Nov 2, 2011

The Hotel

By Fizza Ali

Q. Write the opening chapter of a novel called "The Hotel". Introduce the reader to three different characters who do not know each other as yet, but will do so later. In your writing you should try and establish differences between them and possible reasons why they might meet.

“She shot me, she shot me, bang, bang! She shot me!” the black iPhone 3G rang. “She shot me, she shot me, bang, bang! She shot me!”

The blonde man glanced at his heavy Gucci. 00:00, the watch showed.

“H’lo,” he spoke into the phone.

“When?” he suddenly froze, eyes narrowed.

“Well,” he said after a moment’s pause, “that should be easy.”

He disconnected the call, replaced the phone on the table and fumbled with the television remote control as he dropped onto the sofa. A news anchor roared as the television turned on. The man winced, quickly hitting the mute button. The room was quiet again.

“All o’ ‘em should be made t’ shut the hell up like that,” he grumbled, reclining on the sofa.

He closed his eyes and smiled to himself.

“Yer ugly ship is goin’ down, Amy, this ugly ship ya dumped me for.” He chuckled. “Dumb Pakis.”

With a slight smirk on his face, he slipped into sleep.


A six-year-old sat up in bed.

“M-Mummy,” he whispered, lightly touching the shoulder of the sleeping woman next to him.

“What’s the matter, honey?” she asked, now wide awake and concern clear in her voice.

“I’m s-scared,” the boy stammered. “The man in the room b-below ours w-was sh-sh-shouting.”

“Is that all?” she laughed. “He’s an American; they shout, they’re noisy. You don’t have to be afraid of them, honey. We’re safe.”

“But w-what if he sh-sh-sh-shoots us?” the boy’s eyes widened with fear.

His mother wrapped him in a tight hug.

“Nobody can shoot good boys. Allah protects good boys. And, my baby,” she paused to look at him, “people are not allowed to bring guns into hotels.”

“S-so he won’t sh-shoot us?”

“You prayed before going to bed, didn’t you?”

The boy nodded slowly, as if it was a painful effort. His mother’s smile faltered for a split second.

“Then Allah will protect you,” she beamed at him.

“I asked Allah to protect you too,” he said, with all the innocence of his childhood.

“Then we’re both protected,” his mother whispered, hugging him again. “Now sleep. We have to go to the doctor in the morning.”

They snuggled under the covers again, the woman wrapping her arms protectively around the small, vulnerable form of her only child.



“When will I g-go to s-school?”

The woman blinked in the darkness.

“When you grow up.” She ran a hand through his soft hair. “Now close your eyes and dream about fairies.”

The boy obliged. Very soon, he let out a soft snore.

She smiled and kissed his forehead.

Keep him safe, she prayed.


The last time he had been to that room, his life had changed. And now, two long years later, he stood in the same room, waiting for orders that would change his life again.

The room was just as it had been two years ago when he was a scared boy: white-washed, with bare walls, a small, yellow fan hanging by the ceiling, and a dark dari in the middle of the floor. The elderly of the camp, the authority, sat on the dari, peacefully counting their blessings on their rosaries, their eyes fixed on the weapon slung on his shoulder.

The young boy, a well-built seventeen-year-old, placed his rifle on the dari, at the elders’ feet, and stepped back.

“You have been trained well,” one of the elders said.

The boy glared at him. “Well”? he thought. He should retire.

“You are one of our most valuable assets,” the old man continued, slowly.

I’m the best there is! So hard for him to even admit that.

“For that very reason, we have assigned to you a very important task.”

Now we’re talking.

“It is an enormous task, filled with dangers and great risks.”

Bring it on!

“We believe you’re ready for it.”

You bet I am!

“It is a spy mission. We have tracked some American activity that the government is aware of but does not act upon, for obvious reasons. So it falls upon us to deal with these kafirs and expel them from our pure land. For that, we need information on exactly what activity is taking place in darkness to be able to do something about it. And there will be a slave girl under your command. Use her however you want to; she has some skills, but she is disposable.”

The boy rolled his eyes.

“Any questions?” the old man asked, distracting himself from the sight of the formidable rifle lying near his feet.

“Location?” the boy’s voice rang out in the room for the first time since he had been recruited.

“Yes, I almost forgot about that.”

I blame your age.

“Marriott Hotel, Islamabad.”


Farwa Haider said...

Definitely a page-turner. I love how you depicted the young boy's thoughts and feelings.

Sana Riwzan said...

Oh God, I loved this.
I clicked my bookmark by accident and was going to shut the tab but in the time it took for my cursor to move, your story had me hooked.

Aiman Fajr said...

This was so good fizza! Kept me glued till the end.

Asma Afzal said...

Loved it. The difference in the characters is really nicely depicted. And I loved the little boy :)

Afnan Imran said...

The fact that you localized your story makes it even more vivid. Love it!

Maha asif said...

I loved the little child's part the best.. the whole story was very engaging.. :)

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