By Rachid Acim
Beni Mellal – The cell phone abruptly rang. The sweet voice of a young girl notified me to head for Rabat this week. “You are booked in Hotel Le Pietri in Rabat from the 17th to the 19th of December,” she said. “All costs and charges will be covered by the British Council, including reimbursement for your travel (train tickets).”
Zealot as I were, I rushed to take a steam bath at the very antiquated Hammam of our neighborhood, a place where my ancestors used to socialize and to get cleaned at a low price. After taking my breakfast, I dressed up and went to the bus station. I looked at my watch as usual. It was already 8:15 a.m. My watch always tells me the time. I received it as a sweet, lovely birthday present from my mother a year ago.
I looked around me and, amazingly, my eyes fell on two lamps enlightening me. Two forsaken beds looking after each other. Two white pillows together chanting a myriad of love stories. Sleep this time has deserted me. Dead silence was on the brink of killing me. Ghosts and mummies tonight made my hair stand on end. “Was I the only person in this room?” I exclaimed.
Despite the great fear I maintained in being alone, I was on my own for two terrible nights. Since I do not know anybody there at the hotel, I had to undergo this novel experience alone and turn my back to the shortcomings. The time I got into room 402 and before going to sleep, I locked the door in a very careful way. Thereupon, I got some books out of my travel bag and made myself comfortable and calm.
Before my eyes, there was a seemly painting wherein the blueness of the colossal sky matched that of the large sea. In great magnificence, a big mountain was standing august like its painter. A little above, you could see two clouds dancing in full despair. I unfolded a journal I got from the bookstore of the Royal City after much bargain with the storekeeper. The issue says that it was published with the assistance of the British Council of Rabat. I then started to read aloud some poetic verses, reminding me much of the wisdom of the Majdoub, the Attracted One.
I am a roaming Moroccan Bouhali
Not that crazy angry sibling of Moulay Abdel Kader Gilani
I am not lost and found son of Lahbil Filali
Not that horrid aberration of degenerated Laglaoui.
Confessedly, my reading coincided with the Muezzin, calling for dawn prayer. I was concentrating so much on these highly expressive poetic verses when, all of a sudden, I heard a loud noise stemming from the direction of the bathroom. I panicked a great deal not knowing what action I should do and what prayer I should say.
I was so scared to the point that I threw the book down and screamed unconsciously. My heart was pounding fast, as if I was engaged in a long grueling race. I was so confused and afraid lest somebody is holding me here as a target. “Maybe this is a haunted room. I must therefore read some portions from the Holy Qur’an to expel the devil and the evil spirits,” I said to myself.
Thinking that a Terrorist or a Maphiosi sneaked into the room, I began to tremble more than before. How I wished I had not come to the hotel and dropped in on my old friend Hassan in Temera. He knows me well and he can bear me for two or three nights. I continued reading some small Surats from the Holy Qur’an to relieve my soul. The Jinn might come to this room to rest if they find it tidy and empty. Now they are stuck because they could find someone flickering through the pages of a book in the hotel.
At the beginning, I couldn’t leave my soft blanket not because of coldness but because of the great terror taking over me. Yet, after much hesitation and inner struggle with myself, I finally decided to see what caused the noise. I peered from the keyhole, but could see nobody.
I opened the bathroom door quietly and there, to my strong amazement, I found a big rat eating from a white towel. I did not have any idea about how it got there. However, I made up my mind neither to approach from her nor to kill her as my grandma already informed me that the jinn take different shapes at night. I returned to my bed and continued reading until the sun cast some of its beams into my room.
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