Sunday Scribblings: A Story About a Hotel

This story was written in response to this week’s prompt at Sunday Scribblings - albeit a very liberal interpretation of it. I feel that I must acknowledge the influence that both Franz Kafka and H.P. Lovecraft have had on this story. Without The Castle or The Shadow Over Innsmouth this story would probably not exist in its present form.

Now, having invoked great names of literature and ‘weird’ stories respectively, I have to admit that this story takes itself way too seriously and insist that you take it lightly. First and foremost, it's just some fun that my imagination and I had yesterday afternoon, running downhill in the rain, hand in hand.

This Hotel

There are no clocks or calendars in this hotel, nor windows, so I have no idea for how long I have been staying here. I know that at the beginning I desired very much to leave, but over time that desire has faded away to nothing, and I now accept that I shall probably remain in this hotel for the rest of my life.

I cannot recall how I came here, but I remember the moment I arrived. I came to the awareness, all of a sudden, that I stood in a lobby of some sort, enshrouded in shadows. I looked first at the walls, since that was where my eyes happened to be looking in that moment. The architecture seemed neither modern nor old, embodying a kind of slippery timelessness. The wallpaper was patterned with shapes that I could not place; nor could I quite grasp the way they fit together. Ahead of me was a desk. A silhouette stood behind it, vaguely feminine.

“Where am I?” I asked.

“Don’t you know?” she said softly, in a pinched accent that seemed both familiar and ridiculous.


“You’re in the hotel.”

“Which one?”

“Don’t you know?”


She said nothing further.

“I’m sorry,” I said, wondering what was the matter with me. “I should leave.”

I turned around to face a door. Large and wooden, and again strangely alien in some way.

“How did you get here?” she asked me.

I raised a hand to my head. The feeling of my fingers on my cheek, and of my cheek on my fingers, seemed to be peculiar as well, as if this place had crept inside me and altered me, or my perception of myself. “I don’t know.”

“Then you shouldn’t leave. If you try to go back without knowing how you got here, you could end up anywhere.”

I laughed half-heartedly. My hand was on the door handle. I turned it.

“What do you think is out there?” she asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Then how do you know that you want to find out?”

I’m not sure why, but these words seemed to reach inside me like an ice-cold hand and touch some deeply buried germ of a memory. Or perhaps I merely gave in to superstitious worry. In any case, I pulled my hand back from the door handle. It clicked back into place.

I turned to face the woman.

She picked up a pen from somewhere in the shadows on her desk. “Let me book you a room,” she said.

“I’m not sure I have any money,” I replied, searching through my pockets.

She shook her head, dismissing the notion.

When she had completed whatever formalities were required - formalities which did not include taking my name or my money - she stepped into the light. She was pale to the point of translucence, dressed in clothes that looked new, but were old in style. Her blouse was buttoned up as far as her throat; her skirt reached below ankles clad in white, lacy socks. Her face was round and friendly in shape, disinterested in expression. Her hair was long and brown, tangled and uncombed.

She lead me to my room in silence, down a shadowed corridor of hard flooring and uncertain design, then unlocked the door and gave me the key. And then she left - without a parting word, without looking back.

I explored my room cautiously, oppressed by the silence that engulfed the whole building. Even the padding of my shoes on the soft carpet seemed like a loud and obnoxious disturbance. The furnishings were comfortable, but somewhat colourless and with that same impression of timelessness as the rest of the hotel. No, not of timelessness, that doesn’t capture the feeling - more an impression of existing outside of time, of having been designed by people who had been introduced to the fashions of the ages in random order, and had drawn their inspiration from them as they pleased.

The bed was a four poster, with rails where the curtains should go, but no curtains hanging there. Opposite was a chest of drawers. I opened each drawer in turn, finding a random assortment of carefully folded clothes. There was more furniture in the room - shapes of metal and wood and plastic that were vaguely pleasing to the eye. But try as I might, I could not work out their use. There was no window. As I said at the start, I have never seen one in any of the parts of the building I have been in.

And then I entered the bathroom. Shortly afterwards I left the bathroom, and then my room itself, walking back to the front desk. The woman was there, standing in the same manner as when I first saw her.

She waited patiently as I struggled to find my voice.

“There’s-” I managed to whisper, “There’s something in my bathtub.”

“What kind of something?”

I tried desperately not to picture it. “An alive something.”

She put a finger to her lips for a moment, and then gasped, as if remembering something. “Oh, yes. Please wait here. I shall have the help remove it for you.”

She reached into the shadows and retrieved an ancient looking phone. Speaking softly into it, she receded into the shadows. When she had assured me it was dealt with, I went back to my room. But it was only after steeling myself for an hour that I was finally able to re-enter the bathroom. Whatever it had been, it was gone now.

That evening, as I lay in bed, trying to sleep… Well, I call it evening, because I was tired, and that is the only way I have to judge night and day now. As I lay, trying to sleep, I could hear sounds in the room next to mine, as of something heavy and rough being dragged over carpet - or to be exact, of such a thing dragging itself. I thought back to the thing in my bathtub, and began to wonder about the other guests.


Meals are served for me in the dining room, by the same woman who staffs the front desk. The dining room is large and shadowed and timeless and so on - I am sure you have as much of an idea as I can give you as to what this hotel looks like in all its aspects. There are many tables and chairs, but I am the only one who ever eats in there.

At first I would eat alone, but one day, I do not know how long after I arrived, the woman set down my plate and then sat down in a chair at my table. She did not look at me, nor speak to me, but she sat there for the duration of my meal and then left when I was finished. At the next meal, she did the same, but this time we spoke to one another, and she ate. Her name, she told me, was Gay. She did not seem to think that this meant anything other than ‘happy’, and I decided not to inform her of any of the homonyms I could think of.

Most of what she and I talk about or have talked about is none of your business (assuming for a moment that this manuscript should ever be read by another being) and I will not share it. But some time - a short time, I am sure for once - after we first started dining together, we did discuss the other guests.

“Am I really the only one who eats in this place?” I asked her. “Where are the other guests?”

“They eat,” she said. “They just don’t eat in here.”

“Why not? What do they do all day, shut up in their rooms? Do they never want to talk to someone? Are they happy doing nothing all day but staring at the walls?”

“They don’t need to leave their rooms to do things, or to talk to one another,” she said cryptically. I pressed her on that matter, imagining that I had the only room not equipped with internet access, or a balcony, or a teleportation device, or who knows what. But whatever I suggested she said that it was not that, and eventually told me that it was not something my room had not been given, but something the other guests could do that I simply could not.

I changed the subject slightly. “I never see any of them. If they don’t leave their rooms, I’m tempted to try knocking on someone’s door.”

She looked horrified at the suggestion. “Don’t!”

To be honest, I wasn’t too keen on the idea myself. I just wanted to see what her reaction would be. To see her looking at me with such wide-eyed worry I felt it must mean almost mortal danger to try and meet one of the other guests - or perhaps my imagination was just running away with me. Still, I certainly wouldn’t do anything that she obviously disliked so much. “Why not?” I asked.

“It would- You would- It would be problematic.”


She shook her head.

“Why do you never answer my questions?”

Appearing to reach a decision, she sat up straight and addressed me in a direct, honest manner. “For many of your questions, I do not have answers that you could understand. For others I worry that you would not be able to cope with the answers. Take your desire to meet with one of the other guests. Perhaps if you met one you would find it stimulating, a relief, a joy even - a breathtaking, life-changing experience. But if you are too deeply ensnared in the human dream, if you see too little reality and too much of the inside of your own head, then such an exposure could destroy you. If your instinctual model of reality is too closely entwined with your personality, then you could never destroy one without destroying the other.”

“So you think it’s a bad idea then?”

She shrugged. “In a neutral environment, who knows? But in this hotel… Even if you fared okay, the other guests would not. It wouldn’t destroy them, nothing like that, but it would upset them. To have a human staying here as a guest, as if you were like one of them, as if you were comparable to them. It would be a big commotion. Some of them would abhor it, others would enjoy the decadence of it, some would appeal to reason, others to emotion, others to ancient traditions and lore.

“And while they argued over it, anything could happen to you. Perhaps they would lock you up in one of the hotel’s closets, where verminous creatures might sneak in to prey on you. Perhaps one of them might take it into their own hands-” and then she added, sotto voce, so to speak, as if to indicate that they might well not have hands “-and crush you like a bug, or ‘set you free’, in which case you could end up anywhere.” She emphasised the last word in such a way as to imply that I really could end up anywhere.

I set down my knife and fork. I was not hungry anymore. “They’re not human, then?”

She shook her head.

“What are they then?”

“All sorts,” she said with a shrug. “This is a hotel after all.”

I was struck by a thought. “But they accept you.”

“As their servant, yes.”

I had started down a worrying train of thought. “So, who owns the hotel? Not humans, I take it?”

“Of course not.”

“Do they know I’m here?” I asked nervously, starting to panic. “What if they find out? Would you get in trouble? Why would you risk yourself like that?”

“Whether I would or not is none of your business,” she said deliberately. “However the fact is that I did not. The owners are aware of your presence here. They do not care. They think only of, shall we say, capital. Of investment and return. They don’t care who is providing the capital.”

“But I’m not paying anything to stay here.”

She smiled. “Not in money, no.”

A shiver ran up my spine. But she didn’t seem the kind of person who could ever be cruel. Dispassionate, maybe, not cruel. I couldn’t imagine that it was anything seriously detrimental to me. But for a long time after I still wondered how exactly I was paying for my food and board here. I couldn’t imagine that I wasn’t giving something up. But what exactly it was, I had no idea.

For some reason, at that moment I began to weep. I covered my face with my hands and sobbed. I wanted to tell her, I think - to try and explain how it felt to languish in my room, now knowing that in leaving it I might risk encountering one of the other guests and setting off a chain of events that could lead ‘anywhere’. For some reason, though, I couldn’t bring myself to open up to her. I think she worked it all out for herself anyway.

She reached out and laid a hand on my shoulder. “Come with me,” she said.

She took my hand and lead me back to the front desk, and then around it and into the shadows behind. At some point we passed through a door. And then we were standing in her room.

It was small, but nicely furnished. As I looked around, I realised there was something different about this room. It seemed so much more solid somehow. It took me ages to work out what it was. I had grown so used to the slippery, ageless feel of the rest of the hotel that I could barely recognise it when a room seemed to fit well with itself, to embody something particularly human and of a particular style - although I am ignorant of exactly which period or culture it comes from.

And she had books! Three overflowing bookcases - books on every surface, it seemed. I exclaimed aloud, “Books!” I grasped at them without asking for permission, picking them up and reading their titles. A few I recognised, most were new to me.

She stood with her back to the door, smiling as if she wasn’t very familiar with the act. “Take some of them,” she said. “All the ones here, I’ve read. I get new ones all the time. This is how they pay me. In books. Go on, take some. Take them back to your room, so you don’t have to sit there and stare at the walls and go mad. And don’t worry about the other guests. I’ll make sure nothing happens.”

I approached the door to leave. She kept her back to it until the last possible moment and smiled at me. I found myself blushing as I brushed past her.


That is almost all I have to tell you about my stay at this hotel. That is not to say that it encompasses all the interesting things that have happened. For a start there are all the times I have narrowly avoided the other guests. But I do not think it would be wise to share such things - in particular the one time I came face to face with one, the entity in the room next to mine. I shall not even describe it, except to say that it seems benevolent - more bemused at my presence than offended. It was difficult for me to even look at it, but I did not go insane. Then again, I suspect that I might have if I had met it shortly after I first got here.

The one final thing I must share with you is about my relationship with Gay. Over time, much more happened between us. We both seem much happier now, although I am reluctant to be indiscrete and describe quite why this is so. The thing is, when I see how much more she smiles, and how much more enthusiastically she works, I begin to understand (although you will soon realise, I do not like to think about it too much in these terms) just how I am paying for my stay here.

I cannot comprehend how this hotel works, the nature of its guests, or the shadowy motives of its owners; and I am not sure quite how I feel about creatures who think of love and books as ‘capital’ - whether it seems like a utopian economy, or whether it is abhorrently calculating and dehumanising.

But I don’t mind all that much. Perhaps you can’t understand why, but I don’t care. I am rather starting to like it here.


Verity said...

Wow, this was really atmospheric, you got that creepy, dready, something's not right feeling just right. At first I thought it was some sort of purgatory, a place for lost souls to languish in. Intriguing.

Pacian said...

Thank you! Capturing a certain feel is the best I hope for from my stories.

paris parfait said...

This is a very spooky, creepy - but well-written and imaginative story! Thank you for sharing it.

Pacian said...

Sharing it was kind of scary, I have to admit. But writing it was actually very enjoyable.


Going For Greatness said...

This piece makes me want to read further. It can't just stop here! I want to see how Gay has changed, I want to 'confront' one of the other beings, I want to see what was in your bathtub.....
It was a very dark, yet enlightning piece! Well written!

Pacian said...

Cool! I love stories like that. I guess that's why I wrote one. Didn't expect to do well at it, tho. Thanks for your kind words!

Colorsonmymind said...

Wow this was really dreamy...I got pulled in and felt strange confusion and dread....great writing

Geosomin said...

This is really well written. You've gotten it mildly creepy and intriguing, and yet subtle enough to make me want to read more and really get a sense of what Gay is feeling. I like stories that don't explain everything and let your imagination wander to fill in the blanks. I really enjoyed this.