Short Story – No WiFi

No WiFi
 
A Short Story by Cameron Brtnik
 
Inspired by a stay at a hotel in Vietnam
 
 
    There was no WiFi password written anywhere… only a sign that read “Free WiFi” on a faded piece of paper on the wall. “Shit,” I said to myself. I was too lazy to walk the four flights back downstairs to ask. “Well, looks like I’ll be drinking this bottle of vodka on my own and without any entertainment,” this time only thinking it (as saying it would mean I am crazy, which I don’t believe I am..yet). I was living in Vietnam, on a trip up north to explore and reputable hills and valleys of Sapa. That first night I checked into the “Hoang Nam Hotel” which I believe translates to “no name hotel.” It was around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival and I could hear the sounds of kids’ drums beating outside. It seemed to imbue a rhythm into this normally stagnant and soulless town. Some kids had taught me earlier how to play a traditional beat, and I got pretty good at it, but the kids were better at it, they didn’t have to think, their hands just moved, the sticks an extension of them, the drum just an obstacle reflecting their own heartbeat: youthful, voracious, animalistic. I bought a bottle of vodka and slowly walked back to my shabby hotel room. The aircon barely blew – I had the aircon setting on 19° but all it did was gust around musty, stale month-old air, like the air kept memories of its past tenants, like a fly on the wall, did not like what it saw, and the beast was bitter, no one ever thanking it for cranking out 50,000 kilowatts of power a day, pushing itself to the limit, like a fighting cancer patient, never giving up, yet nobody ever noticing its pathetic existence… With unrealistic hopes I turned the setting to 18°.
 
 
    After checking in, the lady at the front desk – I guess she was an employee, although if she wasn’t working there I could have just as easily checked in – led me upstairs to my room. Upon hesitantly entering the room, the lady pushed ahead first, armed with a bottle of air freshener that she used, without restraint, to spray the entire room like she was covering the stench of a rotting corpse (although it smelled fine, if not a bit musty). After it seemed like ages, she scuttered out so I could bask in the emptiness of the room…
 
 
    I made a routine inspection: There were chips in the fake marble (probably asbestos) floor tiles, cigarette burns in the chair, stains on the white sheets (why white? These types of hotels should probably just go with a dark grey or off black), a missing dresser drawer, an unidentifiable crusted-on condiment in the fridge (unplugged), a woman’s hairs on the bathroom floor, burnt out bathroom light bulb, NO toilet paper, limestone stains on the bathroom door, in the window sill two q-tips and a used bandaid, a dusty 20’ TV (albeit a flat screen, now we’re talking luxury!), trash bin minus the bag with some gluey substance on the bottom, dirt smeared on the pink walls (that’s right; pink), lipstick smudges above the bed’s headboard, dust-coated fan with half the cage missing… I could go not, but you get the point. All this included for a paltry 200.000 dong! ($8 US)
 
 
    I couldn’t count how many times I’d stayed at hotels like these..they all blurred into one. You get used to it when you’re traveling in Asia. There’s a difference in (or lack of) standards compared to, let’s say, your standard roadside motel, like a Comfort Inn without the comfort. But “when in Asia,” I guess. Halfway through the bottle of vodka I was feeling tired and getting blurry-eyed (alcohol is an excellent creative fuel..until it isn’t). My brain wanted to write more, but I could feel my body inch toward the bed without me trying. I loaded up some streaming site to watch the last remake of Friday the 13th, which actually got decent reviews..but didn’t make it past the opening credits…
 
 
    …I awoke to a sound that I was sure came from the adjoining room but, half-awake, it just as well could’ve come from my dream. It was a loud THUD! that sounded like someone dropped a heavy hammer in the room above me..or the satanic sounds of old piping. Maybe someone rolled out of bed? My mind starting racing, making up excuses for such a sound late at night.. Someone dropping their bowling ball on the floor; a dead prostitute being pushed off the bed; an old chandelier, dangling by its last stringy wire, finally falling from the ceiling..but I didn’t hear it again and peacefully dozed off… for what must’ve been less than a minute before the sound woke me up again -THUD! I thought about getting a broom and banging the ceiling to communicate whatever weirdness was happening up there to stop..but thought better of it; if it was a psycho he might come down and hack me up to bits. I wouldn’t be surprised in this hotel… I decided if it happened again I would go downstairs to complain to the lady at the front desk – not that she’d be any help; she was probably the one making the noise. As I got ready to pass back out – THUD! I heard it again —-but this time right outside my door.
 
 
    “What the fuck?” I said out loud (when you’re scared you don’t care if you sound crazy). I slowly moved to the door and flipped on the light switch and said, “Hello?” to probably no one. I opened the door and… nothing. But the sound sounded so close… THUD!There it was again, but..it sounded like it came from inside the room. “Impossible…” (inside thought) My heart was beating so loudly it was nearly as loud as the THUD. I turned around and… nothing. THUD! Again, this time from..the bathroom? My whole body was hot and sweating from, what, fear? “It’s gotta be the pipes,” I thought. The hotel was old as shit after all. “Maybe the old hotel owner’s ghost is haunting the place,” and at that thought I snickered out loud. THUD!!! again in the bathroom. I was hesitating..but finally walked forward toward the bathroom door. I looked at the reflection in the mirror but…nothing. THUD!!!! This time my bed rocked, and I automatically jumped back. I bolted for the front door and it slammed shut. Suddenly the lights when out… THUD! THUD! THUD!!! THUD!!!
 
 
    Suddenly I felt something touch me: slimy, wet, yet ethereal, ghostly… “This is a waking nightmare,” I tried to convince myself while in a state of full-on panic…. Suddenly a voice spoke from the darkness.… ”WHAT IS THE WIFI PASSWORD?” “Umm..88888888!!!!” I yelled into the darkness (most passwords in Vietnam were eight 8s because 8 is a lucky number that means wealth and fortune. Why I didn’t try that earlier, I’m not sure..). After a brief moment, the voice simply said, “THANK YOOOU,” and disappeared, along with the THUD. The next morning I checked out, never to return to the hotel with no WiFi again.
 
END
 
 

Read the review of “No Wifi” by literary critic Virginia Kyriakopoulos here: https://cambrtnik.wordpress.com/2017/10/04/no-wifi-a-critique-by-virginia-kyriakopoulos/

Cameron is a fiction writer currently backpacking through the beautiful and magical country of Vietnam

Short Story – The Dollhouse Cafe

The Dollhouse Cafe
A Short fiction? by Cameron Brtnik
7.30.16 Gukeng, Yunlin
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Before reading WATCH VIDEO!!! https://youtu.be/FgEr1fXU6xI

WARNING: This is 90% true

The doll…the goddamned doll….

Why the hell would there be a doll in a cafe in the first place? What happened to this place??

    I walked in – a kind of unease came over me that you only feel in haunted houses (that’s what this place felt like – haunted): dusty, horribly weathered floorboards, dilapidated umbrellas lying carelessly on the floor (was there a storm in the cafe? Is that why everyone left??) and piles of random supplies – cups, receipts, flyers, garbage bags – were scattered everywhere. I let my curiosity get the better of me. It reminded me of the time I was about ten, swimming in the ocean in the beautiful waters of the Turks and Caicos, swimming out as far as I could, knowing there was a storm coming…
    I continued on my exploration, documenting my surroundings as I went. Atop the dusty, worn, bar countertop there was an old model of a windmill resembling the still-standing one just outside the entrance, rusty coffee spoons, a chipped ceramic trumpet, and a dusty bottle of plum wine (which I put in my backpack. I figured it must’ve aged quite well). I took stock of my surroundings, looked around the room: a creepy sight, and what made it more so were all these signs that had these comforting mantras like Fall In Love With Coffee and Love Coffee, Love Yourself – the complete opposite of the feeling this cafe was giving me at the moment. This was not a place of love – this was a forgotten place, where any semblance of love had left years ago… This was more like a nightmare from the far-reaches of your darkest dreams….
    There were piles of rubble strewn everywhere made up of trash, peoples’ belongings, a girls shoe?? (Yep, it was a child’s shoe, only one.) One room had a broken TV, DVD player and internet modem thrown on the floor haphazardly like the place had been looted by thieves, but they had left all the expensive electronics behind as if they were in rush to get out of there… Come to think of it, it seemed like everyone was in a rush when they left this place, nothing left in its original spot. I moved past a garbage bag exploding at the top and saw…I had to stop in my tracks. My heart was beating louder now – I was looking at what I was sure was a dead dog; it’s limp furry face facedown on the cold, dirty floor. It’s clean white fur looked a little too clean..so I used an umbrella and prodded it… Thank God – at times like this I am sure He does not exist – it was just a stuffed toy bear. I turned it over, peering into its black, button-like eyes, one of them dangling by a black thread barely hanging on to its pupil like an optic nerve, thanking God again it wasn’t a dead dog but rather some carnival prize left behind by a young boy (like he was in a rush…).
    I moved behind the bar, where it looked like most of the tragedy happened (whatever “it” was). There were paper cups, newspapers, business cards, playing cards strewn everywhere. But something strange caught my eye, smack-dab at my feet…. (after seeing the stuffed bear I didn’t think I could take much more) – it was a Goddamned doll. Every stereotype from every horror movie ever made lay inches form my feet. I stood there, motionless, no longer sure if this was reality or a cheesy nightmare… It, like the bear, was lying facedown. I slowly bent to pick it up… I held it in my hand – I think I was checking to make sure it was real – turned it around, and felt my heart sink.. (it’s just a doll!) It’s hair, crusty and full of cobwebs; its head, so lightweight it felt limp in my hand, a styrofoam ball wrapped in cloth; its face, stained with coffee and dirt, had an almost forlorn quality to it like its owner, undoubtedly a young girl no older than 5 at the time, after loving and caring for it for years decided it wasn’t worth saving from the…(saving from the what??)… I turned it back over and discovered a windup handle attached to her back – another cliche, I know. I wound it up, and the slow trickling of a familiar melody..barely recognizable..too slow to piece together…twinkle..Twinkle Twinkle! It was like the forgotten doll struggled at the strenuous effort to spit out a single note of the children’s classic nursery rhyme (originally a French melody titled Ah, most people mistakingly believe Mozart to be the original composer). I placed it on the countertop and continued exploring, all whilst listening to the haunting melody.. twin-kle..twin–kle…li–ttle—star. Sifting through the trash on the floor, avoiding broken floorboards and potholes as I crept behind the bar. I kept walking into cobwebs, the size of which made me not want to imagine the size of the spider that spun them… Then I saw the most sickening image yet: amid the chaos that was the surface of the bar, next to a lady’s (fake?) sapphire necklace and dusty bottle of perfume, like an aroma from the past, there lay photos – frayed at the edges and faded from light, which gave the impression they were damaged in a fire – of a father and his child, a baby boy. I stared at them for a long while, imagining this father and his son the day the photos were taken (what happened to them? Why did they leave these, only these photos behind?? Again, it seemed like everyone was in a rush to leave this place…). Were they alive? If so, where were they now?? Why didn’t they return for their belongings? The stuffed bear? The doll? The photos??
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    All of a sudden I had a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach, and my inner voice (or is it our inner voice, shared by every human in times of danger, we call it instinct) said GET OUT OF HERE! I picked up the doll, stuffed it in my bag, and turned to leave…but didn’t move an inch. I felt light-headed for an instant, shook it off, then tried to leave again, but my feet wouldn’t budge… I started having a minor panic attack, like a blend of discovering you left the door open and the dog ran out, and the realization that you’re vulnerable, just a human living on a rock controlled by Mother Nature, a pitiful ant struggling everyday just to survive, and tried to shake that off too. I grabbed the edge of the counter to pull myself forward and one foot managed to come loose from – what?? There was only moldy floorboards beneath me, but it simply got stuck again. All of a sudden a sinkhole (in a wood floor?!) started opening up, and I heard a sound that didn’t quite compute at first, not in the secluded mountain region where this abandoned cafe was located: screaming. The screaming of a man, and the unmistakable cries of a young boy…and I started sinking. I was able to get both feet loose, but had to literally hang off the counter and edge my way along, lifting my feet off the ground to the exit of the bar. Just then a hand (WTF!!?) came out of the ominous sinkhole (was the hand attached to anything? It felt like it). It was small, but had the power of a fully-grown man yanking at my foot. I closed my eyes, squeezing them tight…all of a sudden I went back to that moment….

Out in the ocean, wanting to go further (always further, why do you always have to go further you idiot!), the storm on the horizon, and the fear that a great white shark would come out of the depths and snatch my foot….

    ….My sandal came loose in its hand – then I saw something and had an idea, a strange idea (though what was happening right now was strange – maybe desperate idea is a better way to describe it): to grab the stuffed bear and…I reached and grabbed it and threw it into the ever-widening hole…and the hand snatched it and disappeared…along with the hole….I was still holding onto the counter edge, gripping it in a death grip. I realized my knuckles were bleeding, but didn’t even wince. I was on my knees, missing a sandal, which I never saw again. I cautiously limped out the exit, wary of any potholes, and made it into the still-bright sunshine (I had lost track of time a while ago), blinding me momentarily, and headed for the fence I had hopped over not forty minutes earlier (right by a large DO NOT ENTER sign). I finally felt I was in the clear… I continued walking toward the main dirt road, if you can call it that, finally feeling a sense of relief and vowing, speaking to my inner voice again, never to disobey a DO NOT ENTER sign again. And all the while hearing a tring tringing tring sound (that’s the only way to describe it) coming from my backpack, which unnerved me because I completely forgot I had put that doll – that Goddamned doll – in my backpack.
THE END?

Cameron is a fiction writer living in Taiwan, and lover of all things creepy cbrtnik.com