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Casey Shelley

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The Riverside Inn 

As Robert Belial motored along the Trans-Canada highway in his Mercedes Benz, he became aware

that the sun had begun its descent into the shadows. In fact, the shadows seemed to loom intently around the edges of the disappearing day, patiently waiting for something unknown.

It must be noted that while Robert acknowledged these details, they were secondary to his state of

absolute disgust. A business trip intended to require two days of travel had become three: his beloved Mercedes had suffered in both mileage and shine. To Robert, this was an unacceptable circumstance for the CEO of a successful auto-sales company to find himself in. To make matters worse, he was now faced with the best scenery that rural Canada had to offer: fields of cows and abandoned barns (eyesores, if you asked him), along with a giant sign stating, BEST MILK IN THE MARITIMES—NEXT EXIT.

“Who cares?” mumbled Mr. Belial. 

Despite his unfortunate situation, Robert realized that his state of exhaustion was severe. His

anticipated return to Toronto would have to wait until tomorrow. He wondered about the accommodations available along this isolated stretch of highway.

Certainly no Mariott, he thought.

Finally, a sign with the image of a stick man beneath a makeshift shelter suggested lodgings off the next

exit. Robert also noticed what appeared to be a vehicle off the shoulder of the distant road, engulfed in flames, but he didn’t have time to stop. He veered right and realized his mistake immediately upon entering what he believed was a replica of hell—a single road featured a string of unfortunate homes, more like shacks in his opinion, lined sporadically along it. 

Robert sighed. “Am I really supposed to believe that they would build a hotel in this dump?”   

It seemed to appear out of nowhere. He hadn’t seen any light in the distance while travelling along the

road, yet to his left there now stood a colossal building. Darkness limited his view, but he could make out brick and large colonial pillars framing the entrance. The driveway was circular, with a carefully manicured bush sculpture displayed from a podium in the middle. It seemed to be of an angel or a cherub, something overdone like that. As he slowly entered the driveway, Robert became aware that the building rested next to a large, flowing river. This explained the name of the establishment, which was embedded above the door in giant gold lettering: THE RIVERSIDE INN.

It’ll do for tonight, Robert decided.

He parked his car in an empty spot and approached the last resort building. The doors were large and

heavy. A woman was exiting the building while Robert entered, but it wasn’t his responsibility to hold the door. The foyer was large enough to turn voices into echoes. To the left, there was a casino—outdated, but something to do, nonetheless. For being the only hotel in the area, the Riverside Inn seemed surprisingly quiet. Robert liked this because he didn’t like people.   

He approached the front desk, eager to check in as quickly as possible. Behind it sat a single man,

appearing older than death, who continued to sit and smile excessively at Robert as he travelled across the lobby. 

“Good evening! And isn’t it a beautiful evening after all?” the man greeted, maintaining his grin. Robert

surmised that this white-haired man was well past retirement age.

“I need a room. Just one room for one night,” Robert stated plainly, flashing his company card “Bell

Group, 15% discount. And no, I’m not interested in hearing about other offers.” If there was one thing he hated, it was delayed service. He didn’t mind letting people know, often warning grocery clerks not to ask for his donation to whatever sob story they were selling that day.

“Absolutely, Mr. Belial. Here we are, room 112. And if you’d like, we offer a valet service for our guests—

free underground parking.” 

Robert sighed as he fished for the key. “Alright, but listen, I don’t want one scratch on that car. Got it?

Don’t let some incompetent kid touch it.” 

“Of course, Mr. Belial,” the employee stated as he handed over the room key with age spotted hands, “On

another note, payment will be accepted in the morning.”

Dealing with the relentless, decrepit man had given Robert a throbbing headache. He grabbed the key

roughly and began quick strides toward his room. 

“Don’t worry about bothering any other guests,” the old man hollered after him “It’s been quiet around

here lately. Have a lovely stay, Mr. Belial!” the shaky voice echoed throughout the building. 

“This is exactly why people shouldn’t be allowed to work past retirement,” Mr. Belial mumbled.

As he navigated the hallway, it came to his attention that the floors were lined with old, green carpeting.

He hoped that his room wouldn’t be similarly outdated. To the disappointment of Robert, the décor of room 112 was like stepping onto the set of a 1950’s sitcom. A television with an antenna was placed on a shelf adjacent to a bed covered in a heinous purple duvet. The man was repulsed, but his headache and hunger outweighed this feeling. He found an old phonebook in the nightstand drawer, which lacked a Bible, and located the number to what was apparently the only pizza joint in this town: Tomato Tomato. He refused to touch the rotary phone dial provided in the room, so fished his cell phone out of his trench coat pocket.

Robert was annoyed that the delivery of his pizza would take twenty-five minutes. He was also growing

increasingly overheated in the unairconditioned room. Therefore, when his desperate employee called asking to take Monday off work, he said no. 

“My father passed away, Mr. Belial, Please. It’s his funeral,” the accountant pleaded.

“I said no and that’s for a reason. How do you think I run such a successful company? By giving 

hand outs?” Robert responded, before promptly snapping his cell phone shut. 

The pizza delivery was taking longer than Robert had expected, so he allowed himself to doze into a nap.

Suddenly he felt the shadows closing in, consuming him into a world of darkness. He didn’t know how it was possible that his daughter, whom he hadn’t seen in seven years, was standing at his bedside. She was crying uncontrollably.

“Daddy,” she pleaded, “it wasn’t your fault. You must believe that. I’ll always love you.” 

“They were mine, Gabby,” Robert reached desperately for the orange bottle in his daughter’s hand, “we

both know it. I’m so sorry, sweetie.” 

Robert was jolted awake by a pounding in his head. He was damp with sweat and cringed at the sound of

knocking on the door.

“How much?” Robert mumbled sluggishly as he pulled open the door.

“Nineteen ninety-nine, please,” replied a lanky, acne-covered teenage boy. 

God, I hate teenagers Robert thought as he handed over a twenty-dollar bill.

“Keep the change,” he said with a smirk, promptly slamming the door. 

The pizza was burnt to a crisp, but at least Robert’s hunger was finally satisfied. Desperate for a change of

scenery, he decided to visit the casino downstairs. He didn’t expect much but was surprised to find a few tables of active card games. Blackjack was Robert’s favourite game of deceit and he managed to swindle a few hundred bucks from naïve locals.

People don’t become successful by being honest, Robert reminded himself.

When he awoke the next morning, Robert had never been more ready for home. He packed his things and

hurried down to the lobby. He was relieved to see that the old man was sitting at his place behind the desk, proving that he was good for something.

The skeletal man’s grin seemed unnaturally upturned. “Good morning, Mr. Belial.”

“What do I owe you?” 

“Oh, don’t worry about that Mr. Belial. Your payment has been taken care of,” he replied, still grinning.

“Well, I’ll just take my keys then.”

“Absolutely, Mr. Belial. Here you are! As soon as you enter the vehicle, your destination will be revealed,”

the old man replied enthusiastically. 

“What’s going on here? Is this some kind of prank?” Robert growled.

“Absolutely not, Mr. Belial! Don’t you remember what happened last night?” 

“Of course. I ate pizza and went to the casino,” Robert rolled his eyes “not that it’s your business.”

“You absolutely did, Mr. Belial! However, you also totalled your car on the Trans Canada highway. This

led to a fire, which led to your stay in the critical care unit of the Riverside Hospital,” the old man informed “you suffered quite a severe head injury.” 

“What are you talking about? You’re crazy!” 

“If you would like to see for yourself, Mr. Belial, the hospital is located just behind our inn. In fact, it's

connected to our building.”

Robert realized that this old man was delusional but exited the building as he needed to escape. This was

the first time that Robert had seen the outside of The Riverside Inn in daylight. Standing in the circular driveway, he was horrified to confirm the presence of a large hospital looming over the hotel. It reminded him of an insane asylum—large and white, with bars on the windows. 

“See?” the old man stood behind Robert and placed a hand with abhorrently long fingernails on his


 “Where’s my car? I’m leaving right now!” Robert lunged away from the man.

“Mr. Belial, what you need to understand is that you succumbed to your injuries at 7:50 p.m. last night, at

the Riverside Hospital,” the old man explained, “consider the Riverside Inn as … your last stop along the way.” 

“Where is my car? Right now!” Robert screamed “NOW!”

“Mr. Belial, your destination has been chosen based upon your stay” the old man stated, “I do hope you've

enjoyed your time with us.”

Robert removed his fedora and rubbed his head. “What are you talking about?” 

“The destination, of course. Where do we all go? Do we really know? Heaven or hell?” the words were

sung to a childish tune.

“Looks like I know where I’m going then,” Mr. Belial decided to play along because that’s how you deal

with the insane “I’ve never hurt anyone in my life. Never been to jail. Not even a freakin’ parking ticket.”

“Wonderful, Mr. Belial. Your car has arrived. Please, hop in the driver’s seat and have a comfortable trip,”

the old man smiled as he opened the car door, beckoning to Robert with sharp fingernails. 

Robert sat reluctantly in his Mercedes Benz and was astonished as it drove itself toward a fork in the road.

The vehicle took a left, and Robert prepared for his trip to heaven—to be welcomed by his daughter with open arms. He was baffled, however, by her absence and the lack of light. On Friday morning at 7:50 a.m., Robert’s Mercedes Benz became engulfed in flames, as he descended into the shadows.

Casey Shelley (She/her) is a teacher and author from New Brunswick, Canada. Her poetry and short fiction have been published in various collections, both online and in print. When she isn't writing, Casey can be found exploring the ocean shore with her husband and their beloved dog. For a more detailed publication history, please visit her author website:

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