“How did you sleep?” asked Janet, my best friend and roommate, on a sightseeing holiday in Spain.
“Not well.” I grimaced. “I had bad dreams, like there was something on top of me, something heavy.”
“Oh, that’s not nice.”
“It felt like an animal or something, all hairy, then there was this awful face, I can’t begin to describe it. Like it had a beak. Ugh.”
“Come on, Sally, let’s go down for breakfast, forget it, it was just a silly nightmare. I slept like a log!”
We’d arrived at the hotel in Granada the previous day, to find a problem with the booking. The tour leader, Robin, had approached us. “Janet, Sally, there’s a slight problem, can I have a word.” He’d led us away from the rest of the party who were filling out mind-numbing forms in the spacious hotel lobby.
Robin was tall, thin and wore glasses with round lenses. A mop of suspiciously black hair crowned his austere features. We were joined by a swarthy fellow in a smart blue suit. He turned out to be Rafael, the hotel manager. “Buenos días, señoras, I’m sorry, someone make a mistake, there are no double rooms left.”
“Well, what are we going to do then?” Janet asked.
“There is no problem,” Rafael smiled, “we have two single rooms, and we make no extra charge.”
“I should think not!” I exclaimed.
“They are in the top floor. That is used for storing things, not for guests usually. You would use a different lift, the one for goods. He gesticulated to a corridor behind the desk. Is just down there. Is OK?”
“Will their things be safe?” Robin asked.
“Ah, sí, sí, the rooms have locks and plenty of CCTV up there. Rooms are good size too, with showers and baños, er, baths.”
Robin stood up. “Ah, that’s good then. Maybe if the ladies would like to go up and check they are OK then, Rafael?”
We made to stand up, but the manager gestured for us to sit down again. He hesitated. It was hard to tell with his tanned skin, but he might have been blushing. “Ah … this is silly, I know.” He seemed to force a laugh. “But, well, er, I hope you ladies are not afraid of spiders?”
“Spiders!” I exclaimed. “Well, no, not really. Unless they’re poisonous.”
Rafael wiped his brow with a handkerchief. “No, no, nothing like that.”
“My nephew collects them,” said Janet. “He’s got a tank in his bedroom with them in. He explained about them to me, how the female orb web spider will eat the male after mating.”
I laughed. “Hey, you should try that with Fred!”
To our surprise, the top floor wasn’t much different to the others. The corridor was clean and plenty of light flooded through the windows. A door of one room stood open, revealing drums of cooking oil and a small trolley, otherwise, it could have been any normal hotel corridor. My room was clean and almost big enough for a double bed, and the ceiling was high, giving the room a light, airy feel. A large window gazed down on the town.
“Oh, look, Jan,” I said, “there’s the Alhambra!” There in the distance lay the majestic palace. “I wonder why they don’t use these rooms normally? The view is fantastic.”
Janet’s room was similar at first glance. “Yuk, look at this,” she said, taking a tissue and wiping a large spider’s web from above the window. She looked around, “I don’t see any spiders though.”
I laughed. “They only come out at night.”
After a guided tour of the Alhambra and traipsing around the city all day, I was pretty tired. Most of the tour group took up residence in the bar after dinner, but Janet and I took the rattling goods lift up to our rooms. I had a quick shower then lay in bed, reading Lonely Planet’s take on Granada.
The next thing I knew, I was waking up to find my book on the floor, the bedside light still on and my bedside clock showing 3.30 a.m. I could hear a sound like running, very fast and muffled. That was strange. I got out of bed. It seemed to be in the corridor. I stood with an ear to the door. Yes, someone, maybe a child, was running around out there. A moment later, the sound stopped. For a while there was just the soft tick of the clock, then there came a quiet tap at the door that made my heart pound so fast it felt it would jump right out of my body.
Should I open the door? I stood there, shaking with fright, and wondering what to do. Then the tapping stopped, and all was silent. Finally, after a minute or two, I plucked up the courage to turn the room light on and open the door. My heart rate and breathing began to return to normal as I stood looking out into an empty corridor. Telling myself it was my imagination, I went back to bed and fell asleep.
The next day, I went to look for Rafael. He wasn’t at the desk. Instead, a young woman with lustrous chestnut hair and huge dark eyes smiled at me. “Buenos días, señora, how may I help?”
“Look, we’re up on the top floor. I thought I heard running in the corridor outside my room in the night.”
“When was that, señora?”
“About three-thirty it was.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Did you look out to see?”
“Yes, the corridor was empty, but I thought I heard … I thought I heard someone tapping on my door.”
“Look, we have CCTV up there. We can check.” She took me through to an office and opened a cupboard to reveal a network of wires and recorders. She extracted a disc from a machine and put it into a slot in a computer that sat on top of a filing cabinet. It began to play, and we could see the corridor, dimly illuminated by a ghostly security light. “You say 3.30, señora?”
“Well, about then, yes, I went to the toilet.”
She skipped the disc forward and we watched an empty corridor for a minute or so. Then, “Oh, Dios mio!” the young woman let out a cry. There on the screen was the ghostly form of a gigantic spider, perhaps two feet high, scuttling up and down the corridor. As we watched, it stopped, and a long black hairy leg reached up and tapped on my door. Then the creature disappeared from view. A minute later I watched myself open the door and blearily look out. As I did so, the apparition scuttled past my legs and into the room. Then I saw myself yawn and close the door. I felt sick.
A blue sleeve reached out and hit a button to eject the disc. Rafael stood there with an inscrutable look on his face. “We have a nice room on the first floor for you and your friend. Is very big with nice view. You want, señora?”
Taken from the book, The Window Crack’d and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Horror and the Supranatural
- Please consider making a small donation to help towards the running costs of this site. It would be greatly appreciated.
- Don’t forget to check out some other stories on this blog. There are over 450!
- To purchase the stories on To Cut a Short Story Short up to December 2021 in paperback, Kindle, eBook, and audio-book form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.