We know this is going to be a little late, but I just found out about the challenge from Cedar. We’re going to give a try at Week 26 of Odd Prompts. We decided to go with this spare prompt: When the cleaning lady went into the bathroom, she was surprised to see someone in the bathtub. Then she saw that the tub was full of blood…
It was 10 am and the day was just starting. The hotel was packed with attendees of a conference for some really boring group. Daria thought maybe they were some kind of insurance actuaries, but she tended to lose track of what convention it was on any given weekend, since she really didn’t have much to do with the attendees, just the messes they left. This group was neater than most, perhaps an artifact of the fact that the meetings started early in the mornings. Or maybe they were just waiting to have a big bash at the end. Some groups did that, too.
Daria tapped at the door of the first room in her assigned block. After a moment, she opened it with her pass key and said “Housekeeping!” looking around to see if anyone was there. The bed was empty, barely mussed, the occupant apparently a quiet sleeper. Clothes were neatly thrown over a chair and hung in the open closet. Looked like it was going to be an easy room for her.
It was only when she moved further into the room that she saw the smear on the floor. It started just outside the open bathroom door and got thicker as it went into the room. Her eyes followed the widening smear, her thoughts frozen. Finally, she looked up at the edge of the bathtub and saw an arm clad in cotton pajamas draped over the edge. Just as the non sequitur “at least he has clothes on” ran through her mind, a head lifted. What looked like bloody tears were running down the face, and blood was dripping in rivulets from the nose and mouth as well. Daria took a deep breath, preparing to scream.
“Please, don’t! This isn’t what it looks like.” The voice of the man in the tub had an odd timbre, as if it was sliding between masculine and feminine, and the accent was different in ways she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Startled out of the scream, Daria started to whimper, eyes wide, as she sidled towards the other side of the bed, where the house phone was, completely forgetting the phone and radio in her pocket.
“Please, I don’t have much time!” Again, the strange voice. “I have something to tell you!” She stopped moving backwards, instead, standing still, eyes wide, listening to the pleading in the voice. “I don’t want this sacrifice to be wasted.” The voice went on to say. “It’s critical that people are prepared! I was chosen for this mission because of my family, but things are already going wrong!”
Daria moved a little closer. The voice seemed to be settling on the feminine, and the person didn’t sound crazy, just heartbroken. There was an awful lot of blood in the tub, soaking the pajamas and running down the drain. She said, “Don’t you want me to call 911?”
The man in the tub shook his head. “No, it’s too late for that. I just need to give my message. I was supposed to give it to this person’s wife, but didn’t know he’d be away from home on this day.” The man, seeing the look of confusion on Daria’s face, said, “I’m sorry, let me explain. I’m from the future, from a future where time travel has been invented, but comes with a terrible cost. You can only travel into the past by traveling into the body of one of your own ancestors, and in doing so, you kill them. You only get the last few minutes or hours of their life to pass along a message. You can see why we don’t use it much.”
Daria shook her head, starting to back away again. The man in the tub lifted his head as if he was trying to lunge forward to stop her, but fell back, limp, crying “No! Please! I just need you to call a number and pass along a message. Once you do, they’ll take care of everything, and make sure you’re cared for as well.”
“Cared for?” Daria asked.
“Yes, probably as a research assistant, that’s what they usually do.”
“What about my family?”
“What about them? I’m sure they’ll go with you wherever. Now please, hurry?” The man seemed weaker, his voice fading.
Daria came to a decision in an instant. The hotel was likely to shuffle her out cutting her hours bit by bit, after she discovered a body in a bathtub. That was what they did. She was going to take the opportunity, shaky as it was. She quickly pulled her phone from her pocket, dialing as the man directed, and repeated his words to the person on the other end of the line. As they finished passing the message along, that was the end of his life, gone in a whisper, and in some ways, the end of hers, at least the one she had always known.
My first instinct when I saw this prompt was to write a story from the point of view of a maid who worked for Elizabeth Bathory, but Jim suggested this vignette instead.