Once Upon A Weekend 5
     Going back into the house wasn't something Sam relished, but he had to get Ricky.  Pausing at the front door, he took a deep breath then plunged through.
     A blast of frigid air hit him as he slid to a stop in the main hall.  A manical feminine laugh echoed through the entire lodge, the sound piercing his eardrums.  It was hard to tell exactly where it was coming from.  He scanned the hall until he saw the bag on the floor by the door of the Solarium.  Ricky had to be there.

     Ricky intended to go straight out of the house to the van with the others, but when he opened the front door, he found himself back in his bedroom.  He turned and went out of the bedroom door only to find he was back in the bedroom.  He continued to do that until he was dizzy.  At last, screaming with frustration and rage, he plowed through the bedroom door, tripped, and fell down in the hall.  Scrambling to his feet, he ran for the landing of the stairs, but as he ran, the hallway elongated.  The stairs got further away instead of closer.  Determined, sweating, and breathless, he kept going until he broke through the illusion and nearly fell down the stairs.
     He was almost to the front door when the apparition of the woman in the white gown manifested to block his way.  He skidded ninety degrees and ran for the Solarium, hoping to find another way out of the house.  He dove through the door into a jungle of tangled trees, vines, and plants.  The air was sultry and humid.  Somewhere in the jungle he heard birds and animals crying out.  He lost all sense of direction, but refused to stop.  Thorns and jagged limbs shredded his tee shirt.  Vines tangled around his feet and twice he fell to the damp earth.  He scrambled to his feet, desperate to get out of the nightmare. 
     Cold air flooded the Solarium and suddenly he found he was standing in the center of a large open room with potted plants and trees neatly situated about.  Two walls were all glass, giving him a panoramic view of the outside.  A large fireplace centered one wall, comfortable wicker furniture arranged around it. A long fully stocked bar was just inside the door.  He felt dizzy, drenched in sweat, his arms and face scratched and scuffed. 
     Sam grabbed him by the shoulders, nearly scaring him to death, and pushed him to the main hall.  He grabbed his bag as he went and he soon outside being helped to the van by Ken and Brian.
     Sam climbed into the driver's seat, revved the motor, and once all doors were slammed, all passengers secured, he spun out of the driveway.  The four of them sat totally drained, unable to speak until they reached the highway.
     "Please tell me that was a nightmare," Brian said.
     "It was a nightmare," Ken said.  He was still badly shaken and his cigarette shook in his hand.
     "Sam," Ricky said weakly, "I think I'm going to be sick."
     Sam pulled to the shoulder of the road.  Ricky spilled out and over to the ditch where he promptly threw up.  Brian went with him and helped him back to the van once the sickness had passed.
     "Lie down," Sam told him.  "Until you feel better."
     Ricky reclined his seat and was soon asleep.  Ken threw his coat over him to keep him warm. 
     For several hours, they drove in total silence, too exhausted to speak. 
     "Who do you suppose that woman was?" Ken asked finally. 
     "Was she even real?" Brian asked.  "Was any of it real?"
     Sam said nothing.  He had no answers.  That it all happened was not in question.  They couldn't all four have had hallucinations.  The house was either haunted or rigged.  Whichever it was, he was going to find out. 

     They arrived at the construction site parking lot where they'd left their cars around midnight.  Ken had calmed down some, but still felt jittery as he shook Ricky awake, then climbed out of the van. 
     Brian grabbed his things and left the van without a word and didn't even look back as he strode purposefully to his car, climbed in and drove away.  It was clear he'd had enough.
     Ricky was acting as if he'd been given a very powerful sedative that he was having a hard time shaking off.  He swayed a little as he waited for Sam.
     "Hey," Sam lifted Ricky's chin so he could get a good look at his eyes.  "You okay?"
     Ken pulled Ricky to one side and got between him and Sam.  
     "He'll be fine," Ken said defensively, "or will be when I get him home and into bed."
     Sam was surprised by Ken's aggressiveness.
     "Now what's your problem?" he demanded.
     Ken feigned surprise.
     "Problem?" he asked, his words dripping with sarcasm.  "What makes you think I have a problem, unless you consider dragging us off to some haunted funhouse out in the middle of nowhere with a lunatic ghost trying to drive us all insane a problem."
     "Now look..." Sam said.
     He was getting tired of being everybody's target.  He was just as exhausted as the others and just as taken by surprise by the things going on in the house.  He'd not known what they were getting into, nor the condition they would return home in.
     "No, you look," Ken interrupted. "I don't want to talk to you right now.  And I think it's a good idea that you aren't around Ricky in the condition he's in.  I'm taking him home and putting him to bed.  Maybe by tomorrow he'll be himself and we'll all feel better about things."
     He grabbed Ricky's arm and started pulling him to the car.  Ricky came meekly, not sure where he was, but when he heard someone mention home and bed, he was ready.  Ken got him in the car, then climbed in behind the steering wheel and drove out of the parking lot.  He knew he'd been hard on Sam, but felt it served him right.  Maybe next time, Sam would be more careful in choosing a place to spend the weekend, if there ever was a next time.
     When they reached Ricky's apartment, Ken helped him inside and to the couch.  Ricky looked for all the world as if he'd been on a drunk.  Ken brought him a glass of water and some aspirins.
     "Okay, pal," he said, helping him to his feet.  "Let's get you to bed."
     He helped him to the bedroom, undressed him, and put him to bed.  Ricky was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.  Ken pulled the blankets around him, then sat with him until satisfied he was going to be alright to leave alone.  Before going home, he set the alarm for Ricky and left a message for him under it saying the coffeemaker was on and he'd see him later.
     It was the phone that woke Ricky.  Moaning, he rubbed his throbbing head as he groped for the phone on the bedside table.
     His boss's booming voice nearly deafened him and he almost dropped the receiver.
     "Are you coming to work today, or was the weekend so good you decided to extend it?"
     Ricky squinted at his alarm clock and saw it was nine o'clock.  He forced himself out of bed, telling his boss he'd be right there, then stumbled into the bathroom.  He took care of personal matters, then climbed into the shower, standing under the spray of water letting it bring him back to life.  He felt better and was glad to be in the security and safety of his own home.  
     The water suddenly turned scalding hot.  He yelped in surprise and jumped back.  That hadn't ever happened before.  He adjusted the knobs to bring the water back to normal and was washing his hair when the water turned freezing cold.  Again, he moved out from under the spray, startled.  Deciding there must be a tangle in the waterlines somewhere, he readjusted the water temperature, finished his shower and climbed out.  Wrapping a towel around him, he went into his bedroom and called a plumber who told him it would be a week before he could come.  Appointment made, he started to reach for the clothes he'd laid out on the end of the bed, but they weren't there.  He distinctly remembered putting them out, but when he checked, he found them hanging in the closet where they were supposed to be.  Thinking he must still be suffering the effects of the weekend, he dressed and hurriedly left the apartment.  

     At the construction site, Sam found himself shunned by Brian and Ken.  Neither one of them had said so much as 'good-morning' to him.  When Brian first arrived, he had marched over to him and informed him to never, ever invite him along on any trip again.  With that, he turned on his heel and marched away, refusing to say another word or even look in Sam's direction.
     Ken, Sam noticed, smoked six cigarettes before first break and his hands still shook.  Worried about Ricky, Sam was relieved when the sleek little white Mitsubishi Lancer slid into the parking lot and Ricky climbed out, looking pale, but smiling.  There was, however, something wrong with his eyes.  He kept peering around as if afraid someone was following him.  That didn't bode well.
     There was no concentration for the four of them.  Their boss, quickly growing tired of their mistakes and near accidents, finally threw up his hands and told them to get off the site, not to come back until they were sober.  Too aggravated to bother correcting his misconception, they didn't argue for the extra time off to recover.

     Ricky couldn't believe how badly things were going.  Ken came over and placed a protective arm around his shoulder.
     "Don't worry, Ricky," he said, "we'll be okay.  Just give it a little time.  Hey, hungry?  Let's go get something to eat.  I'm buyin'."
     Ricky shook his head.
     "Nah," he said.  "I think I'll just go home.  I got work I need to do around the house."
     "Okay, then," Ken said, "I'll pick something up and bring it over.  What do you want?  Anything."
     Ken was speaking to him as if he was a little kid and Ricky resented it.  He pulled away from him, frowning, but Ken didn't seem to notice the mood change.
     "Pizza?" Ken offered.  "C'mon.  What do you say?  Pepperoni?"
     Keeping his irritation out of his voice, Ricky shook his head and said, "No.  Thanks.  But I don't feel like company."
     "Oh, okay," Ken said, disappointed.  "Well, call if you need help with anything."
     "Yeah," Ricky said and got into his car.  He wanted to spin out of the parking lot but refrained from seeming in a hurry to get away.  He tried not to think of anything as he drove, but it wasn't easy.
     At his apartment, he was startled to find his front door standing ajar.  He checked the door jam, but there wasn't any sign of tampering.  Knots in his stomach, he eased the door open and slipped inside.  Nothing was out of place and nothing seemed to be missing.  He listened for any sound that might indicate an intruder.  There was only silence.  Cautiously he moved from room to room until satisfied there wasn't anyone hiding.  With a sigh of relief, he decided that, in his haste to leave that morning, he must not have pulled the door all the way shut.  After all that had happened, anything and everything was going to make him jumpy.
     He worked on some things in the apartment that needed to be fixed, then cooked supper and sat down to watch television while he ate.  Afterwards, he did the dishes and exercised for an hour before starting to get ready for bed.  The water in the shower behaved, and he thought he might call the plumber the next morning and cancel the appointment.  The morning's problem had just been a fluke.  
     He was standing directly under the spray of water, head back, eyes closed, the tension flowing out of his body, when he felt a solid bump against the outside of the shower.

kt6550   kt6550 wrote
on 4/24/2009 8:37:04 PM
Definitely a nice "Twilight Zone" or "Outer Limits" feeling.

Novel / Novella
writing shwangltd
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Rating: 9.5/10

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