Aiyana checked herself out in her pocket mirror. Her chocolate hair was straight, her lush lips still held the sheen of her lipstick, she could see the prominent features of her heart shaped face, strong nose, and pronounced cheekbones. Many said she looked Asian, but quite to the contrary, she had a Native American heritage. Something she wasn't overly thrilled about. Satisfied with her appearance, she strolled into her boss' office. She had trouble putting on her best poker face because she knew why she was being called into his office.

She had been good at her job. She knew it, but her boss Lambert, didn't. He gave a disinterested look. It was clear to her that she wasn't anything to him, not even a cog in his machine. She was profitable or not.

He said with mechanical professionalism, "You know the newspaper is a dying business. Your magazine 'Lively Hood' isn't selling so we can't afford to keep it running."

"Then assign me somewhere else," she counter argues.

"I'm sorry, there are no open positions." Her frustration threatened to boil over. He was dicking with her. But reputation is everything, she couldn't risk soiling it. He continued, "I promise, as soon as we have an opening, we'll call you. I want you to know how valuable you are to us."

"Thank you sir," she said through clenched teeth. "I thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with you and your company. It has been productive."

"Likewise, the pleasure, as always," he said.

She stepped out to the second office floor, where all eyes were upon on her, burning holes in her jacket. The embarrassment was palpable.

She headed for the elevator, not because she hated her coworkers, but quite the opposite. She loved them and didn't want the pain of saying goodbye. Better to save your tears because parting is such sweet sorrow. Her coworkers would neither forgive nor understand. But it wasn't their choice.

The lobby is thankfully empty, devoid of living haunting memories of what had once been. At a time like this, there is one person to call. Her mother had always been close to her. She always turned to her in times of crisis. Today certainly seemed like one of those times. She dialed the number.

"Hello," her mother said. She felt a strange feeling, the same feeling she always got, like her stomach is weightless and turned upside down.

"Hi mom, I got bad news."

"You know that no news is good news. Sweet baby Jesus, what happened?"

"Got fired from Past 'n' Present Chronicles."

"Oh no, baby girl, that ain't right."

"Told you for a while, they were planning on canning me." The last part she used for her mom's amusement.

"Yeah, I'm so sorry. What will you do?"

There was a pause, she hadn't really thought about it. "I still want to finish my story. It might complicate things. I'll look for another job as an editor with another company."

"You going to be ok?" her mom asked sympathetically.

She gave a nervous chuckle, saying, "I hope." It was a very unsure sounding comment.

"I'm here if you need anything, hun. Just let me know, ok?"

"Love you," she said.

"Love you," her mom replied

She ended the call. During the car ride back, she started thinking how she would have to sell her home. She had called Shanty Hills her home for nearly ten years. Driving through its narrow streets of cobbled stone, pass the old brick structures, and the Victorian era wooden manors, she knew she would miss the town. She returned to her nice one-bedroom home, a stucco building with floral wallpaper and wood trim. She threw off her clothes, letting the naked feeling settle in, free of the confines of formal life. She hopped in the shower, even freer of shackles of civilization, clothing.

She let the hot water run through her hair, over her c-cup breasts, and down her curves, dripping to the floor. She felt alive again. Her hand dangled near her outer labia. She wondered if she should do it. She decided to do it anyway. Her hand brush against her labia and she felt the first electrical jolts run through her. She wasn't thinking about anyone or anything. It was just the barest of impulses, the desire to touch herself. Her fingers found themselves inside her. She pushed them deeper into her. The feeling was overwhelming, something instinctual and spiritual. She didn't care where her hands went. Before she knew it, she was fingering herself in an autonomous motion, he fingers dancing in and out. She was giving into the pleasure. She pulled herself back from the brink of an orgasm and continued to clean herself.

She stepped out of the shower and dried off. She logged on to the computer, almost a decade old, and checked out the job-boards. She didn't see anything for the local cities so she expanded it further and further.

Nowhere was hiring for that position. She felt suffocated by the crushing defeat. She needed work so she started scrolling through the job ads. She gave up with searching after an hour. She decided to distance herself from her troubles and sat down at the desk in her bedroom where her grandfather's antique typewriter sat.

It had become a family heirloom. She typed the few pages that had rattle around in her head with the steady clicks of keys. But once those pages were finished, she couldn't type the next couple of pages. Their inspiration would have to come with time. Sitting there and trying to force it never worked. She decided to do something that she hadn't found the interest or time to do in a very long time, color. For the next couple of weeks, she continued to look until depression set in and work on her story steadily declined.

Eventually, she found an ad for a caretaker for the Hathaway Inn. It was between Shanty Hill and the next town over. Her mouse hovered over the advertisement. With words like scenic overlook, historical piece, she wondered why she had never heard of the place but the pay was right up her alley and they provided room and board. She applied, thinking competition would kill any chance of her getting the job, but she got a reply the next day inviting her for an interview.

The inn was remote, deep within the woods and the only way there was through a winding dirt road. It became very apparent why she never heard of it. The building itself looked more like a three-story manor and was overlooking a sheer drop off, rolling forest down below. The outside was white with alabaster roman style columns and massive arches built into the outside of the beautiful stone masonry walls. The hipped roof was vaguely gothic in design and had angels and gargoyles fighting for roof space.

She walked inside. The lobby was rustic, built from wood, and had a single accent rug as the only carpet, isolated to the fireplace to the right. Entertainment wouldn't be a concern because she saw several large-screen televisions. She didn't see any other competition, no other applicants. A man is standing impatiently and looking around. He is wearing a flannel jacket. She approached him. "Is it just me?" she asked.

The man in flannel jack nodded and beckoned her deeper inside.

"You don't have any other applicants?"

The man thought for a second and shook his head. "The place has a reputation and most people avoid it because of it."

"What is it?" she asked.

"It just supernatural nonsense," he said dismissively.

"Please tell me," she said, being forceful on the subject.

"Well the previous caretaker caught a bit of cabin fever, and tried to kill his family with an axe. Luckily, he didn't. Instead, he killed the engineer and ended up freezing to death out in the cold." His words triggered her reporter instinct. This place's backstory would make a great story. When time permitted she would investigate it further.

"Bizarre," she said intrigued, more so because nobody did a recent story on it. "So, any questions for me?" she asked.

"No," he said. "You're the only person that turned up." She was suddenly put off. He wasn't even going to interview her. This was every job seeker's dream come true, but something was off.

He showed her to the room where she would be staying. It was behind the kitchen and big enough for a king, not to mention a lowly caretaker.

Inside her room he said, "We rarely get guests during the winter. It will be mostly deserted. Our busiest time is during the summer or right before Christmas. But for the most of September, October, November, and December it's deserted. An engineer is on staff 24/7. We have a full pantry and winery. Will you accept the position?"

She saw no reason not to accept and shook his hand. "I accept," she told him proudly. The man stepped out for a second, without another word. She pulled out her phone. Just the thought of talking to her mom sent shivers down her spine, little massaging finger crawling up her back.

"You'll never guess where I am," she said excitedly.

"Where?" her mom asked.

"You ever heard of the Hathaway Inn?"

There was a long pause. Finally, her mother said, "No, I haven't."

Aiyana continued, "Well, I've got a job as a caretaker, full room and board. I mostly just keep up with the place and take care of the odd guest."

"How nice," her mother said.

"Yeah," Aiyana added. "I can work on my novel and wait for a job opening. How are you?"

There was a sigh from the other end. "I'm holding up the best I can. The house is too big since your father passed. I'm here all by myself."

"Mother, I've always told you to hire a maid and handyman. I would pay for it."

Her mother chided her, "You know me better than that. I'm not looking for a handout."

Now it was her turn to sigh, "I'm not giving you a handout. You can pay me if you want. You know what, why don't you stay with me at the Hathaway for the next couple of weeks?"

"That sounds lovely," her mother said. There was a knock on the door.

"Hold on," she said over the phone. She put the phone down. "Hello?"

The manager was holding a large book. "It has all the procedures." He handed her a walkie-talkie, the book, and a set of keys. "Keep a walkie-talkie on you at all times in case a customer shows up. There is one at the front lobby. You're all set." He left the room. Her first impression of the man wasn't good. He was very easily distracted, abrasive, and he seemed like he wasn't a people person. She also had mixed feelings about the position. Why did she get it so easy? Other people need money. Surely they were desperate enough.

She picked back up the phone. "So when can you come over?" Her heart began to race faster.

"I can catch a flight in a couple of days, sweetie."

"That's awesome. You're going to love it up here. Better get up here soon before the snow sets in." She was only partially joking. The weather up there was unpredictable. Thinking about the weather turned her attention to the outside, the wind started picking up.

"I can't wait to spend time together. I haven't seen you in how long?"

"Almost a year," she said. "Would be great to catch up. I have a whole new collection of videos to watch." She smiled to herself.

"Well, I'll let you go. I'm going to go buy plane tickets."

"Ok," she replied. "I love you."

"Love you too," her mom said and hung up.

She left the items in the room and stepped out to the car and drove home. She could always come back but decided to pack heavy. She took many personal belongings with nothing but sentimental value, her collection of DVDs, all of her reporter gear, her typewriter that was a family heirloom, most of her clothes, her laptop, and a few items like soap. It took her the better part of the day to get everything packed.

The next day she drove back up the winding road, off the interstate, to unload her boxes. There were no bellhops or anyone to help her. Everyone that had been there yesterday was gone so it was long and grueling affair. Her verses gravity.

She half finished the job midday by cluttering her room in a disorganized mess of boxes. She was always on the clock and frequently checked the front but couldn't find anyone. Several guests were still checked in but required no attention from her. She had enough of lugging boxes back and forth and collapsed on to the only exposed part of the bed. By days end, she had unpacked enough to clear off the bed and make room for the few remaining boxes. The only item of importance she unpacked was the typewriter. She desperately felt the itch to write, but she couldn't muster the creativity. Tired and worn out, she crashed so hard that she missed the darkness that swallowed her vision. She awoke in the middle of the night to the clicking of keys. She thought someone was using her typewriter, which made her think she was dreaming. Realizing she was awake, she walked over to the desk to the right of the bed.

She pulled a sheet out of the typewriter; it was her grandfather's old story. That was impossible, her grandfather's unfinished work was lost years ago. She was at a loss for words and explanations, drawing straws. She sat down and read over the page. It was the part where the red head met the dashing detective. Did she accidently find them? Were they in her house the entire time? Curious, she looked through a few boxes but comes up empty. She felt sleep calling her back and crawled back into bed, but not until she took off her clothes. She had previously fallen asleep with them on.

The sun made its usual dramatic appearance. Sunlight burst through the blinds bathing everything in its golden glow. She wished she could shoo away the sun, but instead was forced to face the day. This meant conquering the book of boring-itude. She opened the massive thick book and started reading. It talked about checking all previously rented room and taking the laundry down to the basement, then remaking the beds. Since there were only two people in the entire massive building, it wouldn't take long. Next it talked about checking the rooms to see if anything needed to be done.

Instead she figured it was time to meet the engineer, which was a feat Hercules would find daunting. He could be anywhere. But she wanted to learn the building, so she walked, and walked. She never saw him. Finally, she walked to front and radioed for him to come up to the front. He walked through the left door.

The man wasn't hard on the eyes. He looked like he had seen one too many winters but had an athletic build and a strong jawline. His square jawline screamed masculine. "What's up?" he asked.

"Nothing, just wanted a chance to meet you," she replied. "You hunk of man-meat", she thought. She started biting her lip.

"Ian Webster," he said.

"Aiyana Fairbanks. I tried looking for you but this place is massive."

"Be careful," he said. "It's easy to get lost. This place changes you."

"Don't tell me you believe the ghost stories?" she asked playfully teasing him.

"Your new," he pointed out. "You'll find out this places changes what you think is possible. But it's nice to have a new face around here."

"So you do believe in the paranormal," she asked, keeping him on topic.

"I know what I see with my eyes. You will too. I got to get going."

"Well, don't be a stranger," she said. Even when he left, she had an ear to ear grin. She practically pranced her happy ass back through the kitchen, cheerfully singing to herself. Her cheerful mood was broken by the sight of that ungodly book, a reminder that this was no vacation. She decided to divvy up the house into sections. Today she would take the right wing and would slowly walk through the halls looking for any room that needed to be worked on and make a mental note for anything that need to be fixed. During her long trek through the empty corridors and locked doors she saw a man standing at the far end of corridor. He wore a strange wool navy-blue jacket and a fur cap. He had a strange stare. Nobody was supposed to be checked in at the right wing. She thought the man must've gotten lost. She wandered over to him but he walked the opposite way, up the sloping hallway and around the corner. She followed him, calling out if he needed help. He continued to ignore her, wandering ever deeper into the maze. He turned one more corner leading to a dead end where there was an emergency exit and a janitor's closet and was just gone. He couldn't have gone out the door because it would have set off an alarm. She chalked this up to just missing the man, though she doubted her own explanation. With this out of the way, she realized most of her day was free. She thought about investigating the house, but really didn't feel like making the incredible drive into town.

Her movie collection had grown considerably and she chose to watch it instead, until the sun had set low on the horizon.

She woke in a cold sweat slightly shivering. She had no idea what brought on the nightmare only that she didn't wish to experience it again. She could still feel sleep's embrace behind her eyes, grogginess, and the cold touch of fear. She couldn't think what film could have made her think about the civil war. She didn't even watch any western, though she owned a few. She mostly watched super hero flicks before bed. Her mind realized it was an odd assortment of puzzle pieces put together. It was too late to call mom and sleep was definitively off the table. She noticed the room had an eerie creakiness to it as if something was moving in the room. She brushed it off as post nightmare paranoia. She threw on the light and powered up her laptop and tried to push the images from her mind. As soon as it hit 9 AM, she called her mom hoping she would be awake.

"Hello," said her mom in a groggy voice. "What's up."

"Sorry for calling you so early. I had a nightmare."

"That's alright baby girl. Tell mom all 'bout it."

"Don't know, I was in a civil war hospital. These men barge in and started killing everyone."

There is gasp from the other end. "That sounds utterly horrifying. You've been watching too many horror movies."

"Swear I haven't watched one in a while, maybe I should lay off the action flicks."

"Or," her mom suggested, "You've been dealing with too much stress. You need to relax, baby doll."

"You're probably right."

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by Anonymous

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by execuwriter08/30/18

What's next?

Looking forward to the next chapter.

This site is for amateurs so I don't think readers should be too bothered by punctuation and spelling as long as they can understand the story.

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by timsch8608/06/18


If you have such a problem with the spelling and grammar why don’t you become a volunteer editor?

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by SexlessStiff08/06/18


Do people these days think that grammar, spelling, and vocabulary are no longer important?

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