After an over-the-phone fight with his ex-wife, Dan Clauson has only 36 minutes to get to the airport, or lose his job - and in his hast, forgets his prescription medication. Dan suffers from Bi-polar disorder, and the series of events that occur over the next three hours could have Dan embracing death like an old friend.
Or are his delusions real?
By: Paul J. Hamm
“What is it you want, Linda?” Dan Clauson asked his ex-wife over the phone. “You’ve already destroyed my life – taken away every dream I ever had. What more could you possible want.”
The conversation went dead for about thirty seconds. Dan could feel the blood pounding in his face, concerned if his blood pressure might be high enough to cause a stroke. He glanced at the stove clock, alarmed by the time, his flight taking off in less than an hour, and thought, I need to remember to take my Olanzapine.
Dan suffered from bipolar disorder; Olanzapine the medication prescribed to handle the emotional rollercoaster rides associated with his illness. When Linda had called Dan from her lover’s apartment three months earlier. telling him she wanted a divorce, the rollercoaster rides became more terrifying and never seemed stopped. During the divorce proceedings Dan had suffered a mental meltdown in front of the judge, crying and screaming at the top of his lungs about “How Linda could do this to him!” , and in the process lost custody of his 10-year-old daughter, Amy. Dan’s doctor increased the milligrams of his Olazapine, and then prescribed Prozac to help dull his emotions. Two months later the divorce was final.
Now, standing in the kitchen of his rented duplex, watching as the digital stove clock tick off another minute, Dan’s ex-wife broke the uncomfortable silence. “What I want is for you to quit whining in my ear and act like a man for once. Amy turns eleven next month and will be starting her delicate pre-teen years.”
“Which means what, Linda?” Dan asked in a shaky voice. “That she won’t need her Dad anymore?”
“Oh, don’t be such a putz, Dan. Amy doesn’t know what it means to have a real father. All she sees is a pathetic excuse of a human being whining and boohooing all the time because life is so tough, and then tries to blame it on some mental disorder so some quack doctor will prescribe him mind-altering drugs.”
Dan could feel his eyeballs pulsating as the full scope of what Linda was saying began to sink in. “You’re going to try to take away my visitation rights, aren’t you?”
“Oh, ho, ho – there’s no trying about it, Danny- boy,” Linda said with so much spite wrapped around her voice that Dan had to pull the phone away from his ear. “When Amy came home after her little visit with you last weekend she started bawling at the dinner table, saying, 'Daddy needs help, Mom. He is so sad all the time. Maybe we could have a picnic together? Just the three of us – maybe that would cheer him up.' That was a good try, Dan. But using your own daughter like that in a lame attempt to get me away from my new man? – my real man? Now that’s just disgusting.”
“What?” Dan said, exasperated, his entire body trembling with anger. “What in the hell are you talking about, Linda? Your name never even came up. This is crazy…”
“Don’t you dare say anything about me being crazy,” Linda blasted back through the receiver. “I know what kind of sick twisted fuck you really are, and that’s exactly what the judge will know too after I meet with him on Thursday! Amy is not going to grow up with you putting hateful thoughts into her head about me - no way, bubba! Once it’s all out in the open, all the cards are on the table, you’ll be lucky to live so close as the next state over.”
The stove clock marched off another number, Dan would miss his flight in 42 minutes, and a blanket of fury like hot, black asphalt fell over him. “This conversation is over, Linda. You have no clue what you’re…”
“And I will tell you something else, you weirdo,” Linda blurted. “I believe there’s something more bothering Amy. She says there’s not, or won’t tell me. But I have an idea what it might be, and if I find out that it’s true ...you pervert... you'll spend the rest of your life rotting away in the deepest, darkest prison cell the state has to offer for sicko’s like you. And as far as ever seeing your daughter again…”
Dan screamed into the receiver and slammed the phone down, hot sweat flying from his brow and streaking down the green face of the stove clock. He now had 36 minutes to grab his suitcase, get in his car, make the 20 minute drive to the airport, and get to his gate. Improbable, but not impossible - so Dan grabbed his suitcase with trembling hands and hurried out the door.
After landing in Orlando, and while traveling the eight miles from the airport to the hotel in the back of a cab, Dan called his sister, Marcy.
“Hey, Danny, miss me already?”
Dan hated it when his sister called him Danny, and gripped his cell phone with white knuckled fury as a wave of anger crashed over him. He took a deep breath, steadying his disorder, and relaxed his grip on the phone. “I wish it was that simple Marcy. I need a huge favor."
Marcy noticed the stress in her brother’s voice, and said,
"What’s happened Dan? What's wrong?"
"I forgot my Olanzapine."
There was a short silence. Marcy knew of her brother's bipolar disorder, and knew the possible consequences of his mistake. "Did you take it this morning," she asked in a hopeful voice, while silently praying - yes, yes, say yes - and the frustrated sigh she heard through the phone line told her the prayer hadn't worked.
“No. I meant to - was even walking to the bathroom to do just that, when the phone rang.”
Just by the way he said, “When the phone rang” Marcy knew who had called. “Linda.”
“Yea, Linda.” Dan said as he felt depression wash over him, extinguishing what remained of his anger. His throat lurched, the new emotion rising and then amplifying itself past the point his medication would have allowed - were it in his system. “After I...,” he croaked out, took a deep breath, and tried again. “After I hung up it never crossed my mind again, until I was in the air.”
“Dammit,” Marcy hissed. “It wasn't enough that she screwed all your friends and ruined your life. Now, the bitch still has to call you and stick her nose...,”
Dan cut her off before she could finish. “Marcy, I don't wanna get into this right now.” He rubbed the bridge of his nose and noticed the cabbie giving him a nervous glance. “I need you to go over to my house, get my medicine, and overnight it to me at the hotel. It's almost 7pm now, so I should have it in my hand by 8am.”
The cab veered off the Florida turnpike and headed downtown while Marcy tried to convince her brother to forget the whole thing and just come home.
“I can't do that, sis. The seminar was scheduled and paid for two months ago. If I don’t show up, I will lose my promotion - or worse, get fired. “However, I did remember my Prozac. It's always in my brief case. I'll be fine till in the morning. A hot bath and a good night’s sleep will do a world of wonder. Just please get down to the Fed-X office before they close, okay, sis?”
He heard Marcy grumble something, and then say, “All right, Dan, I'll leave right now. I don't think Fed-X closes till 8, and there's an office right up the street in the Coral Oaks Plaza.
The cab came to a stop in front of the hotel. “Yes, Marcy?”
“I know how you get when you’re like this. Please don't venture out. Go straight up to your room, lock the door, and do what you said you going to do.”
Dan felt frustration rush forward and stomp the shit out of the depression. He bit the side of his tongue, drawing pain and blood, and controlled the urge to scream, just send my medication, you fucking bitch!, and instead said, “I promise, Marcy. Okay?”
When the call ended, the cabbie opened the drivers’ door, stepped out, and stuck his head back in the open door. “Ay man, I hurt some of dat conversation. You aint goona go postal on me whenz you gets out, are you,” he asked in a deep Haitian accent.
Dan stared in stupefied wonder at the dreadlocked cabbie, and said, “Not as long as you don't expect a tip.”
The cabbie looked confused and offended at the same time, but seemed satisfied with his safety as he set Dan's suitcase next to the valet station, hurried back to the cab, and departed without looking back.
As Dan pushed his way through the hotel’s revolving door, the hopeless feeling of dread he had felt ever since leaving the airport tightened its grip. He could feel his heart beating hard in his chest as he walked to the front desk, and thought, “If the emotional rollercoaster ride I’m experiencing now doesn’t ease up, the next 12 hours are going to be unbearable.
The hotel was old, and small for a downtown hotel, but indeed a five star hotel. The reception area opened up into a formal dining room with a full service bar sitting off to the left. Most of the white linen covered tables were empty, but a few late diners were still enjoying their gourmet-cooked meals as a baby grand piano tinkled out soft Mozart. Two glass paneled elevators glided quietly between the five floors that shaped a massive, inverted hexagon above the main floor - every room on each floor having the same frontal view of the restaurant below. Leafy, plant life dominated the U-shaped corners of all five balconies, and as Dan studied the plants, he noticed it almost looked as if...
“May I help you, sir?”
Dan almost jumped out of his skin at the sudden intrusion into his thoughts, and forgot whatever the hell it was he was thinking about. Bipolar disorder can do that to a person.
The tall, slender black man behind the front desk was looking at Dan with the permanent patience of a professional problem solver; the gold plated nametag pinned to his black sports coat proclaiming his name to be Arron. Dan stepped up to the counter and set down his suitcase. “Yes, I'm here for the Universal insurance seminar.”
“May I have you name, sir?”
Dan gave his information, handing over his drivers’ license and credit card, and as the desk clerk keystroked his computer, Dan glanced across the lobby and watched as one of the elevators began sliding up its shaft. An elderly couple dressed in formal eveningwear, and standing side by side, stared crabbily through the glass wall as the world below them fell away, and Dan felt the emotional rollercoaster about to take its first big drop. But he didn't understand what had triggered it or why. It was as if his sub-conscious had sensed something, but was trying to tell him what ever it was in Chinese. What was I was thinking about before Arron the desk clerk cut into my thoughts? What was it?
“You’re all set, Mr Clauson,” Arron the desk clerk said, handing back Dan's license and credit card. “You’re in room 418; would you like someone to assist you with your baggage?”
“No, thank you,” Dan said while snatching quick glances around the lobby area.
"Sir, are you okay?" Arron the desk clerk asked.
"I'm fine! Would you just leave me the fuck alone," Dan shrieked, grabbing his bag and briefcase and quickly heading for the elevators.
Arron the desk clerk, long accustomed to irate customers, watched him go with a look of mild interest, and then raised his middle finger in an artistic way. “And a good night to you, too, sir,” he said, and returned to his desk clerk duties as another fine guest pushed through the hotels revolving door.
By the time Dan reached the elevator doors he had already popped the top off his prescription bottle of Prozac, and was now trying to dry-swallow one of the little pills. Hands shaking, Dan tried putting the bottle of pills back into his pocket, but the bottle squirted though his fingers and tumbled to the floor.
“Opps-a-daisy,” a jubilant voice said.
Dan jerked in surprise, turned, and watched as a short man in his mid forties bent with a grunt to retrieve the bottle of pills; the mans protruding belly threatening the strength of the buttons on his shirt. Dan felt cold sweat trickling down his torso as the man straightened his weight and scanned the bottles label.
“Ah ha,” the man said, giving Dan a fiendish little wink. “Mother’s little helper of the twenty-first century.”
Dan snatched his pills back as the elevator door slid open.
All the good humor slid away from the man’s face like melting ice cream as he gave Dan a spooked owl blink. Dan backed into the elevator and began pushing the fourth floor button as if he were trying to send a Morse code message.
As the elevator door slid shut, the bewildered man stepped forward and raised an accusing finger at Dan. “Hey, I was only trying to…”
That was when Dan’s eyes locked on to the terror his mind had insisted was already there. A leaf covered vine shot from the planter next to the elevator, and wrapped itself around the portly man’s forearm. Dan shrieked, and then kicked at the closing door as if poisonous snakes were trying to crawl through the crack. The elevator began its slow ascent as Dan backed into the far corner and slid down the glass panel into a crouch. He pressed his palms into his eyes and tried to erase the horrific images.
Someone yelled, in anger or pain he couldn’t tell, and Dan forced himself to lower his hands and look out the glass enclosure. What he saw stole all remaining sanity as his racing mind reassembled the broken thoughts he’d been having before Arron the desk clerk had interrupted him. It almost looks as if… as if the plants were shaped to look like the top half of a head with a hand on each side - like someone gripping a wooden fence and peering over the top. And as soon as the old thought came full circle in his mind, completing the image, all the planted foliage on every floor began erupting soil like angry little volcanoes.
Dan watched in horrified wonder as the hands of all the vine creatures stretched open and released their grip on the balcony ledge. A maid exiting one of the rooms didn't seem to notice the change of environment until it was to late, and exhaled one small bark of terror before a leafy stalk shot forward and impaled her through chest with such force her innards exploded out of her back like an exhausted party favor. Two more vines hurried over to the dead maid - one wrapping around her throat, the other around what remained of her mid section - and pulled the grizzly corpse into the thing’s head. As the maid’s body was disappearing into the vine creature’s mass the leaves began to vibrate, reminding Dan of T.V. show he once seen about heroin addicts and how they reacted during a fix, and Dan sensed the same type of lustful desire in those quivering leaves. Then the body lurched as something inside the vine creature bit into it.
Dan looked away, retching and moaning as the gruesome scene unfolded, and rubbed his closed eyes with balled up fists. “This can’t be happening,” he sobbed, “it’s impossible - plants don’t come to life and eat people. There has to be…”
But before he could finish, a terrifying sound filled the elevator car.
Dan had reached the fourth floor – his floor - and now the doors would slide open and the vines would hurry in for their main course.
Hit the stop button!, Dan’s mind roared across the panic and fear and his left fist shot out like a bolt of lightning, smashing in the red button marked STOP and breaking one of his knuckles with a sharp snap. The doors slid open an inch, shuddered, and then slid back shut. Dan heard an alarm bell go off, and then someone shout, “The fourth floor! It’s on the fourth floor!”
It’s coming for me, Dan’s mind whimpered. The vine creature knows I’m trapped and, Oh God, it’s coming for me! He backed away from the closed doors - the alarm ringing, more people yelling - and turned towards the glass wall.
What he saw was apocalyptic chaos.
The vine creatures had pulled themselves free from their planters; entrails of dirty roots trailing each like nests of rotting snakes, snaring and mutilating anything in range. A heavyset man with a graying beard, wearing slippers and a white robe with the hotel’s crest on the back, made a break from his room towards the stairwell door; a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of one slipper trailing him like a streamer. Just as his hand gripped the push bar, a long vine dropped from the floor above and wrapped itself around the fleeing man’s neck. The man flailed, reaching for the vine with a meaty arm as his face contorted into a choked grimace, and gripped at the living noose around his neck. The vine jerked violently upwards, separating its victims head from his shoulders in a shower of bright red blood, and then casually tossed the decapitate head to one of the eagerly waiting bushes like a volleyball.
As before, the leaves of the waiting bush trembled in the anticipation that Dan’s mind associated with the junky shake, and Dan lowered his head and vomited on his shoes as a wave of terror washed over him so intense that his whole body convulsed when it crashed upon the shores of his mind.
The restaurant floor below was a nightmare as vine creatures murdered and devoured human flesh during the all-you-can-eat evening buffet.
Oh, the irony!
Movement forced Dan’s head to the left, and the world outside his glass enclosure distorted into hews of grey as his mind threatened to shut down. Slowly, everything came back into focus, and Dan saw what had drawn his attention. A little girl of about eight, on the next landing down, had opened her room door. She was wearing a pink sundress with a smiling Minnie Mouse stenciled on the front, and didn’t seem to register the dangerous mayhem going on around her. Instead, the little girl wearing the Minnie Mouse dress stared at Dan, her head cocked quizzically to one side as if asking, “What’s ya doin’, mister?”
Dan began frantically motioning for her to go back inside, and to his horror, the girl only smiled, and began waving at him. Then, more movement to the girls left drew Dan’s eyes, causing Dan to let loose a mortified moan of disgust.
Propelling itself forward with a tangled mass of roots, one of the vine creatures emerged from the stairwell like a predator stalking it’s pray. A severed arm, grey and covered in gore, protruded from the vine creatures mass like a birth defect, and the brilliant glint of a well cut diamond gave away the fact that the poor soul had been married.
As if reading his thoughts, the vine creature stopped – Sorry buddy, I didn’t realize my fly was down - and Dan watched in disgust as a vine slithered out of the creatures mass, and began stuffing the amputated limb into it’s….mouth?....stomach?...who knew, and the wedding ring gave off one final blink before disappearing.
Ahh, that’s better. Now back to business.
The vine creature began moving forward again, towards its prey, and, Oh, dear God!, the little girl was still standing there waving at him. Dan began pounding on the glass, and screamed at the little girl with Minnie Mouse on her dress to, “Look out! – Get the hell inside!” The little girl lowered her arm and looked confused. Dan pounded on the glass again, and the little girl finally looked scared and began backing into her room.
“Thank you, Lord,” Dan said in relief, and then realized he had attracted the attention of something else. The vine creature stalking the girl turned and flattened back, almost as if it were trying to look up and see the source alerting its prey to danger.
Dan began pacing in the confines of the elevator car like a caged animal with no hope of escape. They know I’m here, Dan’s racing mind thought. I pissed them off and they know I’m here…and now they’ll come.
And they did.
As if reading Dan’s mind again, the vine creature stalking the little girl abandoned its hunt, hurried over to the balcony, and shot two vines up to the fourth floor railing directly above. Smaller vines escaped from the creatures mass, gripping hold of the self made grappling lines and hoisting the vine creature’s weight upward. Dan spun around and saw other vine creatures doing the same - the smaller vine reaching and gripping, hoisting and releasing, and then replaced by coworkers upon completing their task. The vine creatures occupying the dining area below abandoned their meals of mutilated corpses and made a beeline for the elevator kiosk in the lobby, leaving a trail of congealed blood in the wake of their dirty roots. The creature that had been hunting the little girl hoisted itself over the fourth floor railing and disappeared from view.
It was now on the same landing as the elevator shaft, and Dan knew his time was running out. He paced back and fourth, back and forth, weighing any possibility of escape. Another vine creature made its way over the fourth floor railing, and after collecting its roots, began to hustle down the landing.
The escape hatch, what about the escape hatch!, Dan’s mind snapped as he jerked his head towards the ceiling. Unless concealed behind the florescent lighting, no escape hatch was visible Dan could see. Just turn the damn elevator back on, and when the doors open, make a run for it, was the next idea his brain yammered out. However, the thought quickly departed when Dan’s mind pulled up the image of the vine creature’s first victim – how the maid didn’t even have time to react before a vine thicker than Dan’s wrist blasted a basketball sized hole though her chest.
His mind now spun like a hurricane trying to hold strength over land. What about…what about…, but nothing came, at least not in his mind. The true solution revealed itself with a terrible… Thump!
Dan jumped back from the elevator door. The vine creatures had found his hiding place. All bets were off. The game was over.
The thick, stainless steel doors shuddered in their frame. Faintly, Dan thought he heard voices trying to invade his thoughts – vine creature voices.
Come out. We won’t hurt you. Lets be friends.
“Just leave me the fuck alone! Just go away!,” Dan screamed at the top of his lungs.
He paced more rapidly and pressed his hands against his ears to muffles the voices (almost soothing voices) of the vine creatures.
This time the heavy doors jumped with the blows. Dan was sure the next volley would leave dents, and now that he thought to look for them, he could actually see small nipples protruding from the metal.
Could one of those vines actually puncture a hole through the steel doors?
Dan thought the answer was - yes, they could – and he had enough sense left to know he didn’t want to die that kind of horrible death. But how can it be avoided? How could I deny these horrible creatures their vengeance? How could I...
Something caught Dan’s attention in the upper corner of the elevators glass wall. He slowly reached his finger up, tracing a small crack in the glass presumably made by the relentless beating he inflicted on it while trying to gain the little girls attention.
The doors shuddered, and a crease appeared in the center of one. The next series of blows would gain the vine creatures their entry. If Dan was going to do what he was contemplating, it had to be now. He walked the short distance to battered doors, turned to face the glass, and then bowed his head.
“God, I know taking your own life is a biggie in your eyes, but I hope you will understand that I can’t die like that. Amen.” And with that said, Dan opened his eyes, lowered his shoulder, and sprinted for the glass.
It was a short sprint, but Dan put everything he had into it, and when he connected with the glass wall, two things happened - the glass wall shattered into millions of small, fragmented, pieces (but didn’t break), and Dan’s shoulder gave a sickening snap as it dislocated. Dan howled in pain as he fell to the floor, his mind flashing one word repeatedly in his head: Safety glass – safety glass – safety glass.
Dragging his injured arm along for the ride, Dan crawled back to the elevator doors and tried to stand up. The world swam out of focus as his knees unhinged and put him back down. Looking like a grazing horse that was fall asleep during dinner, Dan heard the voice of the vine creature again.
You’re hurt…We will help. We can fix you.
Dan forced himself into a kneeling position, throwing his good arm over his head, and tried to cover both ears at once.
“You lie!” he screamed in a hiss, making his body stand up by using sheer willpower. “I know what you want; I’ve seen how you fix people! I’m not stupid, and I’m not going to die that way, so why don’t you just eat shit and die!”
Dan lowered his good shoulder, gathered all of his remaining strength, and ran for the shattered remains of the glass wall.
If I don’t get through - if it doesn’t break this time, I won’t have the strength to…
Just as his shoulder connected with the shattered glass wall, five words from the other side of the door hit Dan’s ears like a revelation
“Your sister’s on her way.”
But it was to late. Forward momentum and gravity were not to be denied, and Dan sailed through the glass wall of the hotels elevator from four floors up, but before falling, time stood still for a brief moment.
Frozen in mid air above the hotels five-star dinning room, Dan saw tiny pieces of blood coated glass floating all around him. The restaurant tables below wore spotless, white tablecloths with fine china and silverware arranged in perfect order. On each table was a small glass vase holding a single rose, cut to perfection. Late evening dinner guest craning their necks skyward wore petrified O’s of anguished awe on their disbelieving faces, and the little girl wearing the pink Mickey Mouse dress stood inside her hotel room door, hands pressed to her cheeks and with word why stuck on her lips.
Never once during the whole ordeal did Dan associate his horrifying situation with his Bipolar disorder. Never once did he think – Man, my medicine might solve this terrifying event – or – I should call my doctor – or even – Hey, plants can’t talk. Never once did he think of any of these things, until he heard the five words spoken from the other side of the elevator door.
Your sister’s on her way.
Those five words broke through Dan’s delusional subconscious like a jet fighter crashing through the sound barrier. Oh, Marcy, I’m so sorry.
Why wouldn’t his sister be on the way? After their phone conversation, Marcy had probably been so worried about Dan that she filled the prescription and then brought it to Orlando herself, making it so Dan wouldn’t have to wait until morning and wouldn’t have to suffer all night long. That’s what big sisters did; take care of their little brothers, and just before Dan’s good shoulder finished the job his dislocated shoulder had started - reality hit home, and his delusional dream shattered just like the glass wall of the elevator. There were no bent doors, no corpses, and no vine creatures trying to kill him. Just patrons staying in a hotel and dealing with everyday life until it was time to go home.
God, what have I done?, Dan thought when time and gravity reasserted itself, and then Dan Clauson fell four stories to his death below.
George Humphreys, the investigator in charge, held up the yellow police tape as Marcy ducted under. Detective Humphreys let go of the tape and extended his hand.
“I’m Detective Humphreys, Miss Clauson, and I’m sorry we had to meet under these circumstances. You are Daniel Clauson’s sister, Marcy, correct?”
Marcy released the detective’s hand, and nodded somberly. She looked to her left and saw the elevator shafts – one occupied by a glass walled lift, the other empty. Her eyes followed the empty shaft to the fourth floor where the second lift was sitting; one of glass panels obliterated like a small bomb had gone off inside.
A flash exploded on the restaurant floor, and Marcy gasped. There, resting on the imploded remains of the baby grand piano and covered with a yellow tarp, lay the twisted shape of a human form.
“Miss Clauson, I need to ask you a few questions before escorting you to identify your brother,” Detective Humphreys said through the fog and haze collecting in Marcy’s head.
Shattered glass and splintered wood covered the floor all around what remained of the baby grand. Hotel workers and a few witnessing patrons spoke in low voices to a uniformed officer, the officer nodding his head and scribbling fiercely in his note pad. Two men, wearing black jackets with Coroner stamped in yellow across the back, waited by a parked gurney and seemed to be discussing some deep mathematical problem.
Then she saw the blood. It looks like a red stream running down from a yellow mountain, Marcy thought, then turned her head, and vomited.
Detective Humphreys waited patiently, and then said, “We can do this at the morgue if you prefer, Mrs. Clauson. It’s just that you were so close when it happened, we figured it would save you the trip.”
Marcy wiped her mouth on her sleeve and turned to the detective. “Gee, thanks for the concern. Now can you tell me where the bathroom is so I can freshen up before answering your questions, unless puke breath wouldn’t bother you either?”
Detective Humphrey’s eyes became slits for a moment, and then relaxed into a mournful loom. “Yes, of course,” he said as if talking to an elderly widow. “Down the hall and to the left.”
Marcy turned without a thank you and staggered down the hall. The restrooms were across from the elevator shafts, and as Marcy walked passed, she turned, facing the exterior elevator doors. Never in life would she have thought her brother capable of such an act. Yes, he went though some tough times during his divorce, and yes, he had an illness that required medication…but never any of the potential sign of committing suicide.
“What set you off, Danny,” Marcy asked the elevator doors. “What happened, or what did you see that frightened you into taking your own life.”
The air conditioning system came to life above her, blowing a cool gale into her face and ruffling the leaves of the plants next to the elevator.
“What made you do it?”
Marcy sighed sadly and turned away from the elevators, and as she did, a vine slithered from one of the planters and followed her – then another, then another, and then another.
Marcy never noticed her pursuers as she pushed through the bathroom door, and never looked back as the door swung shut. But it didn’t matter. The vines hurried forward and shot under the opening at the bottom of the door like little harpoons - and then the screams came…and came, and came.
Five minutes later, Detective Humphreys stood in the hallway between the bathrooms and elevator shafts, and watched as the last of the straggling vines retreated to their planters leaving dark red tracks in their wake across the gore covered tile.
“All right, wrap it up boys and girls!” he yelled across the restaurant floor.
Arron the desk clerk joined Humphreys as the last vine disappeared like a periscope into the bushes, and asked, “So, you think it will sleep for another 15 years?”
Humphreys produced a cigarette, lit it, and took a deep drag. “Yea, at least for the last three cycles it’s been fifteen years. My Dad handled the first one - and he was only 24.”
He looked at Arron, could tell his answer didn’t satisfy him, and gave his shoulder a squeeze. “Look, they always take four, and they’ve had their four, so there’s nothing more to worry about today. Okay?”
As if on queue, the two men wearing the coroners’ jackets pulled away the yellow tarp covering Dan’s body, and the vines had done brutal work. His body was skinned to the bone, and Dan’s face was nothing more than a smiling, slick red skull. The tendons covering the rib cage sagged in themselves after something had punched a fist-sized hole through the center of Dan’s chest, and all of his innards were gone as well. One of the men in the coroners’ jackets picked up what remained of Dan Clauson, tossing the decimated corpse unceremoniously into a large portable dumpster, and then motioned for his companion to help him push it away.
“What if word ever gets out…what then?” Arron asked while lighting his own cigarette. Humphreys took a final drag off his smoke and dropped it to the floor, where it hissed in the congealed blood, and then went out.
“It won’t get out. I’m a detective, remember? I go though all the reservations and do background checks until I find the right type of scenario: Divorced male or female who lives in the state - no friends to speak of, except for a few relatives - a high stress job – and takes prescription medication.” “The maid…Julia was her name?,” Humphreys continued. “She fit the profile, and just happen to work for the hotel as well…but that guy’s sister showing up to save the day…” Humphreys shook his head while lighting up another smoke. “That was priceless. I thought we were going to have to grab the new wash boy, Jose, who also met the profile, and then I get a call telling me that Miss Clauson was on her way – who, you guessed it, also met the profile. I did a background check on her as well, and thought how perfect it would be to get them both here together, but knew there was no possible way without raising any suspicion. He apparently called her last night and asked her to send him his pills. She became alarmed by the way he was acting, and decided to deliver his prescription in person. I bet she left without telling a soul. Nobody will even miss them until tomorrow. I called Mr. Clauson myself five days ago, and told him the conference had been moved up a day because of scheduling problems. He worked in a remote branch office, with seven other co-workers that didn’t get along, and even if he would have enquired about the change in date - it would have just been written off as a mistake.”
Arron watched as the portable dumpster came around the corner, the two men wearing the coroners’ jackets pulling it to a stop in front of the restroom door. “Has it always been four?”
Humphreys held his smoke for a moment, and then exhaled. “No, at first it was only one.”
“Then why four now,” Arron asked. “Is it getting more demanding, or just greedy?”
Humphreys gave him a forlorn look. “Neither, it’s growing.”