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The window blinds allowed hardly enough moonlight to seep onto the bedroom floor, leaving the rest of the room with a lonely type of darkness that hung in the air like a row of prisoners. In the twilight, a bed’s covers lay shifted and disheveled on the torn carpet, along with a lamp and its broken lightbulb. Sharp splinters creeped across the surface of a wooden nightstand, which failed to keep steady on its four thin arachnid-like legs. A man looked upon this wooden nightstand with some weight before turning his head back to a dimmed computer screen. He scrolled from picture to picture studying each and every one, his eyes like a dog’s as it waits for its owner to return from work. The beautiful woman on the screen made him wish that he could look into her green eyes and touch her soft brunette hair one more time. His stomach started to knot up and his mind began twist.
Weary and pathetic, he looked back to the drawer in his nightstand.
The same man found himself on a narrow stretch of a still highway, and it wasn’t too much time before he realized he didn’t know why he was there. Where was he going? He slowed the car to a stop and got out. He looked for a road sign, a gas station, anything. But all he saw was desert and asphalt. Out in the sky to his right the sun was setting and a full moon was already partway into its cycle. His hands and his forehead seemed to have a certain type of tingling in them, a nice type of tingling. He got back in the car. He rested his head against the seat and closed his eyes, trying to remember anything, but his mind was blank. And what was that tingling? That strange tickle that was like nothing he had never felt before?
After not too long, that feeling started to go, and he started to panic. What else would he have if he doesn’t at least have that wonderful feeling?
He knew that eventually he would need a place to stop. A place to sit down and figure out where he’s going, and what to do next.
But the tingling… That fantastic and brilliant tingling…
He decided the best thing to do was to turn around and find out from where he was coming before he continued to where he was going.
But did he have people waiting on him wherever his destination was?
He hoped that they would understand his situation.
He started the car and whipped it around and drove.
Some time after traveling down the highway, he saw a light leak into the darkening horizon. A bright light of ever-changing colors that danced and shimmered over the emerging stars. The closer he got to it the more wanted to get to it. Needed to get to it. A building started to rise above the line that divided the land and the sky. As the building appeared to grow bigger, he realized that it was a resort, a very beautiful resort.
Almost immediately after he came to a stop in the roundabout, a woman came over to greet him. She was dressed in a shiny golden vest that seemed to shimmer even in the low light provided by the sun, whose large orange mass was already half-way below the desert. At the same time that her bright eyes met his, the air around him became very thin and hard to breathe. His insides started to warp and wind inside of him, and the worst type of headache suddenly shot through his brain.
She opened his door and brushed a dark-haired ponytail over her shoulder with the back of her hand. “May I take your car?” she asked.
your car, he repeated in his head. Was it his car? If it wasn’t his then whose was it?
He looked at the name tag pinned against her breast, Cat Diniod. “I don’t really plan on staying the night,” he told her with no real conviction, ignoring the pulsing migraine grinding against the inside of his skull.
She seemed to see the fact that he had no real plans ahead and said, “Why don’t I take your car off your hands and you can look around for awhile? Maybe have a bite to eat or something.”
He thought about what she said with an open mind and looked past her at the towering hotel in front of him. He nodded reluctantly (“Alright,” he had said under his breath) and stepped out of the car, trying not to look into the piercing gaze of her emerald eyes. She got into the car and drove away without saying another word. The moment she disappeared around the side of the hotel, the pressure trapped in his brain began to lessen, and he began to feel better. However that remarkable feeling that he had felt before was now almost gone.
He turned his attention to the hotel. The dark and somber color of the hotel itself was hard to notice under the beautiful array of hazy and colorful lights that were cast over it. They imposed themselves all upon the walls, shimmering and twirling up and down the four-or-five story building, making it difficult to focus on any one part of it. The same lights repleted the dancing waters of the fountain at the center of the roundabout, giving it the same vague effects.
He took slow, cautious steps towards the front doors. As he stepped under the concrete awning of the entrance walkway, he noticed a sign surrounded by small hedges of beautiful plants next to the front door, The Hotel California, it read, Anytime of Year, You can Find it Here.
Another woman in a gold vest stood by the golden-rimmed automatic doors, very similar in looks to the valet. Upon looking at her, he felt another wave of that horrible sickness wash over him, however all he did to combat it was take slower steps towards the entrance. The woman smiled at him as he approached and said, “Welcome to the most beautiful place that you will never want to leave.”
He walked past her, avoiding his need to look into her green eyes. He entered the resort and the doors closed behind him.
Three seemingly endless hallways stretched out from the lobby in every direction except out. Each one of them was lined with cookie cutter doorways that were only spaced a few feet apart from each other. Throughout the infinite corridors, however, he couldn’t spot a single exit sign.
“May I be of any assistance to you, sir?”
The low voice seemed to resonate deep throughout John. He turned to see a grotesquely ugly man standing behind a counter, his hands held politely above his groin, Todd Ciani written on his name-tag.
John stared at this man, a loss of words hanging in his mouth. The man stared back, a plastic smile on his face.
“May I be of any assistance to you, sir?”
John only continued to dumbly stare at this man, whose eyes were the most horrible of colors. As they glared at him, something inside of him told him he shouldn’t be here. Something in the back of his mind called to him, telling him to get out right this minute. say no, he thought, say no you cannot help me. say no, no, no...
“Why are you here?” the desk clerk asked.
“What brings you out this way?”
John looked around him. The question floated around in his mind and became ever more present as he realized his situation.
He turned and walked to the doorway, peering through the glass that led outside. The sun was completely gone now, and only very few stars filled the night sky.
He pulled on the door handle for a reason he couldn’t quite think of only to find that it had been locked.
His eyes widened and his heart skipped a beat and a million heavy thoughts flooded his brain in that split second of panic.
“We keep the doors locked at night, sir.”
“Why?” asked John, still somewhat alarmed.
“Security, sir. Our customers safety and pleasure are our top priorities here at the Hotel California.”
John squeezed the handle and pressed the top of his head against the door, letting his eyes wander in his own confusion.
“Can you unlock it, please?”
“May I ask for your name, sir?”
John turned around to look at the desk clerk, wondering if maybe he didn’t hear his question.
The desk clerk slowly nodded, never once breaking the gaze with those awful eyes.
“My name’s John.”
The desk clerk only continued to smile with that plastic smile and said nothing. John stared at him, waiting for a response to his answer. But they only sat there in an agonizing silence, those dangerous eyes sawing through John like a serrated knife going back and forth and back and forth and--
“Can you unlock--”
“May I inquire to you, Mr. John…”
John looked at him, taken back.
“… what brings you out this way?”
John felt scared now. He felt almost as if this man was the one who brought him here in the first place, and that he knew exactly what was going to happen to him.
“Because if you’re rather lost at the moment, Mr. John, why not spend a night here to rest and then figure out where you’re going tomorrow.”
John turned back around to look outside. Although he was scared, that seemed to be an answer. That seemed to be the only answer. He couldn’t continue to travel tonight anyway. What if he were to fall asleep at the wheel? He thought it safer to just get some rest now, and he’ll figure out what to do in the morning. For now, he could just relax.
“Would you like a room?” the desk clerk asked.
John sighed with defeat. “Yes please,” he submitted.
John walked down a long hallway feeling weary and pathetic, however the closer he got to his room, the more the sickness set in, and the more he needed to get to his room. His walk became faster as he got closer. And faster. And faster.
Until he was staring at the number that matched the one on his door key. 1C6.12 was engraved in the wooden door. Somebody had scratched a messy X right through it.
He fumbled the key around through his fingers in a frantic rush before shoving it through the keyhole and opening the door and slamming it shut. He leaned his back against it for a second, panting, but then he was overcome with the most sensational physical feeling he’d ever felt, and he collapsed on the floor. He rolled over on the carpet of his windowless paradise and stared past the ceiling into space. He felt weightless, like he was floating. He couldn’t feel the sickness anymore, and he felt good.
John didn’t bother getting up and going to the bed to sleep. Instead he lied in his spot on the floor in an endless wonder for what could’ve been anywhere between seconds and an eternity until he fell asleep.
John awoke. He looked at the clock on the wall next to him, which read 5:23. He sat up and rubbed his hands on his face. A relaxed feeling still remained from the night before.
He looked at the door and realized that since he was now done here at the Hotel California (done for good, he thought), he should be on his way. He got up and groggily started towards the door. He lazily threw his hand around the doorknob and twisted it, but it was locked. After a moment of confusion, he realized that he needed the room key. He turned to walk back to where he had dropped it on the floor the previous night, but it wasn’t there. He furrowed his brow and checked his pockets. The key wasn’t there either, so he checked under the bed. Then he checked on the nightstand and dresser. Then he checked in the drawers. After nearly tearing the whole room apart, he started banging on the door, screaming for anyone who might hear him. No one came in all those 30 minutes that he was calling, and John screamed a curse at the top of his lungs. He stared at the door for a long second, and then took a step back and kicked it, leaning all of his weight into the leg that bared the weight of the door. A fast and painful shock shot through John’s leg as soon as he had made contact, and he screamed out in pain. He collapsed to the floor, hugging his knee to his chest and gritting his teeth. After rolling around in pain for a moment or two, he heard a series of clicks that could only be the door opening. He opened his eyes and nearly completely forgot his pain as he sat up to watch the door open in front of him. His eyes twisted and struggled to focus through his bewilderment as a man stood over him. The desk clerk held out the palm of one of his hands and in it was the room key.
John was frozen on the floor with absolute shock. Every part of him wanted to get out of there at that second, but his body refused to move, and instead he sat there in fear.
“Leaving, Mr. John?” the desk clerk said, his horrible eyes as still as a painting. John only continued to sit there wondering what this man would do next.
“Why don’t you come again sometime? We’ll keep the same room for you, and we won’t take no for answer,” he said and widened his smile.
John felt trapped. He needed to go. He needed to go now or he knew he never would. He promptly scrambled off of the floor and ran past the desk clerk, who followed him with his head. John sprinted down the hallway and into the lobby and out the front door. The sun in the sky tore right through his eyeballs and stopped him for a second, but he continued as soon as his eyes adjusted. He saw his car in the roundabout where he had pulled in the night before, the valet with her shiny gold vest was standing right next to it. As he ran towards it she smiled and held the key out by the key ring with her index finger and thumb. He snatched it out of her hand and as he got in the car she had started to say something, but he had already started to pull away by the time he noticed. He floored the accelerator and whipped back onto the highway at full speed, leaving a cloud of dust and the smiling faces of his hosts behind.
John felt the sun on his face and the wind in his hair as he drove along the highway. Free, he thought ecstatically. A smile stretched across his face.
Soon enough, however, the sun started to set and he started to lose focus on where he was going. He longed for his girlfriend back, she would know what to tell him and where to go. Out here on his own, he was just a helpless lost dog.
Soon enough, that relaxed feeling that had stayed from the night before turned into nothing but a pleasant tingle. He tried to find every reason he could to stay on the highway, to continue where he was going, but the more he thought about it, the more it seemed like staying on this road was hopeless.
Soon enough, he realized that if he continued where he was going, that tingling would disappear. And what else would he have if he didn’t at least have that wonderful feeling? But something told him that he had to stay on this road. But what was this road? Was it the road to nowhere? The road to complete oblivion? The more he thought about it, the more it looked like exactly that.
Soon enough, he had forgotten where he was going, but he needed to continue. He needed to. For whatever reason he needed to continue.
But soon enough, he had forgotten where he had come from as well, and all that left him with was that tingle. That fantastic and brilliant tingling. And it wasn’t before long that he found himself on the road back to the Hotel California.