Title: Welcome to Camelot Hotel (Part 1)
Pairing/s: None (for now).
Character/s: Merlin, Gaius, Uther, Vivian
Summary: In retrospect, Merlin should have known that it was too good to be true. (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4)
Warnings: Horror. Implied off-screen character death. Stalking.
Word Count: 995 words.
Prompt: #232 Suspense Month - Calm before the storm, and my trope_bingo square, Mind Games.
Author's Notes: I'm basically going for all the cliches this month, apparently. This is so much fun.
In retrospect, Merlin should have known that it was too good to be true. The Camelot Residential Complex was one of the Pendragon Corporation’s latest projects, a state-of-the-art Grand Hotel built in the late 18th century that had now been refurbished into luxury inner city apartments. It was the sort of place Merlin was unlikely even to be invited to, let alone somewhere he could imagine himself living, and yet here he was, not two months after being kicked out of his previous flat, about to finalise the lease on one of the best apartments in the building.
This particular windfall had come about largely because of his Uncle Gaius. Apparently, the flat’s previous tenant had gotten drunk and trashed the place before bolting in the dead of night for parts unknown, which had left the owner and proprietor, Uther Pendragon, in something of a bind. He couldn’t rent the flat to his usual clientele in its present state, but nor did he want to waste the potential income by allowing it to lie vacant until the work was completed. Fortunately for Merlin, Uther and Gaius were old friends, and when Gaius heard that Merlin was in need of somewhere to stay, the old physician had come up with a solution. In exchange for a permanently low rental price (which nevertheless threatened to stretch his meagre budget almost to breaking point), Merlin had agreed to do most of the repairs and repainting himself, in accordance with Pendragon’s exacting specifications. Merlin had some experience with redecorating, so it wasn’t as if he was a complete novice, and since he rather suspected Uther Pendragon’s idea of “trashed” was roughly equivalent to his “slightly untidy with some minor surface damage,” he rather considered himself to have gotten the better end of the deal.
“No one’s died here or anything, have they?” He joked to the property manager once everything had been sorted, trying not to appear too intimidated while she rifled through her desk for the relevant contract form. “No murders in the building, strange clanking noises in the basement? I heard the last tenant left in a bit of a hurry.”
“No, nothing like that,” the manager said, drawing out the words in a bored tone. She handed Merlin a swanky pen that was quite possibly made out of real gold and slid the form across the polished wooden desktop towards him. “Well, not recently.”
Merlin’s hand paused at the bottom of the rental agreement. “What do you mean, not recently? How recently?”
The woman smirked, and waved one delicately manicured hand. “It was decades ago, love, back when the place was first built. Ancient history — not something you need to be concerned about.”
She seemed so confident that Merlin only hesitated a moment longer before pushing aside his doubts and scratching his signature on the dotted line. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a voice that sounded a lot like Will’s told him that this was definitely a very bad idea, but Merlin ignored it. Will wouldn’t know a bad idea if it bit him on the arse — the fact that he’d broken up with Merlin on fucking Valentine's Day was just another case in point. The manager took the completed form from him and scanned it briefly, then handed him a set of keys and a security card with a satisfied nod.
“Let me know if you have any problems, love,” she said, in a tone that meant he’d better not have any problems, if he knew what was good for him. She smiled, showing too many teeth, and Merlin smiled automatically back, a little alarmed but trying not to let on. “I’m in the office from 9 to 3pm most days. Name’s Vivian. The number’s on the fridge.”
“Thanks,” Merlin said weakly. A persistent prickle of unease had begun to radiate up his arm, spreading from the touch of the keys in his palm and crawling over his skin like ice. Probably it was only that the air conditioning was up too high, he reasoned, shivering. Old buildings like this one were prone to unexpected temperature changes. There was probably no need for him to worry.
The original Camelot Hotel had been built in traditional neoclassical style, with a succession of faux columns lining the exterior facade and a broad white arch marking the front entrance. Inside, the narrow rooms had been opened out into a series of modern, open-plan apartments, four to each floor, which could be accessed by means of the original stairwell or (more commonly, Merlin suspected) via a lift that required security clearance to access. From what Merlin had seen, the majority of the interior looked like something out of a Home and Garden magazine, which made what had happened to Apartment 7D all the more shocking when he stepped inside.
“Holy shit,” he breathed, pausing in the doorway to take in the devastation. The furniture in the living room had been entirely up-ended, a chair and rosewood coffee table lying smashed and broken against the far wall. The wallpaper had been torn down and was hanging in curling strips from one corner, while the sofa had several massive rents along the back, large, gaping slashes that almost looked as if they had been made by claws. An ominous dark stain spread across the carpeted floor, and Merlin felt a chill ripple along his arms. This was more than just a bit of drunken property damage: the whole flat had been systematically ripped apart. “What the hell happened here?”
He closed the door and locked it behind him, then picked his way gingerly through the debris to check the bedroom. In two steps, the chill had intensified, slithering urgently down his spine and across the back of his neck. Above the bed, scrawled in an unfamiliar hand, was a message, written in deep purple ink that was somehow worse than blood.
HELLO EMRYS, it said. I’VE BEEN WAITING.