had made meant as the world turned to shades of grey around him.
He turned back towards the bed to see Becca screaming, but he couldn’t hear anything. She wasn’t looking at him, nor was the man with her. They both stared past him, through him. Aaron turned back to the fallen man to see him shouting something at Becca. He raised the gun and pointed it at her.
Aaron wished he could hear what they were shouting at each other, but he was the ghost to them now. Worse, he wasn’t just a ghost, he was nothing more than an invisible witness. He could do nothing to change the course of events, nothing to bring justice to this situation. He had failed.
He would have cried, but he had no tears left. This was it, for him. Everything would go back to the way it was. He’d go back to his own time and these ghosts would never let him rest until his death. From the corner of his eye he saw the movement.
“No, don’t!” Aaron screamed as the man turned the gun on himself, but no one could hear him. He could do nothing to stop this new chain of events either. Now he knew why he had faded away and he began to suspect what the bones had been trying to tell him.
He couldn’t hear the gun go off. An entire year of his life melted away as if it had never existed. Of course, it didn’t anymore. Aaron no longer existed in that time. He had died a broken-hearted drunk on the floor of a hotel in room 426 by his own hand.
Don't forget to check out the rest of the stories in the WFGC Hotel blog hop anthology. You can see the full list of stories in this blog hop anthology here: http://www.amberfyre.com/rhiannon-amberfyre-author/the-worlds-of-amberfyre/short-breaks/hotel-blog-hops/