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September 18, 2023

All-Nighter 22

By Lydia Manx

Episode Twenty Two


Back then ...

A sudden gust of icy snow-driven wind rattled the thickly double paned window, rousting Scott from his alcohol-induced slumber. Grumbling like an unfed bear, he coughed and rubbed his face with his massive hand. His eyes were bloodshot and his beard looked like he'd deliberately brushed the somewhat matted fur backwards. He really didn't look like the accountant Sammy claimed him to be.

"Where's my bottle?" Scott spit out and glared at Sammy. Ginny batted her eyelashes and said in a sugarcoated tone, "It was empty, Uncle Scott. I tossed it in the trash."

Her reply cut short any sort of argument and Scott's face somewhat softened. I must have missed Ginny getting adopted by the drunk man in the past few hours. She looked at me and said, "Why don't we go fix these guys something to eat?" I don't know why she bothered to make it sound like a question, because it was pretty much a command. Keeping my negative thoughts off my face, I simply shrugged and headed to the kitchen. I wasn't much for letting a kid tell me what to do, but I was pretty tired of all the male posturing and bullshit flooding the room. It made me want to slap somebody. Really hard, at that -- really hard.

Quietly we went to the dank kitchen and looked through the various boxes of food we'd assembled during our fleeing of Podunk, West Virginia --, okay that wasn't the town's name but close enough. The fresh meat and vegetables needed to be fixed first, so I suggested a late breakfast/lunch sort of thing. No seafood, so I couldn't call it a brunch, since my standards for brunches always involved seafood. Cans of tuna didn't exactly qualify in my worldview as seafood. But my past real estate life was quickly growing to be a fading memory as I whirled through the zombie-filled landscape chased by monsters and maniacs.

Without talking we worked while the boys did whatever they were doing. Dean was pretty useless so I figured that Sammy and Uncle Scott were plotting and planning how we were going to get the fuck out of Dodge without being caught by either the zombies or the mercenaries. Hell, I probably should be calling them 'hunters' after what we'd seen. They were systematically trying to quick-fry any and all humans or possible non-humans in the vicinity without bothering to figure out which flavor of human they were -- non-human or unlucky, uninfected local -- rather dramatically.

Despite everything we'd seen Dean kept insisting that the zombies were just very sick people that could be given a cure and return to normal. I happened to disagree, and found, from all I'd watched, that flamethrowers and decapitation appeared to be the only reliable cure. Sad when I found myself agreeing with sociopathic mercenaries over a love-sick fool like Dean, but it was reality. Those scary men had far more persuasive arguments in my opinion, as none of the people they'd killed who'd been ripping and chewing into their neighbors like good barbeque had got up and walked away once they were done. Dean's doping the zombies' pizza had not exactly laid down and played dead very well. I was torn as the mercs killed regular folks but still, part of me understood. Dean kept touting the 'winning' side of good meds. I liked them for my trashed ankle, but not to zone out the zombies.


Now !I snapped out of my musings from the past with a sudden jerk. Something had shifted. I flew to the panel of monitor feeds that came from the surrounding cameras. They ran twenty-four seven and were on some kind of generator backup, Grant had told me when I was given the tour. He mumbled about hurricanes and tornado action having been in the state, and this assured the 'guests' a level of protection in the event of such a disaster. I'd done my research and found he hadn't been exaggerating about the storms and I appreciated the effort. Automatically I double checked the live feed of the hallways, exits and entrances to see that there wasn't anything bizarre, and from what I could see, anything threatening in any way. With my heart in my throat I watched absolutely nothing happen.

I sank back into a velvety soft chair and sat next to a 'log fire' without any heat radiating from the 'flames.' I had to hand it to the owners of the 'hotel' as they really knew what they were doing. My brain raced to find what had disturbed my reflections.

A knock on the door and I looked at the monitor to see that Grant was at my door.

Curious, I opened up after unbolting two locks and one chain and asked, "What do you need?" I mentally slapped my forehead at my rudeness but didn't bother to add anything.

Grant tiled his head slightly then said, "I am so sorry to disturb you but it was brought to my attention that you may know our new night front desk man, Sammy."

I didn't hear a real question in that comment, but I was startled by the straight out way he'd said it. Nodding, "You could say that."

Looking slightly upset by the possibility that they may have done something wrong at the expensive little hotel, Grant literally pulled himself up and stiffened his spine, and then he said, "Is there going to be a problem? We can transfer you to another location of our company, if need be. We have a few other residential suites in Florida that would suit your needs."

Laughing, since I didn't have any 'needs' other than some safe haven to put my head every night without having to sleep with one eye open, I replied, "No, but thank you for your offer. I will stay the length of time I booked for my holiday. I do appreciate your concern for my safety, but Sammy isn't a problem." He wasn't, to me, but at the same time I did find Grant's worry nudging into my thoughts. Hell, who was I kidding? If nothing else my current location was going to be interesting.

"Very well. I am sorry to have bothered you. Do not hesitate to contact either myself or the front desk should you have a need." He bowed slightly while handing me his business card. I think I had four or five of them already, but accepted his card and shut the door, making sure to bolt and chain my way up and down. I tossed the card next to the phone on a small desk near the bed and shook my head. I really was flabbergasted by Sammy working at the same hotel I was staying, but my life hadn't been very predictable for years now.

Soon I found myself on the couch in the room, and actually watching the television for weather. Something was still itching in the back of my brain and I couldn't ignore the feeling. I went to a local news station and endured the repetitive stories cycling, waiting for something weird. I knew my vacation was being tilted off balance and I wanted to see what had been happening locally. The news team were a mixture of seasoned personalities, along side shiny new kids that just came out of the local hair salon and whatever school of talking heads currently churning out the pretty little people. Fighting a huge yawn, I endured another marginally painful car commercial and saw the flashy 'Breaking News' banner scrolling the bottom of the screen -- while the pretty little girl held up a tablet with a slightly shaking hand.

Quavering soft voiced brunette said with eyes wide open, "This just in. There are multiple reports coming in that the police are on the scene of a large accident. It's unclear how many are injured, but be advised, the complete shut down of Highway 95 at Glades Road in both directions is underway. The suggested alternates are East Federal Highway or West Military Trail."

There wasn't any footage behind the lady, only the breaking news screen. My 'spidey senses' were going nuts. This was bizarre. No live shots of news crew on the ground with flashing police lights. Her co-host on the news show was noticeably missing, and I could feel the fear rolling off the reporter. The program cut to another car dealership trying to offload overpriced hunks of plastic and metal and I tuned out. I wasn't thrilled to find out something was happening, but as it was edging later into the night, I doubted there'd be any solid news until ten o'clock started the cycle again. The scared brunette flew into view without her co-host again -- odd -- saying they'd update at ten like I'd thought. Then some brainless sit-com popped on and I flipped off the television. Groaning I went back to my laptop and began searching to see if anything was online about the 'accident' at Glades. I knew it was close to the 'sleep clinic' hotel I was at but there hadn't been any bells and whistles going off so maybe it was just an ugly accident.


I overslept after I had lain down for 'a few minutes.' I wasn't going to be late, but I wasn't going to be really early. I showered and dressed again -- Florida weather, pretty much hot and humid, forced the frequent showers -- and went out to find my Grandma sitting up with the sound muted on the TV.

"There you are, Sammy! You need to leave right now and don't take the freeway. There was a closure a few hours ago and I don't want you stuck getting in late the first night."

I gave her a kiss, grabbed the lunch that she'd made for me from the fridge and snagged the keys yelling, "Thanks Grandma. Love you!" I did. She really makes sure I'm ok. I snuck a peek and found that she'd put in some freshly baked cookies along with other stuff.

Carefully I backed out of the garage, and headed to the coastal route to avoid the freeway. I found a station with a news update and found my grandma's prediction to be dead on -- the freeway was still frozen, and the reporter didn't seem to know what the heck was going on other than major shut downs and irate folks. It was a bit after eight, so I was hopeful I'd be able to go the dozen or so miles in an hour. A ton of cars flowed in both directions, giving me the notion that it was more than a little jacked up on the highway. I kept the a/c cranked and just went with the flow. At a few of the intersections it took me two or three lights to be able to get through, but luckily the traffic fell off as I rolled into Boca Raton. I found my way to the place and keyed in with my birthday as Grant told me. I was a bit surprised to find Grant still at the front desk; I'd expected him to leave after our interview earlier in the day.

"Oh good, Sammy, you did make it. I wondered if you'd seen the news." He looked over at me and again, I had the odd feeling that he was much larger than he'd been earlier.

"Ah, yeah. I was aware of it. Don't know what happened yet, did you hear anything?" I was curious; with all the chaos in the world it seemed like a perfectly decent question, but a look flashed across Grant's face and I found myself replaying my question in my head trying to figure out if I'd pissed the little guy off.

He shook his head and said, "No. That means you should be very vigilant tonight. Such oddities can be precursors to something horrific, and possibly dangerous to our clients."

Nodding, I watched Grant make his way out the back, saying, "And remember to push the red button and make sure to lock yourself inside the room if something happens."

"Okay. I promise." I wondered again what I had signed up to do.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-07-04
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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