Finding yourself on an Island like Dikosmou is like finding yourself in a strange heaven, it is so serene, lovely, and beautiful yet you can barely understanding anyone and you can still read about the shitty world outside of the island. However, as I stared out from my balcony, I felt in heaven, I felt as if those surrounding me were angels, and I felt as if my troubles had shrunk down to small grains of nothings. I breathed slowly, filling my lungs with the lovely air that swept my air pipes of the toxins from the polluted smog from home. Although, staring at the sea wasn’t a great idea as my friend slapped the sunburn on my back.
“Good morning!” He shouted, joyfully with a smirk.
“Ow, fuck you, Tim,” I muttered, my muscles tensing slightly.
Tim was a strange case; he played rugby, was tall enough to play basketball, could list off every Star Wars major event, nuclear bomb name, and was shockingly intelligent. He was like a warrior Spartan if he was born in 1995.
His smirk grew into a grin. “How are you today anyhow?”
“I’m good.” I paused, looking out at the almost empty array of sun loungers and empty hotel bar, before saying,”how did you find this place?”
“Someone at work told me about it. It’s neat, huh?” He took position beside me, staring out into the diamond-blue ocean that swirled with shamrock green.
Following his example, I stared out at the sea before I noticed what he was really staring at; a woman strung across a lilo. She was blonde, beautiful, and gorgeous and it looked as if that was the only three things anyone said about her. She was wearing a black bikini that, excluding the string, barely covered more than six inches of skin.
Turning to Tim, I flicked him on the arm. “Idiot, stop staring at the hot girl and let’s go.”
He turned to me with a stutter to his movements; his head and eyes fluttering back to the girl for split moments. “All right,” he finally muttered, “let’s go and explore.”
Slapping on tourist trademarked shorts, sandals, and shirts, we took to the island outside the hotel. The hotel was seemingly in the middle of nowhere, there were tropical woods opposite the hotel and there was a road slicing through the middle. There were a razor thin pavements on either side of the pavement, leading around the curves of the road, and that was all that could be seen from the small car park of the hotel.
Tim gave me a look that glinted of the potential for adventure and started, without instruction, simply started to walk down the path as if he knew where he was going. Quickly, I brought up the pace and walked after him, keeping a small distance behind him as the path could barely accommodate one.
We whispered and muttered about what we would find (Tim wanted to find a beach and I wished to find a local shop), what we would do if we found them (Tim wanted to woo ladies and I wanted to see what they had on sale), and how the other person’s idea was dumb and stupid (Tim called me a nerd and I called me a chode). A shop soon appeared from the emptiness as the road stretched back into a straight line, distant shapes that could vaguely be other buildings appeared along down the now straight road. The shop was adorned with Greek writing and not a single lick of English, the rectangular sign stuck out like a wart and read, in a military-style font, even more, gibberish.
Slowly, we walked towards it and noticed the interior through the large glass windows instead of a front wall. There was an array of shelves, fridges, and to the far left there was a brown, tanned man sitting behind the counter with a book opened up in front of his face. Walking in, the man greeted us with a verbal gibberish – it sounded like if you took the English translation, doubled it, blended it all together, and attempted to say it. However, to my surprise, Tim greeted him back with a similar slather of nonsense. The man nodded, looking down at his book. I looked up at Tim, who was smiling to himself, and we walked to the fridges.
The bottles were shaped strangely. The usual battery acid sugar solution that was Mountain Dew now was shaped in a plastic, long-necked beer bottle. Yet, my focus skimmed away from that quickly as I looked up at Tim, tilting my head.
“How did you know Greek?” I whispered to him, squinting my eyes in amazement.
He smiled again, the soft smile that spoke of education beyond even his own understanding. “I learned it for school, it seemed fun.”
“We only learned French, German, and Spanish in school, why did you learn Greek?”
Tim laughed, trying to stifle it as if embarrassed by the mere sound of it. “I thought a Greek girl looked cute, so I decided to try and impress her by learning the language.”
“How did that go?”
He looked up, talked another dice roll of drivel and smiled. By the look on my face, he noticed I need a translation. It meant ‘she couldn’t even speak Greek’.
Carefully, we picked out a few drinks (Tim frowning at me for picking mountain dew) and walked back to the counter. Positioning our drinks carefully, the man carefully folded a corner over in the page and shut the book tight.
Looking at me, the shopkeeper rattled off something that my brain spat out as an error message. My long second of ignorant panic was met by Tim chuckling and mumbling in the foreign tongue before speaking proudly in it. The shopkeeper laughed, looked in my direction, and threw off a long sentence in a rapid fire second. Immediately, I thought he was insulting the fact that I couldn’t speak Greek and my brain suddenly exploded in embarrassment.
Tim laughed, rumbled off some more Greek, and handed over the money. We took our few bags of drinks and walked out.
Asking Tim what the shopkeeper meant when he looked at me, he said I wouldn’t survive long on the island as no one speaks English. Muttering a low ‘oh’, we wandered back towards the small room and slotted our drinks into the small fridge provided. We then disappeared to the sun loungers downstairs.
Taking a small moment on the sun loungers always makes me realize that summer bodies are reserved for people that don’t go on holiday, however, this wasn’t always. From the few people on the sun loungers (two men and three women), none of them were the typical tourists that was overweight, balding, and generally loud. Both the men were as slender as sticks and reading from books thicker than text books and the women were those you would see in the adverts for makeup, clothes, and the like. It was strange seeing such nerdy guys get such beautiful women but if the island was heaven, I could hardly argue against it. As I pretended to sunbath, I attempted to read one of the textbooks that was positioned slightly before me. The words I picked up were almost foreign to me; “nongenic regions”, “transversions”, and ” transposable elements”. That was all I could catch before even the guy slapped the book shut and laid it down, giving himself a small moment in the blazing sun before gulping down a large bottle of water. With the small book reading over, I swung my legs over the side of the sun lounger, grabbed my mountain dew, and took a swig. Tim was staring at the only woman that was alone and, without sunglasses, he looked like he was ready to skin her alive. I tapped him with the bottle, telling him to lay off. He smiled at me, shivered a little at the ice that swam around the bottle, and went right back to what he was doing.
Grumbling, I stood up and swallowed down the rest of my mountain dew. I walked over away from the sun loungers and to the bar, filled with empty tables, chairs, and stools. It looked as if they were waiting for a wedding that never came and, instead of packing away, left out all the furniture in case the wedding ever showed up. Going to the bar, I propped my arms onto the sticky wood. It felt as if someone had mixed wood chippings and gum, then fused the two together with a healthy pouring of blazing summer hot fizzy drink. The bar-maid appeared from a door hidden by a lovely selection of drinks on three shelves. The drinks, although beautiful, looked ancient and almost like they had been glued to the same hot spot for twenty years. Although it sounds like I haven’t described the barmaid yet, it is almost as if I had. Her skin was as if she had been in the sun for twenty years, it was leathery and old, and she looked as bitter as one of the drinks on displays. In a Greek accent that stank of bitterness for foreigners, she asked me what I wanted. Telling her that I wanted a cold drink got me be shot with an ice-cold response about how she needed to know what kind of drink to make cold. Sucking up my own pride, I asked for an Old Fashioned with an ice cube in it. She moved like a wooden puppet being controlled by a nihilist puppeteer, she grabbed a bottle of Rye whiskey, a bottle of Angostura bitters, and every other ingredient yet with every item, she looked as if she wanted to slam it down on the counter and slide it across her own throat. I made a note that, if there was another barmaid here, to hopefully use her next time as I never thought I would have felt secondarily suicidal in a tropical paradise. Slotting my drink over to me on a coaster, she waited and, when I said thank you, she whispered a you’re welcome and disappeared back through the door like a ghost. As the door shut, I noticed fractions of the room move and, immediately, my brain recognized it as cobwebs. They had been so still that I hadn’t noticed them and, as I sipped on my drink, I noticed that they crisscrossed the entire bar like poorly planned phone lines. They were all over the place and you could easily see their inhabitants if you looked carefully. However, tiny black dots of spiders seemed to fall behind what I was truly staring at which were large warning-light-colored spiders that looked as if they would swallow a shot glass and have room for seconds. These spiders were different than back home and that spiked my nervousness, the foreign invaders on my comfort zone made my nerves into sensitive tripwires and made me pull my drink close to me as if it was a shield.
Drinking my liquid shield, I felt it become a part of me and had my legs, unconsciously, move back towards the bar. The spiders seemed to move back to their cold, dark hiding holes as they realized the vibrations of the door weren’t lovely meals that they could snack on. Swallowing the rest of my ice cold drink of choice, I dropped the glass down on the coaster with Greek gibberish on it. Noting the island, I saw what should be a slogan but it was nonsense to my poor English eyes. Sliding one to myself off of a pile, I stared at it and tried desperately to translate it. All I noted was the Greek word for the island which I had seen on a few websites and learned from watching indie films from Greece (ex-girlfriends are weird) but that was it. Looking over my shoulder, I noticed Tim continuing his staring contest with the lonely woman’s breasts. Sighing, I walked over towards him and tapped him with my foot.
“What?” He flicked his head around, smiling quickly. “What do you want now?”
Holding the coaster up to him, I said, “translate this for me, please.”
Tim took it from my hands, looking carefully at it. “The slogan? Yeah, it says island of spider.”
“The island of spider?”
“Yup. Exact translation.”
After finishing our sunbathing and having our eyes feeling as if they were melted into our heads, we slowly got up and walked over to the apartment as the sun was falling behind a large hill behind the hotel, the trees digging into the yellow sphere. It was impressive to look at and I wished that I had a camera to take a picture of the wonderful scenery before me. As we entered the corridor, all the lights along the ceiling were turned on and Tim joked that the evening was like nighttime here. As I gave a small chuckle to continue my friendship, I noticed how the lights flickered as the bulbs died and the lights flickered to almost the beat of my feet. It was rather fun to watch.
We spent a lot of time in the apartment, reading and using the hotel wifi, drinking a lot of soft drinks and filling ourselves with carbonated bubbles. After a while, we got dressed in better clothes and went out for a meal. Chewing on exotic and foreign food over glass coca-cola bottles and cheap white napkins, that felt like a true British holiday. A British holiday is when you aren’t really there for the culture but for the hot weather, nice blue sky, and the nice different food. It is probably some leftover of the British empire in all of us. We talked about whatever came to our minds as we sloshed drinks and shoveled food; everything from the language of Greece to ex-girlfriends were all discussed and it was a wonderful night. The sun shrank and the moon rose in what felt like a minute and, eventually, we went back to the hotel.
As we walked through the hotel, the flickering lights felt more sinister as they would shut off an entire segment of the hotel to darkness for a moment and, despite the split second, it felt as if monsters rushed into the absence of light to wait for the ambush. Even though my footsteps seemed to make the lights shut off, the darkness still ran a shiver across my arms even if the absence was predictable.
We got into our hotel room and, like a little kid with his wardrobe open, I flicked on my bedroom light before I started to do anything else, just out of fear of something. Tim laughed a little but shrugged it off as we were tired. We went into our separate rooms and, as I slapped my body down on the mattress, I heard the same happen in Tim’s room. The sweet spell of sleep washed over me quickly.
Suddenly, I awake in the middle of the night and the light filled my eyes quickly, causing me to shakily wake up. Sighing, I rolled out of bed and, unconsciously, started to go towards the bathroom. Thoughts dully swam in my mind like fireflies in a dark pit, the only one of note being I might as well go to the toilet now rather than later. As I walked near the bathroom, I heard stumbling outside in the hallway. Squinting as I slowly stopped at the bathroom door, I listened carefully to the outside door. It sounded like four drunk people trudging towards their room, some slamming into walls and their weight slapping down on the floor with their every step. From the single window in the kitchen I could see, the lights flickered on and off with their steps and they passed by without casting a shadow on the kitchen wall. As the steps quietened down, I walked into the bathroom and did my business without fear. I simply left it as a group of people having more fun than me.
Carefully, I wandered back into my bed and laid down on my bed, feeling the cold sweat that my sleeping body had made earlier. Grunting, I carefully let sleep wrap around me like a cold blanket and fell quickly back to sleep.
I was awoken by David, throwing open my curtains and opening the door to the balcony. The heavy sunlight beat into my eyes before I could tell him no, my eyes burned like they were being held under a lighter. I muttered objections, clasping my palms into my eyes and rubbing them to bring life to them.
“Okay, fuck you, I’m up!” I managed to mutter as I slowly pulled myself out of bed.
Waggling my fingers, I held my hand up to David. A pair of trunks flew into my hand, I thanked him and pulled them on as Tim disappeared for the privacy of the balcony.
We walked to the stairs but we passed an open room, propped open by the cleaning ladies’ cart. Inside, there was a cleaning lady with her hand yanked down against the handle as she tried to shoulder barge the door open. I wrinkled my eyes as we passed, my memory flashed to our room and I remembered there were no locks on the bedroom door. Yet, my brain picked up a different piece from years ago, remembering a hotel complaining that a German tourist thought it would be a good idea to install his own personal lock on his bedroom door and, when he had a heart attack in the night, no one could get to him until someone had to knock the door down. I told Tim about this and he muttered a joke about German tourists, his tired demeanor hidden behind his black-out sunglasses and his white-toothed smile.
Walking down the stairs, the lights flickered with every step and Tim made a note that he would talk to the receptionist about it. He most likely forgot to do this by the time we got to the hotel bar and asked for two bottles of coke. The same, leathery old woman came to us and handed us our drinks, popping off the bottle caps like they were horrid acne on her face. We paid and she wandered off as I knocked back the delicious substance into my gullet, Tim drinking his more carefully. I looked up at the ceiling and noticed the spiders, they were hidden around their web. Yet it wasn’t as if they were waiting for their prey, it was as if they were scared as if there was some kind of king amongst them that they didn’t want to insult. I told Tim about it and he told me I was humanizing spiders and that was creepy as hell, I told him to fuck himself, laughed slightly, and finished my drink.
After finishing our drinks and carefully planting down the bottles back onto the sticky bar, we wandered over to the sun loungers. There were four people out today, the two couples sat together and, again, the boyfriends were reading their science books. Carefully, I tried to read the book of the guy in front of me again but he turned around and looked at me. Being who I am, I desperately attempted to apologize when he cut me off and said it was fine, telling me to take the lounger next to him.
Escaping from Tim for a few moments, I sat down next to the guy and immediately felt awkward that I didn’t have a t-shirt to wear as I sat there with my rolls of flab piling over each other.
“So,” the guy said, smiling up at me. “What’s your name?”
I told him.
“That’s a good name, it means white in Hebrew, I believe. My name is Alex.”
Giving a mental chuckle that my skin was as white as my name, we slowly started to get into a conversation about what he did for a living (biology professor at a college), what he was interested in (writing sci-fi and tabletop gaming), and where he came from (A small town called Grantchester). With every word, he sounded far more interesting than me and I felt weaker and weaker in my comparisons of him. I could barely string a sentence together, fiction or not, and he had a much higher paying job than me, even if he had to deal with the difficulties of being a teacher. It seemed like the kind of friend you make and are jealous of constantly because of their status and power but like them because they are your friend. We slowly bonded over figurines, tabletop gaming, etc and it slowly became a conversation where we were both equal players. His wife rolled over to cut out her conversation from her sunbathing vibe but we continued on and on, talking about all the good times you can have in a model shop.
We bonded incredibly quickly and I only noticed how long our conversation went when his wife finally got up to use the bar and I noticed the sun had shot across the sky. Randomly, I asked him how long it had been after a few moments of silence, he clicked on his phone and said that it had been about two hours or so. He wondered how someone could talk about tabletop games, roleplaying games, and all that for about two hours until I recalled how I had somehow managed to sit in the same model shop for about four hours and talking about random nonsense with random people who had simply wandered in and sat down. Chuckling, I asked him if he wanted me to pay for a drink at the bar.
Slipping a black card out of his pocket, he said that I wouldn’t have to worry. It was the kind of card that bosses gave on job retreats, I eyed it carefully.
“Is that a company credit -”
He quickly cut me off. “Yeah, I am technically here on business but I am here for a month and the work only took me about two days. Also, drinks are classed as job expenses.”
Smiling, we both walked over towards the bar. Eyeing the drink menu, I noticed that the coca cola was one of the cheapest drinks on the menu. Alex slid onto a barstool and patted the one next to me. Sliding onto the hot red leather, the leathery old woman slid into view and I noticed that her skin looked like it belonged on one of the stools. Coldly, she asked what we wanted and we told her.
Two ice cold glass bottles were dropped in front of us and she popped off the caps carefully, letting them land like tiny tombstones onto the sticky wood. We picked up our drinks, clinked them together, said cheers, and chugged down the refreshing, cold concoction. As Alex chugged his drink, he stared up at the ceiling and noticed the spiders, staring at them carefully.
Dropping my glass, I asked him if he was afraid of spiders. He told me, simply, that it wasn’t normal spider behavior. Telling him I thought that was just them waiting for prey, he shook it off and pointed to a few different spots around the webs, he told me that those were the spots where spiders would hide if they were waiting for prey as it would allow them the easiest path to the prey but, instead, the spiders are hiding behind the most web.
“So, any theories on that?” I muttered thoughtfully, looking at the spiders carefully as if I knew what I was talking about.
He stroked his chin with the open top of the coke bottle and then, slowly, opened his mouth. “Maybe they sense something, a bigger predator perhaps.”
Looking over at the barmaid, I noticed the long lighter in her hand and how she burned the stray cobwebs like she was a creepy kid who simply wanted animals to torture.
“I think I know who the predator is,” I said. Carefully, I drank down the rest of my coke as if I was actually thoughtful and poetic.
I spend the rest of the day with Alex and the sun slowly slipped behind the hotel, casting the swimming pool and sun lounger into a small temporary night of its own. Saying goodbye to Alex, I met with Tim again and told him to stop looking at Alex’s wife because we were going back to the room.
We wasted a plenty of time in the rooms, viewing videos from the internet and messaging our friends back home, soaking up a number of fizzy beverages and washing down our thirst with a tapeworm-killing diet, full of enough sugar to build a new Everest. Following a long-drawn moment of sitting around doing nothing, we got draped in sufficient attire and left our room for a dinner. Again, we chewed on foreign and strange food over glass coca-cola bottles and cheap white napkins, a mixture of home and away. It felt right as it did the night before.
Tim wasn’t there for the culture, he was there for hitting on the waitress that really wished she could slowly slam the pen into his eye. I was there to eat the food, drink the drinks, and feel full, then go back to the room and fall down on my bed. However, after we finished our meal and carefully paid, Tim then marched off towards a local bar and I quickly followed behind.
It was a bar, restaurant, meeting place, and cafe all blended into one and slowly poured into a mold. It made me laugh however for a moment because the bar used to be a chain restaurant, you could tell by the angles, walls, and how the sign looked like it had been bashed with a hammer to get the previous logo down. However, the thing was it was not the modern kind of chain restaurant, it looked like it had been built in the fifties and been abandoned only a little later. It was clearly cleaned, well-looked after, and it was almost like a blast to the fifties, so I kept laughing mentally.
It is strange to imagine how fast food can’t actually pick off somewhere. Everywhere else, fast food was taking over as if it was a cure for cancer that would stop baldness but here? It was dead in what looked like a year.
The bartender, sitting behind the servicing table with many drinks hung behind in what used to be the kitchen in what looked like a DIY step-in fridge. He looked up at us as we popped open the door, hitting the door open carefully. He nodded, muttered something about English people in foreign gibberish, and opened his mouth to talk. Tim then greeted the bartender with a friendly foreign hello.
The bartender quickly stood up, apologizing profusely, and asked what we wanted to do (as I imagine). Tim looked at me, I muttered what I wanted, and with a heavy booming accent, he declared what we both wanted to the bartender. Quickly, he sloshed out the one glass of coca cola and a pint of the mixed drink called “Fizz” and, with the speed, he was pouring out these ingredients, it was a liquid apology to the two of us.
He slapped the two glasses down and, with a bumbling offer of apology, he went back to sitting down. Tim and I sat down on the bar stools, sliding the two drinks towards the each of us by their coasters. Carefully, we drank and talked, the conversation going from girlfriends to movies to ideas for movies to our dreams of once making a movie to a conversation about what happened to that dream and then to an awkward silence as we realized that dream died at the end of secondary school. As the silence slowly descended, I span around in my chair and stared out the window.
I noticed a taxi making a slow drive around the bend, away from our hotel. The old engine chugged loudly, the wheels squealed, and it was almost as if the car was going to explode. The only thing clean and working seemed to be the ‘TAXI’ light on the roof, which had a battery glued to the side. When the car was making its slow drive towards the bar, I noticed who was in the passenger seat and it was Alex. I squinted my eye, staring at the man in the passenger seat. He had a month left on vacation, a month where he was in a paradise untouched by major tourism, and all I could wonder was about why he was leaving. There was no reason I could think of as he seemed to be having a good time.
As the taxi neared closer, I noticed that Alex was talking to the driver but it wasn’t in a friendly conversation kind of fashion. He wanted the car to speed up, he wanted the car to speed up now, and Alex seemed incredibly close to almost ripping out the man’s throat simply because the car wouldn’t speed up. I remembered Alex how I had met earlier today and how the man in the passenger seat wasn’t him, it seemed like a different version of him that I hadn’t seen before.
The taxi slowly passed by the bar and I stared at it through the window. Alex moved away from insulting the driver to look at me, he saw me staring at him like an unwanted puppy, wondering why he was being left on the side of the road. He opened his mouth as if to mouth something but carefully shut it, hung his head, and seemingly said sorry to himself. The taxi drove on and disappeared behind one of the walls of the bar.
Eyeing it carefully, I drank more and turned back around to Tim, simply thinking of excuses for why he had to leave.
The rest of the night went surprisingly. The bartender slowly loosened up to the idea of having foreigners in his bar as long as they were paying for drinks and weren’t being too loud. Using the medium of Tim, we spoke about our childhood and the differences between them. The bartender, calling himself George S, told us of a time his father had gotten drunk and, giving him a knife, told George to slaughter a goat with it. The event that would cause a British kid to be traumatized made George S simply smile and laugh about it, to him, it was funny. The idea of running around a pen, screaming and spinning a knife in his hand, was hilarious and he embraced it as if it was a memory of his mother’s hugs and family trips to the park.
As the night droned on, there was a clear message of friendship between Tim and I and our new friend in the bartender. Although at every bar and restaurant in the world, they treat you with respect and pretend to be friends, it felt real with George and it felt as if I was meeting an old family friend for the first time in years. He was simply a wonderful person and, by the time midnight rolled around, all three of us seemed to have forgotten how many drinks Tim and I had. The small mountain of glasses was an estimate and the slurring of our words helped that estimate become a theory.
In my mind, the drinks seemed to total almost two hundred euros and, as my slow cog of a brain spun, the bartender simply held out his hands and said the Greek word for “fifty”. Tim quickly peeled his wallet from his shorts, grabbing the strange money between his fingers and handed it over to George S. Instead of complaining, asking for more, George simply opened the register and placed the fifty Euro note into its slot rather neatly. He said something in Greek, Tim nodded and started to drunkenly trudge towards the bar doors with me fast on his coat tails.
When I asked Tim what the bartender said, he replied that he thought it was a saying, something to do with good luck. Asking what the real translation was, I got the answer of “live tonight as if the predator awaits at the door”. Slightly unnerved by the strange saying, I continued following Tim down the road and back into our hotel.
As we strolled through the hallways of the resort, the stuttering glow seemed even more threatening than the night before. The entire segments of darkness were only increased by the mysterious escape of my new friend and the monstrosities that bustled into the lack of light seemed more authentic than they did the night before. The darkness, coupled with the echoing of our footsteps, made shivers run through my skin like blood runs through cold veins.
When we got into our hotel room, I turned on the lights as quick as I could as to drown the room in the embrace of the light, feeling it protect me in a strange way. Tim chuckled a little but thought I was simply repeating the night from before. We went into our separate rooms and, as I hit the mattress with my heavy, alcohol-filled body, I heard the same happen in Tim’s room. The sweet spell of sleep didn’t wash over me like it did last night and I was left with my thoughts for thirty minutes before sleep crept into my mind like a virus.
My own thoughts seemed to make me a light sleeper as, again, I awoke in the middle of the night. The heavy light exploded into my eyes and I felt like an idiot for turning on all those powerful bulbs, causing my mind to quickly wake up as my body still wanted to drop dead back to sleep. Sighing, I rolled out of bed and thought to myself that I wanted a drink. Thoughts dully swam in my mind like fireflies in a dark pit, the only one of note being that there better be something nice in the fridge. As I walked near the kitchen, I heard stumbling outside in the hotel hallway. Squinting as I slowly opened the fridge door, I listened carefully to the outside door. It sounded like two horses, missing their brains and trying to find their way back home. From the single window in the kitchen I could see, the lights flickered on and off with their steps but the light then flickered on and the kitchen window was enveloped in darkness, hiding the wall in a block of shade. Carefully, I grabbed my drink out of the fridge – a Greek pop drink that tasted like Jolly Ranchers Sprite – and stared out the window, gazing at the shadow as if I was meant to recognize it.
The shadow loomed in front of the window but shakily moved as the lights outside still flickered. It was like a shadow play, a play about a puppet simply standing there but you could see the small twitches as the puppet master got tired. The shadow would flinch and move and jitter but only slightly, it seemed incredibly focused on simply staring at my door as if it was truly its room. It took me a few minutes to realize that my hand was cold, the metal of the can was freezing it and I felt as if my fingers were stuck in place.
In my sleepy state, I switched the can to my other hand and pulled the tab up, releasing the gas inside. The pop of the can made the shadow to move, casting a large bulbous figure onto the wall on the kitchen wall. The heavy slap of the weight moving from foot to foot seemed to crack the silent night that was just occurring and, suddenly, I was aware of a danger that lurked behind my door.
I know I sound like an idiot but let me say that this isn’t an ordinary situation, so why would my emotions be ordinary? It was as if the shadow on the kitchen suddenly became a real, breathing entity behind the door. Fear suddenly hit my lungs like a freight train and I suddenly found myself unable to breathe as my adrenaline quickly exploded into my veins like pellets from a shotgun and my body quickly sapped up the tiredness that had been shrouded over me as a blanket, replacing it with a wide awake sense of fear and panic.
The thing behind the door tapped the door as if inspecting it. Slowly, my adrenaline went to my muscles and I could think more clearly. The tap, tap, tap steadied and it almost became a rhythm against the door, it sounded like a beat. Carefully, I placed the can down on the kitchen table and moved away from the window, careful not to let my feet make a sound. The creature still tapped on the door as if wondering if it was thinking that the door itself made the can-opening noise.
I moved quickly and hid behind one of the wardrobes in the hallway, thanking God that some idiot placed so much space between the side and the wall to let me hide in between the space. The tapping stopped, sending the hotel into silence and the hallway lights flickered again, signaling whatever put its foot down. It didn’t move though, it stayed, and the lights came on and cast its shadow on the wall again, the shadow becoming more evil as I stared at the bulbous yet incoherent shape that it was.
It was round – making me think it was a large man – but large points came off it, almost like stubble yet longer, and large spheres. In my mind, if a human shadow was being cast, that human would be severely deformed, with large amounts of hair, and tumors where its chest should be. However, if it was human, I never saw a head and there was never anything to indicate a head. There was no Hitchcock-like appearance in the shadow, making the shape of his head well known. There was what I thought was a torso, tumors, and hair.
It remained still, simply sitting outside the door like a dog waiting to be let back in. As I slowed my breathing, letting my body slowly use up the adrenaline, I heard the breathing from outside. What I thought could have been a group of drunks or a large man was neither as the breathing was strange. It was low but as in position, the breathing was low to the ground, it was as if someone was crouching and breathing and it made no sense to me. The shadow was large, standing, so it wasn’t crouching. My nerves spiked again, fear tapping along my brain quickly and filling my skull with liquid fear, drowning my thoughts with its darkness.
The waiting was slowly killing me and my mind slowly started to spin out of control, thundering around the dark swimming pool of fear and acting as if it was the last day of summer. My thoughts swam in fear, they drank from the fear, and they dived into it. Every thought was a pang of fear and it caused my eyes to twitch, tingling with a sense of fear. A thought hit me and it caused a chain reaction throughout my mind; what if that gets in? That’s all I could hear as it turned into white noise. What if it gets in? What if it gets in? What if it gets in?
Carefully, my fear peeled me from my hiding place and I placed myself in the hallway, standing like a child about to be caught by their parents. Slowly, I walked over towards the bathroom, got into the room, and rested my head down on the sink. Looking around the room, I saw no real weapons that I wanted. The strange things that being scared does to you but it is rather dumb for me to imagine that a bathroom would be loaded with knives, knuckle dusters, and guns but that is what fear did to me. The adrenaline wore away from my heart, suddenly making me feel weak, so I placed my hand on the towel rack for balance. As my weight hit it, the rack shuddered, poorly supported by some old, rusty screws. Sluggishly, I wrapped my hand around the bar and pulled, it easily came off in my head with some dust splashing from the old screw holes.
I held the towel rack in one hand and smacked it against my palm like it was a baseball bat, the old screws hit against the tiled floor and sounded like dropped coins. Outside, I heard the heavy shifting of the thing out the door. It tapped against the hallway floor like it did against the door, angling itself to my position as it heard the coin-like screws hit the floor.
Breathing calmly, I walked out into the hallway and held my weapon close to my chest, feeling its weight in my hands and feeling out the weight of it. It was like what you did when you played softball or baseball at school, you would feel out the bat and understand the weight of it. You would want to know how it was weighted so you could swing it properly and hit the ball, you didn’t want to feel like an idiot in front of your classmates, so you simply tried your best to understand the bat. Involuntary memories flashed in my mind, some good and some bad, and I prayed that I would be able to have the good memories on my side if I had to use the towel rack as a baseball bat.
There was a sense that I had no idea what I was doing and, in my mind, that thought seemed to shake like a speaker that wasn’t attached to the ground. Quick booms of fear and panic raced through my mind as my brain tried to figure out what lay beyond the door and it then would mix and match those ideas with thoughts of how I would kill it, those secondary thoughts always ending with me dead on the ground and bleeding to death as the imagined monster towers over me and I die on my back in a foreign land. Carefully, I breathed and tried to extinguish the thoughts from my mind but it was like throwing a glass of water into a house fire, it did nothing to help the panic. Quickly, my mind started to go around in a circle, repeating the same few sentences over and over. What is out there? Are we going to die? What if it gets in? What if we die? Then, memories started to pop up, making the thoughts of death increase like termites. Every time I declined to go to the gym with friends, every time I picked a meaty burger over a salad, and every time I break bottle after bottle of sugary drinks instead of just some water; all of those memories flooded to my mind and I realized I was not a valiant soldier, a guardian, a warrior, I was simply a chubby man that was standing before a flimsy defence and, behind that, was something I didn’t understand and didn’t know.
Taking air into my lungs, I carefully stuck out my hand. It was shaking, shaking hard, and I realized that my entire body was shaking. It was no longer adrenaline that was in my veins, it was pure fear and it was being pumped through my veins faster than blood itself. Throughout every muscle, every cell, every piece of my body, I shuddered with panic and shook with dread that filled my body with heavy weights, making my every movement into agony as if I was ripping away pieces of my flesh simply by twitching my finger. My hand shook and I placed it on the handle. The metal of the handle shook as my hand did, bouncing up and down on the door, and I breathed again. I slid the towel rack into a comfortable position in my free hand, holding it like a rounders bat. Swinging the handle down, I pulled the door open and, without thinking, I swung the towel rack down into the hallway. It clattered against the floor, breaking open one of the floor tiles and I stared out into nothing as the foreign winds blew and the hallway lights flickered on, causing the towel rack to dance with light.
There was nothing out there and whatever was out there had simply vanished, disappearing as something else had caught its eye.
Without so much of a thought, I pulled the towel rack to myself and walked out into the hallway, looking around for whatever was out there. Still, there was no sign of life or even another person out there, there was nothing lurking in the hallways at all. Going to the stairs, I looked up and down the ascending and descending stairs but, again, there was nothing at all there and all that was with me in the hallway was that of the flickering lights of the hallway. I tapped the towel rack against the stair rails, making a bell-like chime and I wondered back to my room, feeling the fear slowly leech out of my body like snail slime.
I walked back to my room, stepped into my room, and shut the door behind me with a thud. I carefully walked to my room and hid the towel rack in my suitcase, hoping that the cleaners wouldn’t look into the suitcase. Swinging my body onto the mattress, I felt a lot better as my body relaxed onto the bed and as I pulled the blanket over my body. Although I couldn’t sleep as I thought of every sound, voice, and engine in the distance and even when all was quiet, Tim’s breathing kept me awake. I breathed along with him and followed his pattern as long as possible before sleep washed over me like cold bath water. The sleep felt like a bad ride in a cold car and it was one of the worst times I had ever slept as, when I woke in the morning, I felt as if I had been lifting weights for all the hours I was meant to be asleep for.
As I awoke, the lights blared in my eyes and I felt as if they were tiny cocktail sticks being driven into my eyes for fun. Massaging my eyes, I noticed Tim was at the door and holding my swimming trunks in between his fingers. Holding my hand up, he tossed the pair of swimming shorts into my hand and I drunkenly closed my fingers around them, pulling them towards my body. Tim disappeared into the kitchen and I heard the fridge door open, a plastic bottle pulling along the fridge rack into his hand.
Using a few tricks and maneuvers I learned when I used to go swimming with my local school, I pulled the trunks onto me under the blanket and prepared myself to go outside.
As we walked through the hallways and peeled out from the cozy hotel, we spotted the sun loungers and the bar. There was the last couple, sitting apart from each other and not talking. To avoid an awkward conversation or two, Tim and I wandered over to the bar, seeing someone else perched behind the sticky wood. It was a young man but he was short and wide like a rugby player, he seemed to dominate the small space behind the bar with his frame but he looked like he was built out of steel bars and strong materials. He nodded at us as we approached and, as he sat down, he spoke to us in an English accent. It was one that sounded like it was from the deep North, from a forgotten county, from a forgotten town; the accent was thick, load, and hit your ears like a truck covered in pillows.
“What will it be, lads?”
We quickly ordered some cokes and the Brit popped the bottle caps off of glass bottles easily. It was a relief that he was simply happy to pop off some caps, serve some customers, and simply be a bartender; he was a happy replacement from the woman that looked like leather.
Gulping down some ice cold coke, the Brit asked us where we were coming from. We told him.
“Oh? I am from near there.” He said with a smile, slipping the bottle opener underneath the sticky wood.
Tim’s eyes widened for a second before going back to their normal shape. “Oh? Really? Do you remember that weird statue that always came up around bonfire night?”
He slapped his hands together in happiness, smiling to himself. “I remember that. It was such a fun thing to see and remember when they burned it? That was just fantastic.”
“Oh Lord,” I mused to himself, scratching my chin. “Did you ever put sausages on a stick and cook them over the fire?”
Laughing, Tim smiled as he drank the rest of his coke. “Yeah, yeah, I remember me and you -” he tapped me on the chest “- used to do that all the time. Thank god our town didn’t have any health and safety rules.”
The bartender piped up and said: “I and my friends used to do that all the time, we had marshmallows on a stick.”
Tim snapped his finger, pointing at the bartender. “Did you… oh my god, are you George?” He said, his eyes widening as his smile grew.
‘George’ did the same; wide eyes and a wide smile. “Yes, yes, I’m George. Wait, you’re Tim?”
“Yes! Yes, I am!”
George almost threw himself over the bar with his arms outstretched, laughing, and Tim embraced him in a hug as he joined in the collective chuckle. They hugged for only a second before pulling away from each other, the exact time a hug between old peers should last. As George peeled away from Tim, his shirt pulled away from the sticky bar table and a pattern of thousands of drink stains appeared on the stomach area of his shirt.
George looked at me and said: “So, you are -” and said my name.
I nodded, then emptied the rest of the coke bottle into my gullet and felt the cooling icy drink fill my stomach like a cold bath in the desert.
Resting his elbow down onto the bar, he looked between us both and asked: “Why are you two even here?”
Tim asked the same question towards him, smiling.
“I am here because the only thing I needed to get this job was being able to open a bottle or a high school education. I have saved up enough euros to basically survive back home for a few decades by now.” Carefully, he smiled slyly so to show that he was smug about his great idea for easy money.
As Tim clicked his tongue, you could see his mind working and you could see his dull disapproval even in his blue iris.
“We are only here to have a good, cheap holiday in the sun,” I said with an unintentional smirk.
“It is just strange that two Brits would come to the island of spiders, it’s usually just biology people out here or really rich people strangely,” George muttered, gritting his teeth in a thoughtful way.
Tilting my head, I stared at George with my mind full of thoughts. “What do you mean by biology people?” I muttered, twitching my lip in a thoughtful way.
“You know, biology people, the ones with biology degrees and all that shit but they are, like, weird. Some real Victor Frankensteins come around here and I have no idea why.”
“Maybe they like spiders,” Tim said. He smiled widely as he looked up at the ceiling, still covered in cobwebs and I followed his eyes.
All the spiders were gone and no matter where I looked, there were no spiders to be seen. The cobwebs had been left but they were abandoned like a Detroit street when cars started being made in other places. Lazily, the stringy white strings hang down and swung in the light Summer breeze, the rest of the web was slowly falling apart as the entire web of silk was falling apart.
“Yeah, but why would you come all the way to a Greek island to do it? You could just buy a textbook or you could just watch some videos, you don’t have to come all this way to study spiders.” George muttered to himself, following our eyes as we tracked along the webs.
Tim, seemingly wanting to go back to sunbathing and leave our new old friend behind, said that he agreed with him and hoped that he would have a good day serving people, George hoped himself a good day as well, and we separated in our ways immediately.
We found our small spot on the sunbeds and laid back down to rest. However, Tim picked the spot only a sunbed away from the girl and, as he was petting the sunbed next to him, I was forced to sit next to the girl. My thoughts of the awkward conversation quickly spiked as I glanced over to her – similar to the girl described near the beginning, she simply looked like what someone would draw a super model like and I mean drawn because she seemed to have no imperfection, she simply looked like she was too perfect to be real.
Except I was wrong, the conversation wasn’t that awkward, it was simply unnerving. The woman looked over at me and asked me if I had seen any spiders.
Muttering mentally to think, I said no and asked her why she wanted to know that.
She scratched her arm nervously with a finger and, as I looked away, she said that she had heard strange noises in other apartments and was thinking they were spider noises.
My thoughts on her quickly changed from beautiful to as dumb as a rock (but still beautiful). Never in my life had I thought of the idea of being able to hear spiders and now I was dumbfounded by that idea, it took me all but a moment to wonder before she suddenly got embarrassed and covered her face.
“Oh god, I am so stupid,” she laughed behind her hands. Her fingers pressed against her face like an embarrassed school girl.
I gave a dismissive hand wave, saying that we can all be silly sometimes. “However,” I mumbled loudly, “what do you mean by strange noises?”
Through her vocabulary, she described a few sounds that I had heard outside my door and a few I had not. Breathing close to the ground, the sound of furry paws hitting the floor, and, strangely of all, the sound of soft rope hitting walls. My mind whirled with this information and I thought of everything she was saying, thinking of a thousand connections in my mind as quickly as it could.
I looked around thoughtfully at the crystal blue sky and simply wondered to her if it could have been someone watching a movie on high volume.
Scratching her chin, she mused in similar fashion and said that could be true. The look of doubt on her face suddenly changed into a small, goofy smile and the sudden emotional change made me mentally chuckle.
From the side of her sun lounger, she pulled up a pair of snorkeling goggles and asked if I wanted to go swim in the sea.
As my flabby body said no, my lips and mind said yes and suddenly I was following the bouncing girl to the stone steps to the sea. Walking down the stone steps was easier said than done as, without shoes, the stones seemed to have a vendetta against soft soles and desperately wanted to slice them to shreds. She jumped into the shallow sea and I followed, the soft twinges of sea salt in tiny wounds were unpleasant, to say the least.
“Oh my god,” the girl giggled loudly. “You splashed me!”
She was soaked in sea water and holding her head down as some little streams trickled off of her face, she laughed and giggled as the waterfalls tickled her skin. For a split second, I wondered why I didn’t get splashed by her and then I remembered as I looked down at my gut.
Slapping on the pair of goggles, she smiled brightly. “Okay, race you over to those rocks!” She pointed over to three large boulders, surrounded by eight long collections of pebbles, with seaweed dancing on all of them.
The girl quickly dove into the water, swimming without a splash towards the rocks. As she practiced for the Olympics, I simply trudged towards the collection of rocks in the strange way people walk when they are in water.
Reaching the rocks, there was the girl just floating on the surface of the water with her eyes transfixed on the small collection. Shaking impure thoughts from my mind, I looked down and stared at the rocks myself. The sea weed were tendrils of black which covered every inch of the rocks like they were hairs, and the rocks looked like nothing I had ever seen before as they looked strong as steel but were wrinkled as if they were skin. It was complex, strangely beautiful, and it looked amazing even though it had been taken by the sea.
Treading water to look at the gorgeous ocean, it slid against what I thought was sea weed. It didn’t feel like sea weed. Sea weed is slimy and wraps around you like an octopus. This felt like wet beard stubble, it felt exactly like stubble and there was no denying that it did.
I jerked my foot away, stepping quickly away from the not-rocks as quick as I could. The girl surfaced and asked what was wrong. I said that the sea weed felt weird on my leg, smiling and trying to play it off as if I didn’t just have a waking nightmare. The girl went underwater and, even through the rumbling waves, I could see her reach out for the hair. Her delicate fingers wrapped around one and air bubbles quickly escaped her mouth as she felt the hair, she pulled her hand up but hadn’t let go of the hair, the rock collection started to rise, tilt and spin. The three large not-rocks floated lazily as eight legs moved around freely as if feeling out for something.
It span towards us and revealed the unfeeling mandibles and eyes, staring deep into us. More air bubbles rose as the girl screamed underwater and she quickly surfaced, still shrieking. The spider’s stone black eyes were as large as tennis balls and held hatred I had never seen before. Its eyes reminded me of creepy cameras shoved into a too realistic animatronic. It’s hairy mandibles were topped with meat hook like pincers and covered a barely-hidden mouth that was filled with sharp teeth, between two teeth there was even some kind of meat still sitting between them.
“It’s hollow!” it’s all she could say, over and over she shouted and shrieked it.
We were only just out of earshot of the hotel but I felt as if I was a thousand miles away, existing on another planet as I looked into the dead face of this thing. I wanted to scream myself but couldn’t, I felt rooted to the spot and I couldn’t even make a sound, let alone breathe. I could only simply stare at its face.
The spider’s face was that of a tarantula, yet it was scaled up to almost that of a small car. A dark cloud was put over a childhood memory of finding a cardboard box in the attic that was filled with small plastic containers, all of them full of old tarantula skins from my dad’s childhood. The most unnerving thing about it was that I was staring at this hollow skin, floating just beneath the surface, and all I could think about was that memory, so the only thing I could think of was that the giant spider skin was called “Zippy”, after one of my dad’s dead spiders.
The hair waved like sea weed still and was matted to the legs, body, and head of the spider like fur on a wet dog. It was such a strange image to behold and all I could do was stare at it as it simply floated, staring into my soul as it’s short hair waved forwards and backward. Thinking of my place, standing above this spidery skin, felt like a sinister Rockwellesque painting was being created by whatever God existed. I winced, thinking about whatever God could create this kind of creature and what kind of God would really think to place this monster on the same earth as humans, as ‘God’s children’.
The hooks of the mandibles were as sharp as blades by the shine of them, they twinkled in the sunlight. Near the top of the furry appendage, I noticed slight bits of wood that the hook had pierced through and was now stuck at the bottom, digging into the root of the hook. Even though it was covered in sea salt, I could see the paint and it was the same paint that was on all the hotel doors. It was a disgusting off-white that they most likely painted mental hospitals with because it was the cheapest paint.
As I stared at the door, I remembered the tap, tap, tap against my door. As I stared at the long legs that were the length of a man and as thick as a bicep, I could only hear the heavy knocking that was against my door, the knocking that I thought was a monster or some eldritch horror. I am glad that I didn’t open that door, I am glad that I didn’t have the courage to open that door; I realized that I was congratulating myself for being a coward and I immediately felt bad.
As I stared deeply into the spider, I suddenly felt the waves again, suddenly felt the wind again, and suddenly heard the girl’s screaming again. She simply screamed and screamed, the waves simply rolled and rolled, and the wind blew and blew; the world was repetitive and it was oddly comforting like that, despite the horror of the situation and despite staring into the face of the monster that would most likely kill me.
Wrestling around my bicep, the girl wrapped herself tightly around my arm and trying to pull me away from it but I couldn’t move, my legs were rooted to the floor. It felt as if my toes were tree roots and those roots wrapped around the iron core of the earth tightly enough to strangle the metal innard like a vice. I couldn’t move even as she tugged, pulled, and tried to yank me from my spot; I simply couldn’t move. My eyes, mind, and even soul were transfixed on that spider skin as if it was the death of the universe as if I was staring into the face of the devil itself.
Eventually, I was yanked along the sea floor bit by bit yet my eyes were staring at this beast, taking in every detail of it and every thought was being stored away as if simply waiting in the darkness of my mind to haunt me later.
Bit by bit, she dragged me back towards the hotel and I felt my feet tickled with the sand as the grains ran over my feet, through my toes. The spider skin slowly disappeared under the thick ocean water and I slowly lost sight of its features, all I could see was the shadowy lines and shapes of it and that was still enough to give me chills along my spine. Slowly, I submerged from the salty ocean water and my body was slowly kissed by the sun, my skin warming up from the cool of the sea.
The girl was still crying yet it was quiet now, tears ran down her face and the salt mixed with the salt of the water. Slowly, I came to my senses and I was walked up the stairs by her like I was an old, old man. As we reached the top of the stairs, Tim and the boyfriend were talking about something and they seemed to chuckle to one another like small hyena. The girl quickly flew her arms away from me, making me catch my own weight, as she rushed over to her boyfriend. All I could hear was her babbling, repeating the crying and saying “it is hollow” like she had done in the sea. For a moment, Tim and her boyfriend looked over at me – her boyfriend looked at me as if I was a criminal and Tim looked at me in a confused stare – before her boyfriend quickly embraced her, drawing her attention from me. As I rested myself against the handrail, Tim jogged over to me and asked what I had seen. As I was about to say that he wouldn’t understand, the girl started to shriek and explain what happened. Every detail of what we had seen, every detail about the spider (even it’s pinkish inside), and everything else about what she feared, was afraid of, and what she feared the spiders would do. I pointed a finger over at the girl and simply told Tim that what she was saying was true, then I felt my body become exhausted just at that simple utterance.
It felt as if the energy had suddenly flown out of my body, dripping out of me like the sea water that was dripping off of my body. I almost collapsed onto a nearby sunbed, my arms on my knees and my head almost feeling between them as every bone felt like it was made of titanium except my skull which was made of steel, almost making my head drop to the ground in a dream to go back to sleep and wake up from this nightmare. Tim quickly sat next to me, wrapping his chiseled arm around my neck as he tried to act comforting yet all he could ask was about what happened and if, instead of seeing something real, I saw something that was just a hallucination, a figment of my imagination.
On length, as I felt as if I was near to death, he muttered and prattled on about how he thought I was seeing something that wasn’t there, an entity made out of paranoia and homesickness. Without a thought for me, he reminded me of the night before and how he heard me standing before the door, waiting there for long minutes on end for something that wasn’t there. He told me about how he heard the thwack against the tiles, how he heard me walk out of the room, and how he heard me come back in and hide the towel rack in my suitcase. Revealing his secrets, he described how he checked the hotel room before he woke me up and he saw all the evidence he needed; the broken tile, the sweaty foot prints by the door, and the weapon that was hidden away in a cheap second-hand suitcase. If I wasn’t exhausted, mentally or physically, I would have made a Cluedo joke and told him that he reminded me of the great Colonel Mustard, catching me out into my planned murder of Doctor Black but I didn’t have the energy, I didn’t have the will power to tell him to ‘fuck off’, so I simply sat there and stared at the ground.
There was nothing I could think of except for that spidery face, the mandibles, and the teeth that hid behind the furry limbs. They were terrifying to look at yet I was almost spellbound by it, I could visualize every single detail, every eye, every faint line in its deep dark iris, and every single tip of their teeth. There was something about them that was hypnotising and, even as I write this, it still is. I could spend pages upon pages, novel upon novel, describing every detail of these creatures or even that one floating spider skin alone but I would not even bore myself with those details or perhaps the better sentence would be horrified myself with those details. I stared and stared, trying to force myself to see the grass but all I could see was that damn thing’s face.
In the distance, I heard Tim talking but it felt like I was listening to a conversation in a distant city, a city that I didn’t know the name of or had ever heard of. His words were remote, his voice was isolated, and Tim himself was like a person from a bygone era, someone who I had never known and someone who I never would know. Bit by bit, he slowly stopped talking until he simply had his arm around me and I felt safe for once, for once I felt safe. I was a weakling but he was strong, I was a chubby fat guy but he was basically a warrior from legend, and I felt safe.
Tim slowly brought me to my feet and the world seemed to fall below me, there was nothing that my legs did so the world simply fell and forced me to stand. I heard him whisper that we were going to go to our room, I was going to get some rest, and we were both going to forget all of this ever happened. As we trundled past the bar, I saw George look at us from behind the bar and there was a look of worry on his face yet I could hear the chink of glasses as he was pouring some drinks. Shaking off any thought, I let my body follow Tim and I soon found myself in my room, laid out alone on my bed.
A knocking at the door came a few minutes later but it felt as if only seconds had passed, my mind was racing and it felt as if half a minute was only a second. Tim answered the door, it was George, and from my position on the bed, I could see he was holding two drinks in his hands. They were glowy brown liquids that filled the tiny plastic cups that the presumed alcohol was held in, there was nothing about them that seemed evil or not.
Tim and George muttered back and forth, hiding behind what they thought was the door. Their conversation quickly concluded as George noticed me looking at the both of them, he then quickly said a goodbye, handed the two drinks over and disappeared back down the hallway.
Carefully, Tim walked into my the room and shook one of the plastic glasses at me, inviting me to take drink with him and forget about whatever happened. Smelling the mysterious liquid – a mixture of gin, blackberry, lime, and syrup -, I reached out my hand and Tim pushed the drink into my palm, I wrapped my fingers around the plastic cup and thanked him.
Pressing the drink to my lips, I slowly poured the liquid down my gullet and felt the burn up my throat, stomach, and innards like a sugary fire. It felt as if I had poured liquid heat mixed with coca cola down my throat. I shuddered and Tim, quickly on his feet, took the plastic cup from me and I felt myself slowly fall asleep, the alcohol allying with my exhaustion to form a blanket over my mind. My eyelids quickly fell down over my eyes and I was away in bliss.
In my dreams, there was nothing but spiders. Where there were meant to be cats, there were ten spiders. Where there were meant to be books, there were twenty. Where they were meant to be televisions, there were fifty spiders. Where there was meant to be people, there were simply hundreds of spiders. Where they were meant to be cars, there were simply thousands of spiders. There was nothing but spiders and, in my dream-like mind, that was the most horrifying thing I had ever witnessed. It was worse than seeing terrorist attacks as a child, worse than seeing cats hit by cars, worse than anything I had seen; my dreaming mind simply thought that the spiders were the most horrifying thing I had ever seen in my life.
Quickly, I woke as Tim shook me awake. As I suddenly fell from sleep into life, I felt my skin and hair being covered in sweat, my body was heavy with it.
My eyelids flipped open, I stared into his eyes and asked what the hell he thought I was doing. He simply asked if I was okay, smiling as if he was lying. I told him I was fine, asking if he could give me a drink. Smiling like a guilty man going to the gallows, he disappeared around the door and I heard the fridge door open with an unhealthy click.
Carefully, I rose from my bed and, casually noticing I still had my trunks on from the day before, wandered over towards the doors nearby. Slowly, I yanked the bolt back on the door – hearing every scratch of the door bolt – and, as carefully as possible, slowly opened it, trying in vain to make sure the hinges didn’t squeak. As I opened the door, I was greeted by the same paradise as before, with the same beautiful sky and sun as the day before and the day before that.
Carefully, I approached the railing and grabbed my hands against them as I looked over the edge, feeling the cold metal against my palm. As I looked over at the sun lounger area, I noticed something dark in the center of it. Surrounded by flipped over loungers and ones that were destroyed, there was half a body that had bled dry into the grass. The corpse was wearing a poorly-made, white shirt with “SUMMER FUN” written over it, soaked with blood from the bleeding half torso left inside it. The head stared up at the sky, a vacant face of shock, horror, and confusion that looked like the face of a man eaten alive by something he didn’t understand. The blood that coated the face made it hard to see who it was but it was George, the man who we had once almost known and now he was dead in foreign soul.
It was a strange feeling to behold and it made me feel almost like a monster. My stomach reacted before my heart, making me vomit over the railing and I watched as the puke smacked into the ground below. My heart, after my throat tasted of acid and bile, suddenly reacted and released a bunch of hormones into my body. First, my stomach reacted and the hormone filled my guts with stones that made me feel heavy, dark, and full of dread, all the emotions that came with it were doubled by the hormones. As my heart released chemicals into my brain, I felt my few memories of him replay over and over with a twinge of sadness but it was not the same as losing a friend or a puppy, it was like losing a family hamster. There were some sadness to it but not a lot. The only real sadness came from the fact that he was human, that I was also human, and what did that to him could also do that to me. There was no denying that if it could have killed George, it could kill me and that was the greatest emotion of all of it. As I stared at the lifeless corpse of a once peer, I thought of my own survival above my small bits of sadness about George’s lost life. I felt like a monster, the ones I read in books and watched in movies. I didn’t feel human.
Tim stood behind me, handing me a small can of Greek Jolly Ranchers Sprite, and told me that he was sorry, wishing he could have found a way to tell me later and in a way that seemed more respectful.
Taking the can as quickly and as politely as possible, I said: “I don’t know what to say.” Cracking open the can, I drank measured sips to wash down the acid in my throat and mouth to wash down the taste.
As the acid journeyed back to my stomach, Tim told me that we should start finding some other people. “If we are in numbers, we can defend ourselves against this animal and maybe scare it off,” he said with a grimace on his face.
“What kind of monster do you think is out there?” I said, judging the rest of my drink as carefully as I could and loving the sweet taste in this bitter moment.
Tim grunted with ignorance. “I read that bears are native to Greece, so it could be a bear – hell, it could be anything,” he whispered as he started to walk away from me.
Chugging the rest of my drink, I followed him and, as I set it on the dresser table, he threw me my clothes. They were not summer clothes, they were my jeans, my thickest t-shirts, and jackets. Half-remembering web pages, it was all hard to get into denim and it helped to wear layers to protect against claws.
Slapping on the clothes, I instantly felt my skin spike with sweat and my mind thought of the clothes being drenched with sweat. As I came out of the bathroom from changing, Tim was at the door, prepared and ready with my towel rack weapon.
Looking into our bedroom, I saw that both of our bags were torn open and the innards were thrown about. Looking over at Tim, I asked: “Why aren’t we taking the bags?”
“They would slow us down and clothes are expendable.” Tim looked away from me and, slowly, popped open the door with a muted clunk of metal.
Tim crept out of the room, crouching low to the ground and holding the towel rack carefully off of the floor. He looked calm, prepared, ready to fight. Despite my nerves, I had heard the spiders before and I doubted that crouching would save our lives. On edge, I followed him, taking a small amount of pride that I was allowed to stride upright instead of sneak across the ground.
We walked along the hallway for a while, Tim whispering about finding survivors or whatever else came to his paranoid mind. He muttered about hearing survivors on a higher floor but it was his strange usage of the word ‘survivors’ that was more my concern as he crept towards the stairs.
He crouch walked up the stairs carefully, trying his best not to look like an idiot and bang his knees on the edge of the stairs. As he sneaked up the stairs, I walked behind him, keeping my careful pace behind him.
There was really something off about him in this way, I don’t know what it was but it does seem as if he was a completely different person. Although he seemed to think that it was a bear or an animal, there was clearly something off of about in this state and it was as if someone flipped a switch in his brain, sending him into a state of mind where he thought he was fighting an army or a greater threat and it was him against the world. To him right now, I felt as if I was a tool to be used in the situation, the serious version of the person that posts the ‘all you need at the end of the world is someone who runs slower than you’. You could see in his eyes that he was a different person, you could see it in how he walked, talked, acted, and moved; everything about him showed that he was a completely different person. He was an unpredictable predictability in this state and I didn’t like it.
As we reached the end of the stairs, we found ourselves in another hallway and it was very much the same as the one that was before it. There really wasn’t anything wrong with it, it looked to be an exact replica as the one downstairs from the stairs. However, when I stepped into the light of the hallway, Tim pulled me back like I was a puppy running into a road. My trainers squeaked loudly on dry polish that still plagued the floors. The hallway remained quiet. There was nothing. Not even a sound. Looking back at Tim, he looked at me as if I was the crazy person for walking into the hallway. Quickly, Tim crouch-walked around the corner and carefully looked around the sides, looking along the hallway as if he was a sniper.
Tim took a moment to walk away from the corner, carefully walking into the hallway like a predator after a piece of prey with broken legs. However, I simply followed him like putting the idiot before the master, and we walked down the hall to where he thought he heard the survivors. Carefully, he crept close to the door, hugging his back to the wall, and knocked on it carefully. There was no response, so he knocked again but there was still no response. He grabbed a hold of the handle, yanked it down. Opening the door, a smell flew out into the hallway like bolts from a crossbow and it smacked into my nose. It was the smell of old pennies mixed with dust bunnies and just general hotel room smell; bleach, polish, mop water, and all the rest second-rate cleaning supplies.
Tim kneeled down, back into his predatory mode once again, and walked around to look into the doorway. As soon as his eyes hit whatever was in that room, he fell back onto his behind and hit the floor with a loud thud.
I looked around the corner and saw the bodies, mashed and mangled into the corners of the kitchen with the table used as a terrible defense against whatever had been the room. There weren’t soldiers, they weren’t hunters, they weren’t anyone. They were only tourists, dressed for the heat they weren’t used to and for the sun they wanted to tan their snow-white skin in. No body armor or ghillie suits, only knee-long shorts and mismatched bikini tops. They were only tourists and they had been eaten alive. Their faces were mangled, broken, and crushed almost like they had sledgehammers dropped on their faces. Their limbs were ripped away and stolen from their bodies, it looked like when someone ripped a leg from a whole chicken. Despite their mangled and broken faces, they looked in pain and their remaining eyes, caked in gore, told the same story that George’s face had told of – the emotions of someone being attacked by something that they didn’t understand but knowing that they were going to die.
I breathed, closing my eyes, and reaching for the handle. I grabbed it firmly and slammed the door shut.
As the door echoed throughout the hotel, there was the soft tapping from further down the hall. Not a soft tapping, it was the soft tapping that I had heard throughout the building before. Tim looked around, thinking that the tapping was nervous survivors or people that were locked in their rooms for help. Silently I walked over to the stairs and grabbed Tim’s shoulder, pulling him towards the stairs. He looked as if he wanted to whisper something to me but as soon as he saw my face, he shut his mouth and followed me towards the stairs.
Silently, we wandered down the stairs and tried out best to get away from the tapping sound. As we got onto the ground floor hallway, there was nothing in the hallway and it seemed as if they hadn’t made it down onto the ground floor yet. Foot over foot, Tim wandered over towards the reception and I followed along with him, listening to the floors above for the steps, and we slowly rounded towards the reception doors. Yet, there was the smell of old pennies again as the two glass doors were slightly opened and it wafted towards us like the bane of our lives. Tim slowly peeked around the corner and, despite the sounds of his body wanting to reveal his lunch to the floor, he stared into the room for a good five seconds, whispering that there was no animal in there but there were bodies.
Holding his shoulder with my hand, I slowly pulled myself along the floor and stared over his shoulder. There were three bodies in the lobby but I would never think to call them that as they were chewed, destroyed, and mangled. They all had jackets with both the Greek and English for police but it was hard to read them as the dark blue of their jackets contrasted heavily with the brown crimson of their dried blood. The three bodies all had varying destruction done to them; one was missing the legs, arms, and head all ripped off and gone like caps from bottles, one was missing its legs which had been eaten like someone who simply took a massive bite out of a piece of pork belly, and one was simply missing its head, it looked almost as if it was done to simply kill him and not food. The headless corpse didn’t look like it had been eaten, it looked as if the head was ripped off for maximum agony to the person yet their screams were unheard. It was a horrid sight to look at.
Looking away from the bodies, I saw the outside car park and there was a police car parked outside. It looked like a Trabant, an old communist car, except painted two colors of bright sun white and bright sea blue and with a set of flashing lights on top. The plastic car body shined in the sun, beaming light off of its material like a search light, and I tapped Tim to show him. As soon as he saw it, he almost began to sprint towards it in his still crouch-walk pose and, before I could even start walking after him, he was already popping open the door.
As I reached the car, he tapped the keys that were still in the ignition and they jiggled like wind chimes, those little notes felt like music to my ears in that way. We climbed into the cramped car and felt the separate wheels go up and down as their suspension shuddered and jittered. As we shut the doors, the inside of the car smelled like cigarettes, drunkards, and constant sweat. Despite this being a police car, there was no radio but there was a mounted phone on the dashboard with a stopped group call on it and, if this was any other situation, I would laugh a little about an island so small that the police had a Facebook group to ask for back-up. Next to the steering wheel, there was a cold war era-looking switch and the wires that ran away from them, they seemed to connect to the flashing lights on the roof.
Tim quickly yanked the key in the ignition and the car spurted to life like we were plugging back in a life support machine. Tim quickly slammed his foot down on the pedal and the car quickly shot into reverse, spinning into the road. Tim quickly slapped the steering wheel down, swinging us onto the left side of the road. Despite the closed windows and encased plastic, I could hear the tapping in the hotel. They were alerted to the sound outside. Slapping the gear stick, Tim forced the car into a gear and started to speed down the road.
“We are going to the airport,” he said as if it was the plan all along.
I couldn’t fault him for the plan, the plan felt almost solid and it was the place I wanted to get to as to be able to get out of here, off of this god-forsaken Island. With any luck, there would still be a few planes there and, if there are others heading to the airport, they could easily allow us on their plane and let us go. Going to the airport really felt like a fool-proof plan and that is what we were destined to do, go to the airport.
As we passed by the little shops and the little restaurants, bars, and all the rest, we couldn’t see another person in any of those buildings and there was no one on the street. Although there was no tapping anymore, there was also no sound at all and the silence was scarier than hearing the hustle and bustle of a city as there was no sound of bird song, cricket chirping, or people that were going about their days. It was eerie, I didn’t like it at all, and there was nothing at all to focus my attention on. All there was were the lack of people, even that was scarier than the lack of sound.
The shops thinned out quickly, disappearing back into a landscape with a mixture of rock, grass, and dirty sand. Half-remembering where the airport was, I recalled it was behind the hills and lumps of the island, hidden away as if the island couldn’t handle anymore modern than plumbing and piping. Quickly, turning the car off onto a dirt road, we sped away from the road and the hills slowly disappeared into flat land. The airport appeared and, at the very end of the visible runway, a small plane was seated, similar to the drug planes that were seen in movies.
The airport was smaller than the only runway and it looked about the size of a supermarket but not a very good one, one that was made in the 80s where supermarkets weren’t the superpower that they were to local communities. Everything in the airport seemed to be squished for efficiency, everything from baggage drop-off, baggage claim, passport control, security, off-duty, and everything a modern airport should need.
As we neared the airport, the small plane started its propellers and sped towards the end of runway. Tim and I started to mutter and shout swear words as Tim pushed the pedal to the car’s carpet as the plane started to speed towards the end of the runway. Yet, even before we could reach the airport parking, the plane was in the sky. It disappeared towards into the clouds as Tim slammed on the brakes outside of the airport yet it wasn’t to get out, it was to slap the dashboard and yell like a chimpanzee for a minute or so. I let him do it, simply seeing his rage impact the soft plastic of the poorly made car, and, after a while, he stopped and started to breathe to calm himself down.
Tim looked at me and muttered, “a plane will be back soon, we can just stay in the airport until then.”
We would live in the airport, cook the fast food in the Greek fast food, wear their airport clothes, drink their water, and sleep where we damn well pleased in that airport. Yet, as we did and we waited for another airplane, all I could hear is the tapping.
Throughout every day and night, there was tapping on the walls, on the windows, on the doors, and in every possible place. There was only tapping. Tap, tap, tap.
There was no airplane, only tapping.
Credit: Ryan Matthew Plant
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