Author: Walter Dennis – Third Place Senior Division 2021

Of course! Just my luck! I get lost in the woods and decide to stay in some random abandoned hotel, that by the way is totally not creepy at all, and now I can hear footsteps coming down the hallway. Drawing closer and closer to my room. Perfect. Just perfect. Hunting me down. Stomp… stomp… stomp… Then they pause. I don’t breathe. A long creak echoes through the building as an ancient door swings up. I peek out of my bed. My door is still closed. I let out all the air I didn’t even realize I was holding in.

Then the footsteps start again. This time closer and closer, until they stop at my door. I cover myself with the old bed sheets and push myself deeper into the bed. Another creak, and this time it is my door. I don’t move a muscle. Please, please, please just go away. Please don’t notice me.

The sound of something breathing heavily fills my room. Then it takes a step into my room. It’s over. I peek my head out from under the covers. A dark silhouette of a person is standing in the doorway of my room. I can make out long black hair and tattered clothes. Then she looks directly at me, with her empty, lifeless eyes, and starts sprinting toward me.

* * *

It all started when I had decided to go on a hunting trip alone in the woods. I didn’t plan on being away from home for too long though, because I still had a big research project for work that I needed to have done in a few days, and I still hadn’t finished it yet. It was unusual for me to not have finished all my work by now, but I was so distracted with the beginning of hunting season that I couldn’t focus on it. So I eventually gave in. In and out. I’d be gone for a day, and if I was lucky, I’d come home with a deer, but not everything went to plan.

It was a foggy and moist day. Not perfect for hunting, but it would do. I set up my little deer blind in the usual spot, right at the end of the blueberry trail. Then I waited, and waited, and waited some more. Nothing ever happened. Then I heard splat… splat… splat. It was starting to rain. Welp… I guess I better call it there. Don’t want to get poured on.

I zipped up my bright orange jacket, put my hood up, slung my backpack around my shoulder, and packed up my blind. I started down the blueberry trail, heading toward my pickup truck waiting for me on the side of the road. Then it started to really rain, and after the rain came the thick fog. I continued to follow the trail, until it abruptly stopped. What? The trail can’t just disappear. I’ve been on this trail plenty of times, I can’t be lost. If I remember correctly the trail should be right through these trees.

On the other side of the trees was something that I had never seen before. A small clearing gave way to a giant, abandoned building. It seemed to resemble an old hotel. Faded white siding lined with big windows, some boarded up. As I stared in awe at the giant building in front of me, I spotted the door. A fancy glass double-door that appeared to be in perfect condition.

I sprinted over to the door, as thunder struck the sky above me. I set my hand on the metal handle and pushed inward, halfway expecting to have to force the door open, but to my surprise it opened with ease. The interior looked perfectly fine. Weird. This definitely was some kind of a hotel though. The room that I had just walked into resembled a hotel lobby.

A living room area was to my right, filled with furniture covered with white sheets. A big brick fireplace sat mounted on the wall, looking like it hadn’t been used in years. A desk was to my left, complete with a small bell and an old-looking computer. Surely this place hasn’t seen any customers in a very long time.

Well, might as well make sure that nobody is here. I walked over to the bell and tapped the top. Ding! I waited and listened. Nothing.

“Hello! Is anybody here?” I yelled into the dark room.

No response again.

Guess I’m alone. I’ll just wait out the storm here. Hopefully it’s over soon, I still need to finish my project for work. I don’t want to just wait around in the lobby though, maybe I’ll do some exploring. Surely there’s some interesting things in an abandoned hotel. I pulled my flashlight out of my backpack, and checked my watch. 6:47 P.M. Wow! The time really flew by!

I clicked my flashlight on and turned to the right. Straight down the hallway. It almost looked like something was moving in the darkness at the end of the hallway, but I was sure it was nothing. Then I started walking down the hallway, getting ever more eager to explore.

That’s it, I guess. I had made my way back to the lobby where I’d started. It turned out that this was pretty much a normal hotel, filled with rooms to stay in. It had everything a normal hotel would have: a pool that appeared to have been emptied a long time ago, a few small meeting rooms, laundry rooms, and even a master suite. All the rooms were left unlocked too!

I looked down at my watch. 9:05 P.M. Holy crap! Where did all the time go? Hopefully It’s done raining. I walked up to the front door and peered outside. The storm was definitely still going strong, and it wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down soon. It was getting darker and darker, and a creepy fog was starting to roll in.

You know, maybe the power is still turned on out here. I don’t want to just sit alone in a dark lobby. There must be some kind of master breaker box or something around here. Probably in the basement… I better get home soon. I still need to finish my work.

My flashlight lit up once again as I flipped the switch. I just took a second to reflect as my light illuminated the dark hallway in front of me. This is crazy. I did spot a staircase heading down at the end of the hallway when I explored the place, I’m sure that’s where I would turn on the power.

I slowly crept down the hallway until I made it to the staircase. I took one step down, then paused. A shiver ran through my body. It’s getting cold. I wonder what Jill and Lucas are doing right now. Hopefully they’re not worried that I’m not home yet.

A wooden door greeted me at the bottom of the steps. I opened it and stepped into the basement. It was frigid. I looked around with my flashlight. It was pitch black down here. The basement was a huge concrete room filled with machinery and furniture covered with more white sheets. This is super creepy. All I need to do is find the main breaker.

I illuminated the walls with my flashlight until I spotted a big important-looking breaker on the wall. I walked over to it. Then I heard a sound. It sounded like a footstep. I opened the door to the breaker. Another footstep. Shivers went through my body. Is somebody here?

The breaker was filled with switches, each switch labeled with a room number. There must be a main switch right? Step… Step… Step. The sound was happening more and more often now. It sounded like it was behind me. Step. Step. Step.

I spotted it: the switch labeled “main.” Louder now. Step. Step. I switched it on. There was a loud buzz, then everything came on. I spun around, partially thinking that something would be behind me. Waiting, but there was nothing.

I returned back to the lobby, turning on all the lights on the way. I looked out the door again. Still storming. I checked my watch, I was getting tired. 10:03 P.M. How about I just stay the night here. I’m sure I can finish the project tomorrow morning.

I dug for my phone in my backpack and eventually found it. No service. I’m sure my wife and son are fine too. I just gotta finish that project. How about I sleep in the suite. Nice change of scenery for the night. I walked down the hallway toward the suite.

When I got there I opened the door and flipped on the lights. Everything looked so nice. If only someone renovated this place, It would honestly be really nice.

I used the bathroom, and surprisingly the toilet flushed. Weird. Everything still seems like it’s in perfect condition. Whatever. This whole place is weird. Hopefully I can get out of here and finish my project soon. The rain tapped on the roof as I pushed myself into the fancy-looking bed. It’s so comfy. I shut my eyes as I heard a distant strike of thunder outside.

I suddenly awoke to the sound of footsteps coming down the hallway toward my room. Then I heard a click as the power went out again. I bolted upright. The footsteps continued toward me. Then they suddenly stopped, as a door creaked open. Luckily it wasn’t my door. Then they started again. Heading towards my door again. I held my breath.

Then my door popped open. I saw a silhouette of what looked like a young girl. I was in shock. She had long black hair and tattered old clothes. Then she started sprinting at me, as a terrible scream escaped her mouth. I braced for impact. I held up my fists to block her. Then she faded away… Am I dreaming… Then I fainted.

Everything was black. Then a soft but somehow raspy voice filled my head.

“You’re not my mom”


“Who are you?”

“What is happening? Is this some kind of weird lucid dream? I can think and hear, but I see nothing.”

“I can hear your thoughts… Who are you? You’re not supposed to be here.”

Then I pushed myself to talk, instead of just think, “H-Hey. I’m Grayson. I’m sorry, I got lost in the woods and thought that this was abandoned.”

“Abandoned?” She seemed surprised.

Then neither of us said anything. Just the darkness was there.

This must be a dream. Why do I have to go through all this just to get back to my work?

“You’re not dreaming. This is real,” she said.

“Who are you and what is happening?”

“I’m Ash…. I’m looking for my mom and you’re not my mom.”

“What happened to your mom?”

“I woke up one day and she was gone. Everyone was gone. We were just staying here for the weekend. Now I am just trying to find her again. I miss her very much. She is the most important thing to me in this entire world.”

“This hotel looks like it’s been abandoned for a very long time…” I mumbled, “Do you live here?”

“I guess you could say that. Ever since I woke up I just kind of have been here. I’ve never left. I haven’t eaten or slept in days. I just want to see my mom again.”

Then I saw her in the distance of the darkness. The girl from the hallway. Her head was tilted at an angle as she stared at me.

I bolted up in my bed again. I was breathing heavily. I peered out the window of my room. It was pitch black out my window. I have to get out of here. I grabbed my backpack and the folded-up deer blind, and made a break for the hallway. All the lights were back on. I ran to the lobby and pushed open the door, and stepped into nothing. Into black.

Literally nothing. Just black. Then there was a thud as the door back into the hotel vanished in the darkness, and I heard her again.

“You almost escaped,” she said in a calm, yet unsettling voice.

What is happening? I want nothing to do with this.

“Back to the topic,” she sneered, “What do you know about my mom?”

This girl is crazy. “Nothing.” I relaxed myself. If I can’t escape this dream then so be it.

“You must know something. She was only here a few days ago.”

“A few days ago? This hotel looks years abandoned,” I responded.

“Years? It can’t be,” she snickered.

“I have a question for you. Do you know what year it is?”

“Uhhhh… yes, It’s 1910.”


“It’s 2025.”

“It can’t be.”

Neither of us said anything.

Then she spoke up, “Do you have a family?”

This was definitely a weird dream.

“Ye-Yes,” I stammered, “I have a son named Lucas, and my wife, Jill.”

“Where are they?”

“They are at home. I got lost in the woods.”

“So you’re like me? You just want to see your family again?”

This is getting seriously weird.

I interrupted, “Are you a ghost?”


“Well… you said you don’t eat or sleep, and you seem to think that we are still in the 1900s… What is the last thing that you remember?”

“My mom tucked me into bed at the hotel… and that’s it…. Wait. No. Yes. Hmmm… Now that I think of it I also remember people, hearing faint yelling as I went to sleep, but that’s it. I’ve felt so alone and empty since then.”

“I hate to break this to you, but I’m pretty sure that was over one hundred years ago,” I said.

“Y-know… Let me think about this..” her voice cut off, “All I want to do is see my family, and if all you’re telling me is true then why am I still here.”

“I don’t know.” I murmured.

Then neither of us said anything for a long time.

“I miss my family,’’ she said suddenly.

I didn’t respond.

I sat in the darkness for a long time, thinking about my family. What would I do If this was real, and I was in her position? Would my own family miss me? I barely see Lucas nowadays, I am always working. I wish I could spend more time with him and Jill. Don’t be silly. This can’t happen in real life. Ghosts aren’t real. I pinched myself, and I felt it. What? Then I shut my eyes for a second, and fell asleep.

* * *

When I awoke I was back at home. Sunlight shone through the windows. I yawned as I grabbed my phone from the nightstand. The reminder that I had set sat on my home screen. “Research Project due in Three Days.”

I looked over to the other side of the bed. It was empty. Jill must’ve gotten up already. Suddenly, I remembered the crazy dream I had. Was that a message? I sure do wish I spent more time with my family. It was a wakeup call.

I stumbled into the kitchen and spotted Jill sitting at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper.

“Good morning honey!” she said excitedly.

“Good morning!” I responded.

“Me and Lucas were about to go on a walk to the park. He asked if you could come with, but I told him that you had work to do.”

“I’ll come!” I responded.

“I’m sure he’ll be excited.” She laughed.

I spent the rest of the day with my family, and didn’t even think about my work. The dream really was a message. Once it was late, and Lucas was put to bed, I figured I’d better check my email. There’s always something going on with the newspaper company. Never a slow news day around here.

The first email was from my boss. “How’s your research going? You’re doing it on the myth about the hotel in the woods where the murder happened, right?”

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