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The hotel room seemed decent enough. White towels neatly folded in the chrome rack beside the tub. Two queen-sized beds with white sheets folded over the quilt to reveal a set of fluffy pillows. All in all, despite a faint stench of cigarettes, a small burn hole in the lampshade, and a weird-looking circular spot on the gray-green carpet, the place looked like any other two-star hotel.
I unzipped my suitcase, which I had tossed with my purse onto the bed nearest the hotel door, and shook out my silk cocktail dress. The escort service said Mr. C. wanted a little black dress and strappy stilettos. I was to look long, lean, and head-turning.
I could do that.
Into the bathroom I went, taking my own perfumed soap and shampoo, and readied myself for a night of music, drink, dancing, and lots of sex. I’d be paid $4,000.00 for the night. Honestly, I’d have done it for free if it weren’t how I made a living. I had been Mr. C.’s escort on a number of occasions when he flew into Washington, D.C. for a conference, and I was in danger of falling for him since he was single and rich as hell, and could make me come like nobody’s business.
But it wouldn’t be professional of me to relay my feelings, and I’d probably scare him off. Especially if he found out I wasn’t a wealthy executive’s daughter who had fun playing call girl, as I’d told him, but the product of a drug-addicted mother and some guy she’d fucked for money to fund her next hit. At seventeen I clawed my way out of the projects and went back only once to get my sister out of there.
All that information would be too much for Mr. C., who wanted me because I was witty and sexy, and he didn’t care about my past anyway.
The hotel’s sink and mirror stood separate from the bathroom. I hummed as I put on my makeup while the TV talked to itself. At one point the voice changed to a quick sound of someone shouting over female screams, but when I glanced at it in the reflection of the mirror, the news guy was there droning on. Must have been a commercial.
The cheap hotel bit was something I did each time I came to D.C. for a client. A bed was a bed, and hot water was hot water, in my opinion. And if I were staying overnight, I stayed in a place where breakfast was free. I wasn’t picky. Most of my money went to maintain my sister in a mental ward, and it was damned expensive. Her doctor thought psychosis might run in my family. Thank goodness I was perfectly normal.
The dress slipped over my head and down my body like a lover’s gentle hands. My legs were firm, tanned and smooth and needed no pantyhose. I spent a moment swinging my hips to make the flirty skirt fly out and reveal my thighs. If I leaned all the way over, my buttocks would peek from the black lace thong. Mr. C. would certainly like this. I might dance for him tonight.
Still humming, I wound my hair in a chignon and reached for my mother-of-pearl comb. He would pull the comb out later to watch my hair, which romance novels would describe as a flowing chestnut mane, spill down around my back and shoulders. He liked to run his long fingers through it and have it brush over his face and chest as I rode him like a rodeo champion. Oh, yeah.
I smiled, and in the mirror’s reflection I saw the black spot on the carpet slide toward the television, furtive and quick.
My hands froze with the comb halfway tucked into my chignon. I swung around, heart skipping. Yes, the spot had moved. And it was bigger.
Formerly about the diameter of a tuna can, it was now an inch wider. And instead of being a solid color, a spattering of dark red filled the center. The spot almost looked like it had depth.
What the crap?
No. I must not have seen it right the first time. Really, I hadn’t paid much attention. I turned back to the mirror—which had to be warped—finished tucking in the comb, and ran a hand over the glass. It seemed smooth and straight enough. Something was wrong with it, though. Stains on a hotel carpet didn’t just move and grow.
Whatever. Time to get going. I brushed my teeth, slid Sexy Ruby lipstick over my lips, dabbed musky floral perfume behind my ears, and swept all my toiletries back into my cosmetic bag, which I then tucked back into my suitcase along with my day clothes. I wouldn’t be coming back here tonight to sleep. Mr. C. liked waking up with me in his muscular arms, and that suited me fine. He didn’t snore, and morning sex started my day off just right.
Pulling my stilettos from the suitcase, I sat on the edge of the bed and spent a moment studying the spot near the TV. The damned thing had gotten even wider, and the strange three-dimensional look had become more prominent. The dark red glow seemed almost to pulse.
The lighting in here sucked, especially with the light bulb burns on the green shade hanging askew on the lamp. What could it be? Coffee? An ink spill from someone’s cheap pen, still wet and puddling? Not likely. Something dripping from the ceiling? I looked up. Nope. But something had to make it widen to at least six inches.
Fire? Oh God, maybe there was a fire downstairs. I stepped over to it and hovered my hand over the top to feel for heat, then leaned down with my hands on either side of it and sniffed for smoke. The old carpet smelled only of feet and cleaning solution. And, although it looked like it had depth, I could still see carpet strands throughout. I wasn’t about to touch the thing to be sure. It was just too creepy-looking.
Time to go. I went back to the bed, slipped on the strappy sandals and then stood, now six inches taller. I strutted over to the mirror for one last full-body check. The back of my dress, crisscrossed with thin straps, hung open almost to my waist. The front was totally different, with a modest neckline that barely showed cleavage. No sense in flaunting the girls until Mr. C. was ready to play with them. Just for fun, I shook my breasts like I would for him tonight. They teased softly beneath the silk.
I was ready.
Heading toward my purse and suitcase on the bed, I sidestepped to the right to grab the remote to turn off the TV, and the floor flew up at me. I landed with a grunt on my hands and one knee and looked down.
My right leg had disappeared up to my knee into the spot. Yes, my leg had fallen through the floor in this dickwad of a hotel. I could only stare, trying to wrap my mind around what had just happened.
Then, I got pissed. You’d better bet the front desk would hear about this. Two-star or not, no hotel should be this lax in their room inspections. Fury made me jerk my leg to pull it out of the hole, and what felt like a million needles stabbed deep into my flesh. The agony was instant and devastating, and I threw back my head and shrieked, then cried out again, a high-pitched wail. A detached and insanely calm part of my mind remarked that I had never heard that primal scream coming from my own mouth. Warm liquid—blood?—rushed down my legs.
Splinters in the wood. That’s what it was. They’d have to cut around my leg to get me out.
The slivers pierced deeper. Unable to control myself, I screamed again.
The door seemed a mile from me. My purse holding the cell phone lay on the other bed, several feet from my reach. I pelted air into my lungs and yelled for help. Distantly I counted. Six. Seven. Ten. Fourteen. Twenty-two times I let loose with pleas. Finally, my voice cracked to a hoarse whisper.
The hole had widened, and now I could look down into it. Hook-like things, no, they were only splinters, I told myself, the splinters from the floor boards had stabbed me. Blood dripped freely. Dark red light pulsed far below. Something was alive down there.
I tried to extract my leg again but the splinters moved, and fresh terror produced breathy croaks from my throat. They were hooks and they weren’t made of wood. They were alive and pulled downward. A sound like wet ripping cloth joined the excruciating pain. My skin. The hooks ripped down my skin in a slow, leisurely manner. A deep, guttural moan escaped me.
Then they stopped, and I pulled, but they had dug in too far. It was an impasse, with no movement, and the only sounds my raspy breathing and a TV commercial about having it your way today.
I would die here, the disconnected corner of my mind observed. Be found by Housekeeping with my leg stuck in a hole in the carpet, wearing a cocktail dress with my butt cheeks sticking out on either side of the thong.
Some news anchor would find that comical and play it up.
The hole abruptly widened. The hooks resumed their excavating, trapping my flesh, dragging it down deeper, and a cry forced itself past my scoured throat. I couldn’t see my knee now. Each time I fought, the things dug in further and shredded down my leg with relentless, rhythmic tugs. I could only whimper in agony. My head grew light.
Now returning to our scheduled program, the TV announced.
Tears and perspiration streamed down my face and dripped onto the carpet. Hot breath blew through my lips, hit the floor and wafted back up in toothpaste-scented normality. This was surreal, not happening. I was being swallowed up.
I listened to the logical part of my mind, the part that didn’t give a shit that a hole in the carpet had opened and was chewing me up like a piranha. That voice, which now sounded like a teacher I’d hated in tenth grade, said use your walnut-sized brain, you idiot, of course you can’t pull out your leg. But you can try to keep the rest of you from going in. No shit, I told her, no shit. But I would try. At least you’re good for something, she said. Go to hell, I told her. No wonder I failed your stupid geometry class. She was silent after that.
I fought the pulling hooks with my hands flat on the rough carpet, forearms straining, wet with sweat. “Ain’t gonna happen,” I muttered, and sobbed. And it wasn’t really happening. This was a dream. I was actually on my way to the gala in the cab I’d arranged to be outside the hotel lobby at—
The cab! Yes. Yes! The driver would be here by now, waiting. Soon, he’d go into the lobby asking about me. The hotel management would come here and find me. Rescue me.
I relaxed a little, and immediately the hooks reached for new flesh. But now they had changed. Hooks—no. The agony had subsided. Now, tiny gray-green worms wriggled and sucked their way down my leg before scooting back up for another round to dine on my torn, hanging flesh.
I let out a fresh volley of horrified screams that ripped at my throat and snatched away my breath. I tried to pull again, but immediately the hooks jabbed back into place, further inside my leg now, deep within the muscle. My arms weakened. Darkness filled my vision.
Pain brought me back in focus. The hooks had pulled my leg down to the top of my thigh and now went to work on this new territory. I leaned on both elbows and one shaking knee, my legs in a bizarre split. Anguished, thin moans escaped my lips.
And the hole had grown again.
Oh God. How long could I stay like this? What would happen when my hip was pulled in? When the hooks latched onto my crotch? I sobbed, helpless and vulnerable.
I would die here. Yes. I would die.
The hated teacher rapped a ruler on my desk so hard it broke. Hair in a wiry gray bun, lips permanently turned downward, she got right in my face and shouted at me to pay attention, use my hopeless brain, think. Make her realize I was good for something besides getting the attention of all the boys.
Shut up, I screamed at her in my head. Go get laid, you skinny rat bitch. I hate you.
Fine, she said, grinning with cigarette-stained teeth, I don’t care. But think. Think!
Okay. Okay. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes.
I could simply pull hard, no matter the pain. Just jerk out my leg. It might have to be amputated, but it was better than letting my body continue to sink into the widening hole.
I managed to twist myself toward the bed, and the hooks tore at an angle as my leg turned. Something inside me, some chemical, had gone to work, and the pain had subsided. Or maybe I was in shock, or maybe the worms had returned.
Under the bed was a fossilized used condom, tossed dead center. I ignored it. It was the frame I wanted. The leg of the frame. How ironic that a bed leg would help free my leg.
I could just reach it if I twisted my upper torso a little more. Yes. My arm stretched, fingers splayed, and finally they wrapped around the cold steel. The solidity of it had a calming effect, and my mind cleared a little. The fingers of my other hand dug into the carpet. I began to count. At three, I’d push up on that hand while anchoring the other to the bed frame.
The television sounds forced their way into my awareness. The TV was at my back now, but enraged screams emitted over the sounds of a shoe store jingle. These weren’t TV screams. They came from the depths of hell. And they grew louder every second.
The hooks knew what I was about to do. They dug in with fresh gusto, reaching deeper to find bone. I groaned, open-mouthed, strings of saliva dangling from my lips, and looked back—they reached from the hole attached to a flat red arm of slimy carpet fibers, waving inch-long claws dripping with blood and dangling tissue. They caught the hem of my dress and shredded it. They reached for new skin. One hooked my thong strap. One tore the tender skin of my vagina.
I gripped the steel bed leg and pushed up. Fresh searing pain engulfed me, and the furious screaming from the television pounded into my brain. I yanked and groaned and fought to stay conscious as the hooks tried to keep me in the gaping maw. The bed grew closer. I looked behind me. Yes, my leg had started to come out, a bloody mass of torn flesh.
I kept on, now twisting, turning, confusing the hooks, straining my arm and stomach muscles. More of me came out of the hole now. And more. My kneecap was an exposed mess of cartilage and ribbons of bloody skin.
The fattened worms slipped off my leg and fell to the floor, convulsed with sluggish need and then lay still. The hooks, though, they continued to slash my leg with relentless, mindless rage.
With a final, rasping cry of desperation, I jerked the rest of my leg out of the hole, then slid my body along the carpet toward the door, fully expecting the hole to follow me. Blood and bits of flesh dripped onto the carpet as I dragged myself away. The worms that still lived gathered there and fed.
I flailed, desperately reaching for my cell phone on the other bed. Finally I pulled down the quilt until the suitcase and purse tumbled to the floor. Cell in hand, I grunted, moaned and blindly punched numbers, trying for 911 but failing. I tried again, shaking off the sweat dripping into my eyes. A canned female voice informed me that the number I had reached was not in service. Raging screams shot at me from the TV when I dialed again, and I couldn’t hear. My hands went limp, and my vision wavered and went dark.
When next I became aware, no light showed around the drapes on the windows. I blinked dry eyes and tried to swallow past my parched throat. In dread I moved my head to look at my leg, or what remained of it.
There it was, tanned and smooth, with the stiletto sandal on my foot, a reminder of an evening that didn’t happen. New shock surged through me. How could this be? Had I hallucinated?
And then pain streaked through me, and I shifted. My breath escaped in a surrendering sigh. I had gazed at my left leg. The right one was under it, a mass of torn tissue, ragged skin and muscle. Blood had congealed in the deeper pockets where chunks of flesh were missing.
The hole in the carpet had not shifted, but the hooks in there still reached from it, searching, and the worms had shriveled to thin carpet fibers stuck in the drying blood.
Now my fingers worked. I dialed for help.
It’s been three months since that incident. Therapy has helped, but I am scarred for life.
I know now how close I came to death, and I visit with my sister almost every day to make up for lost time. She spends most of her time talking to herself, living through scenarios that don’t exist. She hardly knows I’m there.
Mr. C. no longer requests me, the escort service keeps informing me. During my last conversation they said to stop calling them. I guess he doesn’t want a woman with a hideous-looking leg.
Every time I’m ready to leave for the day, the people here tell me I have to stay. They want me to keep my sister company. The doctor keeps insisting there is nothing wrong with my leg, that it looks just like the other one—now pale, soft, and hairy. He shows me pictures of the hotel carpet and tries to tell me it was just a stain.
But no! I lift the shapeless white dress they make me wear, and if I look long enough I see the twisted pink scars, the dents where the flesh was ripped out. I still feel the throbbing pain of the hooks, the slimy carpet worms feeding off me. I know they were there. No one can tell me it was all in my head. No one.
There is nothing wrong with my mind. I am perfectly normal.
About the author
Pam was born in Maine on a dark, blizzard-raging night in the middle of January and wrote her first story at age six, an epic two-page masterpiece entitled “The Gril and Her Hors”. She grew up in the ’60s watching Dark Shadows and wanting so badly to be either Carolyn or Angelique and to live at Collinwood. Victoria Holt and Daphne du Maurier took hold of the teenage Pam and caught her up in Gothic romance. The anguished, brooding heroes in these novels grabbed her heart and made her want to soothe their cares away with hugs and chocolate. And the heroines who dwelt in shadowy, dank castles…would they ever learn that one does not go creeping down twisting stairs alone in the middle of the night with only a nightgown and a candle?
All this, of course, influenced Pam’s writing. Her historical romance stories lean toward Gothic themes, and her horror stories feature characters faced with weird and haunted situations. Her contemporary romance stories present lonely heroes and their fiery, determined heroines who have plenty of hugs and chocolate to go around.
COPYRIGHT © 2014 by Pam Roller
Contact Pam at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author website: pamroller.com
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Cover by Pam Roller. Stock image from Bigstock.