A young man named Tyler stays at an ancient-looking inn at the end of a long day in their road trip, along with his two friends. The innkeeper is very welcoming, serving them great food and always putting on a warm smile. The three enjoys the meal, then head back to their own rooms before hanging out for a little longer. Later that night, Tyler decides to go out for a walk to clear his mind, but instead finds something that puts a stop to their road trip once and for all.
Tyler sat on the ground with his back leant on the creaking bed. His weary eyelids dropped yet again, exhausted from the long ride.
Tyler and his friends; Brian and Jake, were four days into their road trip, traveling across the continent. Currently, they are staying in an ancient-looking inn, placed on the tip of the mountain top.
The innkeeper was a friendly looking old man, and was extremely welcoming, they were served fresh food and drinks, and treated well. The inn was empty at night, apart from the innkeeper and the guests. They would be alone tonight at the inn, as ‘business is tough around these places, we only get guests every once in a while’, the innkeeper said.
Tyler jolted his head back to stop himself from falling asleep.
“Alright guys, it’s getting late, I’m going to my room now.” Brian puffed out a breath of smoke as he got up from his crisscross seating position. Tyler slipped his phone out of his pocket and took a quick glance. It was 11 P.M.
“See you tomorrow.” Said Jake as Brian stood tall and stretched.
“I think I’ll go as well; We have to get up early tomorrow.” Tyler decided, coughing and wafting the smoke out of his face. “And stop smoking, the smell of whatever brand you use sticks around forever.”
“Yeah, and it’s my room you’re smoking in.” Jake complained.
“Alright, alright, shut up.” Brian stubbed his cigarette in the ashtray, “These aren’t the strong ones I usually use, actually. I ran out, and the innkeeper offered to give me a couple of loose cigs. Real nice guy by the way, that innkeeper.”
Tyler walked out the room after Brian and gently closed the door behind him. He stretched his limbs and yawned, and started heading down the hall, leading to his hotel room.
Lying on his bed, Tyler was wide awake. He was taller than most people, resulting in his feet extending over the tiny bed when he stretched his legs. He tried his best to go to sleep, but failed to keep his eyes closed.
He seemed to almost fall asleep a couple of times at Jake’s room, which makes it strange that he wasn’t able to do the same in his own. He was changing positions every few seconds. He could feel his muscles throbbing, his head aching, yet still he stayed awake, his mind racing like a processing computer.
Finally giving up, Tyler decided to go for a walk, and possibly grabbing a snack or two from the vending machine.
Tyler removed the blanket and stepped off his bed in one quick, clean motion, then immediately felt nauseous from it and came to a halt. He then went for the door and carefully peeked his head around it. The hallways were dim, the only source of light from the side lamps, flickering constantly at random. He held his breath. He could hear no sound, see no movement, feel no presence.
The walls were made of wooden blanks, and there were many missing chunks in the wall. The carpets on the floor were heavily worn out, the original red color fading noticeably and the fabric torn.
He held his phone out as he walked down the hall. He clicked the power button. The sudden bright shine made him jolt his head away and pause his footsteps, eyes stinging from the light. He shifted his eyes back after a while. 12 P.M. Tyler struggled to make his way down to the first floor, leaning on the wall the entire trip and groaning at every step.
Just like the hallways, the lobby was empty and dark, with no one to be seen. The dim lights from inside the vending machine were in contrast with the background. He went towards the vending machine, and bought himself a can of coke.
He took a sip from the can, and a sizzling sensation immediately filled his mouth. The sugar soothed his head from aching, the sting woke him up, and the cold cleared his mind of thoughts.
Now with zero chance of going back to sleep, Tyler decided he would kill time until the morning. Tyler continued his walk, heading out of the building.
He let his mind rest, and followed wherever his feet lead him. The sky was pitch black, and the stars obscured by the fog. The moon reflected just enough light for Tyler to scantily see his surroundings.
He closed his eyes; The only sounds he could hear were the shrilling of cicadas and the sizzling of his can of coke. He reopened his eyes, and followed a path of missing grass, leading into the forest.
The trees were tightly packed. The ground was very uneven, with roots crawling all across the ground. He kept walking mindlessly, hoping to find something interesting.
A sound. Tyler’s rhythmic footsteps came to halt. It was the cracking sound, that of a twig. He shut his eyes tight, held in his breath, and tried his best to not move a muscle.
Another sound. This time, of a rustling noise. He reopened his eyes and looked around. No movement to be seen.
He started to go towards the direction of the noises. He consciously walked on tip toes, trying to stay silent. He kept walking, slowly and carefully. His eyes kept darting, desperately trying to find any clues.
All of a sudden, he caught a glimpse of something yellow. The yellow flashed white under the moonlight, like a beacon in the sea. Tyler came to a halt.
The corners of Tyler’s lips curled, as he let out a breath of relief. It was Brian’s hair. Tyler continued taking slow and steady steps towards it. He could see the yellow again, behind the thick layer of leaves.
Then he saw Brian.
He was lying on the ground, eyes staring into the sky. His mouth was half open, his arms are spread wide. Next to him, was an empty pack of cigarettes, with the cigarettes scattered over the ground. Most importantly, he saw something, and that something made his stomach churn. Brian had a gigantic gash in his neck. Blood was still flooding out of the wound, seeping into the soil and forming several streams on the ground.
Tyler stared at the corpse as he stood still. His muscles were stiffened. He could feel the blood from his face quickly draining, and a tingling, freezing sensation crawling up his back.
A slight gust of wind blew by, making Tyler shiver.
Crack. There was a sound, and the feeling of being stared at by a pair of eyes. Tyler spun around in panic, frantically searching for dangers.
Before he knew it, Tyler found himself running for his life. His legs had started moving before his mind. He ran, between the trees, over the rocks, and under the branches. He didn’t look back, he couldn’t look back, he wouldn’t look back. The horror fueled his body as he ran. He could feel the adrenaline inside him releasing and the cold sweat on his neck.
He passed trees by trees, the distant lights from the hotel coming closer and closer to him. He kept accelerating, until he came to the front doors. He hurriedly pushed the heavy doors open, and sprinted for the stairs.
He leapt up the staircases, heading for Jake’s room. The entire way, he kept his back against the wall, not allowing his back to be exposed to any danger. He anxiously darted his eyes around, maximizing his field of vision.
“Jake! Quick! Open up!” Tyler yelled uncontrollably as he swung his fists at the door, not forgetting to twitch his vision everywhere. Sounds of footsteps came through the door, then the sounds of keys, then the sounds of unlocking.
“What’s going on?” Jake pulled the door open, looking genuinely concerned.
“Close the door!” Jake did.
Tyler suddenly collapsed onto the floor after he heard the door shut tight behind him. He was still catching onto his breath. He fixed his eyes onto the floor as he attempted to compose his words.
“I, I saw, He,” Tyler closed his eyes and whispered.
“Okay, take it slow.”
Tyler pressed his palms to his forehead, and took deep breaths.
“Brian. He’s dead.” Tyler looked at Jake weakly, trembling as he whispered.
“What?” Jake’s eyebrows scrunched up.
“He’s dead. Killed. I found him in the forest lying on the ground, with a huge cut in his neck and there was blood coming out of the cut and flowing everywhere.” Tyler’s voice was cracking; His body was shaking. “Then I heard a cracking sound, so I got scared and ran all the way back here. He was killed, I tell you! There’s a killer around here!”
Tyler could tell how Jake felt just by looking at his face, turning pale. That was exactly how he was when he first found the body.
“How… What…” Jake broke the silence, struggling to find his words. “I mean… We have to do something…”
“We have to go tell the innkeeper. Then we call the cops. Then we better pack up our stuff and leave this place immediately.”
Knock knock. Tyler knocked on the innkeeper’s door.
Tyler and Jake waited at the door.
“What is it, lads?” The old man appeared behind the door, wearing a warm grin.
“We found our friend dead, in the forest right outside.” Tyler said, getting straight onto the point.
The innkeeper’s smile twitched a bit, presumably from shock and confusion.
“I’m terribly sorry, could you say that again?”
“Our friend, Brian, we found him dead in the forest. He has been killed.” Tyler repeated. “What do we do? Do you have a working telephone here? We can’t get any signal. We have to call the cops.”
The innkeeper’s grin faded completely, now looking worried.
“Ahem, well, there’s a telephone in a building near here, I could take you there.” The innkeeper gulped.
“Great. Let’s go.”
“I think you should stay here; You look like you’ve had a long night.” The innkeeper said, looking at Tyler. “I just made some tea, coincidentally. I found trouble going to sleep. Drink some and settle down. Of course, I will lock the door if you are worried.”
Tyler looked at Jake, who shrugged.
“I guess I will.”
Tyler sat on the couch, his fingers tapping nervously. The innkeeper and Jake has been gone for around ten minutes now already. The door was locked tight with an old fashioned lock on the other side of the door.
Tyler stood up, and started observing the room.
Everything in the room, the walls, the floor, the furniture, was wooden. The room was quite large, and very polished compared with the other rooms in the inn. There were many cabinets and cupboards, and Tyler could not resist the temptation to look inside them.
Books, spices, food, drinks… He went through the cabinets quickly. Whenever he found something interesting, he would stop and look at it for a few moments, then move on.
He opened yet another cabinet. They were filled with cigarettes.
Tyler stared at them blankly. There was something about them, that It reminded him of something.
Then he remembered.
They were the same cigarettes Brian had smoked.
Brian only got a couple of loose cigarettes, he never got a pack.
There was a pack of cigarettes next to Brian’s corpse.
The innkeeper owns the cigarettes.
What could this mean?
Crack. A sound from the outside cut off Tyler’s train of thought.
Tyler spun his head around and looked out the window.
The innkeeper has returned, with no Brian, but a knife in his hand, flashing bright red under the moonlight.