Written by Joel Funk
Looking at those buildings was like looking into a mirror. A disheveled and angsty outward appearance were only matched by a bone chillingly cold inside. The floors were nothing more than decaying, mold covered wood that had been buried by a layer of broken glass and new vegetation. Little nothings like Sarah Loves Paul were spray painted on the walls, and were aptly accompanied by gang signs and pentagrams. Each room contained it’s own variation of what I could only assume rotted flesh and decaying youth would actually smell like. These things that would normally serve as an extremely daunting warning to turn back became a curiosity fueled invitation that would eventually drag my friends and I deeper into what can only be described as a waking nightmare.
The sun was still out, but the light was becoming exponentially dimmer as time passed. What felt like minutes turned out to be hours that we spent doing nothing more than exploring this unholy temple of destruction. The longer we were there, the more evidence of past life we had found. High chairs, old clothes, and even a love note had been found in one room. A fully made bed in another. Each room slowly transformed into it’s own haunting time capsule. We ventured on, and the deeper into things we got, the harder the internal struggle to actually leave became.
The most inane, minuscule things became mind boggling masterpieces of nature that kept our feet cemented and yet still moving. More and more words were spray painted on walls as you progressed, slowly turning the walls into the pages of some twisted book that cataloged the inner thoughts of Greene County’s finest. When we finally made our way into the basement, the sky had been painted the darkest shade of black that I had seen in my eighteen years. There was a feeling of mutual decidedness lingering in the air, and we knew that unless we were being chased out, there was no way we were leaving. That sure feeling only lasted minutes. The very second Michelle heard what she claimed were footsteps and hushed voices, she let out the most gut wrenching, werewolf howling at the moon kind of scream that was accompanied by an incessant bout of crying and begging to leave. That paranoia spread like wildfire.
The constant rustling of the shrubbery directly outside did nothing to aid the situation. Obviously, we were not the only people who knew this place existed. That fact was more than reassured when one of us noticed the freshly painted “Mike is back!” and empty six pack of Michelob Light on the floor beneath it. You could still smell the paint, and the random splatter drops of beer still had the concrete base of this building wet. We all sat there staring intently at it for minutes, taking turns using the only cell phone left alive as a flashlight so we could get our own view of it, even though we all stood less than four feet from it. We wanted to examine every detail, and maybe we wanted to believe that if it was in our heads. If we all denied it, it couldn’t be real. The room fell silent as we all turned and tried to ignore it.
The plants outside were shaking more violently than before, the noise radiating from them was loud enough to shake each of us to the bone. As if that hadn’t been enough, there was a sick, cynical laugh accompanying it. Echoing in the woods, only getting louder as the seconds morphed into an eternity. Nobody could exactly place which direction it was coming from, it was almost like someone was running in the woods that surrounded us. In that moment, when faced with actual danger, there were none of the games that followed they maybe footsteps. The majority of us ran to the other side of the basement and hid behind whatever we could. Some of us were hidden behind old dressers, one behind a refrigerator, and some just in the shadows. A few of us, myself included stayed and debated on a course of action. Jac decided that she was going in for the most violent solution. She picked up a piece of brick that had fallen out of the wall, and clung to it. Whoever it was hiding in the woods, they weren’t going to just get through her.
She stood with an anxious expectancy waiting for someone to show up at the door. All of the movement and laughter seemed to stop in that moment. The room fell so silent, you could hear hearts pounding across the room, as if a drum-core had just begun a militant march. In literally no time at all, someone came jumping through the lower level window and began to laugh uncontrollably. Petrified, screams of pure terror came from all corners of the room. The closest thing to us became our last resort means of self defense. Apparently, I thought I was going to hold this person off with a backpack and my DSLR. Friends started swinging, you could hear whatever it was they had picked up cut through the air with such vigor.
He screamed for us to stop, although it was doubtful that any of us had actually hit him. We were swinging in the pitch black, so we had the same chances of doing any actual damage that Ray Charles would have had in a boxing match with Muhammad Ali. I heard someone say that they recognized the voice, and with that, he started to laugh again. Just as angry as I was confused, I demanded an explanation to the sudden outbursts of Joker-esque laughter, which only warranted more.
The dim light of the man’s cell phone came on, allowing for the swings to become more precise. We could all hear his laughter turn to shrieks before the room was filled with a dense quiet. It didn’t take long for the sound of Jac crying to penetrate the silence. We walked over to her, picked his cell phone up off the floor, and shone the dim light on her face. She was hysterical to a point where verbal communication was impossible, so she took the phone from us and held it with the screen to the floor. We all saw the body, and we all agreed to leave it there until the following morning. We crept back to my house, took turns getting clean, and eventually collapsed onto the worn-out couch in my living room.
At this point, it’s been years. We never did go back to that motel. We’ve all long-since moved, and the majority of us no longer speak. On the nights when I can’t sleep, I often wonder what happened to the body of the man we left to rot. What would happen if anybody ever learned of what we did? Was the body moved? Or was it left to slowly decompose on the concrete floor of that rotted old building? I don’t know that I’ll ever have those answers. The only thing I know for certain is that on nights like tonight, when I find myself lost in thought over the actions of this group of five teenagers, I can still hear that maniacal laughter. It still bounces from the walls of my skull, much in the same way that it bounced off the walls of the motel. Only now, I catch myself laughing along.