They went down to the hotel lobby to ask the couple in charge where the restaurant was. The young man Andy, his sister and his girlfriend.
“Let’s show you.” The elderly couple said.
They hadn’t seen any other guests in the hotel, but then, it was past midnight. Everyone else lodged here would probably be asleep in their rooms. The couple walked them down a hallway and opened two large doors. It was a kitchen of sorts. It smelled like bad meat and disinfectant. There was a cooker with a pot on it. Some knives hung over the sink, freezers and cabinets, a meat grinder.
“What the hell is this?” Andy covered his nose.
“We asked for a restaurant and you brought us to your dirty kitchen!” his girlfriend, Grace was angry too. The couple moved to both of them. The woman talked to Andy, the man spoke to Grace. Ada watched. She didn’t hear what the couple said, but Andy nodded, picked a knife from above the sink and stabbed himself in the gut.
“Andy!” Ada shrieked. Andy was screaming. He had sliced open a big hole in his abdomen. His organs dangled out. Blood splattered to the floor. He was pulling out his intestines and putting them in the pot, screaming. His eyes gaped.
“Andy stop!” Ada held his hands. His blood made them slippery. He didn’t stop. Tears streamed from his eyes.
The old woman grabbed Ada’s arm, Ada shoved her and ran out of the kitchen. Tears clouded her vision as she fled down the hallway.
Grace stood in the lobby.
“Oh my god Grace! Let’s get Kasy and get out of here!”
Grace blocked the stairs, “Only one of us can get out of here alive, and it has to be me.”
I woke with a beeping sound in my ears, the kind of sound a heart monitor makes when the patient is dead. My heart thumped in my chest. The windows were open, wind and rain blew, in wetting the furniture, my feet. The curtains whooshed like ghosts, dancing. I ran around the two-bedroom suite, pulling windows shut. I was alone. I was supposed to share a room with my best friend Ada, while her brother and his girlfriend took the other room. Three of them had gone downstairs to eat. I’d fallen asleep. I don’t know for how long.
There was knocking on the door.
‘Kasy! Kasy it’s me. Open the door.’
It was Ada. I pulled the door’s handle, it didn’t open.
‘Wait I have to get the keys and unlock the door.’
‘Will that take a lot of time?’
‘Don’t bother.’ She walked in.
I gaped. ‘How did you do that?’
‘Do what?’ She was smiling at me. She looked amazing. Her skin glowed and she stood like she would float off at any time, like she did not have a single care weighing her down.
‘I haven’t unlocked the doors. How did you get in?’
She twirled herself around and faced me again, ‘Haven’t you figured it out?’
I caught my breath. Could she be serious? I reached out to touch her, my fingers went through her.
‘You’re a ghost!’
‘How come you knocked? You could have just come in.’
‘Kasy, it is rude to enter a room without knocking. What if you were… busy with yourself?’
‘Ada. You’re. A. Ghost!’
‘Yeah. And it feels amazing. I should have died earlier. I feel like I can do anything. I feel like- like floating away!’
She spread her arms and tilted her face upwards. She did not float.
‘Something’s wrong.’ I told her
‘No, I feel great.’
‘Listen. Being a ghost is not a good thing.’
‘Says someone who hasn’t experienced it.’
‘Ghosts have unfinished business. Something must be holding you back.’
‘Back from what?’
‘From floating... moving on.’
‘Moving on to what?’
‘To where you’ll spend eternity.’
‘Eternity is too long to be spent in one place.’
She sat on the rug. I sat with her.
‘Are you scared?’ I asked
‘A bit.’ She shrugged, ‘What if I don’t like where I’m going? What if eternity gets boring? What if I just keep moving on and on to different stages without rest? What if reincarnation is real and I don’t like where I’m reborn? What if I never unite with my family again? What if hell is real? What if it’s just death. Nothing more?’
I tried to place a hand on her shoulder. ‘You’ll be fine.’
‘How do you know that?’
‘Because we’re always afraid of the unknown, but once we take that step, it ends up being a whole new adventure that we never knew. I mean, I’m alive and scared to die. You’re dead and scared to move on. But there just has to be something better out there.’
Why was I counseling a dead person on death?
‘What if I never find out what my unfinished business is? I may spend hundreds of years here.’
‘No. You won’t. You’ll figure it out. ‘
In silence, we listened to the rain. I tried to get over the fact that I was alone in my hotel suite, talking to a ghost. Had I lost my mind?
‘I came to warn you.’ She said. ‘You didn’t even ask me how I died.’
I shivered. She came to warn me. Was I about to die too? Would I like it as much as she did?
‘Yes. That old couple did something to her. They made Andy disembowel himself. They whispered things to them and they went crazy.’
‘Yes. And they set Grace upon me. Your only chance of getting out of here alive is to kill Grace.’
‘I can’t kill Grace!’
‘Yes you can. You’re an athlete, you’re stronger than her.’
‘That’s not what I meant.’
‘Listen, the Grace you know is gone. What’s coming for you isn’t human. She killed me. She will kill you and then pull out her intestines like Andy did. Fight and live.’
It felt like a terrible nightmare. It had to be. My best friend had been murdered and her ghost was here telling me I had to kill someone to survive. This wasn’t real.
Someone banged on the door. I jumped.
‘What do I do?’
I turned to Ada. She was gone. Was I her unfinished business?
‘Kasy! It’s me. Open the door!’ It was Grace.
I stared at the door. It was just Grace behind the door, right? Maybe I’d been hallucinating. Andy and Ada couldn’t be dead. Grace couldn’t be out there trying to kill me. I was being silly. Grace was still hitting the door. I put a hand on my hip.
‘Grace, stop knocking like you’re trying to get in here and kill me.’
I stood with a half-smile, waiting for a ‘Kasy, you’re stupid. Open this door jor.’
Then she hit the door with so much force that it splintered in the middle. I yelped and ran into my bedroom. I stood by the open door, back pressed flat against the wall. The suite was dark, but my eyes had adjusted. I hoped hers hadn’t. She stormed into the bedroom and stood, listening for me. She had a knife in her hand. This was real.
I sprung at her, rammed into her back with my shoulders. She fell and hit her head on the edge of the bed. The knife fell from her hand. I picked it up and tried to stab her in the face. She blocked with her hands. I slashed at her abdomen. She tried to wrestle the knife from me. I wouldn’t let her. I pushed her against the bed frame and stabbed her in the gut. The knife barely pierced her skin.
She pushed me off her and we wrestled around the room. I pushed her onto a chair and tried to drive the knife into her heart. The knife went in the centre of her chest. I pulled it out and stabbed her again. It hit the left this time. Breast and bone, the knife wasn't hitting its mark. I had her pinned on the chair but she clutched my hands. We were in a deadlock.
She smiled. Our eyes locked. Hers were filled with cold rage. Grace was not in there. The knife was still in her chest. She twisted my wrist and took the knife, slammed her head into mine and slashed at my throat. Blood trickled down my neck. She lunged at me again. I stepped aside, grabbed her head and whacked it against the wall. Twice. Crack! Blood and grey matter seeped through the fractures in her skull. She was dead.
“I’m sorry” I whispered.
There were people in the hallway, on the stairs, in the lobby. Some glared at me, some wept, some spoke to me. I heard nothing, except for the music playing through my earphones. I walked straight through a man with a gash in his cheek, his blood-stained teeth grinned through the side of his face. I walked through a woman with a bloodied face, someone had ripped out her eyes and her nose, her mouth formed a perpetual scream. I felt their anger, terror, despair. I walked past Andy. He stood at the foot of the stairs, pale, cradling his bowels. I didn’t see Ada. Her ghost had been different, lighter, happier. I hope she’d made it out to somewhere better.
Someone grabbed me just as I got to the exit. It was the old man. His fingers gripped me tightly as he said words to me that I didn’t hear. I stabbed him in the neck. His hand flew to the knife in his neck, releasing me. I could hear his wife screaming, even through my earphones. I burst through the doors and ran.
I glanced back to see if I was being pursued. What had been a cute little hotel off the highway was now a deserted, crumbling shack with a broken sign that read ‘Hotel Eterni-’
- Written by Nkemakonam Awachie