Scaly Surroundings: Part I

The bright pink trolley bag rumbled over the pebbled sidewalk like an empty stomach as Fred and his wife Marie made their way to the house they had booked over a website for two nights.  The house had had decent reviews but as Marie followed Fred to the door, she felt a shadow pass over her head.  She looked up to see if it was a cloud but for once, the English sky was bright and sunny.

Fred knocked on the door but there was no answer.  He pressed the bell but there was no sound.  They called on their host’s number but nobody picked up. 
“How annoying,” muttered Marie, pressing the bell again, which suddenly came off the wall and into her palm. No wonder there was no sound.
The couple decided to go get lunch in the nearby town center and wait for the host to respond.

About an hour later, just as Marie was pointing out the pasta sauce on Fred’s chin for him to wipe off, they received a polite message from their host. Apologies. Please come now, I am home.

And so they found themselves in front of the door again.  There was a thirty-second pause after they knocked and then suddenly, a face appeared in the window.  A man with dark eyes and a French beard gestured to come around from the back.

There was a small garden in the backyard and a faint disagreeable smell that Marie could not put her finger (or nose) on.  The backdoor opened and a tall pale man greeted them, “Hello, I’m Anthony.”
His voice was soft and wheezy as if he had trouble breathing and the skin on his face, neck and hands was peeling, dry and flaky.  Even the skin on his eyelids hung loose and dry, giving him a strange sad sleepy look.  He extended his hand and Marie shook it quickly, trying not to cringe at the touch.  If it was contagious then he wouldn’t have offered his hand …
The man with the French beard stood a little further away. “That’s Marvin,” Anthony said and Marvin waved quickly.
“Come, I’ll show you to your room.”

The room was on the top floor, a sort of loft with an arched ceiling that cut close over the bed.  It was clean and the window was open, letting in some fresh air.  There was a cabinet with pink, black and white plastic hangers for them to hang their clothes on, and a sofa with white flecks that Marie hoped was dust and lint and not shreds of skin.
“There’s a bathroom on the first floor,” Anthony whispered in his breathless voice.  He showed them the large bathroom that they were to share with the hosts: a linen shelf with fresh towels, a washing machine, bath tub and shower, the toilet and a green potted plant stood with room to spare.  Anthony gave them their key and they decided to go out to explore the town.

***

“He looks pretty sick,” mused Fred. “What do you think he has, AIDS?”
“I don’t think its AIDS!” Marie gave her husband a light whack on the shoulder. “Maybe it’s just a bad case of eczema.”
“He sure seemed to have trouble breathing…”
“You don’t think it’s contagious, is it?” Marie twittered nervously. “We’re not going to wake up in the morning with our skin coming off?”
“No,” Fred pulled at his shirt collar. “I sure hope not.”
Marie took the opportunity to take a bite from his beef chili burrito. “Hey, this is good.”

***

They returned home with the same sinking feeling that comes and snuggles in the pit of your stomach at the end of vacations and really good TV shows.  But they were too tired to continue wandering the streets and besides, their room seemed quite comfortable.
The only light was the blue glow of TV from the living room on the ground floor.  Everything else was dark with not even a lamp turned on and Fred had to turn on his phone’s torch so they wouldn’t trip over their feet – or something else – up the stairs.

Marie fumbled for a switch on the next floor (where the bathroom was) and nearly shrieked – the room to one of the doors was open.  It seemed like they dried their laundry in that nearly empty room.  Hung laundry to dry and talked with the skeleton there to kill time …
“It is a skeleton!” Marie pinched Fred’s arm, her eyes wide and her voice a fretful whisper.
“Well it isn’t a real one!” her husband rubbed his arm. “It’s one of those that doctors keep in their offices or something!”
“Except I don’t think either of them are doctors.”
“Come on, come on, up to the room.”
“I wish there was a lock on the door.”
“You know they’re too frail to come barging into our room and attack us, Marie.”
“I guess that’s some consolation,” Marie leaned against the wall to take off her shoes.  Her eyes fell on the empty water bottle on the desk by the window.  “Oh darnit, we don’t have any water in the room. Honey would you get some from the kitchen?”
“But I’m scared of our hosts,” Fred blinked at his wife.
“Lazy ass.” Marie pointed out accurately.


The bed was tucked away from the door into an alcove.  You had to be careful not to sit up too suddenly or you could hit your head on the ceiling.
They changed into their PJs and got into bed, Fred feeling very happy about the TV in the room.  Within minutes of a reality show called True Crime that showcased real murders reenacted with terrible actors, he was snoring.  Marie extracted the remote from his fingers and switched it off. 

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