Over ten years ago two friends and I went on a harrowing vacation to go skydiving in a little town on the outskirts of Salem, Massachusetts. I have always had an incredible fear of heights and I truly enjoy the safety of having my feet firmly on the ground. Dorothy, one of my best friends and a woman who is currently a law enforcement officer putting her life on the line every day, pleaded with me to come with her on a skydiving trip to Massachusetts. I was extremely reluctant, but after Dorothy constantly bugging me about the many times she had forsaken fun on behalf of a moody writer, I decided to go. I confided my decision in Matt, my other best friend (a sort of brother because I had no other, who now works for the government). He was immediately alarmed about my sanity, if not safety, and insisted on joining us to supervise this shaky excursion.
Dorothy was the event planner and driver for this expedition. In her red Hyundai Scoupe, she easily exceeded speeds of 120 MPH on the I-95 to keep up with two sweaty, older bikers on Harleys that were drooling uncontrollably at us. Dorothy insisted on smiling and exchanging obscene gestures with them, despite the animated protests from Matt and I. Eventually, I gave into catcalling with these rather scary folks out of boredom. A rapid exit on two wheels without signaling ensured that we lost these two individuals, although I also lost the hog dog we had grabbed a few exits back when my stomach landed in my neck.
Many miles on a long and winding road later, Matt and I asked where the heck we were going. Dorothy informed us that we were pretty close to the destination according to the directions she had sketched on the back of an old promotional flier for what proclaimed to be the hottest club ever. Matt checked the map as I observed how the density of the trees emphasized the desolation of where we were. Matt could not find the street name on the map and we began turning down isolated roads in search of the Cozy Cabin Motel.
It was fairly close to dinner time and we were all getting hungry, especially me because I had lost my weeny on the wayside. There were no signs of stores or civilizations, just a few lonely-looking houses here and there. A wooden sign in stuck in the ground proclaimed “Food, Beer and Music” in crude, heavy black printing with an arrow. We followed the arrow to a narrow, low lying concrete building in the middle of a vast open field with a large but unassuming house in the distance. A black, metal door was propped open and a surly looking, dark young man stood sentry. Loud strains of heavy metal thunder shot out from the interior, shocking the silence around us.
I raised one eyebrow and looked at my companions, who were already exiting the car and hurtling toward this oddball joint. Not wanting to remain in the car alone, I got out and hurried after them. The guy at the door emotionlessly examined us and asked, “Are you over 18?” We laughed and said we were, yes, a few years ago. He did not crack a smile and nodded his head in the direction of the music.
A small bar was located right beyond the door. To the right there were a couple of dirty tables and signs for a restroom and to the left there was a dance floor with a band. The band playing gave were a poor dude’s Ozzy and Kiss characters when it came to hair, makeup and demonic imagery. The crowd appeared young, blank, dark, zombie-like.
We all walked up to the bar and I read a small sign scrawled on a small piece of paper, “Burgers, dogs and fries. Boy, that sounds appetizing, huh guys?” Dorothy and Matt ordered burgers, fries and shots of tequila from an expressionless, pale-faced, dark-haired waitress. I was still queasy from my hot dog earlier and I felt unsure of the sanitary conditions in the place, so I ordered fries and a light beer.
Matt mustered up a strained conversation with the waitress, inquiring about the location of the Cozy Cabin Motel. For the first time since we arrived, I saw movement on someone’s face. The waitress’ ebony eyes glowed and she gave a crooked smile as she answered, “You are just a few acres away. Go back the way you came and make a left at the blackened double oak tree. It looks like just a dirt road, but it actually takes you to the motel. It’s the big house you can see from here. Have a great stay.” The waitress looked carefully at all of us as she served our drinks silently and then turned her back slowly to go into the kitchen.
I turned around to Dorothy and popping open my Coor’s for emphasis, stated “I take it you booked a real budget motel. Don’t plan a career as a travel agent, huh.”
Dorothy grinned and said, “Hey, nothing like an Internet search to come up with the best price in town. Thirty bucks for all three of us!”
“And I thought you were being generous just asking for the gas money,” I replied ruefully. “We’re sleeping on a dirty floor with roaches. Great.”
Matt shook his head and slugged down the shot of tequila. “I don’t know where the hell we are but at least we’re going skydiving in the morning. Something’s gotta save this trip.”
I was reminded of the reason we came here and finished my beer as the waitress brought out our food. It looked how I figured it would and we all tentatively but hungrily ate the grub, sitting on wobbly stools at the bar.
After we finished up and paid the silent waitress, we quietly exited the very noisy bar. The sentry the door grimaced as we walked out. We all got into the car and Dorothy retraced the road we arrived on until we saw an odd, half dead, oversized oak tree.
Dorothy slowed down and said, “I guess that’s our landmark.” We drove down the completely darkened dirt road until we reached the front door of the house. It looked like a haunted mansion from an after school special about Halloween. The house was completely unlit except for one upstairs window with a pale light on. We all listened to one another breathe for awhile until Matt finally said, “I’ll go to the door.” Dorothy and I then breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief.
Matt walked to the door and knocked heavily on it. We held our breath, waiting for a few moments, and no one answered the door.
I looked at Dorothy and grumbled, “Best deal in town, yeah right. No one answers the door but they have your thirty bucks and where are we gonna stay now?”
Matt knocked on the door more loudly and shouted, “Hello! Anyone here?”
A light went on in the small window next to the door. The window slowly opened and a tall, gaunt man in his fifties with greasy salt and pepper hair stuck his weathered face out. “The Ryder Party?” he whispered harshly as retreated away from the window.
“Yes, can we check in now?” Matt answered confidently.
A gnarled hand reached out with keys and said, “Here you go. It’s number 6 in the building out back.” Matt reached for the keys and the hand rapidly retreated and slammed the window shut. The light went out.
“Friendly place. Bet the pool party is out back, too. Let’s go after we get some room service,” Matt quipped as he returned to the car. We drove to the back of the house and saw a low lying building with gray metal doors numbered 1 through 6, well hidden behind the house. It did not appear as if anyone else was staying here.
Matt handed me the keys as he began unloading our bags. “Want the honors?” he grinned.
“We can take it. C’mon Dorothy.” I stuck the key in the door to find that the door was already opened. I clicked on a light switch and saw a small, plain room with two full sized beds, a worn out chair, a tiny television and a rotary phone.
“Cool phone!” Dorothy threw her stuff on the bed near the door. “I want to be as close to the door as possible, just in case.”
“Glad I brought my cell phone.” I took it out of my pocket and went to call my boyfriend to tell him we arrived. I should have known there would be no service in the middle of this thick woods. I picked up the rotary phone and there was no dial tone.
“Well, we’re here for the night and looks like no one will get to find out.” I plopped on the bed by the door. “Guess we’re sharing since there’s no couch.”
Matt dragged in our bags and inquired, “Do you REALLY need ALL this stuff?”
“I was a girl scout and you know the motto – be prepared.” I grabbed my bags and started rummaging through them. “String, camp knife, flashlight – no one better mess with us!”
“Do you really think it’s THAT bad?” Dorothy rolled her eyes.
I ignored her. “Matt, I don’t think the lock on the door works.”
Matt examined the lock and informed us, “No, it doesn’t work.”
“This gets better and better. Now that weird guy can just come right on in if he wants.” I threw my bag on the floor. “We may really need the crazy stuff in my bag.”
Matt nodded. “I don’t like it either. That guy sure didn’t check us in like a normal hotel clerk and he was really weird. A lack of social skills is one thing, but he barely grunted out the window at us.” Matt pulled the chair up to the door. “You ladies lie down and get some rest. I’ll stay watch all night. If we leave now, we stand a chance of getting lost and running out of gas in the middle of the night in a strange place. We don’t know the area and haven’t been able to find civilization anywhere nearby except for that really bizarre bar. This seems to be the best we can do for now.”
Dorothy and I agreed and went into the simple bathroom to change. I rinsed my face in the sink and investigated the shower stall that looked like it had not been used in months. We put on our pajamas and I took the bed by the restroom and Dorothy took the bed by the door. Matt stayed in his clothes and parked in the chair next to the door. He used my string to tie the door knob to the bedside lamp, in case he fell asleep, and put the flashlight and knife in the pocket of his cargo pants.
Dorothy fell asleep shortly thereafter. Long drives and tequila had done her in, despite our frightening surroundings. I fell into and out of a light sleep, unable to fully relax. Matt was also awake by the door, but the air felt heavy and conversation seemed out of place.
I looked at my watch. It was already 2 in the morning. Matt and I were going to be really exhausted to be going skydiving. I tried to close my eyes again and then heard the lamp slide on the table next to Dorothy. Matt and I jumped out of the chair and bed. The string was moving and so was the doorknob. Matt thrust the knife through the crack in the door. We heard a muffled scream and the sound of running.
Matt and I breathed lightly for at least a minute and stared into each other’s eyes. He slowly retrieved the knife from the crack in the door and there were a couple of red drops on it. We gasped and he slowly opened the door. The upstairs window in the house was still lit and we saw the silhouette of a figure walking by it. The figure was shaped like a stooped, elderly woman with a bun in her hair. The most alarming part of this sight was the fact that this woman was holding a large knife out in front of her. Suddenly, the light in the window went out.
“Did you SEE that?” I squealed. “This is the Bate’s freakin’ motel, that’s what the heck it is. What are we going to do?”
Matt shut the door. “What can we do? As soon as the light of morning arrives, we are out of here. I’ll knock, leave the keys on the doorstep and we’ll fly out of here.” He put his arm around me. “Don’t worry, he won’t be back now that we nicked him. If we see a cut on his hand, we will know he’s guilty and question him why he was lurking around and trying to get in our room at 2 in the morning.”
Dorothy remained asleep and blissfully unaware of the events at hand. I returned to the bed and Matt sat in the chair and we waited until the sun started to come up at around 4:30. Matt quietly said, “Why don’t you wake up Dorothy and let’s get going.”
I went over to Dorothy and shook her. “Time to get up, rise and shine.”
She opened one eye. “What time is it? I need more sleep.”
“Get up!” I shook her harder. “We’re outta here.”
She sat up, rubbing her eyes. “What is your problem? Geez!”
Matt calmly answered, “Well, the proprietor of this fine establishment tried to break into our room last night and I stabbed him through the door to deter him.” Matt held up the reddened knife.
“Is this drama?” Dorothy opened her eyes fully and observed us. “No, holy crap guys, I guess not. I’ll get dressed and we’ll jet.”
Within ten minutes, we were all in the car. Dorothy dropped Matt by the front door of the house, which was completely shut down, and he put the key on the front doorstep and knocked on the door. Matt hopped in the car and we pulled away, breathing a unanimous sigh of relief.
“Let’s find a real deli on the way to skydiving – I can finally eat now that we’re leaving,” Matt suggested.
After driving for about fifteen minutes, we entered a small town. We walked into a deli and ordered breakfast sandwiches and coffee. The clerk, a freckle-faced young man with a ready smile, asked what we were doing in town. We told him we were going skydiving and had just spent a very upsetting evening at the Cozy Cabin Motel.
Once again, I saw someone’s eyes light up, this time with disbelief and fear. “Nobody’s stayed at that motel for over ten years,” the kid stated. “That’s known around these parts at the Bates motel. The old lady that owned it died mysteriously about twelve years ago and the son inherited the place, sorta like that Psycho movie. After a couple of unsuccessful years and some odd stories, he let the place get overrun with weeds and stopped renting the rooms. How did you even hear about the place? I can’t believe it!”
We looked at each other in awe. There is no place like the net, there is no place like the net.