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Short: 2:45

Posted on 23 January 2016 by Dreidel Regala

It’s 2:45 when I peek at the clock. I’ve been watching it for 13 minutes, not really needing to set it anymore because my body is already familiar with this sequence but I still do anyway. I let the soft alarm went off for 3 seconds then I press dismiss. I listen a few more seconds waiting for signs anyone is awake but all I hear is a soft hum from I don’t know where so I move the sheets aside and make my way down, the bed squeaking a bit.

I pick up the red left slipper on the edge of the corner bed then walk to my backpack and put it underneath. There, I think to myself then climb back to my bed.

Tonight is easy, but I still can’t help but feel jittery from my last attempt. I was a bit careless then. When I walked to the white left slipper I didn’t realize somebody was awake. So I simply grabbed it, turned, and began to move back. I stiffened when I saw faint light coming from the bed opposite mine. Two eyes wide open and were looking at me. I didn’t know what to do. And he didn’t say anything too. Did he see what I did, I asked myself. I didn’t complete that attempt. I just let the slipper go then went back to bed. Maybe he thought I was sleep walking. Yes, that’s it – sleep walking.

In the morning breakfast is good. There’s cereal, bread, a good selection of spread and meat, a buffet of fruits, hot chocolate, and papaya juice hmm. I see her, there in the coffee section putting two scoops of cream in her cup. My stomach rumbles. I don’t put cream in my coffee, my stomach hates it. I decide to look away before she even catches me. She didn’t so I let go of the air I have been holding in.

By the time I am satisfied that I can’t take another bite, breakfast is at its peak. I like eating early. I like my quiet so I’m always one of the firsts in there. Almost all tables are occupied now and the air is filled with happy chatters. It’s amazing how these people have all these energy so early in the morning. I’m not a morning person and I bet one or two of these overly cheerful guests say that too if it is an office day.

When I get back after my usual morning walk, she is gone. Her bed is still unmade but all her stuff is gone. I walk over to my backpack, pick it up, and see the red left slipper nicely looking up.

Red left slipper, white left slipper, black left slipper, pink left slipper, yellow left slipper, and so on. I can no longer count how many I have acquired. A dozen, maybe more, I do not know. I don’t bring them with me, that’s crazy and heavy too. I study the red left slipper for a while. It’s bigger than my size. I can easily guess that it’s been used for a year or so already. Sorry, I murmur to the afternoon air.

The next day I have a bunch of new roommates. There is one that came in really early that morning but he is so quiet I didn’t even hear him at all. Then there is this really loud group. For one whole day I waited and waited and waited. The quiet guy gave me a hi when I woke up and found him digging through his stuff. The others gave me a nod when I came back to the room after breakfast. But not him. He never gave me the time in his day.

I am not a needy person. I don’t crave attention or anything like that. But I like watching people, and when I watch I get insane ideas. I met a girl before who told me she doesn’t like party hostels, too old for that she said. So I imagined her in one. Everybody was having a grand time. Everybody was partying every night. Everybody was the center of their own freedom. Except her. Nobody talked to her. She was in the bar, margarita on hand. Ready to mingle but she looked lost in there so she went back to her room deciding not to push it. Day after day she went about discovering the city but her roommates never talked to her even once. They might not even see me at all, she thought. Well that’s just impossible.

The 2:45 alarm went off. This time I have to pull myself from sleep. I am really tired, body aches everywhere, that impromptu hike was awful, I thought. I didn’t want to be bothered but I’ve never missed a mission. I even slipped when I was going down the bed. My ankle throbbed a few seconds from the friction but when it was gone I was very much awake. Walking around the room is easy because the light coming in from the window is perfectly bright or perfectly dim. I see it. Blue left slipper. I grab it and start to turn around but it feels different. And it’s resisting me. What are you doing, says the voice behind me. I almost scream in surprise. Not again! I turn my head around, body still frozen. It’s not him.

I let go of his hand which I realize I mistakenly grabbed in place of the blue left slipper. What are you doing, he says again. My mind is sweating for excuses when it comes to me, shouldn’t I ask him the same? It isn’t his blue left slipper so why is he holding it anyway. That is my blue left slipper, I tell him in a whisper, and what are you doing up now? No this is my blue right slipper, he whispers back waving the thing in my face. I snatch it from his hand and demand that he take the left one instead. But he tells me back. So I tell him back too. Then all of a sudden there is a bright light pointed in his face, or it is my face I’m not too sure. What are you both doing?

In the morning breakfast is good. I see him. He sees me. He walks to my table holding a cup of coffee and a knowing smile plastered on his face. Morning, we say to each other. We break in laughter after that. Had it been someone else who saw me that night it will be a different morning. When our roommate found us I was almost sure that I got caught until he said something about a cockroach. The roommate bought it and we all went back to sleep after both of us silently agreed that our missions are temporarily postponed for the night.

So what were you doing with the blue left slipper, I ask plainly then take a bite on my buttered toast then a tomato. First of all, it was a blue right slipper, he says. Second, let’s just say don’t annoy me or I’ll take one of yours. Wow that’s mean, I tell him. He just shrugs, and what about you – what do you want from the blue left slipper? Not friendly enough, I answer. We didn’t ask anymore from each other after that. It was still a private thing even though we kind of collaborated last night. I am also not ready yet to discuss any sort of mental issues surrounding that topic if there is any. For now I just smile at the thought that there is someone out there like me.

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Short: Jackets

Posted on 16 December 2015 by Dreidel Regala

Jaime and Roy have been married for two years. Happily married as they call it but most people around them would say they have a weird way of showing it. You don’t go out there minding other people’s business, Roy shouted. Oh I mind, I mind alright, Jaime replied shoving Roy aside as she walked through their front door. Did you see how Harry is treating his wife! That’s not our problem Jaime. Damn it is! If you’re doing that to me I’d like some help from my gender! She said throwing her purse to the couch then quickly followed it with a loud plop. Roy sighed as he walked over to the fridge, opened it, and grabbed the only beer he saw. I’d never do that to you, you know that don’t you? Jaime’s brown eyes lifted to Roy, the glint of annoyance slowly vanishing and replaced by tenderness. She knew Roy would never blatantly bring “another” woman in her presence. Of course I know, you’re the best husband ever, she said as she leaned over to where Roy sat and gave him a swift kiss. Roy put his arms around Jaime’s waist then whispered, don’t do that again, he’s bad news we don’t want to be in his radar. Jaime understood what he meant. She watched enough movies to know those kinds of things and quickly liken Harry to Hyman Roth – appearing harmless but vicious after all. Fine, I’ll shut it next time.

Roy could have sworn he saw something else when all the drama Jaime was orchestrating began. He didn’t call it before because his wife’s shouting echoed in the whole building. Brat. But now he remembered who the face belongs to – that’s Lancaster – he said. Hmm what? Jaime mumbled half asleep beside him. He looked at her carefully making sure she didn’t wake up. When he was sure he let out a deep breath and turned his head again staring at the ceiling. That’s Lancaster, he thought silently. Hairier and a little blondish but that’s him.

Bobby Lancaster has been missing for years. Ever since The Daily assigned Harry Black to Roy, he’s been tailgating that wagon and Lancaster is his best highway. Only problem is Lancaster is nowhere to be seen. He had questions and only the accountant can give him the answers.

Before Jaime opened her eyes she reached out her hands looking for that familiar warmth but there was nothing. She sat up and pouted, Roy where are you, she yelled to the room. The room didn’t answer so she grumbled as she walked out of the bedroom. When she got to the kitchen it was empty too. No Roy, no morning coffee, no bacon. Asshead, she hissed at that last one. They may not be the breakfast in bed kind of people but there’s always bacon in the morning. She went to the fridge to get a pack when she found his note – something came up, I’ll be back soon. Something came up, she snorted. Then she discovered there’s no frozen bacon so she whined even louder. This is the worst morning ever!

Deciding that she’ll do anything to turn the day around, Jaime drove to the grocery, parked in her favorite spot then walked on with a mission. When she got everything she needed for the epic breakfast – pancakes, tomato  and cheese omelette, coffee, and of course bacon – she threw the bags in the back seat daydreaming about the delicious that was about to happen. Her stomach grumbled again but this time it sounded faraway. She turned to scan the parking lot and only saw Mr. Perkins perched on his usual spot on the doorway bench reading the paper. Good morning Mr. Perkins, she yelled to him but either he didn’t hear or didn’t care. The grumble came again but now it sounded like grunts and moans from the back of the supermarket building. Jaime not accustomed to minding her own business couldn’t ignore her curiosity. She closed her car door and ran towards the sound. A huddle of sunglasses and black jacket wearing men stood between two black navigators, not exactly morning material she thought. Their backs were on her so they didn’t notice her faint steps as she inched slower to take a small peek at what was keeping them occupied. But one of the men gave a low blow to the guy who was kneeling in the middle of the huddle.  When the familiar hair, shirt, and shoes finally registered, Jaime let out a worried yelp. No Roy! All sunglasses suddenly turned to her and Jaime realized how scary big these men are. Jaime, get out of here! Roy coughed out on swollen lips. But Jaime wasn’t having that, she shoved between two jackets and kneeled beside Roy. Are you okay, her hands cupping his face while her thumbs gliding his cheeks. Jaime didn’t hear his answer because she can see from the corner of her eyes all the black jackets hovering closely over them and she knew bad news is on them.

In my back packet. No the other back packet, Jaime complained. She couldn’t see Roy but she knew he is in a terrible position as well but he has to get to the keys so they can tear themselves free. Turn a little I can’t reach it, Roy said pain obvious in his voice. Jaime turned and raised her butt a little while sending her face flat to the floorboard of the trunk. The position hurt her shoulders but she didn’t care. A few more seconds and then she felt her keys slide out, I got it, Roy whispered just as the car stopped.

Two black jackets dragged them out without even caring if they hit their heads on the lids. Roy saw Jaime fell to her knees while holding her head so he reached for her but air rushed from his lungs and spots invaded his vision as he felt another blow in his gut. Don’t play around, the one who hit him said with a smirk, bring them inside, he then commanded to no one in particular. The building was old, dark, and creepy. It’s exactly how these kinds of things look in the movies. Oh God they’re going to kill us here, Roy thought as his heart ran just a little bit faster. He moved to the side of Jaime, eyes scanning for escape while he tried to hide what he was doing with his bind. What is it, Jaime whispered at the same time a laugh broke from behind them – Roy Lee you wanted to talk to me?

Roy turned and saw the face he’s been looking for so long. Sorry to meet you here Lee, not a lot of people ask for me these days you know, gotta be careful. Lancaster, Roy breathed, I just – want an interview, is that it? Lancaster interrupted. You’re putting me in a bad place Lee, I don’t like it, his eyes fell on Jaime, she your wife? Roy froze. After a few seconds Lancaster continued, look you saw what you shouldn’t, got curious, then you start askin, it got loud, I become a compromise, a fucking compromise Lee! He shouted right in Roy’s face, fisting Roy’s shirt. You know what that means don’t you Lee? Like a child Roy just nodded, sweat falling from his brows to his lids. We’re not gonna talk, he’s not gonna talk, I promise you, Jamie interfered. Please just let us go, she sobbed to Roy’s shoulders. Lancaster nodded to the jacket behind Roy then began, I have to end this Lee before it becomes the end of me. And with that the two jackets started to drag Jaime and Roy once again. No stop it! Jaime protested, please!

Jaime begged. Roy heard her screams but his mind was louder! He pulled his now free hands away before the jacket could get to them and when the jacket tried to reach again, Roy went for the gun in his waist then kicked his groin like how he would a football. In most situations a hand-to-hand combat is the ideal route but Roy knew he’s got no chance in a fight against these goons so he grabbed the jacket in a chokehold and aimed the gun at his head. Let us go, Roy said as he faced Lancaster again. Silence filled the building as two sets of eyes refused to make the first blink. On the side Jaime and her captor are frozen mid struggle. When Lancaster just about opened his mouth a sharp sound startled all of them, followed by footsteps from the opened doorway. There’s no need for that Mr. Lee. Roy heard Lancaster hit the floor as his eyes found a figure come out of the shadows. I have no need for him anymore.

Roy forgot to breathe for two seconds as he took in the eyes that were slicing him in half. He’s finally got the answer he’s been looking for but now he’s got a different question. Do you want to go on a long vacation in a remote island in Asia Jaime, he said without a blink.

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Short: Luisa

Posted on 04 November 2015 by Dreidel Regala

Two things were obvious after Eric found the girl’s Facebook profile. First is that she’s big on travelling. And second, her last post was 8 days ago. 8 days ago, that’s 5 days before she checked in said George of the reception. How can she not be posting when people nowadays upload their every move? Now he may have to dig a little deeper. He doesn’t really have to but he’s just too curious to know.

When he first overheard the hostel staff discussing about a girl who missed her checkout, he dismissed it as a foreigner having too much fun and just being careless. But on the second time while sipping on his afternoon coffee in front of the laptop and was busy typing his training materials atop the common room’s computer table, he couldn’t help but get distracted with all the scrambling the staff were making. Coming in and out of room #3 then a few seconds later carrying bag after bag out of the room. Eric would normally wonder whose bags were those and if the staff were supposed to touch them in any way but today he was just watching how the whole scene was unfolding. George was occupied checking in a new guest and was carefully apologizing that the room is not ready yet while Marta the housekeeper was stuffing all the discarded clothing into the bags. What’s with those Eric said to Marta but the housekeeper barely spoke English so she just smiled to Eric then walked away. Two bags, a small backpack and a trolley. A little worn out with occasional dirt dusting the bottom parts. Before he could stop himself, Eric stood from his chair, crouched over the trolley then reached for the black plastic card dangling on the handle. The waiting guest who was now sitting on the green couch peeked up at Eric for a few seconds then returned his eyes on the magazine on his lap. Eric went back to his chair and silently whispered the name he read – Luisa.

Eric never met Luisa on the three days they shared the small corner hostel at Ford Avenue. He can’t even say if he ever saw her. Yesterday morning he had breakfast in the kitchen with Frank, a freelance artist from out of town, and was chatting about mundane things well past 10’oclock before he decided to go strolling around the city. Never did he saw room #3 open to welcome the aroma of fresh morning coffee.

Do you think something terrible happened to her? Eric was leaning over the reception table right in front of George’s vision. I don’t know, nobody knows where she is, George said. Should you like report it to the police or something? George raised his eyes again to meet Eric’s but continued typing behind the counter. The twins who were bickering at each other in the couch suddenly became quiet and Eric could feel eyes behind his head. I’m sorry I sound invading but there seems to be – he paused then switched his volume to a whisper – a missing girl here. George sighed but the slight worry in his eyes evident. Eric didn’t hear them approach but the twins are now standing beside him, not speaking a word but breathing heavily. It’s okay there’s nothing to worry about, said George, this happens a lot with the guests, they disappear for a few days, some comeback like nothing happened. If she doesn’t turn up in a few more days we’ll report it, he added. Eric turned around then walked over to his training material again. The twins followed then settled back on the couch all while exchanging looks and murmurs. A few more days, if bad happened a day can take more than a foot, Eric thought.

Later that night Eric woke with a start. He was covered in sweat and his skin felt like it was burning. He immediately looked around his room and saw nothing but darkness. Just a dream, he breathed. A scary hot dream. He closed his eyes again and willed himself to sleep but the image of burning alive kept him awake for another hour.

The morning was even quieter than most days. Eric was alone in the kitchen eating his peanut butter sandwich and fresh coffee. Besides Marta scampering about here and there, it was only him and George manning the reception. There were no guests around. Must be an epic party night, Eric called on George. Gaad I’m boring, he joked and laughed to himself causing George to raise a questioning brow at him. Did you have news about the girl? No sorry, George said. Yeah sorry, he replied. He didn’t know why he was so intrigued or affected by the situation but he decided he’s not having it anymore. He stood from the wooden high chair and walked to the front door.

He walked two blocks, made two turns, and walked another block before he found himself standing in front of the uniformed guy behind the desk. The guy was holding the morning paper with his right hand and a white cup of coffee on his left hand. Eric stood there for about two minutes without uttering a word. With this guy’s mustache and his bushy brows, one of which was raised as his eyes move intently along the newspaper, Eric thought not to bother him. Just wait, he told himself. When after several minutes the black penetrating eyes finally fell on him, Eric smiled. Morning officer! Morning, the guy hissed then dropped both the paper and cup. I would like to report a missing girl sir, Eric continued. The guy stared at him a few seconds then said, good morning huh! Officer this girl has been missing for three days. Don’t know where she is, he asked in broken English. No sir, I haven’t really met her yet but my hostel at Ford Avenue knows about her, I’m just reporting for them. What girl’s name? Luisa sir. Hostel in Ford Avenue corner? Yes sir. The officer stopped talking for twenty seconds, one minute, two minutes, and then he closed his eyes before muttering the words – that hostel burned – then he opened his eyes and gave them to Eric without a blink – two years ago. Eric’s heart skipped a beat after which he let out ragged laughs. No sir it’s not burned I just slept there last night. But the guy just breathed deeply then looked away. Eric turned around and started walking, when he realized he was walking towards Ford Avenue he turned again and never looked back.

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