It started small. Just an occasional beep. I didn’t realize it was the microwave at first. Consumed with my Craigslist search for a place to live, I hardly processed the oddity of the sound.
“What is that?” he asked. “I dunno,” I said. I kept tidying the hotel room.
BEEP! “What is that? Is it the microwave?”
“I think so.” I didn’t much care.
But as my days in the hotel room drug on, the random beeps started to wear on me. I poked at various buttons on the microwave’s panel. Nothing helped. At least once an hour it beeped. Then it increased. At least once each half hour it beeped. The microwave was messing with my head.
Unease clung to me as I lay in the darkness. I turned uncomfortably. I listened to the television in the next room, the footfalls in the hallway and distant voices. Sleep finally came.
I sat up, rubbing my eyes. My ears were ringing. Something was wrong. I grabbed my phone. 1:30 a.m. Is there a fire? I stumbled to the door. I pulled it open. Thrust my head into the abandoned hallway. The noise wasn’t out there. It was only in our room. The microwave.
It blared, piercing into my head. I didn’t know a microwave could do that. Instead of multiple beeps, it let out a singular continuous scream. I approached the microwave. The display read 44:44. At least they weren’t 6’s. I punched cancel. Reset. Clock. Anything I thought might help. The microwave screamed on.
I pulled the microwave door open. Yellow light poured from the tiny bulb inside. I stared. The glass turntable rotated slowly. But the microwave wasn’t on.
“Stop!” I hissed. It kept screaming. Enraged, I grabbed the microwave. It sat atop the mini fridge. Both were wedged in a cubby hole cut in the countertop. I yanked on the microwave. If I could get to the plug, I could pull its power source. The microwave banged against the edges of the cubby hole. It was stuck. How did they get it in there? I shook it around. I tried different angles. Each thud frustrated me more. I couldn’t unplug it. I thrust an arm into the opening above the microwave, but the plug was still out of reach. The microwave screamed in my arms.
He slept deep and didn’t dream. His cell phone alarm woke him at 6:45 a.m. He drew back the room-darkening curtains. Sunlight streamed in. The room was empty. He checked the bathroom. She wasn’t there. He got ready for work extra fast. Maybe she was already downstairs in the breakfast room. But she never got up early.
The elevator took forever. He paced impatiently. As soon as the door slid open he dashed in and pressed Floor 1.
An old man heaped bacon on his plate. A woman in a hotel uniform fiddled with the coffee maker. Few tables were taken so early in the morning. He scanned the sparse crowd three times even though he knew she wasn’t there. He turned to go back upstairs. His keycard clicked in the door. The little light flashed green. He grabbed the handle, hoping she would be sitting there smiling on the other side of the door.
The empty room gaped at him. Her purse sat slumped on the table. Her tennis shoes, flip flops and heels sat in a row by the door. Worst of all, her keycard sat beside the TV. Why would she go anywhere without the keycard?
His eyes fell on the microwave. The door hung ajar.
As he looked at it, the microwave let out a long, belching BEEP.
(This story was inspired by true events.)