In the middle of the night, I heard someone knocking on the door. It was loud enough for me to wake up so you could guess how loud it was. My neighbour, meaning my mother who was sharing the bed with me, did not hear the noise as she was snoring. She had some wine in the evening at dinner whereas I refrained. Dad finished the bottle and promptly went up to sleep in his room with Uncle James.
The noise was persistent so I realised that I must answer it, otherwise it would continue till dawn. I was in my pyjamas so I wondered if I needed to change out of it. My pyjamas was a track suit long sleeves with a decent pants. I made a split second decision and with some effort I opened the door. No one was standing outside!
I began to get curious, the knocking was loud and clear. Who could it have been? Who else could it have been? An unseen guest! Then I remembered the night I was at home on the day when I confiscated mother’s passport. The same being has followed me all the way from home! What shall I do? What can I do now?
With some bravery I walked out of the hotel room, the floor was carpeted so there was no need to put on a pair of shoes. I turned left as our room was right at the end of the corridor. I could see the picture of a beach house just opposite me, and the room number 526 on the room. Ours was room 504.
Then I heard a whisper, “follow me,” I felt a compulsion to walk down the corridor. I wasn’t sure if the voice came from inside room 526. There was no one in front of me, no one behind me. Only me and the mesmerising voice. I walked all the way to the lift lobby. There a vase with a few stalk of white flowers stood on top of a long table. The table had a lamp which was bright enough to lit the entire lobby area.
I heard the lift coming up and the door opened when it reached my floor. At fifth level it could go up again. Suddenly I felt the urge to see how many levels there were altogether. So I walked in and I pressed the number on the top which would bring me to the twelve floor. This was a small hotel and it wasn’t too tall. I travelled up to the twelfth floor and then I decided to come down again.
There was no table with a flower on the twelfth floor.
Common sense told me to go back to my hotel room and sleep. So I walked back to my room. I remembered the white flower at the lobby area. But … hey wait! This was not the fifth floor. The flower on this floor was a purple orchid. What happened to the white orchid?
“Go to the water,” I heard someone say. There was a couple who came out from the lift and the man said to the woman.
“I will go to the pool tomorrow,” his companion the woman said.
This time I had no idea which floor I was on. It had to be the fifth. I was staying in room 504. 504 meant the fifth level, room four. I pressed the number five. The door closed on me this time, which meant that I wasn’t coming in from the fifth floor. I must have been asleep. I told myself. So I had no choice but to let the lift bring me to the right level and then let myself out, go in again, and go back to where I came in from.
A man came in. We did not say hello to each other. I saw him press six on the lift and then when the door opened I saw the white orchid. So this was the right level! I forgot that room 504 was on the sixth level, the first level being the ground floor. The hotel used colours of different orchids to mark the floor level. I walked along the corridor until I saw 526, and then I was happy to see the picture of the beach house still hanging there. I turned and went back into room 504.
The next morning, having woken up from a sleepless night I decided to survey the hotel. I went to the hotel concierge and asked them where the hotel pool was. The man told me that it was on the twelve level just around the corner.
My mother was a frail thin woman not very robust. When I came back, she was still in her sleep having had a tiring day.
Dad came down late for breakfast and as usual he criticised us the moment he saw us.
“Why didn’t you take more butter for your bread?” he asked.
It was too difficult a question to reply for I had no idea how much butter was sufficient for that thin slice of bread. And then,
“Why aren’t you having orange juice?” he asked again.
“Err, … “ I had no good reason for that.
“You know that you can’t have lunch until 12:30, if you don’t eat now, you will be hungry again soon,” he started to lecture me.
“But then orange juice is not food!” I tried to argue. That was very brave of me.
“Now what you need to do is to go and get some grapefruit juice, and then see if they have porridge.” Dad concluded his order. What happened to the orange juice? The strange thing was that when I went to the buffet table the juice section, orange juice was finished and only the grapefruit juice was available.
I dutifully went to the buffet table and grabbed myself some muffins and croissants. I saw the butter and I took three cubes of it. And then I also grabbed an otak. The buffet table was not crowded as not many people were up and about at this hour. When I went back to our breakfast table, Dad had his newspaper with him and he read it with his face buried in the pages. I could see a picture of the funeral procession of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the reverse side.
The whole morning I kept wondering where the hotel pool was.
After breakfast, dad and mother went up to the reading room to continue with the newspapers, whereas Paul and I were left to our own devices, we decided to explore at the beach. It was some distance away and we had not gotten actual permission from the adults. When we arrived at the scene, we saw people scattered about the beach. We had no idea if they were the guests from our hotel. The beach had no demarcation or fence to partition the individual hotel grounds. It was just one long patch of sand with debris from the sea.
I had some knowledge of the law and I deduced that ownership of the land did not extend to the sea, so that each hotel only owned that piece of land which stood on firm ground.
I had already put on my swimming costume before I came down so that I was decidedly ready for the water. Dad did not know about this for I was wearing my jeans and t-shirt over it.
Paul wanted to make a sand castle.
I sat on the beach. And then I turned around to see if Paul had joined me. Nope, he wasn’t there. The wind came. Ooh! It was breezy, “nice and cool,” I thought to myself.
“Susan, where are you?” Mother shouted.
“Coming,” I said. And I quickly got up to meet her.
This morning I was at the beach again. The sand castle I made yesterday was not tall enough. I was going to add more sand to it, making it look more majestic. I had brought my bucket to the beach, and I desperately wanted more sand. The sand nearer the shore was finer, and they had more seashells. I was quite happy to be getting more seashells for it made the castle more decorative.
And then I saw the nicest shell.
“Susan, where are you?” I heard mother shouting again and this time I decided to ignore her.
And then I heard Paul talking, “Go on, go up and get more sand,” he said.
I wanted desperately to make the most beautiful sand castle. I took a step forward. I could feel the water running under my feet. It was warm water, contrary to what I thought. Sea water was warmer than tap water upstairs in the bathroom! Feeling quite pleased with myself, I walked further down. One wave came and it swept some of the sands away making a chip on my castle. For now I was not afraid of the seawater anymore. I had not realised that I was walking into the sea into the ocean.
The sky was as bright as it should be. At noon day, there was no reason for any storm.
Suddenly there was movement. The sea became a little choppy. It started to form waves. One wave came and then another followed. They were small waves, coming up from the sea. The waves became louder and made a splash on the beach, then it receded and collected the objects on the beach back into the sea, it swept some of the sands away. Once it hit the shore, another wave would form and come round. Like a series of dance movements, synchronised and powerful. I froze at the first wave. I tried to walk back to my sand castle. That was my purpose for being here …
Finally one wave hit the beach strong enough to pull me back to the sea, I gave in to her vengeance. I lay low in the water, unable to move, paralysed by the force of the sea. I opened my eyes and I saw several fishes, they were so tiny and I said to them,
“Hey, I am going to die soon …”
“… in this case, you just relax here with us…” the fishes said to me.
And then suddenly a pair of large hands grabbed me by the side and pulled me out of the water. I was almost there - in the other world. The man pulled me out as though I was a piece of luggage, he put me onto the beach, my heart still beating.
The man’s voice was loud, “the water was very shallow, if she had not panicked, she could have stood up by herself and walked backed to the shore,” the man knew that I was tricked by the water.
“Open your eyes,” I heard Dad’s voice.
I opened my eyes and I saw them: Dad, Mother, Uncle James, Auntie Michelle, and Paul. Their faces lined up in a circle in that order. I came to.
I was alive again.