I've got so many writing projects in the mill, I don't know which one to start next. My latest idea has already resulted in the title story of a book tentatively titled Satan in a Box, A Collection of Nightmares. Here is the title story, for your enjoyment and to critique. Please comment. I want you to give me the good, bad and ugly.
Satan in a Box
By Jeff Brailey
The hotel was 13 floors of dreary unimaginative sameness. Frayed crimson carpeting with green vines and golden floral patterns had Marriott written all over them. Drab brown walls with numbered doors of a darker brown left no question in my mind, although it didn’t say it on the marquee outside, this was a former property of that famous hotel chain.
Actually, there was no floor marked 13, that number being missing from the elevator doors. The floors ran from 1 to 14, with the unlucky 13th skipped altogether. Yet there I was, wandering the elusive the hall of a floor I knew did not exist in this hotel.
Some hotels call the first floor “Ground” or “Lobby,” and number the floors above it 1 through 12, eliminating the stigma of 13 floors. It is not as easy for hotels with 14 floors or more to avoid the dilemma of a 13th floor, so they simply deny its existence.
I don’t know how I arrived on this invisible nonexistent floor. I remember chasing some unknown but eerie entity out of the penthouse on the floor above. Unsure whether my prey was a real person or a ghost, I simply wanted to find him or her to ask what he or she was doing in my hotel suite while I slept.
Suddenly, the being I had barely been keeping up with a moment before, stopped, turned, and grew about two or three times its previous size. Cleverly disguised with heavily platted dreadlocks that literally became slimy snakes, even the aroma of a body too long without a bath could not cover up the acrid odor of sulfur permeating from this evil Rastafarian. The smell instantly identified who he really was – Satan.
As the realization of his identity registered in my mind, I instantly knew the 13th floor was not the place to be. Suddenly, the hunter became the prey as this wild eyed Rastafarian bore down on me. Not a sound passed between us. The silence of the devil’s movement was terrifying enough. I fought the urge to cry out, saving my energy for fleeing instead of futile screaming.
Turning down a perpendicular hallway, I was completely lost. Only the numbers on the doors distinguished this hallway from all of the others. I came to a bank of elevators. As the devil closed in on me, I frantically pushed the “down” button and the car immediately opened. I looked at the numbers on the wall of the elevator. They all read 13.”
A totally pissed off Rasta-Satan blocked the door of the elevator. As I contemplated my next move, the old demon jumped towards me, leaving me no other choice but to dive under him. As he crashed into the far wall of the now-empty car, I opened the door that led to the stairwell.
Sure that the frustrated supernatural Rastafarian was one step behind me, I began running upstairs. My plan was to make it back into my penthouse suite and call hotel security to have my pursuer ejected from the hotel.
The next landing had a square black sign with white letters on the wall. It read “13.” I knew I had left the thirteenth floor a minute ago but the stairway continued to climb so I kept running up it in hopes of finding the fourteenth floor. It never happened.
Out of breath, I finally took a chance and opened the door on yet another landing marked “13.” As I did, a black-robed Rev. Jim Jones handed me a cigar box full of Havana’s finest. I told him it was not legal to have Cuban cigars in the United States. “It’s for the devil,” Jones said with a leer.
“Uh, he wants my soul, I don’t think he really will be placated by a box of stogies, even if they are the best in the world,” I told the Reverend.
“The cigars aren’t for him, the box is,” he shouted, thrusting the decorative container into my hands.
As I took hold of the box, Jones literally faded into nothingness and his form was replaced by Rasta Satan’s. I opened the box and he immediately turned into a rather acrid smoke and joined the cigars. I then quickly closed the box and found myself in the lobby of the hotel.
As I quickly assessed where I was, two ladies walked by. They looked like something out of the 1950s, crisp starched white blouses and navy blue skirts that extended below the knees. They both wore sensible walking shoes and their plain hair was worn in matching buns. Neither woman wore make-up. I recognized them to be Jehovah Witnesses and as they passed me several back issues of the Watchtower, I passed them the cigar box, shouting, “Satan in a box! Satan in a box!”
I then woke up and found my roommate’s overbed light on. “Was I having a nightmare?” I asked.
“You were definitely having a nightmare,” he replied.
“Why didn’t you tell me to wake up?” I asked.
“What and miss the entertainment?”
Editor’s Note: Jeff Brailey is a freelance writer who lives near Indianapolis. He just finished a two year contract working as a safety adviser in Nigeria, West Africa. He takes a medication for Parkinson’s disease that causes him to have vivid and memorable dreams. He attributes this nightmare to having completed reading the book Out of The Cocoon, by Brenda Lee, the story of a child and her mother caught up in the Jehovah Witnesses.