The Familiar Ch. 01byblackfire13©
Catherine sat at her laptop in the same clothes that she wore the night before, the only difference being that she had taken her bra off. The night before, she had bought the room at the only other Inn in town, besides the shit hole she was tasked to oversee the re-construction of. Her black, Buddy-Holly-style glasses perched on her sharp little nose, Catherine stared at the log-in screen of the University of Chicago. The log-in had a banner above the log-in screen, which functioned as a slide show of students, apparently studying at one of the many tables in the library, laughing at some unheard joke. Before the picture was changed with one of some of the statues that was in the center of the sprawling campus, her dark eyes drank in the heady, painful sight of Jason Simmons, who sat to the far right of the studying students.
Although he had longish, almost flowing hair, everyone who seemingly ever came in contact with either grew to understand that his style was a compliment to his personality, or grew to forget that at first blush he looked a bit odd with it. His warm smile, loud, raucous laughter and the fact that he came from a shockingly wealthy family did not hurt Jason Simmons' luck at finding friends. Or girlfriends.
In the picture on the website, Catherine recognized the expensive gray polo that he looked so relaxed in, from the many times she passed by him on the way to the building that housed many of the art classes. Even now it embarrassed her to think of how many scenarios she imagined, all starting with her knocking into Jason and him helping her to her feet after falling down. Most ended in sweet, cheesecake happy endings, but some, when she was especially lonely in her dorm, alone under her blanket, turned into hot showers for two, the proportions of Jason's penis as equally appealing as his wealth and personality.
Although she already knew what would happen if she did it, she attempted to log into her student account as was immediately greeted with a screen, telling her that the system did not recognize her log in credentials.
She cried a bit, then, before stumbling over to the mini fridge to pull out the chicken and pasta that she had left over from her dinner at the faux Italian place three towns over on the way to Rock Garden. She ate the cold pasta with a plastic spork in between sniffles, standing next to the fridge.
After scarfing the pasta down, she felt thirsty, so she slipped on one of the only two pairs of shoes that she had been able to bring in her little Prius - her little brown leather slippers - along with all of the other worldly possessions, and snatched up her purse on her way out the door.
If she had not been expelled from school, today would have been a day she could have spent, preparing for the Spring Semester. Despite it being referred to as the "spring" semester, it was cold as balls outside and twice as windy. And it was heavily covered in snow.
As she closed the door behind her, she felt a bitter loathing in her heart for the entire state of Idaho and spared a thought for all of the tall, personality-less buildings in Chicago that she had once expressed a deep dislike of. If there was one thing that Rock Garden, Idaho had a plenty of, it was personality, and the more she got of it, the more she hated it.
Cursing under her breath for having forgotten to grab her coat before running outside, Catherine scooted along the ugly, faded expanse of the fake grass carpet in her thin slippers, her eyes focused on the soda vending machine that she had spied the night before she collapsed in her room. Just a few... more... feet...
"Hey!" A voice suddenly came, from over the railing and the parking lot on the main floor. "Are you Catherine Mollinson?"
Groaning, partially due to the buffeting wind that bit into her thin arms and slid past her jeans, as though she were just wearing her nightgown, Catherine walked, slowly, over to the railing and peered over and into the parking lot below.
Standing out from the opened door of his truck, a large man wearing a plaid hat with large, floppy ears extending from the left and the right side of the hat and a Carhart winter coat and pants waved up at her before repeating his earlier question.
"Yes, that's me!" Catherine shouted, trying to get her voice over the roaring of the wind. "What do you want?"
"What do I want? Girl, you were supposed to meet me and the rest of the crew about two hours ago!"
"What?" Even before she asked it, Catherine knew that her mother must have not bothered to tell her when or where she was supposed to be that day, outside of the instruction she got to go over to the Inn to help with whatever needed to be done. She probably figured (as she so often did) that Catherine was just supposed to already know what she was supposed to do.
"You're supposed to tell us what to do with the interior of the place! We haven't been able to do any work for two weeks, after your mom fired that other woman an' we been waiting for you to show!"
"Oh." It was all Catherine could manage, and in her mind she could already see the angry, tired faces that would be waiting for her once she got to the Inn. She paused, thinking of what she could possibly tell this man, before she yelled, "Just give me about half an hour and I'll be down there, I've got to -"
"Lady, unless you want me and the boys to walk off the job site, you'd better come with me right now so we can start work!"
Catherine thought of how awful she must smell, and spared a thought for the warm comfort of the coat that she had left in the room. "Yeah, but-"
""Yeah, but" nothing! Get down here before I call an' tell everyone to go home for the day, before this weather gets any worser 'n it already is!"
Catherine meekly obeyed, walking down the stairs and crossing the sidewalk to reach the passenger side door of the large pick-up truck. As she yanked on the door handle, eager to get into the warmth of the interior of the truck, she glanced at the logo on the side of the door – a cartoon man brandishing a wrench with a serene smile and a wink. Under the man it read, "Rocky Repairs & Roofing."
Opening the door to the passenger's side, Catherine had to stop herself from groaning as she felt the distinct lack of any heating in the truck. She literally climbed into the truck and sat on the heavily worn side of the truck's seat and waited for the driver to get in. He moved a bit slowly, which annoyed Catherine, bitter over the fact that she had not been able to at least get her coat.
As he settled into his seat and pulled his seat belt on, Catherine got a chance to see him up close. He looked to be around forty, had a stern-looking face that gave her the impression that he did not laugh too often, like everybody else that she had met in town so far. Bushy side burns and eye brows, the black in their color looking as though they were being drowned in gray hairs, stuck out from under his cap. As he pulled the car out from the parking space, he did not spare a glance over to look at Catherine.
As they drove out of the parking lot, Catherine awkwardly attempted to sound optimistic as she asked, "So, how much longer now do you think it'll take before this place is up and running?"
The man grunted, then said, in a gravelly smoker's voice, "Hmph, however much longer it'll take afore your mom'll be content with how everything looks."
"And how much longer do you think that'll, uh, be?"
The man was quiet for so long, as they pulled up to a stop light that had no traffic go through the other road, except for a snow plough, which moved with aching slowness through the intersection, that Catherine thought that he was ignoring her. Finally, he answered, "If we can get everything done fast, unlike how we've been doing, with that city woman your mom sent to oversee everything, we might be ready in five months."
Catherine had to hold back a gasp. "Five months? Wait – my mom said at MOST it would be a month longer before the Inn would be ready."
The man laughed, the sound thick with phlegm, then coughed raggedly for a few more seconds. "Your mommy thinks she knows a lot about this kind of stuff when she don't. When she got the place, an' came over to me for an estimate, I told her that at most, and with me an' Andy over at the Park Brothers Roofing, that place'd be ready as a museum with just the ground and second floor open an' working in about four months, an' this was back in August."
There were too many questions in Catherine's head, and too little time to ask them. Compounded by her dismay, at the thought of being holed up in Rock Garden for four more months, Catherine did not say anything else until they were already parked in the back gravel parking area, behind the rather large, six-story corpse of what had once been the Witchwood Bed and Breakfast.
They both got out of the truck, and as soon as her feet touched the ground, Catherine wished that she could turn around and go back into the wind-less comfort of the truck. Instead, she walked, stiffly, to the Colonial-style back door that with large expanses of chipping white paint coming off in small bits that reminded Catherine, grotesquely, of dandruff.
The door stuck, and the man grunted loudly as he yanked the door loose from its frame, then he held it open against the surprising gust of wind that attempted to slam the door shut in order for Catherine to get inside.
Once inside, she soon realized that the interior of the place was not much prettier than the dilapidated exterior was. When her feet came down on the ground, she groaned when she realized that the carpet was a rotting and worn mess that looked like a vaguely red shade of grey.
The back door led to what she supposed to have once been the claustrophobic back office, due to the large wooden desk and file cabinet that had been shoved to the right side of the empty room. The room, Catherine was dismayed to realize, was not much warmer than the truck had been, and she crossed her arms over her chest in a dismal attempt to retain her body's heat.
The man lead her through the office, past the horribly neglected check-in area that was covered in tools and tarpaulin and into the entrance room. As her eyes were then filled with the sight of the neglected, but remarkably beautiful and elaborate bones of what once had to of been a grand entrance way.
Cracked and yellowed alabaster tiles, water-stained but once gold-colored ceiling panels, broken furniture that looked as though it were made of good and heavy wood, an ornate door frame wrought in a beautiful, dark red metal and, finally, a large fire place that looked as though it were made of the same alabaster as the floor.
Her momentary joy was extinguished, however, when she saw the group of men who were all openly glowering at her.
The man walked her over to them, and Catherine soon found herself facing eight very tired and pissed off-looking men. "This 's Catherine." The man who had picked up up announced.
"We can see that." A black man, who looked younger than all of the younger men said, sarcastically.
"So what's the plan for the entranceway? When that woman left, she didn't tell us what we're fucking doing in here."
The man who had brought her sighed loudly and grumbled, "Your mom probably didn't tell you shit about what you were going to do once you got here, huh, kid?"
The thought crossed Catherine's mind that she should get her mother on the phone to ask her what it was that she wanted in this room to be done, but as soon as she thought it, she very quickly realized that she had left her phone back in the hotel room.
Unless you want me and the boys to walk off the job site... Catherine glanced at the faces of the men surrounding her, and she felt as though most of them were barely holding back the urge to walk out, right then and there. We might be ready in five months. Unacceptable.
"My mom told me that she wanted this room to, uh... Well, she wanted it to be fixed up – restored, really. She said that, uh, she liked the tiling and the look this place has."
"Hmph." The man who brought her snorted. "That's weird, 'cause when that lady who who was here before talked about this room, what little I could get out of her, she was talkin' 'bout carpet in here."
Amidst the mumbling agreements from the other men, Catherine weighed the potential of not pissing her mother off against the possibility that the job might get done faster, allowing her to go back to her own tenuous life, whatever that might be, before the next summer came. And, although she did not want to admit it, she also felt outraged at the idea of the grand entrance way turned into a carpeted monstrosity.
"No, one of the things my mom mentioned to me before I came here was that she wanted this whole room updated and restored, starting with the tile." Catherine hoped that, to these men's ears, she sounded more sure of herself than she did to her own.
After a pause that felt like an eternity, the men seemed to all feel content with her answer, to the point in which more than one let out loud, relieved sighs.
"Well, that's some good news," The man who brought her said. "if you insisted on the carpeting, that woulda required us makin' Pat and Billy stop their work in the rooms upstairs. Besides, carpet in here woulda looked like fuckin' shit." He laughed another one of his loud and ragged smoker's laughs. "So what else did she want done to this room, specifically?"
The air in town had worsened considerably in the last fifty years, and a lot of the people who formerly called the place home had long since packed up and left.
He mourned, slightly, the worsening of the air quality – and the damage he saw it do to the plant life around the town – and he felt a bitter happiness at the loss of the many humans who had bulldozed over places that held great memories for him. Back when he could feel happiness that was not tinted with bitterness and resentment.
He got around the town in his own fashion; watched the humans in the daily routines that he could never hope to ever do. Christmas was coming, and with it one of His favorite times of the year. Bright lights and people pretending that they were happy with their life decisions. And then there were the people who froze to death, every year, like clockwork.
If He had any power left in this world, he would cause the numbers of those who froze to death to climb a good, steady amount.
Enough, maybe, so that they would leave this place alone, and him with it. He could, in theory, go anywhere in the human world he wished – only, by the time he tired himself out, he would find himself in the mansion that She had constructed, created and funded by her many abuses and betrayals.
He loathed this place more than any other in the world and wished it to burn every day of his existence. When it had closed its doors, as an Inn, over fifty years ago, it cheered him some. It cheered him, until he realized that he would be stuck in an abandoned and rapidly decaying building.
One afternoon, following a night spent on a long walk down a highway that lead out of town, he roused from his rest to see that the men who were repairing the building had, indeed, arrived for the day. They looked quite beside themselves, yelling, stomping and cursing "that woman" who was supposed to meet them there an hour ago.
He watched them rant and rave, and was amused, in some small way, by their outbursts of anger. An hour later, and the door to the back office opened and shut, and in came another one of the men, followed by a thin slip of a woman, wearing thick-framed glasses and black, curiously short, "chopped"-looking hair. Although it took him a moment to realize it, the girl was not wearing anything to hide the sight of her small breasts and her emerging, cold nipples under her thin white shirt.
Whether or not she realized that she was showing her breasts to the men, every time she raised her arms from ever so slightly covering them, the men certainly realized it. More than one glanced down from her eyes as she spoke, nodding their heads slowly, as though listening to every word she said carefully. One in particular licked his lower lip slowly, as though he were doing it unconsciously.
He too was staring at her breasts, as he often did whenever he found himself in a situation in which he could glimpse a pretty woman undressing. It had been longer than he could bear, since he had last had sex.
So entranced was He with her excited and mysterious peeking breasts that he did not get a close look at her face at first. When, at last, he did, he realized, with cold shock, that his long-dead Master's family had been foolish enough to send one of their women into his prison. He was certain that after what had happened to the last one of her ilk in this place, that they certainly would have taken the hint.
Beneath the odd hair that reminded Him of a boy's cut and the thick, librarian's glasses, he recognized the pale face that had, in his memory, been capable of such wide and endearing smiles. Had his Master reincarnated, only to torment him, like a bird with clipped wings being poked at by a child with a stick?
No; he quickly decided, feeling that rage, that red and black emotion that had enabled him to survive his Master's death, returning to him. Whatever the cause, (and he could scarcely believe his own eyes) he could – and would – find a way to torment her until he had fully sated hundreds of years of his own torment.
And, he reflected, he had one last thing that he still owned which could bring him to her. It would work – could – if she held the potential.