Laundry Chute

“Alright everyone,” said Mrs. Applewhite as she opened the door and stepped into the room from the hall outside. She was a woman of slender build and medium stature with brown eyes and long blonde hair, which was tied back in and pinned in a bun. “Turn off the TV, put away the games, it’s reading time.” The children groaned in disappointment but did as they were told.

Mrs. Applewhite taught at Amelia Earhart Middle School in Detroit. The city’s funding allowed her to take certain seventh grade students, those with exceptional grades, on the annual field trip to educational sites in Michigan.

This year, AEMS paid for the small group of travelers to make a trip to the town of Ravensgate and take the ferry to Pike Island. The island had a bustling community of residents. There, Mrs. Applewhite and her students stayed at the Pike Island Inn and would visit the Ravensgate Historical Museum, also on the island. The museum was an old red Victorian house that had once belonged to one of the town’s founders. It had been restored to its original visage and tours were given there, educating visitors about the town’s history and how the settlers and Native Americans lived.

The eight children, Barbara, Mary, Julie, Tammy, Milton, Nick, Jason, and Sam all hung out in the boys’ room at the inn – Room 109, watching movies and playing games. Mrs. Applewhite even ordered pizza for everyone. Although Mrs. Applewhite allowed the children plenty of time for play, she was stern when it came to her job as an educator. She made sure the students spent a portion of time everyday involved in reading.

She walked in the room carrying a small stack of books and passed them out. They were all copies of a book of short stories called The Ravensgate Chronicles: Strange Tales.

Tammy, a tall-for-her-age African American girl, opened her copy. “I don’t want to read this kind of book, not at night,” she complained.

“This book was the only one I could get multiple copies of on short notice,” Mrs. Applewhite said.

“Don’t be a wimp,” Nick, a stocky Hispanic boy, said with a snicker.

“Halloween is this weekend anyway,” Julie said. “It’ll be spooky! I like it spooky!” Julie was the goth girl of the group, her hair cut short and dyed a dark red.

“We don’t have to read the whole thing, do we?” Milton, the lanky African American kid, groaned.

“I wouldn’t put you guys through that. The book contains multiple stories, so each of you just read one,” Mrs. Applewhite said.

Jason, his shaggy blonde hair hanging down his forehead, opened the small novel sized book and flipped through its pages. The stories were short, maybe ten to thirty pages each. Not too bad, he thought.

Sam, the dark-haired kid with freckles, was Jason’s best friend and wasn’t much of a reader.

“Can’t we read these tomorrow?” Sam asked.

“Sorry, Sammy, I want them read tonight. It shouldn’t take you too long. We’ll discuss what each of you read afterward.” Sam frowned.

Mary, a strawberry blonde, scanned the table of contents then raised her hand. “I want to read ‘The Flat Man!’”

“Can I read ‘Devil’s Night’?” Barbara, the long-haired Native American girl, asked.
“Sure, that will be fine,” Mrs. Applewhite said.

“Each of you, choose a story that interests you most.”

The other two girls chose their stories rather quickly. Julie chose “Tree House”, and Tammy decided on one entitled “I’ll Always Be Around”. The boys took a little more time to pick their stories, but Milton chose “The Thing in the Mirror”. Nick picked “Dark Covenant”, and Sam settled on the bonus story called “The One”.

Jason was undecided until he ran across a story called Laundry Chute. What was so scary about that? The name seemed kind of funny, so he chose that one. Some of the stories were supposed to be based on true events but Jason wasn’t so sure. He never believed in that kind of stuff and thought books like that were written just to scare people, especially kids.

“Okay guys,” Mrs. Applewhite said, “I’ll be back in about thirty minutes. That should be enough time for all of you to finish.” That said, Mrs. Applewhite closed the door, stepping into the hall and then to her room next door. She would be back soon, so the room went quiet as each person flipped through the pages of the book.

Jason sat on the floor, his back against his bed’s mattress and read. Laundry Chute was about an inn on a small island, much like the inn he and his schoolmates were in. He learned that the inn had a haunted laundry chute on the third floor:

Something evil lurks in the laundry chute at the Pike Island Inn on Petersburg Road in the town of Ravensgate. The haunted laundry chute is a small 2 x 1.5 foot hole with a small door attached. It’s located on the wall of the third floor of the main hallway of the Inn. There are two more chutes on the first and second floors directly underneath the one on the third. But these horrifying events took place on the top floor…

Many years ago, a ten-year-old little girl named Penelope Spindleman, stayed at the inn with her family. She happened to meet some other children around her age who were also staying there and befriended them.

After spending the day together playing on the island, a particular girl named Nancy noticed a slight flirtation between Penelope and a boy named Tom. Nancy had a crush on Tom and thought that he might have felt the same. Little Penelope was now a threat.

The next morning, Nancy, while looking out her window, caught a glimpse of Penelope and Tom holding hands near the woods’ edge behind the inn. In Nancy’s demented mind, Tom was hers and Penelope was treading where she shouldn’t. Nancy seethed and devised a plan.

Later that evening Nancy invited all the other girls to the third floor of the inn. A game of “Ring Around the Rosie” ensued…

The girls all held hands and stood in a circle. They sang the familiar song and walked sideways, counter-clockwise. When the nursery rhyme came to ‘we all fall down’, the gang of girls, together, swept Penelope off her feet and dropped her down the laundry chute, three floors down into the basement, per Nancy’s plan. Unbeknownst to the girls, there was no laundry hamper filled with dirty linen at the bottom that day. The drop inadvertently proved fatal, and Penelope broke her neck when she hit the cement basement floor…

Today, some claim, if one should open the door to the laundry chute on the third floor in the middle of the night, insert their arm into the hole in the wall and recite the “Ring Around the Rosie” nursery rhyme, a malevolent unseen force thought to be Penelope, will grab hold of the arm and pull them down into the basement once the rhyme is finished. Many locals testify that this is has been happening since 1887.

Jason wondered: something like that couldn’t be true, could it? No. Impossible. It was too far-fetched.

But what if the Pike Inn in the book was the same in which he and his friends were situated? The book said it was located in a town called Ravensgate on Pike Island. They were in Ravensgate, Michigan, on an island with the same name. Was the book full of true stories about the town? After all, the name Ravensgate was in the title.

The street location in the book was Petersburg Road. Jason leapt up from his spot on the floor, onto his bed next to the window and moving the curtains, looked out. His window was located on the front of the building, but he couldn’t see the street sign on the corner from where the room was.

Jason sat on his bed and watched everyone reading their stories. Mary, Tammy, and Julie were sitting on the floor, their pages wide open and Barbara sat in the armchair in the room. Milton and Nick each sat up in their beds. He called to Sam who was lying on the floor on his side.

“Hey, Sam, you finished yet?”

“Nope, right in the middle of it.”

“What story are you reading?”

“It’s called Dark Covenant.”

“What’s it about?”
“Some guy makes a deal with the devil and then his daughter gets kidnapped. It’s got this weird zombie butler in it. Pretty messed up.”

“Hey Milton, what are you reading” Jason asked.

“An old man is telling his friend about how his wife cheated on him when he was young.”

Jason kept quiet for a minute then leapt off the bed and sat next to Sam on the floor. “The stories in the book are from Ravensgate. Do you think they’re true?

“I don’t know. Probably not.”

Mary looked up from her book. “They could be. My friend’s mom says she saw a ghost. It was the spirit of her dead uncle. The supernatural is real.”

“They’re not true. None of this stuff is. It’s all just for fun,” Milton said.

“I don’t know how any of this can be fun. I don’t like scary stories,” Tammy said. “I get nightmares.”

“They’re all just made up. Total fiction. None of these stories could happen in real life, just close the book and it’s over with,” Nick said.

“Be quiet. I’m not finished reading yet,” Julie interrupted.

Everybody went back to reading except Jason. He was done and kept thinking about the laundry chute at the Pike Island Inn located in Ravensgate.

“I’m going to take a walk. I’ll be right back,” Jason said as he got up, walked to the door, opened it, and stepped into the long, poorly lit hall. He had to know if he was spending the night in the same inn in the book, so he decided to take a hike up to the third floor.

He made his way quietly, not wanting Mrs. Applewhite to hear from her room. She would scold him for snooping around. After making his way down the long corridor, passing by rooms occupied by other guests, he found the stairwell at the end.

He climbed the stairwell and when he made it to the third floor, there was a sign on the closed door that led to the hallway that read Employees Only. This floor wasn’t used for guests. It was where extra bedspreads, sheets, and other storage were kept. Disobeying the sign, Jason opened the door and stepped through.

He flipped the light switch, but it didn’t work. Jason stood at the long hall’s end staring down into darkness. His eyes adjusted quickly and he saw it on the wall to his right at the other end of the hall: a small square door, painted white to match the walls, with a little black knob. At first Jason didn’t believe it, but it was there.

It’s just a stupid laundry chute, that’s all, Jason thought. “There’s nothing in that chute but air,” he said to himself and made his way back downstairs to be with his friends.

Back in the room, Jason closed the door behind him and joined the others. They were carrying on, none of them were reading. He guessed they were all finished. Soon after Jason returned, their teacher opened the door and stepped inside.

“Everybody done?” asked Mrs. Applewhite.

“We’re finished,” Barbara said.

Nick yawned and Tammy had fallen asleep on the floor.

“Looks like it’s late,” Mrs. Applewhite said. “We’ll go over what we’ve read tomorrow after we get back from the historical museum. Girls, it’s time to go to your room.”

Julie shoved Tammy to wake her up.

“Remember the bus will pick us up at 8:00 in the morning, so I’ll be knocking on your doors to wake you up at 6:30, enough time for everyone to have breakfast and shower, alright?”

The girls marched out of the room, single file, down to the room they shared and the boys each hopped in their own bed. Mrs. Applewhite turned out the light and went to her room to retire.

A few hours went by and in the dark, while everyone slept, Jason lie awake in his bed, still thinking about the laundry chute on the third floor. Sam’s bed was next to his. “Hey, Sam, you awake?” Jason said in a whisper.

Sam grumbled. “I am now. What do you want?”

“I have to tell you something.”

“About what?”

“About the story I read earlier.”

“What, did it give you a nightmare?” Sam said with a scoff.

“No,” Jason said confidently. “Hey, what if…what if some of those stories are true?”

“Don’t worry, they’re not.”

“But I think they are.”

“Why?

“The story I read was about an inn on an island in a town called Ravensgate. This inn is on an island in Ravensgate.”

“So what.” There are probably plenty of towns with that name all over the world.

“The book said it was on Pike Island on Petersburg Road.”

“Hmm. Is this one on Petersburg?”

“I looked out the window and couldn’t see any street signs.” Jason moved the curtains and peered out the window again. “I guess there’s only one way to find out,” he said as he unhooked the latch of the window, sat up on his knees and lifted the window open.

“What are you doing?” Sam asked.

“What does it look like?” Jason replied and stuck his right leg out of the window. “Come on. Let’s go see what street this place is on.”

Sam felt it couldn’t hurt. Besides it seemed like fun to sneak out at night. “Alright, wait up.”

Jason had completely jumped out of the window feet firmly on the cool grass and Sam began to climb out next.

“Hey, where are you guys going?” Milton asked in a groggy voice from his bed, the side of his face smashed in his pillow.

“We just want to see if this inn is on Petersberg Road.” Sam said.

“What for?”

“We want to see if this place is the same one in the story in the book that Mrs. Applewhite gave us. We’ll be back.”

“Oh, geez.” Milton said. He didn’t seem to care and closed his eyes to go back to sleep.

Jason, in his pajamas, and Sam, in a t-shirt and jogging pants, walked in front of the inn down the sidewalk. The night air was cool as they passed by a small park and a few houses across the street. Some cars were parked along the way. In less than a minute, they reached the corner and the boys looked up at the street signs hanging on the post. One street was called Simmons and the street on which the inn was located was Petersburg Road.

“Whoa,” Sam said. “Maybe the story in the book is true? What was that story about?”

“The book said that there was a laundry chute on the third floor of the inn and if you put your hand down the chute and recite ‘Ring around the Rosie’, something will grab your hand and pull you down into the basement.”

“Weird.”

“I know right. Remember when I went left the room earlier?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I went upstairs to the third floor. And there’s a laundry chute up there at the end of the hall just like in the book.”

“No way. This I gotta see,” Sam said.

The boys quickly made their way back to the inn and climbed back through the window into the dark bedroom. Nick slept soundly while Jason and Sam quietly walked through the room, slowly opened the door, stepped out in the hall and shut it silently behind them.

Milton, still half-awake and with one eye open, thought he saw the boys come back inside through the window and leave the room into the hall. He wasn’t sure; it was dark, and he was in a twilight state. He heard a door from out in the hall open and close. Being too tired to be concerned, he closed his eyes.

Jason and Sam wore socks, so their footsteps made no sound as they tip- toed down the hall. They reached the end and climbed the staircase all the way up to the third floor. Sam saw the Employees Only sign on the door but defiantly opened it. He flicked the light switch up, like Jason before him, and of course, the light didn’t work.

The long dark hallway was eerie and silent. The two paused for a moment, staring down the grim corridor.

“There it is,” whispered Jason, pointing down to the end of the hall at the hatch on the wall.

“Maybe this is dumb,” Sam said. “Let’s just go back downstairs.”

“We’re already up here. There’s no point in going back now.”

The boys walked down the hall, passing closed doors on either side along the way until they stopped directly in front of the chute.

“Open it,” Jason said.

Sam hesitated.

“Go ahead, open it,” Jason urged.

“Sure, no problem. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” Sam said as he turned the black knob and pulled the small door open. The straight-edged square opening in the wall was a pitch black.

“See, it’s just a regular laundry chute.”

“Take a look down there,” Jason dared.

Sam grabbed the lower edge of the chute and peeked down into the blackness.

“Nothing. There’s nothing there, look.” Sam put his hand in the hole, waving it in the air.

“Put your whole arm down there, as far as it will go,” Jason dared once more. Sam sighed and took the dare. He stretched his right arm all the way down the chute as far as he could until the bottom edge reached his armpit. He swished his arm back and forth in the emptiness as if it were a pool of water.

“Nothing,” Sam said. “There are no monsters in here. Okay? Let’s go.”

“Wait, you didn’t repeat the words,” Jason said. “You have to say the rhyme to see if it’s real.”

Sam glared dryly, his arm still hanging in the chute. “What am I supposed to say?” he asked.

“Ring Around the Rosie,” Jason replied.

Sam didn’t want to say it: he was scared but would never admit it. But it was too late; he’d gone this far and wanted to prove that he wasn’t a chicken. Sam nervously cleared his throat and said the rhyme in its familiar tune.

“Ring around the rosie… a pocket full of posies… ashes, ashes…we all fall down.”

Sam finished the nursey rhyme. Everything was quiet and still in the long empty hall. Nothing happened. Jason sort of expected as much and Sam smiled.

“Told you so. The stupid stories in that book aren’t tr…” A look of terror came over Sam’s face.

“Help!” he said.

Jason rushed to grab hold of his friend’s shoulders to aid him.

“Ha! You should have seen your face!” Sam said and pulled his arm out of the chute.

Jason felt dumb, yet relieved, and let Sam go.

“Let’s go back downstairs,” Sam said gripping the side edge of chute door to close it.
Without warning, a hand, pale grey with decayed skin, came up from the chute and clutched

Sam’s right wrist. His eyes widened as he screamed. Jason grabbed hold of Sam’s arm with both hands and pulled as hard as he could to break Sam free.

“Get it off me!” Sam cried but the rotting hand dug its fingers deeper into his flesh. Trying to break the hand’s grip, Jason pulled on his friend’s arm. Sam grunted as he struggled, but the decomposed fingers wrenched even harder. It pulled his whole arm completely into the chute up to his armpit again as Sam pressed against the wall with his free hand in resistance.

The other hand belonging to the thing in the chute came up from the dark hole in the wall and clutched the collar of Sam’s shirt. With a one strong jerk, Sam’s head and torso were pulled completely in the square void as he screamed Jason’s name. Jason grabbed hold of Sam’s ankles, pulling in a tug of war with the monster.

“Help! Somebody!” Jason cried as loud as he could, in an effort to wake someone. “Help us!”
Crunching sounds came from the chute and blood spattered dark red all over Sam’s white t-shirt. Some of it also spattered around the hole’s squared edge. Jason pulled harder and Sam’s body went limp.

“Help! Somebody please!” Jason called.

The thing, resembling something like a little girl with wavy black hair, pulled herself up from behind Sam’s body. Shadows covered her face but Jason could see the pale grey of her rotting skin and a bloodied mouth. She had taken bites out of Sam. With a strong yank downward, she pulled Sam completely into the chute and his body fell all the way down to the bottom.

Jason pulled away from the chute to escape and run down the hall, but not before the decrepit hand seized his wrist and jerked him back to the wall. He looked in the hole, into the entity’s glowing star-light eyes. He screamed for help as tears streamed down his cheeks. “Somebody help me!”

The hideous girl bit into Jason’s neck and with a solid tug, she pulled his entire body into the chute. The creature descended with him along with the sound of snapping bones. Jason’s screams echoed down the shaft until all was silent in the empty hall. A white glow appeared in the square hole in the wall, illuminating the entire hallway. It suddenly went out and by itself, the door to the chute slammed shut. No one had heard the boys scream.

A few hours later, Milton’s awoke from his light sleep due to a noise, seemingly out in the hall. He opened his eyes in the dark and saw that Jason and Sam were not in their beds.

I was sure they had come back through the window from outside. But maybe I’m wrong. Didn’t I see them leave out through the door too?

Milton got up from his bed to see if Jason and Sam were out in the hall. He tip-toed quietly, careful not to wake up Nick, opened the door and peeked down the hall in both directions. Nothing. No one was there.

Maybe Jason and Sam didn’t come back from outside yet. I was half-asleep. I’m sure I’ll see them in the morning.

He lay back down in bed and fell asleep again.

As you might have guessed, the missing boys caused quite a stir in the morning and an investigation ensued. The trip to the Ravensgate Historical Museum was cancelled and everyone was questioned. Milton reported that he saw Jason and Sam climb out the window in the middle of the night. He mentioned that he thought they might have come back but he wasn’t quite sure about it.

A search of the entire island took place and divers searched the surrounding waters but the boys were never found. The theory goes that the boys went for a walk in the middle of the night to do some exploring. They probably went out in the water then got swept away by the tide. And as everyone knows, adolescents sneak out in the middle of the night all the time.

Milton thought it odd that Jason and Sam had wanted to see if the inn was the same one in the book of short stories. He didn’t read the story that they referenced. When Mrs. Applewhite collected the books from the children that morning, one was missing. It was believed that Jason and Sam had taken it with them. That was not the case; Milton had stolen it. He hid it among his belongings in his luggage. He wanted to read the story that prompted the boys to leave the inn, the one called Laundry Chute.

Eventually Mrs. Applewhite and the children were allowed by authorities to leave Pike Island and went back to Detroit. Everyone was distraught and saddened at the loss of their friends.

Fourteen years later.

After Milton left the military, he led an ordinary civilian life. He worked a variety of different jobs, restaurant, warehouse, and retail, until he settled as a manager at the local post office. But through all the normalcy that life handed to him, that night on Pike Island troubled Milton almost every day. And so did the story in the book. He couldn’t count how many times he had read it over the years and The Ravensgate Chronicles: Strange Tales was still on his bookshelf.

The whole situation never sat well with him. The thought of Jason, Sam and Penelope Spindleman in the laundry chute even entered in his mind while on missions in the army.
It was the nightmare that haunted him most. The dream always starts as he lay in bed in the dark room of the Pike Island Inn. Nick was asleep in his bed, Jason stood outside the window looking in and Sam had one leg out of it, ready to jump on the front lawn.

“Why did you let us leave, Milton?” Jason would say, peeking into the room from outside.

“You could have stopped us, but you didn’t.” Sam would say as he jumped out the window on the grass. “We would still be alive, Milton.” The boys say simultaneously.

A view of the laundry chute then appears. Milton sees it clearly and its door swings opens wide. The pitch dark of the hole is visible and slowly appearing within it are two twinkling lights. Eyes. A pale grey hand comes up from the chute, tendons revealed from the decaying flesh. Fingers spread wide and the hand quickly reaches out toward Milton’s face. He awakes in his bed, breathing heavily, sweat dripping down his brow.

Milton never wanted to admit it, but he finally had to believe that there could have been supernatural foul play. He knew that Jason and Sam wanted to know if they were staying in the same inn as the one in the book.

He theorized that after the boys left out the window and were satisfied knowing that the inn was the same one, they came back. Even though Milton had been half-asleep, he did see them return through the window and then leave the room out in the hall. The boys went up to the third floor, opened the laundry chute and recited that stupid song. It was Penelope Spindleman in the laundry chute. She was summoned by the rhyme and had killed them.

If it was really the ghost of Penelope Spindleman in the laundry chute who murdered Jason and Sam, then what if somebody else read that sinister book of short stories? What if the curse of the laundry chute was known and others had gone to that wretched inn and were also killed? And what about those who were still yet to sing the song, to their demise?

Milton had to know for sure. He needed to. If the Penelope Spindleman story was real, he’d find out, only he wouldn’t let her kill him. There needed to be some kind of closure to what had happened to Jason and Sam. And maybe the nightmares would stop too.

As far as he knew, the inn was still on Pike Island even though much time had passed. With the help of a thorough internet search, Milton learned that the old inn, did in fact remain on the island, although abandoned. Years ago, as the economy lagged, the residents of the island had slowly begun to leave and move to the mainland. Pike Island was almost deserted, sparsely populated by few residents.

Plans were made and Milton promised himself, Jason, and Sam, that he would stick to them.
One month went by. After some research and preparation, Milton made his trip from Detroit to Ravensgate once more. It was two in the morning as he drove through the downtown area in his black Ford Escape.

The streets were barren and dark except the presence of low-beamed streetlamps. He came to Main Street, where most of the town’s restaurants, bars and other businesses were located. They were all closed and not a living soul sauntered on the street. Milton felt as if he were in a deserted ghost town.

Why would anyone want to live here?

Milton passed a park on his left and saw the river sparkle under the moon beyond it. The bridge leading to the island came into view ahead. He made a left onto the bridge and approached the now defunct toll booth. No one was inside it and there wasn’t even an automatic toll collection. Access to Pike Island was open and easy.

The bridge took him to West River Road on the edge of the island and he hung a right on to it. As he drove around the perimeter, the street turned into East River Road on the other side of the island where the inn was located. The island was gloomy and Milton saw some residential areas which looked half abandoned. Most businesses were shut down. It was a lonely and dreary place.
He finally made it to Petersburg Road from East River and followed it down to where the old Pike Inn stood. The three-story building was how he remembered: long from side to side, like a school, except now, it was slightly dilapidated.

He decided to park his Ford Escape behind the building in the parking lot which was covered in shadow. Milton stepped out of his vehicle with a small green duffle bag around his left shoulder and looked to see if anyone was around. He peered into the silent, dark wood line into the trees in behind the parking lot. The coast was clear. He checked the back door to the building: it was locked.

Milton made his way around the front of the inn and to the drab red front door, paint peeling off from it. Directly above the door’s threshold on the brick wall was a three-dimensional metal plaque of a goat’s face. It looked right at Milton causing a slight unease. He didn’t remember that being there when he was a kid.

He turned the rusted knob and the door opened. Walking through the entrance, broken glass crunched under his shoes. Some minor spray paint adorned the walls. The words The One were written on the far wall in red, drip-dried paint.

It all came back to him, visions of what the inn used to look like, the blue carpeting on the floors which was now dirty and torn. He made his way past the front desk and down the hall to the left. He crept forward in the dark then took a flashlight from the duffle bag and found the room they had stayed in: Room 109. Upon opening the door, he saw no beds or furniture, only the window which Jason and Sam snuck out of that night. It was broken and through it he could see the darkness of Petersburg Road and the brush across the street where the park used to be.

Movement. It looked like something had moved out on the street in the dark. Milton walked up to the window and peeked out. No one. Nothing. His imagination was working overtime due to his surroundings.

Shining his light around, Milton left the broken window then stepped out into the hall and headed for the stairwell at the end. On the way up the stairs, spray painted on the walls, were various odd symbols including an upside-down cross. At the top, Milton saw the Employees Only sign on the door and walked through it, into the third-floor hallway. He stopped, aiming his flashlight beam ahead of him. There it was on the wall, just like in the book.

What am I doing? I came all the way out here on this half-deserted island to see a stupid laundry chute? Just about every inn on the planet has a laundry chute.

He continued down the hall; had to get it all over with. He halted in front of the small door on the wall and looked down at the duffle bag around his shoulder. A part of him felt ridiculous for bringing it, but it was time. He opened the laundry chute door toward himself, shined the beam into it and peered into the hole in the wall. He saw what was to be expected, just a dark hole, a shaft down to the basement. A damp, musty odor hit him in the face and he turned his head away.

From the bag he retrieved The Ravensgate Chronicles: Strange Tales. He’d read every story in the book a thousand times, especially Laundry Chute. But he had to turn to the page to where Penelope Spindleman appears one last time. Ring Around the Rosie. He had to sing it with his arm in the hole according to the lore.

Milton put the book back in the duffle and took a breath. He inserted his left arm into the hole up to the bend at the elbow and recited. “Ring-around-the-rosie… a pocket full of posies… ashes, ashes…we all fall down.”

Instantly, Milton’s wrist was clutched from within the hole. The decayed pallid hand dug its nails into the long sleeve of his jacket.

“No fucking way!” he yelled, echoing throughout the hall. He dropped the flashlight on the floor and grabbed the zombie-like hand with his other hand, trying to wrestle it off as he looked down into the darkness of the hole. Two small twinkling lights for eyes stared back at him. Her head moved upward into the sparse light giving a clear view of her distorted rotting face as she grunted.

Penelope Spindleman! It was her. I knew it. She killed Jason and Sam!

She pulled Milton forward into the hole up to his armpit, like she did Sam and Jason years before. Milton struggled, managing to slip his arm up and out of the sleeve and took off his jacket. The thing in the laundry chute was left holding the limp article of clothing. Penelope dropped the jacket down the chute, then with both rotting hands, gripped the bottom edge of the hole in the wall, pushing herself up. Her eyes of light grew brighter as she turned her head to the side and climbed out of the laundry chute.

Milton reached into his bag, retrieving a hand grenade, standard issue US M67. Before he could pull the pin, someone jerked his arm back.

“No!” said a woman standing there, wearing a solid black robe with rope tied around her thin waist used as a belt. A hood was pulled over her head shrouding her face in darkness. The bottom of her chin and her full lips were all that could be seen. She looked like an ancient monk and held tightly onto Milton’s wrist.

Milton swung his arm that she gripped in front of him, slamming her into the wall next to the open chute. The female entity in the chute, still holding her body up on the edge at the bottom of the hole, reached for Milton. The scars on her distorted face were now visible.

He quickly stepped back out of her reach and for the first time, someone had given the dark spirit in the laundry chute the slip. In an instant, the dead girl and darkness of the hole disappeared and was replaced with a brilliant white light. The square hole in the wall gave a bright glow, illuminating the entire hallway.

The robed woman stood with her back against the wall, the gleaming square hole on her right. She pulled her hood back, revealing her face. Mrs. Applewhite, pale and dreadful, looked seductively into Milton’s eyes and smiled.

“You!” Milton said.

“Hail to him. Hail to The One. Come to his light, Milton. He wants you to be with him. In eternity.” she said.

Mrs. Applewhite’s words had strength and meaning. A calm and serenity came over Milton as he stared into the luminescence coming out of in the wall. He felt that what his seventh-grade teacher said was true. If he joined The One, all the pain and loneliness of life would be gone. All the loss and hurt he felt throughout his years would disappear.

Milton put the grenade back in the bag and set it on the floor. In a trance, he walked toward the glow of the laundry chute.

Mrs. Applewhite smiled.

Milton held on to the side edges of the hole then lifted his foot to insert his right leg.

“Milton!” A voice rang through the hall. He stopped, turned his head toward the doorway at the hall’s end from where he entered. In front of it stood Jason and Sam, wearing the same clothes they wore the night they died.

“Don’t go to him!” Sam said.

“Snap out of it, Milton!” Jason said.

Mrs. Applewhite looked down the hall, shocked: she saw the boys too.

“Get away from the chute, Milton!” Sam said.

“Don’t do it! You have to get out of here!”

Milton snapped out of his trance and snatched his duffle bag from the floor. He reached in for the grenade, pulled the pin and threw the live explosive into the hole in the wall, into The One’s light.

Three to five seconds is what he had to make a safe distance before the explosion. He ran at top speed toward the doorway at the hallway’s end where Jason and Sam no longer stood. Mrs. Applewhite saw what Milton had done and trailed right behind him.

Slick tentacles and tendrils, many of them, like that of the octopus and squid came forth out of the white light from the chute, squirming in all directions. Nearly halfway down the hall, an appendage stretched and wrapped itself around Mrs. Applewhite’s ankle, pulling her to the floor.

The loud boom rang throughout the third floor as yellow and white plumes from the explosion exited the chute. The blast was not as potent as it would have been had most of it were not consumed by the dimension of light. Even though the blast had been muted, the square laundry chute in the wall was no more. In its place was a large misshapen hole, stretching from the floor to the ceiling and revealing the murky empty shaft that led down to the basement.

Milton looked back. He saw that the tentacle that gripped Mrs. Applewhite’s ankle had been blown off from whatever Godforsaken creature it was attached to. It flailed around on the floor then stopped as Mrs. Applewhite got up to her feet.

Milton bolted down the rest of the hall, through the door and down the stairwell. When on the second floor, he looked all the way down to the first. Standing at the bottom were three individuals in black robes, hoods on their heads, shrouding their faces in darkness. They looked up at him, the yellow twinkling lights of their eyes plainly visible in the shadow.

I’ve got to get the hell off this island.

Milton ran through the door leading to the hall and rooms on the second floor. The sound of footsteps running up the stairwell were behind him. Ahead of him in the darkness of the hall stood a small figure. It stepped forward, out into what dim light there was. It was Jason. He stood next to a closed door belonging to Room 222. He raised his hand toward the door, and it silently opened. Jason pointed to the entrance, signaling Milton to go inside.

Milton still felt weird about trusting a phantom even though Jason and Sam and helped him up on the floor above and gotten him out of the trance. Jason disappeared and Milton ran into the room and shut the door.

In the shadows of the room another small figure stood next to the window facing the back of the building. This time it was Sam. Moonlight from outside shown on his phantom-like face. Sam turned his head and peered out the window, Milton saw what Sam wanted him to see. A fire-escape. Milton looked back to Sam, but he was gone.

Thanks again, guys.

The sounds of shuffling came from out in the hall. They were checking the rooms, one by one, looking for him. Milton ran to the window and tried to open it. Years of the wooden window frame never being opened caused it to stick. Milton pulled on the window upward, struggling with it. The frame wiggled but would not budge.

The clamoring out in the hall became louder: they were getting closer to Room 222. Milton pulled up on the window frame one more time. It slid open, and he climbed out onto the fire escape. The door to the room burst open and Mrs. Applewhite, clad in her black robe, stood in its doorway. Milton shut the window as she saw him out the escape, heading down the stairs.

“He’s here!” she yelled, motioning the others to her. She ran to the window and tried to pull it up, but again, it was stuck. Milton made it to the bottom of the escape, near the top of the first floor. The monks entered the room, ran to the window, and saw Milton dangling with both hands from the escape. He hang-dropped to the cement of the parking lot behind the inn, landing on both feet and touching the ground for balance.

He ran to his Ford, got inside, and took off. Mrs. Applewhite turned her head towards her subordinates. “He’s going to leave the island. We’ll take the short cut.”

Have to get back to that bridge. Get the hell off this horrible island, out of this town.
Milton sped out onto Petersburg Road and back down through the dark side streets, backtracking his way. The stillness of the island caused an unease within him.

What just happened? Did that actually happen? East River Road, there it is.

Milton turned onto the street and kept driving until it turned into West River Road. He finally saw the bridge up ahead and turned right. As he approached the bridge, he saw a black mass in front of him. As he got closer, his head lights allowed him to see clearly what it was, a gathering of black-robed individuals, blocking the bridge’s entry. There had to be at least thirty of them, the cult of The One.

Milton stopped the vehicle, headlights glaring on the cloaked men and women. In front of them all stood their leader, the woman he knew as Mrs. Applewhite, the only one with her hood down. She raised both of her hands, arms bent, palms forward and said something in an unknown tongue, “Der og sher sowen t’goth.”

A dense mist began to form in the atmosphere and the waters around the bridge began to bubble.

Milton reached into the duffle bag; inside was one more grenade, waiting. He grabbed it and held it up out of the driver’s side window for everyone to see clearly. Mrs. Applewhite knew what the first grenade did on the third floor of the Pike Island Inn. But this time, there was no alternate dimension to absorb the blast.

She moved back and so did all the others. Milton kept his right hand on the wheel and the explosive in his left, close to the open car window; if he pulled the pin, he had three to five seconds to speed away from the blast. He pushed on the gas pedal hard. Mrs. Applewhite gave the signal with her hand and the cult members stepped aside, dividing like the Red Sea, giving Milton ample room for his entire vehicle. He sped onto the bridge, deeper into the thick, swelling fog.

The waters underneath him bubbled more feverishly. Something was in the river, summoned to the surface.

Speeding down the middle of the bridge towards the mainland, Milton looked into the rearview mirror. Something, human-like, climbed out from the river onto a pier column that held the bridge up. It scaled the column with ease, hopped up on the railing and jumped onto the center of the bridge.

The massive figure stood there in the fog, facing the back of the moving car. Milton could vaguely make out its dark silhouette in the mist. It had to be nearly seven feet tall, with two thick legs like tree trunks and a torso and back broader than any man.

The thing began to run, fast, catching up with the Ford Escape. Its feet slapped the surface of the bridge with a meaty sound. Milton could see it gaining, its horrid face covered in seaweed.

Milton stepped on the gas and made it onto the mainland as the creature stopped in its tracks and watched the vehicle drive off. He reached into the duffle bag, grabbed that wretched book and tossed it out of the window onto Main Street.

I’m done with this place. Screw Ravensgate.

After driving for hours, with one stop to fill up on gas, Milton made it home, back to his semi-comfortable apartment. That night it felt as if he were in a luxurious five-star hotel. He lay in bed and could only think about the events that had taken place on Pike Island. It took Milton a while to relax but all the while he knew that Jason and Sam had saved his life.

Who could he possibly tell? Who would believe his story about the laundry chute at an inn? He promised himself he would never tell a soul and fell asleep that night with no bad dreams.

One year later.

Milton sat down at the dining room table and Janet served the lasagna she made with four cheeses: parmesan, mozzarella, sharp cheddar and cream cheese. It was always thick and the sauce full of flavor. It was her favorite dish to make and Milton’s favorite to scarf down. He didn’t care how often she made it.

He had met Janet, a gorgeous African American girl, at the mall where she managed a men’s clothing store. They took an instant liking to one another and had dated for six months before she moved into his apartment.

They chatted about work at the table, as many couples do, when Milton noticed something odd in the living room. He squinted he eyes.

“What? What’s up?” Janet said.

“Hmmm.” Milton said, got up from his chair, walked into the next room and stopped at the bookshelf. In its old place, between a book on psychology and one on investing was The Ravensgate Chronicles: Strange Tales. It wasn’t there the day before. Milton would have noticed.

“What is it?” Janet said.

He took the book from the shelf and turned to the story that he knew so well. There was a folded piece of white paper in between the pages, right where the story started. When he touched the paper, something came to him. An impression, a vision as vivid as if he had been there himself, was forced into Milton’s mind’s eye….

The hideous girl bit into Jason’s neck and with a solid tug, she pulled his entire body into the chute. The creature descended with him along with the sound of snapping bones. Jason’s screams echoed down the shaft until all was silent in the empty hall. Then a white glow appeared in the square hole in the wall, illuminating the entire hallway. It suddenly went out and, by itself, the door to the chute slammed shut. No one had heard the boys scream.

Seconds later, the door labeled Employees Only opened. Light footsteps treaded down the hall’s carpet all the way to the end and stopped in front of the laundry chute. Mrs. Applewhite opened the chute door and set a bucket of warm bleach water on the floor. Wearing latex gloves, she reached into the water, pulled out a sponge and began to wipe the blood spatter around the edges of the square hole in the wall. She even cleaned the edges on the inside of the hole.

After a thorough cleaning and drying, any visible evidence of the blood gone, Mrs. Applewhite then made a trip down to the basement. Sitting there at the bottom of the laundry chute was a large blue plastic linen hamper. On top of the pile of soiled linen and towels were remnants of blood, bone and hair. But the bodies of Jason and Sam were nowhere to be found.

Mrs. Applewhite retrieved a rolled up black garbage bag from her side pocket and opened it up. She put all the cloth tainted with human remains in the garbage bag and wiped the edges and sides of the hamper with the bleach water. When finished, she went back upstairs to her room on the first floor and disposed of the dirty water in the toilet and cleaned it. Then she waited until everyone in the inn would be asleep.

At three in the morning, she decided it was time. The stars and moon gave Mrs. Applewhite some clarity as she snuck out of the Pike Inn and made her way through the thick woods behind it. She knew exactly where she was going; she had been there before.

After trekking over twigs, leaves and grass, she halted at a small altar between two large elms. The base was about a foot high and constructed of stones. On top of that was a slab of old wood adorned with the flowers and vines with a burning candle on each end. She put the garbage bag containing the little remains of Jason and Sam on the altar between the candles and lit them with a match. She then set the entire altar on fire and tossed the book of leftover matches into the flames.

She stepped back as the fire gave a yellow glow in the dark woods and in an ancient language, she chanted to the Old Ones who had resided on the island and in the town of Ravensgate for centuries. She made special mention of the entity who appeared in the laundry chute. The smoke trailed high into the sky and the offering burned consistently until the fire ran out of fuel and all that was left was a pile of burned ashes. Strong gusts of wind, much stronger than normal, blew the ashes away, and she dismantled the altar. The pieces were strewn about the woods as if the altar never existed.

After her work was done, she felt warm and satisfied. She had pleased her masters and, The One, himself. Mrs. Applewhite went back to the inn and went to sleep.

After seeing the vision, Milton sat down on the couch to take it all in. Mrs. Applewhite had fed Jason and Sam to it, whatever The One was. He somehow knew that the spirit of Penelope Spindleman was never brought forth when the words of “Ring Around the Rosie” was recited. She had gone to a better place. It had always been something else in that chute, something far older, that fed off the negative energy of her horrible death in the chute. And by some means,

Milton knew that The One had created the creature in the chute, a drone-like being, used to pull its victim into itself.

Milton took the paper from the book, unfolded it, and sighed. It read:

You left this behind, Milton. Be seeing you.
-A

“What’s wrong, honey? You look spooked.” Janet said.

Milton looked up to Janet. “Have you noticed anything strange today? Anything out of the ordinary?”

“Sort of. I left out earlier to the grocery store to get the ingredients for the lasagna. When I got back, the door to the apartment was unlocked. I checked the whole apartment. Nothing was stolen or out of place. I was sure I locked it but thought maybe I just forgot. Why?”

Milton remembered the promise to himself that he would never tell another soul about what happened. He broke it.

“Janet, sit down. Please. I have to share something with you. I need to get prepared.”

Copyright  ©  Abel Ramirez

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