Jenna and Deedee stood in front of the aged castle-like hotel, looking upward toward the turrets. The building dated back to the 1800s and held a disturbing history. Until fifty years ago, it served as an insane asylum with many reported deaths. The repurposing and remodeling of the old structure had seemingly carried some of its tainted past into its current use; reports of the building’s past patients currently taunt and haunt the hotel’s overnight guests.

“You seriously want to spend a night here?” Deedee grumbled.

“Uh, yeah,” Jenna responded, then thumped her friend on the shoulder. “You can’t wimp out now. Wes is getting us checked into a room.”

Deedee sighed and tapped her foot. She toyed with her long, blonde hair while staring up at the turrets. A shadow moved in the far right window and caught her attention. She squinted, then shifted her gaze toward Jenna.

“Did you see that?” Deedee pointed upward. “There’s something up there!”

Jenna looked up but spotted nothing. She shrugged a shoulder. “No. But, if someone is up there, it must be an employee. Get over it, Dee.”

Deedee crossed her arms over her chest and stared into her freckled face friend. Jenna’s short, dark hair blew with vigor in the wind. Her untamed hair appeared as brusque as her personality.

“Okay, ladies,” Wes approached while wearing a warm, toothy smile. “Get a load of this—our room number is thirteen!” He laughed and scratched at his stubbled chin.

“I don’t care what room number we got, but I ain’t sharing a bed with you,” Jenna retorted.

Wes rolled his eyes, then bent to collect his overnight bag.

“Relax, Jenna. I’m sleeping on the sofa. There are two doubles, so you and Deedee can have them.”

The trio carried their luggage to their room and spent a bit of time getting settled in. They browsed the grounds before heading into town to shop for Halloween costumes since later that evening they planned to attend The Hallows Hotel’s Halloween party.

Inside the Halloween shop, Deedee opted for a Roman goddess costume with a gold, flowy dress. Wes grabbed a pirate outfit with a hat, sword, and an eyepatch. Jenna didn’t want any character, in particular, so she gathered fixings to create her own. She bought a black cape, black and white make-up for her face, and her favorite must-have was a bloodied knife.

“I wonder why we couldn’t get any more than three tickets for tonight’s party. Jeff and the gang would have loved to attend,” DeeDee said.

“Don’t be an ingrate, Dee,” Jenna chided. “The girl that sold them to me only had three tickets left. She said it’s a marketing thing—the hotel creates a limited amount, which piques the interest and creates a sense of urgency for the following parties. So, they always sell out.”

Upon their arrival back at the hotel, darkness had fallen. Deedee’s anxiousness and sense of dread grew. The friends readied themselves for the party, then headed down to the ballroom with their admission tickets.

Several fog machines emitted dense vapor throughout the ballroom, making it difficult to see the party room in its entirety. The lighting was minimal, which added to the creepy ambiance. Faux burning torches and black lights were the sole suppliers of the lighting source. There were black cloth and spider webs draped around the stage, and the DJ was dressed as a vampire.

DeeDee’s eyes widened as she scanned the ballroom. “Wow, they went all out with decorations.”

“It’s legit!” Jenna beamed. She raised her arms in the air, snapped her fingers to the beat of the music, and swayed her hips.

Wes looked toward the entrance and noticed a few hotel guests inquiring about the party, but they were turned away.

An hour or so passed, and the ballroom was notably warmer. The dancing party-goers, combined with the numerous hot machines pumping out the fog, generated enough heat to cause an uncomfortably toasty room.

“C’mon.” DeeDee wiped her brow. “Let’s step outside for a few minutes to cool off.”

“Good idea!” Wes agreed. He scanned the room and found Jenna, dancing away with two guys. He motioned with a hand for her to follow.

Jenna caught up with her friends who were grabbing a serving of zombie juice from the punchbowl.

“What’s up?” she asked as she poured herself a glass.

“It’s too damn hot in here!” Wes let out a harsh breath. He removed his hat and eyepatch then used his sleeve to wipe the sweat from his forehead.

The three friends gulped down their punch then headed out the door. Wes sprinted down the steps with his arms in the air. He released an exaggerated sigh, then tossed his hat and eyepatch aside and sat on the bottom step. He leaned forward and placed his head between his legs.

Jenna crinkled her nose. “It may be cooler out here, but it stinks!”

“You aren’t kidding!” Wes agreed. “It’s—It’s making me nauseous.”

“And dizzy!” Jenna added.

Photo by John and Chris Trovato

DeeDee looked up at the castle-like building and realized her vision was affected. She then surveyed the area in front of the hotel and spotted something unusual. Her brows furrowed.

“Uhhhh…guys?” She pointed into the distance. “Why are people laying on the ground over there?”

Wes looked up and Jenna shifted her gaze to see what DeeDee was pointing at. A greenish fog filled the air in the near distance, making it difficult to see with clarity. About a dozen body-like figures were strewn upon the ground. The mysterious murk edged its way toward them.

“They’re probably characters. Ya know, hired by the hotel,” Jenna offered.

“I don’t know about th—”

A yelp pierced the air and interrupted DeeDee. A man dressed as a doctor emerged from the colored fog and staggered toward the three friends.

“It hurts!” he yelled. “It’s toxic! Get out of here before it reaches you!” The man dropped to the ground and fell silent. His skin, reddish and bubbling, was peeling away from his arms and face, revealing muscles and bones.

DeeDee’s hands flew up to her mouth to stifle a scream. “Oh my God, oh my God!”

Wes, already standing, shouted for Jenna and DeeDee to follow him back inside. The three friends bolted up the steps and closed the doors behind them. Wes dashed over to the DJ and grabbed his microphone.

Wes’s announcement caused panic. Many party-goers dashed out of the ballroom to head for their rooms upstairs. A few skeptics headed outside but immediately collapsed in the engulfing greenish cloud. The strange haze continued to seep through the cracks of the doorways.

“Come with me,” a voice muttered in Wes’s ear. He turned and realized it was the vampire-costumed DJ speaking to him. “I know a way out. There’s an access panel on the floor in the back corner of this room; it leads to underground tunnels.”

Wes nodded his head, then grabbed DeeDee and Jenna by their hands.

“Come on!”

The three friends followed the DJ into a dark, unused portion of the ballroom. He removed his vampire cloak, then bend down and grabbed the corner of a decorative carpet. “By the way, I’m Victor,” he called out.

DeeDee and Jenna whipped their heads around the room, unsure if following Victor was the wisest idea. Party-goers nearest the ballroom’s entrance began screaming out in pain. The green gloom had breached the ballroom.

Victor peeled back the carpet, revealing a flush, metal access panel. He lifted the hatch open, then looked at the others. “Hurry, climb down the ladder. It’s dark, but I can use my cell phone light once we’re all down there.”

“How do you know about the underground tunnels?” Wes asked.

“I worked for the construction company that turned this old structure from an asylum into the hotel. DJ’ing is just my side-gig.”

Screams of pain continued to fill the air.

“We don’t have any more time,” Victor warned. “We’ve got to get down there and close the hatch. It’s airtight, so we’ll be safe. This particular tunnel leads to the other two buildings. They haven’t been remodeled yet—and I suppose it’s not safe to go above ground in those areas either, but there is a subterranean safe room at the midway point. We can wait it out in that area.”

“A safe room?” DeeDee questioned.

“Yeah, rumor has it that it was built to house the extreme crazies.”

In the ballroom behind Wes and the others, pandemonium broke out. Party-goers ran amok and screams suffused the room. Jenna pressed a hand to her stomach as nausea set in. DeeDee wiped at her eyes to try and clear her blurred vision.

“Come on,” Wes said as he stepped onto the ladder that led down into the dark abyss. “I’ll go first and will help from down there. Victor, you help them from above, then come after them.”

“Roger that—but hurry!”

DeeDee hiked up her gold, flowy dress, then inched her way down the ladder. She shook and cried, but felt relieved when she reached the bottom. Jenna tossed her bloodied knife-prop aside, then cussed the entire way down the ladder.

“Okay, Vic, the girls are down,” Wes announced. He looked upward toward Victor. Though the ballroom was dim, it offered enough lighting to reveal an evil smile spreading across Victor’s face as he closed the hatch, locking them inside the underground chamber.

Victor stood up and dusted off his hands. He turned toward the ballroom’s entrance and raised his hands to his mouth to form a sort of megaphone.

“Okay, everyone—they’re in the tunnels. Now turn those foul stink-machines off. And dump that tainted punch before someone accidentally drinks it.”

The man dressed as the doctor approached Victor.

“Hey, Vic!” He winced as he peeled off the sticky flesh-like make-up from his face. “How long do you think they’ll survive down there?”

Victor shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, nor do I care. I’m sure the tunnel’s dark dwellers will find them before long.”