And You Thought Your Job Was Bad?
by David Boop
Revulsion dictated that Kent Sommers take a third shower. He scrubbed at his vile skin as if microscopic chiggers burrowed through his epidermis, slid into his veins and swam straight to his brain to feast on guilt-ridden thoughts. Married twenty-three years and he’d almost blown it.
Knowing he couldn’t even use the same towel twice, Kent realized he’d used all six bath towels in his Hong Kong hotel room. Left with no choice, he dried himself using hand towels and washcloths. Still not feeling clean enough, he needed to shower once more, maybe twice, before checking out. Defeated, Kent plopped naked into a chair. He refused to put on clothes until he felt purified.
The hotel’s complimentary robe hung in the closet. He could use it to cover his nudity when the maid came with more towels.
Kent called the front desk. He remembered the young woman he’d seen on his way up. He’d been trying not to catch her eye. Luckily, she had seemed disinterested on the coming and going of customers…or their guests.
“Hi, can I get some more towels?”
The nonplussed attitude hadn’t dissolved in the hours since Kent arrived. She sighed. “Sorry. Housekeeping’s gone for the night.”
“Can’t you get me one?”
“Sorry, sir. I cannot leave my station. If you will wait until morn—”
Kent slammed the phone down. Pacing back and forth, he refused to let that be the end of it. In his job, he’d stayed in enough hotels to know washing machines ran twenty-four hours a day to keep up with the linen demand. He just needed to find the laundry room, get fresh towels, shower again, and then catch the shuttle to the airport. He’d had enough of Hong Kong for a lifetime.
Checking both directions of the hallway to make sure the coast was clear, Kent cautiously stepped from his room. His barefoot steps made no sound as he tip-toed over to the stairwell.
The steps were cold and hard on his feet; no carpeting there. Kent stubbed his big toe three floors down and cursed. Covering his mouth, he waited a moment in silence.
The service area waited at the bottom of the stairs, two floors below the lobby. Suddenly worried he’d need a security card, Kent pulled harder on the access door than he should have, banging it against the wall.
Again, he froze.
The subterranean world seemed unnaturally dark. Maybe the lights were dim for energy conservation. Kent’s trepidation increased as he crept towards a solitary sliver of light down the hall. Sounds of a language he didn’t recognize ricocheted off the concrete. Arriving at the laundry room, he lined up one eye to peer through the partially ajar door.
A lady of unfathomable old age and undeterminable ethnicity stood in front of a creature from an acid dream. Bulbous with diminutive arms and legs, its skin was the color of a rotten robin’s egg. Its bile-yellow eyes slid under a translucent membrane to appear at different places on its face. Kent counted at least three of them. Stud-like horns lined its shoulder blades, what little there were of them. Kent couldn’t figure how any beast like that could evolve. Where did it come from? An alien world? A prehistoric era? Louisiana?
The withered lady reached into a linen cart and pulled out soiled bed sheets. She fed them to the beast, which sucked them in much the way Kent’s children ate spaghetti. It never chewed, just slurped them down whole.
From behind it, a younger lady, possibly of the same race as the old maid, disgustedly drew out linens as white as virgin snow from the monster’s posterior. Gingerly, she folded the clean sheets onto a housekeeping cart, stacking them neatly, never smiling. Kent discovered a newfound appreciation for his own job.
Suddenly, the oddity farted and the laundry room filled with the scent of…Spring Fresh Tide?
A roving, gelatinous eye spotted Kent’s voyeurism and the creature squealed alarm. He had no idea if its caretakers spoke the beast’s language, but he wanted to be long gone just in case. Hot-stepping it back up the stairs, Kent dove headlong into his room. He peered through the peephole for fifteen minutes. Relieved he’d not been followed, Kent flopped to the edge of the bed and tried to absorb what he’d witnessed.
The buzzing phone startled him. Tentatively, Kent picked up the receiver.
“Yes, Mister Sommers. We found some fresh towels. If you’d like, a staff member can bring them up.”
Kent hung up the phone without a word. In an instant, he decided that he needed to be gone. He dressed in a flurry, hastily packing his bags. He rushed through the lobby, again careful not to make eye contact with the hotel clerk.
Still, she called after him, “Sir? Sir? Your key?”
He didn’t wait for the driver to open the trunk. Kent threw his bags in the backseat and announced the airport as his destination.
“Don’t stop for anyone…” Kent commanded, waving a large bill. “Or anything,” he whispered to himself.
Safely dropped off and through security, Kent relaxed for a moment by the gate to his airplane… an airplane headed back home where washing machines didn’t have eyes, legs and gaseous eruptions.
Kent spotted a sign for a chapel. A neon sign blinked ‘Open 24 hours’ and he entered, hoping to cleanse his soul. He fidgeted in the confessional until a priest slid the panel aside.
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I brought a transvestite back to my hotel room thinking it was a teenage girl.”
The priest spoke comfort. “That’s not uncommon in this city, so don’t feel bad for being fooled. Of course, any form of sexual immorality is—”
Kent cut him off. “That’s not why I’m here, Padre. Believe me, suddenly having a penis waving in front of my face is far from the strangest shit I’ve seen tonight!”
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David Boop is a bestselling Denver-based speculative fiction author. His novel, the sci-fi/noir She Murdered Me with Science, will return 2016 from WordFire Press. David has had over fifty short stories published and, while known for Weird Westerns, he’s published across several genres including media tie-ins for The Green Hornet, the Black Bat and Veronica Mars. His RPG work includes Interface Zero 2.0, Rippers Resurrected and Deadlands: Noir. He’s a single dad, part-time temp worker and believer. His hobbies include film noir, anime, the Blues and Mayan History. You can find out more on his fanpage, www.facebook.com/dboop.updates or Twitter @david_boop.