By Mike Grifantini
The warm, strong trade winds
welcomed Paul at the Kahului Airport as he stepped from the plane. He deftly pulled his suitcase on its rollers, knowing the route to the shuttle that would take him to the resort where he always stayed.
The ride was beautiful, as always: the greenery along the roads, the tourists wearing scant, but colorful clothing and the deep dark blue of the ocean channel looking toward the islands of Lanai and Molokai. Fields that used to be covered with lush sugarcane now sprouted young lime, lemon and coffee plantations.
The shuttle dropped him off under the spreading Monkey pod tree at the resort’s entranceway and he strode up the travertine walkway to the open-air check-in desk. “I’m Paul Ransom. I have a reservation.” The dark faced clerk maintained a steady smile and responded in a well-rehearsed manner, “We are so happy to have you again, Mr. Ranson. We expected you just about now after learning that your flight landed on schedule.”
Paul nodded, the nod of a person confident in his surroundings, the clerk’s efficiency, and the knowledge that he was important enough that his status would be checked into. The clerk, continuing his deep gaze and smile, pushed a folded paper across the counter with neatly printed words: “PAUL RANSON!!” His name had three heavy underlines in black, contrasting with the blue of the letters.
“Before you go to your room, we request a visit to our hospitality center, just down those stairs.” Before Paul could respond, to say that he preferred to freshen up and rest for a bit, the clerk pushed a maroon-colored button at the edge of the counter. His smile persisted as he stated firmly: “You are an honored guest. You must let us show our hospitality!” From a door beyond the desk, a young, muscular Hawaiian man, perhaps 35 years of age, approached. He was not smiling but had a tense, concentrated focus toward Paul–both intimidating and incongruous.
Without introductions, the man nodded to the right toward the stairway, then, unexpectedly, grabbed Paul’s long-sleeved shirt, pulling toward the stairs. Paul involuntarily pulled back but the young man pinched the material tighter and pulled with more vigor. They began a shuffling walk, Paul pulling his suitcase, its rollers sounding a regular cadence as the wheels hit the evenly placed stones. The Hawaiian walked a fraction of a step behind Paul, awkwardly pulling him forward.
The room was down a long stairway flight, meaning that they were dropping far below ground floor. Its hallway was poorly lit with several numbered doors on either side. Each door’s color contrasted strongly with the wall’s tone–the door they stopped before was a deep maroon and it displayed a small number centered at eye level–number 13.
The guide, or guard as Paul now realized, displayed a magnetic card key in his free hand, and opened the lock with a click. Paul saw the “hospitality room” in all its glory—about 8’ by 8’, containing only a small desk and two chairs. A side wall displayed a large, dark window. The man released his grip, pointed to a chair and silently left the room—pulling the door sharply behind him. Paul, thinking through his situation, only managed to pull his suitcase into a corner and sit. Then, he reached for his cellphone to call his closest friend back in California—Stephanie. There was no cell service!
The minutes drug on and Paul squirmed, sweat streaming down his neck and back in the air-conditioned room. Then came the electronic click of the door latch opening. An amazing sight appeared—a tall, slim lady, dressed in a flowered island dress. She, also, was of Hawaiian extraction and was very attractive, but with a stony continence. “Mr. Ranson, we have been tracking your movements since you last left. You are a master of evasion! Our organization doesn’t cotton to being evaded.”
The woman’s word usage shocked Paul. Being a writer of short stories, he thought a Hawaiian term would have been more appropriate than her use of the word “cotton”. Regardless of any semantic issues, layers of sweat continuously moistened his face and shirt. “I, I don’t know what you mean. I think you are mistaken. I am here for a friend’s wedding!”
“You are wasting my time and yours. I don’t care about yours–your time is short and immaterial to me”. Paul quickly raised up in defiance to her aggressive tone but did not quite reach full height before the slim woman’s fist chopped down at the junction of his neck and shoulder. He collapsed back down into his chair, writhing in pain as electric shocks reached from shoulder to finger tips. “You do not seem to understand, we know who you are and what you are doing! We will get from you what we want.”
“But I am just here for a wedding”, he whined, wincing in agony. “You can look it up.” The young lady tapped her fingers on the desk, losing patience. “You think you can fast-talk your way out again, but you will not this time. Open the paper.”
“But I am just here for the wedding!”
Her open hand slapped sharply across his face, stinging and jerking his face to the side. “Realize–I will break you! You can minimize the pain or you can have as much as you wish. I like it both ways.” Paul pondered whether he had the strength and will to tangle with her, knowing it would have to be to the death. He drooped in his chair, paralyzed with fear–accepting his fate.
“We have tools to help you see things our way. They are not always enjoyed by guests but are very effective.”
“What do you want me to do?” was all Paul could answer in defeat.
The olive-toned Hawaiian lady’s face gradually softened and she nodded toward the large, dark window along the side of the room. Then, turning back to Paul she responded. “Just sign the paper. That is all, just sign the paper. I think you will enjoy our special four-week time-share agreement. It comes with a special brunch each Saturday.” Paul nodded meekly, knowing that there was no other way to escape this horror in paradise.
Mike Grifantini’s story “Horror in Paradise,” was the Siskiyou Writers’ Club’s selection for best story at its July meeting. The Siskiyou Writers’ Club is a local group of folks with a passion for creative writing of all genres. We generally meet the last Thursday of the month in various locations throughout Siskiyou County. Our next meeting will be Thursday August 25, 2022, 5:00 PM at the YMCA in Yreka.