He wasn’t going to do it.
He didn’t care what the news was reporting. He wasn’t going to do it. Hell, they always tried to panic people anyway. Twenty four hours of nonstop reporting on the skies or the puff of wind that happened to blow through.
It was ridiculous.
Despite the storm, the Van Vincent Hotel was at half capacity. Numerous flights out of Biloxi and New Orleans had been canceled due to the hurricane and many people were stranded.
It all happened so quickly.
Hurricane Jill had come out of nowhere. Several days prior it had been a simple storm system churning out in the Atlantic Ocean. But a sudden change in the water temperature and wind direction baffled the National Hurricane Center and created a strengthening storm that was heading straight for the Gulf Coast.
Many people evacuated, but others like the tourists, were hesitant to leave. The projected storm track had been so unpredictable that people were questioning the validity of the reports. They’d spent so much money to stay at one of the luxury hotels along the Biloxi coastline that the idea of leaving was unappealing. They wanted their dream vacation.
So, when the corporate office called him, Richard Windler, the general manager of the Van Vincent Hotel, decided that he was going to recommend they keep the hotel open and allow stranded tourists to find refuge from the storm.
And gamble while waiting it out.
The Van Vincent was known for its lavish and sprawling casino. A floating barge of nearly 100,000 square feet, it was connected to the primary hotel structure and constituted a vast array of twinkling lights, music, and luxury mahogany tables surrounded by gamblers of every type. Thousands of people tread through the brightly carpeted floors and tried their hands at lady luck.
Richard looked out of his office window at the gray skies overhead.
It doesn’t even look that bad outside, he thought.
Sighing, he picked up the phone and contacted his primary night manager to inform him that the hotel would remain open throughout the storm.
Sandra Sheehan was running low. She had agreed with her husband that she would only spend $200 on the slot machines while he tried his luck at the $20 blackjack table, but the machine she was on hadn’t been good to her. Once in a while, she would hit, but instead of stopping, she would continue gambling and lose all of her winnings.
Come on, come on, she thought.
Watching the dials on the screen spin in an almost hypnotic fashion, Sandra became aware of a sound in the distance. It sounded like the white noise made by a TV that had lost its signal. The storm outside had begun.
Glad I’m in here, she thought.
Sandra and Jake Sheehan lived in Lake Worth, Florida and were not accustomed to vacations. With a combined household income of $60,000 and a few children to take care of, they spent most of their time working and taking brief excursions to the movie theater or the nearby water park. But they rarely traveled anywhere farther than the state line.
So, they were extremely excited when a friend recommended the Van Vincent Hotel. Due to the recent recession, the hotel was offering numerous specials for Florida residents. The one Sandra and Jake took advantage of was offering a 3-night stay at $100 a night. That included coupons for the buffet and a reduced rate to take a day-trip to New Orleans.
But soon after they arrived in Biloxi, the news started talking about the Hurricane and how the trek of the storm might take it straight up through either New Orleans or the nearby cities.
Instead of trying to find a flight home, the Sheehans decided to take their chances and thankfully, the Van Vincent wasn’t kicking them out.
On the other side of the casino, Jake wasn’t doing much better than his wife. After winning several hands initially, the house changed dealers and now he had a woman who clearly wasn’t interested in giving him some extra cash. She stared straight ahead, unsmiling and proceeded to take his money over and over again.
Finally, Jake sighed and decided to grab his chips and cash out. They still needed spending money after all, and the trip to New Orleans promised to be a fun day of drinking and general debauchery.
If the fucking storm doesn’t hit first, he thought grumpily.
Stepping away from the table, Jake slowly made his way across the casino towards his wife. He’d been drinking for several hours, so figured that the ground underneath his feet wasn’t shaking, it was just the alcohol.
But when the shaking started to get really bad, he realized that it wasn’t his alcohol consumption. The barge was vibrating.
Some of the gamblers on the slot machines didn’t pay attention. They simply held on to their machines to steady themselves and continued pressing the “SPIN” button over and over again. What finally caught their attention was the loud roar that suddenly filled the casino.
Jake felt it almost immediately. He was several feet away from his wife when he felt an invisible force suddenly suck him backwards. He barely had time to scream, when his body was suddenly pulled through the air and yanked into a hole that was now growing in the middle of the casino’s back wall.
Sandra screamed and shouted for her husband, but the sound of her shrieking disappeared into the howling winds. Chaos erupted around her as air rushed out and water rushed in.
People charged in a mad stampede towards the casino exit, but were caught by the rushing of water as waves tore through the barge and began filling any available space. Some were killed instantly as they were pushed down and trampled, their heads caught underneath the salty torrents of water.
The hole quickly began to enlarge from the force of the waves, while the freestanding tables and chairs floated in the water for an instant and were then sucked back by the wind, piling up against each other as they flew backwards in a tumbling motion of mahogany, water, and screaming people.
Sandra held on to the slot machine that had taken all of her money, no longer caring that it had cheated her. It was the only thing left between life and death. And as her hands began to slip and she felt her body being pulled backward as the barge disconnected itself from the hotel, she thought about her relatives safe and sound in Florida.
We should have gone to Disneyworld…
About the author:
Sara Brooke is a horror and suspense novelist living in South Florida. A lifelong avid reader of all things scary, Sara's childhood dream was to write horror books that force readers to sleep with their lights on. Her first novel, Still Lake, was released Spring 2012. Sara's influences and favorite authors include Bentley Little, John Saul, William Blackstone, and Joe McKinney.
Find Sara Online:
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