Panic Room

Kelly’s head ached and the light hurt his eyes. He closed them again to ease the pain.

Wait a minute, why are the lights on?

He opened his eyes again and hazarded a peek.

That’s not my lamp.

Turning his head he surveyed his surroundings. Nothing was familiar. He sat up and that’s when he noticed that he wasn’t alone. There was someone else in the bed – must be asleep – not moving – covers pulled up over their head.

Slowly, he spun and dropped his feet to the floor careful not to wake up whoever that was next to him.

I hope I had a good time, he thought, I hope she’s pretty. I wish I could remember it. Maybe I don’t remember it because nothing happened.

He stood up, gasped and sat heavily back on the bed. The person under the covers stirred slightly.

There’s a window on the opposite wall and there’s a naked woman in the next room. He looks again, she looks back and she’s pretty in a rough sort of way. The kind of way that says she would be beautiful except a hard life intervened. She is mimicking his every move, every turn of his head. She looks to be in her mid-twenties, petite with dark curly hair framing her face with ringlets.

Kelly walks closer to the window. She does the same. She has small breasts, narrow shoulders and hips, high cheekbones and deep blue eyes. She shaves. Her left arm has a full sleeve tattoo that wraps over her shoulder; he sees koi fish and mermaids.

He looks down at his own arm and sees the same tattoo; he sees the same firm breasts. Panic starts to set in.

What the hell is going on here? That’s a mirror!

Kelly returns to the bed and yanks the covers back. It’s him in the bed, and he’s nude too. His skin tone is a grey pallor and he doesn’t seem to be breathing. Kelly places his fingers on his own neck, in the bed, the bright red polish she wears on her fingernails startles him; but he registers a pulse on the body in the bed. He’s not dead.

Clothes! I’ve got to find clothes! I’ve got to go.

His eyes dart quickly around the room and he sees his suit hung on the back of a chair. He spots a short black dress rumpled on the floor and stiletto heels by the dresser where a TV perches, like a vulture, on the top – watching.

It was about that time that the door swung open wide. A large man in a brown suit stands framed and silhouetted in the doorway. He holds a fedora in front of him.

“Good, you’re up.” He says simply.

Before Kelly can ask any questions the other Kelly, the one in the bed, sits up.

“What time is it Paul?” he asks.

“It’s time to get a move on and do this thing, right?” The big man called Paul says. He looks at the Kelly standing by the dresser who suddenly realizes that she’s, naked. Kelly instinctively moves his arm to cover her breasts.

Why did I do that?

Her eyes dart back and forth between the Kelly on the bed and the big man.

“Don’t worry,” says the Kelly who looks like him. I’ve seen you naked before and so has Paul.” He looks down at himself. “Hmm?” He muses and absent-mindedly scratches his elbow, then walks across the room and starts pulling on Kelly’s clothes, that worn old grey suit and black loafers. He looks at the necktie and decides against it, tossing it back onto the chair.

As he pulls on the shoes he says, “We’re going to have to do this again tonight, Paul. Let’s see if we can find someone younger though. I’m feeling a little old right now.”

“I know, Kelly.” Paul said. “I’m sorry, but we just ran out of time last night.”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s only for a day. Maybe I can go somewhere and get a senior discount. We can have dinner at 4:00. That would be a first.” He smiles.

The naked female Kelly spoke up then, “You’re named Kelly too?” Her arms had dropped to her sides. She no longer cared that she was naked.

“I am now, but you’re not. Not anymore. Your name is Marie. Your ID is in your purse and your car is downstairs, in the hotel garage. The keys are in your purse too. You can’t go back to your old house. Not looking like you do now. You have to be Marie and go to Marie’s house. I’ll be you today. Tomorrow, hopefully, someone else will be. Remember, you can’t go back.

“Come on Paul, we need to leave.”

“Wait a minute,” Marie interrupts, “Where do I go? What do I do?”

“Oh yeah,” Kelly looks sadly at her. “You’re an actress but not a very good one. You work at a coffee shop on Wilshire, today’s your day off, and sometimes when you need extra money you pick up men on Sunset.” He shook his head slightly, “Have a good life Marie. Check out time is noon. You need to be out of here by then or they’ll charge you extra.” The two men filed out of the room. The red numbers on the alarm clock read 8:24.

Marie pulled the tight black dress over her head and smoothed it down over her hips. She looked in the mirror and shuddered. In her purse she found a wallet with about sixty dollars. There was more money too. She found a hundred dollar bill hidden behind her driver’s license – Marie Mercier, with an address in Hollywood. There were black panties, which she wriggled into, a key ring (apparently she drove a Mazda). There was also a nice Zippo lighter engraved to read:

24 April 1967
Troop B
1st Recon
9th Cav

There was also half a pack of Marlboro Reds. As Kelly he had never smoked, as Marie she wanted nothing more. She shook out a smoke and lit it. There was a hand rolled cigarette in the pack as well. She pulled it out and sniffed it then stuck it back in.

She stood and stared at her reflection in the mirror for almost an hour, studying what she looked like, memorizing her own face. At 9:30 exactly she pushed the door open and left the room. She needed to find her car. She needed to get to Hollywood and see what she could learn about herself.



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