1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England

    Winner Gingerbiscuit Short Story Contest 68: Hunter Turned Hunted

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Jun 7, 2010.

    Gingerbiscuit - Anybody There?

    Gareth sat on his haunches in a dark linen closet at the Montevue Hotel, knowing full well that he was wasting his time. Dreary old hotels, dusty museums and dank basements the last places you were likely to come across a ghost. After all, why would they be in such miserable places as that when they could all be in Vegas? Living it up and having a good time, not wasting all of eternity hiding car keys and banging on pipes.

    This is, of course, if you believe in ghosts. Which Gareth didn't.

    Although he did believe in making money, and the weirdoes who believed in ghosts were happy to pay him just to spend the night in their haunted building as long as he told them what they wanted to hear in the morning. Life as a paranormal investigator was both simple and lucrative.

    But uncomfortable. Gareth massaged his calves, feeling the first twinge of pins and needles creep into his legs. He hadn't wanted to be in the linen closet. He'd fancied one of the luxury suites but the owners of the hotel had insisted that most of the paranormal activity seemed to come from inside that cupboard. Never mind, there was always next time.

    Historically, investigating the paranormal wasn't the most glamorous of careers, attracting only people with anoraks and bushy eyebrows. But nowadays it was a much more appealing job. For one thing there was money in it, and for another - there was television. And Gareth had been so adept at providing a realistic enough investigation that left just enough to the imagination that he had been approached by the Most Haunted team. He was going to be filming this Saturday night and it could be the start of something big. It was only one episode but he felt sure that he'd be asked to be a regular contributor. After all, he wasn't a bad looking guy and he was still the fun side of forty. And he knew how to make an investigation look convincing which, after all, is what the television show is all about.

    Gareth looked at his watch and saw that it was approaching two in the morning.


    Most of the knocking and banging at the Montevue had been reported at around two AM so this seemed like the best time to start recording his investigation. Gareth spoke into his tape recorder.

    “One fifty-seven AM”, He said. “EMF metre is showing nothing abnormal so far. The camera in bedroom two three six hasn't shown anything up yet either but there have been a few interesting knocking sounds so I'm going to see if I can get anything on tape.”

    He used to feel guilty when he came out with little fibs like that but not any more. After all, that was what really made people happy. If he ever told people that he was unable to find any evidence they were so disappointed that he actually felt more guilty about telling the truth than about lying. Besides, they were more likely to pay up if you told them something they wanted to hear.

    Gareth adjusted his position slightly. His left leg had completely gone to sleep now. Oh well, at least part of him was asleep. His stomach wasn't. It rumbled.

    “What was that?” he said into the microphone, feigning alarm. “Not sure if I got that on tape but I just heard a low growl from somewhere in the corridor.”

    Gareth rubbed his rumbling tum. He could murder a Cornish pasty but he had to stay focused. In a few more hours he could fill his face at the breakfast buffet but for now he had to follow up on the 'growl'.

    “If there is anybody there,” he said, “could you please make yourself known?”


    No surprise there. No matter, he had plenty of ways to make an investigation come to life and he was just about to simulate a knocking sound when he heard a really loud bang from outside in the corridor.

    “Jesus,” he whispered, quite alarmed. He hadn't been expecting that. Of course he knew that whatever it was that had made the noise would have a natural explanation but it still made him jump. But he wasn't frightened, he knew that. He knew there was no such thing as ghosts. Still, even though it was probably just a door blowing shut in the wind it had still given his investigation an air of credibility. Gareth smelled a bonus.

    “Is somebody there?” he asked. “Please knock again if there is.”


    Surprisingly Gareth was a little relieved. He chided himself for being so foolish. Clearly the noise had made himself jump so much that his nerves were a little tighter than they should be. Of course he knew there was no...


    This time Gareth practically jumped out of his trousers and as a result smote his head on a wooden shelf.

    “Ow!”. That was a loud one. He breathed deep. There would have to be a natural explanation.

    “Is there anybody there?” he asked, slowly and deliberately, more for the benefit of the tape than anything else, though he WAS having trouble disguising the quiver in his voice. Again there was nothing, but Gareth didn't relax just yet.

    This time, instead of another bang, he heard a groan right next to his head. A long, low and mournful groan that scared the cor blimey out of him.

    “Aarggh!” he went, jumping up in a blind panic and running from the linen closet, his progress hampered slightly by his numb leg.

    He wasn't used to hearing noises like that. Normally it was HIM that made the noises but this time there was no mistaking the moan.

    Right, this isn't funny, he thought. Somebody's playing silly buggers here.

    “Who's there?” he demanded, this time making no effort to disguise the panic in his voice. There was another bang, just to his left and Gareth wheeled around. His mind had stopped contemplating the natural explanations to the noises and was now busy trying to stop him from weeing himself. “If somebody's mucking about I'll – I'll fight you!” he yelled. Just down the corridor he heard another noise, similar to the groan he'd heard in the linen closet but did this one sound more like a laugh?

    Gareth made a token effort to compose himself. He was a professional paranormal investigator. It wouldn't do his career any good to run screaming from the hotel. He grabbed the tape recorder and resumed his investigation.

    “Do you not like me being here?” he asked.


    “Do you want me to leave? Bang twice for yes, once for no,” he said.


    Now that had never happened before.

    “How many of you are here?” he asked.

    For a moment nothing happened, and then everything happened all at once. There were several loud knockings from various different points throughout the building, some sounding far away, some right near Gareth's head. And the groaning started again. Sometimes loud, sometimes quiet but always there. This really wasn't funny any more.

    Gareth stood rooted to the spot, completely terrified by the growing clamour. Groaning, banging, laughing? It was all too much. In a blind panic Gareth ran back into the linen closet and slammed the door. He wasn't quite sure why but it seemed like the safest bet. He shut his eyes and covered his ears, trying to muffle the cacophony.

    “La laa la laa laaaa,” he sang at the top of his voice. “I can't hear you, you're not real. Ghosts don't exist, la la laaaaaaa....” and then Gareth's world went suddenly very black indeed.

    When Gareth came to he was in a very different place entirely. It was daylight and the hotel was now a hive of activity. Only it wasn't a hotel any more, more a sort of … pile. Gareth had no idea what had happened. He racked his brain but the last thing he remembered was being scared out of his wits and then... and then what? This didn't make any sense at all. Gareth picked himself up and had a look around. There were a lot of people here. In the distance a crowd of people had amassed and were being held back by the police. Fire engines sprayed water onto the rubble and there was even a news crew. Nobody seemed particularly interested with Gareth though.

    This was entirely strange. What on Earth had happened?

    “The boiler blew up.”

    Gareth wheeled around and saw a man approaching him across the debris. He had slick, jet black hair and wore a very well tailored black suit and tie.

    “Excuse me?” said Gareth.

    “The boiler blew up,” said the man. “Shame really. It was such a lovely old building.” He extended his hand and Gareth shook it limply.

    “But how..?”

    “It was just old,” said the man.

    “No I mean, how did I survive when the building has clearly been obliterated?”

    “simple,” said the man, matter of factly, “you didn't survive.”

    “What?” said Gareth, unimpressed. He was in no mood for games. “I'm sorry, I'm awfully confused right now and that isn't helping. Who are you?”

    “I am the Grim Reaper. Death if you'd prefer.”

    Gareth sighed. Somebody was definitely winding him up. “Look, I'm sorry but clearly I've been involved in some kind of accident and I think I may need medical attention, so if you don't mind...”

    “I'm afraid you're beyond medical help now my friend,” said Death.

    “This is ridiculous, utterly ridiculous. I've been in a serious accident and you're messing about. What kind of person would see a person in obvious distress and start telling them they're dead?”

    “Well... the Grim reaper would.”

    “You're not the Grim Reaper. Everyone knows he has a cloak and scythe and a bone face.”

    “Would you be more comfortable if I did?” said Death.

    “Not really, look it was really nice meeting you but -” Gareth didn't get the chance to finish his sentence because Death, or at least the man claiming to be Death picked up a brick and threw it with force at Gareth's head. Gareth didn't even have chance to duck, he just stared wildly as the brick....

    … passed through his head.

    “Wah!” went Gareth.

    “Sorry about that,” said Death. “I never like doing it but I find it helps prove a point.”

    “So … I really am dead?” said Gareth.

    “You are indeed. Would you like to see one of your feet?”

    “No. No that won't be necessary,” said Gareth.” This was entirely unexpected. He'd thought he had at least another thirty years before he even had to start thinking about his own mortality. There was so much he had left to do. “Wait a minute,” he said, “I'm supposed to be on Most Haunted at the weekend!”

    “Oh you will be eventually. Stay in one place long enough and muck about with enough car keys and they'll soon hunt you out. My brother-in-law was on the live show the other week. He blew in Yvette's ear. Scared the bejesus out of her.”

    “Right,” said Gareth. He was really struggling to come to terms with all this. He was dead, and that was fairly upsetting for him, though nowhere near as upsetting as the thought that ghosts really did exist, and that all the strange people whom he'd thought were fooling themselves were actually the ones that were right.

    “So there really WERE ghosts in the hotel last night?” asked Gareth.

    “Last night?” said Death. “Oh no. There are no ghosts here. Well, present company excepted of course.”

    “But I heard all these banging noises.”

    “That would be the boiler blowing up.”

    “I see,” said Gareth. Now he felt even MORE foolish.

    “Well,” said Death, “I'm afraid I have to go my friend. Now is there anything you need before I do go?”

    “Not really” said Gareth glumly. This really was a depressing morning. He hadn't even had chance to get breakfast.

    “Well good luck,” said Death. And with that he turned and walked off in the direction of a stretched black limo.

    So this was it. Gareth was dead, and he had absolutely no idea what to do next. Did he stay where he was, or did he go off in search of somewhere else to settle down for the rest of infinity? Then it hit him. Maybe his theory on ghosts wasn't ENTIRELY wrong after all.

    “Hey wait!” he called after Death who was just climbing into the back seat of the limo. “Where are you going?”

    “There's been a shooting in Las Vegas,” said Death.

    “Great!” said Gareth, running up to the car. He stood, catching his breath for a moment before realising that he didn't have breath any more. “Vegas? Any chance of a lift?”
  2. Nikhil

    Nikhil Contributing Member

    Sep 1, 2008
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    Superb one, Gingerbiscuit. Hilarious!
  3. Gingerbiscuit

    Gingerbiscuit Senior Member

    Apr 11, 2010
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    Melton Mowbray in Merry old England
    Well big, big love to everyone who voted for this story or left me lovely comments regarding the story. It truly means a lot that people have picked this one out of the bunch. I can only assume that people were voting for the idea rather than the way it was written as I re-read it after it was posted and flushed with embarrassment a couple of times.

    However thank you all for looking past the innocent typos and clumsy narrative to give me a small, but savoury taste of success.

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