Waco, 2.C.3, 1500 words

Connie moves with ease about the hotel’s rooms and caverns. Though segmented and each a potential hiding place for her or for others, the unfurled carpets, tacked and trodden together, comfort her with the routes that happen to correspond with the spaces that everyone else wanders. Because the entire structure is just one place, the outlying, tapering town, the lake and its yoke of mountains, all one place, she seems to never stray from that still and empty expanse of carpet. A metallic, salty whisper coaxes up the elevator and the terror that without the sun she might swim down to clutch the seafloor instead of up through the black to a breath. Breathe out. Keep blowing to scatter confectioner’s guts like some dirty fake gold bolts of lightning casting silently back toward every door. Blow harder and eye sockets see black stars and sink against whatever direction she and trolley helicopter and blow until there is no air left and don’t want any more or stop still in the space left behind by all breath. The elevator door opens onto the narrow precipice. The sure trolley holds her up. The cavernous atrium fogs out to the disappeared brown smoke lobby below. The action of the big casters whirs from the carpet pattern. Voices hum way down in the atrium. Across the scabby earth crust a soft fading of voices is sensed by those who have once heard them rising in a locked room, beneath even the folding sound of cloth. Whether bodies fade with the voices or the songs of their organs are hackneyed into fatuity, those who may die in the hotel leave a likeness of their silence, at least an intractable gasp of the earthly air stuck in their lungs that all taste in the throat. But those who merely disappear, whose voices simply forgot to continue, and can’t reasonably think they had ever existed as the erstwhile peopling of the hotel, prevent any recognizable ebb in the hotel’s subterranean population. When a face appears regularly, independent of the less known necropolis of faces, and then ceases to return, the panic all at once of the lives felled by each moment in isolation colors the other as well. At the double door to the first suite Connie nudges her trolley against the low balustrade separating the scant ambulatory from the plunge and its echoing dirge. Those murmuring voices from below mill and become a single syllable sustained at her altitude above the lobby floor. Vaulting a few hundred feet in threads their tracery intertwines into something approaching her dry skin, a very large gauge needle bearing but not entering. She blinks at the black peephole. In the pale fleshtone of the door effuses a faint green like a tired, wracked copper statue or, her eyes dying, seeing dying colors. At each door she braces her form. Every door opens to a stumpy infinity of vile stains or, quietly descriptive of a human angel’s modest printed tunics and skirts, a meticulously made bed, perfect in execution but combated still by the rumples she can’t avoid without freshly laundered sheets. Connir can only pull back the comforter and quickly strip the bed. The faces of the range of people who might have stood back from the bed after it was made to survey it before turning to walk out of the room are vague, vapor-sketched, but peaceful. A master key opens the suite doors set back into a deep niche from the narrow ambulatory. No sunlight glows from the room. A wall of furniture packs the throat of the doors like the most ordered vomit of wooden and upholstered geometry sheared by guillotine in the paralyzed instant of disgorging. As flat of a thing as could be built of irregular things, it could have only been amassed from inside using the door like a mold. Each job Connie does alone. The first piece she dislodges is an upended cherry wood coffee table, worn and nicked tabletop first. Loveseat cushions with a striped pattern are packed between the legs of another table nested the opposite direction back out to the atrium. Even suites only have one coffee table. She sets the table aright on the floor of the ambulatory blocking most of its width. The mass in the door is black. No dust-caught sun secretes. Furniture collected from many rooms is pulled from the door throat. When the furnishing stacks above the balustrade near to the ambulatory ceiling Connie turns to the opposite side for her bone pile. She has excavated three feet into the room. She stands in that space and pull the doors shut and it is silver. The heavy whip stitching on her shoes is visible from light beneath the doors, nothing else. Shielded from the atrium seashell sound her breathing is voluminous. Draw in deep and exhale then slowly, quietly. Inhale and hold. A muffled voice, not sharp enough to form words, speaks in the little dark space with her. Spirits deep beneath a grave or people in next-door rooms don’t speak in words; they speak in masses like tides invisible but creeping and irrefutable because the ocean is so black and silent without them. She throws the doors back open. A voice with no face seemingly from behind the furniture quivers the wood grain in a low desk with its vibrations. Connie’s excavation reaches the front edge of the water closet door jamb about six feet into the room. The dislodged furniture now forms completely insurmountable barricades on either side of the outer door in the ambulatory. Only a running dive tumble over the balustrade absolves her of putting all the furniture back in place. The furniture left to excavate the water closet door will fill the niche in front of the doors. The voice from the furniture has grown clearer. If the voice comes from the water closet only a few pieces of furniture must be moved. Out come a circular writing table on a metal pedestal, a bale of cushions, and two luggage racks into the niche and there is the silver door handle. The door swings in and through the slot of space between the still lodged furniture and the water closet door jamb the full mirror reflects obliquely back to the shower curtain, bulged out, the mass slumped over the curb of the tub wavers but the voice is still lost. The sink is filled black and slick but in dark it probably is water. It smells like soap. The light switch is over the counter on the far side of the jamb; she can’t reach it. The next stratum of furniture she moves out stacks above the balustrade and into the niche blotting out the light from the atrium. She clambers over what is left in front of the door, turns on the light, hesitating; the voice still hums. The form isn’t moving. The curtain bulges in more detail with soft square edges like broken limbs. “Hello,” she says after waiting so long to speak back to the voice. The cadence and timbre of the voice remains unchanged addressing the ether still. Just pulling the leading edge of the curtain away from the tile she slides her head slowly into the shower stall. A silent tumbledown column of bedding, cushions, and towels fills the tub and limply offers a drapery hand over the curb between porcelain and oilcloth. Mandalas on the bedding of felled cypress clearings burned so black as each shivered in funereal drafts everything in her eyes swells with an opposite empty white light. Back between the wall of furniture where the front doors had let onto the beckoning abysm and the wall still whispering, louder now, she grows disoriented and breathless in a rhythm of words that repeat like a chant, “repeat, repeat, repeat.“ The two walls of furniture are identical now. Behind one the room and the voice, behind its twin the slow tumble of Connie in a cloud of furniture graying down through the atrium. “Submit me to the choosing of the building.” All paths being the same, all accidents, she throws herself into one of the rickety messes which topples into a heap in sunlight like powdered milk on death rattles floats. A television voice in the room sings, a chorus of women and men that she now easily ignores. Her limbs tingle and lips bleed warm narcotic pain on her tongue. Her eyes sparkle stars of the sleepless train. Subdued here she sleeps in what must be summer sun frozen, intermittently panicked by the failure of the indulgent accident to erase her finally from the hotel. A lumpy long form is bound down in the center of the impeccably made bed. In sunlight they are not beneath the earth’s surface but still are barely alive above it. Connie folds her arms in sagging arch over the furniture scree, puts her face in her hands, the sunlight skin red, and sleeps just a while.

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