(A ghost story. Nothing scary. It was intended as short piece, originally. I am currently bogged down with how to wrap it up, but can’t quite give up on it.)
I couldn’t believe the hotel was open, let alone operating. When I had driven by, earlier, it looked dark and abandoned. In fact, I could have sworn some of the windows were boarded up.
The Night Star Hotel was like something out of a fifties movie. It sat in the middle of nowhere, looking vaguely like a Victorian estate with some incomplete modernisation over the years. If it weren’t so run down it would have been a classy place.
I felt like hell and probably looked like hell as I dragged myself through the door. Really, I was glad to be alive, more than anything. It had been a long night well before I arrived.
“Good evening,” a plain, average sized desk clerk greeted me without much emotion or interest, apparently ignoring my bedraggled state. He wore an old fashioned outfit, the kind you sometimes see at really posh hotels; except this one lacked the over-starched, pristine look. In fact, everything about the place reeked of high class past its expiration date.
“Yeah,” I said, brushing the melting snow from my coat, “if you say so.” I hoped this would prompt some conversation from him, perhaps an offer of a room. My hope didn’t materialise. The man had barely glanced my way, as though a visitor at two in the morning was commonplace.
“I wrecked my car a little way down the road,” I continued after the awkward pause. “A shitty turn at the bottom of a hill was iced up pretty solid. Went right over into the trees. Kinda surprised I made it out in one piece.”
The man finally gave me a proper look and sighed. “Very sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can do to help you?”
“Yeah, my car is totalled. I just walked three or four miles to get here. Are you okay? This is a hotel, right? It’s not some kind of golf club or something?”
“This is a hotel, sir,” the man said, pushing his wire frame glasses further up his nose. “We have available rooms, if you wish to check in.” He sounded depressed about offering me a room, and his look suggested regret.
“That would be great,” I said, trying to consider the motivation level of a night clerk at an old hotel in the middle of nowhere. “Do you have a smoking room?”
He gave me a strange look, like I had asked him a difficult question. “If I understand you, sir, then yes, you may smoke in the room. Please sign in here.” He opened a large, worn guest book and slid an ink pot and fountain pen beside it.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked, suddenly wondering if I had suffered a head injury in the crash. The return look plainly told me there was no kidding involved. I signed in as best I could with the ancient pen, trying not to smile too much.
“Do you require any particular kind of room, sir?” the clerk asked in his flat, monotonous voice.
“Nothing special,” I replied. “I have just wrecked my car and marched a long way to this place. I am overtired, need a shower and a sleep.” I pulled out my cell phone, and checked for reception. I had checked it after the crash, and came up with zero bars. The reception was the same in the hotel lobby. How far away from civilisation was I?
“A room with a comfortable bed and a shower,” the clerk muttered cheerlessly. “Two-oh-four is available, and quite nice. I believe it is what you are after.” He placed a skeleton key with the number 204 engraved on the bow. I was tired and asked a foolish question.
“Is there a chip in this, then? For the lock, I mean?”
“It is just a key, sir,” the clerk said, still not smiling. “It is not damaged.”
Things were registering slowly, but registering. “I probably took a knock on the head, so I might be a bit foggy. I am guessing there is no wi-fi here, right?”
“I am not sure what you are referring to, however I do not believe we have any such thing. Was there anything else, sir?”
“I think that covers it,” I replied. “Thanks.”
He directed me to the stairwell, giving directions to the room. The decor along the way did not register with me. The reassurance of a room, bed and general safety was already making me tired. The door and skeleton key lock were as ancient as they seemed, clicking open heavily as it unlocked. I must have hit my head pretty hard in the crash.
The room was not huge, but large by any modern standard. The high ceiling is what stood out most. The decor was like something out of a movie, only from the thirties. Still, it looked clean and comfortable. Anything would have worked for me after a car crash and a long walk through the snow. I threw my bag on the chair and checked out the bathroom; a lot of brass, tile and porcelain. The shower was a great iron tub with a bowed pipe ending in a shower head that looked like it belonged in a museum. I got undressed and fired up the shower. The water, no matter how I tried to adjust it, was never hot; a touch more than lukewarm, at best.
I hit the bed like a ton of bricks, tremendously overtired and forgetting to call the insurance company or my boss. The bed was incredibly comfortable. I was out in moments.
When I woke, the room was dark. I had no idea how long I had slept, though it felt like a long time. Somehow, I felt tired.
After a few minutes of just relaxing I got up. Reality began to sink in. The room was no different than I remembered it. I had fallen asleep with the lights on; the clock on the night stand showed it was three o’clock, with no indication of a.m. or p.m. to clarify. That I might have slept less than an hour seemed unlikely, though I did feel tired. The other possibility, that I had slept through to the afternoon, felt even more unlikely. Whatever the case, I got up and pulled the blind aside to see what the outside had to say. It was a cloudy, grey afternoon, much like yesterday. I had seriously overslept.