Well, it’s that time of year again, the spooky time, and it’s also Halloween Month at evelynklebert.com. To kick off the month in hopefully a great way, I’m posting a story from my recent collection The Hotel Stories: Appointment with The Unknown. I started to pen this collection while my husband was on a very busy lecture circuit, and I found myself spending more and more time in very interesting hotels. My mind began to wander, and the result was this curious collection of short stories. So I hope you’ll enjoy this slightly unnerving offering that I call “Slipping.” And whatever you are up to, please take a little time to enjoy the season. 🙂
She’d checked into a hotel off of US Highway 65. It was on the outskirts of somewhere, some town or city, heading into the Ozarks. She hadn’t really paid much attention, just stopped when things started getting wholly unbearable.
“Just one?” The girl at the receptionist desk had asked. Just one, as though it were an oddity. The world was filled with people who were Just One, traveling this great canvas all by themselves. But she didn’t belabor the point. She was deeply in need of a shower and a soft pillow to rest her weary mind upon.
“Enjoy your stay Ms. Ascher.”
She was not married, thirty-four and more single, she thought, than most people.
She took the elevator up to the third floor. Her surroundings were not penetrating her psyche just now. It took every effort to reach her destination down a long insufficiently lit hallway. But perhaps it wasn’t the lighting, perhaps just her eyes not functioning properly.
She slid in the card, opening the doorway to room 302. She let the heavy door close behind her, plopping her large shoulder carrying bag onto one of the two double beds. The room was large, beige, decorated sparsely with a few oversized floral photographs. The beds were unremarkable, white bedspreads, dark burgundy, cotton bed skirts. The headboards were a dark wood of a cheap variety, as was the rest of the furniture. As hotels went, it was serviceable, and her skin wasn’t crawling.
She pulled her long black hair out of its ponytail and shook it out. Even in her thoughts that sounded, well, snobby. But it wasn’t actually. It was literal.
Many places felt simply, physically intolerable to her. She laid back on one of the beds and closed her eyes. She was so tired. With distraction, she wondered why they gave her two beds if she was Just One?
She heard the fly buzzing around her, and her eyes flickered open. A chill of recognition traveled up her spine. Evidently, she was not Just One. There was something else here with her.
He must have been only a half an hour behind her. It was eight in the evening when he pulled into the Ozark Mountain Motel. It had been late afternoon when he first became aware that a traveler was passing through the area. He was just leaving his office as the first wave hit him. It felt a bit like a strong current of erratic weather rushing through the landscape, a sudden storm but not a focused one, though evidently only apparent to those that were tuned in. Immediately, he’d cleared his mind, sending out feelers to his network.
“What is it?”
More like someone.
“Are you sure? It doesn’t feel like anything I’ve ever sensed before.”
Yes, the consensus is it’s a traveler.
“A traveler, you mean a time traveler?”
No, no different, maybe dimensional.
Now that had given him pause. He’d been studying esotericism and parapsychology for nearly twenty plus years, and he’d never encountered a dimensional traveler.
Do you want me to follow it up? There seems to be something wrong there.
“No,” he’d sent out almost involuntarily. “Let me. I’ve never encountered anyone capable of dimensional travel before.”
At this point, it really isn’t clear what she’s capable of.
“She?” He’d asked, surprised, but why exactly he wasn’t clear. He’d just assumed it was a man. Perhaps that was a tinge chauvinistic of him.
Yes, late twenties, early thirties it seems. But the energy is erratic. Be careful.
“Yes,” he’d answered, getting in his car. There was an overnight bag in the trunk already packed in case, well, just in case the unexpected might happen. And this as much as anything qualified as unexpected.
It seemed like a dream at first. No, that wasn’t true. It seemed like a nightmare, a waking nightmare. Nina woke up in her bed, and she had slipped, though at the time she didn’t know it. Where she found herself was dark, shadowy, but undeniably her bedroom. She remembered the horrible panicked feeling, her heart pounding wildly. She was only twelve. That’s when it had really started. Her menstrual cycle had just begun the week before, and it brought with it changes, clearly unforeseen changes to her psyche. Her mother had told her to be aware, cognizant of unexpected feelings, but she hadn’t warned her about this.
She’d sat up in the bed, calling out, “Hello,” but no answer, in fact just an eerie muffled sort of silence. Silence, until of course it wasn’t. The movement began quickly, first in the shadowy corners of her room. There were things unseen there, things rustling, scurrying.
Cold fear energized her as she jumped out of her bed and began in fact running through the house. But it wasn’t the house she knew. Everything was different, even the air, cumbersome, as though she were pushing through sand, heavy wet, mushy sand that clung to her skin, weighing her down and impeding movement. “Momma,” she screamed in terror, but the sound of her voice was constricted, stifled in the thick darkness.
With Herculean effort, she moved from room to room, only to find each empty, filled with dense shadows. No one was there, and yet it seemed as though they almost were. She could feel heat in places, the heat of living bodies, the heaviness of form that was simply not quite where it should be. Again, she opened her mouth to scream, but it was as though she was swallowing the murky atmosphere around her, thick in her lungs. There was no doubt in her mind that this would kill her if she remained. She was literally drowning in this place.
And then joltingly she was back, as though she’d just awoken from a bad dream. But it didn’t feel like a dream because that place was still inside her making her sick. She thrashed in her mother’s arms. “Nina,” she whispered in her hair. “It’s all right. You’re back home now,” and it chilled her, because it was clear that her mother knew exactly what had happened.
They called it slipping, her mother, her grandmother. But it was a secret, something not spoken of — a curse of sorts, they believed, passed from daughter to daughter. It bypassed the men, her uncles, her brother, being immune and completely ignorant of it.
“Shouldn’t we tell them?” she’d asked.
“They wouldn’t understand,” was their answer. “They will believe something is wrong with your mind.”
“But I don’t understand. What is that place?”
Her mother had remained silent, and then her grandmother had spoken. “It’s another realm, a dark place, just next to us. A terrible place, I think. That was how my mother described it. There are things there that shouldn’t be seen, shouldn’t be known about. The best thing to do is to try to learn to keep yourself here and ignore it.”
That was all that was said, their best advice she surmised. And when she tried to speak of it again, she was stonewalled.
Usually, she was pretty successful in anchoring herself. Unless, well, unless she was too tired or run-down. Over the years, Nina became an expert in monitoring her physical and emotional state. And, of course, relationships were a problem. She started dating in college, Jerry. And then it became a battle, a constant struggle.
A year or so into their relationship, she’d spent the weekend with him and found herself trapped in the middle of the night in the cabin with things, horrible distorted things in those shadows. She’d concluded that there was an emotional component to all of this. The next day she had him take her home, and she broke up with him soon after. She would be Just One. Decidedly, it seemed the only solution.
She opened her eyes and watched the fly bounce off the ceiling of the hotel room. It wasn’t very big. But her instincts told her that it was much more than just a fly. Her eyes opened wider as it circled overhead. Louder, louder, the buzzing grew until she felt it in her fingertips, her hands, beneath her skin, then her blood synchronizing with the irritating pitch.
“Anchor yourself.” She could hear her grandmother’s voice from the past. But it was all too late, she noted as she slipped into the darkness.
He’d just begun to settle in his room on the third floor when he felt it. Something powerful seared through the energy around him. There was a distinct pull and loss of energy in his chest as he abruptly sat down on the hotel bed trying to collect himself. Peter Lochlan breathed in deeply, while focusing on centering himself again.
“She’s traveling,” he sent outward.
Yes, an answer. He was never really alone, just a directed thought away from obtaining much-needed guidance. Are you sure you want to handle this?
“Yes,” though he didn’t know why exactly, just something he felt strongly about. “She’s pulling energy.”
It’s not deliberate. It’s done in a sort of panic.
“Do you think she’s dangerous?”
It depends on what you mean by dangerous.
The room pulsated around her. It wasn’t always the same. Where she ended up wasn’t always the same. The hotel room wasn’t couched in shadows but rather distorted, flickering frequencies of light. And she could still hear that buzzing sound that the fly was making, but it was in everything, the walls, the furniture. The carpeted floor all pulsated at that strange reverberating pitch.
She moved rather fluidly back against the bed. This was the manner of movement here, a sort of liquid-like slithering, not unakin to swimming through jelly. She continued to stare at it. It was affixed to the pulsating ceiling. She should have screamed, but it was pointless. And she’d seen worse, much worse in her time. The fly had ballooned in size, its eyes glowing orange, all its eyes on its enormous head, now around the size of a small bear. Its legs fidgeted and pranced, moving around the ceiling as though trying hard to get a grip on its fluctuating surface. No, she was wrong. Perhaps, she should scream. It was zeroing in her, undeniably positioning itself, wanting something.
She deliberately focused on the door, concentrating. Each place, each space, had its own rules. This place felt connected to it, to that thing. She didn’t want to call it a fly, because it wasn’t really. That was only what it looked like in her world.
With will and concentration, she pushed off from the headboard, springing across the room to the door. When her hands made contact, she found the fluctuating wood thick and slimy. Wielding a fist through its unstable surface, then punching through, she pushed herself through the newly created opening, tumbling with significant force.
Again, she focused, being direct and mindful she’d learned were the tools of the trade in survival. The hallway was different, completely different, as though she’d passed into a different level. Its ceiling was low, and it seemed to stretch endlessly, bending, and curving out of her sight. Here, all the walls were a flickering, blinding white. She heard it behind her, scrambling, that horrible buzzing sound. The other place had been its domain, but it clearly was coming after her, hunting, predatory in nature.
She took off down the curving hall. But the more she traveled, the more it curved and bent like a confusing sort of maze. She was stupid to have stopped here at this place, at the hotel, but she’d been so tired. This place was complicated, so many pockets, unseen pockets. It would be easy to get lost.
Directly behind her, she heard it scuttling, that horrible, incessant buzzing noise. She could feel how it wanted to rip her to pieces in that pincer-like mouth. And if it did, would she be dead, or just trapped somewhere unspeakable? Her calmness was deteriorating into panic. That could be deadly to her. She pushed forward, stumbling along the tight and uneven little walls of the hallway. They went on and on relentlessly, no place to break out of. And then she turned a sharp sudden bend, and there was something or rather someone standing there in front of her. Her vision was blurred here, but she clearly made out a form.
Her heart clutched in fear. In all the years she’d been doing this, experiencing these bizarre phenomena, she’d been alone, solitary, except for the ambient creatures. There was no one else. But this form, person she suspected, reached out toward her, jarringly grabbing her arm in a painful grip.
“Come on,” she heard a voice inside her head and then felt an abrupt yank outward.
Nina sat up in the bed in her hotel room. She touched her face with the palms of her trembling hands ― icy, sweaty, her heart cramping painfully in her chest. She physically jumped when the first knock came at her door and then the second, sharp, unrelenting. She looked around, still in that state of panic. She didn’t see the fly. Perhaps, it had moved on. Then the third knock, just as fierce, reminding her sharply of the present. After that it stopped, for quite a space nothing, just silence. If she waited, whoever it was might just leave. But there was something that began to pull at her, something powerful, insistent, drawing her to her feet.
Without thinking, without being able to stop herself, she reached out, opening the door.
A man was standing there, out in the hallway, looking at her intently. “Are you all right?” he asked directly. And he reached out, catching her, as she began to collapse in exhaustion.
He had gotten her a glass of water and waited patiently as she took a sip. He watched her intensely as though every movement she made was of some peculiar fascination. “You need to leave this room. There’s something in here that’s not good.”
She looked down into her clear glass of water, feeling intensely embarrassed. “It’s a fly.” She spoke softly. It was so awkward, so alien, speaking to anyone about this.
“I mean, it looks like a fly, but I’m sure it’s something else.”
“Some sort of drainer?”
She frowned, looking up at him with some confusion. How could he know? Who was he? He wasn’t an old man, maybe a bit older than her, but not terribly. He was dressed in a long-sleeved white shirt, sleeves rolled up, and tan slacks. She wondered with distraction how it was possible that he was jumping into the middle of her secret world, and more than that why. “Maybe,” she murmured hesitantly.
“You’re not the only one who knows things, sees the unseen, you know. They’re many of us out there,” he said quite solemnly.
“I—” she tried to speak, but it felt as though her breath had been cut by something.
“You’re very tired. Get your things and come with me.”
“My room, there aren’t any flies there,” he said flatly, though with just the hint of a smile.
Nina Ascher appeared oddly delicate to him ― that long black hair that she pulled up into a bun at the nape of her neck before they left and that pale porcelain-like complexion. Her skin felt cool, in fact too cool, and clammy as though she’d run a great distance. And as far as he could tell, she had indeed.
Peter was surprised that she seemed so willing to go with him. He hadn’t expected, well, the truth was that he hadn’t known what to expect. But he knew, as soon as he walked into her room, that there was something very problematic and even threatening there. He accepted her word that it was a fly. He’d seen odder things, and he was greatly concerned about her. Dimension traveler or not, she needed help.
As he opened the door to his hotel room, she slowly walked inside, a bit dazed. “What was your name again?” she nearly whispered.
“Peter, Peter Lochlan.”
“Oh,” the overnight bag that he’d taken from her room, he placed on the far bed. She glanced around tentatively with obvious distraction. “It looks like mine.”
“No flies,” he murmured, closing the door behind her. “Would you like a soda or something?”
“Maybe, but don’t leave right now,” she said with hesitation. “I’m so tired, worried I’ll slip again.”
She laughed awkwardly. “That’s what my grandmother used to call it, slipping.”
“You mean dimension travelling?”
She looked at him with a bit of confusion. “Is that what I’m doing?”
“I think so.”
She sat down gingerly on one of the beds. “Just don’t leave. I feel so weak. If it happens again, I’m worried I won’t come back.”
It was calming, being around him. She’d expected questions, but he was quiet. They’d walked down the hall, largely in silence. He’d gotten her a Sprite from the vending machine and a Coke for himself, then they’d returned to his room, a stranger’s room that she curiously felt safer in than her own.
“You must think I’m very peculiar,” she commented, as they made their way down the actually very unremarkable hallway.
“I think you’re extraordinary,” he answered softly.
That was shocking, comforting, having someone be so kind to her. The world she was used to was hard, people generally rough with her. He opened the door to his room, and she walked in, but then stopping, just inside as the door closed behind them. She looked around, actually actively considering things for perhaps the first time since she’d met him. “Why are you here?” she murmured. “I mean at the hotel.”
“You,” he answered, sitting on the edge of the bed closest to them, then sipping his Coke.
He looked at her directly. She noticed him doing that since they’d met, just looking at her directly, unflinchingly as though it were no problem. It made her uneasy. She was used to other sorts of people who didn’t look so closely, who were perhaps more comfortable only seeing what they thought should be there. “I felt you, sensed you, driving near where I worked. So, I followed you. It felt as though something was terribly wrong.”
She looked down at her Sprite, breathing deeply. It was easy to talk to him, and for her that was more than unusual. “Where do you work?” That wasn’t the question she wanted to ask. But it was the one she could manage.
“Branson, I’m a psychologist.”
She glanced up. He had brown eyes, not hard, but still focused on her. “Then you must think I’m crazy.”
“No,” he said with a bit of surprise. “But I think you’re having a difficult time. You should sleep here tonight, in the other bed.”
She’d expected it but still ― “Peter, I don’t know how I can do that.”
“I don’t know how you can’t,” he stated flatly.
Do you need help?
“I don’t know.”
Have things stabilized?
“I’m not sure about that either.”
She slept restlessly, tossing, murmuring in her sleep. He concentrated on her, trying to place a protective shield or rather bubble of energy around her, but he wasn’t sure if he was trying to keep something out or trying to keep her within. And on top of everything, just attempting to maintain it was incredibly draining to him. It was a battle. Clearly, there was an unconscious component of her that wanted to travel, wanted to slip into these other lower, problematic dimensions so close to their own. Yet, her conscious self resisted and was being dragged unwillingly along.
What was happening was terribly disturbing, but beyond that the why of it bothered him even more. There was a persistence, perhaps a self-destructive thread here that he did not understand. Peter sat cross-legged on his bed, focusing on her, dropping down to a level where he could reach her subconscious mind.
“Nina,” he summoned. He felt a stillness overtake her, and the restless thrashing of her sleep ceased. Again, he directed the thought to her mind. “Nina, do you hear me?”
The whisper came floating tentatively back to him. “Yes.”
“What are you fighting?”
There was silence, then a stirring. “I am drawn.”
“Drawn to what?” he prodded.
“There is something here, something dark.”
“Why are you drawn to it?” he asked, pushing her for concreteness.
“I need to stop it.”
He hesitated. He hadn’t expected this, that there might actually be a purpose to any of her traveling. “You’re very weak.”
“You’re stopping me.”
“Yes, I don’t want anything to happen to you.” This was the concern, and he’d openly admitted it, perhaps for the first time to himself. There was something about her, about Nina Ascher that he was finding it difficult to keep professionally detached from.
“I have to go. Let me.”
He stopped, considering. Whether he wanted it or not, it was clear that she would be traveling. “Let me go with you.”
It seemed like endless moments before there was an answer. Then finally, “Yes.”
He sent out a call for aid to help bolster him before he released the shield around her. It was clear. If this was really going to happen, then he needed all the help he could get.
Was it shame? She wondered why it was never spoken of. The women of her family seemed to bury their ability as if it were an aberration. They operated under a definitive pressure to blend in, be unseen, appear normal.
But she wasn’t. And at times in wandering the darkness and in exploring these unknown spaces between, she admittedly felt more herself than when she was in the “normal” world.
She landed on a swampy surface, her feet sinking and then rebounding. It was different here, in Peter’s hotel room, than it had been in hers. The shadowy, turbulent surfaces were slashed with waves of calming blue-green light, flickering, and tempering the darkness.
She recognized from some inner compass that it was temporary. Peter had brought the serene light with him — his influence, his power perhaps. Straightening up from a crouching position, she canvassed the room. As her vision cleared, surprisingly, she saw him right beside her, though he appeared insubstantial, as though he hadn’t fully made the leap.
“Are you all right?” She sent the thought toward him. She could almost see its physical movement appearing as a kind of wave in the thick, gelatinous atmosphere.
His image beside her seemed to solidify a bit as her thought merged into him. He began to move, and she saw fluctuations in the light bands. It was clear that all that energy was connected to him.
“Adjusting,” he sent to her. And again, she could see the thought traveling in a ripple through the jelly-like atmosphere, until it hit her. Although it wasn’t exactly a hit, it felt more like a benevolent warmth spreading over her before the meaning crystallized in her mind.
She silenced her thoughts and listened. The buzzing that she remembered from her room was in the distance but near. With instinct, she began to move toward the door, but his arm shot out in front of her, barring her way. “Wait. Where are you going?”
She stopped. She hadn’t thought, just responded to the pull. “I need to find it.”
Again, his thought collided with her. “Why?”
Why? That repeated in her mind. There wasn’t a coherent answer. She didn’t know Why. She only felt an urgency. She pulled away, forcing her way through the pulsating barrier that was his door. Peter was following her. That much she knew. His thoughts and emotions were tangible things wrapping around her like a cocoon.
Complete disorientation was what Peter was experiencing. The first time that he’d sent himself to this level to reach her, it hadn’t been wholly him, just a projected piece of his consciousness. But now, he was all in and woefully out of his element.
He followed her through the sticky mess that was his doorway and into the hall. His vision here was severely compromised. He had experienced moments of complete blindness, then after periods of settling some splotchy forms had begun to creep in.
The usual guidance he received from others on his team had become completely muffled out. This place that Nina Ascher had slipped into was clearly a corrosive, toxic space. Just being here had already caused him a severe drain of energy. He had no idea how she continued to function on this level of reality, except that perhaps by virtue of who she was, she possessed a natural immunity to it. Trying to keep up, he followed her down the dark aberration that was the hallway, amazed at how quickly and fluidly she moved in this space, nearly as though she were swimming through the dense atmosphere.
“Where are you going?” he sent out to her.
But she didn’t respond, just continued to move, wrapping around unexpected corners and turns. And then suddenly, abruptly, she stopped in front of a doorway. This gave him the chance to finally catch up, reaching her side. She remained motionless, staring forward. From his sketchily representational vision, she now seemed to be floating, feet not even touching what could loosely be called the carpet of the hallway.
“What is it?” he sent out. Though at first, she didn’t seem to respond to him.
“My room,” she sent back jarringly. So odd, how he could feel actual impact from her words. “It’s inside.”
He looked at the fluctuating doorway, now semi-recognizing it in its mutated form. “What does it want?” He sent toward her.
Then she turned to him, no expression. So strange how different she seemed here, more confident, oddly in her element. “It wants me.”
Peter wasn’t doing well. She could feel it. She knew she should attempt to send him back, but for some reason his presence was helping her, helping her feel more focused than she usually did, more empowered in some way.
As he stood next to her, she felt an inexplicable impulse that she seemed helpless to resist. Reaching her hand out, she grasped his tightly. Initially, the effect was as expected, skin touching skin, as it would be in their “normal” world, but then, just like the doorways and everything else here, she felt the surface give way. Her flesh began to actually part and melt into his, and she moved beneath the surface of his palm. Her hand began to physically merge with him, sinking past skin, past bone, beyond.
She could feel, feel all that energy that she had seen in the room, touching her. And then she sunk deeper, her form, the body that she remembered, completely merging into his, until vision was not hers, nor his, but theirs.
“What is this? What are we becoming?”
“We’re one.” Each thought was not hers, nor his, but now undeniably theirs.
They moved, though in what form was now unknown. They moved through the doorway, then beyond.
It was there, as expected, waiting in the middle of the room for them. It had drained all the energy that she had left behind and grown to enormous proportion, now almost reaching the ceiling in stature.
They knew that they could not leave it like this. It would be too damaging in this world and theirs. They centered thought, drawing from both consciousnesses.
The creature almost immediately began to react, nervously twittered, clearly intimidated by what they’d become. It felt them, and its great misshapen head twitched in agitation.
With all the force that they could muster, they directed energy, his energy, her focus, with the solitary thought of evolution. The thing that had been a fly in her room was hit, at the center of its being, scrambling, maddeningly for a moment in response to the flood of positive energy, then stopping and finally allowing the evolution to take place. It shrunk and transformed before them, mutating into a small form, a bird, perhaps a sparrow that fluttered uncontrollably for a moment then flew out of the room from a sudden gap that appeared in the wall.
They stood there, transfixed by what they’d done. Then Nina began to feel the tearing of their separation before everything swirled into blackness.
She was unconscious when he found her on the floor of his hotel room, breathing steadily though her pulse was racing. Peter shakily placed her in one of the beds pulling the blanket over her. He was trembling himself from the profound loss of energy. What had occurred, he couldn’t even begin to wrap his mind around. Profound didn’t even begin to scratch the surface. He’d always been drawn, drawn to the paranormal, drawn to the other worldly elements of his studies. And undeniably, he’d been drawn to Nina Ascher even before he set eyes on her. But now, well, they were connected in a way that he couldn’t begin to fathom. At the moment though, all he wanted to do was rest. He hesitated, then climbed into the bed himself, pulling her into his arms before he collapsed into sleep.
“It’s hard to say. We were able to intercept a drainer on another dimensional level and, well, stop it.”
Stop it, how?
He paused. How could he explain? How could he explain something that he didn’t understand?
Nina had woken up during the night a few times. She seemed a bit disoriented but other than that in reasonable health. He had a made a motion to leave the bed, but she’d held onto his arm, pulling him back. There weren’t words. What had happened between them was beyond words. They had become one being, one being that had the power to evolve another creature out of its own darkness into a new form of existence. He couldn’t imagine what that meant going forward — only that there was a formidable link that had been forged between them.
She’d slept the rest of the night in his arms. Tomorrow they’d talk, talk about how to move forward; how they would move forward together.
“It’s hard to explain. I think we’ll need a bit of time to sort things out, sort out the ramifications. But I’ll be in touch.”
Copyright © 2021 by Evelyn Klebert
A hotel for most represents a normal place, a predictable realm of commonality. One might even go as far to say a safe space, the reliable where nothing particularly unusual is expected to happen. Or is it?
Dimensional traveling, spirit guides, mystical storms, and soul mates separated by time are only a few of the elements dotting this supernatural landscape. Drop into a collection of romantic paranormal stories where that place of commonality is only the threshold, the jumping off point, for extraordinary adventures into the unknown.