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Room 218
By RD Rivero



"Room 218"
By RD Rivero
July 18, 1999

Introduction: 7:15pm
I was eating dinner in the late evening in peace when Wileykat knocked
on the door and entered the room. He sat at the table opposite me. I
offered him a glass of water but he declined.
"Where did you get this?" I asked when he handed me the letter.
"From the mailbox. It arrived while we were in the lab."
"It's addressed to us. Why don't you open it? I'm almost finished."
The letter was from DomeTone, a colleague of mine before he turned to
the paranormal.  We kept in touch through the years. From our visits
here and there around the galaxy I had met Etreum, his mentor. Etreum
was an old man by now, I supposed, infamous in many scientific circles
for his research into the occult.
DomeTone really wanted to see me again, "one last time," to quote the
letter. The message invited Wileykat and me to attend his latest
investigation. Stapled to the handwritten document was an annotated map
with directions that led into the outskirts of a familiar and populous
Wollo city nearby. We were asked to arrive either by eight or eight
thirty.
I looked at Wileykat, neither of us spoke for a minute or so. I wanted
to go. I had nothing to loose and certainly nothing else to do. I was
bored to death stuffed in Cat’s Lair. My apprentice, on the other hand,
could be comfortable in a pine box as long as it had a view.
He did not want me to go out alone into the mean city so he decided to
tag along. His reluctance was high, I told him that I, too, had little
faith or confidence in the matter. DomeTone, for his faults, was a good
friend, it was only proper to show up, if it was indeed to be for the
one, last time. I assured Wileykat that we would leave whenever he
wanted to.

Part One: 8:00pm
When we left Cat’s Lair that night the moon loomed behind thick, black
clouds. The air was as chilly as it had been for the whole week, highly
unusual for the month of August. It was actually not a long walk to the
city.  The streets through and around the better parts of town were
busied by a steady stream of jabbering pedestrians but only the
slightest number of vehicles. Still, we were surrounded by the constant
and unyielding noise of early civilization.
By the time we entered the dead streets the cold was undeniably
omnipresent. There were no lights and only one or two vehicles passed
by. There were no other people on the streets -- that unnerved me more
than anything else.  The houses that lined the sidewalks were old and
dirty, not graffitied, not abused. Something, something was wrong with
the scene which was at once so enigmatic and at once so familiar. I did
not know if Wileykat was as aware of it as I was but I was sure at the
time that the ethereal architecture of the night affected him.
We were conversing, questioning each other openly about the most trivial
matters in a way that was unmistakably unlike him. I guessed it offered
him a diversion, a direction or perhaps he wanted to drown out the sound
of something that only he could hear.  In our own ways we tried our best
to feel at ease.
Rarely would moonlight break through the clouds but to no relief. The
long casting shadows of those narrow, cavernous byways left us in almost
total darkness. Had a thousand moons shined from above it would have
been no better.
We arrived at last at the big house, the large building in the corner of
Rizza and Sirres. The big house was once a hotel, three or four stories
high, its worn out dusty facade was merely a remnant echo of a more
barbarous past. Nothing more. Silent, deadly silent. The only lit
structure in an otherwise deserted cityscape.
Surprisingly enough the front door was unlocked.
The lobby was a case study of organized chaos but I admit I had seen
worse evolve in my own lab. Five tables were arranged in a circle on
what Wileykat believed was a red rug. Upon the tables were open books
with posted, scribbled notes, scattered papers most typed, most hand
written, tape recorders, cameras and monitors that displayed a small bed
chamber. The screens provided the only light source. The front desk was
another site of interest.
Only the large staircase remained in absolute darkness.  Suddenly a
light came from a door behind the front desk. A small figure I
recognized instantly to be Snarfer approached. "Tygra and Wileykat. We
have been expecting you. Come this way."
We followed him through the door into a small complex of antechambers: a
break room, a changing room, a waiting room and then an office. That is
where we came upon DomeTone, a sturdy man, yet he looked so different.
Frail. Even Wileykat was taken aback.

Part Two: 8:13pm
“My friends, I knew you couldn't resist. You both know my assistant,
Snarfer, he's been my right hand for years. Sit, sit down and be
comfortable." He motioned us to a set of brown, leather bucket seats in
front of the formal desks. Snarfer rested himself on a stool next to the
door.
DomeTone took the time to write in a large leather bound book before he
continued.
"I'm sorry I couldn't say much in the letter. I wrote it in such short
notice. You all know what I do for a living and you all know the
familiar attitude with which I'm faced. The two of you have been very
kind to me, you've never abandoned me, never tried to convert me and
never tried to debunk me. That's why I feel I can trust you."
"Our friendship is without question," said Wileykat.
"I appreciate that.  I have enjoyed the times we’ve spent together.
You're one of few scientists who have genuine interests in what people
like me do."
Here DomeTone put down his pen and closed his book.
"This hotel fascinated Etreum, he had always wanted to study the
particular phenomenon here. For decades he collected every last bit of
information about the Claudian Hotel." He handed me a large binder full
of old, impressive documents. Most of the items were newspaper clippings
and reports filled by local Wollo authorities, there was even a snippet
of an architectural plan of the building. Wileykat was far more eager
than me to get his hands on that binder so I gave it over to him. "He
wanted to examine these grounds on his own but he can't do that anymore.
He died not too long ago."
"Died? Etreum?" I said in utter disbelief. Even now I cannot believe
that Etreum could die. "Why didn't you tell me? How did it happen?"
"He was aboard space ship to New Thundera. The pilot found him dead, in
bed, in his cabin. Etreum knew his time was coming, he told me so
himself and I know for a fact, in my business, that you know when the
end is near. This, I said, will be my last in depth investigation into
the paranormal. I don't know how I can go on."
"You're going to retire?" I asked. I thought I heard a chuckle from
Snarfer. I could have been wrong.
"Yes, you can say that, yes. I thought it would be fitting to do for my
mentor in death what he could not do in life."
We paused for a while then he began again.
"This hotel is haunted but just what that means is not entirely certain.
Room 218 is noted in the literature to be frequented by a hag. Now what
is a hag? It's a first earth legend  This hag is an old woman, dressed
in black from head to toe. She even wears a black veil. She's supposed
to materialize in the victim’s room while the victim is asleep or waking
up. She approaches the bed and what happens next is a point of
contention. One version of the tale says it's all a dream so if you see
her approach but can still wake up then you live. The other side of the
coin asserts that she's 'real,' actual, physical. That version bears out
the evidence that's been recorded through the years. The only common
denominator is really simple. You're paralyzed as soon as you see her
face. The legends are so old very little else can be said with definity.

"What I can say is that I have here fifty documented eyewitness reports
of an old woman, dressed in black, all from room 218. The woman
approaches without saying a word. The witnesses say that they felt
threatened and overcome by absolute terror mostly because of how her
arms were outstretched but that there was something else about her that
'ate up' their powers. The encounters end the same, the witnesses scream
and crouch on the ground so that by the time the attending staff could
come to investigate they'd find the witness writhing but unhurt. One
woman who experienced this phenomenon swears in her testimonial that she
had felt the fabric of the hag's clothes.
"That's what struck Etreum and me. A witness who felt substance. It lead
us both to believe there was something going on, not a ghost or
apparition. Etreum called it a 'fear sucker,' an entity, a physical
entity that feeds off the fear of its victims the way a vampire feeds
off blood."
"So then the hag might be a person?"
"Someone may have seen her around the hotel."
"Unless she worked internally, as a staff member or maybe the staff was
in on it."
"She might have been able to control them indirectly."
"Perhaps. Note that the incidents cover a period of over one hundred and
fifty years. It's possible that there maybe two or more generations
involved in the matter and if that's true who knows how many more there
could be. I'd rather believe that there's only one but we should be
prepared for anything."
"This hotel hasn't been used in years and Jagga only knows for how long
these parts of town have been abandoned. Do you think this hag still
exists? That she still comes here?"
"Fear can be recorded in time and space. It's possible she could feed
from the echoes of past emotions. I do believe she has not left, that
she's here, slumbering, hibernating, sitting, waiting."
"I think I get it," Wileykat said. "The hag's so hungry for new victims
that she'll come back here for us all."
"No, not for all of us. This hotel in its heyday was always bustling but
the hag appeared only in room 218, upstairs on the second floor. Only
that room. Shall we go up and see?"

Part Three: 9:00pm
DomeTone took a flashlight that hung from the wall and led us out of the
office. Snarfer was left behind to guard the sanctuary. I have no doubt
of his intelligence. Outside the comfort of the back rooms the hotel was
draped in the cloak of darkness. Only the lobby was spared total
oblivion from the before mentioned monitors on the tables. The walls,
floor and ceiling glowed in an aura of faint, flickering blue gray.
The stairs were another matter, a hellish tunnel so brutal I did not
know whether I wanted to lag behind or be the first to the top. When we
all finally reached the second floor I was sure I would be unsafe
anywhere in that hotel that was not engulfed completely in bright,
strong light. Suddenly I was happier then than I have ever been in my
whole life only because I did not live in the age of candlesticks and
kerosene lamps.
Room 218 was at the far end of the long hall. Could it have been any
farther? I prayed that the doors of the other rooms we passed were
locked tight. I could hear the breathing of innumerable hags, raging,
wanting to be free and strike us from everywhere around, pent-up behind
those menacing door, doors that faded like a foggy dream into the mist
while we walked briskly by. To my complete shock DomeTone opened the
door of 218 to a flood of warm light.
The hotel room was surprisingly intimate. There was a single, thin bed
placed between two large, square windows. I was immediately struck by
the sight of it and I struggled to tell myself that it was only a face
the design formed and nothing more. There was a night table and a desk
with a mirror. There was a wooden chest next to the open door of a
powder room. The Claudian Hotel had been renovated since its original
construction some two centuries ago. There was a tiny snippet of a
closet.
DomeTone had stuffed the whole chamber with his photographic equipment.
The lights, for example, were small spotlights. Cables ran everywhere on
the floor. Next to the bed was a small, hand held camera.
"Currently there are no plans to demolish the hotel or any of the other
parts of town here. It's like the Wollo's forgotten that this place
exists."
"Just what do you intend here?" I asked.
"I'm going to be the hag's next new victim. I intend to gather
undeniable photographic evidence. This is no ordinary camera. It's a
black and white 8mm and silent. The film is hard if not impossible to
tamper with. It's also why I need these lights."
I happened to look out the window while Wileykat and DomeTone talked
over the final points of the grand plan. Out on the corner, in the
fringe between the blackness of the night and the glow that came out of
the open windows of room 218 stood a figure. No. I tried hard to dismiss
it as something as anything else but to no avail. The figure did not
stand fixed in place, it paced around endlessly along that edge between
light and darkness. I turned away in horror. Adrenaline overcame me. I
thought I was having a heart attack.
Then I looked out the window again. I just had to.
The figure was gone.
The next thing I knew I shook hands with DomeTone and he hugged me. I
must have said something but I do not remember for the life of me. I
left the room right behind Wileykat. He held the flashlight in his
fingers. The door shut abruptly behind us.
"Wileykat," I said after we passed several closed hotel room doors.
"Turn off the light."
"What?"
"I mean it, turn it off.  I don't trust my eyes."
He stopped to look me over. With the click of the flashlight's switch we
were off again, racing down the hall in a mad dash. He led me down the
steps with caution. After what must have been an eternity we were back
in the lobby.
"He has the room under surveillance. The monitors on the tables in the
front of the hotel entrance show him in bed with the camera. Waiting."
"Do you hear anything from outside?"
"No. Nothing unusual."
"Let's hurry back to the office. Let's not waste another moment out here
in the open."

Part Four: 9:30pm
We were prisoners of the night and could not leave. It was my fault. I
was eaten up inside. Wileykat tried to reassure me otherwise, that it
was no one's fault. He is a good apprentice and the forgiving sort. I
was ashamed that I had gotten him involved. There is a reason why I am
my own harshest critic.
The inner office was the only bunker of safety in that whole dead part
of town. The lights were kept low and dim by Snarfer's insistence.  We
spoke in nothing louder than a whisper. Our only link to DomeTone in the
room upstairs was a small, two way CB radio. It was kept right atop the
big desk before us all.
By my prodding we barricaded the only door in to and out of the chamber.

Snarfer kept still on the floor reading over DomeTone’s leather bound
book. I learned that it was a detailed journal of investigations that
the two kept together. DomeTone would enter the logs and Snarfer would
check them to make sure that the important details were neither missing
nor distorted.
"Are there any other books like this around here?"
"Why, sure, he keeps one of Etreum's old journals where ever he goes.
It's right under the binder he had shown you earlier."
The handmade journal had a table of contents and an index, scribbled
notes along the margins of certain pages along with numerous other
papers stapled or posted on. The entries were headed not by date but by
subject, a thankful oddity.
I looked up the word "fear sucker" and as it turned out there were many
different kinds. According to Etreum, ethereal entities need a source of
energy in order to thrive. He made some noise about zero point energy,
his dive into quantum mechanics was laughable. The written discussion
ended in a belief that apparitions required the stress, fear and anxiety
emitted by their victims. If I am to understand what he had said those
primitive emotions released a form of heat in an EMS frequency that the
"ghost" used in a process whose only organic equivalent is
photosynthesis. He concluded by stating that the soul sustained itself
in a similar manner and hence its position deep in the brain.
In the next entry the picture got better. Organic creatures, if properly
evolved, could harness those emotional energies, primarily fear. He said
that such an entity could exist in complete safety. No doubt if it could
feed from emotions then it could control our perception of itself and of
reality.
I put the book away when he turned a little too philosophical for my
taste.
I needed to be invisible to that creature that had already sensed me,
feed from me. I would have to concentrate hard but then an unstoppable
thought crept into my head. If the hag did control the old hotel staffs
for over a century, by altering their perception, did that not mean that
the hag knew about the antechambers behind the front desk? Did it know
how to get to us? I opened the binder, I read the first incident report
I stumbled upon, then another, then another, each time my fears
heightened.
That was when it happened, our heads turned instantly to the barricaded
door. I bet they were all happy I had it obstructed the way it was.
We heard the front door open the slam shut. That was followed by a
wailing that could strike fear in the dead. I was convinced then and
there that no living being could make such a sound. I had a yellowed
file in my hand at that moment and read the testimonial of a Mr. X, who
right before he saw the hag, had heard a strange, soul-shattering noise
come from behind, the trumpet call of the hag's presence.
The footsteps were loud and followed each other at an alarming pace. I
feared it was headed to us but then the wailing faded, I hoped, or
wished and dreaded that it was so because the hag was going up to room
218. DomeTone's simple plan was brilliant. He lured the hag, not a
ghostly entity at all, to the room upstairs by showing himself ready and
waiting in the bed on the monitors in the lobby.
I looked around at everyone. I wanted to run, scream, yell, I wanted to
have eyes all over my head so that I could see every detail of the room
and not be surprised or horrified by the sudden appearance of anything.
I did not want to be caught off guard so the slightest movement of even
one hair on my body sent me into an adrenaline rush of insatiable
proportions.
We heard someone walking on the floor above us. The old wood creaked and
groaned under the pressure of the hag's intense gait. The howling siren
reminded me of the songs whales sing in the untold depths of the sea.
The radio sputtered to life. There was not one of us who did not jump
three feet when he first heard DomeTone's voice break through the
garbled static.  "I have the camera ready. It's filming now. I can hear
her siren, it's her attempt to heighten the fear of her victim. She's a
second or so away from opening the door. I'll pretend that I'm asleep.
I'll keep my eyes closed. She's turned the knob all the way." I was
amazed that he could keep his control. It was as if he was resigned to
what was happening and what was going to happen. We heard the door
slowly creak open, it was followed by those footsteps, those heavy thuds
that ended abruptly after a few moments. The wail returned and we
wondered why we heard nothing more from DomeTone. "There is definitely a
physical presence in the room with me. I'm sitting up. She's touching me
all over. I can feel her cold, cold hands. My eyes are still shut."
"Don't open them. For Jagga’s sake, keep your eyes shut. Don't look at
it!"
"In three I'll open my eyes. One, two," I screamed the loudest scream
ever in my whole life. I was fortunate Wileykat was there to put his
hand over my mouth. I could not have silenced myself on my own.
DomeTone was still screaming, he stopped only long enough to catch his
breath before screaming some more. Something crashed on the floor, the
radio was smashed against the wall without damage, the last sound was
that of DomeTone himself, bouncing back hard against the bed. The wail
along with the screams were silenced and the whole world was eerily
quiet again for a small while only.
The loud footsteps returned. The hag was walking around the halls above,
around and around, never approaching the stairs all night. Only the
echoes of the wail remained to inspire terror like an unholy muse.
We turned off the CB radio then killed the remaining lights of the
office. The three of us huddled close together. The minutes ticked away
so slowly, so frustratingly slowly time itself stood still.

Part Five: 3:31am
I do not know how I did it but I managed to sleep a few hours. Wileykat
nudged me awake. I looked around the room. A blue light lantern was on
but I could not find Snarfer.
"He went up to check on DomeTone."
"Is everything all right?"
"No. Snarfer left an hour ago. For the past fifteen minutes I've
received no word from him. He made it to room 218 safely, he said he
found the door wide open. He reported what he found within. DomeTone is
dead, stone cold dead. The eyes and mouth were wide open." There had
been no wailing, no foot stepping since well after I had dozed off. For
some reason Snarfer was just not responding.
I asked to know what time it was. The sun was due to rise shortly and I
told Wileykat that the best thing we could do was to run out of that
place, run and not look back.

Part Six: 4:10am
We waited a half hour or so for a sign from above -- in vain.
Wileykat and I unblocked the office door. I told him not to use a
flashlight and all I took with me was that journal of Etreum's. It fit
nearly into one of WileyKat’s pockets. He opened the door and then we
moved out.  My first impulse was to keep my eyes shut but for some
reason I could not. Instead I felt that if I could keep my gaze fixed on
the floor I would still be all right.
Wileykat and I walked through the small rooms and into the lobby. He
stopped and I was nervous. It was nothing, he told me and pressed on
toward the front glass doors. We passed the tables with the monitors and
I looked even though I knew I should not have done that. On the monitors
I saw DomeTone in bed, dead. Snarfer was on the floor next to the
tragedy, he was not moving. The black and white camera and the CB radio
were no where to be seen. I saw no hint of the hag.
Wileykat and I pried the front door open, it had jammed from the great
slam the hag had given it. My mind raced with the immediate
possibilities: could it have been a trap to detect our escape? I kept my
suspicions to myself but Wileykat caught onto my drift, his heart beat
as fast as mine. When we were back out on the street we ran as if every
moment was the last. The roads were so deserted that there was little
reason to care about running on them, they were far smoother than the
sidewalks anyway.
Earlier it had taken us a half hour to walk to the hotel, running would
have taken less time. We were going the right way I reckoned when some
of the details came back to me. The clouds were gone and the moon shone
bright. The skies were starting to blue from the slowly rising sun.
Wileykat ran without slowing and I thought everything was going well
until we crossed a corner and I realized then why Wileykat was so swift.
He had heard it before I had seen it, he had probably heard it earlier,
when we had walked through the same neighborhood hours ago. A vehicle
was chasing us, the same vehicle we had seen driving through the
abandoned streets.
"Don't slow down, it's still on our tail." I looked into the vehicle to
the driver, I regretted not having done so earlier and doing so just
then.
When at last we stumbled into the busy streets of the more populous
districts I turned to the sidewalk. My apprentice was not nearly as out
of breath as me. The sun ascended. The vehicle as mysteriously
disappeared as it had appeared.

Epilogue:
What had DomeTone done? Did he know before hand the full extent of what
would happen to him? What about Snarfer? How much was he told or how
much did he know and not tell Wileykat and me? If it had been a secret
suicide pact between them, then why were we asked to come along?
An afternoon, a week later, I received a large envelope from Officer
Mandora -- I had told her all about what happened in Room 218 at the
Claudian Hotel. It was DomeTone's last will and testament.  I had been
named his sole inheritor. I received everything, including an apartment
in New Thundera, cluttered with more journals, books, binders,
magazines, manuscripts, pictures and video on just about every
investigation he and Etreum had ever conducted. It would take a lifetime
to sort it all.
Just this morning Wileykat entered my lab with a small package. I
thought it was strange that he looked as scared as he was until I read
the label. It was from Snarfer. Without haste I opened the box to find
its only content, an 8mm reel of film.






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