Are You Afraid of the Dark?
By Olivia Yu
With Halloween approaching, ghost stories will be told and continually repeated in the cavities of our minds. These stories have a strange way of worming into our thoughts.
When told in broad daylight, they are practically harmless. No one would bat an eye for that ghastly pale figure standing behind people’s bedposts or the twitching hand that emerges from the toilet. At night, however, memories of those stories creep up with vengeance, turning everyday objects into your worst nightmares. Even if the narratives do not contain any ghosts, it is the supernatural and the play on human fears that compose the suspenseful little thrillers that we seek for a good scare.
I recall one particular ghost story my cousin told me one summer evening, as we waited for sleep to fall heavy on our eyes.
The bedroom had a musty smell, and the dim fluorescent night light illuminated our surroundings with an eerie blue hue. Given our restlessness and the unsettling atmosphere, my cousin began her story with a whisper …
Late at night, a young couple arrived at a rundown inn. There seemed to be no sign of any other visitors, but the two of them were exhausted from a long day of driving and decided to check in.
The old man at the front desk gave them their key and warned to always leave their bathroom door open, regardless of the situation. When the couple asked for a reason, the innkeeper simply shook his head and said no more. The conversation ended there. The young man and woman exchanged looks of confusion but then shrugged and proceeded to their room.
The room was simple, the bathroom several steps away from the bed. With the innkeeper’s warning still fresh in mind, the girl felt a chill snaking its way down her spine. While everything about the restroom seemed relatively normal, disregarding the rusty walls and tiles, she found the sight to be unsettling. She did not like how the shower and the toilet were so widely spaced from the entrance, or how the incandescent light flickered.
She suggested that they should stay elsewhere, but her boyfriend dismissed her protest. When he realized that she had been serious, he reassured her that the innkeeper was babbling nonsense. With that said, he removed a change of clothes from his bag and approached the bathroom for a quick shower.
Since the reassurance proved little comfort to her, the young woman insisted that door remained open. Eventually, he resigned and left the door partially closed.
Meanwhile, she retreated to the bed and waited for him. She could hear his footsteps, as he stepped into the tub and turned the knob. The pitter patter of streaming water then drowned out all other sounds. She clenched the linen tightly in her fists and listened closely. At first, she could hear only the sound of falling water, but then, she heard her boyfriend call out to her to confirm that he was ready to come out. At the sound of his voice, she felt instantly relieved.
She waited for a few more minutes, but the water continued to run with no sign of him stepping out. She called back to him, and the water switched off with a squeak of the knob. Nothing but a dripping sound from the shower followed. Concerned, she climbed out of bed and reached for the doorknob, but the door swiftly slammed shut and clicked.
She twisted and turned the knob in all directions, but it wouldn’t budge. She knocked, pounded, and called out to her partner several times, but there was only silence. Not even the sound of dripping water could be heard. She searched for other ways to push through the door and eventually found a keyhole. She peeked through the cavity and saw nothing but red. The other side of the keyhole was probably covered. With no other way into the bathroom, she dashed to the front desk and demanded the innkeeper to open the door.
With his keys in hand, the old man followed her back. He took out one the keys and inserted it into the keyhole. The door unlocked and slowly creaked open. The young woman rushed into the stuffy room and froze. Her blood turned cold, as her eyes widened at the sight of a hanging body stripped of its skin.
She screamed and backed away from the tub for her escape, but the door slammed shut again, trapping her inside. She desperately shook the knob, its keyhole now covered with coagulated blood. The door was tightly locked, and the lights flickered violently until it burned out.
Her cries stifled to fitful gasps. Her breath echoed in the dank space but drew to a halt when she felt a warm, clammy grip on her shoulder.