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The Devil's Room (a fairy tale)

The Devil's Room (a fairy tale)

A maid in a Mexican resort becomes captivated by the legend of Room 809, called "The Devil's Room" by locals because of the suite's mysterious, deadly history.

7

Action / Adventure


author-small

Travis Kennedy (United States)


Cristabelle knew that she wasn't supposed to enter Room 819 for the whole month, but she didn't know why. Her shift manager, Rosa, didn't know either; but Rosa wasn't cursed with Crista's dogged curiosity. It had never crossed Rosa's mind to ask why, on November first of every year, the general manager of the Playa de Diamantes hotel would lock the room and leave it that way until December. But Crista had never been one to accept The Way It Is. She couldn’t understand why the aging hotel, struggling enough as it was to compete with the massive new resorts casting shadows over its modest beachfront from either side, would take an expensive top floor suite out of rotation during the busy season.

She knew that if anyone could explain why the room was closed, it would be Manuel. The sixty year old busboy had worked a dozen jobs at The Beach Diamond over the years, and he had taken a shine to her. She caught Manny on his break, all three hundred pounds of him perched delicately, somehow, on a plastic chair in the kitchen.

"Manny, can I ask you about something?" She asked. The busboy smiled.

"I live to serve you, pequeña princesa." Manny wheezed. He had taken to calling Crista "little princess," because she reminded him of the poor little girls in fairy tales who turn out to have been a princess all along. She was beautiful and confident despite growing up in poverty, an orphan raised by her grandmother in the slums of Cozumel.

"Why is Room 819 closed all month?" She asked. Manny put down his magazine and looked at her suspiciously.

"Room 819?" Manny said. "I thought you grew up on Cozumel. You don't know about room 819? La habitación del diablo?"

"The Devil's Room?" Crista said.

"That's the room where the people always fall," Manny said. "Sit down, Cristabelle, and I'll tell you about it." Crista pulled up a plastic chair and sat close to Manny, leaning in conspiratorially as he told her the room's history.

Between the hotel opening in 1943 and when they finally sealed the room throughout November in 1981, seven people had fallen from the balcony of Room 819 to their death.

It was the same story, over and over - a guest, standing on the balcony alone at sunset, would unexpectedly topple over the guardrail and fall eight stories onto the concrete roof of the restaurant below. None survived. There was no rhyme or reason to it - some were American, some European, some Mexican. Some were men, some were women. None were depressed, none left notes. The railing had been double-reinforced. And it only happened in November, and only in Room 819.

"Why do you think it happens?" Crista asked. "Why is it the Devil's Room?"

"That room is cursed, little princess," Manny said. "It was the room that Mr. Cordova lived in after he went crazy."

Her grandmother had told her the legend of David Cordova, the man who built the Beach Diamond and one of the only Mexicans to actually own a Mexican resort. His story was an inspiration to the locals; he grew up poor in the same neighborhoods as Crista in the early 1900’s. His parents were buried in the modest cemetery behind her neighborhood. He joined the army in his teens, and vanished for decades. When he returned to Cozumel, Cordova had become mysteriously wealthy; most of the island believed that he amassed his fortune bootlegging into the United States during prohibition.

In the 1940s he built the Beach Diamond. The hotel was one of the first big, elegant resorts on the island, designed in the Old Hollywood style. In the weeks leading up to the grand opening he holed himself up on the top floor, commanding a crew who painted a wild, intricate mural below on the roof of the Diamond's restaurant. Cordova was on the balcony for hours each day, barking instructions at the artists piecing the mural together by his very specific - and bizarre - design. It was a mix of nonsense words and letters, weaved through a maze of expansive palaces and shabby lean-to’s, Aztec Gods, warriors and terrifying creatures large and small.

After the mural was complete, he vanished from the public eye. He took all of his money out of the banks and sold off most of his business interests, liquidating millions of dollars. David Cordova had lived his entire life as a bachelor, and did not have a will; when he died in 1951, no one knew what became of his fortune. It just vanished.

Some believed he had liquidated his money to pay off old debts to the mob. Others, disturbed by his intricate mural, suspected that he gave it all to a cult. But the children liked to believe that he buried it, somewhere on the island.

"It was in November," Manny said, "when he locked himself in that room and painted the mural. Same month the people died, every year."

The story haunted Crista. She worked in a daze as she cleaned the rooms on the eighth floor, hovering around Room 819 for a few extra seconds each time she passed. Finally one day, she opened the door - just to take a peek. She had no intention of stepping inside; she just wanted to see if it looked different somehow. But it was just a guest room, like all the others. The next day she came back, and took one step into the room before leaping back into the hallway. Every day, she wandered a little deeper into the Devil’s Room. By the end of the week, Crista found herself standing on the balcony of Room 819, gazing west toward a stunning Mexican sunset. She took a deep breath and squinted toward the horizon, captivated by the golden ripples of dying sunlight across the wide blue ocean. Her gaze drifted down to Cordova’s masterpiece; and then it happened.

The November sun reached the perfect point in its descent, the spot that it always hit at that time of year and that time of day; just as Mr. Cordova had planned. The sunlight struck a small crystal embedded in the mural at precisely the right angle, creating a concentrated golden beam that shot across the roof like a laser. It struck another stone embedded in the center of a large "8", then passed through the gate of a small building with a cross on the roof that reminded her of the church in her old neighborhood.

The beam stopped again at a small "1," then zapped toward the middle of the roof. It cut through the narrow gap between two fierce lions and stopped at a "9," before changing direction again. It passed up the plane of a seesaw with a crow sitting on each end, turned one more time at a "4," and then steered straight down toward the base of the building, directly beneath her. Crista was hypnotized by the vision; she forgot entirely that she was hovering eight stories above a concrete floor, balanced delicately over a guardrail and following a beam of light that was pulling her attention closer and closer to the tipping point.

And then she leaned too far. She felt her weight shift in an instant, and her stomach leapt forward as her legs lifted off the floor. Her body began to topple over the guardrail, like all of the others before her.

But unlike the others, Cristabelle had taken precautions.

The bedsheet that she had tied around her waist held firm, tethering her to the heavy steel handle on the sliding glass door. And she hung there for a moment, balanced uneasily on the ledge of the railing, gazing below as the golden beam hit its final destination. It lingered on a “3” between two simple gravestones directly beneath her for only a few seconds before it faded and vanished; but she had seen it plenty long enough to understand.

Crista knew, in that moment, that if she walked the same streets from the beach back to the slums that Mr. Cordova walked as a kid growing up poor on Cozumel - past the church, and the Lions' Club building, and that ancient seesaw behind the old elementary school - the same streets that she took back and forth between reality and her job in the gated playground that foreign tourists called "Mexico," she would come through a narrow path to the cemetery where Mr. Cordova's parents were buried. Somewhere in the mausoleum that he built for them years later she would find a lock, and the combination was 81943. And inside that lock would be his treasure.

It was sitting there, comfortable in the shabby neighborhood where they each came of age, waiting patiently to be found by just the right person.

Waiting for a princess.


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The build-up was intriguing and I felt the tension mounting with each word.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Your strong opening was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
I enjoyed this re-telling of a fairy tale. I was intrigued from the outset at what mysteries lay within Room 819. I could visualise the hotel, the room and surrounds through the descriptive narrative. The discovery made by Cristabelle and her ingenuity in solving the mystery made me want to read more about the true meaning of the numbers and I found myself wanting to get to the bottom of the story also. I particularly enjoyed the surprise at the end, in revealing the storyteller. A clever conclusion.

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
Wonderful, gripping story. I loved it

Review 3:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Connect us to your main protagonist with a deeper characterization. Could your protagonist have a few more distinguishing character traits?
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The build-up was intriguing and I felt the tension mounting with each word.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Great stories, nowadays, start with a powerful opening line and compelling hook in order to keep the reader engaged. Have you baited the reader enough?
General comments from your fellow writer 3:
Great creative writing piece. I could read this everyday. Good work.