Watching people whilst they’re unaware of your presence can get rather eerie. My travels around the hotel introduced me to an array of personalities, in room 336 was a washed-out broad way actor with her makeup caked on in flaky layers singing opera in duet with a gramaphone, in room 224 was a politician cheating on his dumpy wife and two kids with a floozy 30 years his junior and in room 183 were three pairs of twins getting high on home-grown pot.
None of these people were as interesting, (or as weird) as the old woman in room 501, a permanent resident who had lived in solitude for the past three and a half years. One day I walked through the varnished wooden door of room 501, to see an old woman sitting in an obtusely stuffed armchair, staring straight at me. Her emaciated body was covered by a creased pink flannel night gown whilst her thin, scraggly hair was filled with minute pieces of straw, which was bundled up in curlers.
* * * * *
Here I was sitting, blind as a bat staring into space whilst listening to the multitude of familiar voices in my head when some weirdo walked through my front door. Had I paid the rent? Wait, the hotel owner was male, so it wasn't that. Then I realised I could see her, or her aura to be more exact. So she was one of the wayward souls that crossed her path more often than she would have liked. Was there no such thing as privacy?
I waited a moment for the daft thing to introduce herself but as she appeared frozen to the spot, it appeared I'd have to inquire as to why the tomato she was here. How rude of her!
Staring at her through my thick black glasses (stereotypical blind people wear - how droll) I said, “Why, hello dear. Haven’t you heard of knocking?”
She nearly jumped out of her skin. Oh, the thoughts that must be going through her head. She supposed it was akin to - How could she see me? Why isn't she scared? Who is the oldie in her nightie?
That last thought made me cackle manically until i abruptly stopped myself as i realised that this was quite unladylike behaviour. Instead i said, “You should see the expression on your face!”
“How are you able to see me?”
“Oh, I’ve been seeing dead people for years. No need to stop now.”
“But you’re . . .”
“So I am. My eyes were taken by a vicious magpie. At least my left one was. Or was it my right? I can’t remember. I lost the other one due to a particularly heated game of bridge. Good game. Last game my husband ever played,” I said reminising the good old days.
I could tell by the way she exclaimed “Oh, I’m so sorry.” that she was more shocked than anything else. It was a long time since i'd been shocked by something. Two years, two and a half? Ooh, she'd needed to purchase more toilet roll through Online Shopping International.
Whoops she was talking to someone wasn't she?
“No need to be. The fool was cheating on me with the harpy in room 402. I beat him to death with the bridge board. Do you know that his spirit pleaded for me not to cremate him? I did it just to spite him. God that was a good feeling.”
“Um. Ok. Right. I'm sorry I’ll just leave that way.” the girl said pointing in the general direction of the door.
Oh, she wasn't getting off that easy.
“Oh please don’t go yet. We haven’t enjoyed a cuppa yet.”
“I’m afraid I'm unable to drink anything any more.”
“Whoever said you were going to get any?” I snapped at her whilst pouring tea into my cup.
* * * * *
“Whoever said you were going to get any?” snapped the old lady in rely whilst pouring non-existent tea into a teacup from her empty teapot.
“And sit down will you. It’s rude to just stand in the doorway,” she said waving in the general direction of a second overstuffed armchair. I glanced at what I guessed was a floral pattern for a moment before attempting to sit, but my rear fell straight through the chair. Compromising I sat on the floor staring up at the decrepit old lady.
* * * * *
Cookies, that's what would go nice with a cup of tea. Unfortunately my kitchen was nearly empty and cookies had been one of the first foods that appeared to be in shortage. Oh for a cookie . . .
Suddenly being drawn back to the present, I felt a pair of eyes boring into the side of my scalp. Oh yeah, visitor. Politely I asked, "What's your name, deary?"
She answered back by saying "Bree. Bree Clarke. If I may ask, who are you?"
Asks the intruder. Interesting. Of course you may not ask, but then that hasn't seemed to stop you. "Enid Doyle. At least that's my name after I was married."
"What was your maiden name?," Bree asked conversationally.
"None of your biz wax, you little piece of cheese," I snapped. I was quickly tiring having to keep up this polite charade. As soon as she left I'd feel right as rain. I'd never understood that saying. What exactly made rain right? I mean, it didn't have a brain. Or did it?
I was broken out of my reverie when the girl asked if i knew Jack Liddel.
I had to think for a second before his name rang a bell. My memory isn't what it once was, that's for sure.
“Oh yes, the little man who owns that cottage next door,” I replied, starting to remove the curlers from her hair. “Miserable little fellow. Almost as miserable as that little gardener of his.”
“Would you be able to tell Jack that I’m here?” she asked.
“What’s in it for me?” I questioned, grimacing as one of the curlers got stuck.
“I leave you alone?"
Oh, she had read my mind. Anything to get rid of the little vixen. This encounter had her feeling rather drained and she'd need time to recoup. Mustn't sound too desperate.
“Hmm, tempting. I’ll sleep on it,” I said removing the last of the curlers from my hair and slowly easing my aching body out of the suffocating chair. I'll set it on fire later. That'll teach the stupid chair a lesson for being so fat.
“Thank you so much,” Bree breathed in relief.
“Don’t get so smug," I shot back suddenly feeling a little nasty. "I’m not doing it for you. It’s just been a while since I’ve flirted with the man.”
The sound of her dry retching brought a smile to my face as I tottered toward my bed, bumping the nightstand, upsetting a lampshade which smashed to pieces on the ground.
“Aren’t you going to clean that up?” she asked me as I proceeded to get into bed.
Deciding to ignore her, I thought outloud, “Hmm, I think I’ll have gingerbread men and root beer for breakfast.”
I promptly fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
“Weird,” Bree said turning around.
Bree Heard a creek behind her and turned back.
My body was still lying peacefully in my bed but my spirit had inverted itself so I was standing upright in the centre of my bed wearing only my birth suit. Breezy! The lower half of my body was hidden inside the bed, probably because now that i was a ghost I'm also intangible. My upper half was fully exposed and boy did it feel good to be without the constraints of clothing. The only item of clothing I was still wearing were my glasses. That was when I realised, my eye sight had improved. I could now make out the general outline of objects! I could see Bree's last meal (when she'd been alive) for a brief second ( a hotdog and a blue slushy) before it passed through the floor. Apparently our excrements were as corporeal as ourselves.
The ability to see again was suddenly undermined by a more pressing fact. I felt good. No aches and pains. I twisted my body sideways without cracking any bones.
“More agile than I’ve been in thirty years,” I giggled. “Be seeing you . . or not.”
After this final comment I proceeded to swan dive through the floor making sure to sufficiently moon Bree so she would be permanently scarred.
* * * * *
She left me standing there plain flabbergasted.
I stared at the woman’s disposed carcass in mild horror. Should I call someone. Not possible as she was the only one capable of seeing or hearing me. Feeling helpless I turned around and walked back through the door saying “Could this life, death, whatever this is, get any weirder?”
It was three weeks before Enid Doyle's dead body was found by housekeeping.