Guests, 1.C.2, 400 words

Rice cooks to ashes in a petite stainless pot on the hotplate in the night manager’s office. Its fuliginous steam censes the arcade and is drawn into Twill’s air conditioner to twist about his hands. His room fills with odors but otherwise does not change for he sleeps in a chair. Perhaps in shame from the last wreck of the room no travelers come to pass. Two full days settle in this burnt peace. The few rooms are boarded over save his and one for travelers. Clouds pass before the sun. The third night the voice of the night manager slips out of the valley’s breath. A conversation in the office is clear through the wall. The night manager puts travelers in TWO. In the desert blankness and silence crumble. Voices stumble into that brief peace. One of the voices arises in TWO. He can hear even the tinny echo tiptoeing after what sound like commands or pleas. The air conditioner shivers then roars blowing out the voices. Chilled fluid inside the condenser slips the sound of silk over sand across the arcade to commune with his window unit obliterating the entire night. He straightens the room all day. More travelers are let room TWO for an evening. He watches them arrive through the vent in his drapes. He sleeps intermittently in the chair. Starlight like morning glory shot through moth eaten oilcloth stipples the range of black mountains inseparable from the desert floor. Late, a jaundiced spear of light is thrust across the chalk court. Two indistinct men, one walking behind a wheeled cart, the other, paces behind, scans what is revealed by the light from their door. The freestanding traveler looks back though not dilated enough to excavate Twill from the dim of his room. As empty and hypnotic, as fluid and mutable, as featureless, glazed as the sheltered desert night, the movements of the men tracing across the chalk, not seeming to diminish or recede past loose assemblies of wrinkles and edges catching light, grow on Twill’s eyes and draw on his skin like a cavern or a suit of leaden fabric. He straightens the room all day. More travelers are let room TWO for an evening. They bicker past the vent in his drapes. Always two travel together. Always one is in tow to the other. Always the bedclothes are removed from the bed or repurposed.

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