Creepypasta.com is pretty much defunct now, since I guess the webmaster got tired of running it, so I shuffled on over to Terror Tortellini and its companion message board to get my fix of shit that keeps me up at night and makes Rob threaten to revoke my internet privileges.
ANYSHIT. The message board is running a May Anecdote Contest, where forum members are invited to submit a short anecdotal story for a meaningless yet awesome prize, and I decided to submit a fictionalized account of an anecdote I tell all my friends when I've had too much to drink and talk gets spooky. The story will most likely not win the contest (it exceeds the length suggestion, as I am irreversibly verbose, but you already knew that, didn't you?), but I thought it would be a fun writing exercise and I never get tired of telling this story.
The following story is
The White Inn
“No,” I said. “It's Friday; why would I want to spend all night hanging out with you at work?”
“Because,” Jeannie said, flashing me her man-eater grin, “the motherfucker's haunted.”
Which settled that.
I tucked my keys into my pocket around nine and left the dorm, making it downtown just in time to meet Jeannie for her nightly break. We stood on the sidewalk outside the hotel, passing a clove cigarette back and forth, the sweet smoke whirling away into the September air.
“It's not exactly The Overlook,” I deadpanned, and I was right. The White Inn was a local landmark, built back at the turn of the century, but it lacked the beauty and character of most old buildings. Living up to its name and not an inch more, it was a three-story cube with a pillared porch. Even from the sidewalk, even in the dim glow of the streetlight, I could see the many layers of once-white paint chipping away, sometimes pulling away from the structure in long scabby strips.
Jeannie passed me the cigarette, blew a smoke ring. She had started working the night shift at the inn a couple of nights a week solely to keep herself in cigarettes, peach schnapps, and the occasional joint. “Nah, it sucks. Some decent stories though. If any of them are true.”
I took the last drag, pocketed the butt, and followed Jeannie inside.
“Parlor,” she said, gesturing to the left. “Sitting room, front desk, obviously. Dining room over here, and kitchen past that.”
I wandered through the first floor, rapidly losing patience. The motherfucker was many things, but haunted wasn't one of them. Jeez, Jeannie should have known that. One of our earliest roommate bonding experiences had been realizing we each got the same spinal frisson while working stage crew at the school's oldest theater where a long-dead actress was rumored to move props and pinch sopranos. Ghosts were palpable, we'd always agreed, and spiritual energy could be tasted on the back of the tongue, like batteries or bad wine.
Not that it wasn't spooky in there, all alone, at night. Even the soft rubber of my sneakers echoed on the hardwood floors. The parlor was full of mirrors that threw my face at me from every direction, and with only the check-in desk lamp to light the whole first floor, the effect was eerie. The sitting room boasted furniture that was worn and used enough to give off a musty smell, but not old or pristine enough to qualify as antique. There were too many pieces crowded into the room and shadows swam around my shoulders.
The White Inn got just enough business to stay open year after year, and once Alumni Weekend rolled around, it would be fair bursting with guests. But there were stretches of emptiness, and this was one of them.
“No guests at all?” I asked, propping my elbows on the front desk.
“Nope,” Jeannie confirmed. She was behind the desk, collecting a heavy key ring from a drawer. She held up the keys triumphantly. “That's why I can give you the grand tour.”
She led me upstairs, and then, only then, did I realize why she had brought me here.
At the first landing, I felt it: the tingle started in my neck and worked down my spine till it felt like all the tiny bones were encased in an icy-hot sleeve. The frisson from the old theater; the pressure, the shift in the air, the hint of electricity, the undeniable feeling that all was not well.
She glanced at me, the wicked grin gone. “Did you feel that?” we said in unison. It would have been funny, a real Scooby-Doo moment, if either of us had possessed enough extra breath to laugh. All the oxygen had gone out of the air, as though it was Everest we were climbing instead of a set of creaking stairs in a small-town hotel.
The second and third floors were all guest rooms, and as such, they were illuminated twenty-four-seven by overhead fluorescents. Jeannie's olive complexion went sallow as we reached the top of the steps and ducked into second floor corridor, the light bleaching her away, flattening the gloss of her black Velma Kelly bob. I looked one direction, then the other. The hallway to the left was short, holding only four doors; the righthand hallway stretched further and featured a sharp corner halfway down.
“Guess someone died here,” Jeannie said, gesturing to the first door on the left. “Can't remember how, it'll come to me.”
She was speaking in the hushed tones usually reserved for libraries and funerals. “The really good one is the other way. A guy stabbed his boyfriend and left him in the bathtub. He was halfway to Tucson before they caught up with him. Roger says he knows a guy who can lead a séance, but since I don't think Roger can even spell 'unquiet dead'...”
She trailed off, watching me stare down the lefthand hallway. There was nothing there. Four doors. Fluorescent lights. Non-descript brown carpet, the better to hide stains. Boring daisy wallpaper. I stared. The tingle in my spine faded, leaving me with a run-of-the-mill adrenaline spike and shaky hands.
Finally, she bonked my shoulder. “Come on. The best one's this way.”
She went right. I followed behind her, trailing my hand along the daisy wallpaper.
Jeannie disappeared around the corner. I paused, and in the instant I did, I heard the gasp. A sharp intake of breath, nearly covered by the shuffle of our feet along the brown carpet, but unmistakable. A gasp. Not from ahead. From behind.
Just as there is nothing so terrifying as sounds behind a closed door, there is also nothing quite so disheartening as really not wanting to turn around and knowing that you must.
I whirled, staring wildly down the short lefthand hallway. Fluorescent lights. Four closed doors. Brown. Daisies. The normalcy of the scene stabbed at me, the silence pounding against my eardrums. It wasn't right, there was something there, my brain insisted, but my senses told me no, actually, there wasn't, and the argument between reason and panic made my breath come short and fast.
I heard it, I thought, trying to look everywhere at once, certain I had missed something, certain that any minute the gasping thing would peel itself into view and reach a wasting arm for me... My spine throbbed. I know I heard it.
I gaped blankly at the mundane scene before me. There wasn't even a wrongness of angles, a trick of light that I could blame my fear upon. The hallway looked like any hallway in any not-quite-The-Overlook in any town in America. But the gasp echoed in my ears, the high, sharp inhalation of breath, and the plain hallway seemed unspeakably sinister for its lack of monstrosity.
And then, my eyes twitched, and refocused before I even realized what they were seeing. The hallway shifted into blurs and my gaze tightened on the thing an inch from my face.
A spider. White.
Hanging from the ceiling on a nearly invisible filament was a white spider. It was level with my nose; another step and I'd have swallowed it, but it didn't swing in the wake of my heaving breath, didn't busily work its little white spider legs. It hung there, not even a half inch from leg to leg.
It had been there the whole time, I realized, and my unease on finding the hallway empty had been justified; I'd been so close to the white spider my eyes hadn't been able to focus on it, but they must have registered its presence on some level. My nearsightedness had always been a minor inconvenience, but this time, it had scared me half to death.
The spider hung motionless, an opal pendulum. Its back legs clung to its webbing, but the rest hung down, slack and loose. Its eyes were either absent or so white that they couldn't be distinguished from its pearlescent little back.
I stared at the white spider, not daring to jerk away. Spiders don't gasp, but God doesn't play dice either, and I had no idea what it meant to find this-
“Are you coming or what? Christ!”
Jeannie poked her head around the corner in the righthand hallway. Either I was in too much shock to show it, or she assumed the fluorescent lights had worked their unflattering magic on me, because she didn't seem to realize anything was wrong.
I looked back, not even a little surprised to see that the spider was gone.
“Yeah, I'm coming.”
Jeannie showed me the righthand hallway's sights, opening up a suite at the end where two men had entered and only one had left. We wandered through the third floor, then took a trembling, rattling elevator (devoid of blood, thank you very much) down to the lobby. We drank sodas from the machine at the front desk and Jeannie regaled me with rumor after rumor.
“The boyfriends are a sure thing, and so was Mrs. White,” Jeannie said. “George showed me the newspaper clippings from those. But all the rest might be crap. You know how certain places get a rep. Like every movie theater, every stage, every hotel, must be crawling with ghosts if you believe all the stories. Just sells more tickets and beds, I guess.”
I was flicking the tab back and forth on my pop can, but I looked up, something sticking in my mind like a fly in a web. “The boyfriends.”
“Yeah, the murdering gay guys? True fact. Want another cigarette? I'm ready for some air.”
I put my hand on her arm to stop her from getting up. “You said something else. The boyfriends and who?”
“Oh! Mrs. White,” she said, waggling her eyebrows. “That's the one I couldn't remember before.”
“True fact?” I asked, my mind winding up the stairs, into the hall, turning to the left...
“Legit. Not the owner's sister, but maybe her sister-in-law? I can't remember,” Jeannie said. She blew her bangs out of her eyes, thinking. The wisps floated back down like spider silk. “Cousin, maybe. She killed herself while she was visiting. Anyway, that was on the second floor, too. Top of the stairs.
“Damn,” she said, slapping the desk. “I should have opened that one up too. Want to go back?”
My hands fell away from the poptop and I gripped the desk. “What happened to her?”
“Are you okay?” Jeannie looked me over. “Did you see something?”
“Just-” I licked my lips. I was staring at Jeannie, but not really seeing her. Instead, I knew there something just out of my focus, an answer I could not yet see. “Just tell me what happened.”
“I told you. She killed herself. It's not a great story, though, because no one really knows why. Just one night while she was staying here, visiting her sister or sister-in-law or whatever, she went up to bed and then... next day, they found her.”
“Where? How?” I whispered, a tiny gasp of air that I barely heard myself. Jeannie answered-
“Just outside the first room on the left. There's a pipe in the ceiling under the particle board.”
-but I found that my sight had shifted and I already knew-
“She hung herself.”