Waking with a start, Victoria felt her heart pumping fast. Her skin, clammy to the touch, was sticking to the silk sheets. Sluggishly, she swung her legs over the side of the bed, cautiously standing up. Four dogs occupied the floor. It was dark, but she was able to make out their silhouettes. Tiptoeing over them, she headed downstairs for a glass of water, comforted by the familiarity of the room. Opening the refrigerator, she reached for the milk carton. She remembered her mother saying it helped with sleep. Pouring the milk into a coffee cup, she placed it into the microwave. She contemplated how a dream could disorient her state of mind so dynamically.
It was the same one every night. She and Brad, her husband of five years, would be strolling, in the warm sunlight, down a grassy path somewhere in the mountains. They would be laughing, talking, holding hands, and enjoying each other’s company. Brad would let go of her hand to pick up a heart-shaped rock and abruptly disappear. Victoria, panicked, would start looking for him, calling his name louder as the sun disappeared behind the dark clouds. The wind picks up, and it starts to rain. Thunder and lightning fill the sky. She still can’t find Brad. With blurring vision, she spots an ominous house in the distance. The closer she gets to this apparition, the more doomed she feels. She’s never able to get a clear view; everything blurry in her dream. By the time she reaches the front door, she’s soaked from the rain.
She knocks on the door, only to hear its echo from inside. The door squeaks open as she turns the doorknob. Stepping inside, she calls out to Brad, believing he has seen the house seeking shelter from the rain. The large foyer has a round, antique-looking table sitting in the middle of the floor. The large crystal cut vase with bunches of azaleas and white lilies adorn the center of the table. As Victoria looks beyond the jar, a large stone staircase comes into view. Inside of the house, ornately decorated with large mahogany tables, buffets, and red velvet-covered high back chairs, had thick cobwebs hanging vicariously along the beams. The gold brocaded drapes are closed, causing distinguished shadows playing tricks with Victoria’s limited sight.
She wanders the house calling out to Brad. She heads upstairs. There is a long hallway, with wooden floors and oriental area rugs the whole length of the hall. There are three closed doors in her sight. Approaching the first door, she opens it apprehensively. The room empty, except for a crib, changing table, and a large stone fireplace. A fire roars to life. Victoria walks over to the crib and peeks inside. A small baby swaddled in a blanket appears to be sleeping. Placing her fingers upon the baby’s cheek, she withdraws in horror. Stone cold. Shocked, she runs from the room.
The second door inside has a massive four-poster bed, several dressers, and a makeup armoire. Victoria sees the same type of fireplace as what was in the baby’s room. A fire roars to life. The place is frigid. Victoria, now chilled to the bone, walks over to the four-poster bed, where she notices Brad’s mother and father covered up to the neck. She tries to wake them, to no avail. They, too, are cold to the touch. Screaming, Victoria runs from the room.
Down the hallway is another closed door. Fearing what Victoria may find behind this one, she hesitantly opens it. Inside, Victoria finds another four-poster bed, a roaring fire in the stone fireplace. Like the others, the room is ice cold. Victoria, beside herself, wonders why she can’t find her husband. Why are all the people she loves lying dead in this house? Desperately wanting to wake up but can’t.
Hesitantly, she walks over to the bed, seeing an impression of a body under the covers. She leans over, it’s Brad. She screams and wakes to a wildly beating heart and clammy skin.
She never tells Brad about her dream; after all, it’s his parents as well as himself whom she finds dead. She confides to a friend about her nightmare. He tells her it just means they are going to live a long life. His explanation seems to alleviate Victoria’s concerns.
Several months pass. Her night terrors have faded. Victoria gets the news they are expecting their first child. Both are elated to learn they will be parents. To celebrate, Brad decides to take her on a romantic getaway. As a surprise, he tells her nothing about the mysterious bed and breakfast.
The weather is perfect as they drive up the windy, mountainous road. As the couple gets closer to the destination, dark storm clouds appear in the distance; thunder and occasional bolts of lightning crash down in front of them. The wipers, not able to keep up with the pelting rain, causes the view from the windshield to blur. Victoria begins to shake uncontrollably. Her skin becomes clammy from the humidity.
Brad turns off the road and heads down a muddy path filled with water-soaked potholes. The bouncing of the vehicle causes Victoria’s stomach to be queasy. Staring through the blurred windshield, she can’t seem to shake the ominous feeling in her gut. She can’t quite put her finger on it, but Victoria is experiencing Deja Vu. She’s been here before.
Putting the car in park, Brad reaches for his raincoat in the back seat.
“Please don’t leave me here,” Victoria says.
“I won’t be but a minute, I’m going to check us in, and I’ll be back to get you.” He kisses her on the cheek.
“I’m serious. DON’T leave me alone in the car. I’m afraid.”
“This pregnancy is playing tricks with your mind.” Brad tried to make light of it but saw she was distressed.
“Come with me then. Grab the umbrella.”
Together, they made their way up a long, stone walkway.
Large mahogany doors loomed in front of them. Brad’s knock echoed inside.
“No, no, no, I…I can’t do this.” Victoria was crying now.
“Come on, honey, why are you so frightened?”
“I never told you about my nightmare. This is the house in my dream,” she yelled over the howling wind as it blew her umbrella inside out.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I want us to get out of this rain,” he yelled back.
Victoria held her breath as Brad reached for the doorknob. The door screeched open. As they stepped inside, a large round table in the middle of the large foyer with a cut-glass vase sat in the middle with azaleas and white lilies. Soft jazz music played in the background. The lights dimmed low, and people mingled with champagne flutes in their hands.
“How may I help you?” A young woman comes up beside them.
“We have reservations, Mr. & Mrs. Slater.”
“Of course.” Walking over to the desk, she pulls out several sheets of paper. “Our computers are down at the moment due to the storm. Luckily, I printed out our guest log this morning before it hit. Let me show you to your room. Do you have any luggage?”
“We do, but we left it in the car. I wanted to make sure we had the right place. I can get it later once I get my wife settled. She isn’t feeling well,” Brad told her.
“I understand, sir, follow me.”
As they all walked through what appeared to be a large sitting room, with ornate gold drapery, they came upon a stone staircase. Victoria eyed it suspiciously. She grabbed Brad’s arm and held on tight.
Climbing the stairs, Victoria was sure the oriental rugs would be in the hallway. To her surprise, it was wall to wall carpeting. Rather than just three doors, there were ten doors, five on each side of the hallway.
Her fears may be unjustified.
The young woman walked to the end of the hallway and opened the last door on the left. She stepped aside so Brad and Victoria could enter the room. A four-poster bed was sprawled out on one wall. A stone fireplace centered opposite the bed sat cold and dark. From where the woman was standing, she flicked a switch, and a fire started in the fireplace. The warmth of the flames heated the room quickly.
“If you need anything, just dial zero on the phone. Dinner starts in an hour. Enjoy your stay.” She backed out of the room slowly, closing the door behind her.
“Are you going to explain yourself, or should I chalk it up to hormones?” Brad asked.
Victoria told him about her nightmare, in detail. He chuckled and pulled her into his arms. “Dreams, honey, nothing to worry about.” Kissing her head, “I’m going to get our luggage. Lie down and relax. I’ll be right back, promise.”
Victoria pulled the heavy comforter back from the bed and removed her wet clothing. Walking into the bathroom, she decided to take a bath before dressing for dinner. Lying back in the water, closing her eyes, Victoria couldn’t believe how silly she had been. Brad must think I’m nuts.
When she awoke, the water in the tub was cold. How long had she been out? Why didn’t Brad wake me when he came back with the luggage?
Climbing out of the cold water, Victoria called out, “Brad, honey?” No answer. Grabbing a towel, she wrapped it around her shivering body. “Did you get the luggage, honey?” Still no response. She walked out into the bedroom, everything was just as she had left it. Grabbing her cellphone to check the time, she was shocked to see she had been asleep for an hour. Where was Brad, and why had he not come back with their luggage? It wasn’t like him to sit at the bar, knowing I was up here waiting for him. She picked up the phone on the nightstand and dialed zero. The ringing on the other end continued. No one answered. Gathering up her wet clothes from the floor, she decided she had no choice but to put them back on to go look for Brad.
Opening the door to their room, she stepped out into the hallway. Something was different. The room was the last one on the left, but the carpet was now the oriental rug in her dreams. Impossible. The lights were so dim, Victoria, unable to see clearly, felt her way to the wall. Using the wall as her guide, finding the stone staircase, the music that was once playing downstairs, could not be heard. All was silent. The adrenaline coursed through her body. This can’t be happening.
Slowly descending the stairs, she began shivering. Tears filled her eyes, blurring her vision. Calling out, “Hello? Is anyone down here?” No music, no smell of food, no champagne flutes, no other people. Her nightmare. The cold was unbearable. Panic set in. Fight or flight syndrome echoed in her brain. If I’m not dreaming, I need to get the hell out of here. Heading towards the door, someone grabbed her arm.
“Not so fast, honey. We have some unfinished business to attend to.”
Victoria turned toward the unfamiliar voice. A black hooded cape was pulled over their face. Unable to make out who it could be, she tried to tear away, but they were too strong for her. She froze with fright. The figure hauled Victoria back up the stairs, pulling her into the first room. Just inside the door, she saw the crib and dressing table from her dream. But something was different.
Other black-cloaked figures were circling the four-poster bed, each holding a lighted candle, chanting. It was then she knew what they wanted: her unborn child, and Brad had delivered her to them.