Bloodshot eyes stared back at Suzy. She stood in front of a sink, dumbfounded by the fact that she couldn't recall the events that had occurred the previous night. Her gaze was fixated on the mirror, studying the face that didn't reflect her youthfulness: tired eyes accentuated by dark circles under them; disheveled brown hair; and dry and lifelessly pale skin. It had taken her a moment to realize that she's looking at her own reflection. Indeed, stress could ruin one's beauty.
What happened last night? The question had Suzy wondering.
The brunette was inside an unfamiliar bathroom, large and fully furnished. Everything was neat as expected from the service provided by a luxurious hotel. What she hadn't seen coming was her finding herself waking up alone in a room of such establishment. It led her back to the question that had been bugging her since she woke up:
What happened last night?
From the light headache that caused her head to throb from time to time, she had probably drunken herself to death until dawn. Who wouldn't? Anyone who wanted to benumb the pain of their seven-year relationship breakup would drown themselves in alcohol. At least Suzy opted for a less harmless action and didn't commit suicide.
All of a sudden, her eyes widened, her hands immediately wrapping themselves around her body in a protective way. If she had passed out last night when she was drinking her life away alone in the club, then someone must have taken her to that hotel. Of course, someone had. There would be no other explanation unless she had been sober enough to do that, which wasn't the case.
She bit her bottom lip. Something must have happened last night between her and the person who had brought her there. Perhaps that person had taken advantage of her drunkenness and violated her. Shaking the idea off of her mind, Suzy inhaled deeply and let out a sigh. That wasn't possible. She had woken up fully clothed. The buttons of her white blouse and her denim pants were secured. There wasn't any sign of use of force as well. Besides, her body felt fine; only her head was aching.
No. She shook her head again, convincing herself. Nothing sexual had happened last night. That's final.
Exhaling heavily, Suzy turned the faucet on and cupped her hands under the running water. She splashed the water on her face, washing it a little; and then took the white towel that was folded neatly on top of the counter, using it to dry her face. That was enough to clear her thoughts and wash away the negative ideas in her head. She was done lamenting over her boyfriend. For now, she had to be thankful that someone had been nice enough to take care of her when she couldn't do it for herself.
Suzy padded her way back to the bedroom, picking up her black shoulder bag that was resting on the top of the bedside table, and put her sandals on as she headed for the door. The white sheets and pillows were strewn all over the bed, but she no longer had time to make it presentable for the housekeeper. She had to hurry home and feed her cat.
On her way out, her head began to pulsate again. This time it was more painful, which made her pause and hold her head for a few seconds to steady herself. She felt nauseous.
Fucking hangover, she thought.
After taking a few deep, calming breaths, Suzy finally gathered her bearings and started for the hallway. For a grand place, it didn't have many occupants. At least that's what she thought. After all, there wasn't a single soul to be seen. The corridor was empty. It's as if she would hear her own voice echoing back to her if she tried to speak. She didn't find it strange though. Perhaps the hotel was going through its recession phase.
As she approached the elevators at the end of the hallway, she found a man in a black business suit. The male turned his head as though he had sensed her coming and then smiled at her. Suzy was surprised; but she smiled nonetheless, not wanting to be rude to the stranger. For some reason, the male's face seemed familiar; she couldn't remember where she'd seen him.
"Good morning," the man greeted, returning his gray gaze to the elevator doors. "How's your stay here, Suzy?"
It had taken a few seconds before it registered to the brunette that the man was speaking to her. She looked at him, obviously surprised. The man's identity was unknown to her; yet he knew her.
"I'm sorry, but..." she began with a forced smile, finding it unsettling that a stranger knew her name. "Do I know you?"
The black-haired male chuckled softly and then offered his hand, turning slightly to face her. "It's Richard," he said in a rather polite tone. "From the club last night?"
Suzy's eyes widened in realization. Then she gasped, taking the man's hand and shaking it promptly.
"So it's you who brought me here," she stated in an incredulous tone. "Good grief. I'm sorry. I didn't know. I couldn't remember anything from last—"
Richard waved a hand. "It's alright. I couldn't leave a heartbroken lady alone in that club. Don't worry. You're not paying anything. You're my special guest. It wouldn't look good if I made a guest pay, would it?"
"Your guest?" Suzy's voice was small.
Just when she thought it was impossible to be more surprised, it dawned on her what being a special guest meant. This was all free of charge all because she was Richard's guest. That could only mean that Richard wasn't merely a guest like her. He had a position. He had a position and she had given him that sour attitude.
Way to go, Suzy.
Suzy parted her lips to speak, but a ring coming from the elevator made her swallow her explanation.
"It's here. Come on. Join us at the dining hall. We'll be serving lunch soon," the businessman invited, starting for the elevator as soon as the doors opened.
A lunch didn't sound so bad. She was hungry anyway. With a nod, Suzy followed after him and entered the elevator as well. She used her hand to brush her hair in attempt to make herself look presentable. If she had known that she would be meeting this man, she could've put more effort in grooming. Her appearance was bland compared to Richard's. The man had nice clothes to match his handsome features. She couldn't help but feel conscious about her look, which was pretty average.
"Thank you," Suzy said out of the blue. "You're a really nice guy."
Richard glanced over at her and smiled briefly. "Don't mention it. You were a real mess last night. You came up to me and started crying, telling me all about your boyfriend. You even told me that you wanted to die." He shook his head, beaming. "I felt bad leaving you behind, so I took you here. You might actually do it. It would be a waste of life."
Suzy's face reddened in embarrassment and tried to hide it by looking away. "I did that? Oh my—I'm so sorry. I didn't really know. That's so embarrassing."
She didn't really know what she'd done the previous night. Perhaps she'd embarrassed herself in front of many people and had done a lot of ridiculous things. Thinking about it made her more conscious than she already was.
The box on top of the door frame used to read ninth floor, but after a minute or two of small talks, the car finally arrived at the ground floor. Richard stepped out once the doors opened and stood by the entrance, waiting for her.
"Follow me, Madame," he prompted.
The brunette went after Richard, following him as he crossed the large empty lobby to the dining hall. He pushed a set of double doors open, revealing a spacious room with a long table in the center of it. The ceiling was high and was adorned with chandeliers, giving the chamber a regal air to it. Suzy was starting to feel a little out of place. This place was too grand for her.
The seats that surrounded the long table were already occupied by the other guests. They were remarkably quiet. Suzy shrugged off the lack of noise in the dining room and took a seat at a vacant chair near the end of the table. She figured the people in there were probably of high class and followed a set of table rules. Perhaps they weren't allowed to talk as it would deem them classless in front of the others. Suzy didn't find it strange until she noticed that everyone had a dull expression on their faces, their eyes empty as if they were oblivious to what was happening around them. It was uncanny; but she decided to ignore it, thinking that she was only imagining things.
However, it had drastically changed the atmosphere for her.
Richard soon claimed the chair at the end of the table and picked up a bell, ringing it a few times until a number of people entered the hall coming from the double doors on the other side of the room. They were all clad in white uniform and were wearing face masks which covered half of their faces.
For unknown reasons, Suzy's heart raced, a cold and dismal sensation settling in her stomach. This was no good. Whatever this scheme was, she was certain it would be no good. Finding herself in such a place was already strange enough. She should have gotten a clue from that and took her leave without accepting Richard's invitation. He was too good to be true. She should have learned from her cheater of a boyfriend.
"You look nervous, Suzy," Richard stated, brows furrowing as if he was concerned. "What's wrong?"
The brunette tried to speak, but the pain that used to pummel her head earlier returned; it had gotten worse. She gripped her head and gasped for breath at the searing pain. It felt like her skull was being split open from the inside. There seemed to be a foreign object inside her head that's causing it. It could be an effect of a drug. Perhaps this was a big drug operation and they were testing drugs on them, which explained the passiveness of the other guests. It would also explain why the place was empty. It was probably a drug den.
Suzy blinked to clear her sight, tears trickling down to the empty plate in front of her. She hadn't expected for things to end up this way.
"You must be regretting your decision now..." Richard had a grin on his face as he spoke. "You shouldn't have come to me and asked for your death. I'm a very generous person."
The woman's eyes widened. So that was that. She was condemned to suffer because of an action that she had done unconsciously. Richard had got it wrong. She didn't want to die. She wasn't pathetic enough to kill herself over a failed relationship.
"I... don't want to—" She attempted to explain, but a piercing pain coming from her ear shut her up.
At that moment, Suzy had already lost control of her body. She couldn't move or speak as if she had been suddenly paralyzed; yet the pain continued to eat away at her.
Richard rubbed his chin, nodding to himself. "Hmm... I think it's time," he declared. "Serve the lunch to our guests."
At the command, the people in uniforms walked up behind the guests in pairs, one of them tilting the guest's head to the side and the other holding up a pair of surgical scissors to their ears. Drool crawled its way out of Suzy's mouth down to her chin when the same was done to her and settled on her lap. Her heart continued to pound in her chest as she witnessed the horror take place in front of her. The tips of the scissors were inserted in the ear of the man in the seat opposite to her. When they were pulled out, a small white wriggly creature came with it. It was placed on the man's plate soon after it was retrieved.
The same was placed on her plate, alive and crawling. She could only stare in pure terror at the cause of her headache.
Maggots. Not drugs. They had been inside her all this time.
More were placed on her plate as the clock ticked away, piling up, red and white combined. She wanted to laugh at how wrong she was. Her notions weren't even that close to reality.
How clueless she had been.
The answer to her question had been in her head all this time.
On her plate was the product of what happened last night.