Paranormal Romance turned Crime/Horror/Thriller Fiction author/podcaster Michele Bardsley (Freeman) is closing out today’s collection of Halloween Flash Fiction stories. This is the image that inspired her story…
Don’t forget to check the info for the Rafflecopter giveaway below the story!! Print books, ebooks, and giftcards are all parts of SEVEN different prize packs!
A Monster Job by Michele Bardsley
The three-story Winchester Hotel sits alone in the desert, surrounded by scrub brush and cacti. It’s off State Highway 127, several miles past Baker, California, which is pretty much the last sign of civilization if you’re heading toward Death Valley National Park. Even though you can easily see the flashing VACANCY sign on top of the building, you still gotta drive about a mile on a pothole-filled road before you get to the gravel parking lot.
Fun fact: Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the world. No lie. It’s the northern part of the Mojave Desert and if you make it to Badwater Basin, you’ll be at the lowest elevation in North America. I don’t get why people even visit Death Valley. You’d think the name would be a big enough deterrent.
I can tolerate almost any bad smell, clean up most bodily fluids, and endure all kinds of stomach-churning sights (suicides, overdoses, murders–you know, the usual). I spent my formative years cleaning up after my mentally ill mother who self-medicated with booze and pills. She spent a lot of time puking up her guts. On several occasions, she shit her own pants. And on many, many occasions, she destroyed entire rooms. I was so good at cleaning up messes, it’s no surprise I went into the housekeeping industry.
Ha. I say that like it was some kind of career choice. I’d work for under-the-table cash cleaning the rooms of whatever shitbag place my mother found for us to live in. Didn’t matter, really. Mom always, always lost her mind and got us kicked out. The day after I turned eighteen, she downed a handful of benzos with a fifth of cheap tequila.
My mom died in a crappy little motel in Baker. She’d already gotten us thrown out most of the places in town, and her suicide had cemented my permanent inclusion on a hiring blacklist. I’d never been the problem, but that was life, right? It pummeled you bloody and when you were on the ground screaming from the pain, it kicked you in the teeth.
I found the job listing for the Winchester Hotel in one of those free papers they leave in restaurant lobbies. I thought I’d been to every motel, hotel, and bed and breakfast in Baker. Apparently not. I was officially homeless and broke, and the idea of working for a fast food joint made me want to jump into traffic. So, I hitchhiked down Highway 127 and got dropped off at the dirt road that led to the hotel. I did the trip at night, when the sun was down and the heat was less likely to kill me. Still, that mile-long walk was a real bitch.
Those were the first words the owner, Gunther, spoke to me as we sat down in his office. “Not if you believe my mother,” I answered. “She said I was the devil.”
He laughed, and I noticed his teeth were yellow and pointy. He was a huge dude dressed in black. Pants, shirt, tie, shoes. Tattoos covered every inch of his visible flesh. His hair was green. Like, Joker green. And it was really long. He wore it in a braid that went all the way to his butt. He had weird eyes, too. The pupils were almost triangular. I figured it’s a genetic thing, you know?
Whatever. Who was I to judge people’s appearances or lifestyle choices? I wore jeans and T-shirts and cheap-assed sneakers exclusively. I’d been told I was too tall and too thin to be attractive. Throw in my lack of boobs, my overly pale skin, and my short brown hair and you had yourself a girl who might as well be invisible. So. If this guy wanted to file his teeth and color his hair to appear otherworldly, I didn’t give a fuck.
“Can’t guarantee you’ll last very long,” he said.
“Maybe I’ll surprise you.” I’d been underestimated my whole life. And I was used to apathetic bosses.
“All right, Amelia. I’ll give you a job,” he finally said, those weird eyes drilling into me. “But there are a few caveats.”
Well, that didn’t bode well. This guy could go fuck himself if he thought I would trade sex or anything else for a chance to clean his shitty hotel. I crossed my arms. “What?”
“First, I require that you live here. You can choose any room you like on the first floor. Those units include small kitchenettes. I’ll make sure you have groceries and any other necessities.”
“Are those expenses deducted from my paycheck?” I asked.
“No. They are part of your employment package.”
“Oh.” I have to admit I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Suddenly having employment, a place to live, and food seemed a little too good to be true.
“Second, you must never go into the attic. That’s where I live and I insist on complete privacy.”
“I feel the same way,” I said. “I don’t want anyone in my room for any reason.”
“Agreed,” he said, nodding. “Third, you are never, ever to answer housekeeping calls from Room 9.”
I blinked. “Does another employee live in Room 9?”
“No. Just pretend Room 9 doesn’t exist.”
“Okay. What else?”
“You’ll have to man the check-in counter sometimes.”
I shrugged. “I’ve done that before. No problem.”
“One last thing, Amelia.”
I waited for him to speak. Finally, he sighed. “You cannot hold me or The Winchester Hotel responsible if you are injured, mangled, or eaten by any of our guests.”
Shocked, I stared at him. “Eaten?”
“You heard correctly. I promise that if you’re harmed, I will do my best to insure that you live. Although, if I’m to be completely honest, rare is the human that survives their limbs being ripped off their torso.” He paused. “Or being snacked on. Some of our guests have no manners, I’m afraid.”
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“Very.” He leaned back in his chair. “You’re not the first human to apply for a housekeeping position here. I’m afraid none of them survived. I figure you should know this upfront before you decide on whether or not to take the position.”
“If I turn down the job,” I asked carefully, my heart pounding. “Do I leave here alive?”
Gunther didn’t respond, and I knew his silence equaled the answer I didn’t want to hear. If this place was a…a hotel for monsters, then of course, he didn’t want humans going off and telling other people about it.
“How much does it pay?” I asked. My voice shook, but so would yours if your potential boss just explained how you might be mistaken for a snack while going about your job.
“Ten thousand a month.”
“Dollars?” I yelped.
“Yes. Consider it hazard pay. If you can work here for an entire year without dying or going insane, I’ll give you the option of staying on at the Winchester or seeking employment elsewhere.”
It’s not like I had a real choice, right? I reached over the desk and shook his hand. “You got a deal.”
So now I clean rooms at the Winchester Hotel. And yeah. It’s a real monster of a job.
Follow Funk-N-Fiction (links in sidebar)
After you have left a comment for one (or more) of today’s authors, telling us what you think of the story or this blog event, click HERE to enter to win one of our SEVEN prize packs! (One entry per day.) Enter now through midnight (ET) November 1st. Winners announced on November 2nd.