For an old guest house so cheap, the place looked exceptionally clean and organized. The lobby held minimal furniture, a couch and a desk where the young lady receptionist sat, neatly dressed in what seemed like a uniform and a warm welcoming smile on her face. Her clothes blended so well with the wooden panel behind and the desk in front that you could barely see her until she moved. Little exchanged between them; he asked for a room and she immediately gotten up grabbing a key from the drawer and motioned him to follow. She looked fresh for someone working so late, he thought.
The room was spacious with a two person bed at the center, a side table, an armchair on a corner and a peculiar furniture near the door that looked liked a cupboard attached to one side of a table; with one look you could say it had everything you need in place. The wall on the empty side held neatly aligned photographs in framed squares; the bottom rows had a few empty frames as well. The faces in those frames held a strangely uniform expression, something between happiness and sadness. A happy person would find them smiling but a sad person would see a bunch of mournful faces. He chuckled at what seemed a bizarre advertising technique.
“Happy customers, huh?”
She nodded in reply, and he could see his good humor has brought a slight grin to her face. Before turning back, she gave him a slight bow with that signature smile of hers, and he returned the smile with a thank you, noting in mind to strike up a more friendly conversation in the morning. Closing the door, he noticed a wooden plank hung on its back. Carved on it was the only rule to be followed by the resident – to not move anything other than what’s kept on the cupboard-table. ‘This place can’t get any more interesting, can it?!’ He laughingly exclaimed at the photographs. For a miniscule of second he felt a tensed expression crossing those faces, then laughed again at his newfound strange intuitions.
He drank some water from a pitcher kept on the cupboard-table and carefully placed it back right where it was. With the day’s fatigue settling in, he decided to take it straight to bed. Lying there, he glanced at the room once again, and there was something off about it now. Wanting to shake off the feeling, he drooped his head to the side, to find a glass on the side table that stood dangerously close to the edge. Before he could think, he hands went reflexively to the glass and moved it to the middle. Did he hear a gasp? He looked around but saw nothing, yet he felt a shiver and goose pimples all over the body. It felt eerily silent, so he closed his eyes to calm down.
When he opened the eyes again, he was looking at the bed from near the wall. ‘Strange’ he thought, ‘I was lying there only moments before’. The door opened and in walked the receptionist, the trademark smile still playing on her lips. Crouching on the floor near the bottom row of frames, she took out the newly filled one and traced her fingers on the petrified face. Then he heard her talk for the first time that night : “Hello, Happy Customer!”
~ This new series is in response to the weekly writing prompt by Lubna on Bookstagram (the bookish community on Instagram). I’ll be posting them both on Instagram and here on WordPress. ~