Hotel Gaines

I started to walk across my room and realized my shoes were still on. My feet felt hot and confined from hours of air travel and walking through airports. This was a vacation, wasn’t it? I took my sneakers off and tossed my socks into the corner of the room. I spread my toes on the soft carpet and stretched my back out. I walked to the window and slid it open and stepped out onto the balcony. The room had such a good view of the beach. I really lucked out on that last minute upgrade. I leaned on the railing and felt the breeze that you can only feel when you’re by the ocean. It just tastes different. I thought about downstairs.

“Welcome to the Hotel Gaines, Mr. Jennet.” The girl at the counter had said. Her name was Jenny and she couldn’t have been more than twenty years old. Her nametag said manager and I wondered if that could be right or not. “I think you’ll enjoy your stay. It looks like you’ve been upgraded free of charge. You’ll be staying on the top floor if that’s ok with you.”

I had blinked and let the words register, probably waiting a little too long. “Yeah. Wow. That would be cool.” Very smooth, Arthur. You always knew just what to say. Oh, that’s me. I’m Arthur Jennet.

Now he was here and it still felt a little odd to have the key to this room resting in his pocket. It must have been a mistake but it was their mistake and I resolved to enjoy it until they made me move. The beach looked inviting and there was no time like the present to enjoy it. Lissy and her family weren’t going to arrive for two days. I wonder what they’ll think of my room. There will probably be teasing.

I stepped out into the hall with my bathing suit on and my towel and key in hand. Unfortunately I only had my sneakers because I don’t like wearing footwear that shows my toes. I can never think of a good reason for that. I am who I am. That’s what mom always used to say. At least, that’s what Aunt Kathy says she used to say.

I could have sworn it was a left to get to the elevators. All of these hallways and all of these doors look the same. They all have clearly stenciled numbers and little speakeasy doors so you can see who’s outside your door. I guess I hadn’t really seen that before but this hotel came recommended so I guess it’s a thing. That little door makes me feel kind of vulnerable but I have to believe that they’re firmly latched and nobody could use that to sneak into my room.

Where are those elevators? They should be around the next corner.

“Out of your room, Mr. Jennet?” Wait. Who was that. I turn around and I thought I saw somebody for a second but there’s nobody there. I think I’ve walked this floor for ten whole minutes now without finding the elevator. I’d settle for finding the stairs. This is getting ridiculous.

“Are you so eager for your treatment?”

This time I answer the invisible young woman. “Who’s there? Can you tell me where the elevator is?”

There is no answer and I pick up my pace until I start to breathe harder. The air-conditioning cannot fight back the sweat that starts to seep from my hairline. I came here to relax and now my heart is beating out of my chest. I am suddenly lost and afraid. I wish I could give this upgrade back and I would if it meant that I could find the elevator.

I hear screaming from a door on my right. I should keep walking past but I instantly press my back against the wall opposite the door and cringe in fear. What is behind that door? What must they be doing to the man behind that door? I want to know and yet I would live the rest of my life without knowing. There is a whole library of knowledge that I realize that I am better off not knowing. Ignorance is bliss.

I turn the corner for the 53rd time. I’ve been counting. Jenny is standing there in a freshly starched and pressed uniform. She looks so professional. The men on her right and left are not so put together. They look like they have had a long shift. She smiles reassuringly at me and I smile back to be polite. What is she doing away from her desk downstairs? Did she hear the screaming?

The silence stretches on for hours. The two men look tense as if they were wild cats, big game ready to pounce. They watch me with an unmatched intensity. I look around for the elevator or the stairs but it’s all the same doors. The doors are all the same. All the same.

Jenny is closer and she puts a hand on my shoulder. “Let’s get you back to your room, Mr. Jennet. We don’t need these gentlemen to do that, do we?” She smiles and this time I can’t help but smile back. A genuine smile. A grateful smile.

“No. I guess I haven’t unpacked yet. I should unpack and sit down for a bit.”

“Sounds like a plan.” She says and we walk back the way I came. It seems a lot shorter this time.

I walk to the window and I open it and step out onto the balcony. The air tastes so salty. It feels good to see the ocean. I wonder what Lissy will think when she comes. I wonder what she’ll think of my room.

*   *    *

This one was based on Doctor Caligari, the stage adaptation of the Cabinet of Doctor Caligari that my brother recently starred in.  It is also inspired by horror games like Amnesia: the Dark Descent.

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