Monday, 13 November 2017

Room 27 by Jo Cameron-Symes

“As you know from our website Madam we pride ourselves in doing things differently here. You are free to move around the hotel and browse the interesting layout and décor of unoccupied rooms as we leave these open for people to take pictures of and talk about on social media. We are extremely proud of being the most Instagrammed hotel in the UK.” His demeanour changed as he leant forwards on to the desk and whispered in my ear “Of course there is one stipulation we insist that our guests obey which is that you must not enter Room 27. It is kept unlocked but we must insist that you do not open the door.” At this I burst out laughing! “Really?! I thought this hotel was called ‘The Pavilion,’ not ‘Castle Dracula!”’ In response, he leant back and grew stony faced. “You may laugh Madam but enter that room at your own peril. Here is your room key.” I looked down in to my hand and saw that the key he had handed me was to Room 26. Was this a subtle form of revenge I thought, but said nothing and gathered up my luggage as I dare not ask anyone to assist me, feeling as if I had insulted the whole establishment.

My room was on the second floor. There appeared to be three unoccupied rooms nearby. The door of Room 27 was closed firmly shut but looked nothing out of the ordinary, it was the same burgundy colour as all the other doors sporting an identical brass handle. My room was beautiful inside, it was Indian themed and was covered in gorgeous saris of red fabric which were draped across the bed and were used as window dressings. By the wall away from the bed stood a beautiful gold dressing table studded with teal jewels. Wow! I thought, Sarah was not lying when she said that this hotel was something special!  I looked outside and saw the bustling December streets, throngs of shoppers were loaded up with Christmas gifts. I was soon waiting to join them myself. In the far distance there was Arthur’s Seat, providing a glorious backdrop against this ancient city. I turned back to my room and was then curious to visit the unoccupied ones on my floor. I found a minimalist but divine Japanese room, a French style room and an all American room which was fairly brash and seemed to have a jukebox which was only for decorative purposes (too noisy I assumed!). I then sauntered back to my own room and passed Room 27. I felt an almost magnetic draw to the room and managed to talk myself out of turning the handle. I went back to my room to unpack and get ready for my mega shopping expedition. Just after I’d freshened up I allowed myself to place my ear against the adjoining wall to Room 27. For a moment, I thought that I heard the soft sounds of someone breathing, but then I heard nothing. Probably just my imagination, I thought. I gathered up my bag and left for the delights of Princes Street.

I had a glorious time ticking off my shopping list! My brother thinks that I’m mad and tries to persuade me to order everything online but I love the hubbub and atmosphere of this time of year near to Christmas! Carols playing, people’s faces warmed by multi-coloured lights and cups of steaming hot cocoa, the satisfaction of finding something unique and special for loved ones. No, give me Christmas over any other time of year!

I arrived back at the hotel exhausted and laden down with shopping bags. I was also extremely hungry and feeling too tired to venture out further, I decided to visit the hotel’s dining room even though this was not in my original budget. The usual dining room was being renovated I was told, and the temporary dining room they had set up seemed rather plain and austere in contrast to the opulence of the bedrooms. As a lone female I attracted a few stares but most people were too busy or preoccupied with their own affairs. It appeared that I was mostly surrounded by a sea of people clacking away on their laptops and glued to their phones even when they were seated with others. How sad I thought, when did we lose our human connection to each other?

After a rich (and expensive) dinner I ventured back to my room once again passing the door of Room 27. I looked left and right and seeing no one thought: what harm could a little peek do? If I open it a crack, then close it again, who will ever know? I approached the cool brass handle and pressed it down then slowly pushed the door open. The room was dark as the curtains were drawn firmly shut so my initial impression was that this room was empty but then my eyes adjusted and shapes began to form out of the darkness. I stood still and took in a staggered breath for I could not believe what I was seeing! On the floor of the room was a huge alligator staring straight at me with its beady eyes and gaping bloody jaw filled with razor sharp teeth! I screamed then slammed the door before it could run at me and devour me whole!

My scream alerted the occupant of Room 24 who ran out and knew at once what had occurred. “Oh Christ!” he said. You’ve seen it too haven’t you?! You opened the door of Room 27!” “The forbidden room,” I replied in a dazed state. “Exactly! I made the very same mistake on my first night here three days ago! It’s truly horrifying isn’t it?!” I nodded mutely. “I was so terrified afterwards that I’ve locked myself away in my room ever since, too petrified to leave and living off room service! I’ve missed an entire conference which was supposed to be mandatory so no doubt I’ve also lost my job! When I heard your scream I thought the worst and that I’d be too late to save you!” His monologue had brought me to a little and I found myself feeling brave enough to respond “To be honest, not only is it terrifying, let alone dangerous but it’s also quite cruel. Whatever were they thinking?! Keeping such a huge animal cooped up in a such a small hotel room?! It’s an aquatic animal or semi-aquatic at least for a start! It should be really in a zoo! Maybe it came from there? Perhaps we should call the RSPCA or Edinburgh Zoo maybe…? The man had frozen still and stared at me. “Animal?! There’s an animal in there now?!” “You mean to say there wasn’t one when you looked?” “No, definitely not!” he replied. Scared and confused we both stared in horror at the closed door of Room 27.

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