This is an extract from my latest novella, Out of Time. Out now on DeadPixel Publications.
The stone-finished walls of the hotel were discoloured from the constant pounding of the elements, and he could see that some tiles had been lost from the overhanging roof. One of the ground floor windows was sporting a huge, unsightly crack running from corner to corner. The place would definitely benefit from some light renovation work, along with the premises next door.
Before checking in, Joe crossed the road and stopped on the promenade for a few moments to gaze out across the churning sea. Angry white-topped waves crashed against the fortified sea wall, sending droplets of water flying through the air. He could taste the salt on his lips.
Looking around, so far as he could tell the only other people in this dying town were an old lady walking an excitable little brown dog, and a couple of teenagers making out on a bench. They were getting splashed by the waves, but didn’t seem to care. Evidently, they had other things on their minds. Joe watched as the boy tried to sneak a hand up inside the girl’s red puffa jacket. But she caught him in the act and smartly swatted his hand away.
‘Get a room!’ he felt like shouting, but restrained himself. The kids would probably stab him to death and steal his bags.
Leaving the young lovers to it, Joe crossed the road again and walked up the short path that led to the hotel entrance.
The door was big, old, and heavy. It had once been green, but now most of the paint had flaked off like dried skin exposing the sodden brown wood underneath. If it hadn’t been for the sign outside, he might have taken the building for a squat.
Pulling down the door handle, he pushed hard. The door swung inward on creaking hinges into a small reception area. Inside was a scuffed brown sofa, a coffee table, and a large oak desk set against the far wall. On the desk sat a little brass bell. Joe walked up and rang it.
Immediately, a door behind the desk opened and out stepped a plump little woman wearing a prissy white apron. Her greying hair was swept back in a bun, and she appeared to be in her mid-to-late fifties.
The moment their eyes met, Joe was overcome by the strangest sensation. There was something vaguely familiar about her, though he was certain they’d never met. He had never even been to this town before.
Weirder still, he got the impression that the woman felt the same way. There was the smallest flicker of recognition in her eyes. Then, it was gone.
“What can I do you for?” the woman asked with practised politeness.
“Oh, hello. My name is Joe Dawson. I believe I have a reservation.”
“Oh, Mr. Dawson… Good, good…” she said. “We’ve been expecting you…”