Marcie was trying hard to empty her mind of all its clutter so she could focus on the task at hand but there were far too many distractions. The carpet for one. She’d forgotten to pack her slippers and never wore socks so was forced to walk barefoot around the room. Hotels were notoriously nasty anyway, but budget hotels? Well, one could only imagine. She wondered how many florescent blobs of seamen would show up if she were to somehow access one of those ‘black lights’ forensic scientists use at crime scenes, then shuddered at the thought.
Thoughts of the semen covered carpet made Marcie think of the bed. She wouldn’t be able to sleep soundly tonight. If the floor was covered in that stuff then what chance did the poor bed have? She opened her bag and proceeded to examine her night clothes: long sleeved T-Shirt? Check. Jogging bottoms? Check. Bandana? Check. Hooded sweatshirt? Check. One pillowcase from home? Check. One double sheet from home? Check. The important thing, Marcie mentally reminded herself, was to ensure that not one ounce of skin or hair touched the hotel sheets. Her mind went back to a recent conversation she’d had with her cousin about the time he’d contracted ringworm from sleeping in a hotel when working as a flight attendant.
She took a deep breath and tried not to dwell on the state of the room but her brain was way ahead of her and had already moved on to the smell. The room had a musky stink as though the window was there for the sole purpose of providing natural light as opposed to also having the additional benefit of providing ventilation. After an initial struggle she managed to pry it open. It was a miserable rainy evening outside and it didn’t take long before the room was freezing cold but Marcie welcomed the chill.
A few more things invaded her thoughts making it impossible to concentrate: Being recognised and having to explain what she was doing in a budget hotel a few bus stops away from her house; the injustice of having to pay over £80 for one night’s stay in this hovel; what she would buy her friend as a wedding gift and how she would afford it; how much she hated weddings; how much she would miss her friend after she got married…
It was pointless. She wasn’t going to get anything done. Marcie closed the laptop and decided to pop outside in the rain for a cigarette – a new vice she had taken up to help deal with her never-ending stress. Yes, it was a filthy and thoroughly unpopular habit but the little buzz the nicotine gave her has it poisoned her insides was nice, even if it did only last a few minutes. Weed would have been preferable but women like her didn’t have, and had no idea how to acquire, such contacts so a cigarette every now and then would have to suffice.
As she leaned against the wall at the back of the hotel Marcie took a good look at the area and thought about how much she and this shabby little shithole of a borough had in common. She had grown up here. Her primary school was within walking distance as was the house her grandparents had owned before her grandfather had passed away and her grandmother had returned to the West Indies. Less than five minutes up the road was the house she and her parents had inhabited briefly before the separation, and across the road was the African clothes shop where Marcie had purchased a simple yet beautiful traditional outfit for her secondary school prom.
The town used to be very nice. The shopping centre used to have good shops, the people were pretty friendly and decent and it had a cosy feel about it. But that was a long time ago. Now it was just as run down and depressing as any other deprived London borough. The shops were crap, the people were all overweight, sickly and miserable, and crime was a daily occurrence. It, much like Marcie, was a mess.
Marcie used to be friendly, happy and content. She felt safe and loved. She was excited about the future and full of confidence and charm but that too was a long time ago. Much like this part of the borough, Marcie had fallen into disrepute. She was deeply unhappy, and no-longer felt safe or loved. She felt confused and misunderstood, but most of all she felt betrayed. She too had become fat and miserable just like the people of the town and just as the council were trying to improve the borough by introducing new shops, new homes and new attractions, Marcie had also tried to improve herself with new hairstyles, new accessories, a new attitude but, as a plastic surgeon once said: “You can’t make chicken soup out of chicken shit”.
Fumbling in her bag for her chewing gum and room key she almost walked into a member of the hotel staff. ‘Sorry’ she said to the man who she recognised as the receptionist.
‘No problem’ he replied. As she made her way to the lifts he called out to her. ‘Um, sorry, you couldn’t do me a favour could you? It’s just that I’m dying to go to the loo but I’m the only one on reception and someone is supposed to be on all the time. You couldn’t just sit a reception for a few minutes could you? I won’t be long. You don’t have to do anything, I doubt anyone will come in anyway, but if they do just ask them to take a seat. You don’t have to answer the phone either, if it rings just let it’.
Faced with the prospect of spending the evening trying and failing to sleep on cum stained sheets, sitting on reception for a while seemed like fun.
‘Sure’ she said.
‘You’re a life saver! Thanks, I’ll be back in a bit.’
Marcie took a seat behind the counter in the eerily quiet lobby. This place felt more like a morgue than a hotel reception, especially since it was dark outside. She could smell the aroma of food being prepared and started to regret her decision to not include dinner as part of her stay. Sure, she could just go to the dining area and buy something but she needed to hold on to the little bit of cash she had left. She wasn’t due to get paid for a few weeks yet.
The receptionist returned quickly as promised and it was only then that Marcie realised he was wearing guyliner and lip gloss. His hair was also in that popular style that teenage boys are so fond of; the weird one where they comb their hair forward and to the side the gel it to within an inch of its life. Only the receptionist wasn’t a boy, he was a grown man so it looked even weirder than normal. He had wrinkles too so she guessed that this man was somewhere between his late 40s and early 50s. He wore one silver earring in the shape of an ankh -the Egyptian sign of life -, and very tight jeans which, to his credit showed off his teeny tiny waist which wouldn’t have looked out of place on a Barbie doll or a catwalk model.
‘Thanks so much, I was dying for a pee. I’m Liam by the way’
‘Marcie, and you’re welcome. Is it always this quiet?’
‘Sweetheart, this is a budget hotel located in a poverty stricken area of the borough. Of course it’s always this quiet.’
Marcie laughed ‘Well yeah, when you put it like that. Anyway glad I could help.’
‘Oh, don’t run off, have a drink, it’s my way of saying thanks.’
‘No, it’s fine, you really don’t have to-‘
‘Please? It’s dead boring down here, I could do with some company.’ Marcie reluctantly agreed, besides, there was something about him that intrigued her. Liam tapped the seat beside him and Marcie sat down expecting him to make his way over to the vending machine to get them a couple of fizzies. Instead, he reached into a backpack by the foot of his chair and pulled out a flask, the kind people take to the gym. He then opened a draw and pulled out two paper cups. A pretty pink fluid flowed from the flask into the paper cups then he handed one over to her. ‘What is it?’ she asked.
‘Cranberry juice. I think it’s important to be healthy.’ Okay, so cranberry wasn’t one of her favourites but careful not to offend this odd man who she’d met ten minutes before she took a sip. ‘Oh my God, that’s not cranberry juice!’ she managed to say as she tried to adjust to the strange taste in her mouth. ‘And vodka – cranberry and vodka. I’m sorry, didn’t I say?’ Liam giggled and Marcie couldn’t help but giggle along with him although she knew she should have been outraged. ‘Suppose I didn’t drink?’ She asked ‘Or worse, I was a recovering alcoholic?’
‘It’s a chance I was willing to take.’
‘Are you serious?’
‘Oh calm down, I’ve seen you here before, I even served you once. I was on duty in the diner an you ordered lasagne and a massive bottle of cider.’
‘I doubt it was a massive bottle’
‘Well, it was definitely meant for two people or more and since you were as you are now, booked in as a single I assume you’re not tee total.’
‘Drink up, I hate drinking alone’
‘Oh so you’re a social drinker?’
‘No, I drink alone if I have to, I just prefer not to.’ Marcie took another sip and this time rather enjoyed the taste. It was a nice combination, it gave the cranberry a nice little kick. ‘So how long have you been working here Liam?
‘About six months, not too long. I used to work as a bartender in Holbourn and before that I worked on reception for a few crappy organisations, so when this job came along I though hey, why not combine the two. ‘
‘So you’ve always wanted to work in a hotel?’
‘Oh yeah, it been my dream ever since I grew my first tooth.’
‘You’re taking the piss again aren’t you?’
‘No, you are for asking such a stupid question. Do you really think that anyone dreams of working in a broken down smelly old budget hotel in the corner of one of the shittiest boroughs in London?’
‘Well, I don’t know. Maybe this is just a starting point and you’re working your way up to the more grand hotels’
‘No sweetie, this is purely the result of being broke. I need to pay my bills, this was the only job going that paid anything close to a decent wage so I applied. Simple. What do you do for cash?’
‘Me? I’m an administrator for the local authority’
‘Oh my goodness. Here I am bitching about my job and yet you have it so much worse. You poor thing.’
‘Yeah, it’s pretty grim. Money’s shit too.’
‘What’s your dream job?’ Taken aback by the question Marcie paused. ‘Hmm… Photographer I think. I like the idea of travelling the world taking pictures of beautiful things then displaying them for everyone else to enjoy. I think that’s a nice way to earn a living. How about you, what would you do?’
‘Absolutely fuck all. If I had the choice I’d just marry some rich guy and let him treat me like a princess while I spent my days shopping, lunching and travelling’
Marcie and Liam spent the evening discussing everything from music to past relationships. As the night wore on another flask of ‘cranberry juice’ appeared and the two were giggling away like schoolgirls.
‘So I’ve got to ask’ Liam leaned in as though Marcia was going to reveal some deep, dark secret; ‘Why are you here?’
‘Huh?’ Marcie was buying some time. She really didn’t want to get into this.
‘Here, in the hotel. Why are you staying here? And only for one night. That’s odd.’
‘Not really. I still live at home so I fancy some alone time every now and then.’
‘Yeah, but here? Why not go somewhere, you know, decent. Nice.’
‘I can’t afford somewhere decent and nice. I can’t even afford this but beggars can’t be choosers’.
‘And what do you do while you’re here enjoying your ‘alone time?’
‘I watch television, write, listen to the radio…’
‘Write? Write what?’
‘Stories. I’m a writer’.
‘Wicked. Are you published?’
‘Well, published as in you’d find my book in Waterstones, no. Published as in I have my own blog and I’m pretty sure one of my short stories in available as an e-book because I accidently pressed a button on a website one day, then yeah, I’m published’.
‘Um, Okay. So you’re not a real writer?’
‘You mean I’m not a successful writer. I write, so technically that makes me a writer. It’s like that stupid question: if a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ Well of course it makes a sound. A great big fucking tree fell down, I’m pretty sure it made a sound. The fact that no one was there to hear it is beside the point. The fact that I haven’t had one of my books published yet doesn’t mean that I’m not a writer.’
‘Yes I am’. The two collapsed into another fit of alcohol induced giggles when the clacking of heels against the floor made them both look up.
Walking slowly and calmly towards reception was perhaps one of the most beautiful woman both Marcie and Liam had ever seen. She reminded Marcie of Morticia Addams from the Addams Family except, this woman wasn’t white. She wasn’t completely black either but clearly a mixture of cultures all rolled into one very gorgeous package. Her long black hair fell just below her perfectly shaped bottom, the outline of which was visible under the tightly fitted black dress she was wearing. Her perfect hour glass figure was interrupted by two massive breasts struggling to stay inside the red lace bra that peeked out ever so slightly from the top of the dress. Above them was an ornate and very beautiful necklace with a blood red ruby at its centre, to match the woman’s lipstick on her full, luscious lips and the nail polish on her perfectly manicured nails. Two long black gothic type sculptures were suspended from each ear and a tiny gem bored into her nose glistened in the light. Even though she wasn’t smiling, this woman was pure perfection.
‘H- how can I h-help?’ Liam stuttered eventually.
‘The light in my bathroom keeps flickering. It’s very annoying, can someone come and deal with it please?’ The woman had a silky smooth American accent and for a moment Marcie had to question her own sexuality.
‘I’m so sorry about that I’ll send someone up to deal with that for you. What room are you in?
Okay. Is there anything else I can do for you while you’re here?’
‘No thank you, just the light. Thanks.’ Although her words were polite her tone sounded bored and dejected. She clacked away just as suddenly as she’d appeared and Liam and Marcie sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity.
‘She was gorgeous’ Marcie said eventually.
‘D’you know, the only other person I’ve ever met who came close to looking that good was a drag queen named Madame Monsieur in a club in France when I was in my twenties. For the rest of the night I was sure I’d gone straight. Until I met Philippe outside the following morning that is. I went back to his and… well let’s just say it was a while before I could sit comfortably. Totes worth it though.’
‘Well, all I know is that if I looked that good I’d spend the majority of my life on my back. Seriously, she can have any guy she wants.’
‘I’d better send someone up. She might be hot but she strikes me as someone you wouldn’t wanna mess with. Sit tight, I’ll be back.’
Liam lifted himself up awkwardly and stumbled drunkenly to a door just behind them which, Marcie hadn’t realised until now, led in to the kitchen. She figured that from there he’d make his way to some kind of maintenance room where there’d be a fat sweaty guy with a five-o-clock shadow, feet up on a messy desk watching television who, when Liam told him to fix the flickering light, would mumble something obscene in another language before reluctantly rising from his chair, scratching his arse, grabbing his toolbox and making his way grumpily to the room.
Ten minutes or so later Liam was back at reception holding a ladder in one hand and a toolbox in the other.
‘Right, I’m gonna need your help girly. Grab that.’
He shoved the toolbox towards her.
‘What the fuck am I supposed to do with that?’ Marcie squealed.
Look, the person who deals with this kind of stuff is off apparently and no one else wants to deal with it so that just leaves me and you.’
‘You mean you, I don’t work here remember?’
‘Are you really going to pass on another opportunity to meet our girlfriend again? Aren’t you intrigued? Wouldn’t you like to know more?’
Marcie couldn’t deny that the night had been fun so far so why not see what else it would bring? Also, there was a chance that whatever events unfolded would help to eliminate the writer’s block she’d had for the past five months. Surely something creative would come of all this?
‘Fine.’ She sighed, and grabbed the toolbox out of Liam’s hand. Too drunk to navigate the stairs, they took the lift to the second floor.
When the woman opened the door to let them in she had changed from the clingy black dress she was wearing at reception to a red satin negligée that fell just above the knee. The bra that had encased her breasts was gone leaving them to roam free and almost out of the nightwear. The beautiful ruby necklace had been replaced by a dainty ankh pendant on a slim silver chain. Her hair was still flowing and her make-up was flawless. Marcie was confused. Why had she changed into her night clothes when she knew someone was coming to fix the bathroom light? And why was she wearing make-up if she was on her way to bed?
The woman ushered them in to the room and there, laying on the bed was a man, as naked as the day he was born, head propped up on the pillows, remote control in his left hand, watching television. Marcie gasped and Liam dropped his ladder which made a loud clattering sound against the wall.
‘I do apologise’ the woman said softly, a smile emerging across her face. ‘Marcus, we have guests, you may want to cover up my love’
Marcus glanced over at the three of them huddled by the door, grunted, then turned his attention back to the TV.
‘I’ll um… just…go and…the light…’ Words were tumbling out of Liam’s mouth but he couldn’t take his eyes of Marcus. Marcus who looked like he spent and ridiculous amount of time at the gym. Marcus with his chiselled features, ripped torso and ridiculously sized penis. Marcie had seen sex toys that big and until now had thought them to be the product of some horny, unsatisfied woman’s overactive imagination. Clearly not.
She ushered Liam into the tiny bathroom eager for him to fix the damn light so they could get the hell out of there. It was too small for both of them to fit in comfortably so Marcie stood by the door with the intention of passing Liam the tools at his request. Marcie switched on the light and as the woman had said, the light flicked on an off for far longer than it should. Liam climbed the ladder and proceeded to remove the cover. He asked Marcie for the Philips screwdriver, unscrewed something then asked her to hand him a cloth as he passed her the screws he’d just removed. Liam removed the long halogen bulb from its fixture using the cloth then passed it to Marcie who had already removed a brand new bulb from the toolbox and out of its packaging and was preparing to hand it, along with the screws, to Liam. Liam replaced the new bulb, secured it with the screws and replaced the cover. He climbed down from the ladder and Marcie tried the switch again. Within seconds it was on, no flickering.
‘Wonderful!’ Marcie exclaimed a bit too emphatically. ‘We’re done here so we’ll leave you to it.’ She headed for the door.
‘Oh please, stay for a drink. It’s my way of saying thank you.’ The woman asked in her less-than-interested tone of voice. Remembering that it was a thank you drink that had landed her here in the first place, Marcie was about to decline when she turned back to see Liam sitting at the edge of the bed next to Naked Marcus.
‘Ooh, thanks, that’s be nice’ he said.
‘We should really leave these people in peace’
‘Oh nonsense, just one drink’ the woman interjected. There was no way Marcie was going anywhere near the bed, and since the woman was sitting on the only other available seat, Marcie leaned awkwardly against the wall. A few moments later the woman sashayed over with two glasses of what looked like whisky in her hands. Marcie hated whisky. The woman handed the first glass to Liam and the second to Marcie before whispering ‘relax’ provocatively in Marcie’s ear.
‘Oh my fucking God’ Marcie thought to herself. ‘These people want an orgy don’t they? They’re some sick, oversexed couple who get off on having sex with strangers. Okay, so she’s hot but I don’t want to sleep with her, I’m not a lesbian. And as for him, I mean yeah, I’d do him but not here and definitely not with other people jumping in. And Liam’s gay so how’s that gonna work? He’d be doing Marcus while Marcus is doing me? Or her?’ Marcie got a headache just thinking about it. She was about to declare that she was leaving when the woman spoke
‘So what are your names? Here we all are drinking together, you’ she pointed at Liam ‘gawping at my husband’s naked body and yet I don’t know your names’
‘I’m Liam’ Liam piped up like an excited puppy. ‘I’m a receptionist here’.
‘And you?’ The woman was looking at Marcie
‘I – I’m a –‘
‘This is Marcie. She’s a locum’ Liam jumped in ‘you know, a stand in receptionist for when we’re short staffed. It’s her first time here, but she’s doing well’.
‘I see. Well I’m Georgia and this is my husband Marcus. Say hello Marcus’. He grunted again, never taking his eyes off the TV directly opposite him.
‘Don’t mind my husband, he has the body of an Adonis but the manners of a pig.’ Liam laughed but it came out as a snort. Georgia looked at him and Marcie swore she saw a faint look of disdain on her face before she smiled a crooked smiled and turned her attention to Marcie.
‘So, Marcie, what do you do, besides working as a locum? Do you have any hobbies?’
‘Um, yes, I like to –‘ Liam interrupted again
‘Marcie likes to write. She’s a writer. She’s not published or anything but, you know, if a tree falls in the woods, it still makes a noise right?’
Liam was clearly nervous, he was talking far too much and not making any sense. Georgia looked at him quizzically, as though she wasn’t sure if he really was as stupid as he sounded.
‘Is that right Marcie? You like to write?’
‘Well, um, yes.’
‘I had an aunt who was a writer. We didn’t know until after she died though. She wrote erotic fiction under the pen name Bella Whorė. I thought that was hilarious.’ Marcie couldn’t imagine the bored sounding vixen opposite her finding anything ‘hilarious’ but just nodded in agreement. ‘I eventually read some of her stuff and I must say, she was pretty good. What’s your genre Marcie?’
‘Mostly fiction – um comedy sort of.’
‘Hmm. Comedy is good. Laughing is good for the soul.’
A huge gust of wind crashed against the window making Marcie jump. No one else in the room so much as twitched. It was then she realised that it was raining outside, not normal rain but torrential as if someone were pouring buckets of water from the sky. The wind was making that familiar howling noise that terrified her as a child.
‘How old are you Marcie?’ Georgia asked
‘Oh how lovely, so young. Such a beautiful age, so much has passed and so much is yet to happen. I wish I were twenty-five again.’ Marcie thought of complementing Georgia but decided against it. She was too uncomfortable to make small talk.
‘Do you think I’m beautiful Marcie?’ Georgia asked and for a moment Marcie was taken aback.
‘Um, yeah. You’re very attractive’
‘I saw the way you were looking at me when I came to report the fault. You had lust in your eyes.’ Marcie was speechless. Talk about a narcissist.
‘I like that I can summon such deep and complex emotions in people. You’re not the first woman to entertain thoughts of sexual exploration about me and you won’t be the last. I am beauty and sexual perfection personified.’ This was quite enough Marcie thought to herself and decided that it was time to call it a night.
‘Anyway thanks for the drink I’m going to-‘
‘Even Liam. Little simple gay Liam wants me, don’t you Liam?’ She sauntered over to him and caressed his face looking deep into his eyes.
‘I am yours forever my liege.’ He whispered then Georgia kissed him passionately.
‘What the fuckeddy-fuck is going on?’ Marcia said – aloud this time. ‘Liam, what the Hell?’
The rain was lashing against the window with such force that Marcie was sure it would shatter under the strain. The howling wind was even louder now and the lights in the room flickered.
‘One thousand years!’ Georgia screamed. ‘One thousand years I have lived and loved. One thousand years I have watched you lesser beings shrivel up and die, left to decay into a putrefied mess then seep back into the earth. I refuse to be subjected to such a disgusting and undignified end. You, whose minds have not developed beyond that of children, think that life is temporary whereas we, whose wisdom is akin to those of the ancient world, know this to be a lie. Life is eternal for those who believe and have the courage to make it so.’
Marcie saw something from the corner of her eye and turned to Marcus on the bed. He lay there still but this time he was not watching television. His eyes were closed, his penis was erect and he was chanting in a language that Marcie didn’t recognise.
‘It is time.’ Georgia exclaimed. So deep was her attention on Georgia and Marcus that Marcie failed to notice the jewel encrusted dagger Liam held in one hand and the chalice he held in the other. His face was the last thing Marcie saw as he forced her against the wall and slid the dagger across her throat. Her blood spewed, with much of it falling into the chalice held directly below.
Georgia and Marcus kneeled on the floor chanting and each taking sips of the warm blood from the chalice while Liam hacked the little finger off Marcie’s right hand as she lay dead in a heap against the wall. He peeled off the skin and flesh to reveal pure bone. He handed the bone to Georgia who tied a piece of her own long shiny black hair around it and dropped it in the chalice of remaining blood.
The three chanted until dawn then welcomed the birth of a new day.