The Only Chapter
Lacy lifted her pen in the air to look at what she had just written. The staff were going to be bowled over by this complaint. It had been two nights of no sleep for her. The sounds from the radiator were not normal. The seeping and bubbling was not your typical New York City pipe smack. It was almost as if there were- and she was not putting this in the letter- whispers in the raspy hiss. Whispers she could almost, but not quite, understand. If she just listened a little harder. Stop that lacy, she told herself, what are you thinking? There are no such things as whispers in the hiss. You haven’t gone mad, have you? Finish your letter.
She read it over. It sounded scathing. Just how she wanted it. Heads would roll if she did say so herself. She was not going to lose another night’s sleep with that odd noise accompanying the hiss and pang of the radiator. Why was it so disconcerting? Stop that lacy, she said to herself again, you know damn well what is abnormal about that sound. It’s, well, threatening. Underneath there was a… gurgling. It seeped out of the valve and swelled like an invisible fog. It makes me think I am going to die, she thought. Lacy, keep it together woman! It does not make you feel like you are going to die. It sounds like the damned thing is going to explode while you sleep and injure you. That swelling is as if the very pipes the thing is made of are going to burst through the floor and the whole place will collapse.
How long have I been here?
She was thinking to herself again in her baby voice. She called it the baby voice. It was actually her voice from when she was ten, right before her father died. I miss you daddy, she thought. Whenever she was stressed she talked to herself in the baby voice. It reminded her of her father and how he would give into her every whim with that tone on her tongue. She felt so safe around him.
The letter was perfect. She was an upstanding member of society and she would not be ignored. The hotel would honor her complaint and take the proper amount off the bill, or maybe offer a three-course meal in the lobby restaurant compliments of the Hotel. That would be nice. How long had she been here?
If she didn’t get to sleep tonight she was not going to be awake enough for the lecture and would not be able to take proper notes for her article. She signed the letter and told herself that she would march it down in the morning. Go straight to the manager. He knew who she was and would act upon this accordingly. Time for bed. The lights turned off and bed turned down, into the sheets she went.
Thoughts of the day ahead circled in her mind like Central Park kites, but they were scattered somehow. Why was she having trouble organizing her thoughts? This room with it’s problems. She loved the room though. It was ornate and worthy of an ex-New Yorker coming in for a visit from her Hampton home. The darkness of the room surrounded her, enveloped her, comforted her. She was all smiles and sleepy eyes. Tomorrow was a big day. Maybe if the bothersome heating kept to its normal, familiar song she would be well on her way to tomorrow morning.
There was a click, a hiss, a pang. This was normal. This was a radiator doing its job. Go to sleep Lacy Pierce. But she had not said anything. She had not thought anything. She was halfway to sleep. It was a whisper. It was in the room. It was in the air. It was coming from the floor. Daddy, is that you? That, at least, was her own thought. More whispers. She couldn’t understand all of them. Were they in her head? on the floor? The floorboards began to creak slowly, stretching against their own grain, screaming to be splintered into a thousands pieces. Dry, hoarse whispers filled with fear. They were hectic and hurried. Help me. Did she just hear a woman whisper in her ear? There was nobody there. She was sleeping. The radiator was doing its job and this was her brain replaying her frustration in abstract form. This was not real.
It came from the floor this time. It was the same woman and she was in pain. How did Lacy know that? She was dying and needed help. “Your dreaming old gal.” she said out loud and felt the air in the room grow…colder? No damper. Like the dampness of blood. Something in this room was soaked in it. The whispers whipped around her in a frenzied storm. The aroma of iron and soiled sheets filled the room. She didn’t know why but she did not want to look over the edge of the bed. Lacy you are being silly, she told herself. Get these jitters out of your head and wake up. Look over the edge if that will bring you back to reality. Am I talking in my sleep? Am I in that dreaming limbo? Her father spoke to her and she almost loosened her bladder all over the bed. He was in the room. He said it was going to be okay. He said, daddy will be right here while you look over the bed.
How long had she been here?
She gave into daddy, tears running down her face. Why was she so scared? Her father was with her. She was safe.
Something far far away told her to get out. Leave this room and never come back. No, I will not leave my father behind. I lost him once and won’t lose him again, she thought to herself. Run, it said on the fringes of her memory. Was it a memory? That warning voice? Then, It’s okay Lacy Lady look over the bed. Daddy’s right here. She moved slightly to the right craning her head so she could see just over the edge of the mattress. Help me, came another whisper. There was nothing there but the rim of the throw rug. This was all just so silly.
She jerked her head back to center and stared at the silhouetted ceiling trying to calm herself when she felt him. Like an instinct she knew, slowly turning her head to the left. He was sitting next to her his image as she remembered him all those years ago. Oh daddy why? He smiled at her. She wanted to hug him but somehow something held her back. She wanted him to reach out and touch her, to put his hand on hers and tell her everything is going to be okay. She sat and stared at him for a moment, the sounds in the room getting not necessarily louder, but more crowded. The whispers were blending into a murmur. A crowd’s murmur and the swell of the floor was something she could feel now. She didn’t even need to look. Her father tilted his head and a dark line of blood trickled down his temple from where he had shot himself. Just lean a little bit further Lacy Lady, lean a bit further.
Yes daddy, she said in a compliant trance. He radiated at her. His image was aglow with soft, eerie, yet comforting light. It pulsed ever so slightly. Was it pulsing with the rhythms of the room, the radiator?
The murmurs swelled with the floor and she heard it again, Help me. That poor woman. She leaned. She saw the rim of the rug. She leaned further and saw a toe. A single, severed big toe covered in blood glistening in the moon and city light from the window. Help me, the voice came again. Lacy was terrified. She wanted to turn back to her father but somehow knew he would want her to carry on. Leaning forward just a little more, there she was. A woman on the floor, blood soaking everything around her. All of Her toes were severed, scattered among the dark wet stain surrounding her in dark lumping forms. Her eyes were wide in shock as if this had all just happened. Help me, she whispered and the murmur of the room echoed her in a dry, raspy hiss of a chorus. She was barely visible in the darkness. She wore what was once a white nightgown that came to her hips. The nightgown was now smeared in crimson. As her feet moved Lacy could hear the muscle and sinew squishing in the air. She was in pain and dying. She was losing so much blood and no one was coming to help her.
Lacy saw all this with no control of her senses. She was filled with white-hot terror but could not move, the smell of blood, thick now, in the air. She wanted her father. She wanted to turn around and embrace him and cry herself to sleep in his arms. She could not move. The poor woman rocked back and forth mouth wide, lips trying to form words. The pain was too much. She was so close to death. All that came out was, help me, her senseless mantra, in a mere whisper as blood spit out of her mouth and on to the cut of her gown, spreading the stain.
The floor swelled, once more threatening to crack wide open. The whispers became louder. They were frantic now. Time was running out. She did not know how she knew this. What she didn’t know was what to do. She felt the need to help the woman dying in a lake of her own blood, soaking the rug and…and…the sheets. The sheets were soaked as well. Everywhere she touched her hands came up covered in it and it wouldn’t wipe off. It just smeared and got worse. And where was her daddy. “Daddy!” she screamed, “Daddy where are you?” Was this his blood? “Daddy why did you leave me?” It was so loud in here. She flailed around on the bed screaming and crying for the blood to come out, to please get her father’s blood off her. The voices were inside her and all around her; the floorboards rose and fell with the gurgling sound of blood being squeezed in and out of fabric as Lacy flapped and cried for the stains and smears to come out. Stop it! She yelled, “ Stop it all of you!”
How long had she been here? Where was she?
“Daddy!” The whispers rose to a deafening level. The woman on the floor widened her eyes as if about to be attacked and…it was dark. The room was dark. She was sweating. Lacy shot up in terror and felt the sheets but it was not blood. It was just sweat. Just sweat. Father, she cried to herself and sobbed until she had to catch her breath. It had been a dream. The whispers were gone and all that was left was the deafening silence of her hotel room.
She Got out of bed and staggered to the bathroom in complete darkness, too exhausted to turn on the lights. She came back into the main room and looked out the window. The sky over the city was saturated in the midnight blue of morning-on-the-way. It was going to be a long day. Anger welled up in her. She stomped over to the desk and turned on the lamp. She was going to bring that letter down right now. This was it. If things didn’t change this would be the last time she stayed at this establishment.
The notepad was blank. It was if she had never written the note. Lacy stared at the stationary in astonishment. This was impossible. This just could not be…she wrote it last night. Every word well thought out and explained to perfection. She was a writer for Christ’s sake. She looked around the room, maybe she had walked in her sleep and put it somewhere or maybe she threw it away. She would never do such a thing but…it seems she had. She went to the waste paper basket and it was empty.
She spent the next twenty minutes or so wandering aimlessly around the room. It was just impossible. It seemed to her, after a while, that she would just have to accept that the letter was gone. She didn’t know how, but it was. That was that. She would just have to write another and sleep with it under her pillow. But not now. She had a big day ahead of her and the sun was coming up. She had to get ready for the lecture.
She was on her way back to the bathroom when the doorknob to the room began to turn. Finally, somebody was going to fix this hideous distraction. It was about time. But when the door opened it was not an employee of the Hotel. A woman came stumbling into the room with more bags than a lady needed, looking like she had just run a marathon. More than that she looked like she was running from…someone. This was unbelievable. “Excuse me. There must be some kind of mistake. I swear…I…”
Lacy stuttered herself mute. She felt her feet glued to the floor. Her expression began as startled and was reaching horrific realization. Help me, she had said. All that blood. It was the woman in her dream. It must have been a dream.
The woman closed the door. She leaned against it and gave a huge sigh. Lacy calmly approached the woman. She looked a hectic state and Lacy didn’t want any trouble. She just wanted the woman to leave so she could carry on with her day. Lacy walked up to the woman.
“Hello Miss. I believe there has been some confusion.”
The woman just leaned there, eyes staring across the room and out the window at the Manhattan skyline.
“Look,” Lacy said, “I will call the lobby if you want to just have a seat. We can figure this whole thing out.”
The woman straightened herself up and walked toward Lacy.
“Miss, if you’ll just…”
The woman passed right through her. Lacy was frozen with shock. The woman shivered. Lacy slowly turned her head around to see if that had really happened. There she was. Walking to the bathroom.
The confusion and fear that sometimes come with truth bubbled up from somewhere in her consciousness. She could not move for several seconds as the reality of the situation washed over her. How long had she been here? How long had she been doing this? And what exactly was this? Too many questions and not a single answer. Lacy suddenly felt very alone. She realized there would never be an interaction with the staff of the hotel or any other human being for that matter.
Lacy couldn’t remember dying. She only knew that she had a lecture tomorrow.
“Tomorrow? Wait, I meant today. Today I have the lecture.”
She realized she was talking out loud. The woman did not hear. She was washing her face.
Lacy was dead.She couldn’t cry. It’s not that she didn’t want to she just couldn’t. She walked to the bathroom and watched the doomed woman wash her face. She had been crying. She was running from somewhere or someone. Lacy knew this and could only watch and wait. Would she have to suffer through witnessing the death of the poor woman as the killer clipped off one toe at a time while she was still alive? Maybe not. Maybe she wouldn’t remember and finish up that letter any minute. Maybe.