“He said he could find me a gun, and it’d probably be good for me to have one.”
The population was 3000, and I lived 20 km outside of the town centre, at an abandoned ranch that served as a camp for teenagers in the summer and an infrequently booked “resort” in the winter.
The following story is part of a series of spooky posts written by readers of Rochdale Variety and selected by our editors. Read about a freaky ghost baby, a voice from beyond the grave, the coldest room in the house, a very haunted library, or a dime store portrait that hates.
I lived for a year in a small town on the edge of the Similkameen Valley. The population was 3000, and I lived 20 km outside of the town centre, at an abandoned ranch that served as a camp for teenagers in the summer and an infrequently booked “resort” in the winter. To get there, you’d drive down a windy dishevelled road through the woods off the highway, and for a while it’d seem like you were driving nowhere. Someone abandoned a dog halfway down this road. When the dog found me and had recovered, (this took two months), I’d go running with him down the same road. A man who lived on a hill nearby told me once I was being stalked by a pack of mountain coyotes, and it was good I had the dog with me as bait. After the coyote attack, the mechanic on site gave me an airhorn to run with. He said he could find me a gun, and it’d probably be good for me to have one. I could keep it under my pillow.
I worked as a cook for the resort. Winters were long and lonely, so they put me up in one of the fancy rooms in the new “hotel-like” structure on a hill called Wolf Creek Lodge, because it had its own mini kitchen and I could feed myself during the weeks we had no visitors, and there was a laundry room in the basement. They gave me the keys to my room, but none to the building itself, which was never locked. Sometimes I’d visit my mother who lived a three hour drive away on weekends, and ask the property manager to lock the building while I was away, but he never did. Anyone could move in and squat. I was aware of this.
During that year, there was a murder in the town over. A woman in her sixties had let a homeless man stay in her garage for a night. He murdered her in her sleep, stole her car and was on the loose. This happened on a weekend I was visiting my mother. When I pulled up to my abandoned hotel, I sat in the darkened parking lot for a full fifteen minutes. When I finally mustered the courage to get out of the car, I ran the twenty feet to the entrance, and through the empty hallways to my room. My hand shook as I fumbled with the keys, and felt in the darkness for the lock. When I finally made it in, I slammed my door and locked it, panting and feeling ashamed, and turned the lights on full. This was the first of many repetitions of this.
One afternoon after my shift, two strangers were standing in the hotel lobby. I started when I saw them. “Hello?” I asked. “Hi. Do you know where we are?” they smiled. They said they’d seen a sign for a canyon and had decided to come check it out. They both had frayed blonde hair. They wore matching tourist clothes. Their eyes were glazed like encrusted sweets; they were so calm, doll-like even, believing I was a maid or receptionist, dumbly holding my apron. They didn’t seem to care that they were trespassing, that they’d scared me, or that they shouldn’t be there. I told them to find the property manager for a guest pass, and to tell him they’d come in here, that the door was unlocked, so they’d come in.
One night, several months later, when we hadn’t had guests for weeks, I woke up to the sound of a baby crying upstairs. I thought I’d lost my mind.
After that, I decided that in order to overcome my fear of going to the basement to do my laundry, fear which left me standing on the inside of my door with my dirty clothes at my feet, my ear pressed against it, one hand on the door handle, for long stretches of time, daring myself to open it, I needed to become the scariest thing anyone or thing encounter in the building. If I lived with a murderer, I thought I could buy myself a bit of time by laughing hysterically when he sprung on me, cackling as I described in gruesome detail what I was about to do to him and where I would mail each body part, inform him of the demon inside me that would surely be released upon killing me and possess him, pretend he was my son— “Why, you’re one of my babies!”— that I’d burned alive in a fit of postpartum delirium. I thought I’d extend my life by at least a minute or two. Better yet, I thought I’d be able to do my laundry.
I began to bring my kitchen knives with me on laundry day. I almost gave one of the secretaries a heart attack when I leapt into the room, laughing, knife in hand, eyes as wide as I could open them.
I didn’t know I’d be asleep when he finally found me. I didn’t even hear my door open. I heard his hands press into the down blanket on either side of my body before I was even awake. When my eyes shot open I saw in fine relief the texture of his wool sweater as his chest leaned toward my face. I screamed and lunged up in bed.
I looked in the closet, I looked under the bed, in the small kitchen and the bathroom. I ran into the lobby, in my pajamas, with my knives. I never found him.
I left the next year.