Short Story

WPM #3: Business As Usual

As he took in the view from the twentieth floor, the lights went out all over the city. He could see all of the businesses, hotels and homes around the city retreat into the darkness of the sky. Orange streetlamps were among them like fireflies. Zurich was like no other, operating on clockwork and instinct – the people knew their routines. Faisal stayed by the balcony, sipping his espresso and took in the sights of people disappearing for the night. The wind started to dance so he retreated back into his overly warm hotel room.

US time was fast approaching, he had a meeting to make. He didn’t change out of the suit he wore to the fancy uptown Marriott hotel his company arranged for him. Nevertheless, he grabbed a bottle of fresh-looking Swiss water and a banana from his welcome hamper and set them down on the desk, overlooking the large double-doors leading to the balcony. Dusk had approached so he turned as many of his room lights on as possible. Faisal grabbed his Macbook Pro from his suitcase and pulled the charger alongside it. As he sat down, he untangled an unruly set of earphones from his pocket and sat down. Opening the lid of his Macbook, he saw his own dark eyes watching him back. He used the screen to adjust his brown locks and hit the power button. Sighing, he checked his Apple Watch, he was going to be on time.

The meeting was uneventful. The usual buzzwords were thrown about, can we get an update on this, how do we feel about that, when can we expect to hear more this. Faisal paid full attention and his trusty black Moleskin notebook was splattered in memos and notes he was eager to type up and share with the team. It was getting to 9pm and he had some calls to make tomorrow around town for the company, so he figured food and sleep would be on the agenda.

He stood up and stretched. Yawning again, it hit him how tired he was. To be so young and to have travelled the whole world, jetlag never seemed to escape him. His phone vibrated, so he unplugged it from the charger he put it in when he first arrived. It was his mother, on Facetime.

”There’s my handsome son!” She was holding the phone at an angle. Her glasses were on so she could see the picture in full HD, a large scarf around her head, masking the many, many greying whites that were starting to show.

Faisal chucked. ”Yeah, it’s me. I’m here, it’s beautiful. I’ll show you in the morning!”

He showed her around his over-the-top exec room and all of it’s bells and whistles. She laughed and shared her own stories of what’s happened since Faisal left her clutches in Manchester. She asked if he ate and he made promises to.

It’s his mum that keeps him humble. He’s a child with her, she’s an imposing woman with strict principles and ideas – no matter how far he goes, she’s there.

Except for now. He hung up, and plugged his phone back in. Maybe she’ll let him be eventually. Putting his shoes back on, he prepares to trek to the restaurant downstairs for dinner.

Grabbing his keycards, he makes it out of the room. The lifts are somewhere to the left, so he heads off in that direction.

It’s quiet in the hotel at this time. The exec suites are a lot more quiet anyway, with not that many families or such to be seen running around. He reaches the lift and presses the button for down. It responds in like. G, 1, 2, 3…


Faisal glances over his shoulder. He sees a man leaving a room directly opposite the lift, on the other end of the corridor.

9, 10, 11, 12

There’s soft, slow, insulated footsteps. Faisal absentmindedly turns around again. His eyes widen in response this time.

The man is dragging what looks like a mannequin. No, as they approach, it becomes clear…

16, 17, 18, 19

Faisal hears the ping of the lift. The man looks up. Everything about the man is pristine except the eyes. They’re red rimmed and bloodshot. And now, angry.

Faisal skips into the lift and slams the G button, followed by the shut doors button. As the doors inch closer and closer, the gap between Faisal and the stranger also grows closer and closer. He closes his eyes and starts to pray.

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