Last weekend I went on a retreat to a nature resort in the Texas Hill Country with fifteen other writers. It seemed like the perfect location for us because it was isolated enough to ensure that we would get some work done, but it also had a beautiful restaurant and separate bar for post-writing recreation (yes, eating and drinking count as “activities” in my book).
Because I’m behind in writing my latest mystery, Amaretto Amber, I decided to stay alone in a cabin by the lake to make sure that I actually wrote while I was there. And right after dinner on Friday night, I headed off to my cabin to finish chapter 14.
The first sign of trouble was that the much-needed flashlight I received with my room key didn’t work, so I wandered around in the dark for ten minutes until I found my cabin. Then the rain started—one of those torrential downpours the area is famous for (hence the Stevie Ray Vaughn song “Texas Flood”).
As the night wore on and the storm intensified, my mind drifted to the Halloween movie marathon I’d watched the week before and to Friday the 13th, which took place AT A CABIN BY THE LAKE. Of course, I didn’t think that Michael Myers and Jason were going to come and get me, but I did think that the bearded resort guest who’d looked into my window earlier that day might. And since he was a “crackhead version of Kenny Rogers” (to quote one of the other authors), he was far more terrifying to me than Michael and Jason put together.
The next thing you know, those storm-related sounds got the best of my mystery-writer imagination. So I sat up straight in my bed with all the lights on, clutching the covers around me and watching the door handle for any sign of movement. And that’s when I spotted them—the reddish-brown stains on the window curtain next to the door. They were probably coffee stains, but in my scared, slasher-film state of mind they bore a striking resemblance to blood spatter (I’ve included a photo for your viewing displeasure).
After seeing those stains, I lay awake all night imagining all sorts of horror scenarios. Was the person who’d been killed in my cabin the renter? Or was it a crazed resort guest who’d come to slash her throat? More importantly, was the killer a burned out Kenny Rogers lookalike with gray-white hair, a scraggly beard, and a cheesy country-and-western suit?
Obviously, I lived through Friday to tell about the experience. And honestly, the scariest thing that happened to me took place the following night when a seventy-something businessman from London told me that I looked like Sophia Loren and began to serenade me with a Dean Martin song. As if that weren’t terrifying enough, when I looked away from my serenader in embarrassment I saw none other than Crackhead Kenny Rogers staring in the bar window. Fearful that he was going to come inside and break into an acoustic rendition of “The Gambler,” I fled into the darkness to my cabin, which suddenly seemed a lot safer than the scary bar.
The morals of the story?
1. Safety is relative.
2. Slasher flicks are not optimal viewing material right before you stay alone at a cabin by a lake.
3. Any man at a resort who sings to you—or who looks like he might sing to you—is not to be trusted.