A Little Hole in the Wall
By: Dawn DeBraal

Penang Island, Malaysia
Gurney Hotel 9:30 P.M.


Kia stood at the front desk waiting for the key to her room. It was ninety degrees this late in the evening. She wasn't able to get a view of the sandy beaches Penang was known for. This was a work trip, but she knew before she left, she would get some beach time and wanted to do the trail of murals. So many talented people on this small island.

She pulled her long hair away from her shoulders clasping it into a ponytail. The hotel claimed to have air conditioning, but it sure didn't keep up with the humidity.

"Room #1313, the elevator is to your left. I hope you have a pleasant stay with us, Miss. Harper." Kia took the key and thanked the man at the desk who had already disappeared. So much for finding out where the conference was taking place.

The elevator was slow to climb when it opened on the thirteenth floor. Kia was not a superstitious woman, she never cared about those kinds of things, but did note all of the doors on this floor had modern key cards. Was it odd the man had given her a physical skeleton key? Several attempts were made before she was able to get the old-fashioned lock to open. The hinges squeaked loudly as if they hadn't been used in a while. Kia cringed wondering how many people she might have awakened.

The room was musty. Disappointed, Kia went to the air conditioning unit turning it on full force. She was exhausted from the long flight. At least the meeting was in the hotel, somewhere. Small favors.

The painting on the wall was of a Tamil woman holding a skull in her arms. She was wearing a Baju Kurung of songket in a beautiful local pattern. Kia studied the painting for a moment or two, wondering why the artist felt they should paint a skull in the woman's arms cradled like a baby. Local superstition? It was creepy.

"That is strange," she said to herself putting her suitcase on a bag holder beneath the painting, knocking it off the wall in the process. Kia cried out when the painting hit the floor, breaking the frame. What was worse than the broken frame, was the hole in the wall the painting had been hiding.

She looked closer into the jagged opening and saw nothing. There was no way to put the painting back up with the frame in that condition. She called down to the front desk to report her accident. The phone rang repeatedly without being answered.

The front desk clerk watched as room #1313 rang. No one ever answered the phone when that room lit up on the switchboard. There was never anyone there, it was haunted, they never booked that room. She walked away from the blinking light.

Kia put the phone down. Exhausted from her flight, she decided to go to bed. After showering she put on a pair of shorts and tank top. The air conditioning didn't keep up in the room, so she switched it off and opened the window that only moved out so far. Kia could hear the ocean. Perhaps that would lull her to sleep, she turned off the light.

A baby cried.

Kia sat up hearing the distinct cry of a newborn. Who would travel to a hotel with a newborn, she wondered? The baby was not being tended to, for it continued to cry becoming more animated. Kia got out of bed circling the room trying to pinpoint the noise and realized the noise was coming through the little hole in the wall, where the picture had been.

She put her eye back to the hole, it was pitch black, but the noise was louder. Kia didn't want to add to the mother's stress or to the noise, so she didn't say anything. Perhaps the hole was in an old air vent and the noise traveled up from another floor?

The baby quieted down, she climbed back into bed. It was one thirty in the morning. Tossing and turning she went to the bathroom to wash her face; she was still sweating. God it was hot here. She wished she had a view of the sea and could feel the breezes but wasn't able to upgrade. The man at the front desk told her all the rooms were booked for the conference. Perhaps in a day or two, another room would open.

The water ran tepid. She put the cloth under the slow stream then pressed the cloth against her face, feeling it slide. How could she sweat that much? Kia flipped on the light gasping when she discovered her face was covered with blood.

"What the hell?" Kia lifted her hair from her forehead seeing a big gash. How could she not have felt that? A flash, a vision.

The man came to her on the sidewalk holding a parang, a curved machete with a pounded blade that went from narrow to wide. The wooden handle in his hand was intricately carved. She heard a woman screaming and saw the man swinging. Blood ran down the drain as she continued to mop her head.

Was that a memory or a dream?

The cut no longer bled. When had she hurt herself? She lay a towel over her pillow.

The baby cried again.

God would this night ever end? Kia's bare feet padded over to the hole in the wall, peeking inside seeing nothing, but now heard a woman's voice. She cried as if she were inconsolable, and it crushed Kia's heart.

When the woman cried, the baby stopped. Coincidence? She couldn't take it anymore. Kia reached inside the hole grabbing a handful of sheet rock she tore it away.

Dust and the overpowering smell of mildew assailed her nose. She broke off another chunk grabbing the garbage can and carried it to place it under the hole. Soon the tiny garbage can was filled, she pulled out the plastic bag. The evening of sleep was lost now, and curiosity got the best of her.

She carried another receptacle from the bathroom. She had a sizable hole now. Kia went back to her suitcase and took out the penlight she always carried when she traveled and shined the light into the hole. The smell was strong of pickles. The light shone on a woman who sat behind the wall crying.

"My God, how long have you been in here?" Kia pulled more of the plaster away. The woman looked up hissing. Her head detached from her body flying out of the wall. Kia hit the floor as the head continued out the open window.

She panted trying to get her heart out of her throat. Finding courage Kia shined the light in the hole, aiming it on the floor. Tiny skeletons of babies, not one, but many.

Penang Galan came to her mind.

Kia had read something on the plane about local superstitions of this culture. A woman vampire whose head flies off. They only sought women in labor or babies.

Kia raced to the phone to make another phone call, a plea for help. The desk clerk watched the phone light up as it rang. She ignored the call when she saw it was room 1313.

"Dammit what is wrong with this place?" Kia pulled on her robe grabbing her key. She went down to the lobby.

Three in the morning, no one was attending the front desk. Kia struck the little bell several times. She had had it and went around to the swinging door that allowed the clerk to enter and exit. She was going to give them a piece of her mind. What kind of hotel ignored their guests?

Two women sat at a table sipping cups of white coffee. She almost spoke out, but then heard the woman telling her co-worker.

"It was awful. I was coming into work just before nine, when a lelaki came up from behind the American woman. He swung his parang first cutting her on the forehead, blood gushed all over.

Kia felt a wave of nausea reliving the first cut, the one on her forehead that covered her face in blood.

"Then the second cut beheaded her."

"That is a terrible story," said the other clerk. "When did that happen?"

"Before you started, months ago."

"So, she had no head?" The other clerk moved her head side to side.

"He decapitated her. The head rolled on the sidewalk, I screamed and everyone in the lobby came out to see the horror I witnessed." Kia felt around her neck. Another fleeting memory. A large cut. She stuck her finger in it and traced it around her neck. Were the women talking about her?

She saw the man in the lobby, the one who checked her in, she left the ladies in the break room.

"The room you gave me is unsatisfactory!" The man stood there in his work uniform and smiled exposing his vampire fangs.

"It is not to your liking? You've been there for months, and only now you say you are dissatisfied? It's a good location I have given you. Lots of feeding opportunities."

"Feeding opportunities? What do you mean? I haven't eaten since I got here."

"Quite the contrary madam. You have accumulated several small corpses in the wall. You did not recognize yourself when you flew out to feed? We had to slow you down. The birth rate was going down on the island, you are a greedy woman.

"No!" Kia screamed, surely the women in the break room would hear her and come to her rescue. Through the open lobby door, a head with flowing entrails, flew in slamming into Kia like she was a docking bay.

"No!" she screamed again with the realization. She saw it now. Kia had never made it into the hotel. She remembered the man accosting her on the street with the parang, cutting her head off after biting her. He made her into one like him. She remembered when he walled her into the room hanging the picture over the tiny hole he'd left.

Room #1313 was a portal. Kia looked down seeing a small infant in her arms. It was a skeleton.

"No, my God, no." The humanity left in her, saw what she was. Putting the infant on the floor, she stepped away, looking at the man dressed as a clerk. He didn't work at the hotel, only happened to be there when she was checking in to the other side. The man had recognized her for what she was, a Penang Galan.

THE END

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