AN ODD THING
- That’s the thing about this city, said the old man and hurried to catch the bus without looking back.
Paula and Linda were speechless. They couldn’t believe their ears. They started to think that the trip away from university was a bad idea. In the end, they decided to stay and spend the night in that city. It was part of their university assignment anyway. In the morning they would catch the bus to the capital, where their university was. So they went to the nearest hotel and asked for a twin room. With breakfast.
The receptionist was a kind boy in his mid-twenties. He checked his book and chose a room on the first floor with a view to the main street. “These young girls will love the view,” he thought. Then he gave them their key, took their suitcases and led them to their rooms. He wished them a pleasant evening and left.
It was early in the evening but the girls decided to stay in their room and not go out. There were certainly clubs and pubs in this city. But they felt tired and they wanted to wake up early the next day. So they unpacked their suitcases and made themselves comfortable in the cozy room. But they kept ruminating on the man's words. The story he had hastily told them before he got on the bus.
FIGHT OR FLIGHT
- Do you believe his story? Asked Paula first.
- Not a word, said Linda who used to be more down to earth.
- We should be careful though, shouldn’t we, said Paula somehow frustrated.
Linda didn’t answer. She took out her laptop and tried to connect to the internet. But it was impossible.
- There’s no Wi-Fi, she said.
- I bet both our smartphones are dead, said Paula.
- You’re right, mine is. Yours must be, too.
- Great! We’re unable to get in touch with anyone. Now what, smarty-pants?
- We’ll spend the night here, and in the morning we’ll see. In the meantime, I have work to do, even without internet, said Linda.
The girls started to feel comfortable. Paula decided to have a shower and lie down, whereas Linda would simply wash her face and teeth and would work on her laptop, even without internet connection. Professor Gigs was very strict with deadlines and all his students knew it very well. He rarely gave extensions to anyone.
It was past midnight and Paula was fast asleep while Linda was still working on her laptop. All of a sudden, the weather changed and a storm broke out. Linda closed the windows fast. It was somehow unusual to have a thunderstorm that time of the year. But there it was, and it was relentless. Linda wasn’t afraid of the hustle and bustle of it all, she only found it peculiar. Then, all of a sudden, the power went out. It was impossible now for Linda to work on her laptop, so she decided to lie down and try to get some sleep. She kept thinking the old man’s words. He exaggerated, without a doubt. Old people make up stories, because they have fears and phobias. And then they like to spread them around. Linda never paid attention to rumor and gossip.
Linda was half asleep when she heard a low knock on their door. Then a second one. And then a third. But she was unable to respond, to get up. She covered herself up to her ears with the blanket and fell asleep.
THE NEXT DAY
In the morning the two girls got up and got ready for breakfast. They went downstairs to the hotel’s dining room and ordered a full English breakfast, which they ate hungrily. Then they went back to their rooms to pack their suitcases. The bus would leave in two hours and they wanted to be ready. They didn’t have time to walk around the city, and see its sights or talk to the people as they were supposed to. They just wanted to leave as soon as possible and return to their dormitory.
On the bus, Linda sat next to Paula, who kept looking out of the window. She put on her earbuds and turned on her iPod. Suddenly, her eyes fell on Paula’s neck. Two marks were visible, as if she had been bitten by something. “Strange,” thought Linda, but didn’t pay much attention. Paula was careless, she would have got hurt somewhere. She gave them a second look. “Yes, they are strange,” she thought to herself. She decided to ask Paula whether she had an accident or something.
- Paula, what are these on your neck. Did you get hurt or something?
- I’ve no idea, said Paula, feeling the marks with her fingertips. But look at you, you’ve got the same!
- What? Marks on my neck?
- Yeah, two of them.
- No way!
- Way! You can feel them with your fingers too.
- That’s so strange. Maybe we should see a doctor or something.
- Yeah, said Linda. We definitely should.
Linda and Paula paused for a moment and thought. They thought about films they had seen or books they had read. They knew very well what these marks meant. But they simply couldn’t believe it. Nah, it was impossible! But then again, it was the old man’s story. The story about people who were cold, who never slept and who lived on blood. Could it be true?
The marks on the girls’ necks started to slowly disappear. Soon they would be invisible, and finally gone. There would be no evidence, no proof that they had been bitten by someone or something. Soon the girls would forget all about it and go back to their city and their lives would go on as before. Soon all this would become a dream, or a nightmare. Or a story someone said in a bus station as he was waiting for the bus. A story which was probably gossip. Because of fear or a phobia.
But Linda couldn’t help but think of the old man’s words. “That’s the thing about this city,” she thought to herself. But the bus had already left and the girls were on, safe.