Because your suitcase is lost, you are forced to borrow clothes each day from somebody named Stacy, or Stacy's mom. You don't know Stacy, or her mom, but you're embarrassed to say so and you decide her name sounds familiar, like someone who sat next to you in high school. You keep wearing the clothes, though they're nothing like what you'd normally wear. Boxy Nancy Reagan skirt suits, a frilly blue dress with strange Velcro fastenings. You mean to wash the clothes and return them, but you can't find the laundry room so you throw them into the shower. The shower smells of wet wool and some other odd smell you can't place. Mousy and sweet. But it works, and so few things do in this place. It feels like you spend hours standing under that shower. You must have other things to do, but the warm water makes you forget.
Every day you ask the desk clerk about your baggage. Every day he shakes his head. You tip him anyway, but he won't take the money. Not the right coin, he says. You think there may be tokens the hotel gives out instead of money. You think you saw a girl with a pug dog paying the desk clerk with one. But you never see the girl with the dog again, and you don't know who to ask.
The airline will take care of everything, you think. You assume it's the airline putting you up. There was that night of sleeping in the airport. Something must have happened, some disaster, some attack, but there's a news blackout. No phone service. Your television only plays rusty black-and-white movies and old TV shows, like the afternoon lineup you used to watch in middle school. Your friend would come home with you on the school bus and when your mother got back from work, after dark in the winter, she'd drive your friend home. You were supposed to do homework together. Instead you'd prank-call stores, dial boys you knew and hang up, try on makeup, leave lipstick kisses on paper napkins. Once your mom was late and you got to watch Star Trek till the end. It was the one where Mr. Spock must return to his home planet for his pon faar. You'd never admit it to anyone at school but you loved Star Trek. It's still one of your favorites. It plays quite often on the loop in your room.
One morning you hear a sound like tapping or knocking and you touch the heat vent by the window, hoping it means the heat is coming on. Outside the window you see a large black bird. A raven? A crow? Something shiny glints in its mouth. Crows, you read somewhere, are the most intelligent of birds. They use tools, even make them. When a crow dies, other crows form a circle around it, nodding their heads, as if mourning. Crows know faces. And if you cross them, they won't forget yours. But they remember kindness, too. There was a girl who fed the crows, and they brought her presents: odd bits of jewelry, shells, a tube of chapstick. You open the window to give the crow the rest of your mini-muffin, but it flies away.
The muffins are dry and smell like dust. The "tropical fruit salad" is canned pineapple sprinkled with pomegranate seeds that stick in your teeth. You wrap yourself in a blanket and go back to sleep.
Live long and prosper, someone tells Mr. Spock. You recognize the episode: it's the one where Spock goes back to Vulcan to fight for his faithless fiancée.
I shall do neither, Mr. Spock says, and your heart aches for him. Again. You would have made a much better girlfriend.
Stacy is not in her room when you go to borrow clothes, but the door's ajar so you walk in. You take some clothes from her closet, the ones least mom-like. You're sure Stacy won't mind. You'll thank her later.
But you don't see Stacy that day, or the next. The hotel seems emptier than it was. Where are all the other guests? Maybe the airline found alternate flights for everyone and you missed the call. Overslept. You'd be late for your own funeral, your mother always said.
You take all the clothes you find in Stacy's closet and put on as many as you can fit. A sweater over a blouse over a t-shirt. Jeans over leggings. Three pairs of socks. You sit in bed under the blankets. None of it works. You're still cold.
You're dreaming of a wide black river. You wake up and Mr. Spock is looking at you. You realize, of course, he says, that we are all quite dead.
You don't recognize the line. You don't remember turning the TV on. Perhaps the wiring is faulty. You wish there were somebody to ask.
Someone is knocking at the window again. You look up and see the crow. It could be a different crow but you know it's the same one. The crow looks at you, nods its head. The coin in its beak catches the sun.
was a winner of the Vella Chapbook Contest for her chapbook Girls on Film. She is a flash fiction editor at Cleaver magazine
and has stories in Atlas and Alice, Milk Candy Review, Cease, Cows
Her work was chosen for Best Microfiction 2020 and 2021.