Foreign House: Eight

FRIDAY

I awake in a panic and reach for my watch. It’s only 6.30am. I was sleeping so deeply, I assumed that I had overslept.

Cindy stirs next to me, “What?” she groans.

“Nothing. I just thought I’d overslept.”

“Let me oversleep please,” she says before drifting away again.

The countryside is supposed to be quiet, but it’s more than that. The room is muffled. Everything feels smothered. I slide out of the bed. My knees and hips audibly pop when I stand up.

>Be me
>41yo who looks after his health
>Swing kettle bells
>Hike
>Eat grass fed beef two times per week
>Eat oily fish three times per week
>Organic chicken only
>Fresh root vegetables and greens with every meal
>Drink water
>Bring dried vegetable supplement to work trip in case I can’t get sufficient portions
>Swallow 4 vitamin tablets every day including krill oil
>Meditate often
>Joints still creaking
>Body still falling apart
>Still dying at the same speed as everyone else
>What do frens?

I peek through the drapes. A strange, greyish brightness stings my eyes. The sun hasn’t even risen yet, but the landscape is covered two inches, maybe three inches, of perfect snow.

The precipitation has stopped, but the sky looks ready to burst again. Swirling thick grey and cream overcast, like unpasteurised milk.

Shit. So much for going back down to the beach.

I consider getting back into bed but I can sense something. Like a lose thread inside a wool hat, it is flicking against my brain, begging for attention.

I think about waking Cindy, asking if she can feel it too, but she looks like she is enjoying sleeping normal hours too much.

I grab the key and head out of the room. The slower and quieter I try to close the door, the louder the hinge screams. I give up and pull it shut with a thud. Then I pad down the three flights of stairs to the wide joining corridor that connects the two wings with the central block. I can see the reception. It seems unattended. Perhaps the morning shift can’t get here. I wonder if the bellhop who checked us in is still here, if he is working through the day to cover.

The loose thread in my brain is now thicker and itchier. Whatever is pulling me, is in the facilities wing. I walk past a few doors, different sitting rooms and what looks like the route to the spa facilities, then stop outside a door with brass plate at eye height which reads, HUNTERS WHISKY BAR. Behind the door I can hear the faint din of voices. I reach for the handle then stop. What is going wrong me? It’s probably just the morning shift, team meeting that I’m sensing. One spooky experience on the beach and I’m imagining things that aren’t there.

I pull my hand away. Someone opens it from the other side. He is dressed in a wax jacket over a tweet blazer and button down shirt. He has some sort of khaki pantaloons and muddy, brogue walking boots on.

He takes a clay pipe out of his mouth, “What’s the matter, boy?” He spits the word boy. I am too shocked to respond, we look the same age.

“I’m sorry, I thought we were the only group in the hotel. I didn’t realise there was a hunting party here,” I look him up and down. “Or recreation group.” His face twists. I can feel disgust seeping through his creased eyes. What is happening here? Is this an act?

“Who is it, Ephraim?” a shrill voice from behind him asks.

“Some darkie. Seems to think we shouldn’t be here.”

“He’s probably the house slave, Ephraim. Leave him alone. Dickie let us have this room as a favour. He probably hasn’t been told.”

“Indeed,” he grunts. He puts his pipe back into his mouth, looks me up and down disapprovingly, then closes the door softly in my face.

After a few seconds I realise I haven’t moved. Nobody has been racist to my face since I was in high-school. This must be some sort of historical recreation act and they must think I am part of it. Nobody expresses racism this openly anymore. Even white supremacists, if you can actually find one, don’t speak like this.

I chuckle at how archaic the insults were, so much so that they’re difficult to take seriously. Darkie and house slave. It must be play, offensive because of its clumsiness not intent. If they were actually trying to insult me, they wouldn’t have used terms that have been so defanged by time.

I walk back to the room in a bit of daze. When I get there I find Cindy, drowned in one of the room’s bathrobes, looking out of the window at the snow.

She turns to me, “Had a look around the hotel?”

“Not exactly, I felt something downstairs.”

“I felt it too. What was it?”

“You won’t believe it.” I explain what happened.

“Report those fuckers,” she says.

“Nah.”

“Why not?”

“I just… it was so ridiculous, I can’t believe it was malicious.”

“Could you sense anything?”

“Yes, disgust, from the man at least. But maybe I was wrong.” Cindy gives me a sceptical look. “Cindy, it was so ridiculous. Who calls someone a darkie, if they actually want to offend them?” Cindy doesn’t look convinced. “Maybe you had to be there. Honestly, it was so… outdated. What they were wearing, the things they were saying, they must’ve thought I was part of some game they were playing. If I see them around the hotel today, I’ll say something to them. Tell them to cool it.” She seems satisfied by that. “It already feels like it wasn’t real,” I say, half to myself.

“How do you mean?”

“It feels like a memory from childhood, that I can’t be sure is reliable or not. Even though it only happened five minutes ago.”

“That’s how I feel about what happened on the beach last night.” I step towards her and give her a cuddle. “What time is breakfast?” she mumbles into my solar plexus.”

“9.30, you ready to meet my workmates?”

“Plenty of time then,” she says. Still hugging me, she rocks from side to side, waddling the two of us over to the bed like linked penguins.

*

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