You'll probably guess from the description what little horror story I'm basing this off of. That being said, this'll be closer to the book than the movie (the exception being a...particular scene), for the simple reason that I like the book better. Don't get me wrong, the Kubrick version is a classic, but...well...there are very few times when the book isn't better than the movie, and this is not one of those cases in my opinion.
Anywho, this'll be a sporadically updated fic that'll hopefully finish close to Halloween. If not, it'll just be another trunk story that others can hold over my head when they talk about that damn EDN and his inability to finish stories.
Without further ado, though: King owns the original story (+Mr. Ullman and the Overlook), DC owns the characters (minus Mr. Ullman and the Overlook) and...
*Cue Dreams of a Witches Sabbath*
Justice League: This Inhuman Place
Chapter One: Prefatory Matters
Clark Kent thought: Officious little prick.
He regretted thinking that, but every nerve in his body felt like frayed electrical wires—his attitude, therefore, was significantly south of shitty, and the round little man with the thinning hair that sat on the opposite side of manager's desk seemed like he was doing everything in his power to exacerbate the issue. A poor start to the whole operation, Clark thought, considering how this man held the keys to what he hoped was a chance at peace, relaxation, and perhaps a little reflection.
The proceeding few months had been tiring for Clark, and not in the way he was used to. The kinds of super villains that could be defeated by punching had fled underground, leaving Superman and the rest of the Justice League to deal with some very human crime—the kind of crime that had no definite good or bad guy. The kind of crime, Clark had decided, that superheroes were simply ill-equipped to handle.
Recession had piled upon a civil war which had led to a refugee crisis, and everywhere Clark looked he saw human ugliness. Diana and Bruce had as well, but it was different for them: Bruce thrived in ugliness, and Diana's training in diplomacy meant that she was inoculated against the harsh edge of war or poverty or corruption. But Clark was an idealist to the core, something that had served him well beforehand—be it aliens or genocidal dictators, Clark's refusal to give into despair had (if he was to toot his own horn) done a great deal to build up the scaffolding of victory. In today's world, the scaffolding always came crashing down, and Clark was beginning to see what his greatest weakness truly was: not kryptonite, not family members in danger, no—it was that idealism only works when people are willing to listen to you. They had stopped listening, and now Clark felt isolated and, to his own horror, increasingly angry.
He'd talked about this with Lois more than a few times, until one night she floated an idea: take a holiday.
"You can't be serious," Clark had said. He was sitting on the edge of his bed, watching into their tiny apartment bathroom as Lois changed into her pajamas.
"And why wouldn't I be?" she said. "If I was a doctor I'd diagnose you with Stage IV fatigue."
"That's not how fatigue works."
"Doesn't matter." She clicked off the light and slid into bed. Clark stayed upright, now staring into the shadows of the room. "This is the same thing you and Diana and Alfred always tell Bruce when he decides to avoid sleep for nine days: you can't be good at your job without some rest."
"Superman can't take a holiday."
"What, do you really think Wally and O'Brian will cause that much trouble without you babysitting them?"
Despite his mood, Clark smiled. "That's not fair," he said, turning to face Lois.
"No, what's not fair is that you think you're not allowed time off." Lois pushed away the covers and wrapped her arms around Clark's shoulders. "I can see it, you know: you're played out, your spirits are down, and you're getting distant. You called me 'Ms. Lane' the other day at the office."
"Oh." Clark's face sunk. "Sorry about that."
Lois cupped his chin with her hands, and her lips lightly brushed his cheek. "I get it Clark, you don't have to worry. But if you keep pushing yourself without a chance to recharge and reorganize, you'll—"
"Yeah, I know." He and Lois slid into bed, their arms intertwined with one another. He lay there silently for a long time, thinking many things: how Lois was right, how much the world needed a Superman that wasn't perpetually grey in his outlook, how lucky he was to have someone like Lois next to him to inspire him and keep him in line in equal measure, and finally how the last thing in the world he wanted to do was to fail her, or fail John. "So," he said eventually, "got any ideas then?"
She did, in fact—a copygirl at the Planet had mentioned a story about a hotel in the Rockies—a ways outside Sidewinder Colorado—that was looking for a winter caretaker. It was isolated, beautiful, and after a little digging on Lois's part, open to families joining the caretakers for the winter. Clark sent in an application, and after an interview (and a little pressure from a brand-new shareholder by the name of Wayne), he'd received a call from the manager asking if he could start ASAP.
And now here he was, looking at the very Mr. Ullman who just a few days ago seemed chipper and eager to meet him, now but a prissy plump man who acted like Clark had inserted the stick in his ass himself.
"Mr. Kent?" Mr. Ullman said. Clark was startled back into the present reality.
"Sorry," said Clark. "I didn't catch that." Also not good—Mr. Ullman was the type of person who'd hold a moment's inattentiveness over your head like the sword of Damocles.
"I asked if your wife fully understood what you'd be taking on here. And there's your son of course."
Clark held up a hint, smiled a big PR smile, and politely said, "Lois fully understands—this was her idea in the first place, really. And Jonathan is an incredible boy. I think he'll do just fine."
"Of course," Mr. Ullman said. "Naturally. I merely felt obligated to bring it up lest you still had any lingering skepticism."
"I'm ready and rearing to go," Clark said, still smiling. "No doubts here, no doubts with my wife, and certainly no doubts with my son. Besides, they're waiting for me in the car—I'd hate to drive them all the way up here and then tell them we're going home."
This seemed satisfactory to Ullman, who nodded and closed the black leather folder on his desk. A pattern of golden vines ran up its spine, and Clark couldn't help but think that the folder was likely worth more than his entire wardrobe. He didn't mind that, but the excess reminded him just how prestigious a place this Overlook Hotel was, and he couldn't help but feel slightly intimidated.
Right—you put up your dukes with Darkseid and yet you're quivering in fear of a hotel. Get a grip Clark—you need a vacation, not a trip to a mental ward.
"Now—" Mr. Ullman pushed back from his desk, but remained seated. Clark kept his behind planted as well. "—what will you be doing while you're up here?"
"Besides taking care of your hotel?"
Mr. Ullman tried not to scoff, Clark noticed, but he didn't need his advanced hearing to notice a disdainful whiff exit his nostrils. "Yes besides that."
"Well…" Clark stroked his chin. "I think we all have plans. Lois brought several binders full of notes with her—I can't tell you what exactly for, but that'll keep her busy for the winter months. John's pretty easy to entertain—he's got a great imagination and enough energy to make it work." He pulled out a slip of paper from his breast pocket. "And I've got a book contract with the Planet's publishing company."
"Nothing about the sordid history of America's oldest hotels, I hope," Mr. Ullman said.
"Fiction," Clark said. "And I have a few ideas on what I want to write too."
Again, this seemed good enough for Mr. Ullman. "I only ask," he said. "Because I recognize how…isolated this region gets when the snow starts, and if NASA is to be believed it will snow quite a bit earlier this year than as otherwise custom."
"I think we'll manage," Clark said. "Besides, the snow is beautiful this far up, right?"
"Perhaps," Mr. Ullman flattened his hands on the desk, and his expression turned several shades more serious than Clark had thought possible. It was like he was about to tell him a ghost story over a campfire, and Clark couldn't help but grin at the comedy of it all.
That is, anyways, until Mr. Ullman actually began to speak.
"I ask this," he said, "and I mention…sordid, because our last caretaker did not so adequately prepare for the winter. A Mr. Delbert Grady, as it were."
The tone of his voice unnerved Clark. It sounded at once regretful as well as fearful, a gumbo of emotions that you'd expect from a traumatized victim, not a midnight prankster. "Did he…go crazy, or something?" Clark asked, and he could hear the tentativeness in his voice.
Mr. Ullman leaned closer to Clark, and now his face looked chiseled in stone. "He killed himself, Mr. Kent. He killed himself and his wife and kids. Butchered them. I saw the bodies when spring time came—the little ones of the daughters, the face of the wife's frozen in fear. I watched them cart out a man I had entrusted to the safe keeping of himself and this hotel carted out in a body bag, with reporters snapping pictures for the next day's headlines: Crazed Caretaker Carves up Family, Horror in the Rockies, etc etc." He backed away from the desk, leaving Clark frozen in his seat. "So now you understand why I wish to take every necessary precaution to prevent that from ever happening again. Not for the Overlook's sake, Mr. Kent, but for my soul's."
Clark nodded. "I do, Mr. Ullman."
"Alright." The Manager rose from his seat and walked around to Clark. "I apologize for the morbidity, but I felt it needed to be said."
"I…appreciate you telling me," Clark said, rising himself. "I'll be on guard for boredom."
"I hope that isn't sarcasm," Mr. Ullman said.
"No sir. Just my Kansas disposition, sir."
"Right." Mr. Ullman fished around his pockets and brought out a set of keys. "With that done, I'll show you the rest of the hotel, hmm?"
"Sure," said Clark. He looked at Ullman, he looked at the desk, then he looked out the window—the highest peaks of the surrounding mountains were covered in white, and every tree around the hotel was devoid of leaves, like skeletal hands reaching up from the cold earth. Clark heard himself gulp.
"Lead the way, Mr. Ullman…"
Outside, in the parking lot, Lois sat in their car with her head leaning against the window. John was in the backseat behind her, reading a book she had bought him in Sidewinder. Something by a Bachman fellow she had never heard of, about a game show where the contestants were chased all over the world by hunters for money. Clark had thought it was too strong of a novel for the boy, but Lois argued otherwise—here was a kid who was destined to fight alongside the world's greatest heroes at some point in his life. A little mature fiction would do him a lot of good, most likely.
What she was concerned with was Clark's health, and corollary to that whether this idea of hers would work out. The great and beautiful irony of Superman was that underneath the bullet proof exterior lay perhaps the most sensitive person she had ever met, someone who would stop and pick up a fist full of flowers just so that he could make his cubicle a little less drab when he got back to work (and she had seen him do this many times, naturally). It was a heartwarming sight to see, something that filled her with the kind of hope no one else could inspire, and despite the creeping cynicism that age and experience brought on her, not a single day went by where she wasn't infinitely thankful for the existence of someone who refused to see the world as anything but a bright and shining place. The fact that this man had the ability to lift continents made it all the more important.
But all that came with a dark side as well.
The moment the world turned their back on him, he felt it. The moment the effectiveness of his alter ego started to falter, he analyzed it like a murder at a crime scene. And if at any point he felt like humanity was insisting on showing him that they were a lost cause (and by God did they do that almost every second day), he'd become distant, even alien. And that worried her.
He needed this time away to collect, needed the time to be just be Clark from Smallville without the worry and the hassle of a species that cried out for a saviour. Diana and Bruce had agreed when she talked to them, and the more she thought about it the more it rang true for her as well: a holiday could save Superman, if he let it. They needed this job, and everyone could see why.
Well…that wasn't the only reason. With distance came a sort of coldness that left Lois alone most nights, and she couldn't help but feel that her husband was moving away from her and John as well. That wasn't the main reason she was concerned (at least she hoped not) but it left her feeling scared. Scared was not something she wanted to feel around Superman—if anything, it made her feel guilty just thinking it. But none-the-less, she felt it, and part of her wondered if John, who was wise beyond his years, didn't feel it as well.
Pealing her face from the window, she glanced behind herself to look at John. He was serenely reading his book, soaking in Mr. Bachman's prose. "How's the book doc?" she said.
"It's good Mommy," John said. "I feel bad for Ben Richards. He feels so trapped."
Don't I know it, Lois thought. She shook her head lightly as John asked something else. "Why does Daddy need this job? Are we poor?"
Lois stifled a small giggle. "Heavens no John, we're perfectly fine."
"Because if we were we could just ask Mr. Wayne for a loan. Or Diana. She's a Princess you know."
"I know, don't worry doc," Lois said with a smile. "But we don't need money. That's not why we're here."
John put the book down. "Then why are we here?"
Lois's journalistic training kicked in. "Not a fan of the Overlook?"
John was quiet for a few seconds, lost in deep thought. Lois stretched out a hand and placed it on John's knee. "John? You can tell me if something's bugging you."
"It's…" another pause, this one much shorter, as John fumbled with different words. "I don't know. It's hard to explain. But the place just feels…evil."
"Evil?" Lois looked out the windshield and regarded the hotel. It was imposing, standing on an ancient rock cliff like an eagle on its perch. The walls were bone white and clean enough to be brand-new. Everything tapered up to the third floor, where a massive sheet window stared out into the valleys below—Presidents and dignitaries had stayed in that room, and Lois could only imagine what it looked like inside.
The hotel was old—very old—and not all of the lawn ornaments struck Lois as tasteful (why would you have a dog and two lions next to a playground and then throw in a rabbit? It makes no sense…) but evil was not a word Lois would use to describe it.
"Well, it's old. But old doesn't mean evil now does it doc?"
"No Mommy," John said, and as Lois gave him a weird look he started giggling.
"Because then that would make Mommy evil, wouldn't it?"
"You're not old!" John said.
God, please go ahead and tell everyone that. Lois smiled and reached over to tussle John's hair. "That's the spirit. Now, why don't you tell me whether or not Daddy got the job?"
"But you said I shouldn't listen in," John said, confused.
"I did, however I'm starting to get bored in this car—"
(not to mention nervous)
"—so why don't we break that rule just once, hmm?"
John giggled again. "Alright Mommy," he said. He focused his ears and listened for his Daddy's voice inside the hotel. It was relatively quiet, as only a few guests still remained, but it still too John a few seconds to find Clark. He funneled his hearing and heard his father say, "I'll let my family know they can come in then," and John began to smile. He didn't like this hotel, not at all, but his Daddy sounded happy, and he knew his Mommy would be relieved—that would be good enough for him.
Lois saw the smile, and returned it with one of her own. "Did he get it?"
"He got it," John said, still smiling.
Lois squealed happily and threw her arms into the air. "That's my Smallville! Go gettem!" She unlocked the car and popped the trunk. "Well, let's go celebrate with him!"
John got out of the car, but instead of going to the trunk he simply stopped and stared up at the hotel. It seemed even larger without the bug-splattered windshield to obscure it. Like a looming beast, and it's brown double doors were its decayed mouth. Walking in would be like letting it eat him, and even though parts of his brain screamed out that he was Jonathan Samuel Clark, son of Superman and inheritor of all his powers, it still felt like he was facing down an ancient entity that could pluck his limbs from his body like he was a trapped fly.
He shuddered, but moved to help his Mom. As much as he was scared of the hotel, he knew that it was just an abstract fear, something he couldn't place. What his parents feared was much more real, and he heard as much late at night, while they talked in as hushed a voice as they could, thinking that John was asleep and couldn't hear them. But he could, he almost always could, and he knew that Daddy was worried that he'd lose control and get angry with all the people he tried to save, and Mommy worried that he'd forget who Clark was and stop being nice and gentle all together. While Daddy was away and Mommy was busy working, he heard her start to cry and mutter a word that he didn't understand. He sounded it out and typed it into Google, where the results showed what his parent's newspaper called a "Kryptonian General" flattening Midland City, killing millions.
She was muttering "Don't be Zod—you can't just become Zod", and that had been enough to scare John away from sleep for nearly two days. That fear was real, his fear of the hotel however was just childish, and he knew it.
Still, he couldn't help but shudder every time he saw it. He'd do this for Mommy and Daddy, he swore on that. But he wasn't going to enjoy it—not in the least.
Well I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I just managed to compress about 70 pages into 3500 words or so. I'm ok with that.
Anyways, next installment should be...at some point, I don't know. This'll hopefully end before Halloween.
Until then, as I wise man once said: "Keep your stick on the ice"