Shadows in the Hall

I posted this Friday with little in the way of editing, which was a mistake. I straightened it out so it reads better. Sort of a side dish from the novel I’ve been working on in dribs and drabs. Enjoy.

Driving in a daze, the snap of his closing cellphone brought JC out of it. Nobody at the police station took him seriously, not even his longtime friend Brian Myerson.

His preoccupation with paranormal activity was the reason. He could see and sense things others could not, though this was something he managed to keep mostly to himself.

So when his friend Brian called about something that was happening at the hotel, it came as a surprise.

There were two police cars in the parking lot yet everything looked peaceful outside. JC knew he’d be late for his first job of the day as The Geek-meister, a direct and very successful competitor to the Geek Squad. So he called to apologize and then went inside.

Brian was in the front lobby of the hotel with another officer and somebody in a suit who was probably the manager. Brian walked over to meet JC halfway.

He held his hand out to shake and said, “You got here fast.”

“I was heading in this direction anyway. I have a home theater to put in at the other end of Summer Street.

“So what’s this about?”

Brian turned to look at the other officer and then back to JC. “We got a call from the manager. Some of the hotel guests had called down to the front desk to complain about a lot of commotion and strange noises in the hallway. It all came from the second floor.

“So the manager goes up to investigate and finds all the ice from the ice machine strewn about in the hallway and half the lights are blown. To him it looked like vandalism. So he called us.”

“You said, ‘it looked like vandalism?’ What does that mean?”

“When we arrived, he brought us up. It felt really cold up there and I thought it might just be all the ice on the floor, but then…well, I saw a shadow. It was on the wall. JC, I looked all around for the source. There was no one there but me and the manager and we were standing still just taking it all in.

“The shadow…it was walking.”

JC hadn’t seen anything like that since he was thirteen and rode his bike past Teddy James Mason’s house. The guy was a serial killer and pedophile and they had nowhere to go once they had passed over. So the spirits roamed around his property, as dark gray featureless figures, looking in the windows for his next victim; trying to warn them away. JC called the police station from a pay phone and tipped them off.

“All right Bri, let’s take a look.”

They walked over to the elevator, Brian nodding once to the other officer and the manager. When JC noticed the direction they were headed, he said, “Uh, Brian. Let’s do the stairs.”

Brian started to ask why and stopped when he saw the pleading look on JC’s face. “All right, this way then.”

Out of the stair well on the second floor, JC noticed all the wet spots on the carpet where the ice had melted. The hallway was poorly lit because half the lighting had been, well, extinguished. There were a couple of people—no, they were just spirits—moving in and out of a room like they were pacing in thought. One of them stopped, looked down the hall at Brian and JC, and started walking toward them. It was a formed shadow—a ghostly spirit that few could see.

“Ummm, Bri, you know I can see stuff. That’s why you called me.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I’m seeing stuff now.”

“Like what?”

“There are a couple of spirits down the other end of the hall and one of ‘em noticed us.”

“So, what’s he doing?”

“Coming toward us.”

Brian looked down the hall, trying to see something—anything. “I don’t see it.”

JC looked at Brian and said, “That’s why you called me.”

Brian, still looking down the hall, said, “Yeah, yeah. So what do we do?”

The spirit reached up to one of the wall sconces still lit and swatted the pointed bulb, sending shards across the hall.

“If I were smart, I’d probably run.”

Then JC burst into a run—toward the other end of the hallway. Brian didn’t expect that; his eyes and mouth were wide open in horror. Not wanting to be left alone, he gave chase.

The spirit stopped and watched as JC and then Brian passed him. The smoky form evaporated as it began to walk back down the hall.

JC stopped in front of a door and said in a whisper, “This is the one.”

Brian flipped open his phone and dialed. “Room 224. Bring a key.”

When the other officer arrived with the key, they pounded on the door several times and then let themselves in. JC followed them in.

The guest was out cold in a chair by the window, a trickle of blood ran from his forehead and a small metal trash can rested on its side at his feet. On the table were several bones and a human skull. Some spirits stood nearby, motionless and staring at the man.

***

“Thanks for your help JC.”

“I didn’t do anything really.”

“That guy was a developer for a site over by the lake. The contractor digging the foundation called the M.E. when he hit those bones. Everyone was surprised when there no bones around later. Turns out the developer didn’t want any delays.

“The hotel manager seems to think you’re a Godsend. He wanted to know what your fee was so I asked him what he thought you were worth. He wrote this check out for you.”

JC read the amount and stammered, “This is more than I get in two months installing stereo equipment. Tell him I said thanks.”

“Tell him yourself. He says you can stay there any time you want for free.”

Sooo, wasn’t that fun? Let me know what you think about JC and his, ahem…hobby. If there were more, would you…?

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9 thoughts on “Shadows in the Hall

  1. J. M. Strother

    Sort of a combination of Sixth Sense and Ghost Busters. My only question is why Brian could see the shadows before calling JC, but not after he arrived. I think if you could somehow distinguish the difference (like he can catch glimpses of the shadows, or ‘feel a presence’ whereas JC can just see them outright – like the kid in 6th) it might work a little better. I enjoyed it, and I would read more.
    ~jon

    Reply
    1. donaldconrad Post author

      What Brian saw was a two-dimensional shadow on the wall. What JC saw running down the hallway was a three-dimensional shadow which probably cast a two-dimensional shadow on the wall. The failure here is that I did little in the way of editing—literally writing and posting in under an hour. I’ll fix it, maybe tonight.

      Reply
  2. kevinette

    Okay, when I read anything and find myself reading faster and faster, I know it has my full attention and I WANT MORE…. I really liked the piece…MORE please!
    Naturally because I am not a professional writer, I can only comment from a readers stand point…and this reader loves it…
    See you at the writers group. Kerry aka Kevinette

    Reply
  3. John Wiswell

    I’d be interested to see what you could do with more space. For a story that has an explicit goal (get rid of these ghosts), there’s a lot of setup dialogue explaining this or that, which prevents a flow. If you wrote something longer perhaps you could unfold things more naturally. To be that horrible guy who says “show, don’t tell,” it’s a neat premise that I would rather be shown than told about.

    Reply
    1. donaldconrad Post author

      Yeah, you know, I keep wanting to write bigger stories in this small box called flash fiction. I know that’s what’s happening, yet I still try and cram it in. I suppose it doesn’t help that I am also trying to write a novel at the same time. I’d do better to focus.

      Reply
  4. David G Shrock

    Agree with Wiswell. This one begs for more space. I like more showing, but that would require more space. I like the reference to seeing spirits as “stuff” in the dialogue. That entire line expresses the character well.

    Reply

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