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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!”

Cliff Point

“Where to, miss?” The cabbie asks.

“Wherever you want. Just don’t stop.” She replies as she shuts the door.

The cabbie looks puzzled, “You don’t want to go anywhere in particular?”

“Not really. Just don’t go in circles, I get dizzy.” She fastens her seatbelt.

“Well, okay then. Let’s go to Cliff Point. The Sun should rise in about two hours and the view from there is beautiful.”

“Alright! Let’s go!”

They drive in silence for 15 minutes.

“So, how was your day?” The cabbie asks.

“My mom made fried chicken for lunch. So that was nice.” She replies.

“I tried chicken once. It was okay.”

“Just once? Are you a vegetarian?” She asks.

“Yes.”

“I went on a 30-day vegetarian challenge. It was the most difficult month of my life.”

“I went on a 30-day no phone challenge.” The cabbie says proudly.

“Really?”

“It was the best 30 days of my life. I felt so free. No pressure to keep checking notifications. It was glorious. If I needed to call anyone, I used my landline.”

“That sounds so amazing. I wish I could do that. But my job requires me to have two phones with me 24/7.”

“That’s twice as crappy.”

“Tell me about it.”

The cabbie’s phone starts making an alarm sound.

The cabbie stops the taxi.

“Oh no. This can’t be happening.” He says while looking at his phone.

“What’s wrong?” She asks.

“My home alarm system sent me a notification. Someone broke into my home. The home alarm system also calls the cops, they should be there in 15 minutes.”

“Well, let’s go then. Let’s make sure everything is okay.” She says.

“Are you sure? I’m really sorry about this.”

“I’m sure. I don’t have anywhere particular to go. I don’t mind coming with you.”

“Okay. ” He takes a u-turn.

The cabbie speeds down the highway.

“Hope you’re okay with me breaking the speed limit.” He says.

“No problem at all.” She replies.

They reach the cabbie’s house in 15 minutes.

The house is on fire.

There are police cars outside but the windows have been shattered by bullets. The cops are dead, their bodies riddled with bullets, some are in the cars and the rest are on the ground.

“What the fuck happened here?” She asks.

“I’m afraid what happened here is about to happen somewhere else too. Unless I can get there in time to stop it.” He speeds away.

“Where are we going now?”

“To my brother’s home.” He drives with one hand and texts his brother with the other.

The text says: Get out now. Ghost from the past is back with a vengeance.

“You need to tell me what’s going on.” She says.

“I think I should drop you off at a taxi depot. You’ll find another cab there.”

“No, I’m coming with you.”

“I don’t understand. It’s 3 in the morning. I picked you up from a bar about an hour ago. Don’t you want to go home? Aren’t you tired?”

“You tell me what this is about and I’ll tell you my story.”

“Fine.” The cabbie says as he overtakes a garbage truck. “Years ago my brother and I were at the wrong place at the wrong time. It was a dangerous situation and we had to do some bad things to survive. We thought that chapter of our lives was closed but it’s been reopened and we have to deal with it.”

“I see.”

“Your turn.”

“Today evening my doctor told me that I have Alzheimer’s disease. My symptoms aren’t too severe yet but in a few months I won’t be able to remember anything, including tonight. After the doctor’s appointment I was hanging out with my best friend. I haven’t told her or anyone else about my diagnosis.”

“How’s that possible? You’re so young.”

“You can get Alzheimer’s as early as your 30s. It’s very rare but still possible.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Don’t worry. Just forget about it. I know I will.” She smiles sadly.

The cabbie is going twice the speed limit. They reach his brother’s home in 10 minutes.

The cabbie jumps out of the taxi and falls to his knees. His brother is lying in a pool of blood about 10 meters away from his house. He has so many bullets in him that his face is unrecognizable.

“Now we’re even.” Says a dark voice.

The cabbie looks around to see where the voice is coming from.

The woman is too afraid to come out of the cab but she’s looking out the window.

“We’re far from even. You took one sibling from me all those years ago. And now you took another.” The cabbie says. “Come out of the shadows you coward. Face me like a man.”

“I’ve always taken refuge in the shadows.” The dark voice taunts. “Maybe if you had too, your family would still be alive.”

The cabbie takes cover behind a small statue on the lawn and pulls out his pistol. He takes aim and fires a few shots.

“You can’t hit what you can’t see.” The dark voice snickers. “I’d advise you to pull the trigger on yourself. Because if I get my hands on you, you’re going to wish you were dead. I used a gun to kill many people tonight but I have something special planned for you.”

The woman has a feeling this is going to go very badly. She slides into the driver’s seat. Thankfully the keys are still there. If the cabbie ends up getting killed, at least she can drive away.

Suddenly the cabbie screams. A creature has pounced on him. It has sharp claws. It’s tearing flesh off his body. Body parts are flying in all directions.

The woman starts the car and drives as fast as possible in the opposite direction. She doesn’t know what happened but she doesn’t want to find out.

The woman keeps driving until she reaches Cliff Point. She makes it just in time for the sunrise. Cliff Point is literally a cliff with the ocean in front of it. The view is beautiful.

She drives off the cliff.

Reunited

My friend got a new job. Her old company went bankrupt and her ex-colleagues all went their own ways. It was her first job, she was there for 5 years, and even though she’s been working somewhere else for six months, she isn’t as happy as she was.

“It’s not the same.” She says sadly. “It’s like when your family dies under tragic circumstances and a new one adopts you. The new one is nice and loving but it’s just not the same.”

“You know what your problem is?” I ask.

“What?”

“You aren’t like water.”

“What?” She looks confused.

“Bruce Lee once said that if you’re like water, you can adapt to any situation. If you pour water into a cup, the water takes the shape of the cup, and the water becomes the cup, you know what I mean? But if your put water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. If you put it in a kettle, it becomes the kettle. Now you’ve just been put into a new company. You need to become the company. Basically you need to be flexible enough to adjust to your new workplace and be happy again.”

She sighs, “All that did was make me thirsty.”

I give her an annoyed look, “You just don’t understand Bruce Lee.”

She gets up from the sofa and goes to the kitchen.

“Where are the glasses?” She asks.

“In the cupboard beside the fridge.” I reply.

I just moved into a new apartment and my friend Siera came over to visit.

The one-bedroom flat wasn’t very expensive even though it’s in one of the nicer parts of town. The owner said he was relieved to finally sell the place, nobody was buying it because the previous tenant, an old woman, committed suicide in the bedroom a few years ago. Nobody’s quite sure why she hung herself from the ceiling fan. Neighbors say she was kind and helpful, she always walked someone’s dog every morning and evening. But deep down she might’ve been depressed. She was 97 years old and had outlived all her family and friends. Perhaps she took her own life because she was tired of being alone.

I personally don’t mind living in a place where someone previously committed suicide. To me it doesn’t matter what the former residents did. I haven’t told Siera about any of this, she would’ve found it too spooky. She’s already scared of her own shadow so there’s no point in worrying her more.

“There’s no water.” She says from the kitchen.

“How’s that possible?” I go to the kitchen quickly.

“There’s nothing left in the jug and the tap doesn’t work either.” She replies.

“Shit.” I rush to the washroom to see if there’s any water coming out of the shower, faucet or the sink. Unfortunately the answer is no.

“Shit. I thought the plumber took care of this.” I go back to the kitchen. “There was no water for the past two days but the plumber came yesterday and did something with the pipes and he said there would be no more problems.”

“You need to call him back.” She says.

I dial the plumber’s number. He doesn’t pick up. I text him. Hopefully he’ll come soon.

“Why don’t we go to my office?” Siera suggests.

“Now? But it’s Saturday and we were going to go for brunch soon.”

“The chefs at my work make way better food than most restaurants in the city.”

“Are you serious? You guys have chefs willing to serve you on a Saturday?”

“Yes.” She smiles. “Come on, let’s go.”

We go to Siera’s office. She works at an ad agency so it’s a pretty cool place. It takes about 20 minutes by cab. Her office is penthouse suite on top of a medium-sized building facing the beach. The elevator takes only a few seconds to reach up there.

“Wow.” I say as soon as we enter the office. “This is way better than your old place.”

The office has bedrooms, videogame rooms, and a swimming pool right in the center. You have to take an elevator to reach the office but there’s a slide near the entrance for people who want to go back down the fun way. There are also dartboards with pictures of various celebrities and politicians on them.

“I admit the office itself is a lot cooler. But again I miss the people I used to work with.” She sighs.

“Who cares about people? This place is amazing! Let’s eat later. Let’s play some games first.”

Siera and I start playing a racing video game in one of the video game rooms. She’s kicking my ass.

“How are you so good?” I ask. “You must practice more than you work!”

“Actually, you just suck.” She replies.

After losing several more times, I finally get the lead for the first time. I’m about to beat her when we hear loud sobs coming from outside. We drop our controllers. The door to the videogame room was open, otherwise we wouldn’t have heard anything.

We leave the room and see an old man sitting near the swimming pool.

But he doesn’t look real. He looks like some kind of hologram.

“Who are you?” I ask.

Siera and I approach the pool cautiously.

He speaks “I’m in love with a beautiful woman. Then I got hit by a car. Then she took her own life. And here I am today, trying to find her in the afterlife, but no luck so far.”

Could he possibly be talking about the old woman that committed suicide in the apartment I now live in?

“Maybe you can help me.” He says. “You live in the same home that used to be hers.”

He’s definitely a ghost.

Siera looks petrified. She’s holding my hand tightly and doesn’t look like she’s about to open her mouth anytime soon.

“How can I help?” I ask.

“She and I met in high school. We were each other’s first loves. But after high school we both moved to different parts of the world for University. We knew long distance wouldn’t work so we broke up. We kept in touch over the phone for a few months but then we lost touch and didn’t see each other again until 50 years later when we met once again, by complete chance. We were waiting in line at the grocery store! We recognized each other instantly. Despite the wrinkles and the white hair, we knew who we were looking at. Our spouses had died years ago and we were both single so we started dating again! Being with her again felt like no time had passed at all since we dated in high school. But then sadly I got hit by a car and died. She was so devastated by my loss that she took her own life. And I am trying to find her but it’s harder than I anticipated. I lost her when we were both alive, but I won’t lose her now that we’re dead.”

I don’t reply for almost a minute. It takes time for a story like that to sink in.

“How can we help you find her?” I finally reply.

“If you see her, please tell her that I’m waiting for her in the spot where we shared our first kiss. I’ll be waiting near that spot on Sundays. Our first kiss was on a Sunday. The rest of the week I’ll be searching for her everywhere else.”

“I’ll pass on the message if I bump into her.”

“Thank you.” He smiles warmly. “And thank you for listening.”

He disappears.

Siera and I don’t talk for several minutes, we’re just standing near the pool.

“You should’ve told me about your apartment.” She says.

“I didn’t want to freak you out.” I tell her.

“It’s too late for that.”

“Relax. Not all ghosts are bad.”

We go back to the video game room and continue racing against each other. I’m finally winning!