About the Author
Graham Masterton's first novel, "The Manitou," was a bestseller and an instant classic and was made into a feature film. Masterton has won an Edgar Award and France's prestigious Prix Julia Verglanger. Several of his stories have been adapted for television.
Masterton's more than one hundred novels include "Charnel House, The Chosen Child," and "Maiden Voyage" (a" New York Times" bestseller). He has written for adults, young adults, and children and edited several anthologies. Earlier in his career, Masterton edited men's magazines, including "Penthouse," He has written a number nonfiction books on sex, including "How to Drive Your Man Wild in Bed," which has sold more than three million copies.
Masterton and his wife, Wiescka, live in Ireland.
Read an Excerpt
The Ninth Nightmare
By Graham Masterton
Severn House Publishers LimitedCopyright © 2011 Graham Masterton
All rights reserved.
'You will die if you stay here, my lovely,' whispered a harsh voice very close to Katie's ear.
Katie opened her eyes, unsure if she had been dreaming, or if the voice had been real. Her hotel room was completely dark, except for a thin bar of light underneath the door. She lay in the middle of her queen-sized bed with a frown on her face, listening and listening, but all she could hear was the muffled laughter of other guests, returning to their rooms, and the distant thunder of an airplane landing thirteen miles to the south-west at Hopkins International Airport.
She sat up. The red figures on the digital clock beside her bed were distorted by the glass of water she had placed in front of it, but she could see that it was only eleven fifty-eight p.m. She had been exhausted when she arrived in Cleveland this evening, and after picking the bacon and the turkey slices out of a club sandwich from room service and a long hot shower she had gone straight to bed and switched off the lights.
She laid her head back on the pillow and closed her eyes, but she found it almost impossible to go back to sleep. She kept visualizing the faces of all of those elderly people she had met this morning, smiling at her hopefully in case they knew who she was, but couldn't quite place her. Alzheimer's sufferers – every one of them lost to this world for ever, their memories swirling away from them like flotsam on an ebbing tide.
'You should leave, before it's too late,' the whispered voice told her. This time it was so close that she was sure she could feel somebody's breath against her ear. She twisted around, her heart thumping, but there was nobody next to her. Nobody that she could see, anyhow. She reached across and switched on her bedside lamp, spilling her glass of water on to the carpet.
The room was empty. Only the couch and the armchair, and the coffee table with the remains of her club sandwich still on it. Only the desk, with her laptop and her red alligator pocketbook. Only the heavy red brocade drapes, which stirred slightly in the draft from the air-conditioning, like huge lungs, breathing.
She waited and waited for nearly a minute. 'Who's there?' she demanded, although she had a catch in her throat and her voice was much more shrill than she had meant it to be. 'Is there anybody there?'
No answer. Just the drapes, slowly breathing. She swung her legs out of bed and stood up. 'I'm warning you!' she snapped. 'If you don't come out and show yourself, I'm going to call security.'
She crouched down to look under the bed, but there was less than an inch of space between the carpet and the bedstead, and only somebody who was two-dimensional could have hidden under there. All the same, the idea of a two-dimensional man concealing himself under her bed was quite scary.
She went across to the window and pulled the drapes apart. There was nobody in the window bay, and nobody standing on the small balcony outside. She could see the lights of University Circle sparkling behind the trees – and further, to the lights of downtown Cleveland, with the Key Tower and the Terminal Tower and the BP Building dominating the skyline, and the blackness of Lake Erie beyond them.
She left the drapes open while she went across to closet. She took hold of both handles, hesitated for a moment, and then flung the doors open wide. Her coat and her skirt and her orange silk blouse were hanging inside, along with her neatly-folded gray sweater. No man, two-dimensional or otherwise.
'Shit,' she said. She was almost certain that she had still been awake, but she must have dropped off to sleep again without realizing it. She went into the bathroom and switched on the light. In the mirror, in her pale green man's shirt, she looked pale and puffy eyed, her short-cropped brunette hair sticking up like a storm-ruffled blackbird. She leaned over the basin and examined herself more closely. She was only thirty-three but she thought she was beginning to look old. Maybe it was meeting so many seniors every day that did it. Maybe their pallor was absorbing her color and her youthfulness, like kitchen paper soaking up cranberry juice.
She had always wanted to be taller than five feet four, but her height hadn't mattered so much when she still had that urchin-like prettiness. Now she thought she was starting to look like a bossy little old lady. She had put on at least six pounds since she had started her charity work (all those fund-raising barbecues and fried chicken dinners) and most of it seemed to have gone to her breasts and her hips. She hated to think that she bustled when she walked.
She ran the cold faucet for a few seconds and filled up another glass of water. She swallowed two mouthfuls and then she switched off the bathroom light. As she turned to go back into the bedroom, however, she realized that the reflection in the mirror seemed to have changed. Instead of being tiled from floor to ceiling with white ceramic tiles, the walls appeared to have cream-painted wooden paneling that went halfway up, while the upper part was damp-looking plaster.
Not only that, both the walls and the ceiling were decorated with splatters and exclamation marks and figure-of-eight loops, as if a willful child had been flicking a paintbrush loaded with dark-brown varnish all around the room.
Katie looked down at the floor. She wasn't standing on a thick maroon bath mat any more, but on streaky green linoleum that stuck to the soles of her feet.
She switched on the light again. The bathroom was exactly as it had been before, with shiny white tiles and a shiny white bathtub. She stared at herself in the mirror. She couldn't understand what had just happened, but then her reflection couldn't understand it, either, and looked as bewildered as she did.
She took hold of the light pull but she hesitated for a moment before she tugged it. Supposing the same thing happened again? Supposing she switched off the light and found herself back in that filthy wooden-paneled room, with all those sinister-looking squiggles all over the walls? She couldn't work out if it had been some kind of hallucination, or if she were asleep, and still in bed, and this was a nightmare. But this time she was absolutely sure she wasn't asleep. She was holding a cold glass of water in her hand and she could feel it, the same as she could feel the shaggy bath mat in between her bare toes.
'This is not logical,' she told herself, out loud. 'I am Katie Kercheval and I am standing in the bathroom of Room Seven-One-Seven at the Griffin House Hotel on University Circle, Cleveland, Ohio. I am not standing anyplace else.'
She switched off the light. It took a split second for her eyes to become accustomed to the gloom, but as soon as they did she saw that she was back in the wooden-paneled room. It wasn't a bathroom. It looked more like a laundry room. In the opposite corner stood a large old-fashioned kitchen sink, its sides streaked with dribbles of gray grime. The sink had a single faucet which was wrapped around with a sodden cloth to prevent it from dripping, although the cloth still dripped. Above the sink was a small, high window, with glass so dirty and so green with lichen that it was impossible to see through it. All the same, Katie could tell that it was daylight outside – although it was daylight on a gray, rainy day. She could hear the raindrops pattering against the windowpanes.
She switched the light back on. The laundry room instantly vanished, and she was back in her shiny white bathroom.
'This is insane,' she said. She smacked her forehead with the heel of her hand. 'This is totally insane.'
She switched the light off. She was back in the laundry room. The faucet was still dripping and the rain was still pattering against the window. She breathed in and she could smell something, too. Something bleachy and faintly fishy. She breathed in again, and this time the smell was even stronger, so that she could almost taste it. American Value Bleach and rancid tuna.
She switched the light back on, and this time she left it on. Maybe she was suffering from exhaustion, or jet lag. After all, she had visited seven cities in as many days – from Atlanta to Houston and then to Albuquerque and Phoenix and Los Angeles and Sacramento. Maybe she had picked up a flu virus, or maybe she was experiencing some kind of weird reaction to her new birth-control pill. But whatever was causing the laundry room to appear when she switched off the light, she didn't want to see it again.
She closed the bathroom door behind her and climbed back into bed, dragging the covers up to her chin. She looked across at the bathroom, but the door remained shut. She was tempted to go back and try turning the light off one more time, to see if the laundry room reappeared, but she decided against it. If she was hallucinating, or pining for some sickness, she was better off staying in bed and getting some sleep.
She reached across and switched off the bedside lamp. The digital clock read 12:09. The room was not as dark as it had been before, because light was shining from both the bathroom and the corridor outside. She turned over, with her back to the bathroom, and closed her eyes.
Ten minutes passed. A woman came along the corridor singing I Will Always Love You. A man said, 'Shut the fuck up, Lena, will you, for Christ's sake? You're drunk.'
Another ten minutes passed. Katie sat up in bed again. Maybe she should check the bathroom just once more. Then, if it turned into the laundry room, maybe she should call David and tell him what was happening. After all, David was a qualified shrink. If anybody knew what had led her to believe that her hotel bathroom had turned into another room altogether, it was him.
She stared at the bathroom door. Maybe she should call the management. Maybe there was some kind of noxious gas coming out of the bathroom drains that made you see things that weren't really there.
She switched on her bedside lamp. Instantly, the whole bedroom was different. It was no longer a comfortable four-star hotel room. It wasn't even on the seventh floor any more; it was down at ground level. The walls were blotchy and discolored and the plaster looked diseased with damp. All the way around the room there was the same wooden paneling as the laundry room, with chipped cream paint. The floorboards were bare, except for a frayed, rucked-up rug, and it looked as if the floor hadn't been swept in years.
At the single window hung a shredded net curtain, gray with dirt. Through the grimy window-panes, Katie could make out the back of a row of houses, with roofs that were shining wet in the rain, and fire escapes, and sodden washing hanging hopelessly from one balcony to another.
She looked down at the bedcover she was holding in her hand. It was olive-green, thin and greasy, and it was covered in brownish stains. Her pillows were stained, too, and deeply indented, as if the same person had been sleeping on them every night and never changed them or even turned them over.
The bed stank, too, of dried sweat and dirty hair and other people's sex.
Katie switched off the lamp. Her hotel bedroom returned, Room 717, comfortable and warm and quiet now, and smelling of nothing but her own Chanel Premiere perfume and freshly-laundered sheets. In spite of that, she was shaking with fear and disgust, and she felt as if the floor were tilting underneath her like an ocean liner in a swell. She tried to stand up, but she lost her balance and had to sit back down on the bed again.
She stayed there for a moment, breathing deeply, trying to steady herself, and then she picked up her cellphone and called David's number. It rang and rang but he didn't pick up. Eventually she was put through to his message service.
'David, darling, it's me. Can you call me back as soon as you get this? It's really hard to explain but there's something wrong.' Her voice started to waver, so she took a deep breath. Then she said, 'It's probably just me, being hysterical. But I'm so frightened. I daren't switch off the light because when I switch off the light everything's different and horrible. Please, please call me.'
She sat and waited about a minute longer. Then she thought: this is ridiculous. I know I'm not going crazy, so there must be something wrong with the room. She picked up the house phone and pressed zero for reception. She didn't care if it was almost twelve thirty in the morning. She just wanted to change rooms.
Again, the phone rang and rang but nobody picked up. She hung up and tried again, but still nobody answered. She tried room service, and then housekeeping. No reply from either of them.
There had to be somebody on duty. A night porter, or a security guard. She put down the phone, went over to her suitcase and took out a mustard-colored roll -neck sweater and a pair of jeans. She dressed herself quickly and tugged a brush through her hair. She stared at herself in the mirror on the back of the closet door and tried to look determined. I want another room, and I want it now, and I don't have to tell you why.
Katie opened the door and stepped outside. The door closed itself behind her, with a soft, complicated click. The corridor was in darkness. Maybe the lights were on a time switch, or maybe a breaker had tripped. She put her right hand out to feel the wall beside her, but instead of the silky fabric which she had expected, she felt scabby paint and rough, damp plaster.
'Oh God,' she said. 'Not out here, too.'
She began to see shapes in the gloom, and she realized that she wasn't standing in a hotel corridor at all, but in the hallway of somebody's house, with coats and hats hanging on pegs like a row of witches hanging from a gallows. She could dimly see a hall stand, with umbrellas and walking sticks in it, and the stained-glass panels in a front door, in amber and sickly yellow. She could see that it was daylight outside, and she could hear that it was raining.
There was a smell, too. Not bleach and fish, like the laundry room, but dust and dry rot and stale flower-water. It felt to Katie as if the occupants had left the house in the expectation that they would soon be returning, but never had.
She closed her eyes for a few seconds. When she opened them again, she was still standing in the hallway. She listened, and she was sure that she could faintly hear a radio playing, and the laughter of a studio audience.
'Hallo?' she called out. She took three steps along the hallway, until she was standing next to the witch coats. 'Hallo?' she repeated, louder this time.
She took another two steps forward, and now she could see that the living -room door was ajar, and she could hear the radio much more distinctly. A woman's voice was saying, 'It's my birthday tomorrow, George, and I'm expecting you to buy me a present.'
'So ...' replied a man's voice. He sounded like an African-American. 'You finally hit the roaring forties.'
'I'll have you know that I didn't see the light of day until nineteen -thirteen,' the woman retorted.
'Holy mackerel!' said the man. 'You must have been walking around for the first ten years of your life with your eyes closed!'
There was a surge of laughter from the audience. Katie took a step backward, and then another. She had never heard the show before, but she knew where the catchphrase 'holy mackerel!' came from. Kingfish, one of the characters from Amos 'n' Andy, which hadn't been aired on the radio since the mid -1950s.
There was more laughter, louder and longer, and Katie began to panic, as if the studio audience were laughing at her. She hurried back down the hallway and fumbled in her back jeans pocket for her room key. When she reached out for the door handle, however, she found that she didn't need it. The door was an ordinary six-paneled house door, and the handle was a simple plastic knob.
She pushed the door open and stepped back into her bedroom, gasping with fright. For a split second, the bedroom was just as it had been before, Room 717 at the Griffin House Hotel. But then, with a sharp pop, the bulb in the bedside lamp went off, and the room was drowned in darkness again.
Katie stayed where she was, still panting, with her back against the door. She could see the gray light that strained in through the window, and hear the rain pattering. She could smell that bleachy-fishy smell, too, and that greasy odor from the bed linen, except that there were some fresh smells that were even stronger than both of them. A metallic smell, like blood, and another appalling smell that made Katie's gorge rise.
She could still faintly hear the Amos 'n' Andy show behind the door. But then a voice much nearer, a woman's voice, said, 'Help me.'
Katie pressed her hand over her nose and her mouth. She stepped toward the bed and as she came closer she could see that there was a red-haired woman lying in it, a red-haired woman with a very white face, almost as if she had made herself up to look like a Venetian carnival mask.
Excerpted from The Ninth Nightmare by Graham Masterton. Copyright © 2011 Graham Masterton. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsONE: Room 717,
TWO: Room 309,
THREE: Room 104,
FOUR: Rooms 237 and 239,
FIVE: A Disturbing Visitor,
SIX: Avenging Claw,
SEVEN: Locked Room Mystery,
NINE: Call to Arms,
TEN: A Night to Dismember,
ELEVEN: Heavenly Twins,
TWELVE: Night Flight,
THIRTEEN: Dogs of War,
FOURTEEN: The Eighth Sacrifice,
FIFTEEN: Skirmish In Hell,
SIXTEEN: Send In The Clowns,
SEVENTEEN: Flesh Forward,
EIGHTEEN: The Sleepers Awake,
NINETEEN: Hunt The Clown,
TWENTY: The Ninth Nightmare,
TWENTY-ONE: Hot Pursuit,
TWENTY-TWO: Full Circle,