Paul had always considered himself a brave person and up for any challenge. His bravado amongst friends was what had got him to where he was on this wet Saturday in October.
At the pub just over a month ago Alison had brought up the subject of haunted houses. Paul had poo-pooed the idea of ghosts and had ridiculed what he called the gullibility of his friends. Danny, an ardent believer in anything and everything supernatural, had suggested that if Paul was so sure of his convictions he should spend the night in a haunted house he had recently read about on-line. One by one all the friends agreed that if Paul was so brave he should do just that.
Paul braved out the suggestions. He told his friends that he thought ghosts were nothing more than the result of vivid imaginations, and nothing supernatural at all. He laughed at their opinions telling them that everything they called supernatural could be explained by science.
Julia, egged on by the others, had dragged out her mobile and found the Internet site for the house of which Danny had spoken. Someone suggested that she make Paul a reservation there for Halloween, and within minutes everyone had agreed to contribute to the night’s room cost. Paul shrugged and said that of course he would stay there all night. Julia made the booking.
Since that evening in the pub each of Paul’s friends had teased him about the upcoming night of fear in the haunted house’s most haunted bedroom. Up to that afternoon and moreover at check in Paul hadn’t worried at all.
Now, in the room as he sat on the bed looking around as dusk descended he felt just a little apprehensive, but not enough to make him jumpy. The journey to the hotel had felt befallen with bad luck. First of all he lost his train ticket, which his friends had also bought for him, and had to buy another at a grossly inflated price. Once he’d bought the ticket the clerk advised him that the train he wanted to travel on had been cancelled.
When Paul eventually arrived at the station closest to the hotel the courtesy transfer car was nowhere to be seen. He had tried calling the hotel but each time the call dropped out before anyone answered at the other end. Finally he had taken the only taxi available and had to suffer the driver’s tales of horror all the way. It was almost as if something was trying to stop him completing his challenge he thought then laughed at the idea.
When Paul checked in he was asked for his credit card number as a security deposit. Scrabbling through his bag and wallet he couldn’t find his credit card, which was strange as he always put it back in his wallet after use. Fortunately the receptionist believed him and accepted a lower amount in cash. With the receptionist’s help Paul immediately cancelled his card.
Finally the receptionist asked Paul to sign a disclaimer which released the owners of the hotel from any possible trauma Paul might experience during his stay. Clause number 13 included the possibility of accidental death. He was relieved of his mobile phone and informed that should he stay the whole night in the room a full refund of the booking and the security deposit would be made withing 48 hours. He laughed at the idea of being scared out of the room, although he wasn’t very happy at having to give up his phone for the night.
Paul got up off the bed and pulled back the curtains to take a peek out at the wet night. It was raining but there was no wind. Apart from the torrential rain the night appeared relatively calm. He left the curtains open and took in the almost rain-obliterated view for a few moments before making a small tour of the suite he was spending the night in. Nothing about the room suggested supernatural to him. It was decorated in an old fashioned, turn of the last century, style with various odd pieces but he didn’t think it merited the reputation it had obtained.
For the challenge to be completed in full Paul had to stay in the room from the time he checked in, through the night, to breakfast the following morning. This meant eating alone from the room service menu. Paul was happy in his own company but once he had ordered and eaten the dinner he wasn’t sure how he could fill up the rest of his time in the room. There was no television, he didn’t have his phone and hadn’t thought to bring a book. At nine o’clock he decided to turn in.
Up to that point nothing spooky or supernatural had happened and Paul was sure he would get a good night’s sleep and leave in the morning feeling refreshed from the change.
Throwing his clothes onto the chair beside the bed he grabbed his toothbrush and toothpaste and wandered into the bathroom. He had decided he wouldn’t bother unpacking and that meant his toiletries stayed in his overnight bag too.
He switched on the bathroom light with the pull chord and half expected something to jump out at him or for someone to be looking back at him from the mirror.
He squeezed the toothpaste onto the toothbrush and started brushing. As he spat into the sink he looked down to make sure his aim was good and took the opportunity to make sure everything was comfortable in his boxers. Looking back up and into the mirror he saw a pair of red eyes over his shoulder just as the lights went out. He laughed at the absurdity of it all.
“OK guys, cut it out. Red eyes, lights going out. Cliche: every one of them.” he said with another laugh, although this one more nervous than humourous. Staring into the mirror he noticed the eyes were moving towards him in the darkness.
“Bring it on…” he said as something cold touched his back…