The porcelain teapot

Il·lustració © Nicolás Aznárez

It all happened the week of the Mobile World Congress. Nora was cleaning room 606 when she saw the porcelain teapot on the desk, like a paperweight on a bunch of Chinese documents, or so she thought.

It mimicked the shape of a dragon, the spout represented the head and the handle, the tail. She felt bad that the teapot was so dusty; it looked expensive. She had heard that smart pottery was all the rage that year. Pots that sent the pH of your plant soil to your watch, and what not. Was it a sample that had been forgotten in the drowsiness of jet lag? She tried to clean it with the utmost care in the bathroom sink. The lid couldn’t be removed. She rubbed and rubbed, and the ashen dust that covered it didn’t come off. Suddenly, absolute darkness fell. A general blackout? A sudden blindness?

“Make a wish”, said a voice.

For a minute she thought she had fainted and was delirious. But when the light came back on she realised she hadn’t, she was still standing in front of the sink holding the teapot. “Earn more, if possible”, is what, completely flabbergasted, she answered in her head. She dried the teapot and put it back in its place. She put a liquorice sweet under her tongue and continued on her round of rooms.

On Tuesday, when it was not yet seven in the morning, she got a call from the manager. “Come in now, please!” None of the housekeeping staff had come to work, they couldn’t even locate them. “What’s this, another one of your strikes?” Nora had to take on all the hotel rooms herself. She didn’t even change the sheets; she just smoothed them out and took away the most visible rubbish. At six o’clock, when she hadn’t yet finished the fourth floor, the manager told her to hurry, that the conference goers would soon arrive, and that they “needed” to encounter clean rooms.

She was wrecked on Wednesday. She had slept barely four hours because of the aching in her lower back, but mostly knees. In the hotel she came up against the same panorama as the day before. The manager had tried to contact other cleaning companies, but it was as if all the housekeeping staff in the metropolitan area had been gotten rid of. When Nora told him she wasn’t willing to go through the same thing as the day before, the manager told her, “I'll triple your salary”.

Nora cleaned with her head exploding with thoughts. Was that... her wish granted? What good was it to earn triple if, at the weekend, working at that rate, she would have died of exhaustion?

When she got to 606, choking back the feeling of ridiculousness, she took the teapot to the bathroom and repeated the same ritual as the one on Monday. Running water and a vigorous rub, and wait to see what would happen. Darkness descended on her. Another fainting episode. The same androgynous voice: “Make a wish”. Nora, without hesitation, said to herself: “Have my workmates come back, I don’t care where they are, but make them all come back”.

That day ended at ten o’clock that night. And no trace of her workmates.

A teapot. Dragon-shaped. Ridiculous.

On Thursday she had to take a taxi to the hotel. She couldn’t even walk to the underground. “Anyone?”, she asked the receptionist, beseeching. “Not a soul”. All the work for her and her alone, again.

Nora went down to the locker room and struggled to put on her uniform. She stood still with one arm of her uniform on. She had heard a rumble upstairs. She pricked up her ears: hurried steps down the stairs. One of the hotel porters crossed the locker room with his face covered in blood. “Run!” When Nora heard the screams echoing through the stairwell, she started running after the hotel porter towards the emergency exit.

The street was pandemonium. Her workmates had returned, all in sky blue uniforms, but now covered in blood. They dived at the necks of pedestrians and, with their fingernails alone, split them open. They emptied sockets, ripped off heads, and cut off limbs with blind, irrepressible rage. The city police fired at the crazed housekeepers, but the bullets had the same effect as pellets. To get into the hotel, Nora had to dodge corpses and cars ploughing into buildings. The bar had caught fire. The receptionist’s brains were splattered across the counter. Some housekeepers fought over the manager’s insides. At that point she realised that their skin was strange, as if it were rotten. She raced to 606. The teapot...

When it got dark, the dragon’s voice said, “Give this wish a good think, it will be the last thing you can ask for”.

Il·lustració © Nicolás Aznárez © Nicolás Aznárez

The light came back on and Nora left the teapot in the sink. She poked her head out the window to see if... She put a handful of liquorice sweets in her mouth.

A group of housekeepers punched the roof of a bus, sneaked inside, and the windows became opaque with blood and the guts of their bodies bursting. The Gran Via thoroughfare turned into a cemetery of smoking vehicles and dismembered bodies; the sewers were unable to absorb the spate of blood.

Nora, from the window, put two fingers under her black tongue and whistled. All the housekeepers stopped short and turned around toward her.

Yes, the teapot had granted her last wish.

She pointed at the convention centre. They would begin the conquest with the Mobile World Congress.

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