It’s 3 am on a Tuesday in Prague, and Magdalena Polskiakova is trying to write her master’s thesis while simultaneously working the graveyard shift at a hostel in Prague.
Her shift started four hours ago. So far she’s earned the equivalent of €5. That might be enough for a lukewarm kebab from the take-away joint downstairs, if she’s lucky. But at the moment, all she wants to do is sleep…
A loud slam shocks Magdalena out of her semi-slumber. Reeking of vodka and vomit, a 27-year-old American backpacker by the name of Corey staggers into the hostel common room, Drake’s Hotline Bling blaring from his JBL bluetooth speaker. It’s loud enough to wake the dead. It might even be loud enough to rouse the hostel’s other guests, all of whom are comatose after their various pub crawls.
“Hey there, little girl,” Corey slurs at Magdalena, who is only months away from becoming a qualified lawyer. “How you doin’ tonight?”
Furious, but trying not to show it, Magdalena motions for Corey to keep the noise down. Instead, he turns the volume up.
“People are trying to sleep!” Magdalena hisses. But Corey is off in his own world. “Please, don’t be a dick. Just go to sleep. Please.”
“Haha, baby, this is Prague – I ain’t neeeeeever going to sleep!!!” Corey responds, eyes closed, dancing like nobody’s watching. That’s because nobody is, in fact, watching.
Magdalena has had enough. She grabs Corey’s speaker and shuts the music off. The American’s mood darkens instantly.
“Whoah whoah, what the fuck are you doing?” Corey snaps, leaning over the reception desk to snatch his speaker back. “I’ve been travelling non-stop for three years and I ain’t ever left a bad review. But I’ma write some shit that will get you FIRED if you don’t give me back my JBL right now! Fucking bitch.”
On the brink of tears, Magdalena acquiesces. She knows how damaging one bad review can be in the manager’s eyes. If she were to lose this job, she’d have no other way to support herself through her studies.
She hands the speaker back.
Corey grabs it out of her hands. His eyes – unnaturally dilated and full of malice – bore into Magdalena’s soul. He blows her a sinister kiss.
“You need to cheer the fuck up, baby!”
Turning on his heel and raising his middle finger above his head, Corey clomps down the hall to his dorm.
The next morning, Corey wakes up in a puddle of his own urine. He vaguely remembers the drugs, the drinks, and the confrontation. But none of that matters; all he feels now is burning embarrassment.
The incriminating yellow piss stain has spread across most of the mattress. The stench is overpowering. And those cute girls from the other bunk are laughing at him. Tears of humiliation welling in his eyes, Corey sprints towards the bathroom.
The vomit erupts from his mouth two steps before he reaches the toilet.
Magdalena heads home from her shift with a smile. In the heat of the moment, she’s defenceless against dickheads like Corey. They can insult, abuse, and disrespect her all they like, and she can’t do anything about it.
But she can put their hand in a glass of warm water while they sleep.