Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Curse

Audio to Follow
Ssshee shhuur, ssshee shhuur, ssshee shhuur, ssshee shhuur, cough, cough, cough, ssshee, shhuur, ssshee shhuur, ssshee shhuur, cough, cough, cough. 
David couldn’t stand it any longer for the last two hours he’d been listening to the constant floor scrubbing directly outside his room. The sound was only interrupted by the click of a lighter, a deep inhale of breath and then more coughing and spluttering before the ssshee shhuur started again.   He threw off his duvet and stomped over to the door and looked through the peephole and saw an old woman on her knees scrubbing dirt off a perfectly clean floor. He pulled on his hotel issued dressing gown and opened the door. 
“It’s three o’clock in the morning,” he said, but the woman didn’t look up from her task, the smoke escaping from a cigarette in her mouth. 
“Oi, what are you doing,” he said again, but it was like she was in a trace. He walked right into her path so his bare feet were in danger of being scrubbed. She looked up from her labours, surprised to see someone towering over her. 
“Why are you cleaning?” David said, “it’s 3am.”
The woman shrugged and tried to continued scrubbing. David bent down and held her wrist. 
“What are you doing?”
She stared at him, but David wasn’t sure she saw him. 
“I used to be a beautiful princess,” she wasn’t speaking English, but somehow David understood her. “Until the day of the curse.” 
“The curse?” David replied. 
“Let me tell you a story,” the old woman said. “Many years ago, I was a beautiful young woman who offered services to men. One night a man didn’t want to pay me for what he took. He said I had misled him. He stayed in this room.” She pointed at David’s door, “When I threatened to call for help, he muttered something in Latin and said I was just an old crone who deserved nothing better than to be scrubbing floors forever more.” 
That’s weird, David thought, surely she should have cast a spell on him, not vice versa. 
“Ever since that day, I scrub the floors of this hotel, over and over again.” The woman was babbling but David understood with every word. “The only thing that can lift the spell is a kiss from a man in the same room.” 
“That’s terrible.”
David thought about this for a minute and then closed his eyes, leaned forward and kissed the old woman on the lips. He could feel the hair of her moustache rub against his clean shaven upper lip and smell the cigarette smoke and detergent on her skin. He waited, eyes closed, hoping for a miracle.  
He was not expecting a slap in the face. But a slap in the face was what he got. The woman was on her feet, screaming and shouting and then she ran off. 
David slipped back into his room wondering what the fuss was about.  She’d asked to be kissed. 
In less than five minutes there was a knock on the door. The man standing there had duty manager on his lapel badge, standing next to a man with a scrubbing brush in his hand.
“This man said you kissed him,” the Duty Manager said. 

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