Chapter 2:

The Hotel Kensington

The Love Triangle Between Me, The Class President, & The Spirit Possessing Me

After just a couple blocks of Blaine and his boys chasing me, I realize I made a slight miscalculation. At worst, I’d expected them to let me run, and I’d have some crap to deal with tomorrow at school on top of having to explain to Sabrina why I disappeared in the middle of cleaning.

What’s more likely, and getting likelier as I get farther from the school, is that Blaine will catch up to me before I can get home or lose him. I’m gonna get my butt kicked.

I’m not a track star, or anything, but I’m in pretty good shape. Still, the guys chasing me know these streets better than I do. Every time I think I’ve finally shaken them off, they pop out from around a corner, still right on my heels.

I pass by the facade of the Kensington, throat dry, lungs on fire. There’s no way I can run much longer. In a split second decision that’s hopefully smarter than my decision to run in the first place, I dive through an empty window into the hotel.

I know Blaine and his lackeys must have seen me go in, so I can’t stop in the reception area. Stumbling over debris and broken furniture, I move down one of the hallways, deeper into the hotel. Maybe it’d be better to hide on a higher floor, but I definitely don’t trust what’s left of the grand staircase.

Many of the doorways into the rooms are blocked off or boarded up, but one is missing its door completely. I duck inside and crouch down behind the broken-down bed.

Not a minute later, I can hear footsteps crunching over the rubble as Blaine and his friends enter the hotel. Ugh, I was really hoping they’d be too spooked to go inside. Just my luck. Still panting from my long run, I nonetheless try to be completely silent, all but holding my breath.

In the stillness, I watch dust motes floating in the light streaming in through the room’s boarded-up window and strain to listen to what’s going on outside my hiding place.

“...Blaine, let’s just...”

“Don’t be a wuss, and...”

There’s nowhere left to run if they find me. I hold perfectly still. Their footsteps get closer.

“...c’mon, man, you know we shouldn’t be in here.” That’s definitely one of the lackeys.

Blaine scoffs. “Shut up! That dweeb thinks he can do what he wants. If we don’t put him in his place fast, he’s gonna be as bad as Sabrina.”

I hear the other lackey yelp. “Dude, did you see that?!”

“The lights in the chandelier totally flashed!”

“Don’t be stupid,” Blaine says. The three of them are close to the doorway of my hiding place now. “There’s no power to an abandoned building, idiots.” He doesn’t sound too sure about that, though.

“Like that makes it better?” One set of footsteps stops. “Did you feel that? The air got cold. Dude, Clark’s gonna be at school tomorrow-”

“Unless he’s too scared.” Another set of footsteps stops. “Either way, we can take care of him then, right?”

Peeking out from under the molding bed frame, I can make out Blaine’s shoes, now dusty and scuffed from walking through the ruined hotel. He’s standing right in the doorway of my room. Any second, he could spot me, and then it’s curtains.

Yeah, that’s right, I said curtains. Something about this old hotel has me feeling like an old-time gangster on the lam.

“I can’t believe you’re both being such little girls right now,” Blaine snaps, but his voice wavers a bit. “You know what? Fine. We’ll settle with Mr. President’s Pet tomorrow.”

I watch Blaine’s feet move back past the door frame, out of sight. Sure enough, the three sets of footsteps move away until I can’t hear them or the guys bickering anymore.

That was a close one. Just to be safe, I stay put for about five minutes to make sure they’re really gone before I stand up.

As I do, a chill runs down my spine. I shiver, but only from the cold. It’s late in the afternoon, so it’s cooling off, right? And a building like this has to be drafty. And good thing, too, because it convinced Blaine’s crew the place is really haunted.

Weird, though. I can’t feel where the draft came from, because there’s nothing under the vent or near the window. Oh, well.

On the chance that Blaine is camping the sidewalk out front, I decide it’s better to leave through the back exit and walk down the alley. All I have to do is find my way to the back.

Back out in the hall, a door slamming one floor above me makes me jump. Has to be a draft again. You know, like when you open the windows on both sides of your house, sometimes it pushes a door shut? Yeah. The end of the hallway only leads to an out of order elevator, so I backtrack. Passing under the one chandelier still hanging from the ceiling halfway back to the reception desk, I catch light flickering from the corner of my eye. I look straight up at the crystal-encrusted lights, daring the bulbs to flicker again.

They flicker again.

Faulty wiring, gotta be. Blaine doesn’t know jack. Maybe the power company forgot to shut off the power. Or maybe there’s solar panels. Yeah, solar panels on the roof of a hotel that shut down during the Great Depression. It could happen.

I take another turn down a new hallway. Maybe this one leads all the way to the back doors. That’s when I see it: a door hanging off its hinges, deep furrows gouged in the wood like a set piece from a low-budget werewolf movie.

But that’s not even the weird part. Past the door, where I should see another shabby hotel room like the one I was just hiding in there’s...nothing to see. It’s pitch black, even though the sun hasn’t gone down yet. Even the light from the hallway, weak as it is, can’t get in. It stops at the threshold of the room like it’s a solid wall.

…This is so dumb. I’m smarter than Blaine and his friends. The hotel isn’t haunted because that isn’t a thing. Maybe there isn’t a window in this room. Maybe the carpet is black, and that’s why it looks like the light stops dead in its tracks. Determined to prove to my inner child that he’s being stupid, I step inside and feel along the wall for a light switch. ...There!

So, there’s still power to the building, that’s one mystery solved. But the instant I hit the switch, the light bulb on the ceiling flares and pops. Hey, the only thing scary about bad wiring is the fire hazard! That’s the only reason I flinch!

I did manage to catch a glimpse of a dusty book of matches and a candle on the side table, though. At this point, I’m determined to get a good look at this room on principle.

Striking a match, I’m happy to find that it’s not too rotten to catch fire. I light the candle, turning around to see whatever inevitable boring let-down is in the room.

In the far corner, reaching all the way to the ceiling, antennae waving, candlelight reflecting off its shiny, black body…is a gigantic bug.