Why someone would build a machine out of mirrors, cable wire, clocks and AM/FM receivers I still cannot answer. I can't answer the purpose of it either. But I know that it was unfinished, or wasn't put to its full use, and that if the man was telling me the truth, he needed my part in completing it. Since then, I've gone back and forth about it in my mind, seeing technology here and there with seemingly no connection to each other and a strong desire to elaborately connect them in some way, for some reason, an urge to recreate the machine I saw in that room that day.
My growing obsession with the room and the machine goes back to that dream I had, in that room in that hotel, in that city I shouldn't had been in.
I had to find somewhere to sleep. The place was too foreign to me and too dark now, which only brooded that feeling of isolation from my surroundings. The buildings, the cars, the people; they all looked unfamiliar and instilled alien emotions deep inside. That's what the night does that unnerves me so much, showing you a different side to things, turning the quaint and ordinary into something distant and taunting. It's like you're seeing these things for the first time, through an alien's eyes.
It may have been by chance when I found the hotel. I’m more inclined to think it found me. It had a few floors of unevenly lighted windows which, from the highway, illuminated itself like a crooked smile. And as I drove myself into the parking lot, I couldn't fight the feeling I was about to be swallowed whole.
Scurrying out of the rain into the hotel's lobby, it didn't feel much drier inside, it certainly didn't feel much cleaner. The interior was subtly vintage in its choice of throwpillows, wallpaper, and lightning, although it was doubtful this was by choice. After a moment, I was greeted by a receptionist whose head didn’t poke out all of the way from the large desk, or maybe she was just too short. She had a cherub-like face, and very shy, yet energetic speech to match.
“Can I help you, today, I mean... uh, tonight, sir?”
I inquired her about the rooms and, on a key-rack on the back, I could see only two more slots with keys still attached. There couldn't be only two vacant rooms; what sense did that make? It didn't seem right with the uneven lighting of the windows, which hinted at many dark, unused vacancies. The parking lot was also empty save for cars parked along the north end of the hotel, presumptively used by the staff. I decided to just choose the first room that caught my eye, the one on the left.
“I'll take number 15, that should be fine.”
The awful voice of what maybe belonged to a woman interrupted me. Like the whiny impressions of an animal mimicking human speech and heavy emphasis on the i's. “Miiister, If I was you I certaiiinly wouldn't do that!”
I turned to see the voice came from an old heavyset woman in the corner, seated in a reclining chair. She had a shawl covering her head and round glasses with black lenses. I don't know why I didn't notice her right when I walked in. It's not like anyone else was in the lobby besides the receptionist.
The receptionist told me to ignore her, as if this was a regular problem, then explained reasonably to me in her childish voice why the room on the left might be better to choose from. The old woman yelled again, wheezing and coughing as she did.
“She's right, child, don't go in there! Don't go in that room, not that one!” Her black glasses gleamed slightly.
I expected her to make some sort of point or explanation but she kept repeating herself and rambling on about nonsense. I faced the receptionist, whose smile had started to fall apart. I suspected it may have not been real to begin with.
“Miss? Why shouldn't I go into that room? Room...” I squinted my eyes to see which room the left key belonged to.
“Room 14,” she interjected.
"Of course, I’m an idiot," I thought.
We both looked at the woman, who had settled down for a bit, but probably not to last.
“Well, Mister… it doesn't exist, at least not anymore. It was quartered off.”
Room 15 smelled of laundry detergent and was cold and dark. I noticed how squalid it all seemed, especially with the cigarette stained walls. I made myself comfortable the best I could and eventually shifted towards the window, where, I peered out into the strange city, no longer as a participant of its allure, but as an observer. Or so I liked to think. Even from here, nighttime made all of the buildings and their doors and windows appear sinister and decrepit, like caves or mouths begging to be opened (or to keep something out?)
It's a common habit for me when I see cars drive by to visualize the people inside of them. I think about how inside of that space exists a person just like me with their own memories, feeling, goals and fears. I don't understand whether this comforts me or disturbs me.
I looked down unto all the traffic in the street below and wondered what kind of the lives these people, in this strange city, lived day to day.
Later when I began to lie down, I noticed, even among the aged walls, a mass of black... something on the ceiling. It festered mostly in that spot, but the substance also spread down the side of the far wall. Could it be mold? I wasn't sure, for it didn't have those fuzzy hairs to it, but I couldn't see well anyway. It seemed to have been there for an indeterminate amount of time, either long before I entered, or perhaps only very recently.
That night I had a dream where I woke up and saw that the window was gone. I exited my room and walked down the hall where I noticed they too had no windows. I knew something was wrong, and panic got the best of me. I ran to find the lobby and the receptionist.
Going down staircases which led to other hallways, and up staircases which left to even more hallways, I eventually did find something, but not the lobby. I was going down a hallway when I came to a door which compelled me to enter. It didn't look much different from the other doors, but this one was ajar, and from the inside I heard faint traces of sound and smell. The plastic lettering confirmed the door belonged to room 14. I entered.
The room was protruding with articulated machines and devices of unknown use, tubes linking from one end of the room to the other, like a mechanical spider's web. It smelled like burnt hair and was remarkably cold. The soft crunching of wires of wires beneath my feet consoled me and faint flickers of light guided my way as I plunged into a space too indefinite to had been a room.
Towers with clusters of knobs and glass panels were stacked around in a corner, which I neared closer and closer to. To my surprise, I saw the old woman from the lobby, although not as old. She stood over a young man who seemed distressed while he worked on some machine. He wore around his neck a spherical necklace with the design of a star.
She ranted on about something, and being younger, her anger filled pitch was much more composed and stern. From afar the vast intricacy of the wires insulated her speech, but now her voice echoed and heightened off the equipment in horrible squeals. It was then that I noticed she wasn't wearing her glasses, and that where eyes should have been, there were only empty sockets with a faint red glow.
Past her and the young man, I saw something that was not a man. Maybe it could have once been, but now was something else. Whatever it was, it started to speak. From this creature's rotten flesh, voices crept not from one, but several mouths, all speaking at pitches slower and faster than each other. It was as if the creature's parts were fighting against themselves and only the conflict itself kept it from tearing its frail, meshed body apart.
“FASTER… JUST A LITTLE MORE… THE ANCIENT… THIS… COMPLETE… I TRANSFORM… WEREGILD…”
As the thing spoke, the young man's necklace glowed with the same luminescence as the woman's soulless eyes. He tinkered with the wires, and did something wrong. The old woman beat him over the head and he wept. “Do what your father asks of you!”
I woke up with thick black liquid all over myself. I noticed the black mass on the ceiling had seemed to blister the walls even more. It had gotten heaver, looked like it was sagging and almost to burst.
I went down to the lobby, not sure of the time, and found it empty, with neither the receptionist or the old woman. While I waited, I looked around more at the layout of the lobby, there was something else which gnawed at me, not just the aged choices in furniture or unpleasant smells. Then I saw a small sculpture on an end table, a woman bearing a spherical star design. And the wallpaper behind it, in between the floral patterns there was the same symbol. It duplicated itself in the aesthetic of the place, like hypnotizing and hallucinatory camouflage.
But what was it supposed to be hiding?
The sound of a sharp “ring!” snapped me back into it. It was the receptionist, strangely enough, who rang the bell after I waited for her to arrive. She seemed happier, in fact, maybe even more composed than last night. It was daytime, right? The windows were still there, but covered by blinds and curtains, shielding the place from any sunlight that might harm its interior.
The sound of “How are you this morning, today, sir?” in her pleasant voice comforted me enough, to where I could feel in an adequate mood to talk to her. I almost forgot I came down here to complain about the mold spore, if that's what I came down here for. I made a little small talk first.
Her name was Hayley. She was 20 and had lived in this city her entire life. She was wearing a white jacket which made her look like a nurse. I didn't ask too many questions, I mostly enjoyed listening to her talk. It seemed like she didn't get the opportunity too much.
Apparently the hotel had been the property of a certain family for some time by then; she had not belonged to that family. She mentioned the old woman, briefly, remarking how she used to be married and now just “stayed around, scaring people off”, and left it at that.
Eventually, I told her about the mold spore. I had avoided mentioning it because, like the rest of this place, she seemed too pure to have to bother with it. She told me to hold on for a minute and went behind the desk, and back into wherever the staff preoccupied themselves. For a while I was in the lobby by myself again. I noticed a few curious star statues on the desk. Much to my surprise, a maintenance man came back out. He had an old face, with eyes full of sorrow, but with a genuine smile. I led him to my room, where on the way, I noticed how much of his skin was covered from the neck down. He wore a long sleeved shirt and khakis folded at the ends. I caught a glimpse of his hands as we walked and talked; he wore two watches, one on each hand, and had blistered aged hands, much like the ceiling we were about to look at.
When I led him into the room his happy demeanor seemed to fade away, but he was still serene and composed. As if his life was a nuisance which had learned to always return to and accept.
He left the room shortly and came back with a ladder and some cleaning supplies. When he got it inside the room, he requested I help him up on the ladder. I tried to decline, but he was insistent he needed to have a good look at the spore. He was so diligent to do this, I even offered to myself, but he refused. He mentioned he wasn't as old as he looked.
“Yep, just as I suspected,” he said with a groan, “not mold, but something's leaking through the ceiling here.”
“Where's it coming from?”
“Well, the room above you, I'd imagine.”
This place had a knack for making me zone out or be mostly incompetent in conversations, or maybe it was the people who were making the conversations odd and somewhat awkward. This man seemed nice enough.
I followed him through the hallway and recounted to myself, my dream where I couldn't find any windows, so I paid close attention to each one I saw.
We ascended a flight of stairs and then we both came to it. A room at the end of the hall which didn't look different from any of the others, except for the horrible tensions that came to me when I realized that this was the room from my dream. And indeed, the plastic numbers of one and four confirmed its identity.
I turned to face him, but he already began to speak. “Yep, here it is... good ole' room 14... before we had to quarter it off.” Before I could question he kept talking, “It was this room that causes all the trouble...” I paid attention to how he said it causes trouble, as if it wasn't something left in the past.
I remembered my dream, and the faint scent of burnt hair materialized near and around me. He kept talking; it become apparent I wasn't going to get much of a word in while he rambled on. He went on to talk about the hotel and its decline, remarking on the many visitors they used to get, and the potential ones being warded off all the while putting special emphasis on me. Thanking me several times for being here, almost in a condescending manner however, as if he expected me to be here out of a favor for him. He mentioned how the hotel has improved over the years, but took a decline with aforementioned problems the room provided. The minimalist stylistic choices being “redone” to fit his family's vision, bright yellow hues and repeating patterns of certain shapes. He even mentioned at one point the STARS of the hotel and how they declined from a four to a three... and so on. He shared with me a memory from when he was a boy putting in windows in the hallways where there previously had been none.
The more detailed he got, the more my dream and my ensuing paranoia was mimicked in that same uneasy feeling when bad memories get brought up that would rather be laid to rest.
I asked him why room 14 was above room 15 instead of in the same hall; I didn't think about this too much in my dream as in dreams, logic can't always be applied. He seemed a little offended. “We were trying to... give the place different proportions, take out some rooms put in new ones. This whole hallway,” he stretched his arms around, “was gonna' be a big room 14.”
He stood for a minute, staring at me, fishing for a reaction.
“What happened to it?”
“Oh, well, I best guess this is the best way to show you.” He selected a hoop which had the tag labeled ROOM 14 around a bronze key. I thought about how long that key must had sat there by itself in the lobby by the desk. Well, at least it wasn't alone now, that key and mine were the only two left in the hotel, leaving no vacancy left in the hotel.
The door opened in the same way one yawns when they wake up, and despite its unkempt emotions and feelings, I had the faint suspicion that maybe it hadn’t been unopened after all this time. Vacant? Yes. But not unused. I thought about the how I initially chose the key for this room in the lobby, and if it was in the lobby I reasoned they would have taken it down if they didn't intend on having anyone using the room. It was almost as if the place had methodically placed things here-and-there into a mind-numbing sequence which only sank one deeper into its grasp.
I was inside the room now, it smelled of burnt hair and was very cold.
It was clear of any furniture, and had no dividing sections or walls. Just a vast floorboard parallel to the ceiling.
A warped floorboard, with splintered tiles, all smeared with black mold-like secretions.
It was all over the floor, often a handprint or signs of struggle painted into the mess. This hinted at something more than its stagnant character of a docile substance dedicated to merely the simple tasks contaminating and spreading.
It all secreted from the far corner of the room, where a culmination of its filth was rotting under the machine I had seen. It was very much real, and I was able to get a good look at it. Whereas the darkness in my dream hinted at parts more complex to the machine and a more elaborate design and scale, this showed that maybe the darkness didn't conceal much at all.
To say it was crude wouldn’t be entirely honest, but its purpose just wasn't clear.. It certainly was a thing to look at, it made your brain churn, trying to figure out how it worked. It did, somehow...
I kept following the man's lead, and he gestured at the contraption and made his remark. “There's your question right here. That's what happened.” I got up close and observed everything meticulously without touching; it was like I had seen it before, even in a way outside of my dream. As if I had carried the memories of the cold damp air, and the burning hair into my mind with me.
It was like a photoshoot, with laid out tarps, mirrors and cameras all strategically fixed towards one another, except that for the electrical mechanisms from my dream, which shewn to allude to a need for kinetic energy for some momentous goal.
The transmitters were coffin sized metal containers standing tall and upright, emitting a sort of buzzing noise like a nest of wasps lived within. Real old fashioned stuff, with flashy extensions which served a very functional purpose despite almost being pompous compared to the minimalist technology we're accustomed to. The peripherals, which were divided into neat organized sections by a grid, suggested otherwise with plastic windows for viewing the status of the machine. Inside each of these about an inch or so away from the glass, was a tiny needle which jolted down to the left or up to the right displaying the amount of milliamperes. From the words inscribed on the plastic windows, I could gather that these were for tuning, as written. Like a honeycomb, these machines were overwintering at first in their complexity, but only due to an inexperienced eye, as more detail could be seen upon further and further examination.
Below the plastic windows were displays which went in rows, each with cylindrical knobs protruding from the metal casing of the transmitter. Adjacent to each of these knobs, protractor-like metal plates were visible for precise ruler measurements.
Their similar attributes were repeated for several of the transmitters, which connected to a central equipment rack via large plastic-braided appendages.
The apex of these contraption was a large cylindrical frame, easily seven feet proportionally around, and affixed with strange knobs to points equidistant from one another, and consisting possibly of the same braided material used to the connect the transmitters to the equipment rack and so forth. Inside of this frame, was a mirror, whose dusty opaque surface reflected a dark etching of the room around us.
Each of the large machines which whirred and buzzed at their intricate tasks sent all of their results through the braided cables to the frame, which was a nightmarish spiderweb of cables competing for space along the many tightly joined outlets (all the work surged into the frame).
I struggled for words, and the old man took a seat on a stool, and began to solemnly speak for me.
“We tried real hard to get it to work.”
“Why couldn't it?”
“It took a while for us to… for us to figure out we needed the right person.”
“The right person?”
“Not everyone can see the mold.”
I looked down, and saw my shoes and pant legs caked in the thick black stuff and felt a sickening repulsion. The more stern I grew with him, the more gloomy he became. “Why couldn't whoever made this make it work?”
“He… made it work, but in a different way. His wife, she wanted to finish the work in grief, to revert what he did. But their child, the poor boy, wasn't too attached to him, didn't see him as a father. He only wanted to fix it, make it work.”
“I don't understand... what happened to him?”
“It changed him.”
I pierced him with questions but he was selective with his words, and they only seemed to branch out and out more. Outside of the far window, slight pillars of sunlight shone in the room. It reminded me why I was here in this hotel in the first place, to sleep for the night. I didn't need to be here anymore and listen to this mentally unstable man yammer on and on like this. I wasn't frightened, but felt a candid remorse for the place at this point.
I was saying what he needed to hear to excuse my absence, but he told me now was a very vital time, and if I were to choose any other time to leave, it couldn't be now. I brushed it off as another of his attempts to persuade me, but then it caught my eye.
The light from outside shone into the perfectly aligned mirrors and it spread, with each sharing the pillar of light amongst themselves. The light seemed to glow more bright as it focused, and the machines emitted a pleasant high pitched purring.
“I at least have to show you,” the man said, taking to one of the transmitters and tweaking the knobs to his desired measurements. The metal frame dazzled with its lights, and the mirror encased began to glow bright, so bright as that the heavy film of dust couldn't keep its radiance from showing.
Then something went wrong.
Some parts of the frame emitted a harsh screeching noise, components on the transmitters flayed about on their own with the old man swearing as he attempted to tame them. The scent of burnt hair filled the room, the pillars of light faded away, and the framed mirror flashed a bright ray of light towards me, like a snapshot.
It was blood-red, and stuck in my eyes even as I closed them. I felt nauseous, I blinked obsessively and rubbed at them desperately trying to get my vision back. All around me was the blackness of the room I couldn't see, vibrating with the whistles and screeching of the machines, like mimicking animals. The stress, confusion, and finally, panic, enveloped me to the point where I could no longer endure. I fled from the room, tears stinging my eyelids, farther and farther away from the old man's pleas.
My eyesight was slowly returning, the crimson light was now dull and muddy, creeping in my peripheral vision. As I went down the hallway I groped along my way where my eyes failed, yet, when my vision was returning I saw something different than what I had seen before.
The hallway was uncarpeted, the walls mostly peeled away, and here and there holes were torn into the walls. Some of them had frames.
Windows were being put into the hallways for the first time.
I tried to scurry out as quickly as possible, I didn't have anything in my room that I needed to take with me, so I made a run for the front doors. It was a blur, the environment was so eerie to me dream.
I was outside in the parking lot, with the sun beating down on me, fumbling for my keys. The old man came out after me, but he was only pleading for me to help. I was about to get violent with him, but he started to silently sob, and got down on one knee.
My eyesight was just shot at this point, I cupped my hands to be able to see him in the sunlight.
“Listen, I don't know if you understand...”
“Other people don't see the mold, you know. The machine being built in there, it was put together a few years ago. I helped put it together, but my father needs it to be finished.”
I noticed around his neck, he had a necklace with a star-design.
I still have the desire to go back to that hotel, but I'm afraid of what I will find. I only know how to return because as I was pulling out of the parking lot, my vision resuscitated, and I saw the sign of the hotel where in the dark I could not. “WEREGILD Family Owned Hotel.”