The door closed behind him and locked instantly. Cosmetically, the room felt alien from the previous, a boring drywall surface replaced the glamorous wood, a partially stained cement floor replaced the fine wood and luxurious carpet, and fluorescent lights replaced the royal illumination for a sight impairing, flickering, ghostly aura. It was a shadow, an unwelcoming cousin, of the hotel lobby, hallways, and library. Even the scent was a rapid change, a staggering essence of filth and unwashed rooms.
He checked the handle of the door again, to make sure that his stay was demanded of him and it was of no use. The handle wasn’t giving into his forceful attempt. Cautiously, Patrick proceeded down the narrow hallway until he came to a crossway that seemed to bear the same results either direction. He took a moment to pause, as he checked the contents of the folder for any additional information. There weren’t any photos of this area that could have been used as a warning, but there was a post-it note on the back of the eagle photo reading, “The hallway is not of importance until you find number six.”
            Glancing up from the folder and with no idea of what to look for, Patrick scanned the area for a reference of what a number six could mean. There were fire exit signs, a broken elevator with a busted door, knocked over mop buckets, and a stained that looked a little too much like blood, none of which looked recent. He walked on with an eagerness to find an answer to the puzzle. There were markings on the nearby wall, a black panel with a faded set of numbers and text reading, “Rooms 1-6.” He took another glance at the aged blood colored stain and proceeded with a nervous footing. It was in his mind that he knew he didn’t want any more of this job, that the tasks he was to complete were not just a waste of time, but a weight on his safety and sanity.
            He stood before a crusty, paint faded, weathered wooden door that had the number six on the floor and a marker of where it would have been. The knob was nasty, with a layer of filth and metallic decay; it was something of a health hazard, a possible source of contagion. Patrick was disgusted and hesitated for a brief moment and sighed, heavily, “This is something not for me. What am I doing here?”
            “You’re the new guy right,” was heard from behind. It was a male, tall, pale and with very long blond hair. His stance, attitude, and gear were something out of a metal rock band from the 80’s. He stood staring at Patrick through dark broad aviator glasses, while smoking a cigarette. The scent of smoke was of a sudden realization; the man must have come from the opposite room without detection.
            “Uh, yes, I am the new guy. You mind explaining a few things. I mean this is out of the ordinary by far,” Patrick replied.
            “Hey, there is a lot I can’t explain.”
“By the way my name is Patrick, Patrick Brody. You mean you don’t mind the weirdness. I just saw a puddle of blood down the hall, and after seeing what I have I’m worried.”
            “Yeah, those stains are there for a reason though, not anything I can’t handle. Hey, I would like to elaborate but you said it best, there is a lot of weirdness. I used to wonder if it was really real, but now I just take it as it is, a paycheck, and a pretty big one too.”
            “I wonder if that would be possible, right now I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster that I would like to stop. I’m sorry, what is your name?”
             “Oh, wait man. I can’t give you my name. Haven’t you read the rules, I purposely blanked out your name, it is cool, but we go by ID numbers here. I mean, you don’t want me to announce that a Patrick Brody works for a company that deals with ghosts and monsters do you? That would make us both look foolish. So here you go, my ID number is 738105. I’ve been here for a year now, so if anyone knows the ropes around here it would be me.”
            “You mind telling me what is going on here exactly, ghost and monsters. I understood spirits.”
            “Yeah, ghost and monsters. I didn’t believe it too, only sang about them, but they are totally real. Something kind of messed up is that they aren’t the things we expect. You have no idea what you will encounter, but hey watch out for the headless ones. They are tough; it takes two magazines of an automatic to kill them. Hey, I know you don’t believe it but just go through that door and the next five or six after and you will see for yourself.”
            “Why so many doors?”
            “You think this place wants us here, okay look I spent too much time here already, it’s Saturday and I got a gig, catch you later,” said the rock star as he walked away.
            “Wait, what if I need your help,” Patrick quickly replied.
            “Consult your manual, it has all the information you need to do your job, see ya.”
            Patrick allowed the breath to pass through his mouth. The odd individual left too fast for him to even consider catching up, leaving him with the door and the mystery that was waiting to be revealed. He used the sleeve of his coat to turn the knob, destroying the fine material. The knob was stubborn, resisting what would normally do the trick, as it had obviously not been used in quite sometime. Flakes of rust feathered towards the water stained cement, while the bulk of it scrubbed off onto the fabric of his sleeve, but the effort was worth it.
            The door cracked open, exposing a typical hotel room. An empty room with a fallacy of decoration in a sad attempt to distract from the boring wallpaper, a spread of ruined carpet from wall-to-wall. A bed was placed at the wall and extended into the middle, while two end tables rested on either side. The style of the tables was laughable; it was a weak attempt at something Victorian with a false implication of elegance, a charm that would only work on those who had never seen true elegance. On top of the tables were glass lamps, blaring, fighting the darkness, and leaving only a faint shadow at the farthest corners.
            Patrick stepped into the room and noticed the lights. It was a curious find. He checked the table to see if there was any indication of a previous client.  There was only a small Bible, cute in size but traditional in image. There was some uneasiness in the sheets, along with an impression on the pillow, giving him reason to check behind. He eyed the dark corner with suspicion, but without any eagerness to investigate further. Instead his eye found another door opposite from the first, while glaring at the shadow he crept toward the door.
            “There are things you shouldn’t see, unless your mind is free,” came a whisper from the corner.
            Brody gave no response, as there was uncertainty, instead he continued towards the door with an outstretched arm. The knob was in better condition that the previous, but the same couldn’t be said about the door, there was an engraving of a fist telling of a time of intense aggression.
            “You’re one of those Shade guys, passing through like you have entitlement. You can just rot! You save nothing as there are more than what can be saved,” said the shadow. The white of his face peaked into the dim light. The white of his eyes shone through, exposing the full amount of fear he held for this belief. It was an image that was hard to fight, like staring into the eyes of a victim of an utmost fearsome ploy, invoking questions, but the desire to be saved was seemingly not there. Patrick took a deep breath and allowed his wired nerves to ease, “You live here?”
            “It was only to be a temporary stay. It wasn’t supposed to be permanent but that changed. That changed so rapidly, didn’t it old friend,” he said while clinching tightly to a glass pipe. A flare of light flashed from his other hand and Patrick quickly snapped back into his role, knocking the devices from the starved man. The frail fiend stared with sunken, dreadful eyes; the mouth was cavity-infested giving Patrick a better understanding of the degree of the addiction. It was a sad sight, but a touch of a feeling that the experienced psychologist remembered.
            “You don’t need it. You never did and still don’t. You have a family or any friends?”
“Family, they shunned me. They will do the same for you. What you see past that door will create for you the same fate.”
“Okay, I understand that you have an outlook on this that places the obstacles behind the door at fault. You have seen some horrific things, you must have, but you know that there have been others that managed to deal with it, cope.” Patrick placed too much emphasis on the last word that it triggered an angered response; something only an amateur in his profession would do. He regretted giving air to the cut and dry solution, but it was done, and all he could do was either sulk or let it go. Patrick found himself somewhere in between. It is never a good idea to diagnose your own psychosis, but Patrick was stubborn, materialistic, and obsessive of the image he projected and fully believed that he was capable of relieving himself from these depressive moments.
“Cope, you cannot cope with what labels you insane,” said the crack fiend. Like a splash of water to the face, the words were projected with such dire tone that it brought Patrick out of his self-obsessing.
The addict continued, “How do you explain a walking corpse, how do you explain a room that breathes, a floor that bleeds, things that no one should ever see. The sad thing is that it isn’t a movie, it is real and you can’t speak of it, you can’t live with it as you will forever have the fear.”
“You can still cope, the same way a victim of rape manages to. They fear, not of what you fear, but they fear the past and horrifying revelation that it could happen again, along with the emotional tear that it leaves behind,” Patrick said.
“A rape victim? I’m not a rape victim! Why the hell are you trying to make sense out of this? There is no making sense out of what is there.”
“I was comparing the ability to cope, it takes ambition and willingness to not allow the past to haunt, to not allow the images to torture you. You are in control of how much you’re affected by it, and getting high isn’t going to ease that, it will only make it worse. Why don’t you leave this place, step outside and check into rehab, you can get this under control.”
The man squirmed in his corner, “You make it sound so easy. You make it seem like it is just as simple as making a decision, but I can’t leave. Leaving is what will place me into a ward, and I am not insane.”
“You are not insane and I believe you, I have seen some bizarre things along my journey here, and all of them I will never speak of either, because I am aware of what little audience there is for it. I know, just as you know. Why punish us for it? Why allow them to win, if anything know the truth and learn to live comfortably with it. I mean its better to live and try than to die and fail, right?”
The hateful glare dissolved into something passive, almost agreeable. He rose from the pocket of darkness and exposed his ragged form; the drug had taken a lot from the man, rendering him into skin and bones. It might be too late for a full recovery, but Patrick would do everything he could. Helping people was what he loved to do, and from the warm feeling it brought a better sight on his ability. It was challenging, but that is what allowed him to be so passionate about it, as there was something significant at stake. A faint smile formed across the man’s mouth; unfortunately it exposed more of oral destruction.
“Now, I have to go in through that door, but I expect you to take me up on this okay. You know better than I whether or not I will come back, but I’m not afraid, not as much as I used to be. I want you to make an attempt okay. Here take this card; it has my number plus a number of a very good and very respectable rehab clinic. Call me ASAP, you got that.”
“Thanks, I’ll do it. What you said was right, but its hard, you will see, it will be very difficult and I really wonder… sometimes on how I can change it.”
“You can start by making that phone call, here is some change for a payphone, if you can find one these days,” the man took the change, plus the extra wad of cash into his boney hands before nervously stepping out the door. There was a moment of gratitude, but Patrick was modest and willing to do what was needed to get the man much needed help. He checked the hall to see that the frail figure wasn’t faking. The warm sensation of good washed over him in a series of awesome waves, but soon was replaced by the previous surge of unease. He was alone in a place that was a fierce enemy of sanity, and with only a vague warning to go off of. With a subtle but constant pulse of doubt, he went for the door.
This one was easier, minus the unnoticed lock, which gave a fight to come loose. There was another room, much like the previous but empty of any people or decorations. The bed was the same color as the previous; the carpet was the same texture and the end tables where identical. There was another door on the opposite wall. Patrick took a moment to clarify that it was a different room before proceeding towards the next door. His shaking hands cupped a knob that was in better condition than the previous, but was attached to a weathered door that has seen better days.
The door exposed another duplication of the previous room, minus some details. This time was there were no sheets on the bed; only a comforter with a large dark red stain. Patrick studied the sight and noticed that the blanket was nowhere in the room and that the blood was a recent addition. The light was too dim to analyze as there was only one lamp and dimmer than the previous. Relocating the lamp so that it shone on the mattress, there was a sudden air bubble in the gore. A slight gush of red flowed onto the material leaving Patrick with a spineless reaction. He cowardly moved away and prepped himself with a sense of comfort.
“I’m not seeing that,” he whispered. He felt his flesh chilling. A tingly feeling traveled through his spine, causing his nervous system to shiver as if it was freezing. His body convulsed, while he stared at the gruesome oddity with his back plastered to the wall. He couldn’t help but to whisper, “There is nothing strange, nothing to fear; I’m only on a mission to talk to… ghosts.”
He bolted towards another door to find an empty room, very similar to the previous cosmetically, but without the slightest indication of human presence. The carpet had to have been laid out in the past decades, as its color had faded into a dull grey. However, the stains of various body fluids and drinks were gone. There was another door and it looked a lot like the very first with a number six on it and a crusty knob. Patrick walked to it with wonder, but the door was treated as a safe zone, he predicted it was going to be there and that it would possibly send him to another similar place. He focused his attention on the foul knob and it opened with surprising ease. The door cracked open as soon as the knob was released, slowly pivoting on the hinges. There was an empty hallway, blanketed by blackness, riddled with rot, and damaged by time and neglect, along with an infestation of spider webs; the distance it traveled was hard to tell. The light from the pathetic electronic screen of his cell phone was his only guide, throwing a wave of dim pale light upon the nearest objects. Patrick stepped through the doorway, proceeding further, and his only known comfort locked behind him.
Patrick gulped but continued without the desire of checking the door to see if it was just a clever trick brought on by the crack head. The intent was there but the surrounding nothingness disoriented his direction, further killing any desire to push deeper, but he couldn’t just stay where he was. He used his hand to feel for a wall, reaching across the unknown, a wet substance made contact with his fingertips. Jerking his hand back the dim light revealed that it wasn’t blood, but some sort of clear liquid. He continued to guide himself along the wall, which served as an anchor to his safety. He tapped on the wall like a blind man trying to find his way; he tapped into a mess of filth; spider webs, pockets of cool air which turned out to be craters along the wall, something hairy and moving, and the occasional lantern. The latter find was a symbol of possible clarity, but age had rendered the once useful device into an icon of satire. He cleaned off the dust and the cobwebs to find nothing working on the wall mounted antique. The next two lanterns were the same way, scorning the belief of anything working in this abyss. The fourth one was in better shape; the surface of the bronze creation was not as dusty and aged, revealing signs of recent use. There was actually an indication of it being pretty modern as it had a series of electronic buttons. Nothing amazing as it was just a simple button, but a definite change in cosmetic and acute design in comparison with the others.
            A slight push on the tiny button washed the hallway with waves of bright light, strong enough to fight the shadows of the farthest end of the long, never ending hallway. A wave of cockroaches moved along the wall, taking shelter in the various holes and craters, the rats were a little braver and waited for his presence to run scared. The spiders were plump in size from all of the insects, and looked capable of moving up on the food chain possibly feeding on much bigger game. Patrick walked cautiously, avoiding anything that looked remotely harmful, while trying to ignore the scent of dust and rotten wood.
            At the end of the hall was a door, cracked just a little at the hinge to reveal what the curious eye was willing to see. The light from the very distant lamp had dissolved into a faint shadow, hiding his presence from the things that he observed. The sight was of a kitchen area lit by a strong pale light, the counters were covered with garbage and unwashed plates, along with body parts and blood, which dripped from the island. On the island piece was a being of pure unbelief, rolls after rolls of fat constructed the body; stubby, bloated, and infected legs were poised in the air. The skin was pale; revealing the constricted veins that spanned across the grotesque form. There was another that squatted in between the legs, shifting fold after fold, searching for a sweet spot to fest from; but it had no head, neither did the other. An indication of where a head used to be was all that was there, a bloated neck with a set of teeth that constantly throbbed as if breathing.
            The sickening, pseudo sexual action went horribly wrong when the neck of the squatted thing expanded, parting into folds like that of a man eating plant. Without sparing a second, the damnable creature began shredding through the fat, all the while aiming for a certain pleasure. Blood sprayed along the walls like that of a frantic water hose; chunks of fat and gunk were devoured. The poised victim screamed, without a mouth, it screamed a horrid stomach flipping sound, while the other consumed it as if it had starved for years. Patrick couldn’t believe his eyes; he stumbled against the wall, making a sound that was sure to trigger a reaction. He didn’t care to glance back. He didn’t want to look at it while in motion, as the mere idea of something that large moving was gross. He bolted down the hallway, not caring for the occasional web, not thinking about the startled collection of rats, he ran for his life towards door. His hand on the door, he gave one peak and saw only a blur of shadow, he didn’t wait for it to become clear. He opened and for a moment doubted his safety, and he stumbled onto the floor.
            The floor was cold and damp, not like the carpet he previously had known to be there. His mind was disoriented, it was possible that he passed out but he somehow managed to stay alive. His hand moved to feel along the floor only to cup a handful of something wet and gritty. His scared eyes instantly opened to find that he was in a field of grass. It was a front yard of some sort, with a large house of decay. The front door was closed, sealing him away from the encounter with only the protection as strong as wood. The brick exterior of the house was the victim of a strong over growth of vines, while the color had faded into a dull mix of brown. The wooden shutters had collapsed and the windows boarded up hiding the horror that was within the decrepit walls. 
            Patrick brushed off his clothes and turned to see his car parked in the driveway. It was curious, but a relief as he didn’t want to stay here any longer, though he had little idea of where he was. He opened the car door and stepped into his ride, instantly checking the backseat for any unknown intruder. He was skeptical of his own surroundings. He pinched himself to make sure he could feel pain and though it was clear through pain he wasn’t dreaming, there was something that needed clarification. He needed to know if what he saw was real, but not now. Fear detoured him from instantly opening that front door. He sat thinking about the crack head, about what he said; it made no sense for a wooden door to shield him from what chased him. He grew tired of waiting in indecision, hoping that his fear would subside, and with a spike of encouragement he went for the door to find a solid wall behind it. Cold to the touch, the surface was real but behind it there was a faint thud, evidence that there was reality in what happened. For a moment he shared thought with the crack head, it was maddening to even believe it, but the facts were constantly presenting themselves, rudely awakening his known-to-be true biases.
            Patrick retreated to his car and backed out of the driveway and used the GPS navigation system to help find his way back to a known highway. The house was in a forgotten pocket of land along 514, a street that after many needless lights would take him to Fifth Avenue. He followed with his own known directions without any sudden surprises, which he was expecting. He shared the idea that he did fear more than ever now, as he didn’t know what to fear. He couldn’t allow his own eyes to be a ground of sanity, as apparently things could change instantly, and it was something he couldn’t find a reason for. There was truth and an obvious purpose but it was so hell bent and way too backwards to even attempt with a clear mind. He didn’t doubt his ability, as he was sure he could do it, but it was the job itself, the overall effect it would eventually have on him. He dreaded the very thought of continuing.

Owner of Dedman Productions, a small production company that focuses on bringing entertainment in both fiction and film.

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