I wake suddenly.
I had heard a knock?
My mind is in dreamland and it takes a moment to swirl back to place and remember. I am in a jungle.
I’m in a small hotel, the rooms running on the right-hand side down a long corridor. I’m number ten, at the end.
I lay there unsure if I heard anything at all. Maybe it was a dream. But my heart is thumping and my adrenals have kicked in. It feels like there are small little hands squeezing my oesophagus. Under the skin of my neck.
I lay there in the darkness. It is very very dark. The curtains are drawn and a soft light from somewhere outside shows me they are a heavy red. I hadn’t noticed them when I checked in. What an unusual colour choice.
It is an unusual hotel. There is only one person at the front desk who communicates through pointing and eyebrow movements. There is a cleaner who comes to clean far too early and whom I’ve also spotted in the garden hacking with large, metal scissors. I’ve seen no other staff. My thoughts drift and I begin to think about why I’m here in this country. In the jungle.
Six sharp knocks.
My heart leaps. It is real. Who is knocking? Who is knocking this late at night? It’s not a friendly knock. It is not that dancing ‘I’m here, my friend’ tune. It’s not familiar. It is almost angry. Knock knock knock knock knock knock. Is it a person? A machine?
It feels menacing. And it sounds louder than before.
I want to drift back to sleep but my blood is swooshing and pumping hard all around me, throbbing in my joints. I am completely alert. I lay there and take out an ear plug. I’m sure it was someone. The hotel is strange. There are large, empty, water-jug features with a dank mouldy stench that protrude from the ferns along the path to a small swimming pool that has an old, splintery sun bed beside it. There are lots of insects that nip. During the day the jungle is bright, green and stunning; but at night, it feels feral, and fierce. There is a constant buzzing of animals and creatures with wings. With wild sounds coming from it’s dark bowls.
I think about who I have seen here. A young Russian couple and another who are look like they are taking a trip away from their kids. No one you’d expect to have late-night drop-ins. The hotel is at the end of a dirt road in a small village on an Indonesian island that has a brutal tribal history. The village felt wounded when I was driven through it, only two days ago. The native boy at the desk had dark rings under his eyes. He looked ancient.
Six sharp knocks.
Six? Somebody let that person in. It feels angrier? Why are they still outside? Why won’t someone let them in? Is the noise closer or is it because I took my ear plugs out? I’m feeling really scared. Six calculated knocks, timed perfectly apart. What if it was a person?
I imagine short legs and a bulky backside, with a short straight back. A small man with a tricksy, orange twirled-beard and an old, dirty brown top-hat. He’s got curly toes and weird sticks coming out of his elbows through his strange clothes. I don’t get a good vibe from this creature-man. His knocks are strange and they are scaring me.
I sit up and look around the room. There is nothing here that wasn’t before. A desk, a lamp, a small cupboard with my bag at the bottom and a swirly black-and-beige painting on the wall that a local artist had put minimal effort into.
I lay back onto my pillow. There is nothing I can do. I don’t want to go outside. The reception isn’t manned. It closes at 8pm but it’s a religious holiday and all the staff are back in their villages tonight. There is no one here. So who is knocking?
Are they inside a room? Outside? They sound outside. But there are only five people here, that leaves seven empty rooms. Why is no one answering the door?
I hear it again.
My heart is in my eyeballs. I kick the sheets off. I’m hot. The jungle is hot. The creature is outside. Maybe it’s a monkey? Maybe it’s a monkey on the roof with a coconut? Maybe it’s a monkey that plays tricks. I keep envisioning the crooky man. With the crazed red eyes and the twirled moustache and the strange long beard who shuffles with small, dwarf-life legs out of a scary fairytale and down the hallway. Breathing. He comes closer. And he is now at room number five. He is halfway down.
The corridor is a dead end. I am the dead end. I am the last door.
The next morning when I walked down the stinky pool-path to catch some rays by mosquito-heaven, I realised the six sharp knocks was from the pool pump.
And that I definitely need to do something about my anxiety.