Like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, one would never suspect such horrors from a bouncy ball…
The Client glanced around. His black lips pulled into a slight frown. “It seems a little…light.” He waved a hand.
Sunshine poured in through the windows that lined three sides of the indoor pool area. It made the surface of the water glimmer, and almost made this place feel sane.
“How can you even show this to me?”
What did he expect with the budget he’d given me? I stowed my irritation and plastered on my best smile. “It is difficult to get a true contrast without at least part of the day in true light.”
The Client scoffed. “Childish nonsense.” He turned his gold eyes on me. “Said by those who have yet to embrace true darkness.” He then looked into the camera.
True darkness? This guy was only a step away from Goth. He was no creature of the arcane. Unfortunately, I’d drawn the short straw when his name had come in, so I got to deal with him. Amada was going to pay. “It is well within your price range to add light blockers here.” I pointed to the windows surrounding the hotel pool. “If you’re willing to up your budget we could make them retractable.”
“That won’t be necessary.” He waved a hand. “Show me the pool.”
I shivered, hoping the cameraman hadn’t caught it.
The pool. The reason this guy wanted this place, and the reason so many others had turned it down. This abandoned hotel had become somewhat of a legend at the network. This Client was the sixty-forth we’d shown it to. People had come from across the world, and they all wanted the place, until they saw what lived in the pool.
I sighed and gestured to the cameraman to stop filming. This was the deal. No one knew what was in the pool. We had witches standing by to erase the memory from all of the clients. Most begged for it. Those that didn’t were weeping too hard to speak.
They left me with just enough to know what to do. I never remembered exactly what happened, but it always sent a shiver down my spine.
When the cameras were down, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a rubber bouncy ball, about an inch in diameter. They liked colors, and this one looked like a patchwork quilt, or one of those cubes with nine squares on each side that you had to turn and solve.
“What’s that?” the Client asked.
“The trigger,” I said. “Are you sure about this?” I asked. I had to ask. It was in the contract. We had to give them one last chance to back out. A few victims hadn’t reacted well to memory wiping, and we didn’t want to get sued. Again. That’s also why anyone who toured this hotel paid us to do so.
“I’m sure,” he said.
No reason to draw it out. I remembered that it didn’t matter if it was light outside. That actually made it better.
I thumbed the bouncy-ball, took a breath, then threw it into the middle of the pool.
The natural course of events should have been for it to slap the water, cause a splash and an indent, then bob on the surface as the tiny waves dissipated.
But not this ball.
It hit the water and bounced off as if it had been concrete. A thunk sounded once. Twice. Then a third time as the ball hit the far window.
The Client turned to me. “Is that it? The water makes it bounce?”
“Wait.” I didn’t look at him. What I lacked in memory of the horrors here I made up in with the crystal clear memories of every client’s reaction.
The ball slowly bounced to a stop. Or almost did. Instead, a giggle sounded, and the ball swooped up into the air and hit the water again. It passed us, hit the wall, and went back.
Another giggle came. Then a third. Then another ball appeared.
Just like that a hundred specters, all children, materialized. They all wore pillow cases. None had eyes in their sockets. Crazed smiles accompanied the giggles as the children lunged to catch the balls. With their empty sockets. An air more sinister than any I had ever felt surrounded us. The cameraman wet his pants.
This was when the clients usually figured out that the balls were eyes, and that these children were the ones that had been sacrificed in the hotel. I expected to hear a scream. Instead, the Client stepped forward.
“Beautiful,” he said.
I stared at him. “What?”
He reached out a hand and snatched an eyeball out of the air. He examined the small orb, picking a hair off of it, before throwing it back at the water. “All of them sacrificed so one man could see the moment of his death.”
“So the legends go,” I said, surprised my voice remained steady.
The Client’s lips parted in a genuine smile, showing his filed teeth. “I’ll take it.”
“You will?” I asked.
His attention returned to the children. “Oh yes. I will.”