The Inn

Three friends visit an inn in Sugar Creek but strange things evolve while they're there.

"I can't believe it. We're lost," said Amanda Waring, running a hand through her short blond hair. She crossed her legs unexpectedly kicking the stick shift which caused Jackson Hart to lose control of his brand new Blazer.

He instinctively extended his arm to brace Amanda who wasn't wearing her seat belt.  Jackson cranked the steering wheel hard to the right. Tires squealed and the smell of burnt rubber wafted in the window.  Jackson slammed on the brakes and swerved barely missing an oncoming tractor trailer.  The gravel on the right shoulder sprayed into a corn field like water from a fireman‘s hose.

Sometimes he didn't understand women. 

"Hey, calm down. We want to live through this experience,” Jackson said breathing a sigh of relief. “You all right back there Brandy?"

"Yeah, but quit playing dodge ball with oncoming traffic." Brandy Thornberry nervously tucked a long red curl behind her ear and scanned the map strewn over the back seat. She knew where she was going but couldn't find it on the map. Everyone knew Brandy had a terrible sense of direction. But among the three of them she had the best head on her shoulders. And that meant reading the map.

"Have you found the crossroad yet?" Jackson maneuvered the Blazer along the uneven road. It was filled with holes deep enough to blow a tire.

"Don't pressure me, and quit hitting all the pot holes." Yet again she had lost her place on the map.

"Your parents are going to be ticked if we don't make it to their anniversary party." Amanda careened her swan-like neck toward Jackson to check her makeup in the rear view mirror. "Why are they having it in the middle of nowhere anyway?"

"Hey, use your own mirror." Jackson reached up and flipped down the visor in front of Amanda while repositioning his own. "What is it with you and mirrors?"

"It's the Dorian Grey Syndrome," muttered Brandy under her breath. Jackson held back a little chuckle.

"Who's Dorian Grey? Is he cute?"

"Never mind, Amanda. It's over your head,” Brandy said. “Jackson, we should be coming onto a highway soon. That should take us straight into Sugar Creek. And from there, it's
right in the middle of town."

Brandy folded the map a bit pleased with herself. It wasn't too hard once she had the map right side up. Once they came to the highway intersection the ride was smoother. Brandy was glad because roads like the one they were on made her sick to her stomach.

"You never did answer my question, Brandy." Amanda asked touching up her lip stick as she pouted into the mirror. Amanda's father was the CEO of Waring Cosmetics and was wearing make-up even before she learned how to ride a bicycle.

"My grandfather didn't approve of my father. So my parents married in secret. Sort of like Romeo and Juliet without the dying part. My Aunt Frankie arranged it all. She had one of her feelings about my father. She just knew."

“What do you mean she had one of her feelings? Is she one of those weirdo new age freaks you always hear about." Amanda was much like her father in that she didn't accept the unusual very easily.

"I guess you could say that. She's a unique person. I don't think you've ever met anyone like her." Brandy stuck her head in between the driver and passenger seat. "Grandfather found out about the marriage and put a curse on them. Not long after the wedding my grandfather died suddenly. Frankie said the curse backfired."

"Yeah, right. New age, curses, dying grandfather... This is a bunch of fiction. You're making it all up aren't you?" Amanda didn't want to admit that Brandy's history was more interesting than her own.

Jackson pulled into town and parked in front of the Sugar Creek Inn. "You have to admit  Brandy, this story is a little hard to believe."

"I know the perfect solution. Why don't we ask them personally." Amanda was out of the Blazer before either could comment. She threw open the front door of the Inn striding in with an air of dignity she had learned from a finishing school in Switzerland.

Jackson and Brandy gathered supplies and suitcases from the Blazer when they heard someone scream. It sounded like Amanda.

"Let me guess,” Jackson said. “She found out they don't have room service."

"Cut the act. She could really be hurt." Brandy watched Jackson dash in after their friend. She couldn't believe how helpless Amanda was out of her element. When a city pulsated with life, Amanda was alive. The art of the deal was in her very being.

Brandy knew she would take over her father's company some day and make it an even bigger success. But out here where you could hear the crickets chirp and see
a firefly instead of city lights, Amanda was a lost little girl.

Brandy lugged the last suitcase from the Blazer and locked it up tight. Even a town of 200 had its car thieves. Slowly one by one she lined up the suitcases on the porch of the Inn. They were the first to arrive, but she knew her parents and Frankie were inside waiting. Brandy stuck her head in the door and called out to Jackson and Amanda.

No response.

Brandy marched in fully intending to give them a piece of her mind for leaving her to gather the luggage alone.

The entryway was a long hall with paneled walls and a wooden floor. Over the entrance to the ballroom was a long white banner with the words Happy Anniversary written in a large dot matrix type. She could see Jackson kneeling under the banner. He was staring through a large hole in the floor eyes focused on something below. She rushed to his side.

"What happened? What are you looking at?" Brandy had to lean over his shoulder to look into the hole. The next floor down was very dark but the hole allowed enough light to see
Amanda sprawled across the floor in an awkward position. Brandy immediately sensed danger.

"We have to get down there."

She started for the stairway, but Jackson wasn't following her. She pulled him to his feet which wasn't an easy task for such a short girl. They headed for the stairs through a door to their left. It was dark. Brandy groped for a light switch instead her fingers cut through a mass of cobwebs. She impulsively snapped her hand back. She hated spiders. Once Jackson found the light it revealed that the entire stairwell was covered in cobwebs. Frankie needed to clean more often, thought Brandy.

An old broom from a hall closet helped them clear the spider webs and make it to the next floor unscathed. They ran through the door prepared to assist Amanda, but she wasn't there.

"Where'd she go?" Jackson looked around but Amanda was definitely not there.
"What's going on here?”

“That's odd. This has to be the right room." It was directly below the entry way. Brandy looked up at the hole, but it too was gone.

Suddenly, they heard the front door slam and echo throughout the house. Footsteps
quickly strode to the center of the room. The stranger was directly above them.

The sound of wood splintering was their only warning before a portion of the
ceiling caved in on them. When the dust cleared a few minutes later, they found
Amanda sprawled atop of them and the debris.

It was impossible. Amanda had fallen before they came down the stairs. They both had seen her body. There was definitely something strange going on at the Sugar Creek Inn.

Brandy looked over at Jackson. He seemed unharmed. From somewhere above,
she could hear voices whispering. It could be her parents. She glanced up through
the hole and looked into the eyes of herself gazing down. Brandy was pinned under
a heavy beam and couldn't call out for help. Her lungs labored for air and within a
minute she lost consciousness.

The End

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