Rochelle sat up, her eyes snapping wide open. Cold sweat ran down her neck and her eyes stung with tears. She gulped and heaved in deep breaths. Her heart hammered in her chest. Her hands unconsciously gripped her bed sheets so tightly her knuckles were white and trembling. She let out a loud exhale and ran her hands through her hair. Wine-coloured. One of the better colour choices she made before coming here, she mused. Not too bright, but not too normal either.

Slowly, she surveyed the tiny hotel room. For 400 bucks a night, this place was kind of a pocket-burner. Single bunk, squeezed up into a corner between the full length thinly curtained windows and the tiny bare beige-white walled room, a knee-bruising dresser with a vanity mirror lined with light bulbs (pretty, but kinda impractical for a hotel in her opinion) across from the bed; and a heavy timber cupboard at the foot of the bed. And a tiny bathroom on the other side of it, just at the entrance of the room. If the doors of the bathroom and the hotel room were to open simultaneously, they would only manage to open about halfway before crashing into each other and completely sealing off the room. Way to go, architects.

Thin rays of sunlight streamed through the curtain. Probably about 7 something a.m., she guessed. She ran her itinerary through her mind. Visit the riverside shops down the street, grab some photos and update the travel blog. She picked out her clothes for today. Hmm, the halter neck maxi dress, or simple tank top and shorts again? Summer clothing was the best.¬†An image of the cute lobby guy popped into her head. Ahmed, was it? Rochelle giggled. It’s been a while since someone caught her eye. Halter neck maxi dress it is then. Shows off her tattoos too.

But…. what was the point? He probably doesn’t even remember her, seeing so many people in a day. And why would she want to catch his eye anyway? Circumstances as they are, are not ideal, especially here, in this place of all places. EHH, to heck with that. Like she said, it has been a while. Look pretty for once, damn it and who cares if he notices or not. The bright yellow dress contrasted her dark skin and the blue tattoos down her back very nicely. A messy braid of her hair hanging down her back, and a quick check of her satchel later, the sun shone brightly into the room. No better day to explore the town.

She slipped on her flip flops and headed out. As soon as she closed the room door behind her, her eyes lingered down the stretch of hallway before her. It was nothing out of the ordinary; just another long, mediocre lit hallway. Like any other hotel. Rochelle sniffed an itch out of her nose and nonchalantly walked towards the elevator at the far end of the hallway.

She didn’t want to think about it, but her steps were becoming heavier. Breathing became slightly difficult, like she was chest-deep in water. Dark glimmers were forming at the corner of her eyes. She kept her head low and focused only on getting to the elevator. The pressure built and she desperately needed to take a breath to try and ease it.

Rochelle looked up and sucked in a quick breath, but her eyes fell onto a figure standing at one of the doors of the passing rooms. It was dark, and had no distinguishable features; just a barely opaque mass. It partially peeked out from the doorway, as if it didn’t want to be there in the first place. Rochelle’s pace slowed down, but never stopped. No, no, no, she whispered. When she reached its door, she practically tip-toed past it, avoiding eye contact completely. It stood unnaturally still and she slid past it without a word.

A cleaning lady rounded the corner junction where the lift was and wished her a merry morning. Rochelle looked up and smiled as brightly as she could, hoping that it masked whatever uneasiness she was feeling. She wished the lady a good day and silently thanked God as the lift doors slid open. The bellboy in the lift bowed politely as she stepped in. “Ground floor?” he asked. Rochelle nodded and turned to lean against the elevator wall. Her eyes were fixated onto the hallway, particularly where that door was.

The dark mass wasn’t visible from where she was, and for a moment she wondered if it had been there at all. The cleaning lady passed the door, but made no indication that anything else but her was there. But just as she was getting comfortable again, it peeked out at her from the doorway. It had no eyes, but Rochelle knew it was staring right at her. The elevator doors closed, cutting her off from that floor. Rochelle relaxed her shoulders and sighed as quietly as possible. She shot an unassuming smile at the bellboy, who smiled brightly back.