The thing under the bed

Donald shut down the door of his room and threw his wallet against the big mirror. Who could still believe in universal harmony when everything that could go wrong, went wrong? It was Friday at 11:30PM. Three hours ago he was arriving to Las Vegas for his first time. Three hours ago Valerie was giving him a wink when the receptionist assumed they were spending their honeymoon in the luxury suite with a heart-shaped bed. Three hours ago he had some $11,000 in his bank account… Now he didn’t have anything: he lost all of his money and Valerie just left him in the middle of his gambling frenzy, accurately envisioning how his obsession would replace the promise of a romantic first date in this city of temptation.

Donald took the bottle of cheap scotch out of the paper bag, had a sip of its amber content and soon felt like beating a dragon on a fire-spitting contest. Valerie’s bags weren’t there, and neither were the car keys, but her scent was still there, intruding his senses like a recriminatory reminder of his ridiculous behaviour. Wasn’t that really unfair? If she took the car then she should’ve taken everything with her, including her smell! Encouraged by his self-pity, Donald had a couple of gulps that threw him into a state of advanced hypnosis. He turned all the lights off and sat down on the end of the heart-shaped bed. His empty eyes stared at the image of himself and the kaleidoscope of promotional signs that overlapped on the window of his room. The night seemed to adopt two different speeds on the each side of the glass. On the outside, colours were racing and colliding, generating ephemeral shapes that then transformed again in more colours and more and different shapes, creating a vertiginous cycle. On the inside, the darkness of the room swallowed each of those shapes and colours with the same pace a dark quicksand would dispose of a helpless creature.

Donald didn’t notice that he had fallen asleep. He didn’t even notice that his snore could be heard from the lobby. But somehow he noticed that after a while his front was covered with little pearls of sweat. It took him a good couple of minutes to feel the first drops surfing his cheek. He was in a deplorable state and couldn’t remember whether he was dreaming or having a nightmare. He looked at the window and saw that the city lights were still there and he remembered the orgy of colours and shapes. The mix made him feel sick. He tried to stand up and shut the curtains but realised that a mammothian headache was putting all his weight on his head. He then remembered that the receptionist gave him a credit card-sized remote control that could do almost everything in the room, from switching lights, running a bath, and – why not? – shutting up the window curtains!

He also remembered last seeing his wallet by the mirror and started exploratory excursions with his hand under the bed. The touch of the thick carpet somehow soothed him, like a reverse caress. He kept doing that for a while, almost forgetting the reason of his search. Suddenly his index finger got trapped in something that felt like a mouth, but was cold. “Shit!” he yelled withdrawing his hand like if he was smashing a fly with a sandal. “What the hell was that?” Donald was scared. His finger still sensed the bite but he couldn’t associate that sensation with anything he knew. Whatever it was, it was solid like wood or hard plastic. Was it just an open box that bit him? But then he remembered quite distinctively the shape of a tongue. And teeth! In the blackness of the room, his hand searched the night table for the lamp switch. He found a box of matches. Donald lit a match and under its spark he saw reflected on the mirror a big eye staring at him from underneath his heart-shaped bed. “Fuck!” he thought this time. A body was under his bed and from all he could tell that body was dead. Without daring to strike another match, Donald hid under the blankets.

His mind was like a frenetic slideshow of thoughts and feelings. Was Valerie safe? Was it her body? No, no, no, it’s some sort of animal. An animal? In Las Vegas? Was it a coyote, an armadillo, or just a cat? Whatever it was, why was it dead, in his room, under his bed! He needed to do something. He didn’t want to call reception. He could imagine the succession of events that would lead him to the police station, and then thrown to the cops like a naked lamb in the lions’ cage. Nothing more appetising for those LVMPD uniforms than a drunk out-of-towner with no money and a corpse in the room. He couldn’t make a call to anyone until he was certain of what was under the bed.

He tried again to find the switch of the lamp. He put his hand behind the night table and touched something that felt like a cable. His finger followed it until they finally found the switch. His heart was beating really loud. Was he ready? He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and turned the lamp on. Slowly he directed his attention to the part of the mirror where he saw the reflected eye. Before trying to put his head directly below the bed, he tried to find out more about the thing. It was still quite dark below the bed but he could see a second eye and the shape of a head, a human head! Strangely enough, the eyes and the shape of the head looked familiar. His heart beat faster. He took the lamp and lowered it near the bed.

Then he finally saw it. His whole body instantly burst into a nervous laughter that made him fall out of bed and roll like a log all over the room. He kept laughing and rolling back and forward for a couple of minutes until he stopped right under the bed and next to the thing.

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