Faith, Love, and Nightmares

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

A family vacation to Koto (the City of Faith, Love, and Reason), to out to be a nightmare.

It was drizzling the rain now as Mark Anders drove the family Jeep down the two lane highway through the central regions of Mexico. They had now come out of the arid grasslands of Tamaulipas state and were heading into the more tropical areas south of Tampico. Before long, they would reach the city of Koto; the final destination of this two and a half day road trip which they had made down from Texarkana, Arkansas. Mark was a factory engineer from that city and was more than happy to have a week vacation off to spend with his wife, son, and daughter. This vacation had been more than two months in the making. His wife, Melissa, had been desiring to take a trip to Mexico for a long time. Mark had been hesitant to do so out of his fear of the cartels that roamed through Northern Mexico and since he spoke very little Spanish. Yet his wife had explained to him that whatever happened in Mexico could easily happen to him in the area around Texarkana, Arkansas; and also that speaking Spanish was not a necessity in this day and age when most people around the world spoke at least a limited amount of English. 

Their decision to travel in Mexico had changed slightly when he and Melissa had read about the many attractions and natural beauty around the American territory of Koto down in Mexico’s southern half. Mark had used Google to plot a course and realized that it was only a seven hour drive from Brownsville, Texas. They had thought about several different locations for their family vacation, but going outside of the United States was their plan this year, but were interested in going to a place that was on U.S. soil. Koto was a U.S. territory that was much easier to get to than Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. This along with it’s many attractions made it a popular tourist spot for Americans living on the mainland. Their children, Aiden and Alice, even agreed that Koto was the place they should go. Therefore, they marked the trip on their calendar and planned everything. 

Mark and his family had left Texarkana on a Friday afternoon and had driven to Dallas to stay the night with Melissa’s brother who lived in the Dallas area. Melissa had suggested flying to Koto from Dallas, but they decided against it because they wanted to see Mexico and Mark preferred road trips to flying on vacations. After staying the night with their relatives in a community just south of Dallas, they drove the next ten hours down to Brownsville on the Mexican border. They spent the night there and enjoyed the things that the city had to offer and left early the next morning to head on down to Koto; their destination on this road trip through Texas and Mexico.

Everything had been going perfect until this rain had begun to drizzle down from the sky. It was graduating growing harder and Mark had turned on his windshield wipers. Melissa was now searching for the local weather on her phone as they now wondered if they were about to drive into a tropical storm. 

“There’s no call in the weather for a storm,” Melissa stated, “At least not until tonight. We should be okay until we get to the hotel in Koto. How much further did you say it was?”

“We should be there in less than an hour,” Mark answered his wife, “The traffic will probably slow quite a bit when we get near the city though as traffic leading into this city is always bad according to what I have heard.”

Mark had heard the testimonies of many people who had came to Koto from the U.S. mainland over the past couple of years who spoke of how horrible auto commuter traffic could be during the evening. This was especially true when entering the city, as there was only the one major highway leading into the city.

“Why don’t we take one of the back roads into the city,” his wife suggested, “It might be much easier with traffic than taking the way everyone else takes. That is the way that me and my ex-boyfriend used to get around.”

Mark could not help but roll his eyes when he heard Melissa mention her ex. She had spoken of the man more than he preferred to hear, but he knew that she must have some interesting memories with him. He had clearly been an eccentric who did sketchy things all of the time such as take back roads and break the speed limit on them to get to a location faster. Mark was not the time of man who did such things, but he wondered if it would save him in this situation. 

“Alright,” Mark stated, “Let’s try it. Your boyfriend never did manage to get a speeding ticket on those backroads, so why should I. These Mexican police probably don’t care about someone speeding on a back road; they have far more important things to deal with. The cartels around here should keep them distracted.”

Melissa grinned at him, as she clearly was pleased with this level of adventure and taking of risks that he was not normally prone to. Her past boyfriends had all been risk takers, but Mark was not like them. He usually followed the rules too perfectly and that was the one thing that she seemed disappointed in him with. Therefore, he decided that now he would take the risk of getting lost in a country whose language he did not speak well. He knew that he could always use the language translator on his phone to ask for directions if he ever got lost; which he had used to speak to foreign speakers in the past to break the language barrier. 

Mark took one glance at the screen of his phone that showed the route they were supposed to be taking and turned the route off which he had been following. He told Melissa to direct him instead using the maps on her own phone. He drove for another ten minutes and his wife told him to take a road to the left. After turning onto this road, they drove for a while. They enjoyed the tropical scenery as they drove along this narrow two lane road in the direction of Koto. Melissa and their children took several pictures with their phones of the foliage. Mark was able to stop on the side of the road so that they could take the pictures; something he would not have been able to do on the main road into the city. He was beginning to be glad that he had come this way. 

As they drove closer to the city, they began to a large population of people. Tiny buildings made of makeshift materials lined the narrow road. Dogs and other animals roamed aimlessly through the streets just as many people wandered around. These people were not the type of people Mark had expected to find in Koto though. These were men and women who appeared to live in extreme poverty. These rustic buildings were the homes of these poor souls who lived out a meek existence in this community. Mark realized after a few moments that he was in one of the more than forty slums that surrounded the city of Koto. 

After learning that he was driving through a slum of the city, Mark instantly became nervous. He had heard horror stories from more than one person of the slums that surrounded the city. They were known by many as a place one should avoid because of the dangers that lurked there. This was where all of the Mexicans and other people who were not allowed to live in the city of Koto came to live. They were denied entry into Koto because their beliefs did not match those of the CREW church, but were not prohibited from setting up makeshift communities around the city. Therefore, the city of Koto was almost entirely surrounded by these extremely densely crowded slums with the exception of the main highway going into the city. This was why people suggested against taking other roads into Koto. 

Mark was now nervous about the situation he had gotten him and his family into. He tried to hide this nervousness from his wife, but he way of reading him was more powerful than his suppression of emotions. She was looking around at all of the buildings and people that were crowded along the narrowing road that went into the city, and she appeared to be learning the same facts that he was learning. They had came into a place where they had been told by others not to go and they had done so thinking that it would save them the time of having to drive through the mess of traffic on the main highway. This was worse than anything they might experience on that road though. 

“We’ve gotten into the slums,” Melissa stated the obvious to him, “This is not the place where we want to be. You should turn the car around and go the other way. We aren’t too deep into the ghetto yet, and we should be able to go back. This place is very dangerous; I can already tell by looking at it.”

Mark looked around at those who surrounded his vehicle on all sides. The street was so densely packed with people that he did not think he could make a turn easily. His and Melissa’s SUV was one of the few motor vehicles on this road that was now crowded with mopeds and bicycles. These lanes would be very hard to turn around and go the other way. 

“The street is too crowded,” he told Melissa, “We can’t turn around now. The only way that we can go is forward. Let’s just hope and pray that we don’t run into any trouble.”

“This place looks very poor,” Aiden said from the backseat as they were driving,

“It looks even poorer than the other places we have seen here in Mexico.”

Mark and Melissa did not say anything, as they did not want either of the children to become afraid. After driving for a few minutes, Mark could see the border patrol station up ahead and could not help but breathe a sigh of relief. He and his family would finally be exiting this maze of poverty and what appeared to be dens of thieves. There was a long line to get through the border patrol though. Mark knew that even though his family was American, they would be treated no differently that someone coming from Canada or Mexico into this territory with the exception of not being forced to show a passport. 

They waited in line for around twenty minutes before they made it up to the station where a border patrol guard stood. There were men and women standing around the station; all of them armed with advanced firearms and watching every move around them. This made Mark slightly tense at first, but he then realized that it must be for his and everyone else’s own good. He felt much safer since these armed guards were here; especially with so many crime ridden slums surrounding the city. As they pulled up to the kiosk where a woman began asking them questions. After she had asked them several questions concerning their business and requested their IDs, she said something that made Marks’ raise. 

“I think that you should watch yourselves here,” she declared, “Even though you are crossing the border into a safe place, there can still be danger. Are you staying here along the border?”

Mark paused for a moment before Melissa told the woman yes; they were indeed staying in a hotel just half a mile from the border fence with Mexico.

“I don’t know what made you travel through the backroads to get here,” the patrol woman stated, “But you are quite mad to come through a place such as this. Generally this is where the local Mexicans come into the city through; not people traveling here from the U.S. or Canada. It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally some criminal will cross into the city. The walls and electric fences surrounding Koto do some good, but they do not completely keep out undesirables. There are some homeless outsiders who do roam the city from time to time; those who have been denied permission to live in the city; or perhaps one of the drug dealers from the Mexican side. Just remember that those people generally like to stay on the outskirts of the city.

“Yet you have just came through the slums which are some of the most dangerous places in this region of Mexico. If you did okay there, then you surely are going to be okay inside of the city. Or patrol guards do a good job at stopping drug smuggling or human trafficking in the city and you are without a doubt safer here than in the mainland United States. You have just came through a hell of poverty and crime that most people would never go near and you don’t seem to be phased by it. I thought that I would educate you about the areas like this to avoid. But just remember; when you leave, go through the border crossing at the main highway. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you in a slum where someone is murdered everyday. I do hope that you enjoy your stay in the city of Faith, Love, and Reason.”

Mark bid farewell to the woman and drove onward into Koto. Their children in the backseats were instantly mesmerized, as the road was lined with houses and flags of both Koto and the United States. The homes were of various different types, but all placed upon tiny square plots of land each twenty meters on each side. These houses were smaller than most homes in the United States, but that simplicity was a part of the CREW philosophy of simple living.“These houses sure are pretty little homes,” she stated, “I think I would prefer one of the bigger ones though that had an upstairs and downstairs for space to put all of our junk.”

“I think the same,” Mark replied, “These are slightly smaller houses than most people build on the mainland, but I think that they are very nice. Who needs a big fancy two storey house anyway. I wouldn’t mind finding a vacant house here and buying it to live in. Of course we would have to join the CREW church and leave our nice house on the Arkansas border with Texas, but I think that we could make it work.”

Melissa gave him a look as if she suspected him of plotting something behind her back.

“I thought that we came here on vacation,” she stated, “Not to look for houses to move into. I think that the CREW are interesting, but I don’t think that I would want to live here. Let’s just find our hotel before we start talking about moving here.”

Mark only grinned at her and they then began heading toward the hotel that was pinpointed on the digital map on Melissa’s phone. They reached the hotel after only a few moments of driving through the streets lined with houses. Their hotel, like most hotels outside of downtown, was located in the shopping center of one of the border neighbourhoods. The hotel was a square building with seven floors and sitting upon five acres of land; or two hectares as the internet information had put it in international metric units. It was nothing elaborate, but was equipped with a restaurant and an indoor pool with a drinks bar, just as most of the hotels outside of Koto’s famous downtown district. 

After checking themselves into the hotel, Mark headed up the elevator with his wife and children to the floor of their room. Upon reaching their hotel room on the second floor of the building, Mark opened the door with a barcode key and the four of them headed inside. The room was a cozy place furnished with two beds, a couch, and a desk. It seemed to be the perfect room for them at first; until Mark began to notice something unpleasant. Their was an unpleasant stench in the room, which was quite noticeable. Even his children noticed it as they were walking through the room to view the bed they would sleep in that night. 

“It stinks in here,” Alice declared as she sat down on the bed. 

Melissa began to walk around looking inside of the drawers of the end tables by the beds. Mark looked inside of the closet, which was empty with only empty hangers hanging upon the rack. He and Melissa both then headed into the bathroom, where the smell was practically non-existent. 

“Well,” Mark stated, “It definitely is not the bathroom that smells so bad. This room smells better than the bedroom.”

“I wish that our bathroom at home smelled as good as this one,” Melissa joked, “If that stench continues, I might sleep in here tonight.”

They headed back out into the living area with the beds where the children were both now sitting on the couch. The stench was definitely coming from in here. 

“The room is clean,” Melissa commented, “From what I can see, they cleaned it very well. The beds and the floor is spotless. There aren’t stains or grunge anywhere. I just can’t understand it.”

After looking around the room for a few more minutes, the smell began to disappear so Mark began to unpack their belongings. 

“Maybe it’s just something in the air ventilation,” he stated, “In that case, every room on this floor will be the same.” 

They relaxed for a short while before deciding that they would head out of the hotel into downtown where most of the city’s attractions were located. The family of four spent the next several hours out in the city eating dinner in a fine restaurant and looking around at the tourist traps; looking for places they could go the next day. They enjoyed themselves so much, that they completely forgot about their hotel room. 

However, when they returned that night, they were quickly reminded of it. The stench hit them hard as they walked into their room close to midnight. It was now stronger than it had been before. Melissa showed signs of anger about the situation and decided to call the front desk to ask for someone to come clean the room. Yet their were no housekeeping attendants in the hotel this late; therefore, one of hotels caretakers of the hotel headed upstairs to hopefully help them find the cause of the stench and eliminate it so that they could sleep calmly tonight without the smell.

The caretaker came up several minutes later to see them. Once he entered the room, he seemed just as shocked by the smell as Mark’s family. 

“They clean these rooms everyday,” he stated, “I have no idea why this room would smell like this. I have been in several of the other rooms on this floor tonight, and none of them smell like this.”

Mark and his wife repeated the same search efforts that had performed earlier in the day with even their children helping. The caretaker searched along with the family in every corner of the room, but they found nothing. Melissa finally sat down on the bed and sighed with frustration. 

“I think that we will just take another room,” she declared, “if there are any available. Don’t you think so Mark? I can’t get a good night’s sleep in this room with this smell.”

“Yes,” Mark agreed, “Let’s get our things together and head downstairs.”

As they were packed up their belongings to go have the caretaker find them another room, the caretaker stood next to the bed which Melissa and Mark had been planning to sleep in that night. He was sniffing the air around him much like an animal. 

“I smell that stench strongest right in this spot,” he declared, “I think that I will lift up the mattress and see if something isn’t spilled under it. It will take only a moment.”

The man then slowly lifted up the mattress and pulled it aside. As he did so, he fell backward with the expression of true terror on his face. He murmured curse words under his breathe and appeared as if he might faint. This grabbed the attention of both Mark and Melissa. They ran over to the caretaker’s side and instantly saw what he had been looking at. Melissa screamed in terror and Mark felt as if he might lose consciousness. There was something terrible beneath that mattress.

Submitted: June 23, 2022

© Copyright 2023 JM West. All rights reserved.

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