The Hawthorne Inn: Shawn
Shawn was fed up. He placed the small envelope on the end table next to their queen-sized bed and grabbed a few things for the night. Toothbrush, deodorant, shirt, socks, pants. He shoved the items into the plastic bag that held their dinner earlier that night. He shut the front door with a slam, even though no one could hear it. His anger had always got the best of him.
Once in the car, Shawn tossed the bag into the backseat and found his favorite station. “Do you often feel under the weather? Are you having trouble sleeping? You need—” Shawn slammed his hand against the radio. Forget it, he thought and started to drive.
Shawn drove in circles for twenty minutes. His fight with Laura started six years ago and never stopped. They found a way to live with each other, but the same problems seemed to erupt on a daily basis. Shawn finally stopped his car in front of a long, dirt road leading up to an illuminated building on the top of the hill. A small car was partially blocking the sign. “The Hawthorne Inn”, he read. Why haven’t I heard of this before? Curious, he drove his old Subaru up the slippery road.
As he approached the front doors, he noticed a tall, dark man with a long trench coat on. “Hey, you guys open?” Shawn said.
The man smiled and ushered him into the main lobby.
Shawn felt small in the vast, open room. The walls were the same color as the mustard stain on his shirt. For some reason, he felt as if there were a thousand eyes on him, but no one seemed to be in the room. “Hello? Where do I—” Shawn said, but the man in the trench coat had returned to his place in the front of the building to smoke a hand-rolled cigarette.
He noticed a small, silver bell on the front desk, but was too enticed by the room that he decided to wait on a couch facing the fireplace. The plastic bag crinkled when he set it down on the antique-looking end table. He stared into the fire and thought about Laura.
They had been together for six years. Six years that Shawn felt he could never recover from—never escape. They met on a cold night after a football game at their college. She was a friend of a friend of Shawn’s. They stayed in the bleachers after the game until the security guard told them to leave. They felt a connection to each other, but since that night, Shawn never felt it again. Maybe it was the booze they drank that night, or the excitement of winning the game. Maybe it was the first time Shawn felt like someone wanted to listen to him, but it wasn’t enough to last six years. Since then, he felt them grow into different people with dreams that could never match up.
“May I help you?” A hunched-over, stumbling man approached Shawn.
“Oh, yes. Sorry, you scared me,” Shawn said. He felt his heartbeat in his throat and for some reason, couldn’t shake off the feeling. “Do you have any rooms available?”
“How many nights?”
“Just one, I think.”
The man hobbled back to the front desk as Shawn grabbed his belongings. “When was this place built? I have lived around here for five years and I’ve never seen this place.”
“It’s almost a century old. 1918.”
Shawn watched the old man’s face change when he started to explain the inn’s history. The man was having trouble speaking and writing the bill at the same time. “You should stay in Room 6. It’s a nice room with a great view of the mountains.”
“Sure. How much do I owe you?”
“Room 6 is sixty-six per night.”
“Alright. You got cable?”
“Of course, sir,” the old man said. “Is this your only bag?” Shawn nodded. “I guess I won’t have to call Hector in to help you then. I’ll show you to your room. This way.”
The man led him passed the large, spiral staircase and into a dark hallway. “Sorry, this bulb just went out. I have to get Hector to fix it tomorrow.”
“It’s fine.” Shawn was distracted by the paintings on the walls. Most of them were simple landscapes, but each picture had something strange about them. Shawn didn’t have time to stop and examine them, but he wanted to. Later, he thought and watched as the old man struggled to put the key in the door. The door was blank and had no indication that it was Room 6.
The man popped the door open and gestured for Shawn to enter. The man kept his feet outside the door as he welcomed Shawn to the Hawthorne Inn. “Have a good night,” he said and hobbled back down the corridor.
Shawn searched the walls with his hand for the light switch. He tripped over something along the way and finally slapped the light on. He looked back to see what he tripped over. The red carpet was all he could see. He shook off the uneasy feeling that he thought was guilt for leaving Laura like that. It wasn’t her fault that the bills weren’t getting paid, that they couldn’t speak to each other without feeling trapped, hated.
Shawn walked through the room, passed the dirty, old bed and the rocking chair in the corner to the sliding glass doors. He slid them open and walked out onto the balcony. The mountains were beautiful and for a second, Shawn felt free of anger, fear, nerves. In the field that surrounded the inn, a tiny white speck caught Shawn’s eye. It seemed to be some kind of livestock—a sheep, maybe? He watched it as it walked up and down the small hills alone. He wondered why it was alone.
His imagination was interrupted by a loud crash coming from the building. It was so loud; he thought it was in his room. He ran out to the hallway and called for anyone. No one answered him. He walked down the hall looking in the dark at the paintings. A beach scene with a sinking boat in the background, a house with one light in the attic on, a field with a single, white object.
Shawn stepped back into his room and looked around for a sign of anything broken. Nothing. He explored the bathroom, a small room with the bare minimums: a toilet, a drain and shower head and a pedestal sink that had a yellow ring in it. He walked out into the room to watch some TV and noticed the curtains flapping in the wind. He shut the sliding doors and crawled into the creaking bed.
Nothing was on television but a documentary about Ancient Egyptians. A professor preached the idea that extra terrestrials were the original Egyptians. Shawn yawned, uninterested in conspiracy theories. He switched the TV off and started to doze off. He kept repeating the words from letter he left for Laura in his head. …I’m sorry. We need to fix this, but I don’t know how…
A tiny sound kept Shawn up. A small, little tap tap tap tap. Frustrated, he covered his head with a pillow. Finally, peace and quiet, he thought, but the noise got louder and louder until he finally threw the pillow against the wall. He reached for the phone to complain to the front desk. He froze midway through reaching for the receiver. The rocking chair in the corner of the room was rocking forward and backward.
Shawn jumped out of bed and grabbed onto the chair, stopping it from moving anymore. Again, he went to the phone. He picked up the receiver and pressed “0”. “Hello? Hello?” but the line was dead.
Shawn remembered the last time he was this scared, the night after he watched The Shining. Every little creak or tap made him jump. Since then, Shawn could never gain the courage to watch another horror flick.
He ran to the door, looking back before twisting the knob. Nothing. I’m just imagining things,he thought and returned to the bed. He could hear footsteps above him. Maybe the tapping was bothering the other guests too. He tucked his head under the covers and tried to calm himself down.
After twenty minutes, Shawn felt himself finally starting to breathe normally again and began to drift off. At 3:00 am, the phone beside his bed rang.
He reached for the receiver with his eyes closed. “Uhm, hello?”
“Hello,” said a crackly voice on the other end of the line.
“Hello,” Shawn said. And waited for a response. Nothing. “Hello? Who is this? What time is it?” Shawn opened his eyes and saw that the TV was on. Static of a dead channel was playing on the screen. Shawn hung up the phone and walked out of the room to the lobby. “Hello? Is anyone awake?” He ran the metal bell at the front desk, but no one came. He looked outside and the man with the trench coat was nowhere to be found. Shawn rang the bell over and over again, but no one came. Finally, his nerves had pushed him far enough to throw the bell across the room. It landed in front of the fireplace, which was still on. He sat down on one of the couches and waited for the strange, old man to return.
He could hear footsteps all around him, but the room was empty. He called out in anger to anyone who could hear him. “Anyone? Is anyone here? Hello!”
Suddenly, the large, crystal chandelier above him began to shake. It swung left and right. Shawn got up and ran to the doors. He pulled on the handles, but they were locked. He screamed as he ran around, looking for an exit.
The flames escaped from the fireplace and began to spread throughout the lobby. Shawn ran back to his room and grabbed the plastic bag that held his belongings. The sliding doors wouldn’t budge as he tugged at them and the door to his room slammed shut.
A dark shadow of a man walked toward him. Shawn could feel the floor shake with every step the image took. He tried to break the door with the lamp next to him, but instead cut his hand open and shattered the lamp. The dark figure grabbed onto his neck. “Hello,” it said with a crackly voice.
♦ ♦ ♦
Laura found the tiny envelope on the table and opened it with her index finger. A small, handwritten note said: “Laura, I’m sorry. We need to fix this, but I don’t know how. Sometimes I get angry and I know that’s my fault. I’m going to stay somewhere else tonight, but when I come back, I promise I’ll do better. I love you. –Shawn.” When he didn’t come home the next day, or the next, Laura accepted that he abandoned her. She tossed the note in the fireplace and tried to forget the last six years.
This Story was Part 2 of a Larger Series
- Part 1: The Hawthorne Inn: Elle
Elle is driving home late at night when her car breaks down infront of a spooky inn.
- Part 3: The Hawthorne Inn: Hector
The manager of the Hawthorne Inn was a scrawny, delicate, old man who had become a master at keeping secrets. It was a beautiful day in Southern California; the mountains hadn’t been this visible since the last rainstorm in June. The manager just fin
- Part 4: The Hawthorne Inn: Riley
Riley hated flying. She had a terrible experience on a plane once. She was on her way home from her mother's funeral when the plane dropped ten feet without warning. Riley was glad it didn't happen on the way there, but swore she would never get on a
- Part 5: The Hawthorne Inn: Paul and Sally
Paul lived everyday like it was his last...