The Paranormal Hotel: Knock, knock …

… knock, knock.

I’m just recovering from coming away from a long weekend of working at the paranormal hotel. It’s true, I quit that job months ago, but, when I left, I agreed to occasionally fill in when the owners go on vacation. I’ve known, almost since I quit, that I’d be covering four day-shifts in early May.

I didn’t expect anything particularly dramatic to happen, in the hours between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Mother’s Day weekend, and, mostly, I was right.

Of course it was still hard. Having had many weeks away from that environment, I had nearly forgotten how dreary and hopeless if feels there. Just one day of dealing with the hand-to-mouth existence of the residents and guests drained me.

Knock, knock …

To be fair, I wasn’t at my best. Lately I’ve been having some trouble with absent-mindedness. I’m told it’s a function of my age and stage, and that it will pass, but it pisses me off. When my brain stops cooperating with me, I get cranky.

I’m trying to keep a light tone here, but the truth is that it’s scary when I have these little lapses. They aren’t exactly like what you’re probably imagining right now. Yes, we all have occasional brain spasms when we forget where we left our keys, or drive for a few miles on autopilot without really seeing the road. Usually, these things happen when we are sleep deprived, or upset, or trying to multitask too much. A deliberate deep breath and a good mental shake will clear the mind and allow full functionality to return.

This hormonal stuff is more like being drunk. I know there’s a problem, I can try to shake it off, but sometimes I have to accept there’s going to be a period of a few hours, or even most of a day, when I just can’t trust myself to think clearly, or even perceive accurately.

It’s enough to make some small part of my mind start toying with the idea that I just might be going mad.

The paranormal hotel is a terrible place to be for a woman who distrusts her sanity. People there lie to you. Ineptly, yes, but with absolute conviction that you will believe whatever they concoct. On Saturday, in particular, deception seemed to be the order of the day.

… knock, knock.

Allow me to share some of the versions of reality I heard:

Room 127:

Guest (upon check-in): “I’m supposed to be seeing a doctor tomorrow, but I’m not going to need to do that, because I’ve got an appointment in an hour with a woman who can pray over me and take the tumor away. Isn’t God amazing?”

Me: (Non-committal nod.)

Guest: “So I only need the room for one night, not the two I reserved. It will just be me and my Michael.”

Me: “Not four people? The reservation says you wanted a room with two beds, to accommodate four.”

Guest: “Yes, that’s right, but just one person. I like to lay my stuff out on the second bed.”

Me: “Two people then; just you and a Michael?”

Guest: “He’s my kitty cat.”

Me: “Oh. I’m so sorry, but we don’t allow pets in the hotel.”

Guest: “He’s my service animal. And he’s so good, he always uses his litter box.” (She goes on for a while about the cat.)

Me: “He sounds lovely. I’ll just need to see his papers then.”

Guest: (Absolutely blank stare.) “Umm. They are somewhere in my luggage, and I have to get to that appointment, so I can’t get them for you now. I’ll find them for you later. If you’re still here. When is your shift over?”

Me: “Ma’m, I’m sorry, but I can’t let him in until I see his papers–”

Guest: “But he won’t make any mess.”

Me: “It’s not that. It’s a matter of inoculations and health codes.

Guest: “He has his shots. I don’t understand why hotels don’t welcome a nice clean cat like Michael.

Me: Hotels are legally required to accommodate service animals, but when it comes to pets, they are trying to avoid allergens–”

Guest: “Oh, he’s a Turkish angora, so he’s hypoallergenic.”

Me: (In my head.) Well that’s just not true. You know this, Renae. You raised purebreds when you were a little girl, and you know a hell of a lot about cats. There’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat, really, and a Turkish Angora is NOT on the list of lower-allergen breeds

Guest: “It IS true!” (My face must have shown what I was thinking–which is another sign that I’m not operating at my best.) “I’ve read lots of articles on The Internet.” (I could hear the capitals in her voice.)

I like cats. The paranormal hotel used to accept pet guests, and only really changed its policy because a large dog did some major damage. Plus, I was only filling in for a few shifts. I judged the situation to be not worthy of a fight. I checked her in and warned her that she’d have to show the papers to whomever was at the desk when she returned.

What happened later:

When I cam back the next day, I was told she never produced papers, claimed that she was leaving the cat in the car overnight, then had the inexperienced girl who was covering the early morning shift carry the cat from the hotel room to her car when she checked out. Apparently the cat sprayed on most of the upholstered furniture.

Knock, knock…

Room 343, 410, 112:

Guest(s): “I’m waiting for my friend to bring me some money. I absolutely have to stay here again tonight, because (fill in the blank.) I know I agreed to check out at 11:00, but he/she will be here before noon. I promise I’ll come right down as soon as I have the money.”

What happened later:

They each delayed as long as possible with frequent promises that it would only be a few more minutes until they could pay, then were just gone when I went to clear them out at 12:45 p.m. As far as I can tell, they were in no way affiliated with each other; that’s just the way people are at the paranormal hotel.

knock, knock.

The laundry room:

As the housekeepers strip each room, they gather the dirty linens into a bundle, then toss the bundle down a chute that descends through all five stories of the hotel. The bundles end up in an industrial sized bin in the laundry room. Part of my job is to stand at the bottom of that chute and sort the laundry into loads. Staff members are supposed to shout “clear” before they drop a bundle down the chute, but sometimes they forget to do it.

I can forgive that.

On Saturday morning, I had just spent four or five minutes in the quiet laundry room, emptying the bin. I was bent into it, fetching out a few loose towels from its bottom, when I heard a trap door from somewhere far above me open. I didn’t have enough time to get out of the way before a heavy, wet bundle dropped onto the back of my neck.

It hurt. I swore. In a clearly annoyed voice, I shouted up the chute, “Hello?” There was no response. I thought, You scared him or her. Watch your cranky level, Renae. Then, Well, at least now it shouldn’t happen again today.

Later, the guy who had been helping out by stripping rooms for the housekeepers came up to me, his sky-blue eyes wide with sincerity, and said, “You didn’t hear me when I shouted clear. Good thing it was a light load, huh?”

An apology from him would have been followed by one from me, for snapping. His words, though, left me speechless. I had to wonder if I was going crazy. Maybe I had missed his warning, even though the machines hadn’t been running yet. Maybe it had been a small, dry load, but my neck was still sore from the blow I’d received. Then I remembered another encounter I’d had with him.

What happened before:

The guy lives at the paranormal hotel, of course. He and his wife have a habit of narrating the world to be as they prefer it to be. They are convinced that they are good liars, too.

Once, they found a very expensive bottle of liquor in a room and appropriated it for themselves. (This doesn’t bother me much. I can see how they could have considered it a gratuity.) I didn’t know about the cognac until the guest who had left the bottle behind came looking for it. When I contacted the couple to see if either of them had found it, they told me they’d thrown it out, and that they’d fetch it from the dumpster for me. (It’s common to find liquor at the hotel, by the way, and it’s standard practice to bring it to the laundry room in case a guest returns for it. Usually, though, it’s  a half-case of cheap beer.)

Eventually they brought the bottle to the front desk, in pristine condition, with its contents intact. The husband regaled me with how he had to climb into the dumpster and move bags until he found it. He also let me know he’d washed it off in his bathroom before bringing it to me. The couple was anxious to tell me that they had no idea it was valuable because they don’t drink ever.

But back to the stories from Saturday.

Knock, knock …

Room 317:

Guest (on the phone, at about 11 a.m.): “Can I get a noon checkout?”

Me: I’m sorry, we are booked up for later today, so we need to get the housekeepers into the rooms as soon as possible. I can give you until 11:30 though. Will that help?”

Guest: “Yes. I’ll have time for a quick shower then. I really appreciate that, and I’ll try to hurry. Thank you.”

What happened later:

Just before noon I called all the rooms that hadn’t yet checked out, (including 317,) in preparation for my first sweep of the hotel. This is standard routine. When the phone is unanswered, it’s an indication that the guests have probably left. Once I’ve noted all the rooms that are likely empty, I go check each one in person, by first knocking, then–assuming there is no response–opening the door with my pass key to confirm the room is empty. Once I’ve visited all the rooms in this way, I can give the maids an update on where they can go next.

When I got to room 317, I knocked, then slid my pass key into the lock and tried to open the door. I immediately hit the security bar which can only be fastened from the room’s interior. I let the door close, then called the room with the portable phone I was carrying. I heard it ring five or six times before the same woman I’d given the 11:30 checkout to answered. Her voice was groggy. I told her it was now past noon, and she’d agreed to leave by 11:30.

She said she’d never spoken to me. I didn’t argue; I just told her she had to vacate the room as soon as possible.

When she finally cleared the room, after 12:30 p.m., she left a wad of foil-lined paper and some food scraps in the microwave with the timer set to maximum.

… knock, knock.

Room 432:

432 was another of the rooms I had called just before noon. There had been no answer, so I had every reason to believe it was vacant. By the time I got to the fourth floor, however, I had run into several rooms that were still occupied, despite the unanswered calls, (including 317, above, where the security bar had been engaged.) When I came to 432, I was a little gun shy. I rapped firmly on the door

Knock, knock.

then paused to listen carefully.

… knock, knock.

From inside the room someone rapped back. It was a soft sound, but distinct. I looked up and down the hall, in case someone was knocking at another room, but I was alone. I tried again and got the same response. My cordless doesn’t always work well above the third floor, but I dialed the room anyway. The phone behind the door rang ten times as I strained to hear any movement beyond the door, but all was silent, save for the rings.

I tucked the phone into my back pocket and tried again, this time with a louder, triple strike

Knock. Knock. Knock.

which was promptly returned.

… knock, knock, knock.

It occurred to me that maybe someone was messing with me deliberately. I checked my occupancy list and found that the rooms on either side of  432 were empty — one had been so all night, and the other had checked out earlier, by turning in their keys to me. Again, I looked up and down the hallway. I paged through the papers on my clipboard. Telling myself it must be an echo, or a sound coming up from the floor below, I raised my had to knock one more time, but I didn’t have the chance. From inside the room came an impatient-sounding

KNOCK. KNOCK! (Pause.) KNOCK!

It’s my job to open that door, no matter what I think I might see or not see, so I did.

empty hotel room by Renae Rude

What’s going to happen now:

I think it’s best for me to avoid the hotel until I have a little more confidence in my ability to perceive things are they really are. It’s bad enough when the residents and guests are lying to me, but when the hotel itself gets in the game, I’m out … at least temporarily.

Because such is life at:


A Tuesday afternoon domestic at the paranormal hotel.

Today – Friday – was a good day. I’m feeling refreshed and upbeat again. I’d kinda like to write about the awesome asteroid that exploded over Russia today, BUT a couple of days ago, I committed to telling the tale that sent me into a tailspin for most of the week, and inspired me to kickstart my daughter’s business. (If you missed that post, feel free to catch up via this link.) More importantly,  go “like” the Pooka Creations facebook page.

pooka creations logo

*

Tuesday was a terrible day.

On Monday afternoon, my boss asked me to work Tuesday from 10a to 9p,  instead of my regular 5p – 1a shift. I said, “sure, no problem.” Then I stayed up until nearly four in the morning. Of course, I slept through the alarm. I slept through at least two phone calls from my increasingly irritated boss. I woke in a panic at 10:38a, called my boss, threw on some clothes, and grabbed the few cans of soda I had in the fridge and my nearly empty pack of smokes. There was no time to eat. I made it to work just before 11a.

Everything went okay for a while – as could be expected on a Tuesday in the off season. By 11:15, all the regular pay-by-the-day guests had taken care of their bills. By 11:30, I knew that the cash drawer was exactly where it were supposed to be. By 11:45, the laundry was well underway.

I turned my attention to confirming that all the guests who were supposed to be checked out had actually vacated their rooms. The first stage of that task is to call the rooms. One guest picked up, and told me she’d be out by noon. Another guest told me he had decided to extend his stay. All my other calls went unanswered. I folded a load of sheets, then embarked on stage two of the clearing process – physically checking the rooms against the checkout list. As usual, the first floor rooms were not only empty, but already turned. (Our housekeepers are efficient.) As I ascended the building, I came next to rooms that had been stripped, but not yet cleaned. By the time I hit the third floor, I was finding rooms that no one but me had yet looked in on. At that point, I’m always careful to knock, WAIT, knock again, then let myself into the room. (It’s amazing how many folks can sleep through a ringing phone.)

Imagine my surprise when I unlocked room 339, pushed, then came up hard against an engaged security latch. Before the door bounced back at me, I saw that the room was dark. I pulled the house phone from my back pocket and dialed the room number. Though the call went through and I could hear a phone ringing through the receiver, no corresponding sound came from beyond the door. I knocked some more. After a minute or two, someone finally came to the door and cracked it open without releasing the security latch. A deep voice mumbled at me, but I couldn’t make out the words.

I said, “I’m afraid it is after noon. Check out time is eleven. Are you planning to extend your stay?”

From the room’s interior, a woman’s voice called out. “We’re sorry. Can you give us a minute? We need to decide what we’re gonna do.”

I finished my rounds, returned to the front desk and called 339. Again, there was no answer.

Fast forward to 3p. I have repeatedly called the room. I have gone up and knocked several times. Twice, the door has been opened, apologies have been proffered, promises have been made. By this time I’ve seen both guests. They are young. In their 20s. He is well over six feet tall. He has long hair, done in small, tight braids that lie close to his head. He is thin but the muscles in his arms are defined cords. He’s wearing low-slung running pants and a sleeveless white tee so tight that I can see the ridges of his six-pack. She is blond and naked except for the bedspread she has wrapped around herself. I don’t know how tall she is, because she has been on the bed, at the far side of the room, every time I’ve seen her.  I have the impression that she’s slim and pretty. She’s the one who has been making excuses to me.

At 3:00, I am in the laundry room folding some sheets. I have two flats left to do before the load is done, then I intend to take a bathroom break and have a smoke. I’m keeping a close eye on the monitor that shows the front desk to see if the stubborn young couple appears. From somewhere upstairs, the housekeeper sends a bundle of linens down the chute. It whomps into the waiting bin. She calls down, “Renae?” Her voice is distorted by distance; I figure she must be on the top floor.

“Yes. I’m here.”

“Those people in that room …”

“Are they still in there?”

“Yes.”

“Ok. I’ll be right up.”

The time has come to actually escort them out of the building. If they refuse to cooperate, I’ll have to call the police.

As soon as the elevator door opens on the third floor, I hear shouting. I hustle down the hallway. Standing outside room 339, I can hear the girl crying. I start pounding on the door and I don’t stop until the man opens it. I look past him toward the girl who is now standing close enough that I can see her face. It is tear-streaked, scratched and bruised. In a heartbeat, I know everything I need to know.

The Way of the Exploding Fist by Feans

 

I insist that the man come out into the hall. Right. Now. He complies, but is agitated. He sidles a few steps away from me, toward the stairwell exit. He’s asking how much the late-checkout fee will be. I tell him there will be no charge if he just leaves now. He visibly considers. I slip into the room, shut the door, and flip all the locks. I turn to look down into the eyes of the girl who is still wearing nothing but a cheap-looking, gold and brown bedspread. She’s maybe 5’1″.

“Do you want me to call the police to give you a safe escort out of the building?”

She nods.

In that moment, I realize I don’t know the non-emergency number for the police department. It does not occur to me to call 911.

“Okay. Get dressed-”

“He put my clothes – my shoes – in the bathtub. He wants to take my money.” She’s stretches her hand toward me and uncurls her fingers to reveal a crumple of bills.

“Okay. I’m going to make sure he leaves. I want you to lock the door behind me and don’t open it until I come back, unless it’s the police. Ok? Will you do that?”

“He cut the phone cord.”

“Okay. I’m going to go downstairs to call the police. Try to find something to wear.”

I open the door onto an empty hall. Outside, I wait until I hear she’s locked the door. I go downstairs, call the police, and explain the situation; the dispatcher says she’ll send a unit right away. It seems very important that I find the housekeeper, to let her know what’s going on. I find her on the 5th floor. Before I leave her, I tell her to be watchful. I head back down to the lobby, to meet the police, but I punch the button for the 3rd floor as well, just so I can make sure that door is still closed.

When I stick my head out to check, I see an entirely different young man – this one shorter and beefier – standing outside room 339. He’s slouching toward the door, with his hands pressed flat against the wood and his head cocked to the side. It looks like he’s trying to talk the girl into opening up for him. I step off the elevator, walk over and tell him there’s been an incident, the police are on the way to respond, and he needs to leave. He accompanies me to the elevator and rides down with me. On the way, he wants me to explain what’s going on. I tell him I don’t know.

When the door slides open I see my boss’s wife – with her two children – coming in from the side entrance. My boss’s wife tells me there’s a police car pulling into the parking lot. I avoid using any scary words as I relate what’s happening. She herds the kids back out of the building. My elevator companion has melted away.

By the time I get to the lobby, the bruised girl from upstairs is standing in front of the desk talking to a solid-looking, middle-aged cop. (I do not understand how that can be. I finally puzzle out that she must have taken the stairs.) I assume my post behind the desk, trying to be available but non-obtrusive. The cop takes pictures of her face and looks at her arms, which are unmarked. She asks me to use the hotel phone because she wants to call her sister. He questions her about what happened and the man’s identity. She provides what sounds like complete information. In a lull, I offer her the phone. The cop asks if the room has been trashed. I don’t know if he’s talking to me or to her.

“He ripped the phone out last night, and he threw a lamp at me,” she says.

“So the room is trashed then?”

“No, the lamp was at his mother’s house-”

“Where is his mother’s house?”

She tells him. He shrugs and says that location isn’t in his jurisdiction. He only wants to know what happened here, at the hotel. That seems to throw her. I think she is confused about what happened where.

“What about drugs?” The cop asks.

“No drugs.”

The cop has his neck bent, looking down at a small IPad-like device. He raises only his eyes and looks at her through his eyebrows.

She sputters, “I mean, I smoke a little pot, once in a while but nothing like meth-”

“I meant is he on drugs.” he says. “He’s on meth then?”

“Oh, yeah. Meth and lots of other drugs too.”

The cop nods and keys more information into his device. He wants her to fill out a form and suggests that she do it in the room upstairs. She hasn’t yet contacted her sister, though she’s made several calls and left messages. She hesitates, shows him the receiver she’s holding. I offer to bring a working phone up to the room. She is placated. They leave.

I can’t find a spare phone, so I have to steal one from another room. When I get to 339, the cop and the girl are waiting for me in the hallway. Her key doesn’t work. Oh yeah, I deactivated that hours ago. I let them in. I connect the phone. I look around and tell the cop the room looks fine. He dismisses me.

Not knowing what else to do, I decide to go outside and have a cigarette. On the way, I realize I still need to pee. I duck into the public restroom in the lobby. A minute later, I step outside and suck in a lungful of cold, fresh air as I squint against the bright glare of the winter sun. Everything around me – the snow, the cement, the building itself – is white. I feel dazzled and unsteady. I light up and  pace in my customary circles as I smoke. The next thing I know, the cop is coming out of the building. I ask how the girl is doing.

“She’s gone.”

“What?”

“She took off. She looked up. Saw a woman in the hall. Then she ran.”

“What?”

He shrugs. “I think it was the sister.” His tone is matter-of-fact but also somehow insinuates that the girl’s flight was something he’d expected all along. He pulls out his tablet. “Are you the one that called this in?”

“Yes. I’m the desk clerk.”

“And your name is?”

He collected all my contact information. We returned to the front desk because he wanted the data from the couple’s check-in. He hefted a case up onto the counter … it looked like an extremely rugged laptop. While he set up his machine, he shared his opinion that the girl was a professional, and informed me that there were several hotels in the area – including mine – that are hotbeds of drugs and prostitution.  He pulled up a digital photograph  and asked me if it was the man I’d seen in the room. It was. He tapped a few more keys and summoned a picture of the girl. He said, “Ummhmm. I see.” He turned the screen so I could see it better. “Here’s what’s going on-”

At that moment a woman burst into the lobby. She came immediately to the desk and spoke directly to me, ignoring the cop. “My sister thinks she left her wallet in her room. Can we go check for it?”

The cop stepped in front of the woman. “Where is your sister now?”

The woman blinked several times. “I, ah, took her to the hospital.”

The cop snapped his computer shut. “Ill head over there then.” Then he was gone.

I went with the woman up to 339. We did not find a wallet, but the girl’s coat was in the bottom of the tub, soaked through. As the woman retraced the path her sister had taken when she fled the hotel, the coat released a steady stream of water onto the stairs and the carpet. Before she gave up and left, I found a plastic bag for her to carry it in.

By 4:45p it was over.

It’s unlikely that there will ever be any remotely satisfying ending to this story I’ve written. But now, maybe, I can put it behind me and get back to thinking about the kind of horror that doesn’t leave me sick to my stomach – the kind where the bad guy gets vanquished and the survivors are wiser and stronger for what they’ve been through.

Because fiction is better than life at:

~***~

photo credit: Feans Licensed CC BY 2.0 (Attribution 2.0 Generic)
It has been cropped to square.
NOTE: This post may have been re-titled and edited from its original form,
for inclusion on The Paranormal Hotel homepage.


How do you know you aren’t dead?

I think I’ve already expressed how discombobulated I’ve been feeling lately. I’ve acknowledged all the major changes in my life in the last eight months, and I’ve been trying to cut myself some slack about feeling a little … off. Mostly, I’ve been blaming my disorientation on inconsistent sleep and work schedules. In a recent post, I admitted that I feel like I’m sleepwalking or dreaming much of the time.

I had a rough day at the hotel. When I work the first shift, part of my job is doing the audit just before 1:00p. That means, in a short period of time, I have to count out the cash drawer, close my shift, audit the day’s sales (in both the computer’s reservation system and on the credit card machine,) prepare some reports, drop my cash, and start a new shift. It’s not hard. Repeatedly, however, my manager has stressed the importance of finishing the tasks BEFORE the hotel’s day rolls over … at precisely 1:01p.

Today, at 12:38p, the drawer came up $247.23 short.

Right about then, one of the housekeepers rushed up to the desk to say she was out of towels. I assured her there was a load in the dryer that would be ready for me to fold in about fifteen minutes. Panic flared in her eyes. She didn’t move; she didn’t say anything. A fly landed on the shiny marble desktop between us. She didn’t even glance at it. I said, “Maybe a little less than fifteen minutes?”  She sighed, then trudged away from me, shaking her head.

Green Bottle Fly by John Talbot
http://www.flickr.com/photos/laserstars

.

I set to staring at first one report then another. A couple of (precious) minutes later I heard someone come into the lobby and stride toward the desk. I looked up. My (gorgeous) husband smiled down at me, then asked if I would like him to fetch some lunch. Of course I was nice to him, but all I could really do was shoo him away as fast as possible and hope that he wouldn’t come back until I had dealt with my problems.

Just before 1:00p, I realized the guy who had worked the night shift had screwed up. Once I figured that out, I was able to tally a proper cash drop – of more than $700 dollars – for both of us. When my husband returned, he didn’t ask any questions; he only handed a paper bag and a huge soda to me and wished me luck. I finished the audit late. (Which did cause some complications later in the day, but I survived.) I got the towels folded before the housekeeper could melt down entirely, and started another load washing.

By 1:30p I was sitting in my chair, eating a cold hamburger, thinking about how much of my life has become weirdly repetitive. The particular chain of events that had frazzled me, on this particular day, was a slightly fresh twist on individual events that happen again and again.

In the last few months at work, I have washed, dried and folded hundreds (thousands?) of white towels and white sheets. I have counted an obscene amount of money out of cash drawers. (And freaked-out repeatedly about apparent discrepancies, which I eventually solve.) I always wear the same clothes. (A uniform shirt and the one pair of black pants that I own.) 

At home, I wash my uniform shirts and pants multiple times each week. When I do that, I always take the dog with me, and I always use the same machine. I eat the same meals over and over, now that I don’t really cook anymore. I almost always fall asleep on the sofa. (I’m still trying to make it all the way through a show I recorded weeks ago.)

As I was chewing on my burger (and my thoughts) the fly made another appearance. Its flight pattern was erratic. It landed often, resting briefly, before struggling back up into the air to bumble along for another foot or two.

I started thinking about how flies do that in the autumn, when cool evenings force them to shelter indoors. The phenomenon has been more obvious to me since we moved to the apartment. Out at the “farm”, flies were more common, and I didn’t pay much attention to their behaviors. (I suppose they were attracted to the chickens … which was unfortunate for the flies, because chickens love nothing better than to snack on flies.) In town, I had only noticed flies within the last month or so. In the apartment, we hardly ever see an insect indoors, probably because we live on the second floor. Because I’ve become spoiled by the absence of creepy-crawlies, I often just leave the patio door part-way open. (The cat and dog like to wander out onto the balcony, then back in.) Lately, a few flies have taken advantage of my carelessness.

After I finished my lunch, I sorted the mail. (Some of our guests use the hotel like a rooming house, even receiving regular mail delivery there.) Once I’d marked the correct room number on each envelope and tossed them into a nearby outbox, the desktop was clear for the first time in the day.

It was at that moment that I realized that I did not KNOW  I had dropped the cash into the lockbox at the end of audit-time. I racked my memory. I could clearly picture myself sealing the envelope and writing the total on it. I remembered setting it aside, so that I could run the audit reports. I might have set my lunch bag on top of it after my husband left it with me.

I may have – must have, I told myself – slipped it into the slot as I passed by it, on my way to the laundry room to fold those damn towels.

I propped my elbows on the desk, in the space I’d just cleared, and dropped my face into my palms. I am so fucking tired of not having a functional brain, I thought. I am so fucking tired, period.

For the last three mornings running, I’d been awakened – earlier than I would like – by a single fly that likes to land – over and over – on whatever exposed skin it can find.

Do you know what occurred to me then, while I sat with my head in my hands? Flies like dead things.

Actions repeated over and over and over again. Lost memories. Disorientation.

Kinda sounds like the way a ghost would perceive its existence, doesn’t it?