last night’s nightmare.
I didn’t know we were going to a hotel until I opened my eyes one morning and found myself in one. I asked my parents where we were, and they responded with tight, wide smiles that made their cheeks touch their ears. This was a bad answer to me, so I turned around to observe where we were myself.
The first thing I noticed about this lobby—I think it was a lobby—was that it was big and elegant and red. Extremely red. And bright. Like it was trying its best to make you feel at ease. It was almost like this hotel was saying to me, “You have no reason to be afraid.” I believed it and turned back to my parents.
They had not said one word for the full sixty seconds we had been there, and they continued to stay silent even when a man dressed all professional came up to us and took our bags. He guided us to a hallway, where I assumed there was an elevator, and slid a third arm about my hips to move me along.
I usually would have screamed if someone did that to me. My mom would have killed him; my dad would have killed him again. Neither of my parents seemed to mind it. (They still had those painfully happy smiles on their faces. You would have thought this was the best day of their life!)
If they didn’t care, I guessed I shouldn’t either. I just kept walking. He had no face, anyway, and I think that may have helped.
The man told me today was Saturday, October 15th, 2019. I nodded. Had I missed by 18th birthday?
He told me what country we were in. It was not America.
I had just realized that my brother and sister were not with us. I knew they existed, but they weren’t with us. It was just me and the couple that raised me. There were no other children, or families for that matter, and the room was drenched in so much silence that I developed an urge to scream.
My parents weren’t idiots. So why would they take us—take me—to a place like this? Where were my siblings?
The elevator was in front of us. I turned to ask my mom if I could press the “UP” button, but I saw nothing but a red wall. I looked left and then right, from corner to corner, and saw that I was not only alone but also encased in red walls on all sides.
The red in the room was starting to get on my nerves. It was saying to me, “Do you like me? Do you like this color? Do it make you happy?” And I would say to it, “No, I don’t like you. I do not be happy.”
I pressed the button, and the doors glided open to reveal an empty elevator. I stepped inside, only to find this was the one place so far that was covered in silver mirrors. The elevator was also ten times bigger than any other one I had been in. Did they haul elephants—no, the whole zoo—in these things? I hadn’t had a chance to ask my parents what floor we were on, and the buttons jumped around from 15 to 57 to 223.
“Can you click 220 for me, dear?” It was a small woman, old and dying, tears streaming down her face. She wasn’t sad though, because she had a toothy smile plastered on her wrinkled skin. I did what she asked and stared ahead in the mirror.
I looked odd. Like me, but not me. The old woman was gone.
The elevator had one side without a door, so you could see the contents of every level as you passed. (I think you could jump off if you wanted to.) I saw 218 rooms that were red and empty, silent save for the minor squeak of the elevator as it rose. Floor 219 had statues of Disney characters—ones I’m pretty sure they didn’t have the rights to. I only saw it for a moment, but I can recall the demented faces they were making. Some were smiling, yes, but there so many of them, so many not smiling, so many that looked like they were in pain. There was nothing graphic or traumatizing about it, but seeing that roomed filled with hundreds of six-foot statues, one being a dead-eyed, smiling Mickey Mouse and another a crying Elsa, with no one else in the room, made me feel a bit afraid.
Do it make you happy? Do it?
Floor 220 was now before me, and I stepped into it. I was immediately met with an enormous room overflowing with families laughing and playing. There were swings, slides, toys, but really nothing us. Just a lot of happy people in a big, stupid, red room.
I saw my parents, and they had my little brother and sister near them. I was going to walk to them, but I saw a sign that said “Private: Adult Only.” I followed that sign and found a bathroom with no doors, lined with four urinals, two toilets without a stall, and a white sink. I peered into the sink; there was a man’s head on a fish’s body swimming about the water, glowering at me like I had committed a crime.
Everything about this place I could excuse, but when I saw that fish-man tapping about the water, I knew this was a punishment.
I ran to my mother in that ridiculous red room, accidently tripping a small child. I was preparing to say sorry, but the child kept walking, as if had not felt me. I punched an old man in the face, slapped some kid that looked my age, and kicked a blond woman in the stomach. My body went right through them, no satisfaction of contact being made, and I concluded that none of them were real.
Except for that old woman. The same one that was and wasn’t in the elevator. She was watching me with those runny eyes, looking all terrifying and old and small. I thought it better to ignore her, and I ran to my mother.
“Mom, where’s our room? I wanna go to bed.” I was relieved—horrified and relieved—that she was actually real and responded back.
“Hello, darling. You look ill. Have you had anything to drink yet?”
“What?” It was awfully terrible making out what she was saying. It was like she was speaking Japanese and poorly dubbing over herself in English, failing to sync the audio up with her mouth movements. Or like I was watching her on a laptop that had the worst lag imaginable and dreadful playback quality. The room was also very loud with the laughs and screams of other people, the ones that weren’t real.
“Can I have the room key please? I really need to lay down.”
“We have not been here long, darling. Are you sure you don’t want anything to drink?”
Why was she calling me darling? She had never called me that before today. Before today…
“Can I have the key, mom?”
“Alright, first-born female offspring. Here you go.” She plopped a black circle into my hands, and then frowned at me. “Surely you can think of something better than that?”
Her words were not matching up with her mouth at all now. “What?”
“I thought you were more creative than that, darling.”
I looked at the circle in my hand. “Is this not the key?”
“No, No. Surely you can do better than that.”
“Can you give me the key?”
“You must drink something, darling. Why do you not go down to the lobby and talk to that handsome man downstairs? I am sure he will fix you.”
The lag was so bad on her words that I had no idea what she was saying. “What?”
“Oh dear, was that not a man downstairs? I could have sworn it was a man and not a woman, but no matter. There are plenty of other things to make you happy here. There’s a room on the floor below filled with smores and creepy music. I am sure you would love it, daughter.”
“Can I have the key, mom?
“Or maybe it had gummy bears and posters of ugly, funny boys. You do like those things, right? Oh, they had told me this place would make you so happy.”
I was about to break. Her voice was now replaced by some generic text-to-speech machine and was starting to slow down. “Are you real? Are you even here?”
“I am about to go. Your father left a few hours ago, and your siblings are at home. They did not need to come… only you needed to be here.”
What was she saying? This room was getting louder, her voice was getting more robotic and impossible to piece together. “Can we go home?”
“Oh, but I have not seen you smile once since we have been here! Do you not be happy? Maybe if you smile we could take you back home.”
If I had actually understood what she had said, I would have smiled like it was my last time. Instead, I started sweating. “We have to go.”
“But be happy! It do be, it do be! Hotel do be happy!!” She ripped the circle out of my hand and threw it at the old woman who had been watching us the entire time.
“It do, it do be!!!”