Short - Paris

"The drug makes each breath a struggle—like sucking air through one of those little red coffee stirring straws."

Short - Paris
Photo by Anita Jankovic / Unsplash

For my younger readers, I'd say this story is rated T - Teen. There's death, and it's more intense than my other stories. If you are good with Edgar Allen Poe's stories, you should be OK. Fair warning though, I got the creeps rereading it as I was formatting it for the site just now.

I wrote this one for a short story call for a "Hotel Room Horror" anthology. It was accepted and published in the Voices anthology in 2008 by Morrigan Books.

Todd Edwards © 2008. All rights reserved.

When Celine Rockaway arrives at her hotel, she is already in bad shape. She staggers through the front entrance and has to lean on the bellman for a moment. The stench of rotten bourbon and scented cigars makes him avert his face, but he helps her stand on her own. She lets him lead her across the lobby to the elevator. Her high heels click against the marble floor and echo through the cavernous room. The staff all fell silent as she entered, but she is too wasted to notice their attention.

In the elevator, she fishes the card key from her lamé purse and stabs it at the slot above the floor buttons. The bellman takes her wrist and guides the key in. When the green light comes on, he presses the button for the executive suites and then backs out of the elevator. Celine has already slumped into the corner, propped up by the brass handrail. By the time she processes what has happened and thanks the kind bellman, the doors have already closed. Oh, well. She'll see him in the morning and give him a nice tip.

She focuses her thoughts and tries to remember which bellman just helped her, but the blinking lights counting up and up and up distract her. What was she thinking?

"Ding," she answers the elevator and then giggles. When the doors open, she has a difficult time extracting herself from the corner. The doors close on her as she exits. The jolt focuses her for a moment. Room five. That's where she needs to go.

The trip is short, but she doesn't make it. Halfway there, she stops to study an abstract painting. Oil on canvas. Vomit in planter.

She feels more clear headed, but the aftereffects of the nausea make her shiver.

God, she thinks, I need a hit.

Back in the room, she splashes cold water on her face. It helps a little. It clears her mind enough to find her private stash of OxyContin. If Marcel knew she'd swiped them, he'd probably kill her, but hey, a girl's gotta live a little, right? She pops a few in her mouth and dry swallows like a pro.

Fifteen minutes later, she pops a few more as chasers. She wishes she has the good shit that releases over hours, but all she could get were the short doses. She thinks she is spacing them out, but she has lost all concept of time. She takes far too many.

She grabs the generic TV remote from the generic desk and plops into the generic armchair. Her head bounces off the cushion, and she smacks her forehead with the remote. She realizes that it should hurt, but only a dull pressure makes it through the drugs.

After an hour of skipping around through late night cartoons and forensics shows, Celine feels ill. She struggles to stand so she can go to the bathroom, but the overdose of OxyContin interferes with the molecular workings of her muscles. She staggers against the bed as she walks.

The drug makes each breath a struggle—like sucking air through one of those little red coffee stirring straws. She giggles at the thought, but the strain makes her double over with a coughing fit. She reaches out to steady herself, but her legs give up, and she collapses in a heap.

Celine can't feel the floor. She's floating in a whirlpool watching the room go round and round. The sound of the TV fades as she sinks into the dark waters of the void. At the end, she wishes she could feel concerned.


The sound of the door opening and a man swearing greet Celine as she rises back to consciousness.

"Goddammit, Celine. Get your ass up. What? Are you drunk? Have you been using my stock again?"

No, honey, just bourbon. The words form in her mind, but she can't make them come out. What's happening? Why can't I talk? Why can't I move? Oh my God! Please! Marcel, what's happening?

The pins and needles of sensation return in a wave that starts at her toes and flows up her legs to her torso. The excruciating pain makes her want to scream, but she can't move her lips. The sensation continues out along her arms into her fingers. She can't imagine a worse torture than to suffer the pain and not be able to move or cry out.

That is, she can't imagine a worse torture until sensation returns to her head.

The darkness grows into light as her vision returns, but she hasn't opened her eyes. They've been open the whole time. Now the dried out corneas burn like twin highway flares. She can see the generic hotel room, but everything is out of focus. If only she could blink. She struggles to close her eyes, but the bland features of the room won't go away.

For a year she has lived in the room with Marcel while he conducted his business in Orange County. For a year she has come home drunk or stoned every night. For a year she has thought about dressing up the place, but who dresses up a hotel room? For a year he has promised to finish up and return to Paris. He will take her and show her all the sights in Europe.

But for a year, he's always had one more big score to make. And she's had to live in the same old generic hotel room.

And now she has to stare at it. She can't move or close her eyes. At least the pain from the returning sensation is subsiding. She cries to herself and wills tears to her eyes. It doesn't work.

Marcel's foot sets down in front of her face. Then his other foot comes, and he bends down to get a better view. It all happens in slow motion. He reaches out past her face and grabs her shoulder.

"Celine? Are you all right?

She can feel the strength in his hand as he squeezes, but Celine is detached from the process. She is just an observer, unable to respond.

"Are you going to get up and come to bed?" His voice sounds deeper and the words stretch out like they've been remixed by a DJ. He shakes her shoulder then stands up. "Fine. Have it your way. You can sleep on the ground like a dog. I'm wasted. I'm going to bed."

He does just that. She can see him undress and crawl under the generic bedspread on the generic bed. He turns off the TV and then the reading lamp. Celine is plunged back into darkness, but her eyes continue to burn.

Why can't I cry?


When she awakes, Celine's muscles complain from having been in the same position all night. The urge to stretch is overpowering, but she still can't move.

What's happening? Am I dead?

But if she was dead, she wouldn't be able to feel the throbbing from where her hip and shoulder have been resting on the ground. Her dry eyes wouldn't burn.

She struggles to move or blink or form words, but no matter how hard she tries, the only result is a growing panic. She gives into the panic and mentally thrashes about while sobbing. Her body lies there like a statue the whole time.

It changes nothing. When she calms down, she is still in the same position. She can't even hear herself breathing. Her heart beat is so soft and slow that she has to concentrate to detect it. She feels like a corpse.

Marcel wakes up and stumbles over her on his way to the bathroom. She can hear him peeing for what seems like hours. After he finishes, she can hear him mutter and curse as he approaches. Then he kicks her leg.

"Wake up, woman."

A long pause.

"Jesus, what did you take last night? Get up already!"

Another kick.

Rough hands roll her onto her back, and a wave of relief washes over her aching muscles. Marcel bends over and his face fills her vision. He stares into her eyes and then sticks his cheek over her mouth.


He slaps her hard enough to sting, but she can't respond.

"Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!"

He grabs at her throat, and the panic rushes back as she thinks he's trying to choke her. Then it subsides as she realizes that he is only searching for her pulse.

"No, no, no, no. Ah mon dieu! Stupid bitch! What have you done to me?"

From her new perspective, Celine can see Marcel sit on the edge of the bed, his face in his hands. Is he crying? Is he thinking? She can't tell.

Go get someone to help me, honey. Please!

Marcel stands and climbs into his clothes from the previous evening. He walks out of sight, but she hears his keys jingle. The door opens and then slams shut. At last.



Staring at the ceiling for an hour gives Celine a new perspective on hotels. The office building sprinkler in the center is the thing that taints the room and prevents it from ever feeling like a home. She hasn't noticed it before, but there it is, staring back at her. It hovers above notice, but subliminally it sends the message that you are in a corporate building, not a home. No home would have a sprinkler like that. And if any home did have one, there wouldn't be a placard next to it warning you not to hang anything from it. Homes don't have warning signs.

Focusing on the sprinkler helps Celine take her mind off of her troubles. The ache in her muscles subside, and she grows used to the pain caused by her dry eyes. She just has to survive until Marcel returns with an ambulance or doctors or some shit.

God, I could use a drink.


The door slams open signaling Marcel's return. Celine can't tell how long he's been gone, but her spirits lift. Soon she'll go to the hospital and everything will be back to normal. Marcel is muttering, probably talking to the ambulance guys and being quiet so she won't get upset by what he's saying. Heavy things are being moved around. She can hear grunting and crashing as they move.

Then Marcel leans over her and checks her pulse again. He shakes his head and kisses her on the forehead. Then he reaches under her armpits and lifts her to his chest. Her view swings around wildly, and she can't tell who else is in the room. Why aren't they putting her on a stretcher?

Marcel carries her a few steps and then drops her. She falls in slow motion as she processes what she is seeing. Marcel stands over her looking sad. Not trying to catch her or break her fall. Down she goes. Dark blue walls rise up around her, and then she hits bottom.

She is looking up out of a well as Marcel stares down. He looks like he's at a funeral staring down into an open grave while she's in the casket looking up.

Marcel! Please! What are you doing? Where are the doctors?

She doesn't understand what's going on.

Now he grabs her legs and shoves her into the fetal position.

By the time he has her stuffed into place, she is edging closer to panic. When he checks to make sure the lid will close, she loses it.

Oh my God! He's shutting me in some box! Marcel! Don't! Please, God, don't let him do this!

But he continues to work. Now she can hear him dragging something over to the box. What is he doing?

He grunts and then comes into view. He's holding a big plastic bag. Before she can see what it is, he dumps it on her.

White crystals like cloudy ice pour out. Smokey vapor envelopes the crystals and swirls around in the bottom of her container. Through the vapor she sees Marcel lift a second bag. Before more crystals fall, she can feel the cold of the first batch. Her dress doesn't offer much protection, and everywhere the ice touches her skin, needles of pain pierce her nerves.

More ice pours in. And more. And more.

She is covered in ice, but it doesn't feel wet. It doesn't offer any relief for her dry eyes. All it does is freeze her skin. The needles of pain turn to spots of fire. The ice burns like hot coals. The agony of being frozen alive shreds her remaining sanity, and Celine's world becomes pain and silent screaming.

Marcel puts the cover in place and everything goes dark. The pain continues, unabated.

Then, gradually, the pain recedes. Celine's thoughts slow down. She floats away from her body and drifts in a dark void. She thinks of Paris. Relaxing at a café and drinking a glass of wine.

Ah, Paris.

Todd Edwards © . All rights reserved.