A/N: I originally intended this to be a chapter of 'Folkloric Tales' but ended up feeling like it would work better as a separate story and Halloween special.
Kowloon, Hong Kong, 1927
"So, this is where we're staying?" Gwendoline asked in dismay upon climbing down from the rickshaw and taking some time to observe the large but modest inn located in the more reputable part of the city. "Couldn't you have found a grander place?"
"I know it may not look like much, kitten..." Wallace spoke softly in reassurance while getting close enough to touch his girlfriend's rouged right cheek. "But I assure you that we won't have to put up with too many Chinamen here..."
Gwendoline paused to look back up at the building, then allowed herself a demure smile of relief.
"Well, when you put it that way, it doesn't seem so bad..."
She followed Wallace toward the main entrance and tried her best not to pay heed to the natives speaking in their cacophonic language, even if such sounds made her want to beat them all into complete silence.
"As if it weren't just enough for them to look like apes...their language sounds like absolute filth. What I wouldn't give to be back in London by next month..."
Wallace guided her inside to the lobby where a wizened old Chinese man with graying hair stood behind the reception desk. Gwendoline avoided eye contact while telling herself that all the posters she'd seen in the past were in fact an accurate depiction of the people.
It therefore came as a surprise when the elderly concierge began to speak to Wallace and proved himself to have a decent command of English.
A young bellhop approached them immediately after their room had been booked. He smiled politely and gave a little bow before asking with some difficulty which one of them wished to have their luggage taken first.
"Help the lady first." Wallace commanded the bellhop firmly, gesturing at Gwendoline for emphasis. "I have business to attend to."
Gwendoline opened her mouth to protest, but the bellhop was pulling at the handle of her suitcase before she could react. She let go rather reluctantly and gave Wallace a look of disbelief before pursuing the boy.
She caught up to him with little effort and demanded that he hand the suitcase back. He regarded her with confusion for a moment before obeying, much to her satisfaction.
"Thank you. I knew you had some sense."
The boy nodded, then focused solely on showing her to the right room. It was located on the top floor and upon arriving, Gwendoline tapped her foot impatiently while awaiting him to hand over the key.
"Tip first." The boy requested, holding out his open palm.
"I don't have any money on me. You'll have to ask my-"
He paused to comprehend her words before speaking again.
"Ah, alright. I understand..."
He gave her the key to the room and she took it in gratitude. She turned around to unlock the door and some unexpected words prompted her to smile despite everything she'd experienced up until then.
"You... you look very nice. Like movie star..."
Kowloon, Hong Kong, 1997
It was Peter Tsui's turn to sing and despite his misgivings, he just couldn't pass it up when the lovely Jillian Kwok was sitting pretty with her friends whilst gazing straight at him.
He looked at her smiling face then back at the glowing blue screen. He needed to pick something special if he was to drop a hint and the perfect song through which he could show off his fluency in English presented itself.
"I'll Never Break Your Heart by The Backstreet Boys, here we go..."
The opening instrumental began, and Peter grabbed the microphone while taking a deep breath to ready himself.
"I dedicate this to somebody special. Hopefully, you'll know who you are..."
He started singing and anxiously made eye contact with Jillian to observe her reaction.
It was clear from her unchanging expression that she was completely oblivious to the message he was trying to send, something which would have been bearable if it weren't for the fact that her friends were clearly catching on.
His palms got sweaty as he imagined the thoughts going through their heads.
"She's too pretty for you."
"You're an idiot who is just making a fool of himself."
"Stop torturing us with your shitty singing."
Peter's voice faltered, and he dropped the microphone in sheer embarrassment. He immediately knelt to pick it back up and by the time he was standing again, it seemed too late to undo the consequences of his stupidity.
Cecilia turned to whisper cattily to Vicki while shifting her eyes toward him. Paranoia fell heavily upon him and without much further thought, he returned the microphone to its stand before dashing straight out of the room.
The reason Peter's parents gave for living in a high-rise apartment when they could buy a house anywhere, was that as a young child, he'd often screamed in the night upon seeing sinister apparitions hovering over his bed.
A Taoist priest had confirmed their suspicions that a ghost was targeting him specifically and unwilling to take any chances, they'd moved out as soon possible.
Peter could barely remember the things that had happened when he was a three-year-old, though the fact that he did in fact see otherworldly beings from time to time lent credibility to his parents' explanation.
He knew that telling them about this so-called ability would give them both heart-attacks, so he kept it to himself while doing his best to enjoy being a normal teenager.
As such, he ignored the man in Qing Dynasty attire floating outside the window in lieu of trying to enjoy a sitcom with his parents on Friday night. He forced himself to laugh along with them, even as loud knocking began to sound, and the ghost's reflection became rather visible on the television screen.
"Go away please...my throat is getting sore..." He thought frantically before coughing loudly from the strain of faking amusement.
A century-old inn that had closed sometime in the 1970s was situated a block away from the apartment building and Peter passed by it each weekday on his way to school.
He'd always felt that the place had an ominous air surrounding it, though now that rumors were circulating about plans to demolish the establishment and build another apartment in its place, something was making him even more uneasy.
The feeling only grew stronger each night following the events of July until Peter swore that the inn itself was calling out to him.
He tried to block out the disturbance by covering both ears with his pillow, shutting his eyes and thinking of Jillian Kwok instead.
To his horror however, her face distorted and reformed into that of a young Caucasian woman whom he had never met before.
"Pak Hei..." She whispered softly, addressing him by his Cantonese name. "I know you are out there. Please come back and visit me..."
"Get out! I don't know who you are!"
The woman's face immediately faded, and Jillian returned. Peter let go of his pillow and gave a heavy sigh of relief before rubbing his tired eyes.
"Good riddance. Now I can get some sleep..."
A rough nudge against his shoulder was what roused Peter the next morning and he lazily opened both eyes to find in surprise that the person before him wasn't his mother. It was Mrs Yuen, a seafood vendor who lived somewhere down the street.
"Get up, young man!" She cried out with more annoyance than sympathy. "I'll report you to the police if you resist!"
"Public indecency! Nobody wants to see you in your pajamas!"
"Alright! Stop poking me!" Peter yelled back, losing his composure. He shoved her hand away and got to his feet, at which point he realized where he was.
He turned his head slowly around to gape at the abandoned inn, as numerous questions arose concerning how he'd ended up here.
The only way it could have been remotely possible was if somehow in his sleep, he'd crept past his parents' room without waking them, found the apartment key, unlocked the door, used the elevator and crossed the street without getting hit by early morning traffic.
"I see that you're trying to kill me now..." He thought defiantly as a frown formed upon his face. "Well, I won't give you that satisfaction. I'm coming over tomorrow night to confront you myself!"
Walking on the street late at night with a baseball bat sticking out of his schoolbag was enough to attract suspicious looks from everyone who passed him by, but Peter knew that he had to follow through with his plan if he wished to sleep safely again.
Among the other items he'd packed were a paper bag filled with uncooked rice, a water gun and a torch, the first two of which were quite useless according to the laws apparent in movies, but one could never be sure.
It was fortunate that nobody dared to hang around the inn for too long now that it was awaiting demolition. Peter took a deep breath before lifting the yellow tape surrounding the front of the building and ducking underneath it.
"Hope Mom and Dad will find that note I left..."
Entering through the inn's main entrance seemed far too risky, so he went searching for another way in. A window low enough for him to climb through caught his attention and he got to work trying to force it open.
It didn't budge no matter how hard he pushed. He stepped back with a tired sigh and decided it was time to resort to more drastic measures.
"This place is going to be destroyed anyway..."
He pulled the baseball bat out of his bag and swung it straight at the window. The glass shattered upon impact and he used the bat to sweep away the remaining shards before carefully lifting one leg.
Shining his torch around proved that the area he had just entered was the kitchen. The smell of rusting electrical appliances and air that had been trapped for over twenty years made him feel nauseous, and a rat suddenly scurrying across the floor prompted him to move along faster.
The atmosphere of the inn changed almost instantaneously when he pushed through the heavy kitchen doors and tiptoed into the dining hall. Where he had been expecting to see tacky 1970s style decor, lay instead elegant furnishings that seemed to be reminiscent of the early-twentieth century.
A chandelier swung back and forth with an audible creak. Peter looked up and several flames burst into life, taking him completely by surprise as the room lit up to its former glory.
"Is...is that hot pot I smell?" He thought as his focus shifted toward a steaming dish resting on one of the tables.
His mouth watered a little as he approached and lifted the lid, despite common sense telling him that this was too good to be true.
Sure enough, the pot turned out to be filled with countless live scorpions. He dropped the lid with a scream and retreated as far as he could, but it was too late. A couple of the horrible creatures had already made their way out.
"Shit!" He cried out while they scurried rapidly over the varnished floor. "Fuck!"
He turned to run back the way he'd come, only to freeze upon finding himself face-to-face with a familiar Caucasian woman.
"Pak Hei, you've finally returned..."
Peter began to reach for his baseball bat.