Emlyn was beginning to get tired. It had been a long day of driving and he was desperate to get some sleep. The quiet, country road stretched out in front of him, with nothing but slowly, swaying trees either side of the road for company as the shy moon hid behind the clouds.
His eyes grew heavy and he thought about pulling over somewhere to rest for an hour or two, and by happy coincidence, or maybe dastardly design, that was when Emlyn saw the sign for “Ruth’s”.
It was small and modestly lit, so he almost missed it, but there it was. A small sign up ahead, reassuring and essential. Emlyn headed right for it, almost salivating at the thought of a hotel room with an actual bed, after hours and hours of driving through the Welsh countryside.
He wouldn’t have made the trip at all, but his mother always insisted at Easter.
“Emlyn Robert White!” She’d cry. “I want this whole family together, just once.” Hearing the same demand every year made it seem a little less reasonable, if he was being honest, but nevertheless, he made the drive up (or down, depending on which way you hold the map) from London to his childhood home of Prestatyn.
He would have been there already, but as usual, Emlyn had dawdled and dithered, perhaps hoping to be late, to avoid the greeting chorus of “You never come to visit!” and “When am I getting a grandchild?” So, a four and a half hour drive had turned into twice that, and he was ready to get some rest at the hotel before finishing the last hour of the drive in the morning.
Emlyn would come to regret his dawdling and dithering, but as is often the case, he didn’t realise it yet, and that takes us back to the car, his heavy eyes, and the lonely night with just one, small light of hope before him.
He followed the sign down to a small side lane, and came across a house. It looked empty, with no lights in the windows. The door loomed large in front of him and there was no sign of life anywhere.
He checked his watch, hoping that ten fifteen wasn’t too late to check in. As he raised his hand to the door to knock on the door, a voice behind him stopped him in his tracks.
“Fy ngŵr!” Emlyn spun around, searching for the source of the shrill voice, but there was nobody to be found. He backed up against the door, breathless as he looked across the empty scene before him. There was his car, the lonesome road, and the slowly swaying trees. Nothing else. He must be tired, simply seeing (or hearing) things out of exhaustion.
“Get a hold of yourself…” Emlyn whispered to himself as he managed to get his breathing back to a sensible rhythm. He must have been imagining things. Voices don’t just appear in the Welsh countryside. Not as early as ten fifteen, anyway.
“Hello love.” Another voice behind him, Emlyn jumped in fright as the door opened and he fell into the hallway of the house. Staring up, he was greeted by the sweet smile of a woman that he could only assume was the aforementioned ‘Ruth’. Her eyes were kind and she reached out to help him to his feet. “Are you looking for a bed for the night?”
Emlyn nodded, gratefully and tried to return her smile. “Yes.” He muttered, brushing himself down. “Please.” He continued, remembering his manners. She guided him into the house, simply decorated but cozy and settled him down on the sofa.
“Do you want a drink, my love?” She asked, heading to the kitchen as he stared around the living room. It was a quaint little place, and he was grateful for a little warmth and comfort after hours in the car. The fireplace roared, and he stood to take a proper look around.
“Do you get a lot of visitors?” He called out, examining the many photos of Ruth with smiling guests that littered the mantelpiece.
“Oh yes, my love.” Her reply came from the kitchen. “It’s the kind of place people never leave for too long.” Emlyn nodded, looking down at his phone, and frowning at the lack of signal. “I’m sure you’ll be very comfortable here.” Ruth appeared from the kitchen, two mugs in hand, with a big smile.
“Do you have a phone I can use?” Emlyn asked, taking one of the mugs with a grateful smile. “My Mum will be worried about where I’ve got to.”
“Oh, of course!” Ruth placed her own mug on the coffee table and led Emlyn towards the phone, which was situated on a little table just by the stairs. “Your room is the one right at the top of the stairs, when you’re ready.”
Emlyn watched Ruth ascend the stairs as he dialled his Mother’s number. The dial tone was soon replaced by a voice, and while I wish, dear reader that I could tell you it was Emlyn’s Mother, alas, I cannot.
“Fy ngŵr!” Emlyn dropped the phone in shock. His eyes darting around the empty hallway, knowing he wouldn’t find anything but searching anyway. He hung up the phone, taking one deep breath, and then another, deciding that all he needed was some sleep.
Sadly, sleep would be in short supply for Emlyn. He took himself off to bed, but he just couldn’t quite get to sleep. His body was buzzing with anxiety, and just as he’d manage to quiet it, the voice would return to taunt him. The voice wouldn’t show itself, even after Emlyn pleaded. It just cried out those same words and wailed loudly, right in his ear.
“Fy ngŵr!” The voice cried out again, just as chilling as the first time he had heard it.
“I don’t speak bloody Welsh!” Emlyn whined in frustration, securing the pillow over his head to try and drown out the incessant weeping and wailing of the voice.
“Emlyn…” Now, that, he understand very clearly. He opened his eyes, slowly moving the pillow away and staring around the room. It still seemed normal, except the window, over on the far side of the room. It had been closed when he had gone to sleep, he was certain of it, but now, the curtains flitted in and out of the open window as moonlight poured in, and a shadow lurked behind, seemingly staring right at him.
Emlyn stayed up as long as he could, desperately trying to figure out what he should do. The voice began chanting those same words, over and over, again and again, and all Emlyn could do was… well, nothing. For hours, he sat on the bed, in a war of tired stares with the open window, and eventually, he lost, as he was always doomed to do.
At a little after three, Emlyn awoke again. The voice was quiet now, barely a whisper, just behind his left ear.
“Emlyn.” The whisper was so gentle, and though he tried to ignore it, he was certain that he could feel a cold, clammy hand, slowly stroking his cheek. “Perygl, fy ngŵr.” He just wanted freedom from the torment of this strange, horrid night, but it would never come.
“I don’t know what you want.” Emlyn sobbed. He didn’t even remember when he’d started to cry, his tears born of frustration and terror. It had to be a bad dream, he told himself. Oh, how I wish, dear reader, that I could tell you it was a bad dream, but alas.
“Fy ngŵr.” The voice seemed to be drifting away, fading out as it travelled across the room, and for a moment, he thought he might finally be alone.
Emlyn looked up from the pillow, as a long, spindly leg crept through the window, followed by another. The voice called out again, from the window as twisted, skeletal arms poked through.
Emlyn sat up, speechless and shaking as the creature towered before him. A hag, tall and thin with long, sharp claws and huge, black wings on it’s back stood across from him, the wings flexing and flapping with every breath that it took.
As the creature spoke, Emlyn observed that the creature’s mouth was full of sharp fangs “Perygl, fy ngŵr.” He shuddered, enthralled in it’s glassy gaze, unable to look away as it cried out to him again. “Perygl, fy ngŵr.”
The creature stood by the open window, staring over at Emlyn, with an almost sad expression. Speaking only two words, words that he would never understand.
The creature pointed towards the bedroom door, but Emlyn didn’t dare to look away from it, and as their eyes met again, he could swear he saw tears falling from the creature’s empty black eyes, down onto it’s pale, sunken cheeks.
The creature reached out a hand, whispering his name softly, as searing pain shot through his body. Emlyn finally broke the creature’s gaze and let his eyes drop. The sheets were slowly being painted with the story of his demise, his blood, seeping through the soft cotton as a shadow pushed him down onto the bed. He stared up, growing weaker by the second, Ruth’s manic face coming into focus, as she drove a knife into his chest, over and over. Just behind her, the weeping creature, it’s eyes streaming with tears as Emlyn struggled for breath.
Morning arrived slowly, but Emlyn didn’t greet it. You see, Ruth was right when she said that her humble little hotel was the kind of place you’d stay forever. She just didn’t mention that he wouldn’t have a choice.
Much like the erratic driver on the highway, tailgating you to tell you about the killer in your backseat, the mysterious creature that Emlyn feared had spent several, futile hours trying to tell him of his fate, but alas, dear reader, the language barrier was just too much to overcome.