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Hotel Girl

I see her reading an article on her laptop titled, ’20 Teeny Baby Animals You’ll Want To Put In Your Pocket.’

The more tiny animals she sees, the wider she smiles: tiny sea lion, tiny sloth, tiny lamb, tiny meerkat, and so on.

“Looks like you have something in common with them.” I put my arms around Cassandra from behind.

She smiles, “Go back to bed. You shouldn’t be up so early.”

“Actually I’m still in bed.”

We’re in a hotel room. The bed is near the desk. She’s sitting on a chair in front of the desk and my arms are around her as I’m sitting on the bed.

She starts reading another article, ’15 Tiny Presents You Can Give Someone to Make Their Day for No Reason.’ Here’s some of them: wireless panda speaker, pineapple shot glasses, and matchbook manicure (tiny nail files inside a matchbook).

“Hey, I got a present for you that’ll make your day. It’s in my pocket. But it’s not tiny.” I squeeze her tight.

“Not tiny? I beg to differ.” She giggles.

I frown.

I close her laptop, pick her up and put her on the bed. She snuggles into my shoulder.

“I was just about to start working you know?” She pouts. “Let me go back to my laptop.”

“Later. First things first.” I start kissing her.

I move the kisses down to her neck, breasts, stomach, and finally between her thighs.

And then her phone rings. The noise is deafening.

She puts it on silent.

I continue going down on her.

But then we hear loud knocks on the door.

I get up, preparing to answer it, but she whispers to me, “Get back down there!”

I obey.

Hopefully whoever is knocking will come back later.

But the knocking doesn’t stop. The knocks are getting louder.

“Just answer it.” She says, sounding extremely pissed off.

I get up and put some clothes on. She stays naked and goes under the blanket.

I walk through the hallway and as I’m approaching the front door, the knocks get louder.

I look through the peephole and see the concierge that checked in Cassandra and me last night.

I open the door and wait for him to speak.

“Sir, I’m sorry about disturbing you at such an early hour.” The concierge says rapidly. “But we heard screams coming from this floor a few minutes ago and we’re going door to door to inquire if our guests are safe.”

“We didn’t hear anything. And we’re fine.” I reply.

“That’s a relief to hear, let us know if you need anything. Thank you. And once again I apologize for disturbing you.”

The concierge leaves and I shut the door. What’s strange is that the rooms in this hotel are pretty soundproof, every reviewer of this hotel mentioned it online.

“That was really weird.” Cassandra says when I walk back into the bedroom.

The front door isn’t far from the bedroom so Cassandra heard everything.

“Yeah I know.” I reply. “Anyway, he’s gone. Should we pick up where we left off?”

“Later.” She frowns. “My sister texted me. She still hasn’t made up her mind.”

Cassandra’s sister, Melisandre, is going through a rough time. Melisandre has a difficult and painful decision to make. Her infant son is going to die if he doesn’t get a heart transplant but she isn’t sure whether she wants to pursue a transplant. Even if her little boy gets a new heart, she’ll have to fund a lifetime of medical care. That’s a ruinous financial burden for a single mother.

She doesn’t want her son’s life to be defined by a transplant and the doctor said he has no chance to live past the age of 30 so what’s the point? She feels that in a way its better if he dies now before he’s old enough to know what’s going on, before her other children spend their entire lives with him, and before he gets married and has kids of his own. It would spare everyone the heartache.

“I need to call her.” Cassandra says before wearing one of my extra large t-shirts and going to the balcony.

Cassandra and I both think Melisandre should not pursue the transplant. The financial headache and emotional turmoil just isn’t worth it. Melisandre doesn’t know what to do yet, she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I feel like taking a nap for a while. But before I can fall asleep I hear a scream from the balcony. I rush over there but I don’t see Cassandra. Did she fall? I look over the edge of the balcony, expecting to see a body below, but I don’t see anything.

My hands are shaking as I call reception.

Before the concierge can speak I start talking fast, “My girlfriend was on the balcony and I heard a scream and now she’s not there anymore. I don’t know what happened or where she is.”

“I was afraid this might happen. I’m coming up immediately.”

The concierge arrives in a few minutes. He inspects the room carefully and goes to the balcony.

“I’m afraid she’s gone.” He says mournfully.

“Gone? What the fuck do you mean she’s gone?” I ask angrily. “Where did she go? Did someone kidnap her? And what was that scream you were asking about earlier? Does that have anything to do with this?”

“There’s something you need to know about this hotel. It’s haunted.” The concierge isn’t making eye contact with me anymore. He’s looking at the floor.

I laugh sarcastically, “Haunted? Really?”

“This is no joke, sir.” He says. “We haven’t had any incidents in decades but this year we have… including your girlfriend’s disappearance.”

“Why is this place haunted? What happened?”

“The first owner of this hotel used to live with his 7-year-old daughter in one of the penthouse suites on top. The hotel first opened about two hundred years ago. He was a cruel man. He used to beat his little girl daily. One day he went too far and whipped her to death with a belt. The first few years after she died went without incident. Then guests began complaining of spotting a little girl in their rooms and the description of this girl matches the pictures of the first owner’s daughter. Then the incidents began to get worse. Guests began to dream of the little girl harming them and would wake up with cuts and bruises on their body. Then the disappearances started… our hotel was almost shut down because of it. Eventually things settled down and nothing bad happened for a long time. But this year, it seems like the ghost of that little girl has returned with a vengeance.”

The concierge pulls out an old black and white photograph from his pocket. It’s a picture of the first owner and his daughter. I look at it carefully. Both of them are standing in front of the hotel. The first owner looks stern. The little girl has a look of hopelessness and resignation on her face.

I’m not quite sure what to say. Even if I believe the concierge, why would the ghost of that poor girl want to cause so much misery? If she suffered so much at the hands of her father, why would she want to make other innocent people suffer? Why not instead become a ghost that protects the innocent? All these questions are making my head hurt. I just want to find Cassandra and get the fuck out of here.

“I think we need to call the police.” I tell the concierge.

“I already have. I am truly sorry.”

“You should’ve told us about the darker side of this hotel.” I say.

“Nothing had happened in so very long and I wasn’t sure of that the stories were even true. The incidents before this year took place before my time.”

“I believe you when you say nothing bad has happened recently. Otherwise it would’ve been mentioned on hotel review sites, social media, and the news. Everyone would be talking about it. But still, you should’ve told us what you knew before something like this happened.”

“I’m sorry, sir. Of course everyone is going to know what happened now. I wouldn’t hide this even if I could. The hotel might be shut down until this is resolved.” The concierge says, feeling quite ashamed.

“Let’s search the place inside out until the police arrive.” I suggest.

We search every corner of every room in the hotel. When the police arrive they search everywhere too. No sign of Cassandra. It’s as if she disappeared into thin air.

By the time we’re done searching it’s late at night. The police tell us they plan to search nearby areas as well. I tell them I’ll join them in an hour. I need to shower and take a short nap first.

As soon as I shower I jump into bed. My head is pounding. I’ve never had such a horrific migraine in my life.

I fall asleep immediately.

I begin dreaming. The dream starts of beautifully. I’m hiking in the Rocky Mountains in Canada. The weather is cool. The air is fresh. I feel motivated to climb to the top of as many mountains as I can.

But then the dream sours. I’m in a dark room. I hear screams. I recognize the voice behind the screams, it belongs to Cassandra. Then I see her in front of me. She’s being crucified to a brick wall. A little girl is hammering nails into her body. The little girl is the owner’s daughter, I remember her from the picture the concierge showed me. Her blood is dripping down the wall. I try to help her but I can’t move. I’m paralyzed.

I wake up with a jolt. I’ve never had such a bad nightmare in my life. My heart is beating faster than it ever has. Then I see something that I never thought I would. Cassandra’s dead body is beside me in bed. Her body has nails sticking out of it. The bed sheets are soaked in her blood.

How the hell is this possible?

Suddenly the door bursts open and several police officers storm inside. One of them yells, “You’re under arrest!”

Spider bites man’s penis again

That’s right, a spider bit a man’s penis a few months ago and today it happened again. I wonder if it was the same spider! I don’t know what this guy did to piss off Lady Luck but she must have a good reason to be such a bitch to him. The Australian tradesman was bitten both times at work while using a portable toilet. I have a feeling that he’d rather wear an adult diaper than use a portable toilet again.

Revenge

“Can you take me to Frank’s Kitchen?” I ask the cabbie parked in front of a club I just left.

“Sorry, it’s out of the way.” He replies without even looking at me. He’s busy on his phone.

I move on.

“Can you take me to Frank’s Kitchen?” I ask the next cabbie.

“No.” The next cabbie replies. “It’s only a $5 fare.”

I try my luck with the third cabbie. They say third time’s the charm right?

“Why not just walk? It’s not that far.” Says the third cabbie.

I thought the customer was supposed to be king but these cabbies have turned that rule upside down. They never want to go anywhere unless it meets their convenience.

Clubs are too damn noisy. Some old school friends invited me to hang out and I did spend a couple of hours with them, but that’s pretty much all I can tolerate in a noisy club.

I live in Frank’s Kitchen, a quiet neighborhood right along the beach. The city’s party district is right next door, which might be appealing to others but I’m not really a party guy. I prefer low-key get-togethers.

I may as well walk home. It won’t take that long. It’s really cold but I don’t mind. But these taxi drivers have become a serious problem. Last week a few of my friends left a certain club in a hurry because gunfire erupted inside. They tried to get a taxi to go home but all the cabbies rejected them. When my friend said that there’s people shooting guns and the area is unsafe, the cabbies simply said that they couldn’t hear any gunshots. So my friends were forced to walk. But more shots were fired between some other men arguing outside and one of my friends, Cassie, was caught in the crossfire. A bullet shattered her elbow.

As soon as I reach home and open my door I smell something burning. It smells like gasoline and rotting meat. I rush into the living room and see the charred remains of my dog Tuffy. I feel sick to my stomach. I’ve never seen anything so horrible before. There’s a handwritten note on the side table nearby. The note simply says: ‘I told you something bad would happen if you hurt me. Revenge is a dish best served hot.’
It’s my ex’s handwriting. I dumped her three months ago because she was psychotic but I never thought she was capable of something like this.

What I’m wondering is how the hell she even broke into my house. I had a locksmith change the lock and keys to my house as soon as I kicked her out. Then I see a broken window near my living room. There’s a brick on the floor. She broke in by smashing my window with a goddamn brick and all I want to do right now is smash her face with that same brick. She is not going to get away with murdering my best friend.

I immediately leave the house and walk to the nearest bus stop. The bus arrives and I get off 20 minutes later near my friend Cassie’s apartment. I climb the stairs to the 7th floor and knock on her door. I never take the elevator, I believe in taking advantage of every opportunity to exercise.

Cassie opens the door. Her right arm is in a sling.

“Its 1 am… what happened?” She asks sleepily and lets me in.

“My ex killed Tuffy.” I tell her as we go to her bedroom.

“What? How?” She says as she sits on the bed.

I sit down next to her. “Today evening when I went out. She broke into my house, doused Tuffy in gasoline, and set him on fire.”

“What the fuck?” She asks, shocked.

“I’m lucky she didn’t burn down the whole house. She also left a note.” I hand her the note.

She reads it and is quiet for a few moments. Then she says, “You need to call the police.”

“I’d rather deal with this myself.”

Tanya and I dated for 1 year before I ended things. Tanya was actually the one who suggested that I get a dog. I was against it initially because it’s a lot of work taking care of another living thing but she managed to persuade me. She said dogs are very loving and loyal. I wish she had been like a dog. I loved Tuffy. Whenever I got home, he would greet me as enthusiastically as Dino greets Fred Flintstone. I used to take him for walks but most of his exercise came from playing soccer with me at home. I have a big empty basement so we used to play with the soccer ball a lot.

“Are you sure you want to go down that road?” Cassie asks.

“Oh, I’m positive.”

Cassie has a friend in some organized crime group. After Cassie was shot, her friend paid a visit to the homes of each taxi driver that had refused to drive her. The outcome of those visits was that those cabbies will never again refuse a fare.

“I want you to think it through. What she did was inexcusable. There is no justification for it and she deserves the harshest of punishments. But I think the punishment should be determined by the law.”

“I want to deal with her personally. But after I do that, I’ll need your friend to help me cover my tracks.”

Cassie sighs, “What do you have in mind?”

“I’m not sure yet but I just need your friend’s assurance that none of what I’m planning to do will ever be traced back to me.”

“You don’t need to worry about getting caught for what you’re about to do.” She says. “You can hide what you do from the world but you can’t hide it from your conscience. You’ll have to live with what you do every day for the rest of your life.”

“I’ve made up my mind.” I say firmly.

Cassie and I chat for a few more minutes before she tells me that she really needs to go to sleep because she can’t afford to wake up late and be late for work again. So I go to the living room.

The next step of my plan is to dial my ex’s number.

She picks up after two rings, “Hello?”

She’s always awake at this hour.

“Tanya? It’s me.” I say.

“I thought I might be hearing from you.”

“I think we should talk about what happened.”

“I warned you not to hurt me.” She scolds. “But you didn’t listen. Because of you, Tuffy paid the price.”

“I just want to make things right with you.”

“Really?” She asks, sounding hopeful and excited.

“Yes.”

“I’m staying at my brother’s. I’ll text you the address.”

“I’ll be right over.” I say.

“Can’t wait!”

The phone call ends.

I leave Cassie’s apartment.

I hail a cab and thankfully he agrees to take me to Tanya’s brother’s house. It takes an hour to get there.

It’s a pretty big house. I ring the doorbell and wait. Tanya answers it and welcomes me in.

We take a seat in the living room. I’m sitting beside her on the sofa and it’s taking every ounce of willpower not to strangle her right then and there. But I have to be patient.

“You didn’t have to do something so drastic to get my attention. I’ve been thinking about you a lot in the past few weeks. It was only a matter of time before I reached out to you.”

“I couldn’t wait any longer to hear from you. I missed you so much it hurt. Trust me, Tuffy did not suffer today nearly as much as I have in the past three months.”

My blood boils as soon as she finishes that sentence. But I gotta keep calm.

“I made such a huge mistake when I broke up with you. I should’ve never done that. I’m just lucky you’re still waiting around for a fool like me.”

Her eyes light up and she hugs me, “I knew you’d come back to me one day. I just knew it. You just needed a little push.”

I hug her and stroke her back. She smells amazing, like always. Being this close to her brings back a lot of memories.

“Sweetheart, why don’t we go for a drive? Let’s go to the spot where we first met?”

She readily agrees. We leave the house and get into her Mercedes-Benz. She’s a huge car person. I’m not really into cars. I don’t even like driving.

We’re speeding down the highway, heading towards the ski lodge where we first met. She’s an amazing skier. I’m still a beginner.

The ski lodge is on top of a small mountain and the road that leads there is a very curvy one, sometimes it makes me dizzy. It’s closed at this hour but the view from there is beautiful, you can see the whole city. The mountain is next to a small lake and since it’s winter, it’s frozen solid.

The weather at this time of year is freezing. But it’s not as cold as my ex’s heart.

We reach the mountain and begin our twisty ascent to the top. We’re almost there.

“Hey, can we stop for a second?” I ask.

“Sure.” She stops the car on the side of the road. “But why?”

“Everyone knows the view from the top is amazing. But nobody knows that the view from this angle lets you see a different side of the city. It may not be as high, but it’s totally worth it. I’ll show you.”

We both get out and stand near the edge. It really does look beautiful. And so different from this angle. There’s a bit of light visible. The sun will rise soon.

“You were right.” She nods. “This is a different perspective.”

“You know what’s funny? That you actually think I’m not at all effected by what you did.”

“What do you mean?” She asks.

I smirk. Typical Tanya. There’s no point in attempting to explain to her what I mean. Whenever I tried in the past she would just give me a blank stare. She just cannot understand basic human emotions. She’s a self-involved, murderous sociopath.

“What I mean is that revenge isn’t a dish served hot. It’s best served cold.”

Suddenly I grab her and push her off the edge. She screams as she falls onto the frozen lake below us.

I dial 911 and tell them that while Tanya and I were looking at the view, she suddenly jumped and there was nothing I could do to stop her. They tell me to stay where I am and wait for the police and ambulance to arrive. Of course the police will ask more questions and I’ll simply tell them that I had decided to break up with her and the pain was too much for her to bear so she chose to take her own life.

Naturally they’ll be suspicious, but that’s where Cassie’s friend will come into play. Cassie’s friend has influence with the police so he’ll make sure they don’t ask too many questions and that this case is closed as fast as possible.

I thought a wave of relief would wash over me now that Tanya’s dead but I don’t feel as good as I thought I would. I miss Tuffy. Tanya’s death won’t bring him back. But at least the world is a better place with one less deranged sociopath.

Progress

I haven’t seen my father in 9 months. We’ve never been close. They say opposites attract, when it comes to romance. But in a father-son relationship, if you’re the complete opposite of your father, you two will end up butting heads. My father is an artist whereas I’m in advertising. He doesn’t understand why I like my job and whenever I try talking to him about it, he’ll cut me off and tell me that he wished I had chosen a different path in life.

I’ve been travelling for the past year, working in different parts of the world. Now I’m back home and my dad and I will have lunch at Old Café, a restaurant he used to take me to when I was growing up. I still remember the most powerful piece of advice he ever gave me when he took me to Old Café as a kid.

He told me that the world doesn’t care about your problems. It doesn’t care about anybody’s problems. Did your mom kill herself when you were young because she was depressed? The world doesn’t care. Did some bullies at school steal your shoes and then beat you up? The world doesn’t care. Whatever happens to you, the world is indifferent. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you or help you get better, so help yourself and move on with your life. This may seem like a harsh truth to reveal to a kid, but the sooner a person understands this the better.

I enter Old Café for the first time in years. My father’s waiting for me at our usual table. He loves sitting there because of the great view of the beach. But there’s something different about him. He isn’t sitting in a chair. He’s in a wheelchair…

“Dad? You’re… in a wheelchair? What happened?” I say as soon as I see him.

“It’s temporary. I wasn’t paying attention when I crossed the road and a bike hit me.” He replies.

“When did this happen? Why didn’t you tell me?” I ask.

“A couple of months ago. I didn’t want to worry you.”

“Yeah but this is really serious. You’re in a wheelchair!”

“I’m doing okay, I really am.” He says casually, as if he’s dealing with a minor paper cut and nothing more.

“Dad, usually when people get into accidents, they inform their family.”

“The doctor said I’ll be able to walk soon.” He smiles. “I’m going for physical therapy every day. My legs will be as good as new in a few months.”

“Well, okay then…”

“How are you doing?” He asks.

I have to answer this question carefully. If I talk too much about my job, I’ll end up getting a lecture on how advertising is an unethical profession that’s filled with con artists. But if I don’t mention anything about my job at all, he’ll ask me about it and before I can even answer, he’ll give me the same lecture.

“Pretty good!” I say. “Work’s going pretty well and I met a girl a few months ago, she and I are kind of serious.”

Hopefully my dad will choose to talk about my love interest rather than my job…

“Really? What’s she like?”

Thank god he wants to talk about the girl. Hopefully we can avoid talking about my job today. My fingers and toes are crossed!

“She reminds me of mom. She used to be a child actor as well. She absolutely loved it but yesterday she saw something online that really upset her. She was reading this article: ‘50 Adorable Child Actors That Grew Up To Be Hideous’. She was number 30 on the list.”

“Fuck the press.” My father says with disgust.

The only thing my father hates more than advertising is journalism.

“Here’s a picture of the two of us.” I show him a picture of my girlfriend and I on my phone.

“She’s beautiful. Tell her to ignore that article.”

“I did.” I sigh. “But it’s not easy. There’s a lot of mean comments about her all over the Internet.”

“Did you hear the question some dipshit reporter asked Stan Wawrinka the other day?”

“No, what?”

Stan Wawrinka is a professional tennis player. My dad loves tennis.

“Stan was asked what motivates him to keep playing tennis if he’s never going to be as good as Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic.” He fumes.

Roger and Novak have enjoyed far more success than Stan, they’ve both won 17 and 12 Grand Slams (major tennis championships) respectively whereas Stan has only won 3 and has no chance of catching Roger and Novak since he’s too old.

“That’s really stupid and disrespectful.” I say.

“It sure is.” My dad says. “It sends the wrong message. Just because you aren’t as good at something as someone else, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it! Plus there is a point to Stan Wawrinka playing tennis, he earns a lot of money, a lot more than that dipshit reporter.”

My dad and I continue chatting for hours. We don’t mention my job even once. I’ve never had a better time with him before. At around sunset I take him home. He’s feeling tired so I help him get into bed for a short nap.

I decide to walk around my house. I know I was the one who grew up here, but I don’t feel like I have any connection to my former, younger self that grew up in this house.

I go to the kitchen, that’s where they say the heart of the home is right? I see Weetabix, my dad’s favorite breakfast cereal, on the kitchen counter. Each piece of Weetabix is about four inches long and two inches wide. Each piece is packed with protein. I remember when my dad accidentally dropped a single piece of dry Weetabix on the kitchen floor. It was the worst day of his life because Weetabix breaks easily and the crumbs spread like wildfire. Even today I can still hear my dad saying, “The crumbs… Oh god, the crumbs!”

It’s time to visit an old friend. I’ve known him since we were kids. I walk over to his house, which is right down the road, and ring his doorbell.

Jerry opens the door, “Wow, I haven’t seen you in forever!”

“I’m here for a week.” I smile.

He hugs me and we go inside. I haven’t seen him in 9 months either.

We talk about the good old days at first. Old girlfriends we had fun with, old video games we played until dawn, and then the conversation shifts to what we’re doing for a living.

“I finally got my foot in the door of the ad industry. I’m having a blast. Life there is so different than here. I was homesick for the first few weeks but I got used to it quickly.” I say.

“Move back and work for me.” He leans back on the sofa. “I’m starting another business and you can be in charge of marketing.”

“What kind of business?”

“It’s a matchmaking service between service providers and consumers.” Jerry smiles proudly. “It’s an app. Now if you’re looking for a plumber, masseuse, math tutor, wedding planner, accountant, or any other kind of professional service provider, we will make it easy for the both of you to connect with each other. Now there are many services like this all over the world but there isn’t even one here. We can be the first one here.”

“That would be pretty useful.” I nod my head. “It saves a lot of time finding who you’re looking for.”

“Exactly. But we need more investors. We need to raise more capital but I’m optimistic we’ll be able to launch this year itself.”

Jerry and I hang out for a little while longer before I go home. We’re planning to go for a hike tomorrow afternoon, just like we used to do every weekend before I moved abroad.

I am lying in bed staring at the ceiling. Jet lag is keeping me awake.

I hear a knock on my door.

“Son, are you awake?” My dad asks.

“Yeah”

I go to my door and open it. My dad’s on his wheelchair outside my room.

“Are you up for a walk? I just woke up from my nap. I mean I obviously can’t walk, because of the damn wheelchair, but I feel like going outside.”

“Sure. I can’t sleep either. Let’s go to the beach?”

“Yup.” He says.

My dad used to take me to the beach late at night when I couldn’t get sleep as a kid. It’s soothing to hear the waves in the dark.

The beach is only a few minutes walk from our home. The red sand looks especially beautiful tonight because of the moonlight from the full moon.

I’m glad my dad’s awake. I want to talk to him about something important. My grandfather, who is his father, left my dad a sizeable inheritance. My grandfather was in the oil business so he made a fortune. My dad hasn’t spent a dime of it, it’s just sitting in the bank. I haven’t told anyone about it either. But maybe I can convince my dad to invest some of it in Jerry’s startup. It’s a longshot, my dad probably won’t go for it, but I have to try.

“Hey dad.” I say. “Can we talk about something? It’s important.”

“Sure.” He says.

“It’s about the inheritance.”

I explain the situation to my dad. I tell him that we can make a fortune if we invest in Jerry’s idea. My dad knows how brilliant Jerry is. Jerry’s a well-known businessman here, he has an excellent track record of starting lucrative ventures.

“I’m not sold.” He says. “I’m not questioning Jerry’s business acumen, but I’m just not comfortable being personally involved.”

“But dad, we could make a killing.”

“It’s still a risk. Plus, I’m planning to donate most of the money to the Arts Department of my University.”

“But you could donate a lot more to them if you invest in Jerry’s idea first. We’ll triple our investment in a few years.”

“I’m sorry but my answer is no.”

“Okay.” I sigh.

My dad is way too risk-averse. It’s frustrating. This is a golden business opportunity. But my dad just can’t see it. He’s blinded by fear. He can’t see the big picture, he’s bogged down by the pixels. I love him but I can’t let him get in the way of my progress.

The beach is deserted. It usually is when it’s this late. The tide is dangerously high. An alarming number of people have been swept away by the tide in recent years. Get too close and the ocean swallows you whole.

I start rolling my dad’s wheelchair closer to the water.

“Let’s not go too near!” He says nervously. “It’s beautiful but unsafe.”

I keep going closer to the water.

“Son, what are you doing?”

I rush into the water and push him in. I push the wheelchair in too. The water grabs hold of him and takes him inside. I don’t hear him scream. Hopefully it wasn’t too painful for him. A quick, silent death is the best kind of death one can hope for.

I look left and right. No witnesses in sight.

Now my grandfather’s inheritance is mine.

Mr. Grayson

“I’m afraid you’ll have to come in tomorrow.” My boss says while we’re standing in line for lunch at the office cafeteria.

“Tomorrow’s Saturday.” I reply.

“And Sunday as well.” He gives me a patronizing smile.

“This is the fourth weekend in a row that you’re asking me to give up.”

“I’m not asking you. I’m telling you.”

My boss, Mr. Grayson, is horrible. Every day I fantasize his death in a different way. He goes camping once a month so yesterday I imagined him being mauled to death by a grizzly bear. Today, just when he told me that I have to work on the weekend again, I imagined stabbing him in the jugular with a fork. I’m not sure why Mr. Grayson is even in the cafeteria. He’d be better off spending some time in the office gym. The man’s stomach is so huge that if he wore a wig he’d look like a pregnant woman.

“Client’s paying us a visit on Monday morning so we have to be prepared.” My boss says.

“What are they expecting?” I ask.

“Everything.” He says before stepping ahead of me in line. The bastard is notorious line-jumper.

He grabs a few fruits and marches away. Mr. Grayson never sits with everyone else in the cafeteria. He always eats alone in his office. I’m pretty sure that if the public knew what he was doing all alone in his office, he’d lose his job and go to jail. I suspect he produces and distributes child porn. Over the past year, I’ve seen various children come in and out of his office. Some don’t even come out. He claims they are his nephews and nieces but I’m not buying it. The children look normal enough when they go into his office but when they come out a few hours later, their faces tell a different story – a dark abusive story.

I join my friend Carlos at one of the tables.

“Wow. You’re finally here.” Carlos says.

I haven’t eaten with Carlos all week. In fact I haven’t eaten lunch this week because I’ve been working so much.

“I don’t have much time.” I’m wolfing down my food. “I need to finish that presentation by tonight.”

“What you need is a new job. Mr. Grayson is an asshole but he treats you 10 times worse than anyone else.”

“He hates the fact that if he didn’t have me, our company would lose our most lucrative clients.” I gulp my orange juice. “He hates me because he needs me. He could never do what I do.”

“That’s true.” He nods. “But you have no life. You’re only here is because of the money.”

“Well, of course. I wouldn’t earn half as much anywhere else.”

“But you’d have a better life working anywhere else.”

“Not again Carlos.” I sigh. “I don’t like being lectured while eating.”

Sometimes Carlos reminds me of my ex-girlfriend because he nags me a lot. But unlike my ex, he didn’t fuck half the guys at work. What’s worse is that my ex works in the same office as me so I have to see her every single day. I know you shouldn’t shit where you eat but I did and now I have to deal with the stink.

“Suit yourself.” He says.

“Also I’ve been meaning to ask you something. Have you noticed the number of children coming in and out of Mr. Grayson’s office? What does he do with them in there?”

Carlos stops eating and puts his fork and knife down. “Mr. Grayson has a big family. Lots of nieces and nephews. What he does with his family is his business.”

I’m a little taken aback.

“You seriously believe that?” I ask.

“Look, I don’t think you should think about it too much.” He resumes eating. “And I strongly suggest you find another job. You’re not cut out for this place.”

After I finish eating I quickly race back to my desk. I’m the closest employee to Mr. Grayson’s private cabin so it’s easy for him to dump work on my desk whenever he wishes. I honestly wish he’d leave the planet so Earth had less assholes to deal with. Then again I shouldn’t complain so much, I am minting more money than I ever thought I would.

But this month things have been more miserable than usual because of recurring power cuts. No power means the air conditioner doesn’t work and that’s a problem because the country is going through a scorching heat wave. Stepping outside feels like you’re walking into a fire. I literally feel like I’m in hell and the devil is none other than Mr. Grayson.

The good news is that the government has declared multiple mandatory holidays this month. Every Wednesday this month has been made into a holiday so people can stay at home and avoid going outside. But with the frequent power cuts, the air conditioner doesn’t work in many peoples’ homes. But at least you don’t have to go outside on a holiday. Of course I haven’t had a holiday in the past month since I’ve been coming to work everyday.

As I’m working I notice a child enter the office and sit on the sofa outside Mr. Grayson’s cabin. The little boy is accompanied with two adults who I’m guessing are his parents. Usually Mr. Grayson comes in and out of the office with children alone but not this time.

“Don’t worry son, this won’t take long.” Says the boy’s father.

“Just be a good boy and listen to everything Mr. Grayson says okay?” Says the boy’s mother.

The boy looks afraid.

This can’t be happening. If I’m right about Mr. Grayson, then what this boy’s parents are doing is absolutely contemptible. Is Mr. Grayson paying the boy’s parents in exchange for using the boy?

Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions. I hope I am. There’s no way Mr. Grayson is actually that twisted a person.

Mr. Grayson opens his cabin door and smiles at the boy.

“Go on in.” Says the boy’s mother.

“It won’t take too long. Just remember what we practiced at home.” Says the boy’s father.

The boy enters and Mr. Grayson shuts the cabin door.

I don’t know how I’ve been able to ignore all this in the past. How has everyone else been able to look past this?

An hour passes by and for the first time in my life, I’m not able to concentrate on work. All I can think about is that boy. How can his parents let this happen to him?

Enough is enough. I am going to save that boy and make sure Mr. Grayson pays for his crimes.

I get up and rush over to the cabin door and try to open it. It’s locked.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Says the father sternly.

“Get away from there.” The mother stares at me with venomous eyes.

“Both of you can go fuck yourselves. Or each other. I don’t really care. But I’m not letting that boy spend another second in there.”

I pull out my phone and dial 911. But there’s no connection. That’s strange. I try again. No connection. I try dialing a random number from my contacts. It’s rings. I disconnect and try dialing another random number. It rings. I disconnect. Why the hell can’t I call the police from here?

The cabin door opens.

Mr. Grayson smiles.

“Why don’t you come in?” He says.

I go right past him and search the office for the boy. He’s nowhere to be seen. Where the hell is he?

“Looking for someone?” He asks.

“You know damn well who I’m looking for. I’m not going to let you do this anymore.”

Mr. Grayson walks over to his bookshelf and pulls out a book. The bookshelf moves to the side and a secret passage is revealed. The entire thing is surreal. My eyes open wide in disbelief.

“Follow me.” He says.

I follow.

We go deeper and deeper into the secret passage. It’s not very well lit. There are several locked doors along the way. Suddenly he stops and opens one of the doors. A dingy little room is seen.

“You never could get with the program could you?”

“What are you talking about? What’s behind these doors?”

“Everyone in this company knew their place. They knew not to stick their noses in matters that didn’t concern them, including your friend Carlos.”

“What’s behind the fucking doors and where’s the boy?”

“The boy is behind one of these doors. This is where I store my favorite toys.” Mr. Grayson gestures at the doors with his hands.

“You’re not getting away with this.”

He suddenly kicks me in the stomach and I fall back into the room.

I’ve never ever felt pain like this.

“You thought you were irreplaceable. And until this morning, you were. But I found someone else who can do your job. Someone who’ll get with the program.”

I try to respond but my stomach hurts too much and I can’t form any words.

“But don’t worry, I’m not firing you.” Mr. Grayson says. “You’re simply being transferred to another department.”

He shuts the door and locks it.

My Evening

My neighborhood has a lot of dogs. Whenever I look out of my window, no matter what time it is, I see pugs, labradors, huskies, pit bulls, etc.

I’m currently taking a stroll in my neighborhood. Naturally, I see lots of dogs. Walking in the evening helps me relax after a long day at work. Also, I have a date later in the evening and I’m quite nervous around beautiful women so walking before the date helps me stay calm during the date.

I’ve also been addicted to a game I recently downloaded on my phone: Flappy Birds. It came out over a year ago. I’m usually out of the loop when it comes to trends. I always leave my phone at home when I go for walks but this time I took it with me. My face is glued to my phone. Flappy Birds is hard as hell. I have to keep practicing. I have to get better.

Aside from helping me relax, I like walking because there’s a river along the path I walk on. I love listening to the sound of water flowing.

Suddenly, just before I’m about to take my next step, I spot dog shit on the ground. Without thinking or being aware of my surroundings, I quickly move to the left to avoid stepping on dog shit. But I end up falling in the river.

Damn it! I struggle to stay afloat, I’m not a good swimmer. The clothes I was going to wear on my date are soaked! And my phone is gone… the water must’ve carried it away. I just got the phone yesterday and even if I find it, it’ll be ruined!

After climbing out of the river, I curse myself for being so stupid. This would’ve never happened if my phone hadn’t distracted me. Or maybe I shouldn’t have tried to dodge dog shit… I could’ve easily cleaned my shoes.

I’m in low spirits as I trudge back home to shower and change clothes.

After I finish getting ready I take the bus to a pretty nice restaurant where I’m meeting my date.

I was pleasantly surprised when she said yes to my invitation to have dinner with me. Every morning before going to work I stop by a coffee shop and I see her there almost every time. We usually just smile and say hello to each other but today morning I started a conversation with her and worked up the courage to ask her out!

I reach the restaurant 10 minutes early.

“Hi, I have a reservation for two tonight.” I tell the waiter.

I give the waiter my name and he says that the reservation has been cancelled. My date cancelled it 5 minutes ago.

“She said she tried calling you but your phone is disconnected.” The waiter says. “She had to cancel because of an emergency, she called us just a few minutes ago. I’m terribly sorry about the inconvenience.”

I sigh, “I’m sorry too.”

Was there really an emergency? Or did she have second thoughts and ditch me at the last moment?

“You know what? We’d like to give you a complimentary meal.” The waiter says. “I feel bad that you had to come all the way here only to get stood up. If you don’t feel like eating in, we’d be happy to pack something up for you.”

“Really? Well, thank you. That’s so kind of you.”

When my order is ready, I take the bus home.

As soon as I get home I go online and search for cheap phones I can buy. I also see that I’ve just gotten a message on Facebook. It’s from the woman I was supposed to go on a date with.

The message says: “I’m so sorry I cancelled on you at the last minute but my boss dumped a pile of urgent work on my desk that had to be finished. I just got home and I feel terrible. If you’re still up for going out tonight, I’d like to invite you over to my place. I made dinner for two.”

Wow.

Looks like tonight isn’t going to be so shitty after all. I can’t remember the last time I was at a girl’s place. I hope she doesn’t have any dogs.

I reply to her message: “I’m on my way.”

Sleep Eater

She went from a size 6 to a size 12 in less than a year because she eats while sleep-walking. It’s crazy to think that while she’s sleeping, she raids the fridge like some kind of savage barbarian. She’s grateful all she does is eat in her sleep, her late uncle was a homicidal sleepwalker and he killed his wife on the last night of their honeymoon. Thankfully she didn’t inherit that murderous gene but just like her uncle, she does things in her sleep that she doesn’t want to.

She’s petrified that she’ll be fined. In this country obesity isn’t seen as something beyond your control. If you’re fat, society will see you as a degenerate that is too lazy to be fit. It’s as simple as that and anyone overweight for their height and weight will be fined $100 per kilogram. She’s at least 30 kilos overweight and if she gains another 20, she’ll have to pay the fine and she’ll also have to pay to lose weight at Kilo Killer Kamp. If she can’t afford it she’ll be deported.

She quickly finds her skipping rope from her closet and starts skipping. While she’s skipping she knocks over a lamp. She chides herself for carelessly destroying her mother’s gift but continues skipping. 15 minutes later she’s ready to collapse but she’s determined to keep going. She must become a size 6 again.

Soon her roommate comes home.

Archie opens her bedroom door and starts laughing, “Instead of skipping why not run to the grocery store and buy some food? I’m starving and you ate all my spaghetti and chips last night!”

“There’s too much pollution to run outside!” She says while tossing the skipping rope aside. “You can’t even see the sun anymore! My little sister has never even seen the Sun, except on TV.”

“I don’t care. You ate all my food.” Archie says.

“It’s a medical condition okay! I can’t control it.”

“If you were the Big Bad Wolf in the Three Little Pigs, you would’ve not only eaten the pigs, but their houses as well!”

“Stop being mean.” She says. “Now listen, you have to help me. I need a favor.”

“Not again…” He groans.

“Please, I want to be thin! I have a boyfriend now! He doesn’t say anything but I know he’d be happier if I were slimmer!”

“Seriously? You have a boyfriend? He actually asked you out… in your condition?” He stares at her thighs.

“Yes, you asshole! Some guys aren’t like you. You’re shallower than a puddle.”

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and my eye doesn’t find that beautiful.” He says while continuing to stare at her thighs.

“Will you please stop being you and just help?” She pleads.

“Oh fine. What is it?” He asks.

“I need a loan. I want a treadmill.”

Archie sighs, “Are you serious?”

“Come on, it’s for a good cause. I don’t like running outside. I’ll pay you back… one day.”

Archie narrows his eyebrows, “Fine. My credit card is in the drawer.”

“Thank you so much.”

“Wait I have an idea about your sleep-eating.”

“What?

“Why not put a lock outside your door?” Archie suggests. “When you go to bed at night I’ll lock it. Then you won’t be able to get out of your room. Call me when you wake up in the morning and I’ll unlock it.”

“Okay! It should work.”

Archie then starts playing video games.

She decides to do some research on the food she’s eaten in the past year. She discovers that people eating a particular brand of bread, Breader, are also eating in their sleep…

She smells the foul stink of conspiracy. Breader is the only brand of bread available in the country, ever since the government banned all other brands for “health” reasons. Does the government want people to get fat so that they have an excuse to deport them? The country is overpopulated so that would make sense. Most fat people are deported because Kilo Killer Kamps are very expensive… Kilo Killer Kamps are government-owned… Breader is also owned by the government…

She throws her bread in the trash.

Two months later after skipping every day and running on the treadmill, she loses 15 kilos and drops to a size 9. She doesn’t sleep-eat anymore. In fact she doesn’t even get up in her sleep. She tried leaving her room once while sleep-walking but the door was locked from the outside.

She starts applying for jobs in other countries because there’s no way she plans to stay here for the rest of her life. Hopefully her boyfriend will come with her.

The Ticket

My flight leaves in four hours. I’m going to visit my girlfriend for her birthday.

I bought her jewelry and a Giant Stuffed Panda Bear. We both love pandas.

I’m relieved that pandas aren’t an endangered species anymore. But they might become endangered again because experts predict that climate change will wipe out a significant chunk of the panda’s habitat in the future.

My flight was supposed to take off 5 hours ago but there was a technical problem with the engine so the flight was delayed. The airline compensated all passengers by giving us generous vouchers to buy whatever we want from any shop or restaurant in the airport.

I exchanged most of my vouchers for magazines. Most people buy magazines to read the articles but I mainly check out the ads. I work in an ad agency. I also got a Starbucks coffee but I regretted it as soon as I took the first sip.

Since I still have several hours left before my flight takes off, I leave the airport and take a walk in a small garden nearby. I could’ve walked in the airport, but I’ve already done enough of that and I need a change of scenery.

I return about an hour later. I’m about to pass airport check-in and go back to the waiting area but I stop in my tracks. A woman is sobbing near one of the check-in counters.

She’s desperate to get a ticket to the same place I’m going. But there are no tickets available, the plane is packed and the next flight is in 12 hours.

“Excuse me.” I ask as I approach her. “I overheard your conversation. You can have my ticket.”

“Thank you…” She wipes her tears with her handkerchief. “You have no idea how important this is.”

“I just hope everything works out.”

“It’s… it’s not going to.” She lowers her voice so only I can hear. “My husband got into an accident. He’s not going to make it. But because of you, I’ll make it in time to say goodbye to him.”

I hug her.

“I’m really sorry.” I say.

After my ticket is transferred to her, she leaves for the waiting area in a hurry.

“Sir, we have something for you.” Says the customer service agent behind the check-in counter.

He hands me an envelope. I open it. It’s a first class open air ticket, which basically means I can fly anywhere in the world and back, in the first class section. There’s also a greeting card thanking me for showing concern for others.

Wow. That’s pretty amazing.

“Thank you very much.”

“No, thank you.” He smiles. “Since your flight is in 12 hours, we’ve also booked you a room at the Grand Hyatt.”

Once I reach the hotel I call my girlfriend.

I explain what happened.

“This is ridiculous.” She says.

“But I had to do what I did…”

“You missed my birthday last year and you’re going to miss it again.”

“I’m sorry. I wanted to make it. But I had to do what I did.”

“I’m tired of hearing the same excuses over and over… Don’t bother coming here.”

“But my flight leaves tomorrow.”

“I think we should break up.”

I talk to her on the phone for another hour.

I try to convince her to reconsider ending things over the phone. But she’s firm about ending our relationship.

We’ve been together for a few years but most of it has been long-distance. I suppose deep down, I knew things wouldn’t last. The distance was too much. The last time we saw each other was nine months ago on my birthday.

I call the airline to see if I can get a refund on my flight tomorrow. They gladly provide a refund and thank me again for the kindness I showed towards another passenger.

Well I’ve already taken a week off work.

I was going to spend it with my girlfriend but I may as well fly somewhere else now. I could use a solo vacation. Perhaps I’ll meet another woman worth giving the panda to.