April 21 – May 4, 2022 First Line Writing Prompt “Hotel Ivy”
Theme: Hotel Ivy
The story must begin with the words:
“I lay alone in the hotel. Half eaten by ivy and the shadow of a nearby mountain. I cared for it, and it cared for me…”
- a hotel
Word Count: 1,200
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95 thoughts on “April 21 – May 4, 2022 First Line Writing Prompt “Hotel Ivy””
Read the stories here:
Ken won’t be voting but read his story here:
- Catcher in the Ivy by Ken Cartisano
It does not make quite sense the other way, please forgive me if I have offended but I am wondering if I can keep the general idea but change the wording a little. I have the idea for a living building that the narrator inhabits and it takes over people. No plot spoilers but it is horror…
I have been thinking about which way I want to go with this, I have some ideas like you as well!
It’s so good to be back. Carrie, I have really missed you and the two-weekly creative process. The way the prompt is written as several sentences, each separated by a full stop.is very clever and I hope to exploit this in my writing. I am almost ready to post.
A short story by Ken Frape.
”I lay alone in the hotel. Half eaten by ivy and the shadow of a nearby mountain. I cared for it and it cared for me.”
It was our weekly writing assignment, posted on the sixth form noticeboard by Mrs. Roscowitz, head of English Literature. She was all arthritis and bad temper, wizened by every one of her seventy –odd years, well past retirement age but still an absolute stickler for detail, in grammar, in spelling and in every part of our language work.
Every comma, every punctuation mark was there to perform a specific function, to inform us of the writers’ intentions, she told us over and over again. She gave frequent examples of how a simple change could alter the entire meaning of a sentence. She regularly showed us sections from other writers’ work, famous and not so famous, to lift our eyes to “literary heaven, “ she said. Instead, at least for me, she simply made me realize how poor was my grasp of the English language.
It was, therefore not a shock when she pounced upon one such error in my assignment. It was a perfect example of the kind of thing she was talking about, she said. She picked up the chalk and wrote my exact words and punctuation on the blackboard and then read them out to the class, punctuating every word with her walking cane on the blackboard, each tap, tap tap like a finger jabbing into my chest.
My opening line said,
“I lay alone in the hotel, half eaten by ivy and the shadow of a nearby mountain. I cared for it, and it cared for me.”
That comma, placed by me in error between the words “hotel” and “half” instead of a full stop had, she explained, altered the entire direction, shifting the emphasis of the story that I then wrote compared to her intended line. A simple error, a comma instead of a full stop.
“For fuck’s sake,” I mumbled inaudibly, “It’s only a fucking comma.”
“Your writing is not without merit, however, Miss Ellis,” she said, thus imparting almost the first and only glimmer of praise I had ever received at her hands. “Let us see how it runs, shall we?”
I nodded dumbly, suddenly aware that my work was about to be read to the whole class. But no, it was worse. She held up the pages, wafting them in my direction as she instructed me to come to the front of the classroom where I was sure my every tremble and ear-thumping heartbeat would be heard by my classmates. The sheets of paper flapped and bent in my shaking hands, making things worse, my teenage discomfort more obvious.
I began, of course, with the words, “I lay alone in the hotel, half eaten by ivy and the shadow of a nearby mountain. I cared for it, and it cared for me…….”
I went on……………
“Abandoned for more than half a century, the Hotel Edelweiss was in a state of advanced decay, like the mountain flower it was named after that stood so proudly in the Summer light but was now buried deep under Winter snow. An envelope of cold, damp air surrounded the hotel that was shielded from the sun’s warming rays by that accursed brooding mountain, encouraging mould to seep into every crack and crevice, along the corridors, across ceilings and into the bedding formerly occupied by the depleted then exhausted staff before those who were able to do so, made their frantic departure.
Everyone knows now what happened all those years ago. It’s now local folklore but no one has set foot in the building since those fateful, final days. If anyone did, they would soon join the rotting corpses of the last guests who were struck down, unable to leave, abandoned by the staff who were too terrified to touch them, let alone offer help. I know no one has been here since then because I have maintained watch, guarding the hotel’s secret, caring for it as it cares for me.
In truth, It’s a symbiotic relationship, for the mould and the damp allow the ivy to grow on me and around me and in me, carrying my poisonous spores into the very fabric of the hotel. It is my home. I am happy to live forever in this state as I spread myself still further knowing that if any human or animal sets foot in the building or takes one breath, then it will not leave in good health. It will join the clientele upon whom I have feasted for half a century.
I wasn’t always here, of course. No, I am not a native of this country. On another continent I seized the opportunity to cling to a traveller’s soiled clothing and after a warm and damp sea journey he placed me upon the bedspread in his room here, in this hotel. In the following few days, I grew and multiplied and crept across his pillow and at night, as he slept, I entered his lungs and feasted there. His coughing grew worse by the day as he spewed his foetid breath into the air, finding other hosts until I had them all, guests and staff alike.
In the following weeks and months the word “plague” spread panic faster than I ever could and soon the authorities came and nailed shut every door and window. The contagious dead were left to rot so I continued to feast on their cooling bodies. To be perfectly honest, my work is far more efficient with warmer, living bodies but thankfully, and I am grateful for this, truly I am, cockroaches, maggots, flies and myriad other flesh-eating insects are also susceptible to my charms. Now I can claim that my victims can to be counted in the thousands, if not millions.
And still they come.
It’s so good.
Oh, so good.
So this is now my place. I care for it and tend it with care. And it cares for me. I hear creaks and groans as the fabric of the building continues to decay. Soon, I feel, the building will collapse and that will be a joyful day as the air will carry me abroad still further in spore-laden clouds that will drift down the mountainside into the town to fresh flesh and warm lungs.
Oh, happy days.”
1079 word count
It reminded me of that famous story/urban legend/Twilight Zone/real event where influenza or something made the hotel cover everything up (the mom goes missing while the daughter is away, but the staff denies she was ever checked in and they even changed the wallpaper and room number). It is like that but Lovecraftian and so much more extreme!
I really liked the science behind it as well.
So glad to see you back here!
Can you please clarify the prompt: who or what is “half eaten by the ivy and … shadow of the mountain” – the narrator? the hotel?
And it’s not a silly question, I definitely encourage folks to participate with Jack’s site, the parameters are different and a great way to continue to hone our craft.
But my personal circumstances have changed. My dad passed away last year, leaving the care of my 93 y/o solely grandma to me. I never wanted children, much less what was essentially a 93 y/o child in my home. We moved her into hospice in January and she passed in March, she was ready and despite the stress and weight on my shoulders I was glad to be there for her in her final year to ease the transition.
For me, she was the last living relative on my dad’s side so that chapter is officially closed.
While my heart is sad, it allows me to refocus on all the things I was juggling before my life got turned upside down!
It feels rally, really good to be back.
Could you pull my immensely lame story from the thread. ‘Roach Feathers.’ I was farting around there, and meant to post it at the tail end of the previous prompt. Clearly it doesn’t fit here. I’ll send a corresponding note to the site’s email address as well. Nice to see the site up and running again.
I looked through every single tattoo the parlor had, and that was the only one I cared for (and could afford). A mistake? No. Never. I feel a kind of kinship with things that crawl and that are universally hated underdogs, and the damn things are like totems to me. They do creep me out sometimes, but I used to catch them with my hands and not think I was a disgusting goblinoid! I probably should have placed it further from my wrists, in hindsight …..
This buddhist removal ritual is one that I am very familiar with, and with wolf spiders half the time, so this resonated (those arachnids have reflective eyes that twinkle green and it messes with me every single time). They always disappear right before you drop em outside, leaving a creepy mystery hanging lol.
I lay alone in the hotel. Half-eaten by ivy and the shadow of a nearby mountain. I cared for it, and it cared for me… That sounded like such a ludicrous statement, even to my own mind. I would laugh if the effort it would take were not so exhausting. I allowed myself a small chuckle. Was I half-eaten by the ivy or was the hotel? Ah, that was the question, now, wasn’t it? The chuckle made me cough.
I glanced around the spacious room from the ornate bed I rested in, propped up on downy pillows covered with the softest of blankets. My gaze fell on the large windows bestowing me with a grand view of the grounds and the mountain in the distance. I was king of my domain, ruler of all I saw, warden of brick and stone, land and air, and all wildlife roaming free.
Oh, and of course, the ivy. The beautiful, living tendrils of green ivy that had covered these walls for centuries. The ends curling gently around the panes of the windows, never obscuring my view, and taking advantage of an open pane, to venture inside to say hello. One tendril curled around my fingers.
Ivy, my beloved Ivy, we have always been together. Our souls entwined since the beginning of time, our hearts united, through life and through whatever comes after. She is always with me. We lay together in this wondrous bed, dreamed our dreams, planned our lives, and bore six children who were too good for this earth. We buried each one in the garden beneath the emerald, green lawn and the lush ivy covered each tiny resting place. We often sat in the garden, my Ivy and I, gently swinging in the gazebo built near our babies’ earthly beds.
The ivy from the walls had covered this sacred place to grant us the privacy we had needed to mourn our little ones in peace. The shadow of the mountain seemed to share in our grief and covered the hotel in shaded darkness. My sweet Ivy took to wandering the halls in her dressing gown, silently searching, quietly seeking, that which she could not find. I was told that the hotel guests, sympathetic though they may have been, were a bit unsettled at the sight of my wife wandering the halls. I would go and find her and gently lead her by the hand back to my office or our rooms.
Why didn’t I notice she wasn’t eating? Ha. Maybe because food had no taste for me either. Why didn’t I notice she was slowly fading away? Maybe I was blinded by the shadows of grief, and she still looked the same to me. Still lovely, still beautiful, willowy, and sensual.
We ran the hotel as usual until winter when the guests all faded away. We usually closed for winter. We allowed the staff time off for their families and we relished our time alone in our massive home. We had stocked the essentials we needed for simple meals, and planned our usual activities – playing games, reading to each other, taking long walks, making up stories about the various rooms based on their decorative themes – the Victorian room, the Medieval room, you get the idea.
At first the winter days flew by, we spent our days wrapped up in activities and our nights wrapped up in each other in the big, warm bed. But when the ivy turned brown, and the snow fell, Ivy felt that our babies were cold, and the light and life seeped out of her. I did my best; I promise I did. I tried my hardest to bring joy back into her days. I prayed, I tried, and I cried.
I held her tight, made her promises, begged her to wait for Spring to turn the world green again. I assured her the children were not cold, that the ivy would protect them, and we would be able to visit them once again. She screamed at me that SHE should have protected them, that I should have protected them! With those words I felt as if a knife had pierced my heart! We had never said cruel words to one another. She broke into heaving sobs pushing me away. Stifling sobs of my own, I stumbled from the room.
I hid in my office, a coward. I sobbed like a toddler who’s had his candy stolen or his bottom swatted, but the pain was much, much worse. Would you believe that? Could I have protected my babies? How? How could I have kept them from dying or being stillborn? Was this my fault? Had I failed my beloved wife? At that thought, I sat up abruptly. Ivy! I’d left her alone! I ran back up the stairs to our room.
The freezing cold caught me off guard and sucked my breath away. Ivy was not in the room! I ran to an open window and looked across the frozen landscape I had always thought so beautiful. I could not see her anywhere. I saw the gazebo covered in snow and the three tiny graves on each side of the entrance. Where was she? I raced downstairs and out of the door without grabbing a coat. I screamed for her as I ran around the corner of the hotel toward the garden.
I found her in the Spring as the last snow melted around the hedges at the edge of the gazebo. The ivy had already returned to life and was turning a glorious green. She’d been buried ‘neath the snow lying near our children. I dug a grave for her on the left side of the gazebo near our three little girls. As I turned to place my beloved Ivy at rest, a miracle occurred. The ivy around the bushes and gazebo came alive and surrounding my Ivy, picked her up and gently laid her inside the grave. Then moving in an intricate dance, the vines smoothed the earth over my Beloved one and covered her with greenery. All was as it should be.
Now, all is done but the finale. My grave is dug and prepared on the right side of the gazebo, near our three little boys. Come a little closer, ivy my friend. I feebly move the blankets away as my breath begins to fade and I see the windows are open wide. The ivy’s tendrils run up my arms and legs and as I take my last breath, I give myself to the light and air.
In an instant, I feel new life, new energy tingling through each part of me reaching out in all directions. I am alive, green, and new. I merge with others like me to gently carry the man’s body out of the window, down the wall and gently lay him in a hole in the ground. We cover him with the warm earth and greenery. Then, most return to the spots from whence they came, their vines and leaves waving in the breezes. I choose to stay on the gazebo, watching over those resting here.
Greetings, welcome back, and bravo all at once!
This is a very descriptive and powerful piece of writing.
I fully understand the dilemma regarding how to interpret this prompt and I think you have managed it with real skill. I think Carrie would be pleased to see how we, as writers, choose different ways to do so.
It’s a very sad story, obviously. Losing one child, let alone six is more than enough to drive someone, a mother especially, over the edge into madness and melancholy. The way you use the ivy is very well done too. I got a real sense of the cold emptiness of the hotel in winter with its long empty corridors and vacant rooms.
Like you, I have written very little in the past few months so it is great to try and get back into it both as a writer and as a reader. Your piece is a great start.
Adi, is the Easter Egg an Alabama reference?
Hahahahaha ironically I’ve taken that tour or I’d NEVER have figured it out!
And it only clicked when I spoke the title out loud lol.
Word Count: 1,170
I lay alone in the hotel. Half-eaten by ivy and the shadow of a nearby mountain. I cared for it, and it cared for me … though that is probably just me anthropomorphizing things out of sheer loneliness. You know, like when people get emotionally attached to cars or boats … or even those little machines that hook up to hoses and scoot around the bottom of pools?
No matter. I am prone to rambling off topic in my efforts to utilize symbolism and provide context! Whether the building reciprocated my feelings or not, I suddenly sensed that our relationship was about to be terminated. It jolted me right out of bed, and I am not as spry as I used to be!
That is when I decided that I needed to chronicle things before anything dire happens. Before the world rushes ahead and pulls me behind like a dog leashed to a car with … but there I go again! And such a gruesome simile! What I mean is: I made up my mind to try to record my mental processes of late, and that is where you come in, my industrious little ghostwriter! Riding in to save the day!
Here is your first payment, and here is a little bonus for coming out here tonight with short notice, bad weather, and neurotic company such as myself!
Are you recording? Excellent! Everything is in place for me to proceed …
At the risk of sounding maudlin, I will now share with you some of the emotional baggage that I have been dragging around since The Pandemic began. It is not that complicated, and it all boils down to masks. Whether it is nightmares about not wearing them or scowls and displeased stares because I am wearing them, masks have consumed more than just my face.
There were times when it seemed like The Plague was over, but those were just the breaks between the last five waves. I tried to tell people that it wasn’t over each time, and each time I was proven right. Not like you need a supercomputer to calculate that outcome … anyone with an appropriately low faith in Humanity could have seen that the people running red lights and speeding diagonally across parking lots weren’t going to comply with measures to reduce the death toll a smidge.
Vanity is to blame as well as Sloth, for many people avoid masking to keep from looking stupid … ironically. But the seven deadly sins mean very little these days. Little more than words. They are just fine print on the smudged labels of the poison we are all drinking daily, and heartily at that! Cheers!
But I kid! Just a dollop of dark humor and yet another attempt at poetic imagery. Don’t be so alarmed … it happens quite a bit. You see, I have listened to way too much Dylan, and I have been avoiding speaking to people for some time now! Perhaps some of my social skills have atrophied?
Speaking of cheers: do you care for a drink? My mask stays on – (trust me, you would thank you if you saw how truly ugly, I am) – but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun on my dime! Providing you can handle you liquor well enough to write drunk and edit sober? That was a quote from the great Hemingway, or was it Faulkner? He also liked to wet his whistle, so I hear. What’ll it be?
Double shot of whiskey? You continue to amaze!
So, the masking. It started with me thinking that I shouldn’t get too used to the whole thing, because the virus was supposed to just fade away by itself. I secretly enjoyed the way it made me look like a ninja – okay, a pale and scrawny ninja – and the anonymity it provided.
Hiding my face from people has always been a fixation of mine, either by staying indoors until the blissful cover of darkness returns … or by using clever combinations of hats and this shaggy hair draped across my features. I even tried using a prosthetic nose and heavy makeup for a few years! But I am a hardcore introvert, and I always was, ludicrous as it may seem. What better way to retreat within yourself than swaddling in layers of artifices?
That is why The Pandemic felt like a holiday. I could ditch all those other measures of obfuscating my visage and join the throngs of people wearing masks in public. My horrible face and these wretched yellow teeth were no longer an issue, and I started leaving my room more and more. Talking to people was still painful, but I could finally pretend to be a normal person without hurting myself! Walking around with an empty briefcase, pretending to shop, riding buses to random destinations and getting off purposefully – the world was my oyster!
Every time the numbers of infections started dropping and people got all excited, I would feel a growing melancholy in my heart. I call it my “melancholera” because it is quite intense and infectious. Then the numbers would rise again … and it shames me … but I would rejoice at the can getting kicked down the road a short distance. It meant I could keep my new best friends on my face, and I didn’t need to go back to the arms of the shadows.
Are you getting all of this? Superb. And your penmanship! That’s not handwriting, it’s calligraphy!
So, after the third or fourth wave I realized that this vacation from almost complete solitude was going to have to end. The altruistic beast in me knew that it was time for the world to heal, but the selfish man wanted to keep cavorting about the streets with my new confidence and thirst for congregations.
But now the mask mandate is dropped, and things are going back to “normal”. The angry glares have returned, and I can see that some people would love to rip these masks right off my face. Eventually I will be the only one still masking, and what was once a cloak of camouflage will become a shining beacon giving away my position like a flare gun!
What’s that look upon your sweet face? Sort of a poorly disguised slyness mixed with apprehension and … curiosity. Ah. You wish to see my true appearance? Like Christine with the Phantom, you are thinking of tearing off these masks, consequences be damned?
Let me save you the trouble. Steel yourself! Three. Two. One. Behold my bestial countenance! Terrible, is it not?
“Damn, she is good. She started writing before I even asked her to … and she kept scribbling it all down to the very end, the poor girl. Poor, delectable girl. Not too bright though. And too many platelets – she kept clotting up on me! Now my memoirs will have to be put on hold while I find a new place to dwell. Drat and botheration!”
This story demands a read then a reread and that’s exactly what I gave it. It is a very skilful take on the mask wearing debate during the pandemic. Like you ( the narrator) I was happiest when mask wearing was mandatory as it left no room for argument. It was a little uncomfortable but I only needed to wear a mask for very short periods of time whereas nurses, doctors, shop assistants and the like had to wear them all day,. Thus, my discomfort was relatively minor.
I like the way you link the Phantom and Christine into your story regarding being ugly.and someone wanting to rip the mask off. I can really appreciate the way in such a person would feel protected behind the mask, getting out more and mixing with “normal” people.
Killer last para, literally and figuratively.
It’s nice to be back on this site and I hope more of the old gang will soon pop their heads up too.
Give me another year and I will improve slightly?
I lay alone in the hotel, half eaten by Ivy and the shadow of a nearby mountain. I cared for it, and it cared for me.
I was a park ranger, looking after the forest that had crept up the side of the mountain over the years and clung to it like moss on a stone. The mountain saved my life twice, the first time by giving me a purpose to set aside the drink. When I was feeling thirsty, I’d take a walk along one of the paths that wound their way upwards and talk to it. It was a way to externalise and expel my yearnings.
The teams that every spring cleared the undergrowth below the firs to avoid fires were under my command, and Ivy was a new recruit to one of those teams.
Let me tell you about Ivy. She’d appeared that season, with just a small knapsack and the clothes she stood in. She found me at the rangers’ station and asked to be given work. I actually needed someone – Paco Zortetxarra, one of the clearers, had been found on a path and was in a coma; apparently he’d been hit by a rock-fall. But I was reluctant to take Ivy on. She was a mere slip of a woman who looked like she couldn’t lift a twig, let alone some of the heavy branches that the winter winds had brought down.
I said I’d take her on a trial basis; I wasn’t disappointed. From that meager frame came what I could only describe as a kind of primeval energy. She did the work of two men and caused trouble because of it: the male workers felt diminished and embarrassed. They would have shunned her if she hadn’t chosen to keep herself to herself anyway. At lunch-time, we’d all find a log or rock to rest on and unwrap our sandwiches, chatting as we ate, but she would slip away through the trees, returning like clockwork when it was time to start again.
I was the only one she ever spoke to, and she did that in whispers. It was normally to impart information about work – where we could find an especially heavy build-up of forest debris, for example. But one day, when she came close, I could sense that this time it was something different.
“I need to speak to you,” she breathed. “In private.”
When the shift finished, we all grabbed our tools and made our way down the mountainside towards the small town in which we were based. The men went to the bunkhouse at the rangers’ station to get cleaned up in preparation for a night out. Ivy followed me to the only hotel in the town, where I signed in.
We went to the bar and I ordered a whiskey for myself; Ivy didn’t want anything. In fact, she seemed nervous, tapping her foot on the wooden floorboards. After I’d had a couple of sips of my drink and no words had been exchanged, she put a hand on my arm.
“Can we take that upstairs?” she whispered, pointing to my glass.
I realised as I paid more attention to her features that Ivy was very attractive. Her skin was smooth and unblemished, making her look to be in her 20s, but her most startling feature was her emerald-green eyes. Outside she’d be squinting in the sunshine, so I hadn’t noticed before. In this light they were exquisite.
I said nothing but got up and headed for the stairs. I could feel Ivy’s presence behind me and a pleasurable warmth in my stomach.
Once in the bedroom, she excused herself to go to the bathroom. I took off my shirt and shoes and sat on the bed in just my trousers. Ivy was taking quite a long time; I could hear the water running in the shower.
As I waited, my eyes roamed around the basic room and settled on her knapsack, which she’d left on a chair. I got up and padded over to it. The knapsack was open and I peered in. On top was a red and white striped cotton scarf, like the one that Paco Zortetxarra – an Athletic Bilbao fan – always wore. Like the one he wasn’t wearing when we’d found him.
As I was turning these facts over in my mind, I didn’t realise that the water had stopped running, and that Ivy had come up to stand at my shoulder. I turned, startled. She whipped her arms around me, flinging me onto the bed. I tried to get up, but it seemed that she had more than four limbs, pinning me down. I felt my trousers being pulled down and my penis – somehow erect, despite the dread that was coursing through me – being guided into her.
The following minutes were a blur. The only thing that was clear to me was the intense pleasure, and her eyes, focussed on mine, piercing them.
After the shuddering conclusion, I lay back, my eyes shut to the strangeness of the moment. It was then that I felt the first bite, to my side, and a ripping away of the flesh there. I tried to scream but Ivy had an earthy-tasting hand in my mouth. A second bite to my other flank. And then my chest. I was quite rational now; I was being eaten alive. I bucked and wriggled, but Ivy was that woman I’d seen working on the mountainside; she was much too strong for me.
Then she gave an odd yelp and I felt myself freed. I shimmied up the bed and pressed myself to the headboard, staring wildly round the room and at my bloodied torso. In a corner was Ivy, her face a mask of terror, staring at the bed. I followed her gaze. The sun was setting behind the mountain, throwing a shadow through the window and onto the disheveled sheets. In the folds and ruffles, the light and shadow formed a face, a likeness – one that can be seen in churches up and down the land.
Ivy let out a shriek – or rather a high-pitched grunt – grabbed her knapsack and leapt at the window, crashing through it and falling to the street. I struggled to my feet and made it to the gaping hole in the glass within seconds, but there was no sign of Ivy below.
I soaked a towel in water and lay back on the bed, dabbing at my wounds and trying to make sense of it all. As I looked, the shadow of the mountain shifted across my body, as if consuming it little by little. But I knew that it had in fact protected me.
About a week later, after my wounds had been treated and were almost healed, I returned to the mountainside. No one asked about Ivy – the men were glad to see her go – and I didn’t volunteer any information either.
But I didn’t forget her. Nor the fact that somewhere out there, this … woman was walking around.
With something of mine inside her.
Another really good piece of writing and a unique take on this prompt. You never fail to impress with your stories. Ivy is such a well crafted creature that I can actually (almost) believe in her. She has that other – worldly quality that works so well in this story.
I loved the name of the dead clearer Paco Zortetxarra. How do you come up with a name like that?
You, the narrator are clearly a very fast healer as your wounds were almost healed after about a week. Presumably, there was something especially healing in Ivy’s saliva.
It’s nice to be back on this site, my friend and good to know that such great stories are still in the minds of our group of writers.
By Rory P
I lay alone in the hotel. Half eaten by ivy and the shadow of a nearby mountain. I cared for it, and it cared for me. The hotel was my home, it had accepted me when the world had not. It had comforted me when life dealt its inevitable blows. To me its great pillars and spiraling staircase symbolise something greater than mere brick and mortar. They were a part of me which had to be attended to with just as much care as my lungs and my heart. Three months ago, when I had still accepted guests and nature had not yet taken a hold of the building’s attractive facade, there had been an offer to sell the place. It was a reasonable sum, and may well have changed my life completely, but the letter had been destroyed almost as soon as I had read it. I, nor anyone else could put a price on the memories I had hidden here. On the life which, through time and despair, had become nothing more than a few half forgotten dreams without which I would cease to exist. This, of course, had not stopped the businessmen of London and a few days later the driveway was full of blacked-out Mercedes, parked haphazardly by blank faced men in suits that tried in vain to hide their brutish frames.
The man, whose name was Mr Gentry but all of the guests had referred to as Vladimir for obvious reasons, led his henchmen straight through reception and along to my office. Through a fraught and by all accounts intimidating conversation I learnt that the hotel had once belonged to Mr Gentry’s late great grandfather, a man who, according to some vaguely worded documents shoved onto my desk, had originally set the building up to house guests. It was Mr Gentry’s desire to reclaim what was his supposed birthright and transform it into an icon of luxury and wealth. With his speech concluded I tried, in my most diplomatic tone, to explain that the hotel was not for sale, and besides the deeds traced back to a Soviet politician to whom Mr Gentry swore no allegiance.
What followed were perhaps the most trying weeks of my life. Each morning, come rain or shine, an army of unblinking men with all the warmth of an arctic blizzard would file into the hotel’s foyer, demanding to be served breakfast and staring bitterly at the other guests. When I informed Mr Gentry of this affront he told me that his men were staying in the area and that I should take it as a compliment that they had chosen my restaurant in which to spend their money. It didn’t take long, however, for their true motive to become clear. As the summer got into full swing and the bookings began to grow in number, so too did the coldness that the men had brought. It was almost imperceptible at first, a kind of awkward chill that saw the guests eating hastily to try and escape the gaze of Mr Genry’s men. By the time the hiking season was in full swing they had all but taken over the place. What was usually a bustling hub of the British Countryside, accommodating that broad fraction of society whose main goal in life is to spend their pensions faster than their remaining years of life, had become a maze of vacant rooms.
The final blow came three weeks later, during one of those unseasonably cold nights that makes you reconsider your patriotism and start searching for next day flights to Mauritius. No one was quite sure how they had ended up in the hotel, but at roughly ten past two in the morning Matthew, one of the members of staff who happened to be staying in room 112 at the time, reported to have heard two men fighting. He thought this strange, since he had memorised the hotel’s schedule just that morning and knew that his was the only occupied room on the entire floor. At about two-twenty, having conjured up enough courage to face the most terrorsome of ghosts, he ventured out to confront the intruders. What he found provided the local newspapers with enough material for several print runs; Mr Gentry, dressed down into a less than flattering dressing gown, lay sprawled out on the floor of room 114, a deep cut just below his eye pouring blood out onto the carpet. Another man whom James did not recognise was standing over Mr Gentry shouting something in a language he could not understand.
It was not until the next morning that they found the body. After the usual hysterics from other staff members had abated they took the body down to the cellar through a hidden staircase, hoping not to alarm the few remaining guests. The peace was broken, however, when the police arrived and three serious looking officers made their way brazenly through the hotel. No one was able to identify the man, who did not appear on the local police database, but this was hardly surprising given the questionable heritage to which the newly arrived men supposedly belonged. My Gentry, who by this time had returned to his lodgings in one of the village’s less principled establishments, was called out but he, too, claimed ignorance of the deceased man’s identity. Clearly this was the last blow people needed to silently boycott the hotel, and although the police eventually ruled out any foul play, the rooms remained empty and before long the first members of staff were struck off.
With considerable mental effort I rose out of bed and made my way down to an empty dining hall. It was a strange feeling, knowing how many lives had passed through here, ignorant of the richness and mystery hidden in the building they so admired. I had just poured myself a bowl of stale cereal when the doorbell rang from somewhere deep in the building.
Opening the door I was greeted by a young faced officer who was looking up at me with an expression somewhere between fear and confusion. He seemed to shake himself and a professional smile spread across his face.
“Good morning sir. Are you the owner of this hotel?”
“I might be.”
“We’ve had reports of a missing person in the area. Nothing to worry about, we just have to canvass anyone who might have seen something. May I ask you a few questions?”
The man looked down at his notes.
“His name is Mr George Lavin. Says here that he used to be the proprietor of this hotel before yourself, in fact.”
The door made the whole building shake as I slammed it shut. So, I thought, the time has come. It was bound to happen one of these days, of course, but I couldn’t help but feel impressed at their speed.
Ignoring the officer who was now knocking loudly against the window panes I sauntered back through the maze of corridors. At one point a large mirror caught my attention and for a moment I was hypnotised by my reflection. The scar, I realised, was almost healed.
Another really interesting take on this prompt. The hotel takes centre stage here and the ivy, a mere mention but that’s enough.
I did follow the thread of your plot but I did find the ending very much open to interpretation, which, in itself, can be a very good thing. The plot is quite involved and I did need to read it very closely.
I was intrigued about the letter that disappeared almost as soon as it had been read and would like a tad more detail here to explain that.
One grammar quibble: It’s an either / or thing where you say “I, nor anyone else…” Personally, I felt that should read, “Neither I, nor anyone else…”. Small point that certainly doesn’t detract from the story.
I was thoroughly intrigued by the story and the mystery but was confused at the ending. I felt that I missed something important. Granted I had a headache at the time, but I’m going to reread it until I figure it out! I love a story of intrigue!
Rory – glad to have you back!
Rumple – fixed the formatting. What are you using to write your stories? A quick trick to removing the formatting (what I do) is to paste it into notepad. Or when you paste it in the comment box – since you’re doing it via laptop, right click an d”paste as plain text”.
I have to say I am really q
dammit – stupid nails.
I have to say I am really quite impressed with the caliber of stories submitted so far.
You all really took this super weird prompt and came up with some incredible stories.
I’m polishing up my little foray into the mind of CarrieZ. Not sure if I love it, I keep messing with it. But it’s almost there!
I like it!!!
By Ken Cartisano.
‘I lay alone in the Hotel. Half-eaten by Ivy, in the shadow of a nearby mountain. I cared for it, and it cared for me…’
…in its own way.
The hotel stands in the shadow of that stark, looming mountain.
It blocks the sun all-year-round, so that the snow never melts. Even on a clear, blue, cloudless day, you won’t see the sun, only its reflection off of distant peaks: That, and the ubiquitous ivy.
An austere and imposing stone edifice, one has to wonder at the engineering obstacles that had to be overcome to erect so massive a structure in such unforgiving terrain. It adheres to the cliffs like lichen, or a massive geometric mushroom. I can hardly distinguish the point at which nature ends and hotel begins. I feel a pang of regret, as I’ve been given the formal, legal task of condemning this bastard refuge, to certain oblivion.
The cold is unrelenting, pervasive, daunting. One needs shelter to survive it. The freezing wind sings, whistles, and stings. The hotel anticipates me, the front door is ajar. The formal entrance is welcoming, if not warm.
There is no summer here. Spring and fall do not tarry long either.
The snow lies in great drifts and furrows. By early fall the drifts have become brittle and hollow, like a frozen crust, beneath the crust there’s more snow—and ivy.
When winter returns, she does so with a vicious, impersonal, vengeance.
I revel in the serenity. A tranquility of isolation brutally enforced by the power of nature. Forces held at bay by this strange duplicitous structure. Am I to become the instrument of its demolition? This queer specter that clings to the side of the mountain? It is a place beyond the end of the earth, ensconced at the top of the world. Can you imagine my surprise to find that I was not the hotel’s only guest? A small contingent of souls haunts her long wooden halls, they huddle and shiver in her frigid stone parlors.
While I spend more of my time in my room, one by one, stiff and emaciated guests are carried to the makeshift morgue and greenhouse, by two silent groundskeepers, who never trim the ivy.
The Hotel’s staff are also deaf and mute, but one can hardly call it a defect as they serve and fetch with choreographic precision. As the number of guests dwindles, so too, does the number of staff.
I etch my requests on a notepad and deliver it to the front desk, along with a generous donation to the Hotel. The desk clerk shows no emotion as he ignores the notes and stuffs them in a drawer, but my requisitions are filled and my instructions are followed with uncanny precision.
Between freezing, starvation, heart attacks and strokes, by mid-winter I am the Hotel’s only surviving guest. The deaf and silent staff are impressed with my tenacity, but detached and indifferent to pleasure or suffering.
In time, I too could barely leave my bed.
Left alone in my room, I pondered and wrote with renewed intensity, so much so that I failed to notice those initial tendrils of ivy as they slipped through weathered cracks or tiny gaps in window sills and siding.
I supped in my room, for a while at least, now ensconced in a garden of verdant green ivy. Astonishing. I finished my legal summation, a declaration of sacred status for the Hotel and half the mountain; applied my official seal, and handed it to the staff with strict, written instructions.
I earned the respite I enjoyed over the next few days and indulged myself with sedatives to help myself sleep, I might have lost a day or two, and wake to find my hands, feet, and neck bound and wrapped by clinging tendrils of ivy. The staff no longer answer my calls, and the room smells rich and loamy. I can no longer put pen to paper and am rapidly losing the motivation to do so anyway.
If my legal arguments hold up, and they must, it’ll be a very long time before anyone touches this mountain.
Or this hotel.
I’ve no strength left to resist the vines, or the will. The tendrils are tightening, everywhere, a firm and fatal embrace.
The extremities, the limbs, are the first to go numb, so I’ve simply left the recorder running. This morning I noticed that two more of my toes were gone, cinched off by the ivy. It’s so cold, I never felt a thing.
OMG! Don’t you know how dangerous it is to make me almost literally laugh out loud when I’m at work!!?? That was too funny! Or maybe I just needed a reason to laugh today. Thanks for that! Adi
Great to see you back in harness, so to speak.
This is a great piece of writing and I think you have really managed to solve the riddle that Carrie set out regarding the words, “half eaten by ivy.” You deal with that mountain too and I can see the hotel and feel the freezing cold wind.
Great stuff. It’s nice to get back into writing with our group on this site
Not the worst way to go, and this feels like a ballad of becoming one with Nature instead of the normal kind of gradual consumption by a Lovecraftian eldritch god, which is boring me at this point.
The guy in “The Catcher in the Rye” had delusions that he could be the savior of the youth (catching them from “falling”), and your guy is playing savior to the forces on the cliff itself, or is that just more of my goose chasing? I never read that book because I didn’t want the government to start watching me again …
Whatever. It was creepy, poetic, and good … with notes of philosophical.
“I lay alone in the hotel. Half-eaten by ivy and the shadow of a nearby mountain. I cared for it, and it cared for me…”
The writing on the crumpled sheet of heavy good quality paper that lay on the floor of the deserted hotel was faded. The sheet was nearly invisible in the thick layer of dust that cloaked everything. It was burnt around the edges as though it was part of a larger missive. Jonathan bent down to pick up the fragment and wondered why it had been burnt. He wondered what it was about. It was lying under a layer of cobwebs and dust near what was once the reception desk of a grand Gold Rush establishment.
It was a Sunday and he and his two brothers Tom and Joseph had gone exploring when they had found the remnants of what was once a grand hotel built during the latter years of the gold rush in Central Victoria. There were still several scales that would have been used to weigh the gold nuggets bought in by lucky miners on the reception desk. Several magnificent keys with the room tags hung on the wall behind the desk.
They had gone away for the long Queen’s birthday weekend in June to hunt for gold around the fields near Ballarat. Carrying ropes, sleeping gear, tents and metal detectors, and a warning from their mother to not fall down any old mine shafts, they slept out under the stars for the first night.
Their first night out they camped on an old miners’ road leading into the bush.
It was towards late afternoon when they came upon the track that led to a handful of derelict buildings – what looked like a general store from the lopsided sign that hung at a crazy angle from a metal bracket attached to a naked frame of the storefront; then, there was a roofless pub and next to it set back off the track a grand hotel with railings lined up outside evenly spaced.
“That’s probably where they hitched the horses and carriages.” Observed Joseph. Behind the building was the remnants of an enormous barn which Joseph also told the others was where they would have kept the horses and carriages of the hotel’s guests.
“The family historian.” Tom noted sarcastically.
“He’s right.” Jonathan said. “Leave him be.”
“Yeah, well, he doesn’t have to state the obvious all the time? Can’t half tell he’s a history teacher.”
“Oh alright Tom. We’ve heard it all before. Plug it, ok!” Jonathan moved quickly towards the broken stairway onto the once sweeping verandah into the ruined hotel building.
The double doors hung at a crazy angle. The early evening light from the western sun setting lit the huge entrance foyer and made dust patterns there as Jonathan and his two brothers tramped in. It was eerily quiet except for the noise of their feet on the floor littered with debris and the creaking of ancient timbers that had not been trodden on for many a decade.
There was the smell. Decaying meat and rotting leaf mulch. It hung on the air making breathing difficult. Jonathan felt his lungs struggle for clean pure air. Ever since he had stepped inside the old bluestone building, he wanted to walk quickly back to the entrance and outside to sit on the verandah steps and just breathe.
He had tried holding a cloth cap over his nose and mouth but that made breathing harder. So, he breathed in through his teeth and out his nose. It made the stench more bearable. However, he wondered about the toxins in the air he inhaled entering his lungs and body.
The upper layer of dried leaves and bones of small animals that had expired in the building crunched underfoot. The place obviously had not been inhabited, at least by anything human, for years.
The three of them examined the fragment of text where Joseph and wiped away dust and grime from the mahogany reception desk next to some old gold scales.
“Strange.” Said Joseph. “” wonder what he meant?”
“So what if it’s a she?” Broke in Tom. “How come smarty family historian has sleuthed it’s a male? Has it got balls?”
“Oh, shut up Tom.” Snapped Jonathan seeing Joseph dark brows crimp and his mouth twist in a tight grimace. “Why do you think it’s a male?” He queried his younger brother gently.
“Well, actually Tom is right”, Joseph replied, “It could very well be a female who penned this, but it’s unlikely given the high male population of the time on the goldfields and bearing in mind, those females who did come had, well, other talents in demand. They did not, for the most part, know their letters.”
Tom guffawed loudly. Jonathan knew better than to say any more.
“Let’s make camp here for the night.” He said and went outside to bring in their gear.
Joseph called out to him as he walked swiftly back to the entrance.
“Good idea.” He called back, “maybe there’re some serviceable beds in the rooms upstairs.”
Tom and Joseph both went up the stairs eager to explore. Jonathan was busy downstairs.
It took him half an hour to get all the bags and gear inside and he had started to prepare a makeshift meal of instant noodles. He had found the wood stoves in the kitchen were still serviceable and there was wood there. So he had built a fire and boiled the billy using water from one of their water bags.
Strange, he thought. He had not heard anything from the two upstairs for the best part of twenty minutes.
He walked to the bottom of the stairs and called out.
“Com’on you two. Food’s getting cold.”
He tried again.
“Hey, guys. It’s getting dark. Let’s eat.”
Silence. A few creaking floor boards, but no answering yell from either of his brothers.
He went up the stairs two at a time. There was a long hallway with rooms on either side. On some of them the roof had caved in, and ivy grew lush, clinging to the walls and rippling out into the hallway past rotted doorways and doors.
“Hey, Tom? Joe? Com’on guys, not funny. I’m not in the mood for hide and seek!”
He walked down the hallway to what must have once been a large penthouse suite. The roof was gone and the shadow of a mountain of rubble from mine pickings at the back of the hotel fell over the room making the light dimmer than the surrounding areas.
Where was Tom? Where was Joseph? He thought crossly.
Then his heart jumped to his mouth. Tom’s battered old akubra hat was perched atop what looked like a column twisted round with ivy. Yet, it was moving as if breathing. He moved in closer.
Two limbs covered with twisted ivy foliage reached out as if in a plea. He leapt back. They snaked forward and grasped him around the waist.
He heard the crackling and rustling of leaves. A whisper as they enclosed him. He whimpered as the vines forced his mouth open and the leaves rustled inside.
A nice ending to this prompt. You did a really good build-up and I, for one, did not see the end coming in the way that you wrote it and finished the boys off. Mind you, the way they were sniping at reach other, they would likely have killed each other before dawn anyway.
I have lots of ivy in my garden and I think I will keep a close eye on it and give it a wide berth as I pass it by.
Good to read your work again and I hope we can all get back together once more on this site.
Ok writers!What a great turnout! It’s good to be back!
Time is up and it’s time to vote!Remember you must vote for your story to count, you may not vote for yourself and you may not vote more than once.
Be sure to take time to read through ALL the stories as we have several submitted this go-round.
**If you are unable to read through all stories before voting in the next 24 hours just let us know, we can extend the voting time period.
Here is the link to the voting page: https://fictionwritersgroup.com/hotel-ivy-2022/
Good luck to all!
Ivy Green is the birthplace of Helen Keller, an American author, disability rights advocate, political activist and lecturer. She was born in West Tuscumbia, Alabama, in 1880. I’m sure most of you know that she suffered an illness at 19 months of age that left her totally blind and deaf. Her life was changed at age 7 when a legally blind teacher, Anne Sullivan, came into her life. She has several published books, essays and articles. She was a socialist in her time. She gave lectures and spoke amazingly clear for someone who was totally deaf.
This was an interesting prompt with some interesting results!
Your 1st Place winner is….”Ivy Green” by Adrienne Riggs!
2nd Place was a dead tie between “Hotel Ivy” by Ilana Leeds and “Omichronicler” by Rumplefinkies
3rd Place: “Alone and half-eaten, a plague on your house” by Ken Frape
4th Place: “Saved by a Mountain” by Phil Town
5th Place: “Deceit” by Rory (even though he didn’t vote, I left him in since I was busy drinking more margaritas than I meant to last night and didn’t have a chance to follow up with him)
Ilana’s “Hotel Ivy” had the story with the best Dialogue.
And the story with the Favorite Character? Every single voter picked a different character, including me (I vote before looking at the results). I thought surely two out of the 8 voters would have picked the same character. Nope.
We all loved different characters. So hats off to you all for creating such great story characters!
It’s good to be back in such great company. Well done to Adi, Ilana and Rumples. Very generous to give me third place instead of fourth.
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