QSFers FE Feeley, Jr. And Jamie Fessenden have a new MM horror/ghost story out: Borderland. This is a re-release.
They were young.
In the prime of life and recently married.
And then the diagnosis came.
George and Jason make arrangements to travel back to George’s home state of Vermont so he may pass away in the town where he grew up, but a terrible storm diverts the couple into the gates of an out-of-the-way hotel called Borderland.
Sure, the employees are well dressed and polite. Sure, the food and entertainment are old-time fare. But it’s all a schtick, right?
Or is there something far more sinister at work here?
When the guests were ready, Tilly took them upstairs to the room she’d prepared. One of the men appeared to be ill and was unable to make it farther than the first landing before he had to stop. The sight of him, pale and wheezing, filled the young maid with dread.
Please, Lord, don’t let him be contagious.
“Are you all right?” his companion asked anxiously.
“I’m fine. I just need to catch my breath.”
“Dammit!” The other man whirled on Tilly, who stood waiting halfway up the second flight of stairs. “Aren’t hotels required to have elevators?”
Tilly was baffled by the question. An elevator seemed a tremendous extravagance for a building with only three floors. “I’m sorry, sir. We don’t have one.”
“It’s okay, Jason,” the first man said. “I’m fine.” He glanced up at Tilly. “Is that the last flight of stairs?”
“No problem!” He seemed to steel himself and moved forward, the man he had called Jason holding onto his elbow as if to catch him if he fell. He was able to make it to the upper landing, and there they all paused again for him to catch his breath before Tilly led them into the hallway.
Unfortunately, there was no way to get to their room without passing by the room where Mr. Martinez had…passed away. The door was closed, but having been opened earlier, the stench lingered outside it. Tilly saw both men’s eyes widen, and Jason covered his nose with one hand as they walked past.
“Please accept my apologies for the smell,” Tilly said, quickening her pace and waving them forward to lure them away from it. “One of our previous guests left a tray of food under his bed and neglected to tell us when he checked out. We discovered it just this afternoon. It must have been rotting for days under there!”
She’d never been particularly good at lying, and she could tell that these men didn’t completely believe her story. But she’d found them a room far away from this one, so they shouldn’t be bothered. Hopefully, Thomas would have it all cleaned up by tomorrow morning and the two men would forget all about it.
The guest room she’d chosen for them was at the far end of the hall in the back corner. It was one of the largest in the hotel and beautifully furnished. The cherry wood four-poster bed was enormous, and Tilly had put on fresh linens for the guests. It even had a matching step stool. There was a large fireplace opposite the bed; against the inner wall was a large writing secretary with a multitude of drawers and a comfortable cherry wood writing chair. A beautiful cherry wood wardrobe stood beside it with a mounted floor-length mirror in the center, flanked by doors inlaid with birds-eye maple. Windows on two sides of the room looked out upon the west garden and the topiary maze in the back of the hotel.
“Oh my God, George!” Jason exclaimed as they entered. “This is amazing!”
The sickly man—George—smiled and walked past him to run his hand up one of the wooden posts on the bed. “My grandmother used to have furniture like this. It must be at least a hundred years old!”
“All of the furnishings were bought shortly after the hotel was built,” Tilly informed him. “That would be sometime in the late 1890s.” She doubted anything was much more than fifty years old.
Jason wandered over to the north window and peered out. “Wow. That’s…creepy.”
He was looking out at the maze, Tilly knew. As George joined him at the window, she said, “Unfortunately, Mr. Harvey—our gardener—isn’t up to maintaining the hedges these days. Thomas helps out when he has the time, but the maze has fallen a bit by the wayside.”
George chuckled. “I like it. Like something out of a Stephen King novel. I’d love to explore it if the rain lets up tomorrow.”
“If you say so,” his friend said, shaking his head.
Then they did something Tilly found rather strange. George leaned close to Jason and planted a gentle kiss on the man’s temple, which wasn’t that unusual for a close friend. What was unusual was that Jason turned his head and kissed George back—directly on the mouth. While Tilly had seen men being affectionate before, it had never been quite like that. However, if Miss Thibault had drilled anything into her over the years, it was to do her job and not worry about things that were not her concern.
“There is a bathroom directly across the hall,” she said when the two broke the kiss. George looked at her, a slightly embarrassed smile spreading across his face when he realized she’d been watching. Jason’s expression was defiant, however, as if he expected her to be shocked. It was enough to make Tilly determined to act as if she’d seen nothing out of the ordinary. “I’ll have Thomas bring up your bags…as soon as I can track him down. Is there anything else I can do for you at the moment?”
“No,” George said. “Thank you. I think we’re fine.”
Tilly smiled and gave them a brief curtsey. “I’ll leave you then. If you need anything at all, there’s a pull cord by the fireplace. That will ring for us. Don’t forget, dinner is at half past seven.”
F.E. Feeley Jr is a believer in magic, in music, in literature, art, and those things that connect us all. Born in Detroit, Michigan, Feeley is a veteran of the United States Armed Services. Feeley has written eight novels in the past six years, including Memoirs of the Human Wraiths, Closer, When Heaven Strikes, The Color of Love, Borderland, and Hallelujah. Feeley has published a collection of Poetry in his book, Heaven Underneath the Sound of the World.
Married to the love of his life, John, Frederick resides in Southeast Texas where they take care of their cat, Ms. Abigail Adams.
Jamie Fessenden set out to be a writer in junior high school. He published a couple short pieces in his high school’s literary magazine and had another story place in the top 100 in a national contest, but it wasn’t until he met his partner, Erich, almost twenty years later, that he began writing again in earnest. With Erich alternately inspiring and goading him, Jamie wrote several screenplays and directed a few of them as micro-budget independent films. He then began writing novels and published his first novella in 2010.
After nine years together, Jamie and Erich have married and purchased a house together in the wilds of Raymond, New Hampshire, where there are no street lights, turkeys and deer wander through their yard, and coyotes serenade them on a nightly basis. Jamie recently left his “day job” as a tech support analyst to be a full-time writer.