Yellow Bluff, 2.B.2, 1100 words

Egested from a lit train car each day arises out from a reversing dissolve of chapped, chocolate powder dark in a long rock tunnel burial occupied since prior to moonrise. The grid of tiles, subtle cycling lines of escalators, forgettable lines in the floor and seams dividing footfalls that have become memorable for the precision with which they fall upon stains, or now, never having not been remembered. In the buoyancy of the elevator falling eyes swim and fingers curl over pushbar of her supply trolley, she and it revolving in a murky falling drift back through the hotel atrium, smock undulating over her back like they are floating. Might the elevator cables bind, might the train derail. In the lowest basement a far corner is in perpetual shadow. Bare bulbs are unscrewed. ‘Oh my sweet death, let me explore my reflection, let the hotel crumbling around me into stringy dust sheets reveal its slow construction by my own dead skin and hair, from its humble outcropping on bare floor sedimented so slow into this byzantine complex over an infinite string of otherwise unchanging days, so as to be imperceptibly eternal.’ She parks her trolley on the narrow ambulatory against the void of the great hall, many stories up, against a door behind which voices sound as if they might be stepping out. Figures occlude the peephole. The voices murmur and recede. She plays a passing out game alone in rooms to see the brown snowstorm overtake faint sunlight. A sturdy, bland little upholstered chair, a lamp sprung through a circular glass table in front of that blank wall. A tinny, musical whir; a vacuum cleaner hides. In comb tracks her scalp is pale blue. The rising moons of her fingernails are pale blue. Midnight, or morning, shimmers on painted, and painted, and painted pillars and ribs tracing down through otherwise dim from the glass ceiling. Her eyes are thick, warm wax. Wax spent is unctuous in air, thick falling on skin, showered off, strigiled scoured away on abrasive towels, towels kicked under vanities, under waxy vanity undersides. She stages nothing elaborate. She first acquiesces to an attempt on her life in the foggy quickness of happenstance. Each second and impulse weave out from the thread of a delicious, immaculate accident. Harmony with the nerves in her hairline, at a center without geography in her body apparent for the buzzing that gathers, registers into the suite of her movements with that of a man behind countless walls living toward his hand turning on the latch, the door pivoting out, the cart thrusting upward, the streamers in the atrium lurking in an arc of many days in transit but moving about her nonetheless revealing a locus in the waxen remains of her derriere thrust outward by the cart, given flight by the vague emergent cry or uninhibited gasp through the door as the man registered with the grace of his contribution and thought better of it, as she topples toward the low, broad rail, her eyes falling already, wheeling away into rushing-past odors and empty voices floating upward in search of a crack in the glass roof, escaping still and stoic land for the air. Only, the man’s gasp is cut and drawn back with all the foul atmosphere of the great hall now a vacuum in which he pinches a twist of her smock in his hand and wrenches her to the flaked up shingle of earth cast up in the throat of this building, carpeted, rain patters of maroon vermilion rings, stained with a blot of bleach cleanup at one annular bloom, faint shoe leather, faint clay, faint longing. Though accident, once coalesced, this scenario is utterly contingent on every aspect, as if an already ancient ritual. Two women in blazers over knit, collared shirts talk and pace, edging toward a suite. One leans in to the knob then away, one against the railing. The two switch positions saying ‘He did,’ ‘He did,’ ‘Right now,’ ‘Right now,’ ‘In the ballroom,’ ‘In the ballroom,’ ‘She’s still there,’ ‘She’s still there,’ ‘The room was empty,’ ‘The room was empty,’ each touching the door handle again and looping the ambulatory around the atrium to the elevators from the opposite side. She will not name the ritual. She finds herself vacantly initiating the preparatory steps organized within a transcendent vision in which the surroundings didn’t decay, but crystallized to the point of disappearing, so ordered and perfect were their patterning and structure with the anticipation of each turn and breeze and flicker with that of her movements. She arises from this automatic yet lucid blackout state upon some introductory noises, the expansion of muffled voices, the fumbling thuds of unfamiliar door latches, the blade of pus-colored sunlight protracting the gape of the opening door. Only after, the foregone hand twisting her smock and form down to the carpet, the stunned and silent man or woman hurries away down the ambulatory, possibly their palms smell of her tobacco and sawdust innocence, her leaning idly on the cart in calm failure, does she recognize with fleeting prescience what has happened, its failure again resets the nervy clouds stringing her together to tend toward the eventual identical ritual. A bosomy man casting shadows on knit shirt skates down the ambulatory, hard nipples leading the way and sweat beading toward Connie behind her cart, ear toward a door in its shallow alcove. He passes many doors, stops at Connie, ‘Yes?’ ‘Yes?’ ‘This is my room; what do you need?’ ‘You are out here?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Yes, yes, I knew… I… thought I heard something and I…’ ‘Let me by, would you?’ ‘Oh yes,’ both shrinking their bodies in the narrow space they revolve he toward the door Connie around to the high handle of the cart into her back and gazing out into the grainy high drafts of the great hall, her eyes diverging into just pink and mauve warm ether and lifting onto her toes a bit precarious yet buoyant with bloodless anticipation for the sound of the latch working in the door, the air rushing from the room cold and the door assisting the cart toward her, under her ribs and out across the railing toppled then hanging there before something like falling asleep in the sky, lingering and hearing her breath, nothing else. Nothing else at all but the large man glaring at her, wedged himself behind the other end of the cart, into a corner of his alcove. ‘I can’t open the door with you there.’ ‘Of course, of course you can’t.’

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