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TOUCHY AND FEELY
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FACES OF FEAR
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HOUSE OF BONES
THE NINTH NIGHTMARE
UNSPEAKABLETHE NINTH NIGHTMARE
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This first world edition published 2011
in Great Britain and the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright Â© 2011 by Graham Masterton.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
The Ninth Nightmare.
1. Serial murderersâFiction. 2. SupernaturalâFiction.
3. Horror tales.
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-015-9Â Â Â (ePub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6997-5Â Â Â (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-325-0Â Â Â (trade paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
ou will die if you stay here, my lovely,' whispered a harsh voice very close to Katie's ear.
Katie opened her eyes, unsure if she had been dreaming, or if the voice had been real. Her hotel room was completely dark, except for a thin bar of light underneath the door. She lay in the middle of her queen-sized bed with a frown on her face, listening and listening, but all she could hear was the muffled laughter of other guests, returning to their rooms, and the distant thunder of an airplane landing thirteen miles to the south-west at Hopkins International Airport.
She sat up. The red figures on the digital clock beside her bed were distorted by the glass of water she had placed in front of it, but she could see that it was only eleven fifty-eight p.m. She had been exhausted when she arrived in Cleveland this evening, and after picking the bacon and the turkey slices out of a club sandwich from room service and a long hot shower she had gone straight to bed and switched off the lights.
She laid her head back on the pillow and closed her eyes, but she found it almost impossible to go back to sleep. She kept visualizing the faces of all of those elderly people she had met this morning, smiling at her hopefully in case they knew who she was, but couldn't quite place her. Alzheimer's sufferers â every one of them lost to this world for ever, their memories swirling away from them like flotsam on an ebbing tide.
You should leave, before it's too late
,' the whispered voice told her. This time it was so close that she was sure she could feel somebody's breath against her ear. She twisted around, her heart thumping, but there was nobody next to her. Nobody that she could see, anyhow. She reached across and switched on her bedside lamp, spilling her glass of water on to the carpet.
The room was empty. Only the couch and the armchair, and the coffee table with the remains of her club sandwich still on it. Only the desk, with her laptop and her red alligator pocketbook. Only the heavy red brocade drapes, which stirred slightly in the draft from the air-conditioning, like huge lungs, breathing.
She waited and waited for nearly a minute. âWho's there?' she demanded, although she had a catch in her throat and her voice was much more shrill than she had meant it to be. âIs there anybody there?'
No answer. Just the drapes, slowly breathing. She swung her legs out of bed and stood up. âI'm warning you!' she snapped. âIf you don't come out and show yourself, I'm going to call security.'
She crouched down to look under the bed, but there was less than an inch of space between the carpet and the bedstead, and only somebody who was two-dimensional could have hidden under there. All the same, the idea of a two-dimensional man concealing himself under her bed was quite scary.
She went across to the window and pulled the drapes apart. There was nobody in the window bay, and nobody standing on the small balcony outside. She could see the lights of University Circle sparkling behind the trees â and further, to the lights of downtown Cleveland, with the Key Tower and the Terminal Tower and the BP Building dominating the skyline, and the blackness of Lake Erie beyond them.
She left the drapes open while she went across to closet. She took hold of both handles, hesitated for a moment, and then flung the doors open wide. Her coat and her skirt and her orange silk blouse were hanging inside, along with her neatly-folded gray sweater. No man, two-dimensional or otherwise.
,' she said. She was almost certain that she had still been awake, but she must have dropped off to sleep again without realizing it. She went into the bathroom and switched on the light. In the mirror, in her pale green man's shirt, she looked pale and puffy eyed, her short-cropped brunette hair sticking up like a storm-ruffled blackbird. She leaned over the basin and examined herself more closely. She was only thirty-three but she thought she was beginning to look old. Maybe it was meeting so many seniors every day that did it. Maybe their pallor was absorbing her color and her youthfulness, like kitchen paper soaking up cranberry juice.
She had always wanted to be taller than five feet four, but her height hadn't mattered so much when she still had that urchin-like prettiness. Now she thought she was starting to look like a bossy little old lady. She had put on at least six pounds since she had started her charity work (all those fund-raising barbecues and fried chicken dinners) and most of it seemed to have gone to her breasts and her hips. She hated to think that she
when she walked.
She ran the cold faucet for a few seconds and filled up another glass of water. She swallowed two mouthfuls and then she switched off the bathroom light. As she turned to go back into the bedroom, however, she realized that the reflection in the mirror seemed to have changed. Instead of being tiled from floor to ceiling with white ceramic tiles, the walls appeared to have cream-painted wooden paneling that went halfway up, while the upper part was damp-looking plaster.
Not only that, both the walls and the ceiling were decorated with splatters and exclamation marks and figure-of-eight loops, as if a willful child had been flicking a paintbrush loaded with dark-brown varnish all around the room.
Katie looked down at the floor. She wasn't standing on a thick maroon bath mat any more, but on streaky green linoleum that stuck to the soles of her feet.
She switched on the light again. The bathroom was exactly as it had been before, with shiny white tiles and a shiny white bathtub. She stared at herself in the mirror. She couldn't understand what had just happened, but then her reflection couldn't understand it, either, and looked as bewildered as she did.
She took hold of the light pull but she hesitated for a moment before she tugged it. Supposing the same thing happened again? Supposing she switched off the light and found herself back in that filthy wooden-paneled room, with all those sinister-looking squiggles all over the walls? She couldn't work out if it had been some kind of hallucination, or if she were asleep, and still in bed, and this was a nightmare. But this time she was absolutely sure she wasn't asleep. She was holding a cold glass of water in her hand and she could feel it, the same as she could feel the shaggy bath mat in between her bare toes.
âThis is not logical,' she told herself, out loud. âI am Katie Kercheval and I am standing in the bathroom of Room Seven-One-Seven at the Griffin House Hotel on University Circle, Cleveland, Ohio. I am not standing anyplace else.'
She switched off the light. It took a split second for her eyes to become accustomed to the gloom, but as soon as they did she saw that she was back in the wooden-paneled room. It wasn't a bathroom. It looked more like a laundry room. In the opposite corner stood a large old-fashioned kitchen sink, its sides streaked with dribbles of gray grime. The sink had a single faucet which was wrapped around with a sodden cloth to prevent it from dripping, although the cloth still dripped. Above the sink was a small, high window, with glass so dirty and so green with lichen that it was impossible to see through it. All the same, Katie could tell that it was daylight outside â although it was daylight on a gray, rainy day. She could hear the raindrops pattering against the windowpanes.
She switched the light back on. The laundry room instantly vanished, and she was back in her shiny white bathroom.
,' she said. She smacked her forehead with the heel of her hand. âThis is totally insane.'
She switched the light off. She was back in the laundry room. The faucet was still dripping and the rain was still pattering against the window. She breathed in and she could
something, too. Something bleachy and faintly fishy. She breathed in again, and this time the smell was even stronger, so that she could almost taste it. American Value Bleach and rancid tuna.
She switched the light back on, and this time she left it on. Maybe she was suffering from exhaustion, or jet lag. After all, she had visited seven cities in as many days â from Atlanta to Houston and then to Albuquerque and Phoenix and Los Angeles and Sacramento. Maybe she had picked up a flu virus, or maybe she was experiencing some kind of weird reaction to her new birth-control pill. But whatever was causing the laundry room to appear when she switched off the light, she didn't want to see it again.
She closed the bathroom door behind her and climbed back into bed, dragging the covers up to her chin. She looked across at the bathroom, but the door remained shut. She was tempted to go back and try turning the light off one more time, to see if the laundry room reappeared, but she decided against it. If she was hallucinating, or pining for some sickness, she was better off staying in bed and getting some sleep.
She reached across and switched off the bedside lamp. The digital clock read 12:09. The room was not as dark as it had been before, because light was shining from both the bathroom and the corridor outside. She turned over, with her back to the bathroom, and closed her eyes.
Ten minutes passed. A woman came along the corridor singing
I Will Always Love You
. A man said, âShut the fuck up, Lena, will you, for Christ's sake? You're drunk.'
Another ten minutes passed. Katie sat up in bed again. Maybe she should check the bathroom just once more. Then, if it turned into the laundry room, maybe she should call David and tell him what was happening. After all, David was a qualified shrink. If anybody knew what had led her to believe that her hotel bathroom had turned into another room altogether, it was him.