Short Story Honourable Mention - November 2013

Mel Ciavucco - A Day In The Life Of Wilson Puckleberry

Wilson hovered in a long, familiar corridor, fretfully glancing at the gold numbers on each door. He’d serviced room 4 yesterday, but maybe he could do it again. Number 5 was empty; the guests had left early that morning. He took a quick peek in number 6. Dammit, gone. He started to pace up and down on the well-worn, red carpet. He looked after 12 rooms on this floor; the 8th floor of The Grand Hotel. Deep red and gold wall paper lined the hall, and tarnished fake gold uplighters intermittently fitted along the walls gave out only a faint glow. Only the freshly stained doors acted as a contrast, light pine in colour against the dark mahogany staircases. The pine doors had been a mark of territory from the new owners. Wilson didn’t like them; soon there would be swipe cards to enter the rooms and automatic bathroom taps.

The Grand Hotel was nothing like the swanky city hotels Wilson had seen on TV. It was a beautiful work of Edwardian architecture, in which he’d been working for years, along with Harry on the 7th floor, Alice on the 5th floor, and Edward who did the 3rd floor and dining room. The other floors, they serviced between them in turns. It was a system which had worked well for many, many years, and Wilson liked his colleagues, who had now become like family to him. But now there just weren’t as many guests as there used to be. His frustration grew as he paced the corridor day in and day out. He burst back into room 6 and switched on the TV, flicking quickly through the channels before turning it off again and throwing the remote on the bed. This was his life, pacing up and down, waiting for the next suckers to check in, and flicking through rubbish TV. Even ordering porn and pretending it was the guests wasn’t fun anymore.

            Wilson glanced at the sheets tucked tightly under the mattress and two chocolates lying perfectly in the centre of each pillow. He knocked each one off and loosened the sheets, scrunching them up and pulling them back across the bed. The housekeepers always hated it when he did that. Fuck them, he thought. He felt like being a wanker today. He was pissed off; pissed off with these rooms, with his monotonous existence and the gloomy old walls which felt as if they closed in on him slightly more every day. He emptied the coffee sachets along the dresser, tossed the wrappers on the floor and left the room. He heard the housekeeping trolley; they would discover his mischief soon enough. But he didn’t care. What could they do? Nothing.

            He made his way slowly down the old, dark stairwell. Gold trimmed carpet ran down the centre, a mahogany border created down each side. Wilson remembered all too well a time when there was no carpet; it had been slippery and treacherous. He shuddered. Too many people had lost their lives there. Stories circulated amongst staff of a lady who haunted that part of the stairs, dragging her twisted broken leg behind her, the bone protruding through the skin. Bollocks, he thought. What a load of old bollocks. He knew for a fact that wasn’t true. He had no idea where she’d gone; maybe to the fiery hollows of hell, or maybe she was sitting on a cloud listening to a bearded man play the harp, but she certainly wasn’t there, that was for sure. It was all bollocks, Wilson thought, a load of old crap fed from fairy tales.

            As he reached the bottom of the stairs, Harry greeted him. “How’s life on the 8th floor?”

            “Pffff. Life. Load of old crap.”

            “Do you want me to talk to you about death instead?”

            “No, that’s worse.” Wilson sat down on the top step.

Harry joined him, flipping his jacket tails behind him and pulling up his trouser legs slightly as he bent down. “Are you alright?”

            Wilson let out a long, slow sigh. “I’m just sick of it all, you know. It’s just so boring now, never enough satisfaction, you know…”

            Harry, older and having worked the halls for even longer than Wilson, patted him on the back reassuringly. He said nothing, but he gave Wilson a knowing, understanding look. They’d had too many conversations like this before. They were trapped in this hotel, bored and frustrated, but they couldn’t leave. It had been too long; it just wasn’t possible.

            A young couple walked up the stairs, holding hands and laughing. Wilson stepped back out of their way; this was Harry’s domain. Harry stuck his foot out, and the man promptly tripped over it. Glancing back, confused, he laughed it off with his lady friend and continued walking to their room, but not without glancing back two more times.

            “Is that it?” Wilson asked.

            “I like a slow build up,” Harry replied, a sly smile creeping across his face, “I’ll get ‘em good and proper later.”

            Wilson looked at the man in admiration. Harry rocked back on his heels, his hands in his jacket pockets. His waistcoat underneath was nearly the same colour as the carpet.

            Wilson slumped back down on the step. “I wish I had that kind of self-control. I’d want to be on them like a rash.” He sighed. “But then that’d be it. I’d have to wait around, and it just always feels so long. I’m just sick of all this. Do you ever wonder if we’ll ever get out of this place?”

            Harry glanced around and lowered his voice. “I don’t think we can, Wil. We belong here, this is our home. We’re needed here.”

            “Needed? We’re not needed. Do you think the rich snobby new owners need us? They’re too busy bathing in money to give a shit.”

            Harry rolled his eyes and got to his feet. “Oh Wilson, stop being so bitter. Accept that this is who you are.”

            “I hate being me.”

            “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

            “I wish I could kill myself.”

            “Now you’re just being silly. You’re talking like one of them.”

            “I hate them. I don’t want to be like those fuckers.”

            “So who do you want to be like?”

Wilson got to his feet, raising his voice now. “I don’t know, okay! I just don’t want to be here anymore. I want to be somewhere where I know there is a point to my existence, where I understand the world and I know exactly what’s going on and why.”

“Don’t we all,” Harry said softy, “us, them, all of us. Maybe nobody ever knows, and we all just have to get on with it.”

They stood silent for a moment as a wave of melancholy hung over them.

“You know what we need to do?” Harry said, smiling suddenly.

Wilson looked at him blankly.

“Double trouble,” he continued. “Double trouble! We haven’t done that in ages!”

Wilson broke into a smile. “Okay, let’s do it. Let’s fuck that couple up. Maybe they’ve had time to start getting down to it; I always love to freak them out when they’re fucking!”

Harry cringed but laughed. “You, my friend, are a sick man. But I like you.”

They headed for the door. Pausing for a moment before they entered, Harry turned to Wilson. “Just remember, no matter how shit you think things are, at least we’re not alive.”

Wilson let out an evil menacing laugh and the two men thrust themselves straight through the wall. They both let out ear-splitting shrieks as they swooped straight at the bed. The writhing couple broke apart, screaming in terror. Wilson glanced at Harry, and felt a rush like no other. He’d not felt this good for years, since back in the early days when their ghostly forms had felt like super powers. He hovered up near the ceiling, feeding off the woman’s terror. She was so scared she had nearly lost control of her bladder. So close, but not quite. Such a shame. Oh, how he loved it when that happened.

Harry beckoned him outside. Wilson swooped down and through the closed door, and they swirled around each other in the hall, both laughing as the final thrills shook through their forms. Wilson slowly floated to the ground. As the last orgasmic pulsings left him, the emptiness grew within him, and he sunk into the floor.

“Wasn’t that amazing?” Harry cried.

If he were capable of tears, they would be cascading from him now. He tried to ignore the growing void within his soul and forced his words out. “We have to do it again. Now.”

“We can’t do it again, Wil. You know that’s not possible.”

Wilson shook as the last traces left him and the emptiness consumed him. “I need it. I need it.”

“Wilson, no. We can’t, that’s enough. Control yourself.”

“I need more. I fucking need more!”

Harry floated into him. It was the closest thing ghosts could do to a hug. He felt no better, but the thought was there at least.

“Wilson, I know sometimes it’s hard but you just have to get on with it.”

“With what?”

“Existence! Whatever this may be. Nobody knows, nobody ever knows. We get our kicks but you can’t be greedy about it. If you had it all the time, there would be nothing to compare it to, so it wouldn’t seem that great. Savour them, Wilson, draw it out and savour the taste like I do. That’s all we can do.”

Wilson gave a slight nod in agreement. He envied his friend, how wise, how controlled he was. How he could manage to somehow be at peace with an unexplained existence. It had been the same, if not worse, for Wilson, when he was alive. He hadn’t been able to tolerate a world where nobody asked questions, where nobody understood but nobody cared, where nobody ever asked the word ‘why?’ Fear. He knew that’s what it was. He hated it then, and he hated that it was the thing he craved the most now; the thing that controlled him.

Only this time, throwing himself down the stairs wouldn’t work so well.

*****

About The Artist

Mel Ciavucco is a Bristol based writer currently working on her first novel, a post-apocalyptic drama, called Occasus. She is passionate about writing and exploring psychological and sociological themes in our world and beyond. A notable contender for the Bristol Short Story prize last year, Mel has had stories published in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly magazine and on the Henshaw Press website. She can be contacted at: mciavucco@yahoo.co.uk.