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General

April 5th, 1954:

“Can you keep a secret?”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“Mr. Fizi, I will tell you what happened last night. But before that, you will have to promise me to keep it a secret.”

“Sure sir!”

He then brought his face towards Mr. Fizi’s ear. Mr. Fizi’s eyes became wider as his ears absorbed the words. His face was flushed in horror. Disbelief was all over his bulky frame.

***

My dear grandma had told me this story. Her husband and my grandpa, God bless his soul, was an engineer who worked with the railways. Traveling to different locations to supervise and inspect how the work was progressing was a big part of his job. My grandma hated this aspect of his work but there wasn’t anything anyone could do about.

April 6th, 1954:

When grandpa returned home after about a week, he narrated the incident to my grandma……

…….this time they put me up in Hotel Welcome. It was a nice place. Small, but nice and clean. The manager, Mr. Fizi was very friendly and helpful. During my entire stay, he ensured I was comfortable and was served the simple, oil-free food that I had requested. We even chatted a little after I returned in the evenings. The hotel wasn’t crowded so he too was free, I thought.

So day before yesterday which was my fourth day there, April 4th, I saw him sitting in the lobby looking pensive. It had been a long day for me and I was tired. Also because I was leaving the next evening, that is last night, for home, I had to make sure everything is in place and I have all the records. As much as I wanted to go to my room, change, freshen up, and eat, I decided to check in on him. He is a nice man, you see. I had to know if he was OK. I walked up to him,

“Hello Mr. Fizi, you look troubled?”

“Hello Sir….no, no, I am fine…..how was your day? I will ask someone to send your dinner up.”

“My day was good. Are you sure you are fine? You don’t look so.”

“Well, Sir, there isn’t anything as such…..it’s just this one guest who checked-in this morning. He is a regular….I mean he visits every year at the same time.”

“He must have some work meeting maybe, or a family commitment perhaps that is held at the same time every year. Is that the problem?”

“Oh! no, no sir. You are right, it must be some official or personal reason that he needs to be here at the same time each year. That’s not a problem at all. In fact, it is good for our business.”

“Yes! So what about him has doused these frown-lines upon you?”

“Actually sir, it is his strange request about the room that got me.”

“Has he also asked for a flat pillow that’s as thin as a single layer of a blanket?”

“Oh! no, no sir. And I understand your request for a flat pillow. In fact, the doctor has asked me to get rid of the fluffy one and use a thin one instead. The nerves in my shoulder and neck have started to hurt.”

“Then you should Mr. Fizi. A thin pillow is good for your spinal as well as your respiratory health. And if the missus complains about your snoring, it will keep that in check too.”

“Yes sir. I think I will start using a thin pillow now.”

“But this isn’t what kept you pondering. I am thinking that that guest asked for something that you found difficult to arrange. Is it so? Don’t worry Mr. Fizi, I am sure he will understand that every request cannot be fulfilled.”

“What he requested isn’t a problem, sir. It is what happens afterward that confuses me.”

He paused for a while, looked at me. I thought I shouldn’t prod further and was about to leave when he started talking again,

“This guest visits on April 4th every year and leaves the next day. This is the third time this is happening. He is always well-dressed and very cordial to talk to. Each of the last two times that he came, he asked if Room No. 301 is vacant. Luckily it was both the times. This time too he asked for Room No. 301. It was vacant. I got the housekeeping to check if it is clean and done up well.”

He paused a little again here. I wondered why he was pensive-stricken about this. Perhaps the guest liked the view from Room No. 301. Or maybe it was the lucky number superstition that he believed in that helped him crack the business deal better? I wished Mr. Fizi got to the point sooner.

“And then, like the last two times, he made another request.”

Customized meals…….boiled water for drinking……..black coffee with no sugar but honey……..I started thinking of the requests I made and wondered if Mr. Fizi ever sat frowning because of those too?

“He asked for an orange, a lemon, a black knife, and a string of red thread.”

I fixed my gaze on him.

What kind of a strange request was this?

“And like the last two times, we obliged. I mean, these things aren’t difficult to procure. We have fruits and knives in the kitchen and I asked the housekeeping to send a reel of red thread. He could use how much ever he wanted to. This is a strange request, is it not sir?”

“It does sound strange. Perhaps he eats the fruits after cutting them in particular dimensions?” I know it sounded silly as soon as I heard what I said.

“Sir, frankly, I didn’t think much about it. But then what happened later was what caught my attention.”

“Did you see him act weird or behave nastily?”

“No sir. As I said, he is a gentleman. Very soft-spoken. The thing is sir, the room next to him is reserved for the hotel staff manager. The nameplate on the door says Staff Only but it is actually mine and I sleep there.”

“Good to know that in case there is an emergency.”

“Yes sir, that room at the end of the corridor is mine. I am from the nearby village and it takes about 2-3 hours of travelling one way. Plus, the job needs me to be here for long hours so it suits me better to stay here and visit home once in a while.”

“Yes, traveling every day for this long can also take a toll on your health. And with your shoulder and neck not behaving well anyway, it can cause more damage. So you were saying something about what he did later…”

“Yes sir. That’s what’s disturbed me the most. Sir, when it is a little past midnight, I hear noises from his room.”

“What…..What noises?”

“Howling noises…..like someone is crying in grief…..and then something goes crashing on the floor……the first time I heard, I thought the mirror on the wall fell down……and then noises of things falling and crashing on the floor, walls, door……as if the chairs, table, chinaware, water jug, were all being thrown around in a fit of rage.”

Mr. Fizi wore a horrified look as he continued.

“The next morning when he to the reception to clear the bill and check out, I got the housekeeping staff to see what state the room was in. They said it was so clean that it didn’t look like anyone stayed there. I was startled, sir. And it happened both the times he stayed here. The noises are so loud that one can hear from across the hall. The first time I heard, I thought he was grieving over some sad news. But he looked so pleasant and well slept the next morning that I didn’t think it was right to ask.”

I was startled myself and didn’t know how to react. If the noises seemed like he was throwing around and breaking things, how come the room was tidy the next morning? And the manager wasn’t of a character to con me this way.

“Sir, I suppose I’ve spun you a rather impossible yarn?”

“Actually, you have, Mr. Fizi. I feel tangled by your narration and wish to come out of it. Have you considered asking the guest about the weird noises you hear rising from his room? I mean I think you should.”

“Yes sir, I will see how it goes tonight and then ask him tomorrow.”

“Very well then, I’d say, don’t brood over it without knowing the reality. Get some nice sleep. I shall take off now, there’s some work I need to finish before hitting the bed.”

“Of course sir, I will have your dinner sent up to your room.”

“Thank you Mr. Fizi. Good night.”

I don’t know how his night went. My room was on the floor below theirs and I didn’t hear any noises other than the usual cicadas that housed in the surrounding cedar trees.

The next morning, that is yesterday, I woke up early to pack my bags. The plan was to visit the site and check in on the work one last time before heading to the office to sign the papers and then leave directly for the bus depot to catch the bus home.

I was waiting in the lobby to check out as the receptionist was busy dealing with the guest from Room No. 301. I hadn’t seen him before, Mr. Fizi signaled and so I knew. He looked like he owned a niche business, maybe shipping or diamonds and pearls. He wore front-creased, light grey pants with a crisp white shirt. He carried a blazer in his left hand as it was too warm to put it on. He may wear it once he reaches wherever it is that he is dressed up to go. He had golden-framed thick glasses, I have never seen those kinds. Mine with the thick brown glass frame looked so humble. He carried a golden pen in his shirt pocket. And his right hand held a small attaché case, enough to carry a day’s travel needs.

Mr. Fizi carried the same pensive look from last night and I figured it was the noises.

After the guest cleared the dues, Mr. Fizi then requested him to step aside. I walked up to the receptionist and proceeded with my payments. They were a little further, almost near the exit door so I couldn’t hear it clearly. Plus the receptionist kept asking me questions about the stay diverting my attention further. But I did hear Mr. Fizi hesitantly telling him about the noises he heard. He looked apologetic. The guest kept a calm demeanor.

As the receptionist gave me the receipts, I requested a glass of water. I still had some time and also wanted to see Mr. Fizi before leaving.

I saw the guest in his tall, athletic physique lean towards Mr. Fizi and enunciate rather clearly,

“Can you keep a secret?”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“Mr. Fizi, I will tell you what happened last night. But before that, you will have to promise me to keep it a secret.”

“Sure sir!”

He then brought his face towards Mr. Fizi’s ear. Mr. Fizi’s eyes became wider as his ears absorbed the words. His face was flushed in horror. Disbelief was all over his bulky frame.

“So what he tell Mr. Fizi?”, grandma asked grandpa.

“How would I know? It was a secret”, replied grandpa.

August 17, 2020 13:35

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17 comments

Malz Castell
08:12 Nov 12, 2020

Awesome story and well written. Great job. :)

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Parul Srivastava
07:53 Nov 13, 2020

So glad you enjoyed it! Thank you :)

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Wowow, awesome job! A very creative story; I enjoyed reading it. Keep writing!

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Parul Srivastava
07:35 Aug 28, 2020

Thank you so much for reviewing :)

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Felicity Edwards
17:25 Aug 27, 2020

Your story is great but there are a few things which are clunky, I think English is not your first language. For instance, I feel tangled by your narration and wish to come out of it. would read better I am muddled by your story could you make it clearer? But a great story and keep writing.

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Parul Srivastava
00:40 Aug 28, 2020

Thank you for your comment. May I ask you to be a little specific, can you give an example or two. It'll help me understand your feedback better and work on it.

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Amogh Kasat
05:14 Aug 23, 2020

You asked me to read, I am here. It's really a wonderful story.

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Parul Srivastava
13:23 Aug 24, 2020

Means a lot! Thank you so much

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Amogh Kasat
13:49 Aug 24, 2020

welcome

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Parul Srivastava
17:26 Aug 25, 2020

Hey you changed your profile name! Suits your stories very well 👍🏻

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Amogh Kasat
05:11 Aug 26, 2020

thanks

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Keerththan 😀
18:24 Aug 22, 2020

Wonderful story. Well written. Great job. Would you mind reading my new story " Secrets don't remain buried?"

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Parul Srivastava
13:25 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you so much! I read your story as well and commented :)

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Rambling Beth
20:11 Aug 20, 2020

Nice story!

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Parul Srivastava
01:57 Aug 22, 2020

Thank you!

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Sonam Srivastava
15:34 Aug 17, 2020

SSHhhhhhhhh....... intriguing one!!! :)

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Parul Srivastava
14:16 Aug 19, 2020

Thank you! :)

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