Summary: Inspired by the song Hotel California, this story has Adam in an unusual hotel with strange goings on.
Word Count: 1381
It had been a long and dusty road for Adam, and as he stopped at the livery stable to get Sport settled for the night, he realized he was dirty, hungry, and tired, which he would take care of in that order. He headed to the hotel, assuming he would get a room, and startled the clerk, who looked over Adam’s shoulder at the door that had closed. The clerk sighed deeply. There were many people in the hotel, which surprised Adam in this little town well out of the way of the usual travel routes. He had taken a long detour to deliver a package to a friend of his father. Also surprising, he asked if the dining room was open, and the clerk said it never closed. He paid the extra for a bath and received a thick cotton towel and directions to the washroom.
Cleaned up and dressed in clean clothing, Adam felt quite a bit better and headed to the hotel restaurant for dinner. There were many in the dining room, but everyone was mostly very serious and almost morose in manner. Unable to engage anyone in conversation, Adam ate a hearty meal and headed to his room for a good night’s sleep. He had been pleased to find the room clean and fresh smelling. Stripping off his clothing and sliding between the sheets, he closed his eyes and fell into a deep slumber.
The next morning, refreshed and invigorated, Adam thought he would have a big breakfast and then head toward home. He didn’t hear any wind, so he assumed the windstorm had blown itself out. Breakfast was much like dinner the night before. People were reasonably friendly but no one wanted to converse. The food was tasty and there was a lot of it. Adam smiled as he thought of his brother Hoss and how much he would like this place. He finished and walked to the desk to pay. The clerk was snoozing as he had been the day before. Adam knocked on the desktop startling him again.
“Yes, can I help you?”
“I just want to pay my bill and check out.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but you see, you can always check in here, but you can’t check out.”
“What? That’s ridiculous!”
“No sir; no one has checked out for almost thirty years — since the first year we were open for business. In fact, no one has ever left here since those doors last opened.”
“Boy, you can’t be more than eighteen at best. You could not have been here for thirty years. And those doors opened yesterday.”
“No one ages here, sir. Food is provided. Laundry is clean every time you look for it. Hot water is there whenever we want it, but we can’t leave. For you, sir, they opened from the outside. But they won’t open for anyone inside.”
“Well, they’ll open for me.” Adam went to the doors but found they were just painted on the wall. He rushed into the restaurant to go through a window and found the same. No wonder there had been no one on the street last night and this morning. There was no glass to see through. He dropped his saddlebags and rifle, heading up to the room he had, and found the windows there were the same. He walked down the stairs perplexed. “Why? What’s going on here?”
“Thirty years ago, an innocent man was hung because the owner of this hotel lied in court to cover up his own crime. The man’s fiancée checked into this hotel, and that night, she killed the owner, but he fought her and inflicted fatal injuries on her too. She died upstairs in a room, but no one knew it until later. The sheriff came in here and got the owner’s body, and as soon as he left, the doors and windows closed up and none of us could leave. Over the years, people have come in, but no one has left.”
“There’s nothing we can do?”
“Every man here has been approached once by her spirit. It’ll happen when your eyes are closed as in sleep. She is cold as ice, and every one of us has escaped her clutches. We think that was our mistake. Someone should have shown her love, shown her some tenderness or compassion. Well, until you get your chance, did you bring any books or games with you? Maybe a newspaper?”
“Sorry, the only book I have with me is Shakespeare.”
“Oh, please, may we read it? We have so little in the way of entertainment in here.”
Pulling out the book after digging into his saddlebags, Adam couldn’t believe that he was succumbing to the mass psychosis of the people in this room. He spent the rest of the morning checking walls, ceilings, and the attic looking for a way out. He tried forcing boards on the walls and fake windows, but no tool that was available made even the slightest dent in the wood. It was as hard as rock. He tried prying up floorboards and found the same problem. After giving the people there some warning, he tried setting a fire against a side wall. The smoke drifted into the room and dissipated until the crumpled up paper was gone. There was no mark, not even a scorch mark, on the wall.
“Don’t you think we’ve tried all of those things?”
“Yah, mister, we’ve tried them hundreds and hundreds of time. You had as much success as we did.”
“Well, can a man get a drink here?”
Suddenly the doors to the attached saloon opened and music began playing from the piano. Adam walked into the room where lamps were lit. There were bottles of whisky standing on the bar and on tables.
“This is where they held the trial. It was right here that she said she’d kill the man done killed her man.”
“We don’t come in here often, mister. It gets real cold in here sometimes. Feels like your bones are freezing.”
Pouring a drink and downing it in one gulp, Adam weighed his options. Then he had one question. “What room was hers?”
He walked up the stairs and went to her room. The door handle was ice cold and when he opened the door, he was met with an icy blast. He forced himself to go in. He walked to the bed and lay down and closed his eyes. He was cold but somehow managed to fall asleep. He didn’t know how long he had slept when he heard a lady’s sad moan. Within minutes, he felt an icy presence on the bed with him. He reached out his arms, and it was like falling into an icy lake. He willed himself to wrap his arms around the frigid apparition, for as he opened his eyes, he was in the presence of a wraith. He put his hand to the back of her icicle-bound head and pulled her toward him. He kissed her with all the passion he could muster, even as his body betrayed him with shivers. Her hands roamed over him with icy precision. He did not flinch but caressed her as she caressed him even as his fingers grew numb and he lost all sense of touch. As the long intense kiss ended, the ice cold vanished, the sun shone in the windows, and the door to the room opened. He stood up, shaky and weak, and stumbled to the door. Opening it, he slowly walked down the hall and down the stairs. He was regaining his equilibrium as he regained body warmth.
As Adam proceeded, the windows and doors opened. When he picked up his rifle and saddlebags, the front doors of the hotel opened to the sunny dusty street outside. All the people in the lobby rushed outside and immediately aged by the years they had spent in the hotel. Many became dust and bones. Others were old and wrinkled or middle-aged at least. Some who had not been there as long were just older versions of themselves. Adam looked back at the hotel, and it was a boarded up derelict unfit for human habitation.