This month sees publication of our newest print issue, Hobart #15: HOTEL CULTURE. As such, and as we have done to accompany our last few print issues, we are devoting the month to various "bonus materials" -- photo essays, alternate endings, drawings, extra short fictions, interviews, & more!
Today we've got a bonus short-short from Hobart 15 contributor, JL Bogenschneider.
You’re outside a hotel, a medium-sized place in a down-at-heels town; the kind that does enough business to keep going; that says it has three stars but which doesn’t mean anything.
This is your life now, places like these. They blur into one with their congruent details: the carpets of different hues, but from the same stock; the plates and cutlery in the dining room all with the same stamp; the linen and bedclothes cut from similar cloth. Always different, always the same.
The foyer is coated with thinly papered peeling walls; the floor pasted with tiles, half-cracked and chipped. The hazy static of a radio seeps in from somewhere and the reception is unattended. You ring the bell but no-one comes so you leave your bags and wander off. The hotel is deserted: the tables in the dining room are set, but empty and the lounge has an air of abandonment. There’s a clattering noise behind a wall that could be the kitchen, but there’s no door to be seen so you go back the way you came. There are stairs that rise up from the centre of the reception but they only lead to rooms with locked doors to which you have no key.
Across the other side of the foyer is a TV room with a sad library of mildewed books and not even yesterday’s paper. A passage leads to a conservatory where there are tables and chairs but again: empty. You try the handle and it’s locked. You jiggle it with violence and a man appears who eyes you with caution and leads you back to the reception. Of course there is someone there now, examining your bags with suspicion.
The concierge berates you for leaving your luggage: at a certain level of establishment, customer service holds a null value. He hands over a key without an offer of help and the lift is out of service – he says – so you’ll have to take the stairs.
On the top floor a cleaner is sweeping the carpet with an asthmatic vacuum cleaner; the corridor reeks of tobacco and Pledge. As you put the key in the lock there is a bing-bong from behind and the sliding doors of a fully-functioning lift open up: empty, mocking.
The room is standard: single bed, tiny table, plastic phone and a press. Everything is a coffee-stain brown. There is no en-suite; the bathroom is communal and located down the hall. You haven’t checked yet, but you know that the shower is a coin-op.
The view from the window is the brick facade of another hotel. If your life was a film or a book, you’d kick off your shoes, take a drink from the mini-bar, loosen your tie and sprawl out on the bed. But there is no mini-bar and you don’t even wear a tie these days; you’re too tired to take off your shoes and all you can even manage is to lay down on the sheets and sleep. This is your life now.
But you can’t sleep during the day. You’re only half-tired and what you need is a drink. You un-rumple your shirt, straighten your collar, put on your jacket, survey the tiny room and then leave. At the end of the empty corridor is the lift. You stab at the button, there is the bing-bong and the doors which slide open. A guest steps out – ignores you – and then you’re alone, within.
In the mirrors on each side – and why do all lifts have mirrors? – all the reflections refract into one another so that there are two of you; then there are four; then sixteen; then two-hundred and fifty-six, then sixty-five-hundred and Christ, there are no end to the reflections which in turn are reflected, so that there are thousands – maybe millions – of you: of men in lifts, reaching further and further back, and perhaps in one of these reflections you are not you, but someone and anyone else; someone different and new and in that reflection everything is possible.
But the reflections aren’t real and this is your life now.
You’re welcome to it.