4 comments

Fiction

TW: Death

I guess everything was slightly off from the start. 

Or maybe hindsight overrides the truth.

        If you choose to, you can see these things clearly when you spend all of your time behind the desk. You can watch things. You can learn to see them, not just look at them. More than that, though, you can learn to seem like you see nothing.

        Even more than that, you learn not to get involved.

        That’s me. I’m a ghost. I’m a shadow. I’m an answering service. I’m a pink, fleshy vending machine.


They checked in early. It was nearly 5am. Nobody checks in at that time. 

        She came to the desk and she rang the bell, even though I was already right there. We were the only two people at the desk. 

She was older than him. That much was clear from a distance. She could have been his mother, though she so obviously wasn’t. While she checked in, he stood by the door, leaning against window by the umbrella stand, looking out onto the street. He was maybe eighteen, somewhere around there, with short dark hair in the kind of dishevelled mess that takes a lot of organizing. He didn’t seem nervous, or scared, he just seemed to be looking. Watching the world go by. I knew how he felt.


She wanted a room with a view of the street. As close to the ground as possible. So I put them on the first floor. 


It was an hour later that she came down again. I heard the elevator ping and I got out of my chair and stepped to the desk. All the same, she rang the bell again. She was looking right at me as she did it. 

        “Good morning,” I said, with a bright smile and a small nod. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

        She put three twenties on the counter between us, side by side. She tapped each one. “If anybody comes here and asks for me,” she said. “Kindly tell them I am not here. I have not checked in. You have not seen me.”

        I looked at the money but didn’t take it. “Privacy is our policy,” I told her. “It’s part of the service.”

        “I see.”

        “So you don’t need to pay extra.”

        She gave me that look. “I’d like you to take it.”

        “I should also tell you that I am not willing to lie to the police.”

        “I didn’t say anything about the police,” she told me.

        “Ok.”

        “Ok,” she said and pointed at the money on the counter. “I’m going to leave these here. Pick them up, or don’t.”

        And she turned and walked back to the elevator. 


Of course, the police did get involved in the end. I called them after Rosie came running down the stairs, white as her apron and frantically stammering. I sat her in the office and eventually managed to get a room number from her and went upstairs. 


The woman was naked on the bed, her eyes wide and staring at the ceiling, mouth open. The pillows were all thrown on the floor. Clothes were strewn about all over the place.

        “Hello?” I ventured. “Excuse me,” though I don’t know what I’d have done if she answered.


I found the boy in the bathroom. He was wearing a short red dress and black stockings, sitting on the tiled floor. He was soaking wet and the shower was still running behind him. Lipstick and eyeliner were smudged across his face.

        “Are you ok?” I asked.

        He looked up at me and smiled. “I’m fine,” he told me. “But I think I scared the maid.”

        “I think so.”

        “Please tell her I’m sorry.”

        I nodded. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

        “I don’t think so,” he said. “I think I have everything I need.”

        “I will have to call the police now.”

        He looked at me with big, round, questioning eyes, and then looked back at his fingers, the nails of which, I now saw were painted a deep red. “Ok then,” he said. “Don’t let me keep you.”

        I wasn’t sure if I should say something else. It felt like a situation that needed words, but they weren’t coming.


The police wanted to know if I’d thought anything was suspicious when they checked in. I told them that we try not to make judgments about our guests.

        “But you must have thought something?” the officer asked. “Even though you’re not supposed to.”

        “They seemed no less normal than anyone else,” I told him. “There’s no such thing as normal.”

        “Are you some kind of philosopher?” he asked.

        I could have explained that I’d been heading that way, until I dropped out and ended up here, but I had the feeling he didn’t want to hear that.

        “There’s nothing the police hate more than sarcasm. Not even crime.”

        My brother told me that once after we got pulled over on the way home one night. Whether it was something he made up, or he’d heard it somewhere else, I couldn’t say. 

        “I’m sorry,” I said to the officer. “I just meant that, if you watch the people that stay here, you can always see things that seem unusual.”

“I understand what you’re saying,” he told me. “And I’m sure you see all sorts in your job. But I don’t want to know about all of the others. Just about these two.”

“Well…” I said, thinking back. “The young man was standing near the front door while the lady checked in, so I didn’t really see him.”

“Is that normal?”

“It’s not abnormal. It would be more common to take a seat over there,” I said, pointing at the sofa. “But, sure, people stand by the door or by the elevator, or pace up and down.”

He asked about the time they checked in, being so early in the morning, and about their body language and the way they interacted, but I really had nothing to add. I didn’t want to tell them about the money, but I was worried they’d see it on the CCTV.

        “Why did you think she gave you that money?” the officer asked me.

        I shrugged. “You’d be surprised how often people do things like that.”

“I see.” 


As they led the boy out of the elevator and across the lobby, he turned and tried to walk to me, but the officers restrained him. He was wearing the clothes he’d been wearing when he checked in now. Jeans and a dark jumper with a motorcycle helmet on the front. His hair was dry and flat.

“I want to say thank you,” he said, I presumed to me, and then he mumbled something I couldn’t make out.


Everything else I know, I got from the newspapers and the news on TV, but more than that from other people. Everyone seemed to think I wanted to know all of the details because I’d been there, more or less, when it happened. The truth is, though, I don’t see how that makes a difference. It’s just things that happen in rooms. As for the things I was told, whether they were the facts or something else entirely, I really couldn’t say. 

August 06, 2021 03:39

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4 comments

Keya Jadav
14:16 Aug 06, 2021

Nice story. Just some detailed description of characters and incidents would make it great. Try reading more and more stories Good Work

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Bob E
11:05 Aug 12, 2021

Thanks for your comment! I see what you're saying, but in this case, I definitely disagree. I think adding unneeded detail would change the pace and the feel of the story completely. Because he's a side character, he only has a vague idea of the things he's talking about. I think the spaces and omissions are as important to it as what is included. Thanks again Maybe I'll try a descriptive piece next time!

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Keya Jadav
11:22 Aug 12, 2021

Ok, that's nice. A very important quality of a writer- to always stand by their work. Now I awe this story even more. :)

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Bob E
14:23 Aug 12, 2021

Thanks so much!

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