Silence invaded the car as skyscrapers loomed in the distance. They had arrived in St. Louis, where they would rest before continuing on the next leg of their journey. Kate had never been to St. Louis before. She had rarely been away from her hometown, save for the few family vacations to the beach and Smokey Mountains. The vacations had ceased when her father had left. Everything in her life had changed that year.
Aidan headed north on King’s Highway until they reached the Chase Park Plaza Hotel. Kate stared in wonder at the towering structure.
“Are we staying here?” Kate gasped.
“This is where I made reservations, but if you have some objection, I’m sure I can find another establishment.”
“No, I don’t have any objections. I haven’t stayed anywhere like this before. I guess I just thought we’d be staying at a roach motel or something,” Kate admitted, trying to hide her embarrassment.
“Our accommodations won’t always be this luxurious, but since we’re passing through St. Louis, I didn’t see any reason we couldn’t stay here.”
“Good choice,” Kate whispered, still awestruck at the sight of the hotel.
After a valet parked the car, Aidan led the way to the front desk with Kate in tow. Aidan walked with a long, graceful stride and Kate was struggling to keep up. She could feel the pins and needles feeling in her feet from the long car ride. Aidan opened the glass door for Kate, allowing her to enter the lobby first.
“This will just take a minute,” Aidan replied softly as he passed Kate and headed to pick up the room card.
Kate looked above her at the crystal chandelier that hung from the ceiling. The light passing through the crystals cast a barrage of color onto Kate’s skin as she stood beneath it. A light touch to her shoulder broke her concentration off the tiny rainbows that covered her bare arms. Aidan handed her the room card and pointed towards the elevator.
“We’re in room 502. Go on up and I’ll meet you as soon as I get the bags.”
Kate took the card Aidan handed her and made her way to the elevator. She pushed the button with her knuckle and felt the elevator jolt to life. Elevators usually made her nervous, but today she thought nothing of it. Perhaps it was the fear of being stuck in an elevator that had always made her prefer the stairs. After hours on end in the car, Kate felt too tired to climb five flights of stairs.
Reaching the desired floor, Kate stepped out into the hallway. She glanced from side to side, looking for room 502. Finding her destination, Kate slid the card in the slot and entered the hotel room. After a visit to the bathroom, Kate laid on her back across one of the two beds. The mattress felt like a cloud. She would have no trouble resting on this bed.
About to slip into sleep, Kate jumped when she heard a soft rap on the door. Jumping up, Kate tiptoed to the door and looked out through the peek hole. She could make out Aidan’s figure in the hallway. Pulling back the latch, Kate opened the door, allowing Aidan into the room. He carried two black bags, one on each shoulder as he entered the room, one of which he handed to Kate.
“Your clothes and such are in this bag. I hope you approve of my taste in clothing. I didn’t have much of a selection from the local shops in your town,” he laughed.
“The sentiments of many of us,” Kate returned, “but I’m sure they’ll be just fine.”
“I’m going to head out for a while. Go ahead and order room service for lunch, then get some rest. I’ll be back before dinner. We’ll get something at the hotel restaurant before we head out again.”
Aidan left the room, leaving Kate and the other black bag behind. Unzipping the bag Aidan had given her, Kate pulled out a set of fresh clothes. Putting the clothes to her nose, Kate could tell they had come straight from the clothing store. Kate headed for the bathroom with her bag of toiletries and the new clothes. She longed to feel the hot water of the shower on her tired and achy muscles.
Turning the water to hot, Kate let the shower run until the bathroom was filled with steam. Lifting her shirt over her head, she thought she heard a knocking sound. Surely Aidan wasn’t back already. He had left less than ten minutes ago.It’s probably the room next door, Kate thought to herself. The knocking sound became louder. Kate turned the shower off and cracked the bathroom door, listening for the knock again.
She crept to the peek hole, glancing into the deserted hallway. Turning back towards the bathroom, Kate froze as the knocking returned. A warning sounded in her head as she made her way back towards the main door. Looking through the hole, Kate saw a black form standing in the hallway. It was a huge, shadowy mass that looked like a mix between smoke and liquid. It resembled a bear standing on its hind legs more than a human, but Kate knew instantly what she was looking at.
Running over to the phone, Kate silently dialed the front desk, praying that the demon would not be able to hear her. In a stern, but shaky voice, Kate asked the front desk for assistance.
“Ma’am, are you hurt? Do you need an ambulance?” The man at the front desk questioned Kate.
“I just need someone to come up here and help me. There’s someone up here knocking on my door and I need help,” Kate whispered into the phone.
“Yes, ma’am, I’ll send someone right now.” Kate replaced the phone as silently as she could and moved to the farthest corner of the room, crouching down against the wall. She felt completely helpless, cowering in the corner like a trapped mouse. Aidan hadn’t prepared her to deal with anything like this. He had said he would protect her and she had believed him. There was no way she could protect herself from the huge malevolent spirit that waited outside her door.
Remembering the bible she had shoved into her bag at the rest stop, Kate crawled over and pulled her bag off the bed, shuffling through the contents until she reached the small book. Flipping through the New Testament, Kate searched frantically for a reference to demons. She remembered that Jesus had cast out demons in the gospels, but she couldn’t remember exactly where in the gospels. This wasn’t exactly the right time to start learning about expelling demons.
Kate prayed that it wouldn’t take long for someone to come to her aid. Her hope was that the site of another human would cause the demon to leave. It was a long shot, but what else could she do? The knocking had fallen silent after she had hung up the phone, but was replaced by a rattling noise. It sounded like someone was trying to remove the door from its hinges.
Why can’t it come through the door, Kate wondered. This demon wasn’t in human form, so why couldn’t it just walk through the walls or something? She cocked her head to the side, listening, when she heard a man’s voice in the hallway. A violent scream ripped through the air, and Kate heard a loud thud outside her door. It sounded as though someone had thrown a sack of potatoes up against the wall. More banging noises followed along the walls, but it sounded as though the source of the noise was moving away from Kate’s door.
Gasping for air, Kate squeezed her eyes shut and prayed that she wouldn’t have a panic attack. Something terrible was out in the hallway and it was only a matter of seconds before it might break down her door.Aidan, where are you?Kate cried under her breath.
More sounds traveled through the hallway, mostly shrieks and cries from hotel guests that had heard the commotion. Kate couldn’t make out what the others were saying. She could only make out the words, “ambulance” and “blood.”
Kate grabbed her bag and the bag Aidan had brought her, stuffing the unworn clothes from the bathroom inside. The phone rang shrilly on the nightstand, causing Kate to jump. With a trembling hand, she answered the phone, “hello?”
“Kate,” Aidan’s voice sounded on the line, “Get your things ready. I’ll be at the door in ten seconds.” The phone went dead.
Kate grabbed her bags, along with Aidan’s and stood waiting by the door, her heart beating erratically. A soft knock sounded on the door. Kate opened it slowly, until she saw that Aidan was on the other side.
“Kate, we’re walking to the left. I want you to look down as you leave the room and follow me,” he whispered urgently. Kate obeyed as she slid out of the door with the bags in tow. Aidan grabbed the bags with one hand, while taking Kate’s hand with his other. He led her down the hallway to the stairwell where they made their descent to the lobby.
Somewhere between the third and second levels, Kate caught her breath enough to speak. “Aidan, what just happened? I saw a demon outside my door. Did it kill someone?”
“The car is waiting out front. We’ll talk then,” was Aidan’s reply as they took the stairs two at a time. Reaching the ground level, Aidan slowed his walk to a normal pace and instructed Kate to mimic him. Kate could hear sirens approaching the hotel. They would need to get out before the police arrived and started questioning people.
Jogging across the parking lot, Kate spotted the car. Aidan unlocked the doors and tossed the bags he carried into the empty backseat. The tires spun and squealed onto the street, leaving the hotel and its chaos behind.
“What was that thing back there?” Kate breathed, trying to catch her breath.
Aidan glanced into his rearview mirror before replying, “One of the principalities of St. Louis. It must’ve been close by when we arrived. I can usually sense a spirit that powerful from miles away. I’m not sure how it was able to mask its presence, and that worries me.”
“Will it follow us?”
“It’s assigned to St. Louis, so as soon as we clear the city limits, we should be in the clear,” Aidan replied as he pressed harder on the accelerator. Kate was only slightly comforted by Aidan’s answer.
“So, what now? Are we going to drive without stopping all the way to Canada?”
“No, we can stop. We just need to be sure we aren’t in any city of considerable size. The larger the city, the more powerful the spirits rule over it. We’ll keep to the smaller towns when we stop from now on.