Estimated reading time — 12 minutes
“Damn, Valentine shit already?” I asked my friend Gabriel as we were walking inside a Wal-Mart post Christmas.
“Yeah, bro, and it’s still December. It’s like they’re completely ignoring the months in between the other months that have major holidays.”
“True, true, annoys the shit out of me though, you know?” My friend nodded and we walked curiously around the isles filled with red hearts, very large stuffed animals and boxes of chocolates and candies saying the cliché messages “I Love You,” “Be Mine,” and the like.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the holiday; I just wish they’d just start selling all of this stuff like in late January. At least a month, you know, at least a month of planning is all you need to plan for the epic Valentine’s Day, and that’s just for the people that are going to go all out. Me? I’ve wanted to do something not just for me, but for my best friend and his girl, and honestly anyone seeking for love on that special day, but I just never knew what to do, until just recently.
Let me catch you up to speed. Have you heard of the Valentine House? It’s known to be one of those well-hidden B&B’s in the middle of nowhere, where couples go to spend their romantic company together. Unfortunately, it’s been said that crazy shit happened there, and the owner died of a heart attack as a result. I guess he couldn’t handle the stress and the accusations placed on him. Anyway, after that point, it was considered abandoned, and unfit to be placed as the number one hotel for lovers, until just recently. The name of the place has been brought back by some rumors, which the place was back in business and for those that have a longing for love, that they’d be able to find it. I told Gabriel about it, and he just shrugged, thought it was complete bullshit.
“So, when are you going over there?” Gabriel asked me at the checkout line, as he was buying his girl a white and red teddy bear saying the words “I Love You Beary Much” on its chest with a chocolate rose sewn onto his paw.
“Probably within a month, the sooner I can get it over with, the better.”
“But why that place, though? Couldn’t you just rent out any other lot but that one? What if that place doesn’t even fucking exist?”
Skeptical, I raised an eyebrow and asked, “What do you mean?”
He exclaimed, “Like, even if the place is real, don’t you think anyone would want to go to a place that people would disappear or die, especially on Valentine’s Day? I just don’t want you to go missing is all, bro.”
I’m not one to believe in crazy rumors like that; how can you believe such a bizarre thing unless you find out from the source?
“I don’t know, but this place seems too good to be true, I have to at least check the place out to see if it’s real or not.”
He shrugged, “Hey, it’s your funeral, man.” We soon left the store and went our separate ways; he was heading back to his house, and for me, my apartment.
I had to prepare myself for the trip, so I decided to look for more info. Apparently it was so old or so vague that no official information was given for the Valentine House. I was about to consider giving up, until I saw a Valentine’s Day card slip under my front door. It was a couple weeks before February at the time, so it was a little too soon. I thought it was odd at first, but when I had opened it, it revealed what I needed to know. It was cryptic, but gave enough direction to understand. Fueled with anticipation, I gathered my things to start my trip, and drove to the flat lands, for I now had a date with a house, and its name was Valentine.
I lost track of time on how I’d imagine this place would look like that I didn’t realize the sun was nearly up. What welcomed me in the new morning were the flat grey land and the long black road before me. By the time I was about to crash due to exhaustion catching up to me, I saw a wooden sign, showing some letters and numbers. With nothing around to stop me, I parked near the sign to take a closer look. It was obviously rotten with age, and was also vandalized. Upon closer look, it showed the following: V, L, E, N, I, E, H, U, E, 15, M, E, and S, with someone vandalizing the sign with red saying the words “TURN BACK.”
It clicked that I was on the right track, and by unknown reason it gave me the extra adrenaline rush to keep going. As time flew by, the sky changed, and the landscape had turned from flatlands into hills, and before I knew it, I saw the one building that could be known as the Valentine House. It looked so out of place, like a pristine white mansion was smack dabbed into the middle of nowhere; busted, rusted vehicles of all types littered the front of it. The closer I got to it, the more excited I got, and it was almost to the point that I almost lost my focus on the road. I soon reached the supposed parking lot of the house, and from first glance, it seemed like about twenty cars were parked before this monument at least. I got out of my mini cooper, and prepared myself for the worst. I even held a handgun close to me if any funny business were to arise.
I reached to the door, and before I laid my knuckles to the wood, it suddenly opened before me. “Welcome to the infamous Valentine House,” a cheery old man said to me. Catching me off guard, I stammered, “Uh, hello, my name is—”
“Let me show you around,” the man said, interrupting my introduction. I nodded, and followed the man into the seemingly popular home that was both beautiful, but also mysterious.
The foyer was like the usual design and style of any typical mansion, but with Valentine fashion: heart and ‘”love” themed knick-knacks, light red walls, bouquets of roses, in shades of deep red to almost the color of blood were scattered throughout the room, but what caught my eye were the various sized frames with random couples placed throughout. I walked to a picture hanging on the wall; the frame was a bit dated, with a country themed design with red hearts on the corners, the picture being in complete black and white.
“Who’re the people in these pictures?” I asked.
The old man turned with a grin that showed he was almost too happy. “We at the Valentine House keep photos of the people who spent the day of love and romance in our rooms; each one a memoir, a souvenir, even a memento; we display them like badges of honor in this house.”
“This house seems dedicated to honoring Valentine’s Day,” I thought to myself.
“Sir?” the man asked me, breaking my train of thought. “If you would, please, follow me.” He disregarded his overjoyed demeanor as he walked slowly down the hall. I followed him, and soon, we reached to the first door of the house, revealing a golden heart on it; the number one in the center. “This room is known to be ‘The Rose Room.’”
He opened the door to reveal a hybrid room, a master bedroom with the aesthetics of a sun room. What was inside was breathtaking: the beautiful fresh, earthy smell of colored roses was overgrowing the room. The roses’ vines were spread throughout the room, attached to the walls and floor like veins and arteries to the human body; their thorns uncommonly larger than usual. What I didn’t realize, however, were two bodies in bed, constricted by the very plant that signified love; having said that, next to the heart shaped bed that laid the couple showed the most beautiful bed of roses; the dew from the sunlight that peeked through glistened, though I couldn’t tell if it was water, or something else.
“I hope you don’t mind the mess. As you can see, some of our couples tend to stay much, much longer, and we’re no people if we’re to rush love from this place.”
I wanted to press questions to him, but he already closed the door, and asked me to follow. Annoyed, but reluctantly, I shrugged, and pressed on. We soon stopped once again to another door, revealing another heart; in the middle was the number two.
“We call this ‘The Secret Admirer’s Room,’” he said, and once again, he opened the door to me, revealing what I could describe as ones desperate attempt to proclaim their love for someone. In one corner of the room, clothed skeletal remains were slumped on the floor; an open box with a shriveled organic object in one hand, a large blade of what I had to assume was glass with blood so old and dried it was flaking away from the shard in the other. By the door was another skeleton, also clothed, in the position that it was trying to escape from the grisly sight, but was unable to. “Love can be cruel to some people; for one can show the most heartfelt feelings to someone, only to be simply denied.” I wanted to look more into the room, but he closed the door, and ordered me to press on.
For each room we passed followed another abstract scene, followed by a few words of back-story from the old man, and as much as I was stunned, it kept me curious about the next room. Some of the other rooms involved a room regarding young love, showing two young children frozen in time. Another room was for lovers’ quarrel, showing a mannequin with a missing arm, with purple and red marks throughout the figure, and a paper heart pinned in its chest with a knife. Longing, Fantasy, Sweet obsessions, and even a room that was nothing but hearts; both real and artificial; as much as I wanted to go into each room, the old man prevented me from entering, so I had to look from the doors opening before he closed it.
After what seemed like hours, and looking in so many rooms, it wasn’t long before we reached the supposed final room of the tour, revealing two black doors with a much bigger heart, but instead of a number, revealed a crown shaped in red. The old man was eerily quiet when we reached to this room, but instead of asking each and every room we saw, I had to ask, “What room is this?”
“…This is the ‘Red Honeymoon Suite,’ he croaked, as he took out a key with a heart at the end to unlock the double doors before us. After the sound of a loud “click,” the doors opened themselves, revealing nothing but darkness and a smell that was a mixture of things: sterile, but also rotten; metallic, but also sweet. “Would you like to come in, and see the inside of this room?”
Out of all the rooms I couldn’t go in to, this happened to be the only one I can. Without missing a beat, I quickly walked into the dark room, where the mixture of smells grew more potent with each step I took.
I was soon enveloped in pure darkness, with the only source of light coming from the doors opening. “Close your eyes. You don’t want to be blinded by the lights,” he said. Without saying anything I did what he said, preparing for what grisly fate awaited me in this house of supposed love and death. Before I knew it, the lights came on, and what was shown had got to be the most grotesque room of all. It had the layout of a studio apartment, with the walls decorated with viscera, intestines, and skin to appear as ribbons or even wall décor. The chandelier above me had its artificial lights splattered in dried blood, with its rusted metal strands wrapped in more guts, shriveled from age. On the floor, was broken wine bottles, syringes, and dried rose petals, piled like leaves from the autumn season. Finally, before me was the exact visual of a Valentine nightmare. Dead bodies, skeletons, cadavers were nearly everywhere, clothed, unclothed, skinned and dried; some were in the California king bed, and some on the floor, some chained and attached to slings; all in sexual positions…like a macabre orgy frozen in time. It was so overwhelming, that I had to steps back, only to bump into the old man.
“The ‘Red Honeymoon Suite’ is a room specifically for those in true love; a miniature world to explore their inner, most sinful desires for one another and others.” He glared at me as if I found out about a dark secret, and he’d had to keep me quiet, but despite his look, he continued. “This room is very popular for more than just two people; in fact—”
“I’ll take it!” I didn’t mean to interrupt, but after seeing all of this, all of the sickly sweet facades of any term related to Valentine’s Day, that this was what I wanted. I wanted the entire home for not just myself, but for the future people that I bring here. This house is so sickly devoted to such a holiday, that – funnily and oddly enough – I simply love it too much to have it for just one day.
“Excuse me?” he questioned me, raising an eyebrow.
“Let me rephrase: I wish to buy this house.”
He cleared his throat. “Allow me to repeat what you’re proposing: You, sir, wish to ‘buy’ this place? You’re not here to reserve a room…?”
I shook my head. “I’m what you’d call an entrepreneur, and this place has so much history built into it. Allow me to take the reins and make this place into the best hotel, motel… hell, even a B&B, that there is.”
The man fell silent, and slowly gave a slight chuckle and then sighed, “I’m quite happy that you like this place, but I must tell you that this place isn’t for sale. The residents still reside in these halls. I’ll admit, this business hasn’t been pleasant as of late, but the people that reside here, they are what keeps this place alive. Their hearts, their emotions, their memories…”
“…Their ‘mementos?’” I asked.
“Yes, yes, you’re right; even their mementos.”
I walked around the room, my eyes scanning the hellish scene before me still, my stomach turning, my sanity dwindling away; I turned to the man once more. “Tell me, would you say that you love your job?”
The man smiled. “Why, yes, I’d still work here in this mausoleum of love, even in death. Even if there wasn’t any business here, I’d still treat this place as a world of love.”
“And you’re sure I can’t persuade you into selling this place to me?”
He frowned. “No. This place can’t be bought, and you can’t force me to sell it to you.”
I looked away from him, and I suddenly felt hot. I felt not like myself, and as I was noticing my sudden changes, the man gave me a scowl. “If you’re not here to reserve a room, then I suggest it would be best if you left.”
It was then that I had revealed my gun to him, showing the same wide grin he had shown me when I first got here. “It’s such a shame, that you’re so blinded by this damn holiday that it can make even the queen of hearts sick.” I laughed at him manically as he stepped away from me.
“Please, sir, you don’t know what you’re doing—”
I shot the old bastard in the heart as he pleaded, his body gave a loud thump as he bled out on the engraved heart on the floor.
I stared at my gun in my hand, seeing my hand tremble with adrenaline, the sudden silence started to ring in my ears, as I blew the subtle smoke from my gun. I looked at the spot where the man had died by my hand, only to see that he was gone. Not just him, but everybody that was propped was also gone, and only the remnants of rose petals and dust was there surrounding me.
“Pleasure having business with you,” I said, as I instinctively walked out of the room. I blew a kiss to the sudden emptiness of the room before closing its double doors behind me. With the old man gone, I was finally able to look in each room, only to find that each room was like the Red Honeymoon Suite: rotten, abandoned, and no bodies in any shape or form, except for the mannequin in the Lover’s Quarrel room. Each room I was able to revisit felt empty, and for each room I went into, the heavier my chest got.
I started to even question if all the things I saw was real and that I was losing my mind, but at the same time I couldn’t help but feel that I stumbled upon something that should’ve been exploited a long time ago, and in the end, I got my wish by stumbling upon a building that was once known as the Valentine House. I eventually made it to the foyer, and seeing the once red walls to be a gloomy grey. The knick-knacks gone or broken beyond recognition, the roses blackened and dry, and the mementos…they were all real. I saw the pictures of the unfortunate, seeing their smiling faces, from various years dating from 1938 up to 1996. I couldn’t help but feel their pain, at which I ended up sobbing on the spot. I was soon starting to debate to placing the gun I had to my head and ending it, but a heard a loud thud, bringing me back to reality, if not momentarily. It was a red book, with a white lace job. I picked it up, and I saw what had to be a registry. Flipping through the pages, I saw a folded piece of paper. I opened it, and read the contents.
“To whom it may concern:
This paper shows proof of ownership of the Valentine House. Under the house name, you shall allow anyone with a broken heart to come and stay until they feel loved enough to leave at their leisure. That is the Valentine way. I should hope that my legacy will live on to be a sanctuary for those that seek love, celebrate it, cherish it, and the like. My only wish is to make people happy, as I have with my loving wife and family.
~Robert “Cupid” Valentine
February 14th, 1928”
After reading what seemed to be the ownership title of the house, I felt a cold chill run down my spine. Feeling like I was being watched, I quickly grabbed my bearings, book included, and rushed to my car. Seeing the other rusted cars had also vanished, I quickly drove away from the building; it soon crumbled before my eyes. It’s as if the people that were stuck there had wished to be free by tearing the house from within. “May God wish you safe travels,” I said to myself, as I laid my eyes to the red book beside me, thinking of the souls that were dormant in that damned house.
I soon made it back to my hometown, and drove all the way to my friends’ house. Gabriel was surprised to see me so pale, and brought me inside, his girlfriend in the kitchen making cocoa. I wanted to tell him what I saw, that the house was real, and I managed to escape the devoted hell before it crumbled onto me. As soon as I sat on his couch, however, I suddenly crashed, only to wake up in the middle of the night.
I felt relieved that I was still at Gabriel’s house, and I stretched in relief. I stumbled in the dark home to find him, so I could thank him and his girlfriend for letting mmeme rest. I soon realized the house seemed quiet…too quiet.
“Gabriel?” I shouted. No answer. I reached to his room, only to find the door locked. “Hey, man, you up?” I said, banging his door.
I was starting to worry, so I shouted even more, more than loud enough to wake someone from a deep sleep,
“Gabriel, this isn’t fun—”
My heart stopped as I looked at the sudden, odd reflection in front of me. I stepped back, looked up, and to my horror, revealed a metallic heart, with the number 214 in the center. I was frantic, and banged on the door until it finally gave, only to see darkness. I flipped the switch, and I saw carnage. The fresh smell of blood came from two unidentifiable piles of flesh in the corner, and on the carpet, written in viscera, a message read: “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
In the center of that message was a teddy bear. The same teddy bear that Gabriel had bought back in December, with splatters of blood on its chest, paws, and face.