Jessica Wagner and Stephanie Price were sleeping in their suite when a loud alarm wakes them up. Stephanie pulls her blankets over her head to go back to bed as Jessica hits the alarm clock and gets to her feet. The tall, shapely blonde quietly goes about getting showered and dressed while the short, skinny redhead mumbles in her sleep. Jessica is tempted to throw a cup of water on the girl, but is pretty sure she would get in trouble for it. After all, Stephanie was the star of ‘Artemis Reborn’ and Jessica was nothing more than the bubbly sidekick. The taller girl had argued about the writing for her character several times over the last year, but nobody wanted to risk her overshadowing the heroine. Jessica had found a happy place in her mind to handle her role in the show. Simply, it was work and the show couldn’t last forever.
A muffled scream catches her attention and she quickly runs to the door to make sure it is locked. She tries to listen through the door as she hears several more screams from outside. Her nerves are on edge and she can feel the hair on the back of her neck start to rise.
“Are you okay?” Stephanie asks from behind the taller girl. She jumps back in surprise when Jessica shouts and turns around with a clenched fist.
“Don’t scare me like that,” Jessica gasps, reaching out to gently pat her friend on the shoulder. “It sounds like something is going on out there. Get dressed while I call the front desk to see what is going on.”
“It’s probably just the noise from the convention,” Stephanie casually says before heading into the bathroom. “I’m going to take a quick shower, so make sure to protect me from the evil monsters.”
Jessica laughs at the absurd thought of monsters as she picks up the phone and dials the front desk. The ringing suddenly cuts off and all she can hear is heavy breathing, so she hangs up and tries again. The second time there is no noise on the other side and she waits for five minutes before hanging up. She can hear Stephanie getting out of the shower as she decides to try one more time. Jessica is slightly distracted by her friend stepping out of the bathroom, so she is scared out of her mind when a horrifying roar erupts from the phone. The blonde throws the phone away as she leaps off the bed and scrambles backwards until she hits the wall.
“That was scary,” Stephanie whispers, her towel still wrapped around her. She is frozen in place by paralyzing fear. “I don’t want to be in this hotel any more, Jess. I know we have a panel to go to, but that makes me want to go home.”
“It was only a prank,” Jessica assures her. She gets to her feet and takes a deep breath to calm down. “The first call had heavy breathing, so it was probably some prankster that was playing behind the front desk. The second call had no noise, which was probably when he was setting up for my third call. By the time I called again, he had set up a monster movie at full volume near the phone. It’s a pretty sad prank once you think about it.”
“I guess so, but that didn’t sound like it came from a movie. That sounded like it was alive,” Stephanie meekly argues. She starts getting dressed, forcing Jessica to walk away and focus on the door.
Jessica takes a look through the peephole and is surprised to see a young man across the hall. She guesses that the gangly, black-haired man is in his twenties and he is wearing an ‘Artemis Reborn’ t-shirt. For a brief moment, she considers opening the door to talk to him, but then ten other fans join him. He begins whispering to them and pointing around the hallway, his eyes slightly crazed. She patiently waits at the door until a scream is heard from the room to her left.
“Is that Nick screaming?” Stephanie asks as she inches near.
Jessica puts a finger to the girl’s lips when she notices the young man glance at the door and start to take a step forward. He stops when three of his friends drag the head writer of ‘Artemis Reborn’ into view. The middle-aged man has a bleeding bump on his head, but he is still breathing. He is dropped on the floor and the young man crouches down to get a closer look at him. With a curious expression, the young man reaches out to press on the bleeding bump until Nick cries in pain. They can hear Nick whisper, but it is so low that they can’t understand the words.
“My name is Dominic Gainnes and I am a really big fan of your show,” the young man says as if answering a question. “I came here to meet Artemis and Antheia. I know you have your panel in the afternoon, but I simply couldn’t wait. So, my new friends and I felt compelled to visit you this morning. Can you tell us where Artemis and Antheia are?”
Nick coughs blood up on the carpet and points to a distant door in order to send the small mob in the wrong direction. Dominic glances toward the door and signals to one of his friends to investigate the room. A minute passes before they hear a door open, followed by a series of shrieks from the occupants. The yelling stops and is replaced by the sound of breaking furniture and a sickening tearing noise.
“Those weren’t them,” Dominic says after getting a signal from his friend. “Why would you send us away when we only want to meet them? Don’t bother answering because I already know the answer. You want to keep them to yourself. I understand the overwhelming desire to be greedy and hide them from the rest of us, but the truth is that only one of us can have them. It is going to be me and my friends who own Artemis and Antheia.”
Jessica’s mouth goes dry as she watches Dominic pick the writer up by the neck. It is a simple feat, but the young man does not look like he should have the strength to pick up the heavier man. The scene becomes even more disturbing when some of Dominic’s friends each grab one of Nick’s limbs. Jessica stares in nauseating horror as their tear Nick’s arms and legs off then proceed to beat him with them while their leader continues to hold him in the air. The savage murder goes on for several minutes before Dominic callously throws Nick’s body over his shoulder. Unable to watch any more, Jessica pushes Stephanie back into the room until they reach the bed where she collapses.
“This isn’t real,” Jessica whispers before throwing up on the floor. “There are some guys out there who are looking for us. I think they’re crazed fans who want to kidnap us. Nick tried to send them into another room. I guess he was hoping all of them would go, so we could sneak out of our room and get to the stairwell.” Jessica stops talking and throws up again when the vivid memory of Nick’s murder appears in her mind.
“We should help Nick,” Stephanie says as she leans down to rub her friend’s back.
“Nick is dead,” Jessica blurts out, choking down a fresh feeling of nausea. “They tore off his limbs and beat him with them. I don’t know what is going on, but those guys are stronger than they should be.”
“Maybe it’s another prank,” Stephanie suggests with hope in her watery eyes. “They taped the murder beforehand and set up a screen outside the room. You know how Nick liked to pull pranks.”
Jessica gives the redhead a look of doubt and gets to her feet. “It was Maddie who liked to pull pranks and she’s back in LA. This was definitely not a-”
“Where are you?” Dominic loudly asks from the hallway. “I know you two are on this floor. If you let us know where you are, we won’t have to check every room and punish the guests for not being you. It will get tiring after a while, but we will search every room until we find you.”
Stephanie starts walking toward the door just as the hallway erupts with the sound of screaming. She refuses to move any closer to the door when she hears the screams cut off by gurgles. With a shaking hand, she reaches to a nearby dresser to steady herself as she realizes that she just heard several people being murdered. She jumps when another door is kicked in and a woman can be heard shrieking for her life. Stephanie braces herself for the sound of the woman’s death, but she is surprised to hear one of the men yell in pain.
“I have to see what’s going on,” Jessica whispers, rushing to the door and looking through the peephole.
Jessica sees a young woman wearing a nightshirt fighting back against Dominic and his men. She manages to hit the button for the elevator before Dominic catches her by the back of the head and smashes her into the metal doors. He repeatedly pounds her face against the doors until her skull caves in. He wipes his hand on the back of her nightgown as her body slides down the doors. The elevator opens as she hits the ground, but the doors open to an empty shaft that catches Dominic’s attention.
“Where is the elevator?” asks one of Dominic’s friends.
“It doesn’t matter,” Dominic casually states.
“But it’s weird that there’s no elevator.”
“It isn’t important.”
“An elevator doesn’t disappear.”
“It is not important!” Dominic screams before grabbing his friend by the face and hurling him into the empty shaft. “Does anybody else want to discuss what isn’t important?”
Jessica pushes away from the door and makes her way to the window. She looks outside to see if there is any way to get to Nick’s room. She guesses that they won’t bother searching his room since he is already dead.
“That would be pointless,” Stephanie mentions, joining Jessica at the window. “Unless Nick had the window open, we would have no way to get inside. If we broke the window then they would hear it and come after us. Our only chance is to rush into the hallway and get to the stairwell.”
“Don’t be an idiot,” Jessica snaps as she glares at her friend. “They would catch us in the stairwell since we are on the twentieth floor.”
“It’s a better idea than getting caught outside of the building where they can easily push us off,” Stephanie argues, attempting to stand up to the taller girl. “You never listen to anything I suggest. Whenever I want to do something on the show, you are the first person to point out why it won’t work. That is why I never bothered putting up much of a fight when you wanted Antheia to get better lines. I have no reason to help you if you never bother to help me.”
“You . . .” Jessica starts to say. She stops and realizes that Stephanie has a point. “You’re right. I never liked it when you got more things to do and I was left with the same bubbly, comic relief gags. So, I spoke out against it and, without acknowledging it, I tried to sabotage your career. I can’t blame you for not really helping me. Now, we have to figure out a way out of here.”
Stephanie looks around the room until her eyes settle on the minibar. She goes over to it and starts pulling out all of the alcohol. Jessica realizes what she is planning, so she goes to rummage through her bags. She pulls out a bottle of tequila that she had snuck into the room for tonight. Looking around the room, she finds a large bottle of rubbing alcohol under the bathroom sink. They gather all of the alcohol on the bed while Jessica pulls a lighter out of her back pocket, checking to make sure it still works.
“So, what are we going to set on fire?” Stephanie asks with a small smile.
“We can use the bed to make a blockade that they have to climb over,” Jessica answers, jumping at the sound of another guest being murdered in the hallway. “We douse the bed in alcohol before they get inside. Maybe we can set those tall dressers up just around the corners of the entrance. We stand on the dressers and wait for them to come inside. Then, we light the bed with my lighter, leap into the entrance, and run like hell to the stairwell.”
“We don’t stop running until we get outside the hotel,” Stephanie adds as she strips the bed and starts pouring alcohol onto the king-sized mattress.
They try to be quiet as they move the furniture into position, but the bed is too heavy to be lifted. Someone begins banging on their door as they drag the bed into position, the hinges barely able to withstand the heavy blows. The girls climb onto the dressers and patiently wait for Dominic and his friends to break the door down. As the voices in the hallway become louder, Jessica looks around the room and notices that she can be seen in a mirror. She jumps off the dresser and races over to the mirror, grabbing a chair along the way. With all of her strength, she shatters the mirror and turns to get back to the dresser. She is halfway there when the door is forced open and Dominic walks inside.
“My dear, Antheia,” he says, spreading his arms for a hug. “I see you have been busy preparing for me. I assume Artemis is in hiding, but I’m sure she will come out when she is needed. Until then, we will have to entertain ourselves with you.”
“You’ll have to come and get me, fanboy,” Jessica proudly declares. “I’ll gladly give my life to save Artemis.”
Stephanie stares at Jessica with a worried expression, but continues to hide around the corner from Dominic. She holds her breath when she sees his hand grab the wall. It is a weak grip considering the damage that Jessica claimed he could do with his bare hands.
“I’m not a fanboy,” Dominic admits, his face twisting with hate and disgust. “I actually despise your show and think it is an abomination. The writing is horrible, the effects are subpar, and the overall concept of resurrected deities has been done so many times before. It is really nothing more than an excuse to have sluts in tight clothes jump around.”
“Then, why are you wearing a shirt of the show?” the blonde asks, stepping back to coax them into the room.
“My friends and I killed several of your fans downstairs, so we could steal their shirts and come up here,” he casually replies. To prove his story, he holds out the front of his shirt that is covered in blood. “We thought that you and your friend would be stupid enough to greet us if you believed we were fans. I guess you two weren’t as dumb as I had expected.”
Dominic leaps over the bed and his friends follow him, their inhuman jumps bringing them within inches of Jessica. She brandishes her lighter and they simply laugh at the feeble weapon. Before Dominic can grab her, she kicks him in the groin as hard as she can and shoves him to the side. The others turn around in time to see Stephanie running out the door and Jessica climbing over the bed. She drops the lighter on the mattress as she crawls over it and the bed becomes a crackling bonfire. Jessica topples to the floor with fire on her legs and feet. She rolls toward the doorway to put the fire out and scrambles to her feet.
“Just run through it!” Dominic yells, pushing one of his friends onto the mattress and using him as a bridge across the flames.
Jessica is limping down the hallway and almost to the stairwell when Dominic gets out of the room. He sprints toward her as she opens the door, but she manages to slam it shut before he can get to her. She starts taking the stairs by twos and threes, ignoring the severe pain in her burnt legs. Jessica is five floors down when she starts to wonder why she hasn’t caught up to Stephanie yet. It crosses her mind that Stephanie might have been waiting for her to get out of the room and was still up there with Dominic. She is about to turn around and go back for her friend when she catches sight of red hair turning around the next bend in the stairs.
“Stephanie!” she shouts, getting the other girl to stop and turn around.
“Do you need help?” Stephanie asks when she notices the other girl’s smoking legs. “I can’t carry you, but I can help take the pressure off your legs.”
“I’m fine. I can barely feel the pain any more,” Jessica states with a forced smile.
They continue racing down the stairs, hearing screams and wails at every floor of the hotel. As they get closer to the lobby, they begin to see smears of blood on the wall and an occasional discarded body part on the stairs. They slow down as they reach the door to the lobby and hear what can only be described as a howling mob on the other side. Stephanie braces herself for the horrors that are waiting for them as she slowly opens the door and steps into the empty, trash-covered hallway.
“What is going on in here?” Jessica asks as they follow the sound of shouting. She sees fleeting shadows of people running in the distance, but most of her attention is on the growing noise from ahead of her.
Jessica and Stephanie step out into the lobby where hundreds of convention guests are trying to get out. The front doors refuse to budge against the mob, so the two girls turn away to find another way out. They only get a few steps before Dominic and his friends come running into the hallway. He is screaming incoherently at the girls, which draws the attention of several people in the crowd. These people begin to grin and laugh as they separate from the mob. As if drawn to Dominic’s rage, they move past the girls and pounce on him. It is a grotesque battle as the two groups begin ripping each other to shreds. Jessica turns away when she sees a woman hold Dominic’s head above the crowd as if it is a trophy. She is promptly torn in half by one of Dominic’s friends whose spine is snapped by someone else.
“I can’t take much more of this,” Stephanie whispers. She turns around and notices that the crowd has broken out into a massive fight. The people are murdering each other without a second thought as if they are possessed to destroy everything around them.
Stephanie drapes Jessica’s arm over her shoulders and starts dragging her away from the bloodbath. She can barely hear her from friend mumbling and looks down to see that her wide eyes are staring off into space. Jessica’s mind has snapped and the only way to help her is to get her out of the convention.
“We’re getting out of here,” the redhead defiantly declares. She realizes that she is saying it more for her benefit than Jessica’s.
Stephanie raises her head to locate the nearest exit when she freezes in terror. A shadowy figure is appearing before her, seeming to seep out of the wall. She can barely tell that the shadow is shaped like a woman because of the lack of detail. Its wild hair whips around its head while it drifts toward the scared girl. The shadow reaches out to her, its eyeless face holding her gaze. An icy chill covers her body as the shadow sinks under her skin and a harsh, intoxicating voice invades her mind. A wide grin appears on Stephanie’s face as the influence of the shadow washes over her.
“I never liked you,” she whispers to Jessica before twisting the girl’s head completely around. The body drops to the floor with a satisfying thud as Stephanie calmly enters the murderous crowd.
For the next hour, she tears out hearts and beats people to death with their own limbs. A few times, she feels the pain of somebody stabbing a bone into her body, but the injuries are not enough to put her down. She barely notices the lack of noise as she crushes the chest of her final opponent. Stephanie quietly scans the lobby for anything else to kill as if she is lost and confused without a target. She scratches her head with enough force to draw blood and turns her attention to the front doors. The blood-covered girl is only able to take a step before a gunshot rings out and her brains are splattered out the side of her head.