I hear... moaning.
I hear... a pained and agonized groaning.
But how? I'm under water! Aren't I? Yes... I'm somewhere in the cold depths of a black, muddy lake... No, I'm rising... I'm racing to the surface. Wait, it isn't a lake. It's space. Not outer space. Not physical space. What's the word...? Figuratively, that's it. I'm... racing toward consciousness...
Geez! Someone just screamed! It was a short, startled bleat... and now it's gone. It cut off as quickly as it started. Wait... That was me!
I can't catch my... I'm breathing very quickly now, quite involuntarily and, as consciousness becomes cognizance... I can't help myself. I need to scream aga... “God. My God!”
I'm hyperventilating. I can't catch my breath. I can't get any air. I can't breath! Stop it! Got to stop it or I'm going to pass out again. I've... got... to slow... my breathing. In through the nose. Hold it. Out through the mouth. In through the nose. Hold it. Out through the mouth. Better. That's better. But, still, there's something wrong. I feel trapped. Unable to move. I can’t… Wake up. Got to wake up.
Why can't I move? Why can't I wake up? And where the hell am I? It’s dark. So very dark. How did I get here? Think... I've got to... Wait! Yes, trying to remember. Last week. Yes, it started last week… with the room next door. The room next door… and the lady of the evening.
My name’s Robert Fare. I’m a writer and I live in room 303, upper, rear, of a shabby little motel in the middle of nowhere. Motel living has its advantages for a fellow like me, but it has its disadvantages as well. Chief among them… fate picks your neighbors; and upstanding citizens live in homes – not motels. I guess I’m trying to say that daily, sometimes weekly, all of life’s losers, down and outs, pimps, druggies, sluts and escapees check into the rooms on either side and below me and temporarily call them home. And from these temporal nests they come, stay and go while I have no choice but to hear and occasionally see slices of what should be their private lives nakedly displayed. An unending parade of human debris. Laughing too loud on Saturday nights. Praying too loud on Sunday mornings. Drinking, fighting, and rutting like insane weasels. Groan, groan, groan. Thump, thump, thump. Bang, bang, bang. Scream.
If you know what I mean.
The latest one is a lady (and by that I mean, of course, a lady of the evening) who’d been in room 304 - to the west of mine - for five days and, more pointedly, nights. I’d never seen her. We didn’t keep the same hours. But I heard her… and her guests. Every night, several times a night; the same room, the same girl, and each time a different guy - though they made similar noises.
Groan, groan, groan. Thump, thump, thump. Bang, bang, bang. Scream. Followed by a silence that, pardon the cliché, was almost deafening.
And, in regards to the frequency of her dalliances, I'm not even kidding about this lady. In my, eh, extended stay at the motel I'd seen some goers, but this lady was relentless. Coming and going. Going and coming. Only to start it all again. Thumping, banging and screaming. The way I remember, it had been one hell of a week – to say the least.
Then came the night I actually saw her…
I was minding my own business; my usual business, tapping away at my latest unsold novel, at my usual table, in the far corner, next to the decorative but non-functioning fireplace, in the motel’s drab lobby, (excuse me while I take a deep breath) when the electronic door chime sounded and - she came in. I suppose I ought to say 'they' as there were two of them. As always, she had a guy in tow. But I didn’t give a rat’s ass about him. My attention was where it belonged; on the lady of the evening. Would I be a politically incorrect, misogynistic pig in a cheap suit, if I confessed that she looked good enough to eat?
That’s what she said. Good evening. But she didn’t talk, she purred. And, while Shakespeare preferred words trippingly off the tongue, I’m willing to bet the old boy would have been okay with her delivery. I certainly was. She had a thick, eastern European accent (Serbian, or Hungarian, or Russian. I'm a writer, what do I know?). It was delicious; slow like dripping honey.
Then she said, “Is a beau-ti-ful night, yesss?” And I fell in love with snakes.
She wore short shorts, a halter top, lace jacket, net stockings and knee-high boots with stiletto heels; all as black as the night. Her jewelry, crystalline, crimson and jade, had no business being real in a place like this, but sure looked it; all set in silver accoutrement. She had a blood red tramp stamp on her stomach I couldn’t make out from that distance, but regardless of what it was or how it read, it said slut in any language.
“My key. It’s not verk-ink.” She slid the malfunctioning key card across the counter. Then, at Natalie's request (eh, Natalie is the Front Desk night clerk), the dark beauty produced a license.
“Adrea Spedding. Yessss,” she said, agreeing with Natalie she was who the license said and, at the same time, proving her right to occupy room 304.
Not that her name mattered. Not that the flavor of the hour, the nervous fellow beside her (let's call him John), mattered. Not that anything mattered to me. It’s sexist, I know. I know! It’s vulgar. But I just kept staring at that dark, foreign beauty, dressed like a gutter, crib-baby from a bad sit-com, murmuring under my breath, “God, that looks good enough to eat!”
The door chime repeated it's three-note song as they left. I closed my laptop, hurriedly threw my stuff in my duffle, and made a pathetically unconvincing excuse to Natalie for my rapid departure; which was childish and entirely guilt-driven. (She didn't ask and I didn't owe her one.) Then I quickly and unobtrusively followed the couple as Adrea-whatever hurriedly directed John to her room.
I'm almost ashamed to remember what I did next. But, what, I don't already know? I leaned against the wall in my room, and listened from my side like some sleazy pervert, while Adrea-dark and John-dork groaned, thumped as they upset the furniture, banged on the wall and, as usual, worked themselves up to a scream.
But Geez! This time, it was a hell of a scream!
Despite my perverse enjoyment, I was shaken to the core. Something awful had happened in that room. I couldn’t recover quickly enough to hurry to the front office and complain, like the hypocrite I am. “There’s something going on in room 304.”
“What do you mean?”
Natalie wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. I made three attempts to subtly get the message across before exasperation set in. "For the fourth time, Natalie," I remember barking at her. "I don’t know what I mean. I’m not in room 304, I‘m in 303. But they've been thumping the heck out of my wall…"
“Well, Mr. Fare, it’s… You know, it’s a motel.” Apparently, she didn't think I was all that sharp either.
“I'm not talking about that kind of thumping, Natalie. Do you think I’d be up here if I was talking about that kind of thumping? Someone… doing something… Not that kind of thing, but a different kind of thing, banged… I didn’t mean banged, I meant thumped, on my wall and then screamed.”
She stared at me like I was a bug. And, I had to admit, her complete lack of curiosity was doing nothing to alter my opinion of her general dullness. “Natalie?” I said, trying to rouse her. “This is where you say, I’ll call the police.”
“I can’t call the police, Mr. Fare.”
“There’s the phone, Natalie.” I pointed over the counter. “Pick up the receiver. Push the nine; once, and the one; twice.”
“I’m not allowed.” I swear to God that's what she said. She went on to explain. “Tina (that's the Front Desk Manager) says it’s bad for the motel’s reputation to have the police here.” Then, because I'm dense, she repeated. “So we’re not allowed to call them.”
Though I was almost certain I would regret it, I launched into a debate. “What if a situation comes up where you need them?” I asked.
“Like... the situation that’s come up, Natalie.”
“Oh, she didn’t say. She just said, don’t call the police.”
I was right. I regretted it. “That’s a tremendous policy.” Taking a new tact, I said, “All right, Natalie, give me a key to the room.”
“I can’t give you a key to the…”
“Natalie, something bad has happened in room 304. It’s not my imagination. I’ve asked you to call the room…”
“There’s no answer!”
“Right, which, if you think about it, strengthens my argument something bad has happened. I’ve asked you to check the room…”
“I can’t leave the desk!”
“Right. I’ve asked you to call the Police…”
“I’m not allowed to call them!”
“Right. So… I’m offering to check the room for you.” I swear to God. Like a bug. I was half afraid she'd stick a pin through me and put me in her science fair project. “Natalie? Do you want Tina to find a hooker’s corpse in room 304 tomorrow morning?”
“NO! But I don’t want to find one either!”
“If I check now, she might not be a corpse yet. Wouldn’t it reflect better on you if you saved her life? Or, if it’s too late, wouldn’t it be better to find a warm, fresh corpse as opposed to a cold, stiff, seven-hour-old corpse?”
She hesitated. Then, slowly, the ferris wheel in the carnival she called a head started to go round. “O-kay…”
I remember sliding the duplicate key card that Natalie had given me into the lock. I heard a beep. The pad flashed green. The lock snicked.
I don’t know what I expected to see or hear when the door of room 304 came open. What I saw was darkness and what I heard was nothing. I don’t know what I expected to smell; the heavy odor of pot, the musk of human coupling, the metallic tinge of spilled blood. Any of those would have been better than… the odor of decay. Room 304 smelled of the unrivaled stench of human decay. Repulsed but, with a writer's often-misguided curiosity, unable to retreat, I entered the room. I was just beyond the threshold when the door, on spring hinges, closed.
I groped the wall for the light switch, found the cover missing, the switch exposed and dangling on stiff wires and… click-click, click-click …the lights not working.
Alarmed, I found myself backing away from the displaced switch (and foolishly the door) into the room. I strained, scanning the blackness for any sign of any-thing until… My progress was arrested… when my head collided with something hanging from the ceiling. It was huge with a surface as rough in places as dried mâché and as sticky in others as molasses. Though I could only just see its bulbus outline, it was instantly obvious to even my disoriented brain that I had run into some kind of… cocoon.
I backed away in horror! Only to run into another hanging several feet further into the room. From there, again… another. And another beyond that.
My God! The whole room was full of these hellish things. Cocoons… reeking with the odor of decaying human flesh. But where… where was the lady of the evening?
And then I heard the strangest sound, all but indescribable; a wet fishing line unwinding, a harp string in mid-pluck; perhaps more a vibration than a sound. For I turned, not when I heard it, but when I felt it.
My eyes had adjusted, somewhat, to the dark. I could see the ceiling was covered in a brilliantly woven orb web and, suspended from its center, above my head by a silvery, silken thread… was the lady of the evening. The crimson design on her stomach was visible now and, even without the light I could see it was not a tattoo, but a natural marking in the shape of an hour-glass.
I screamed. I screamed! I SCREAMED! Or thought I had.
For it soon occurred that my mouth was hanging open, and great gobs of air were escaping through it, but I wasn't making a sound. Merely gaping like a landed trout. I had no voice. I couldn’t scream. I… The thing on the ceiling, the lady, was… I backed away… To the wall… I clenched my fist, though something... something inside of me was fighting, trying to hold me back, to prevent me... But I forced myself. I raised my fist and I thumped... and banged against the wall, trying to alert someone, anyone, to my desperation. To my horror.
And the horror closed in.
I banged again. Oh, God, would no one hear me! Would no one help me? And then it dawned… Natalie was right, I wasn't all that sharp. The wall bordered my room. I hadn't come to anyone's aide... and nobody was coming to mine.
The dark lady drew near. And... My God, my God… She was so… beautiful…
“God. My God!”
I feel trapped. Unable to move. I can’t… Wake up. Got to wake up. Sick...
Where am I? It’s dark. So very dark. But... wait... What's that? Lights, dull, defused; eight red lights in a cluster, glowing softly as if filtered through cheese cloth. No, silk; woven silk. NO! Spun silk… before my eyes. Thread… A spider’s thread woven before my eyes, spun round my body; suspending me here in room 304. With eight red lights, glowing in the dark, approaching stealthily and gaining definition as they draw near. Hissing! I hear hissing... And the lights, slowly approaching, are not lights at all, but the eyes… of the lady of the evening.
She wraps her arms around me. I'm hers. Locked, delighting in the thrill of her embrace. She pulls me and I follow gladly, without resistance, with a feeling of falling, in eager anticipation… To the bed, I assume, or the floor perhaps, or maybe even to Hell. I don’t know and I don’t care.
Now, sweetness in life, she wraps her legs around me.
Her breath, and mine, are one heated cloud. And she whispers, “Yes. Yessssss!”
Then… she wraps… her other legs around me.
And, again, she wraps… two more legs around me.
Her fangs have a delicious sting! A burning… God, a burning races through my body. Sweat bursts from every pore as the pungent odor of hot iron, the smell of my own flowing blood fills my nostrils. Her gasps... mix with my screams. Funny, they don't seem like mine... And, as darkness… envelops me, I can feel the warm wetness of her saliva as it drips, soaking my silk cocoon. I can see her licking her bright red lips. And through that horrid hissing noise she's making, she’s saying… something. I… I can’t make it out… She’s… Wait! I can hear her now. Dear God, I can hear her!
“Ohhhhhh, Gott! Dat looks good enof to eat!”