This story is part of our 'Unforgettable hotel nights' series, featuring tales from luxury hotel guests which were sent in for our recent travel writing competition.
When I was fourteen and my sister Eleanor thirteen, we travelled with our elderly aunt and uncle to Jersey: an exotic addition to our limited holiday experiences. It was one of only a handful of times we’d stepped foot in a hotel, and we felt grown-up in our double bedroom. The hotel was hundreds of years old: a converted coach-house with history in its rough stone walls. On entering the room, a painting of a ballerina on the wall who bore an uncanny resemblance to me instantly fired our teenage imaginations.
We were allowed a glass of wine with dinner - though I can’t blame the night’s events on this indulgence. Back upstairs, we settled down into our unfamiliar beds, high on the illicit thrill of watching TV from beneath a duvet. It grew late, our film ended, and we turned our backs to each other to go to sleep.
Lying in the dark, the indefinable notion occurred to me that something was in the room with us. I’ve never been able to define it: the closest I can reach is ‘a feeling’. Like knowing someone’s watching you, with no way of explaining how. I felt we were being watched, and I felt it from the foot of our bed. Eleanor fidgeted beside me, I knew she wasn’t asleep.
“Elle.” I whispered.
“I don’t want to creep you out, but can you…feel something?” I felt ridiculous, melodramatic. I thought she’d laugh at me.
She sat up and turned the light on.
“There’s something at the end of the bed and I hate it.”
Each of us was terrified. Each of us knew the other was terrified and tried to show she wasn’t terrified in order not to scare the other even more. Reluctant to leave what felt like safety, I forced myself out of bed and turned on every light in the room, and in the ensuite bathroom. I turned on the television, and found another film.
“If you go to sleep, Elle, I will kill you. I’m not staying awake in here on my own.”
2am. 3am. We were exhausted, but too afraid for the vulnerability of sleep. We watched programmes we never knew existed. Finally I heard Eleanor’s breathing deepen, and realised to my horror I was alone. Leaving the TV on – there wasn’t enough to distract me from whatever it was that had so scraped our girlish nerves, I chose a mix CD of upbeat songs. Plugging myself into my portable CD player, I turned the volume up and tried to forget myself.
Waking up with an earphone digging uncomfortably into my temple, I realised it was morning. Our fears seemed absurd in the rays of the next day. A knock on the door heralded our dignified aunt.
“Did you sleep well?”
“Not a wink. Our room’s haunted.” It was a long shot, but I tried the truth.
“What nonsense!” The truth failed.
“Not really – but it’s terribly noisy. We really didn’t sleep at all. We’ll have to change.”
On the next night, we slept in room with a landscape painting of wonderful blandness, and no indescribable feelings to it at all.
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