Short Story: Room No. 2

“Though destiny a hundred times waylays you, in the end it pitches a tent for you in Heaven. It is God’s loving kindness to terrify you, in order to lead you to His Kingdom of safety.” – Rumi

Helping people relive their dreams must be something incredible. Not many possess such magical traits. But I do.  Now now, don’t throw your unwanted skepticism at me. I’m sticking to my wand. Go see for yourself.

Opposite the glorious Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, there is a ghastly hotel made as if only to magnify the mosque’s beauty with its own hideousness.  Its decaying interior and loathsome hotel staff might put you off at first glance.  Don’t take it to heart. Make your way inside and specifically ask for Room No. 2.  Normally, a person of your decent demeanor would never visit the likes of this place. Its usual clientele ranges from people with hardly any money to those with unwarranted amounts of it; from self-righteous hypocrites to honest muggers; the variety is astounding.  You however, are here on a mission to prove me wrong, so you need not worry. Proceed further. Oh, just make sure you spend the night. It will not take long to convince you of my sorcery.

A slim silhouette cast a hesitant shadow on the corner wall across the hotel. He awkwardly crossed the road clad in a blue polo shirt with faded black pants and shoes destined to rest in peace in a shoe graveyard. A cheap imitation of a shiny Rolex glistened on his wrist as he abruptly came to a stop next to a dimming lamp post. Wiping off beads of sweat, he heaved a desperate sigh and continued to walk. His reluctance and  fear betrayed naivety and inexperience. He stopped midway and hurriedly took out his wallet. While frantically searching for something, he dropped a small picture of a boy with a toothless grin emanating like a rainbow after a rainstorm. Beside him, sat another little girl on the lap of a plump, pretty woman wearing a yellow cotton shalwar kameez and a content shimmer in her eyes. He found what he was looking for and tucked the picture safely back where it belonged. The next few steps led him to his undesired location.

A wrinkled old hand handed him keys to his room. The number ‘2’ had a missing tale and looked like the right half of a heart. The young man shook his head at the absurdity of such a random thought and hurriedly grabbed the keys.

The putrid odour in the room was overwhelming. He was however too preoccupied to even notice. He raced towards the bedside table and shakily took out a small brown package from it.  He paced the floor whilst sneaking fearful glances at his watch and the package; his pupils oscillating back and forth like a rabid rocking horse. The clock struck twelve and out came the cookoo. Knock knock knock! To his disgust the opened door revealed the man who had handed him the keys earlier on. The old man’s abrupt act of hospitality implied some not-so subtle means of entertainment at such an ungodly hour of the night. The young man slammed the door without another word.

The fruits of a hard day’s work of lying and deceit eventually bore fruit. The wait was excruciating. His overtired brain cells ran out of power and within minutes he was asleep. He dreamt of his wife and children laughing and talking over a delicious dinner of lentils and roti (bread). His pleasant dream was rudely interrupted by a deafening sound outside the door. Sounds of gunfire reverberated as intensely as a corpse’s stare. He realized his awful mistake.  He had been caught. He walked over to the corner of the room and stood with trembling legs, waiting for the door to be kicked down.

The door opened and all he saw was his youngest child covered in blood.

He woke up gasping for air like a dying fish on land. Where was he? A dream within a dream? Was he going insane? As he frantically sprang from bed, his hand brushed past the cursed package leading to a stretch of detestable memories! It all came flooding back like a deluge of ants. An insatiable urge to omit his middle class status; a dangerous attempt to make some quick money; a petrified man haunted by a dutiful conscience.

Suddenly out of nowhere, a strange smile appeared on his lips. He was alive. His family was waiting back home and that meant more to him than all the money in the world! He realized the only thing that truly mattered was what he already had. He was living his dream. The key chain with the demented number ‘2’ stubbornly danced the waltz as he slammed the door shut and ran all the way back to his home.

So, are you convinced now? I told you I can make people relive their dreams. Tell anyone who still doubts, to visit Room No. 2 at this hotel. Oh, just make sure they spend the night.

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