I have a fondness for the potential horror of hotels. I think I can probably blame that on my accidental (and incomplete) knowledge of the Donner Party that I acquired when younger. I didn't have all the details about the cabins the party tried to weather things out in, and having also read The Shining by Stephen King, in my head it all sort of mussed together into a horrible whole: I pictured these people finding a lovely abandoned hotel but there being no food. Ah well, time to munch down on each other.
What can I say - I was a warped youngster.
When I saw the third story in Night Shadows: Queer Horror, it delighted me twofold. One, the author - Felice Picano - is a short story hero of mine. A better champion the format has rarely seen, and he has such a turn of phrase and skill at bringing something new to each tale. I think of his contribution to Men of the Mean Streets, which was such a unique and spec-fic approach to the noir concept, or how in Fool for Love the love explored was of a different sort than all the other tales, but still perfect for the collection.
Ack. I'm gushing.
Okay, All of that to say that between the title of the story - "Room Nine" - and the author being Felice Picano, I knew I was in for a treat.
There's something off about room nine, where it's always cold. The resident, hired by faculty to work through some textbook issues, tries to get himself somewhere else, but events unfold - and become dangerous - and the room itself just waits while the rest of his life drives events in a different direction. I'm trying not to ruin any of the tales as I wanted through the collection, but I'll say this: the creepy factor is subtle in "Room Nine" without losing the slow ratcheting up of tension throughout, and the main characters voice has just the right trace of bemusing humour throughout to take you off balance when the darkness comes to bear.