Sugar sits, alone and waiting, in a dark hotel room. She’s been waiting for forty minutes to meet a man, a client. She thinks of clients as friends, and of what she does in this hotel room as simply a meeting. This friend is named Bertrand, and she wonders what he will be like.

Sugar hears steps in the hallway. The doorknob turns, the door opens slowly, and a man enters the room. Bertrand, her new friend. He is looking at the carpet as he walks in. He’s wearing a black suit and holding a briefcase. Bertrand looks up slowly. A partial smile dies on his lips. He is not sure how to relate to her. This is his first meeting. Sugar smiles and says, “Hello. Bertrand?” He replies, in a faltering voice, “Uh, yeah, hell- hello.” Sugar wants to laugh at his coyness, but won’t because he might leave if he’s embarrassed. “Come on in,” she says.

“I’ve, uh, got some things for you to wear,” says Bertrand. He sets his briefcase down on the desk and opens it. Sugar remembers the web post. Someone willing to engage in light religious role-play. “Okay babe,” she says. She watches him take items out of his briefcase. A bible, a crucifix, a rosary. She thinks, never done catholic girl before. Bertrand turns and Sugar sees that he is wearing a white collar. “Are you a real priest?” Bertrand smiles shyly, says “Uh, yeah. Not the kind you’re used to.” He moves towards her and Sugar smiles at him. He lifts his hand and strikes her in the face.

Sugar is reeling. This has never happened before. What is this bastard doing? He is hitting her, again and again. She falls backwards onto the bed and the priest climbs on top of her, straddles her, punches her in the face and stomach. She lifts her hands but he swats them away. She tries to tell him to stop but her mouth is full of blood. She tries to scream but he hits her again, a backhand blow that knocks her senseless. She feels like she is falling, spinning. She swallows blood.

He’s off her now, standing beside the bed, bent over and panting. Her mind is running on two tracks, one part noticing that he is overweight and clearly out of shape, the other part screaming at her, telling her to get the fuck up, get the fuck out! She needs to call the cops, run away, find a weapon, fucking do something! She knew this would happen eventually, but failed to make a plan. Sugar lashes out with her foot, her boot catching Bertrand squarely in the crotch. He cries out and stumbles backwards. She rolls off the bed and snatches a lamp from the bedside table, hoping to use it as a weapon. Bertrand comes at her and she swings the lamp at his head, forgetting that it’s still plugged in. The electric cord jerks taut and the lamp is yanked clean out of her hands. She is defenseless again. Bertrand takes hold of Sugar by the neck and throws her to the floor. She cries out, then yelps as he kicks her in the stomach. The air is violently expelled from her lungs and Sugar gasps for breath. Bertrand takes hold of her hair and drags her into the middle of the room. Her body is pain all over, fiery and red where her hair is pulling loose from her scalp. Bertrand drops her and her head strikes the floor hard. She blanks out.

She comes back. Bertrand is sitting on her, tying her up. He has a bible clenched in his teeth and is winding a rosary around her wrists. She looks down and through a blur of tears and blood she notices that there is a crucifix around her neck. On both the rosary and the crucifix the Christ figure is upside down. Bertrand gets up. Sugar is too tired and too beaten to resist anymore, too exhausted to scream. She is thoroughly subdued. All she can do is watch as Bertrand walks to the bathroom and opens the door. The dark room is suddenly illuminated by a dull red glow. Her eyes widen, and she is struck by the smell of sickness and road kill. Bertrand backs away and kneels down.

A thing steps from the bathroom. A thing that is red, slick, scaled. A thing that is horror embodied. The top part of her mind is reeling, panicked, frenzied. It cannot make sense of what it perceives. The bottom part of her mind thinks, I’ve been sitting in this room for nearly an hour. That thing was in here with me the whole time? She wonders, as she watches the red thing approaching, inhumanly long and sinuous tongue brushing over its yellowed fangs, what in the goatfucking hell is going on? The thing bends and flicks its tongue, brushing her face. Sugar sees Bertrand smiling, eyes rolled back, one hand in his pants working furiously. She opens her mouth and screams, and is abruptly cut short.

Next Morning

It’s blood. Gabriella is sure that it’s blood. She’s been scrubbing it for ten minutes and it won’t come out. She knows she should go to management and tell them, maybe have them call the police. Someone was hurt here, robbed or even killed. But if the cops get involved they might ask her personal questions, questions about her legal status. She can’t let that happen. She needs this job, needs the money. No, she will just scrub harder and get the damn stain out somehow. She longs to be done for the day, go home to Manuel and relax. She sniffs and catches a whiff of something rank. She’s smelled something funny, even disgusting, since she entered this room. She looks up and sees the bathroom door ajar, and thinks the smell is coming from there. Oh Christ, she thinks, now what mess is in there?


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