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To The 13th Floor
The night is too late and the city is too small for anything to happen tonight, she knows. She just keeps waiting—waiting for everything and nothing, for a night that she doesn’t spend drinking herself dizzy and slithering through the cracks of this godforsaken place in front of the bartender that knows her too well. There’s another vodka tonic staring at her from a soggy napkin and she downs it, sheltered by this sick kind of temporary home.
She stays until the room smells of blown-out candles. Thick and gray and bittersweet-smoky wisps drag ghosts of fingers across her cheek while she watches the last of the embers crackle away. The slow-burning black-orange is mesmerizing, more so than anything she remembers seeing lately. She wants to press the smoldering wick to her wrist, wants it to rip her raw. She wants to feel something for a divine little change.
After a stretch of a thousand more of these foggy evenings, there might come a night that doesn’t make her scrape the bar-top with a diamond ring she doesn’t need anymore. The jewel leaves the bar with fierce animal scratches that she knows would get her kicked out had anyone cared to look. But it’s been fourteen years since anyone cared.
between the lobby and 4
The only other person in the elevator is a guy that looks like Maeve’s ex-boyfriend and she thinks of all the things she could say to this man that she didn’t say to him.
You’re a f**king whore-face scumbag and you’re a scumbag f**king whore-faces comes to mind first, but she decides that wouldn’t be the best as far as first impressions go.
An anonymous He steals away an anonymous Her, nabs her by a bony wrist on her prom night and drags her to a hotel room (the cheapest one in the place) for his permanent maculation of the last creamy vestiges of her virtue. He is a serpent, blown-black eyes simmering and forked tongue darting at the side of his mouth between hisses and kisses; she is his prey, but she is armed with no strategy. Splotches of her pale neck stain a mottled purple-red and they don’t disappear when she flicks off the crackling lamp and they plummet onto twisted sheets (with a cacophonous clatter that she hears in her own head). Arms do not hold her. Lips do not meet. She does not protest, for she does not know how. She never has, and his cumbersome curtain of vodka-drowned breath wouldn’t allow for it anyway.
between 4 and 7
A woman with fried strands of blonde hair and a greasy, sneering man pressed to her back lets out a shameless belch and the three other people pretend, absurdly, not to hear it: the sign displaying a safety inspector’s signature and a 2,200 pound weight limit suddenly looks terribly interesting.
Hypothetical morbidity hypnotizes Fiona. She spends hours inspecting her hotel rooms for bloodstains, every single god**mn time. She’s skating on the verge of hour 2 in this particular room, and there’s a televangelist hollering faintly on the Sony mounted on the wall, a white-noise soundtrack to her secret insanities. A dirty, ridged thumbnail runs over the edges of the carpet, and she finds nothing but old Doritos crumbs, and the carpet turns into dull white tile, and she sees Sid stabbing Nancy on the bathroom floor of the Chelsea and both of them drowning in misshapen moonlight. Her blood looks beautiful and utterly terrible against the tile. Fiona thinks she might love most the fact that these tragic humans sunk knives into their girlfriends, into their husbands, into their own trembling abdomens while hundreds of others simply slept folded into their bleached sheets of false purity.
between 7 and 13
For once, it’s just her in here: she likes it like this most of all, when she doesn’t have to avoid any eyes.
2:07 in the morning: the faucet starts to leak in rhythmic drops against porcelain when Ira has finished washing his hands and settles onto rough white sheets with a novel about the Cottingley fairies. It starts to leak, and Ira feels it low in his stomach: a chaotic, thrilling little twist that tells him something superb is festering nearby. For a burst of one ignited second, where the room floods with angry moonlight and the cosmos rumble behind his eyelids, the television flashes on-and-off and Ira refuses to attribute it to faulty wiring. No great purveyor of the pseudoscientific has ever attributed it to faulty wiring. Ira believes there is no feeling more beautiful, more delectably consuming than the one of a room submerged in ectoplasm. He imagines that the silvery, viscous film of the almost-there would taste exquisite—like pure marrow of the most bewitching bones, like a daydream.
But he gets ahead of himself.
“Sir, I do hate to bother you at this time of night—but there is clear, undeniable, irrefutable evidence of the supernatural in room 1304.” His eyes brighten, fists tighten on the concierge’s desk. A tendon on Ira’s hand pulses when he squeezes too hard on his pen after that tired look of condescension.
The next morning, he imagines the stale conversation that he’s overheard too many times by shrill middle-aged women in their nightdresses after these fantastical happenings of the paranormal: “The thirteenth floor must be removed, shut it down, just shut it down, for Christ’s sake.”
Ira murmurs it into the pillow to the voice inside his head: “Immortalize it.”