It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, for this small hotel at least. The cars were rushing in the streets outside, passersby hastily walking along the sidewalk, even the dogs and cats were busy being dogs and cats. John ran his fingers along the edge of the counter, his thoughts were lazy as well. He did not understand why people refuse to book their rooms in this hotel despite its affordable rates and convenient location. He believed tourists and other travelers were missing out on so much this small hotel could offer.
The door chime sounded. John stood straight up and smiled at the guest coming.
“Hello, welcome to The Purple Inn,” he greeted.
“Which floor is empty?” the man replied sternly.
“Uhm, hold on, let me check,” John straightforwardly answered, looking at their logs. “The fifth floor.”
“I’ll get the corner-most room, please.”
John gave a quick look at the floor layout, “That’s room 509, sir.”
“Sure,” the guest handed John his credit card, “overnight, please.”
“All right,” John smiled. “Here you go, Room 509,” he said, handing the guest the hotel kit.
Without any response, the guest accepted the kit. “Can I make a special request?”
“Sure,” John nodded, smiling.
“I need a black knife, a thirty-nine-centimeter white string, and a seventy-nine-gram orange,” the guest said, nonchalantly.
“The knife and the thread, we could give you right away,” John advised, “the orange might take a while.”
The guest nodded. “Just deliver them at the same time to my room, not later than nine o’clock tonight,” he said, looking at his wristwatch. Without any other words, he left even before John could respond.
John shrugged and went back to his musings. It was bizarre, and that was none of his business. He phoned one of the bell boys to prepare the guest’s request, ensuring it would be delivered before nine o’clock.
That night, John was making his usual rounds of the floors to check the empty rooms. This was the part of his job he likes the least: he was supposed to be a frontdesk officer, and this wasn’t supposed to be his thing. John checked all empty rooms to ensure they are tidy just in case people check in; he also checked them to ensure everything was in place. It was routinary. Tedious. Boring. Always the same thing.
Fifth floor proved to be different. The entire room was empty, except the cornermost room, which was booked a few hours earlier. It was already twenty-five past eleven. John stepped onto the fifth floor and checked the rooms one by one. He noticed something was amiss.
At first he thought he was losing his mind; what was happening was impossible. The noise was loud, but it was inaudible from the other floors. Even the sounds were impossible! John shook. He was scared. His body was cold, his blood was curdling, his hair was standing. It was surreal.
He moved closer Room 509, slowly, carefully. The shrieks were getting louder and louder. Like that of a dying woman being murdered. He heard the walls being scratched, like the sound of an old marker on a dry-erase board. He heard plates breaking as they crash against the walls and floor. Wolves were howling. Elephants were trumpeting. Lions were roaring. The sounds were just unusual.
John couldn’t breathe. His legs were fragile, almost about to give up. He knew what he needed to do—knock on the door and check what was happening. It was clearly against the hotel policy! He ran away instead.
John kept what happened to himself. He was afraid people might think he was losing his mind should he ever tell them what he heard, especially when the room was perfectly neat when the guest checked out. They found the knife, the string, and the orange carefully laid on the table. He tried his best to keep it out of his mind. He knew he needed to forget what happened.
Life had different plans though. The Sunday after that, the guest came back.
“Hi,” he greeted John, “is the fifth floor empty?”
“Yes, Sir,” John answered, nodding, trying to smile, clearing his mind.
“Room 509, please,” the man requested, “and, oh, please give me a black knife, a thiry-nine-centimeter white string, and a seventy-nine-gram orange.”
“Sure, Sir,” John replied. “They will be delivered as soon as we acquire the orange.”
The guest nodded and left with his keys to his room.
John sighed. He dreaded the thought of going up the fifth floor later to check all the empty rooms, but he knew he needed to. He shook his head as he phoned the bellboy to deliver the special request of the guest to his room.
Twenty-five past ten. John decided to check the rooms early to avoid the mysterious sounds that might drive him insane. All the floors were quiet. All except one—the fifth floor. The self-same sounds resonated along the halls, sending his spines to chills.
He knew he needed to do something. He took a deep breath and mustered every ounce of courage he had.
“Room service,” he announced, knocking on the door.
The door opened. “Yes?” the guest met John at the door, looking him in the eyes.
“Uh, uhm, good evening,” he stuttered, “I was checking the rooms when I . . . uh . . . I . . . uh . . .” he couldn’t form an alibi as the sound disappeared right when the guest opened the door, the room was perfectly neat, the lights were on, the TV was off. Nothing unusual. “I . . . uh . . . I thought you might need something else?”
The guest smiled. “No, nothing, thanks,” he said, politely closing the door, not giving John a chance to respond.
As soon as the door closed, the sounds returned. John fainted.
John woke up inside Room 509. The guest was standing beside him.
“I’m sorry,” John said, sitting up.
“Do not apologize,” the guest said, “it was not your fault.”
John scratched his right eye with back of his hand. “How long was I out?”
“Ten, fifteen minutes, not that long,” the guest said, handing him a glass of water. “How are you feeling?”
“Better, I guess,” John answered, shrugging.
John hesitated, shaking his head. “It was nothing,” he lied, “I was just tired.”
“You should take a day off or two,” the guest said, helping John stand up.
“I guess,” John said. “Thanks for helping me.”
“The least I can do,” the guest smiled.
The next day, the guest checked out, handing John the keys. “I hope you’re feeling better now,” he said, smiling.
He smiled back, “Thanks.”
John knew there was no point of telling anyone what he heard from Room 509. The bellboy he phoned said the room was neat, good to go. John does not need telling anyway. He saw it with his own eyes the night before. Which does not make sense. Which only adds to the mystery.
He decided not to come in to work the next two days to clear his mind. What he heard, what he saw, what happened to him—everything was too much. He was scared and confused at the same time.
The third Sunday came, and John hoped it would be different from the other two Sundays he had had. Fifteen past six, and the same guest arrived.
John smiled wryly at the guest. “Room 509, black knife, black knife, thirty-nine-centimeter white string, seventy-nine-gram orange, yes?”
The guest smiled back, pleased, “Yes, please.”
John handed him the keys and told him that his special request will be delivered soon. The guest left to his room.
The sight of the guest told John this Sunday would be no different from the other two. He knew that, this time, he needed to know. John waited until forty-five past eleven, the same time he heard the sound for the first time.
With a torch in his hand, John climbed the stairs toward the fifth floor. The very moment his foot stepped on the fifth floor, he heard the noise. The shrieks of a dying lady, the howls of a wolf, the trumpeting of an elephant, china breaking, nails scratching the walls, roars of a lion, screeches of a hawk, and a blood-curdling scream like that of a man whose throat is being slit open. All these noise at the same time.
John took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” the guest called from the room, his voiced drowned by the noise.
“Room service,” John answered.
The door opened, and the noise disappeared. “What is it?” The guest asked.
“What were those noises?” John asked bravely, even when his knees were shaking.
The guest smiled dryly. “It took you too long to ask, John.”
“They are driving me insane,” John complained. “What are they? I need to know!”
The guest laughed mockingly. “If I tell you, do you promise not to tell anyone?”
John nodded slowly.
“Come in,” the guest opened the door wider; John stepped inside the room. It was perfectly neat, no signs of destruction or anything unusual.
“What are those for?” John asked, pointing at the black knife, black knife, thirty-nine-centimeter white string, seventy-nine-gram orange. “And what are those noises?”
The guest looked at John dryly in the eyes, leaned forward closer to him, and whispered to his right ear.
John’s eyes grew wide as he heard everything he needed to know. His body shook, his spine almost collapsed. His breathing became irregular. He was incredulous.
“You promised not to tell anyone,” the guest reminded him.
John nodded slowly; he knew what was at stake.
“Now, leave,” the guest said, opening the door.
John stepped out, taking tiny, shaky steps as he moved. The door closed, and he heard the sounds again. Louder than ever before. He fainted. He woke in a hospital two days later.
I know most of you would want to know what was happening inside Room 509 and what the guest told John. Unfortunately, John is a man of integrity, and he has not revealed the guest’s secret to anyone until now. And perhaps, he will even take it to his grave.