Stewart C Baker is a Writers of the Future winner and has appeared in Flash Fiction Online, StarshipSofa, Nature Physics, and elsewhere. This is his third appearance in Galaxy’s Edge.

CUT-RATE COUPLES WEEKEND AT THE WITCH HOUSE INNE AND TAVERN (9 REVIEWS)

by Stewart C Baker

Enjoy a weekend getaway with your other half in our luxuriously updated replica of the original Witch House, a seventeenth-century cottage set in the heart of historic Arkham. A ten minute walk through the old town's picturesque alleys will earn you romantic river views and access to Pickman's Gallery and Portraiture, the Cats of Ulthar Window Seat Café, and the tree-lined vistas of Danvers State Park. Looking for a longer-term getaway with your sweetie? Ask about our travel packages to Innsmouth or other, more exotic, destinations!

Your purchase includes a two-night stay in our unusually spacious garret suite, two breakfasts from our tavern, and a goody basket. NO CHILDREN, FAMILY GROUPS, OR SINGLES. Sorry, we cannot guarantee third-party bookings. ABSOLUTELY NO POKEMON GO WHILE ON THE PREMISES, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. Free Wi-Fi!

Price:  your immortal soul $199.95, plus tax, if you use coupon code FHTAGN at checkout.

***

"Stay with Mistress"

(Review by Jenkin B., December 2, 2016, 5 out of 5 stars)

Sss, Jenkinn stay many nights with mistress, have many good time! Big rooms with good views. Nice walls. Many tasty treats! Everyone stay here, have many good time. Sss-nee-hee-hee.

(Reply by Keziah 'Nahab' Mason, proprietress) Mommy loves you too, snookums, yes she does, yes she does!

***

"Curiously angled gables! Relentlessly inevitable movements through obscure matrices!"

(Review by Frank Elwood, December 4, 2016, 1 out of 5 stars)

[comment unavailable, deleted by owner]

(Reply by Keziah 'Nahab' Mason, proprietress) I told you to stop contacting me, Elwood! What you, Gilman, and I had was a long time ago, and if you can't accept that it's over that's your problem, NOT mine and NOT MY GUESTS'!

***

"crappy wi-fi, gross stairs!!!"

(Review by Kelsey Jones, December 4, 2016, 1 out of 5 stars)

So, okay, I guess this is, like, one of those themed places? All "Historic Arkham" and stuff?

But it was SO. GROSS. Smelled like someone was using the stairs as a toilet. EW.

Anyway, the room was okay, I guess? But the wi-fi SUCKED. Which blew, because there's like, so many Pokémon Go spots in Arkham's old town! I tried to get them, right? But the app kept saying I was too far away, even though they were, like, RIGHT OUTSIDE. I couldn't get 4G either, which blew worse, so. . .

But, like, the weirdest part? My fiancé went down at like midnight to complain about the wi-fi to the manager, who's this batty old lady, right? And he NEVER came back. He left his shoes and suitcase and ALL his stuff, too.

Would NOT recommend!!!

(Reply by Keziah 'Nahab' Mason, proprietress) You were warned not to play Pokémon Go on the property. Given your disregard of what others tell you, it's no surprise your fiancé left you so abruptly!

***

"Mean owner and awful rooms."

(Review by Gillian Lu, December 4, 2016, 1 out of 5 stars)

Hi. I visited this inn with my boyfriend Derek, along with my sorority sister Kelsey and her fiancé. I just want to reinforce her review, especially since the so-called 'proprietress' has seen fit to come on here and make fun of her when she's been ditched by the man she was planning to marry.

We arrived a little late, and the elderly woman at the desk (the owner, I guess?) was a huge b-word about it! She gave us this total stink-eye, and said rooms were reserved for people with a proper respect for time. I couldn't tell if she was joking or what, but Kelsey was dead set on staying, so we talked her into giving us whatever was available, even if it wasn't our reserved room.

She put Kelsey in the gable suite, which she said was 'the most secluded room in the house' and that it would 'transport them to new frames of mind', and a bunch of other weird stuff like that. Derek and I got some cruddy first-floor room that looked out at the wall of the next house over. There was a rat hole next to the door, and our sheets were chewed up, but the worst thing was that when I went into the bathroom to pee there was this old man standing in the shower, muttering to himself.

Yes, you read that right. There was a shower person. He looked even older than the owner, had this long ragged beard, and his eyes were all bugged out. I screamed (duh) when I saw him, and Derek ran in all macho angry.

I got him calmed down, but then shower guy gasped, shivered, stepped out of the bathtub, and grabbed me by the shoulders. I managed not to scream this time--he looked terrified more than threatening--but then he said, "I've seen . . . everything!"

Derek got the wrong idea and tore the guy off me, swearing he'd beat him to a pulp. (Probably breaking up with Derek, to be honest. Spare me the posturing!)

Anyway, look. This place is not worth your money. There are newer, nicer hotels a few blocks away by Miskatonic University that are staffed with decent human beings and don't have weird shower people.

(Reply by Keziah 'Nahab' Mason, proprietress) I'm so sorry you had such a bad experience, Gillian. I'm afraid the man you encountered is someone who's been bothering me for a long time, and sometimes harasses my guests. I've alerted certain important beings about his latest intrusion, and assure you it won't happen again.

Ever.

As a way of making up for everything, I'd like to offer you another stay free of charge. Please let me know when would be most convenient for you! Perhaps in late April, around Walpurgis Night? The historical society puts on reenactments that are to die for.

***

"Dated rooms, with a noisy bar downstairs, but can't beat the price!"

(Review by August D., February 6, 2017, 4 out of 5 stars)

Came here with my girlfriend for a weekend escape from Boston. Owner seemed nice enough--a bit hard of hearing--and she was definitely responsive to my complaints.

We had the gable room, and the bathroom (up against the back wall, with this steeply-sloped ceiling) was a bit odd. I dropped my soap in the shower, and couldn't reach it no matter how far I stretched. I still say violet is a strange color for bathroom lighting, too, even if the owner insisted it was for Valentine's Day.

Then there was the noise. I kept hearing this weird, high-pitched piping from somewhere. It sounded like it came from behind the walls, but when I called the front desk the owner said they were hosting the Arkham Pan Piper Society that day in the tavern. The heater in the room made these annoying scratching sounds all night, too.

Still, it was a cheap weekend out and we enjoyed walking around Arkham. If you don't go in expecting a 5-star hotel, I'd say a night or two at the Witch House Inne is worth every penny.

***

"Quaint quarters in the heart of historic Arkham."

(Review by Albert Wilmarth, PhD, February 16, 2017, 4 out of 5 stars)

I must say I don't see why this place has such a low rating. The original Witch House was an historic building before that unfortunate incident back in the ’20s. The replica might date from the 1960s, but believe me when I say it's just as in touch with Arkham's history as the original.

That's more than can be said for the other reviewers here, frankly. If young people today took any effort to learn about their past, we'd have fewer problems in society! Certainly this place would have a much higher rating.

(Reply by Keziah 'Nahab' Mason, proprietress) Thank you for your lovely comments, Dr. Wilmarth. It's always a pleasure to host Miskatonic alumnus faculty. Please let the current head of literature know that my offer regarding the city's oral traditions still stands, and I hope to see you and your lovely wife again someday.

***

"Where's the option for zero stars?"

(Review by Gillian Lu, April 30, 2017, 1 out of 5 stars)

I stayed here back in December and had a pretty terrible experience, but decided to give it another try since I was offered a free stay.

The owner was pleasant enough when I arrived, with no sign of the nastiness in some of her comments here. She gave me and my date, Aiden, the gable suite, as well. Nice views from the window, no rat holes near the door, and best of all no shower person! Aiden and I had a nice dinner from the tavern to top it off (Yuggoth minestrone—tasty, whatever it was), and I was all set to upgrade my rating of this place and chalk my first time down to bad luck.

The owner even invited me to go with her to see the Walpurgis Night reenactments the historical society puts on in the next valley over, but Aiden and I were pretty beat, so we said no thanks and headed up to bed.

Aiden slept like a rock (he always does), but I couldn't get comfortable. I kept thinking there was somebody watching me, even though the room was empty and I'd propped a chair in front of the bathroom door (just in case). Definitely agree with the earlier reviewer about the noise from the heater, by the way. The later it got, the more purposeful the scratches sounded. Like something was trying to get in from outside.

When I finally did fall asleep, I had these super bizarre dreams involving the owner, this tall, skinny dude with no face, and some kind of little brown rat-thing with fingers. Ugh. The less said about that, the better. I woke up in a cold sweat and decided I'd go down to the tavern and get a drink instead.

It wasn't very late (maybe 10:30?) but the whole place was totally empty. No rugged ship captains nursing their beers, no Miskatonic professors trying to forget the horrors of a new semester. The owner wasn't behind the front desk, either, and she didn't answer when I rang the bell.

I was about to go back to bed when I heard slow, cautious footsteps coming down the stairs. I went to check it out, but nobody was there.

Okay, I thought. Old house sounds. But then I heard a little kid's voice sobbing at the top of the stairs. I couldn't see the top of the staircase (which still smells kind of gross) and by this point, I was pretty creeped out. All the same, I wasn't about to abandon some child who was scared and alone.

I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, and ran up the staircase as fast as I could. There was a muffled thud from somewhere nearby as I reached the landing at the top, but—again—there was nobody there.

After that, I was beyond done. I opened the door to my room and leaped into bed. I felt pretty silly at first when I woke up the next morning, but then Aiden pointed out these misshapen bite marks on my neck (he swears he isn't into that kind of thing) and I had this weird sunburn all over.

We went to check out straight away, and the owner said she hoped I'd had as much fun as she had last night, then gave me this little grin I can only describe as evil.

Never.

Going.

Back!

The worst part, though, is that it's been a week since I stayed and those dreams haven't stopped. I feel, just . . . exhausted. All the time. It's like I'm not getting any sleep at all, like I've been travelling long distances every night. I swear one time I even had mud on my pjs. But Aiden says I'm out before he is and it's almost impossible to wake me.

I keep remembering Kelsey's fiancé running out on her, and can't shake this feeling that sometime soon, Aiden will wake up in the morning and I will have disappeared, too. That I will have gone somewhere nobody can find me.

***

"Closed?"

(Comment by Randolph C., May 7, 2017)

I say, anybody know if this establishment is still in operation?

I had rather hoped to stay a while and examine a text said to be owned by the woman who runs the place, so I booked my sojourn through one of those third-party websites and clicked the lowest fare—a two-night stay in the gable suite with a goody basket, which I thought was a dashed good deal.

But when I arrived around dusk, what should I find? The door bolted closed from the outside and a curious violet light emanating from the gable window. The room I'd booked myself, mind you! As I watched, I heard a strange susurration, almost beyond the very edge of hearing, followed by a rather more audible child's scream and an old woman's high-pitched cackle, and the light vanished with a hideous little pop.

I loitered inconspicuously for a while, hoping someone would at least nip down and open the door, but nothing else transpired.

Bit of a disappointment, really, and not at all good for my nerves.

***

"The rats, the rats in the walls!"

(Review by Howard de la Poer, May 28, 2017, 3 out of 5 stars)

They never believe me—they never listen!—but I have seen the mad faceless God, and heard his thrice-damned pipes beneath the scurrying which emanates from that grotesquely angled gable wall! Endless bridges of the filthiest obsidian with horrible creatures--bodies like rats, but their faces like--like--No! Help! Someone help! They got poor Ed already, and now they come for me! I can hear it still, that scurrying, scurrying . . .

(Reply by Gillian 'Azath' Lu, guest relations manager) Hi, Howard. So sorry to hear about your bad experience with us. I'm afraid those rats have been plaguing the residents of this inn for a long time. You'll be happy to hear that I've taken the problem in hand by getting myself a nice big tomcat. His name is Nyarl, he's inky black—like the spaces between the stars—and he's very well-acquainted with rats.

In any case, if you ever recover from this nervous episode (and who knew they had Internet access in the sanitarium, folks? Ha ha!), Keziah I would love to have you back at the Witch House Inne and Tavern. I'll reserve our finest room—we call it 'the Sultan's Chamber'—free of charge, and I promise that once you've arrived, you'll find yourself utterly unable to complain about a single thing.

Copyright © 2017 by Stewart C Baker