The essence of the fragrant hibiscus instantly reminded Marcus of the first time he saw an ocean. He was a small boy, visiting the Florida coast with his parents. As they walked to the beach, where the powder-white sand and clear blue water awaited his small feet, they passed several rows of pink, yellow, red, and orange hibiscus flowers. Ever since that family vacation day, he has always remembered the smell and excitement of oceans.
This off-white gravel he stood on brought back a slew of childhood memories for Marcus. The crunch of rocks beneath his feet took him back to his youthful days he played in the park with his neighbors. His subconscious was losing focus on the exact moment, but the hibiscus hedges in front of the hotel’s signage was enough to trigger that series of memories. His eyes closed momentarily while he remembered all the significant childhood shenanigans.
“Are you ready? You look like you’re having a moment.” Sarah’s distant but pleasant voice said.
“Just a sec. Can you smell that?” Marcus replied.
“What the flowers? Yeah, I guess?” Sarah contemplated. Her sense of smell oblivious to the memories Marcus was recalling. “You know, we don’t actually have to do this. But I mean, killing you does sound kind of fun,” she sneered and elbowed him playfully.
“Oh, no – definitely want to go,” he paused, “you can’t smell that?” Marcus pointed with his free hand to the bushes of flowers, holding on to the strap of his back and the suitcase handle with his other.
“Not really,” Sarah said unsure of her own senses and lugging a very large suitcase behind her.
“I just had a flashback to when I was a kid and …” he had the images flash back in his mind, “… and I just like it, I guess.”
“That’s nice! I wish I was there with you,” Sarah longingly looked at Marcus before the gravel halted her bag’s progress.
“We can go to the beach next, if you want?” He smiled.
“Yeah! Let’s!” She grunted and swung the case around in front of her.
“Or…” Marcus prolonged the moment, pausing his steps & enticing his fiancée, “we can go after we check in and do literally whatever we want!”
Sarah, upon realizing the possibilities if they did said: “That is such a great idea! But I want to remember us at the beach. You said they erase memories here, right?”
“Well, if you let them…” Marcus smirked. “I know a guy that will hook us up, but he wants …” Suddenly Marcus realized the dilemma. “He …”
Sarah thought she caught on to the plot immediately and stopped walking. “He wants to fuck me? Really? As long as I don’t have to remember that, I’ll be fine. But still… it wouldn’t be right – it would still be cheating, right?” She couldn’t make up her mind.
“Actually …” Marcus felt sick, suddenly. “He wants me to fuck him.”
“WHAT??” Sarah almost collapsed from laughter, leaning on her suitcase handle for support. “That’s great! You should totally do it! … I mean him … I mean, can I watch?”
Marcus was uneasy at the premise; the mere thought of entering a man made his stomach queasy. “I don’t want to remember it, so no! You can’t watch. It’s disgusting!” He turned and continued walking.
“I don’t know, Marc. You like to watch girls get it on, right?” She winked.
“That’s not the same.” He didn’t look back.
“It is too! Do you really think I like the idea of rubbing myself on another girl?”
“I guess not, but if we do it, then I have no choice but to remember! It’s not like he can be picky about which memories he erases. They just wipe them all.” Marcus paused a moment thinking. “If we want to remember everything, I have to remember e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.”
“So what you’re saying is that we could have already been here and had this conversation?” Sarah was always aloof when it came to serious conversation.
“What?” Marcus’s stomach turned again, ’What I’ve already done it?’ he thought.
“You know, like maybe we already visited the hotel and we are only just now leaving?”
“No, I get that, but there’s no way! We would have at least known that we checked in and out.” His voice pitched slightly higher in a curious but cautious tone. ’What if she’s right?’, he thought.
“Maybe that’s what they want you to think so you keep coming back.” Sarah loved to play mind games with him. They arrived with their bags in tow to the main entryway. It was a very average-looking hotel front, except for the tinted glass doors and windows. Neither of them could see inside the lobby. Marcus tapped the glass before realizing there’s a ringer to the right.
“I refuse to believe that this place doesn’t have honest business practices.” He stepped twice towards the bell and rang the buzzer. “Let’s get checked in and comfortable, first. We can talk about the memory wipes later after I savagely take ownership of you.”
“Oh my! Mr. Man? Thinks he can tame this, huh? We’ll see who comes up for air later.” Sarah felt a bit of moistness spring up at the mere thought of being handled.
The opaque dark glass doors hissed open, revealing a lobby like something from a horror novel. Stacks of dead and decaying bodies lay strewn about, blood and human meat decorated every surface of the lobby. Violent screaming could be heard from within. A naked woman ran across the back hallway, covered in blood. Her left hand was missing, and she looked severely lacerated. The doors hissed closed.
“What the fuck was that?” Sarah, still in disbelief, stood demanding.
“I have no fucking idea.” Marcus replied, also in shock.
“Well, I’m done here. I’ve seen enough. Let’s go to a normal hotel.” Fear took over Sarah’s body.
“Now hold on a minute, we should probably call the police.”
“Okay. Fine. Can we do it from the car, please? I don’t want to be standing here when the doors open again.” Sarah flared her hands around pointing at the door. “You did just see that, too.”
“Fair enough.” Marcus grabbed her hand and his bags and began walking back. Sarah held on tightly to him, grasping her suitcase with her free hand. They briskly walked back across the gravel, past the hibiscus and onto the pavement.
A gargled woman’s voice yelled “YOU BITCH!” causing Marcus to look at Sarah. She was turning to look behind her as the naked bloodied woman missing a hand quickly and deliberately swipes Sarah’s throat with a knife. Marcus reacted immediately and thrust the woman down, grabbing the knife and stabbing the woman in the chest. The woman lay motionless with the knife protruding from her chest.
“Sarah!” Marcus yelled, leaping over and cradling her in his arms. The pain, visible in her eyes as she bled out, wounded Marcus more deeply than anything he’d ever felt before. “No.” He whispered quietly as he began to tear up.
In a brief cough, Sarah’s throat spewed blood. She raised a quivering arm to Marcus, pressing her thumb against his. Without actually saying the words, they spoke their final “I love you”. The light in her eyes disappeared, her body limp. Marcus cried, then let out a loud primal scream.