By Melissa R. Mendelson
Her fingers drifted across the steering wheel, falling across the keys. The ignition was cut. Her hand withdrew but paused, falling gently near the cup holder, her fingers stretched outward, reaching for the leg nearby, brushing gently against it. But she moved away.
“Still have cramps?” Bailey brushed her hand against her friend’s leg again. “They probably have Motrin here.”
“I’m okay,” Dallas said.
“Okay. Well, ready for the weekend?”
Dallas stared out at the large, stone mansion in front of them. Cars parked nearby, and people eagerly exited, ready to relax and unwind. And she needed to relax and unwind. Just not with Bailey.
“Ready?” Bailey popped the locks open. “We only have two days here, so we shouldn’t waste time. What would our boss say, if we wasted this vacation trip?”
“Let’s go.” Dallas exited the car.
Vacation trip. Her boss just wanted her out of the office, and Bailey was the one that supposedly won two free passes to this magnificent spa as she put it. Her boss jumped at the chance, backing Dallas into a corner to go with Bailey. If only he knew what Bailey’s true intentions were, but she wasn’t close with her boss like that. He would rather give her the cold shoulder than one to lean on.
“I love the stone structure,” Dallas said, but when she touched the wall as they walked in, she shuddered. It felt like a million spiders crawled across her skin, and she brushed her hand across her arm, knowing that the spiders were not really there. And she slammed into what felt like a wall, falling to the floor.
“Excuse me.” His massive form hovered over her, but he did not extend a hand to help her up. “Maybe, you should look where you are going.”
“My fault.” Dallas scrambled to her feet. As she stood up, she nearly bumped into him again. “Excuse me. Can you give me some space, please?”
She didn’t like how he was looking at her. It was like he was staring right through her, and as she met his gaze, something flickered in his eyes. A white form floating around and around, and then it snapped toward her, revealing a skeletal face.
“Making friends already?” Bailey grabbed Dallas by the arm and led her over to the reception area. “What a creep. You okay? You’re pale.”
“Yeah. Um…. I’m fine.” Dallas looked over her shoulder to see him still standing there, watching her.
“What the hell is he looking at? Hey, I want to report that creep to the supervisor,” Bailey yelled at the small receptionist that walked over to them. “He assaulted my friend.”
“He did not, Bailey.”
“He is the supervisor,” the receptionist said, but she did not make eye contact with him. Instead, she looked past him at those sitting in the lobby. “Reservation?”
“Bailey Williams.” She reached into her pocketbook and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. “We won free passes here for the weekend.”
“Did you now?” The receptionist looked at the supervisor, meeting his gaze. Her eyes moved over to Bailey, but he shook his head. She glanced at Dallas, and he nodded. And Dallas saw this. “Congratulations,” she said.
“Why did he just nod at me?” The receptionist handed her a gold card. “What’s this?”
“He’s sorry for the incident, and that’s his way of making up for it.”
“But he didn’t say anything. He didn’t apologize or even help me up off the floor.”
“Dallas, just take the gold card.” Bailey smiled at the supervisor, but he turned his back on her, storming away.
“I don’t want it, Bailey.”
“The gold card gets you into the mud room. It’s very relaxing.” There was something off about how the receptionist said that, but she quickly cleared her throat. “Here’s your key,” and Dallas watched her hand one key over to Bailey.
“One key? One bedroom?”
“Can I use the gold card, if she doesn’t? I would love to use the mud room.”
“No.” Dallas flinched at the receptionist’s sharp tone. “No,” she said softer. “It’s reserved for a select few like for your friend here. If she doesn’t want it, I’ll take the gold card back.” She held her hand out toward Dallas.
Dallas was about to hand over the gold card when Bailey grabbed her arm again. “She wants it. Right, Dallas?” She dug her nails into Dallas’s skin.
“Right. Sure. Whatever. I’ll do the mud room.”
“Good. Let me get someone to get your bags.”
“I only have one small bag,” Dallas said, but the receptionist hurried away. She looked down at the blue, smooth floor and then over at Bailey’s two bags. “Bailey, I got a knot in my stomach.”
“Cramps again? Damn, I forgot to ask her about the Motrin.”
“No. Maybe. I don’t have a good feeling about this place. There’s something off here.”
“Oh, pull that stick out of your ass. Your boss wanted you to come here and unwind, so we are unwinding.” She hooked her arm through Dallas’s and leaned against the reception desk. “Now, where to find that Motrin?”
Dallas sighed and waited with Bailey. Her eyes roamed across the lobby area. A lot of people were coming and going, bright smiles on their faces. Some kids nearby laughed and chased each other, but then she noticed people sitting in chairs around the room. They stared ahead, not smiling, not laughing, not talking. They were just sitting there, waiting, but what were they waiting for? Their heads turned in one slow motion, their gaze fixed upon her.
“Follow me.” A thin man wearing a short, red coat picked up their bags. “Must not waste time.”
“Come on, Dallas. You heard the man. Must not waste time.” She pulled Dallas toward the elevators nearby. “What are you staring at?”
“Nothing.” Dallas pulled herself loose from Bailey. “People were just looking at me.”
“Well, let them look.”
Bailey let out a shrill sound as she walked into the bedroom. “Wow. Will you look at this room?” She jumped on the bed, bouncing on top of it. “I could definitely do a few things on this mattress.” She looked over at Dallas, who stared at the bed. “What now?”
“Just one bed, Bailey? First, I thought we were getting separate rooms, and now we only have one. And we need a cot. I need a cot to sleep on.” She looked over at the thin man with the short, red coat, who shrugged in response and held his hand out toward her. “I don’t have cash on me. Just credit cards.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” Bailey bounced off the bed and grabbed her pocketbook. She threw a twenty at the man.
“Thank you,” he said to Bailey. He looked at Dallas. “Sorry. No cots.” He left the room.
“Bye.” Bailey gave a short wave as the man closed the door. “Dallas, I thought you were bringing cash with you.”
“I have credit cards.”
“Fuck! I forgot to ask him about the Motrin. I’ll ask later.”
“Forget the Motrin, Bailey.” Dallas looked over at the bed. “I guess we’ll share it.” She avoided looking at Bailey. “We’re here for today and tomorrow, and then home.”
“Don’t be a party pooper, Dallas. Nobody looks forward to going back to work unless they’re you.” She laughed at that. “But you’re right. We have today and tomorrow, so want to do facials now or tomorrow?”
“How about lunch? It’s almost time for lunch.”
Bailey looked over at the bed. “I’m not hungry yet. Yoga?” She watched Dallas pull the gold card out of her pocket and stare at it. “I could do Yoga while you do the mud room?”
“I think I saw the next Yoga class was at twelve. If we hurry, we could do that.” She pocketed the gold card.
“Okay, and afterward, I want to do the pool. Then, we could eat, and you probably won’t want to swim because of your friend.” She noticed Dallas flinch at that. “I do have tampons with me.”
“No, I’m okay. Let’s go do Yoga, and then maybe, afterward, I’ll do the mud room.”
“That’s my girl. Let’s go do some Yoga. Woo hoo.” She wrapped her arm around Dallas and led her out of the room.
As they made their way downstairs toward the Yoga room, Bailey kept touching her arm, her back, her hair. It was really bothering Dallas, and yes, she could go swimming with her. But that would be a bad idea, so was the one bed. What was she going to do about that?
“Okay, everyone. There are Yoga mats in the back of the room. Just grab one and find your space for it.” The instructor was beautiful, muscular, and she flashed a smile at Dallas but not Bailey.
“She likes you,” Bailey whispered into Dallas’s ear. “Can’t blame her.”
“Bailey, you’re a little too close.”
Before Bailey could say anything, the instructor said, “Hey, could you slide a little over to the right? You’re almost on top of her.”
Bailey blushed and slid a little over to the right. “Better,” she asked.
“Much. Okay, class. We got an hour, so let’s begin, shall we?”
Normally, Dallas loved Yoga, and she didn’t mind doing the class with Bailey. She just didn’t like how Bailey watched her every move, smiling that smile of hers. She was so obvious, but maybe this was Dallas’s fault. Maybe, she gave Bailey the wrong idea, and Bailey was one of those people that never took no for an answer. She needed to focus on something else, or she would never get through this class.
A crunch sound caught her ear, but it didn’t sound like someone chewing. It sounded like a bone snapping. She looked up ahead at a woman, whose leg dangled behind her. Another woman nearby locked into their Tree Pose, a crack rolled down their back, but there was no expression on their face. Instead, their head slowly turned toward Dallas with that gaze she saw before in the lobby.
The instructor walked over to Dallas, helping her with the Downward Dog pose. She rested one hand on her back. She leaned close, her lips brushed against her ear. “You should do the mud room,” she whispered. “You’ll feel so much better afterward.”
Dallas turned and stared into her eyes. There it was again, that white form floating around and around, but before its face turned toward her, the instructor walked away. She gave a look back, a small smile playing on her lips, and she put her hands together.
“Time’s up. Class is over. Namaste.”
“Namaste,” Bailey said. “What did she whisper to you?”
“That I should do the mud room.” Dallas watched the woman up ahead snap her leg back into the place. She glanced at Dallas, but Dallas looked away. “Something’s really wrong with this place.”
“You said that before. Come on. Let’s put our mats back.”
As they made their way back to the room, Bailey made no motion to touch her. She seemed lost in thought about something. That made Dallas even more uncomfortable.
“How about you join me in the pool? Forget the mud room. We go swimming instead.”
“Dallas, I have tampons, so yes, you can.” Bailey walked into the room. “I think I’ll shower after the pool. You?”
Dallas stared at the bed.
“Earth to Dallas?”
“No, I’m not going to shower yet.”
“Look, Dallas, if the bed bothers you, then you sleep under the covers, and I’ll sleep on top. Or vice versa.”
“You should have told me about the one room and the one bed, Bailey. You lied to me.”
“Would you have come, if I said that we were sharing a bed?” Bailey opened one of her bags and pulled out a bikini. “No, you wouldn’t. Now, I’m going to strip and put on my bathing suit. Do you want to watch me change?”
“I have to go to the bathroom.” Dallas moved away from her. “Could you please let me know when you are done changing?”
“Okay. Did you bring a bathing suit because I have an extra bikini, if you don’t have one?”
“I have to go to the bathroom.”
Dallas hurried into the bathroom and closed the door. “Fuck,” she hissed through gritted teeth. “You knew better, Dallas. You knew that she was planning something, and what are you going to do? Share the bed with her?” She glanced over at the door, lowering her voice. “She has an extra bikini for me. One step closer to getting me naked. Hell, she’ll probably get me drunk tonight. That’s what she’s waiting for, and then we’ll really use that bed. Nice going, Dallas. You should’ve stayed home.”
“You okay in there? Who are you talking to?”
“I’m fine.” Dallas flushed the toilet. “Just need a minute.”
“I’m going to leave for the pool. How about lunch in an hour?”
“Sounds good. I’ll meet you in the room in an hour for lunch.” Dallas moved away from the sink. Something fell to the floor. It was the gold card.
“Do you want to see me in my bikini? Make sure I have it on right?”
“I’m sure it’s fine,” Dallas said.
“Okay. What are you going to do?”
Dallas picked up the gold card. “I think I’m going to do the mud room.”
“Good. That’s good.” She heard the disappointment in Bailey’s voice. “If you change your mind, I left the other bikini on the bed for you. If not, I’ll see you in an hour.”
“See you in an hour, Bailey.”
Dallas listened for the door to open and close. Once she heard that sound, she knew Bailey was gone, but now she had to use the bathroom. She sat down on the toilet, pulled her pants down and glanced at her underwear. No pad. Sooner or later, Bailey was going to figure it out, and she flushed the toilet.
Dallas made her way toward the second floor. It was freezing on that floor, and everyone she passed by gave her that empty look. She circled around, trying to find the mud room, and a man nearby stopped and pointed down the hall. Dallas followed his direction but still got lost, and another woman stopped walking and pointed down another hall. And another woman pointed at a dark brown door with a white sign that said, mud room, but it was strange. She never asked any of them where the mud room was. It was like they already knew where she was going.
“Hello?” The door was heavy, and Dallas struggled to push it open. “Hello?”
“Come in,” a voice whispered.
“If it’s crowded in here, I could come back.”
“Come in,” a voice whispered again.
“Please, come in.” A young girl threw the door open and pulled Dallas inside. “There’s a room over to your right. Please, take off all your clothes, and put on the white robe.”
“All my clothes?”
“Yes, everything but the white robe.” The young girl stood rigid, no expression on her face. “I won’t look.” She didn’t blink. “The gold card. Do you have it? I’m sorry. I should have asked for it first.”
Dallas felt like she was talking to one of those digital devices that you would have in your house. “Yes, the gold card. Here it is.” She handed the card to the young girl, and the young girl’s fingers brushed across her hand. The feeling of a million spiders returned, racing across her skin. “Um…. You know what? Maybe, this was a mistake.”
“Strip.” The young girl’s voice boomed across the room. “Now.”
“Okay. Okay. Give me a minute.” Dallas hurried into the room. She would’ve closed the door, but there was no door. Just a white curtain, and she slowly took off her clothes. “It’s okay, Dallas. It’s just mud. That’s it. Just go in there for a few minutes, and then come out. It’s just mud.” She put on the white robe and walked out of the room.
“Follow me.” The young girl turned around, heading toward another door nearby. She glanced over her shoulder, making sure that Dallas didn’t make a run for it. “Don’t be nervous.” She pushed the door open.
“Oh, what is that smell?”
“Mud,” the young girl replied.
Dallas stepped into the room. It reminded her of a swimming pool area at a hotel that she went to as a kid, but instead of water, it was all mud. And it smelled, and its smell reminded her of a cemetery. She did not want to step into that. “I changed my mind,” but the young girl was already pulling off her robe.
“Relax. It’s just mud.”
“I changed my mind,” Dallas screamed at her.
The young girl ripped the robe from her body. She grabbed Dallas by her arms and lifted her up into the air like she weighed nothing, and she tossed her into the mud. She stood there as Dallas struggled to stand up. The mud grabbed hold of her, pulling her down, and as she sank, the young girl smiled. “It’s just mud,” and she walked away.
Dallas disappeared beneath the mud. A moment later, she pushed her face up through the mud and screamed. She gasped for air and tried to stand, but she couldn’t feel her body. She couldn’t feel anything. She was stuck, covered in mud with only her face facing up to the ceiling above, and white skeletal hands rose up out of the mud. There was so many of them, and they pushed her down beneath the mud.
Images filled her mind. A small town. People being slaughtered. Their bodies thrown into a mass grave. Their screams filled her head, and their hands slid into her body. She convulsed, her body ice cold, and she tried to scream. But mud poured down her throat. Before everything went black, she saw that man from before, the supervisor breaking ground for this building. He slipped and fell into the mud.
Dallas awoke, lying near the pool of mud. She was wearing a white robe, and her skin was clean. But she still felt the mud, on her, inside of her, and she screamed. She screamed, but nobody came running to help her. She pulled herself to her feet, threw open the door nearby, and hurried into that room, where her clothes were.
As she got dressed, she realized that she wasn’t cold. She wasn’t warm. She didn’t feel anything. Nothing, but then she thought about lunch. And suddenly, she was starving. She needed to eat. She would eat Bailey, if she had to, and she hurried over to the cafeteria, where Bailey was waiting for her.
“Jesus, Dallas. I waited for you in the room, but you never came back. I took a quick shower and then came here, thinking maybe you came here instead of the room. But you’ve been gone for over an hour. What happened to you?” Bailey watched Dallas sit down at the table and reach into her plate, grabbing a baked potato and shoving it into her mouth. “Are you okay? I’ve been worried about you. Dallas?” She watched Dallas grab her bread and inhale it. “You’re obviously hungry. Hey,” and she waved over a waitress. “Another plate of steak and vegetables please, and some water.” She watched the waitress glance over at Dallas before walking away. “Dallas, are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I’m sorry, Bailey.” She wiped her mouth with her hand.
“Jesus, use a napkin.” She handed Dallas a napkin. “What the hell happened to you?”
“Just hungry. That’s all.” She sat back in her seat and then grabbed Bailey’s glass of water, and it felt so good going down her throat.
“And the mud room. How was that?” Dallas stared at her. “Earth to Dallas. How was the mud room?”
“It was okay.” Dallas grinned as a plate of food was placed down in front of her, and she inhaled everything. But then she noticed that Bailey was still staring at her. “Sorry. Hungry.”
“I see that. Okay. What do you want to do next?”
“Walk? You just want to walk around?”
“Yes, I want to walk around with you.” Bailey beamed at her words. “Or we could do facials.”
“No, we’ll leave that for tomorrow. Okay. I guess we will walk around and chill until dinner, and go from there.”
“Sounds good,” Dallas said. “I don’t have my period.” She wasn’t sure why she mentioned that, but she didn’t care. “So, I don’t need your tampons or the Motrin.”
“That’s great news, Dallas.”
“I’m sure it is,” Dallas muttered to herself.
Dallas lifted her head up. She was dizzy, sweating, and everything was dark. The last thing that she remembered was having lunch with Bailey, but then she realized that she was back in the bedroom, lying face down on the bed. Bailey sat in a chair near the window, watching her. She was as pale as a ghost, worry shining in her eyes.
“Dallas,” she whispered.
“What happened?” Dallas struggled to sit up. The room swerved around her. “Why am I here on the bed?”
“We came back to the room after lunch. I had to use the bathroom. When I came out, you were passed out on the bed. You were ice cold, Dallas, barely breathing. I called for help, and the receptionist said that someone would check on you. But that was hours ago.”
“Hours ago? What time is it?”
“Nine. It’s nine p.m. I’ve been out that long.” She touched her forehead. It felt sticky, reminding her of the mud.
“Dallas, what happened in the mudroom?”
“I don’t know.” She tried to remember, but she couldn’t. “I don’t know.”
“I think you’re right about this place. We should leave. Tonight, and maybe it’s a good thing that I didn’t unpack my bags.” Bailey stood up from the chair, but she didn’t approach Dallas. “I left my bikini hanging over the shower. I just have to grab it, and then we could go home.”
“Don’t let her go,” a voice crawled through Dallas’s head. “Don’t let her leave.”
“Dallas, are you okay?”
“I just need the bathroom, and then we could go home.” Dallas moved off the bed, but her body shook with every move. It felt like someone else was moving her as if she were a puppet on strings, and she cringed at that thought.
“Do you need help?” Bailey walked over to her but hesitated to touch her, which was funny. She didn’t have a problem touching her before.
“No, I can manage.”
Dallas walked into the bathroom and closed the door. She turned the lock and walked over to the mirror. She was white. She was normally pale, but now she was white. Her body still did not feel like her own, but she forced her hands to move, turning on the sink. She could not feel the temperature. Only the steam told her that it was hot, but she still washed her face in the hot water. When she looked back up into the mirror, her face was white and red. She turned off the sink and leaned closer to her reflection. There was something in her eye.
“What is that?” She poked her finger around her eye, and a thin, white substance, reminding her of a spiderweb was pulled out from her eye. “What the hell is that?”
She leaned closer again, and something white moved around in her pupil. She pressed her face against the mirror. Something circled around and around. A skeletal head snapped toward her.
She was about to scream when she felt something in her throat. Sharpness like a bone she had once swallowed dug into her throat, but it wasn’t going down. It was coming up. She opened her mouth to scream, and her mouth widened. Something slithered across her tongue. A white, skeletal head pushed its way past her teeth, brushing against her nose, and hovered in front of her eyes.
“Dallas, are you okay in there?”
The white, skeletal head snapped back into her throat, and she swallowed it down. But as she swallowed it down, she felt like she was the one falling instead.
“Dallas?” Bailey banged on the bathroom door. “Dallas?”
“I’m okay.” She didn’t recognize her voice. She looked over at the sink. Bailey had left her cuticle scissor out. “I’m okay, Bailey.” She opened the door.
“You scared the shit out of me. You look better. The color’s back. Anyway, I have to use the bathroom, and then we can go. We can get the hell out of here.”
“Sure.” Dallas folded her hand over the scissors. “Hurry up.”
“I will.” Bailey moved past her to use the bathroom.
Dallas waited for Bailey to exit the bathroom, and she finally did, holding her still damp bikini in her hand. Dallas sat on the bed, naked, her clothes on the floor nearby. She stood, watching Bailey’s reaction and smiled. Yes, this was Bailey’s plan, but it wasn’t just to see her naked.
“Dallas, what are you doing? I thought we were going to leave.”
“What’s the matter, Bailey? You didn’t want to see me naked?”
“Yes, I did. I do, but something’s not right. Something’s not right with you.”
“Actually, everything’s okay. I’m okay.” Dallas grabbed Bailey’s hand and led her over to the bed. She climbed on top of her. “I’m sorry. Did you want to be on top?”
“This is fine.”
“Good.” She grabbed Bailey’s hands and pushed them against her breasts. “You know, it’s been a long time since I fucked someone, and they were all men. I never fucked a woman before. You would be my first.”
“I’m honored.” Bailey moved her hands away from Dallas’s breasts. “But this isn’t you, Dallas. What’s gotten into you?”
“Funny you should ask that.” Her hand slid beneath a pillow nearby, folding over the scissors that she had left there. “Do you believe in ghosts?”
Before Bailey could answer that, Dallas slammed the scissors into her throat. She pulled the scissors out and hurled them into her chest. Bailey gurgled, struggled to breathe, watching in horror as the scissors rose up into the air, and Dallas plunged them down into Bailey’s right eye.
“Oh, that felt good.” Dallas leaned down, her face brushed against Bailey’s. “I would never fuck you, Bailey. You fucked yourself by bringing me here.”
She slid off Bailey and picked up the phone on a table nearby.
“Hello?” It was the receptionist from earlier. “Dallas.”
“I killed someone. Can you get her out of my fucking bed, please?”
“I’ll be right there.” The receptionist hung up the phone.
As Dallas waited for the receptionist, she looked down at Bailey’s hand, at her manicured fingernails. She slid her fingers against her skin, touched her palm, and then folded her hand around Bailey’s. She smiled as she snapped her fingers.
The door opened, and the receptionist walked in. But she wasn’t alone. The supervisor was with her.
“You were the first one that they got,” Dallas said.
“Yes,“ He answered.
“Was this all your plan or theirs?”
The supervisor did not answer her. Instead, he picked Bailey up into his arms and grabbed the bloody scissors nearby. He moved away from Dallas and walked toward the door.
“Wait.” Dallas watched him pause and look back at her. “What will you do with her?”
“Do you really care,” he asked.
“No, guess not.” Dallas watched him leave the room.
“They’re in charge,” the receptionist whispered as she stood a short distance away.
Dallas realized something as she stared at the receptionist. “They didn’t get you. Why?”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m trapped here.” She looked at Dallas. “You’re welcome to stay here. We can…. They can protect you, if you stay.”
“I have work on Monday.”
“Then, I suggest you get dressed, and I’ll meet you in the lobby.” The receptionist moved toward the door.
“What’s the point?”
“You can’t walk around naked.”
“No. What’s the point of all this?”
“I wish I knew,” and she left the room.
Dallas got dressed and grabbed her bag. She realized that Bailey’s bags were still near the bed. She opened each one, fishing through them. There was really nothing to take except in one zipper compartment, she found a hundred dollars. She smiled and pocketed the money.
She looked at the mirror on the dresser. She used to hate her reflection. Her skin tone was finally normal, back to its regular pale shade. She fixed her hair and then looked down to see a lipstick nearby. It was probably one of Bailey’s, and she ran it across her lips. She kissed her reflection.
“Good-bye Dallas,” and she walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.
Bio: Melissa R. Mendelson is a Poet and Horror, Science-Fiction and Dystopian Short Story Author. Her stories have been published by Sirens Call Publications, Dark Helix Press, Altered Reality Magazine, Transmundane Press, Wild Ink Publishing and Owl Canyon Press. She also won second place in the Writer’sWeekly.com 24 hour Short Story Contest. She has written two books “Better Off Here” and “Stories Written Along Covid Walls“, both of which can be purchased at Amazon, or found on our Bookstore page.
She has previously published the short stories “That’s Not My Face”, “Unprotected” and “The Dead Are Smiling.” on The Yard: Crime Blog.
You can find her at her website. HERE.