“So, what do you think?”
Matthew flashed his fiancée an enthusiastic smile. A room in an actual castle, with original features, stone walls, king-size bed, booked for a steal on some website. Perfect for their pre-wedding getaway.
Stephanie gave him a reproachful glare and tentatively stepped into the room. There were freezing draughts attacking her from every angle, cobwebs strung from the rickety beams and a carpet of dust on every surface. She creaked over to the window, where the tumultuous storm raging outside was leaking inside beneath the leaded pane. The room’s amber lamps flickered eerily as the gales pummelled the power lines.
“Are you out of your mind? This place is a hellhole. It’s raining inside. I’m not staying here.”
She slumped on the bed, wincing at the lumpy mattress.
“Oh come on Steph, this is a real castle! It’s… you know… rustic?”
Stephanie rolled her eyes.
“Just give it a chance, just one night,” Matthew pleaded. He trudged over to the bed, dropping the heavy suitcase at his feet. The floorboards groaned. He sat beside his fiancée and put an arm around her shoulder. “Just one night, my princess, please?”
She let out a long, slow breath and smiled feebly.
“OK, it gets one chance. You did go to all this trouble after all. But if I’m not happy in the morning, I’m out the door.”
She didn’t tell Matthew that it was more than just the drab décor and puddles on the windowsill repelling her. This entire place gave her the heebie-jeebies. Maybe it was the grotesque gargoyles leering at them from the parapets as they arrived. Maybe it was the creepy, hunchbacked receptionist appearing out of nowhere when they rang the bell, making her jump in fright. Maybe it was the polished suits of armour and spotless medieval weapons adorning the hotel hallways. But she couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that this sinister castle gave her.
Having arrived late and held hostage by the horrendous weather, Stephanie and Matthew decided to get an early night. In their icy cold room, the couple huddled under the moth-eaten duvet. Whilst Matthew drifted off into a snore-filled slumber, Stephanie remained wide awake, listening to the roaring tempest rattling the shoddy windows. Every unexplained creak, knock or rustling sound made her skin crawl. Without curtains, the windswept trees in the grounds cast monstrous shadows on the walls that shrunk and stretched and danced. The draughty coldness seemed to seep straight through the threadbare blankets, keeping her shivering for hours. It was some time before she fell into a fitful sleep.
Steph awoke with a start. She sat up straight, panic-stricken, panting. Residual images of her violent nightmare haunted the darkness. Her hair was stuck to her damp face, the duvet twisted and pushed aside from where she had tossed and turned. She urged her heart to calm, taking deep breaths until the nightmare faded and her eyes adjusted to the dimly-moonlit room. Apparently the storm had finally abated. Matthew didn’t stir beside her, but Stephanie remained disquieted. Something was wrong.
A wet drop hit the back of her hand. Great, so now the ceiling was leaking too. Another drip on her hand, a drip on her forehead. Repulsed, she switched on the small beside lamp to get a better view of the damage. She looked at her hand, the bedsheets. She froze. She screamed.
It wasn’t rainwater falling.
It was blood.
Emma H, age 26, 22/08/2017
I’m several months late with this #writephoto entry – Sue’s Inside Out photo prompt was first posted back in May!:
I had this story idea but didn’t find the time to write it up in the designated week; three months later I have finally got round to it 🙂