Sunday, December 5, 2010

Such a Lovely Place Copyright 2010, Robert J. Day


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1RoHMXDt10

Darkness comes quickly to the desert. On moment it’s day, the next it’s night, almost as if the sun is in a hurry to get to bed, exhausted after yet another long day of burning brightly and relentlessly scorching the landscape. The air had cooled rapidly, and the wind felt good in my hair as I drove down the lonely highway in my rented convertible. The car was filled with the comforting scent of cannabis, both the lingering aroma of the joint I’d just finished and the stronger smell of the still smoldering roach in the ashtray.
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It had been nearly an hour since I’d passed another vehicle or seen any signs of civilization apart from the paved road I traveled on. I was beginning to believe I had inadvertently driven into a parallel world where I was the only living thing when I saw a shimmering light far up ahead, in the distance. I had been driving all day and the fatigue, coupled with the high-potency Mary Jane, made my head feel like it weighed a ton, and I seemed to be having trouble with my vision. I was grateful for a place to pull over at last. When I was close enough to see the sign that claimed the place was a hotel, I knew I had better stop for the night.
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It may have called itself a hotel, but it looked like an old, Spanish style mission, a really big one. Adobe walls, tiled roof, even a bell tower. I parked near the front doors, noticing as I did so that there were no other cars in the unpaved lot. They must have a parking area around back somewhere, I thought.

As I got out of the car, stretching my legs, a beautiful woman opened the front door and stood in the doorway. Long dark hair, with a body that was so shapely I was instantly aroused. She was like some kind of desert angel, and all of a sudden I thought I might just have died and gone to Heaven.
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Then the mission bell began to ring, and something in it’s tone was so undeniably sinister that I began to wonder if maybe I had it backwards and this wasn’t Heaven after all, but that other place people go to. But that’s just stupid, I told myself. I wasn’t in Heaven or Hell, I was just at some weird hotel in the middle of the Mojave desert.
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The angel’s name was Maria. She rented me a room for the night for $60.00. With tax, my total came to $66.60, which had I been superstitious and Maria not been so normal and so lovely, might have alarmed me.
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The hotel actually was an old Spanish mission, Maria told me as she led me down a series of long, meandering hallways to my room. It had been renovated to become what it was today, but except for running water and a phone system that only worked inside the building it was much the same as it had been when it was first built well over a hundred years ago. There was no central heating and air, and no electricity. The building was lit entirely with candles that sat in holders built into the walls.
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Stopping in front of a pastel green door, Maria removed a candle from the pocket of the black apron she wore and lit it from the candle on the wall closest to her. “This will be your room” she said, “you will know it because of the color of the door, the rooms don’t have numbers.” Opening the door, she led the way inside. The room was small, just a twin-sized bed covered with an obviously handmade quilt, next to an antique looking roll top desk and straight-backed chair. An old rotary phone was on the desk. Another door on the opposite side of the small room presumably led to the bathroom.
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“I will leave you now” said Maria. “If you wish to dine with us it is included in the price of the room but we do not serve the feast until very late. I can call you on the phone when it is time.”
“Sure, that would be great” I said, thinking, The Feast? Sounds good… “Is it possible to get something to snack on until then, perhaps something to drink?" “Yes” she replied, “Just dial a six and ask for whatever you like.” Maria handed me the candle and then left. I watched her go, thinking that what I’d really like would be for her to stay, and get naked instead. As she was closing the door I seemed to hear the sound of voices coming from further down the corridor, a sort of mad, giddy laughter, and words too faint to discern. Then the door closed and there was only silence.
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It was surprisingly cool inside my room, probably due to the thickness of the adobe walls, and having started to come down off the reefer I was no longer feeling quite so tired. I decided I needed a drink more than a snack, so after setting my small suitcase on the floor and kicking off my shoes I lay back on the bed and reached for the old fashioned rotary phone. When I picked it up I heard a dial tone, but nothing happened when I dialed a six so I tried it again, and then again, and finally on the third try there was a ringing sound and a voice answered.
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“Hello?” said the voice, a male with a strong Hispanic accent, “How can I help you Senor?” “Um, is Maria there?” I was hoping I could coax her back to my room on some pretense, the memory of her tight little body had steadfastly refused to go away, that perfect ass and that beautiful face. Such a lovely face… “No Senor, Maria is no here, this is El Capitan. How can I help you?” Damn. “I’d like a bottle of wine please Captain.” “No wine Senor, not since 1969 or so. You would like a bottle of our special Tequila yes? It will make you feel soooo niiiice.” “Sure” I said, “even better. And some salt and limes too please.” “No limes Senor. They no grow in the desert.” The line went dead, so I hung up the phone.
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Almost immediately there was a knock at the door. I opened it, anxious to get a look at El Capitan, but there was no one there. On a tray in front of the door was some sort of clay jug and a single shot glass. As I picked up the tray I could hear that strange laughter coming from down the hall again.
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I set the tray on the desk next to the phone and poured a shot. The Tequila was darkly colored and one whiff was enough to let me know it was the real deal. I tossed back the shot and was pleasantly surprised. It was the smoothest Tequila I had ever tasted, and left a warm, comforting glow in my stomach. I immediately felt more relaxed, so I poured another shot and drank it down too.
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When it was gone I noticed there was something left at the bottom of the glass. When I looked closer I knew what it was but I couldn’t believe it. It was a piece of a Peyote button. Now, I have always liked to party just as much, and probably more, than the next guy. I was all for better living through chemistry.
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But I didn’t appreciate being dosed without my knowledge or permission. I didn’t know how much Peyote was in the two shots of Tequila I had just consumed, but judging by how strange I was already feeling it was a whole hell of a lot.
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I snatched up the phone to give The Captain a piece of my mind while I still had one to give, but the line was dead. Even though the door was closed, I heard that insane laughter again, sounding much closer this time. Then there was another knock at the door.
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“What the fuck is going on around here?” I demanded, jerking open the door. I was expecting El Capitan but it was Maria standing there instead. She had taken off her apron and let down her hair, and she was holding a bucket of ice, the neck of a bottle sticking up over the top, and two crystal glasses.
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“I was told you wanted some wine. I thought I would bring you this before El Capitan tried to give you some of his Tequila. That shit is full of Peyote, only a madman would drink it.” “It’s too late, I already drank some!” I said, pointing at the bottle accusingly, “What’s going to happen to me?” “Nothing you don’t want to happen” was her reply as she closed the door.
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The stuff inside the bottle Maria had brought was not wine, or at least not exactly, but it was gloriously Peyote free. It was pink champagne. We each had a glass, and the next thing I knew we were pulling off each others clothes and Maria was pushing me down on the bed and climbing on top of me. For the very first time, I noticed the full length mirror on the ceiling above the bed and I gazed at our reflection while the lovely Maria rode me like I was Seabiscuit and she was trying to win the Kentucky Derby. Afterwards we lay together, sharing a cigarette in the slowly dying light of the candle.
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“That was pretty incredible” I told her. “Not that I want you to leave, but I understand if you have to get back to work. Anyways I’m really starting to feel that stuff I drank. Soon I’ll be tripping balls and I doubt if I’ll be good company after that.”
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For reasons I would find out later, she found this last remark hilarious. She laughed loudly, and I couldn’t help noticing that that there was a touch of hysterical madness in her laughter, not unlike the manic Hyenas down the hall. It might have just been the Peyote, but I don’t think so.
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“I do have to go, but not because I have to work. There are no employees at the hotel, we are all just prisoners here, of our own device. Some of us choose to help out a little.” “No employees?” I asked, “What about The Captain?” “El Capitan? Sadly, he passed away several years ago. Too much Tequila.” She laughed again and this time there was no mistaking the lunacy in it. I laughed with her this time, knowing she had to be kidding me, I’d just talked to The Captain on the phone. She dressed quickly and blew me a kiss as she went out the door.
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After she was gone I realized that I’d forgotten to ask her for another candle, and the one in the room was dangerously close to burning out. I picked up the phone to call and ask for more candles but instead of a dial tone all I heard was static that sounded disturbingly like millions of whispering voices, none of which had anything nice to say.
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I hung up and decided to check the small dresser, maybe there would be a candle in one of the drawers. If not I could always steal one from the hallway, but for some reason the idea of leaving the room was a little frightening. The first two drawers were empty but in the third was a large black candle, a book of matches from the International House of Pancakes, and a Gideon’s bible.
Placing the candle on top of the dresser, I lit it with one of the matches and because I had nothing better to do I picked up the bible and opened it at random. I was expecting the usual thees and thou shalt nots, the words of Christ in red… but the pages were blank. All of the pages were blank I quickly realized as I flipped through the book.
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As I neared the front I started to come upon words at last. But not printed scripture, hastily scrawled pen and pencil, random stuff not unlike what you’ll find on the restroom walls of every highway rest stop in America. “Jimmy wuz here!” “So was Richard!” “For a good time, call The Captain!” “Free rolling papers!” Those last two made me laugh a little. Inside the front cover, in purple ink, some anonymous poet had written four lines of verse:
“Anytime of year,
you can find it here.
What a nice surprise,
bring your alibis!”
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I dug around in my suitcase until I found a pen then a lit a cigarette and smoked while I tried to think of what to write, finally settling on, “Four out of five voices in my head recommend this hotel!” Not very original but the best I could do under the circumstances. I was high as a kite and it was getting hard to concentrate on anything. I put the unusual bible back in the drawer, put my cigarette out in a half empty glass of champagne, and laid back on the bed.
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Sometime later the phone woke me up. I felt like been asleep for hours but it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes. The black candle didn’t appear to have burned down at all. I was still undoubtedly out of my gourd but I felt a little more in control.
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I answered the phone, hoping it would be Maria, or even El Capitan. I wasn’t pissed off at him for dosing me now that I was starting to really enjoy my buzz. Instead, a male voice I’d never heard before exclaimed brightly, “Wake up Sleepyhead, it’s time for the feast! You don’t want to be late do you? You’re the guest of honor!” “You said I was the guest of honor!” whined a shrill voice in the background. “We’re ALL the guests of honors!” screamed the first voice, without bothering to move the phone away from his mouth. “It’s really you!” he whispered into my still ringing ear. “I heard that!” screeched the second voice. “SHUT THE FUCK UP OR I’LL PUT THE GODDAMN LEECHES ON YOU!!”
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I managed to avoid permanent hearing loss by holding the phone out at arms length. There was the sound of shattering glass in the background, the a muffled sobbing that quickly became uncontrollable giggling. “Anyway,” said the mystery caller in a normal conversational tone, “get dressed. Or undressed if you prefer, and get over to the dining hall pronto! The Master hates to be kept waiting!” There was a click and the line went dead. I still hadn’t said a word.
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I didn’t know who had called me, or who “The Master” was, and I didn’t have a clue how to get to the dining hall. But I did know one thing, I was crazy high and tired of being fucked with. Obviously these freaks were indulging in a bit of fun at my expense. Well what the hell I thought, I can dig it. There were certainly worse things that could happen to me than having my chemically soaked brains fucked out by a beautiful Hispanic girl. Clearly, these people knew hot to have a feloniously good time, what was the harm in playing along?
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Opening my suitcase, I took out my bathrobe and put it on over my boxer shorts. I grabbed the Tequila, my cigarettes and bag of weed, then tore out a couple of bible pages to roll with. I slipped on my shoes, then grabbed the black candle and left the room, no longer fearful. In fact I was feeling great. “I’m the guest of honor!” I yelled out loud to the empty hallway.
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Finding the dining hall was as easy as following the smell of food down to the end of the long corridor. A pair of enormous double doors stood at eh entrance and swung inward as I approached. “Let the feast begin!” announced a commanding voice.
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The dining hall was a large room, at the center of which was a long wooden table. The table was covered with gold and silver place settings and matching candelabras. Seated around this table were people dressed in medieval masquerade costumes. To the left of the table, a group of musicians, also in costume, sat motionless in straight-backed chairs.
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All eyes were on me as I approached the only unoccupied seat. In the seat of the chair was a mask of the same animalistic style that everyone else was wearing. Mine was some sort of a bird, it looked like an eagle to me.
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My chair was at the far end of the table. Straight across from me at the other end was a goat. To the goats right sat a dog, bear, fish, and cat. Along the other side was a deer, horse, frog, and fox. The musicians were all rabbits.
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I put the mask on, tying it behind my head, and sat down. Apparently this was the signal for the band to begin playing because at that exact moment they came to life and struck up a lively tune. Instead of “Greensleaves” or something equally appropriate given the renaissance-like setting, I realized they were playing an instrumental version of “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath.
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My memory of the next couple hours isn’t very good because this is when the Peyote kicked into overdrive and shit got real weird, real fast. All around the table crazy conversation raged while tuxedoed waiters wearing plain white masks brought food that for the most part went uneaten and drinks that were greedily consumed by all.
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For awhile I discussed the merits of various sexual positions with the cat, doggystyle vs. missionary, etc. I recall she seemed quite fond of the 69 and wasn’t opposed to anal sex, she just didn’t particularly enjoy it, which didn’t stop her from offering. I politely declined, saying I was hallucinating just a little too much.
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It was true too, some of the hor d'oeuvres seemed to be crawling around on their platters and out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw one of the musicians bash another’s brains in with a violin but when I turned my head they were playing normally and never missed a note of Inna Godda Davida.
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The fish must have overheard my conversation with the cat because right as he was in the middle of telling the fox and the bear a long story about harvesting black market organs from undocumented day laborers, illegal aliens picked up from in front of various home improvement stores, he turned to her and asked if she would blow him under the table. Without a word, she disappeared beneath the tablecloth.
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The fish tried to continue telling his story but was quickly distracted. He gasped and moaned, and I saw his eyes roll back in his head until only the whites were visible beneath his mask. The frog was busily cutting lines of coke on an empty serving platter so I moved over to the cats vacant seat and asked if I could join him. I thought maybe a little Bolivian marching powder would balance me out.
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“But of course my good man!” said the frog. I recognized his voice as the one that had called to tell me it was time for the feast. “Enjoying the party?” he asked in between blasts. “We can’t have out guest of honor falling asleep from boredom now can we?”
“Not at all old man!” I said, mimicking his speech patterns, “I’m having a marvelous time, simply marvelous… Although I must confess I’m a bit overwhelmed by all this.”
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“I have a confession to make as well” said the frog. “I’ve recently started luring homeless drifters into my home with the promise of a bath and a hot meal. After drugging them into unconsciousness I lock them in my soundproofed basement. On Saturday nights, for kicks, I hold them at gunpoint and force them to act out scenes from my favorite sitcoms of yesteryear! If you thought Full House was mildly amusing back in the nineties, just imagine if it had starred a bunch of half-starved winos begging you to spare their lives!”
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He laughed wildly, banging his fist on the table and spilling several hundred dollars worth of cocaine onto the floor. I had no idea what the hell I was supposed to say to that but luckily I was spared trying to come up with a response, because at that moment the goat, who had up until now been as still and silent as a statue stood up and clapped his hands twice. The band stopped playing and everyone at the table was instantly silent. The cat emerged from beneath the table and wiped her lips and chin with a napkin. “It is time for the main course!” boomed the goat.
I remember thinking that he must have been wearing contact lenses, because his eyes glowed a bright, fiery red.
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Upon hearing his words everyone began yelling and screaming and laughing and working themselves up into such a frenzy of excitement that it pulled me in and I added my own voice to the deafening roar and began to get excited myself. I don’t know why, main course or not I was nowhere near hungry but their insanity was contagious.
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Two waiters appeared, carrying between them an enormous covered serving platter that I thought probably contained a turkey, or maybe a duck. The waiters set the covered dish down on the center of the table, and after receiving a nod from the goat removed the lid.
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The “main course” was not a chicken or turkey or duck, or even a turducken. It wasn’t a honey-glazed ham and it was not a pot roast with carrots and potatoes. I don’t really know what the fuck it was but it looked like some sort of demon baby and it was still very much alive.
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It had hoofs instead of feet, sharp pointed teeth, and horns. It was much bigger than any human baby I have ever seen. It was looking right at me with black eyes that were filled with such knowing malice I started to scream again but this time out of pure terror.
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All around the table the other dinner guests were grabbing weapons. Some drew daggers from scabbards they wore on their belts, others wielded knives from the table. They jumped up onto the tabletop and attacked the beast, plunging their blades into it from every angle.
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It should have been killed almost instantly but instead this only seemed to enrage the thing. It shrieked and lashed out with tiny claws that nevertheless tore off half the face of the woman wearing the deer mask who had been trying to lap up the thick red blood flowing from the things stab wounds. Her mask came off, and I recognized Maria.
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I began to scream louder and the next thing I remember I was running towards the door. Then I was in the hallway, frantically trying to find my room, where I had stupidly left my car keys. But everything looked different that it had before, the passages seemed longer, and the colors of the doors different.
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Even though I was pretty sure I had come straight down the hall from my room to the dining hall, in desperation I started turning corners at random and somehow I ended up at the front desk. A young man sat behind it, reading an old copy of Rolling Stone magazine. He looked surprisingly, thankfully, normal. Just a guy passing the time at his boring job.

“Please man, tell me what room I’m in so I can get my car keys and get the hell out of here! I have to get out of here!” I shouted. “Relax” said the night man, “we are programmed to receive. You can check out anytime you like, but you can NEVER leave.”
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