Danny took off his sunglasses as the night sky changed from pink to murky purple. Hazes of dust clouds buzzed in whirlwinds in far-off fields as he switched on his head lights. It had been a tiring day, and he still had five states to pass through before he could even think of calling himself home.
Danny gripped the wheel of his high-end convertible Mustang, the engine purred under his foot ready to respond to its master touch. The tires rumbled as the lane assist bleeped a warning of the vehicle’s trajectory, and Danny snapped his fading eyes up to the road. Sleep was pulling at his senses, and he couldn’t fight with his eyes anymore. He sat higher in his seat to let the rushing wind battered his face and hair.
The lukewarm air did nothing to alleviate his tiredness, so he sat back down and rubbed his eyes. Up ahead a small light shimmered in the distance, and soon he could make out a red neon sign that read Hotel California. The O, T and the whole of California blinked and fell dark only for it to blink back on again.
Danny slowed and turned into the gravel driveway. A lady with blonde hair bunched at her temples and dressed in a black dress stood within the doorway waving in greetings; the other hand held a cigarette in an elegant smoking pipe. Her bejeweled neck and fingers sparkled like stars on a velvet canvas as Danny parked next to a Mercedes and turned off the ignition. He stepped onto the gravel, and it shifted under his feet.
Well, this could be heaven, or this could be hell, he thought.
The ladies rose-tinged smile welcomed him into the small lobby where an old man with a wig of white hair looked up from a newspaper. Dim light spilled through the corridor from dated oyster style lighting, giving the lobby a shabby feel of decay.
The man’s milky eyes looked over to the key rack and pulled one key at random. The whole rack of keys shook as they brethren left the board.
“You can check out anytime you like.” Croaked the old man, Danny was sure he saw green gas seep out of from his mouth as he spoke. But before he could linger on it, the lady had pulled at his hand.
“I’m your host, Pandora. If there’s anything you need, I’m your girl.” She said with a wink. She led him down the dim corridor, he thought he heard the sound of disembodied voices, but Pandora’s talking drowned them out.
“Let me give you the tour before you settle in.” She waved the cigarette hand and counted down the numbered doors.
“You, my dear are here, room 217. Do you have any bags? No. Ok then let’s carry on with the tour.”
Pandoras sequel in delight and pulled Danny down the hall. She burst through the glass doors at the end, and he found himself in an open courtyard where soft music played. People dressed in Victorian clothing waltz around on the cobbled floor.
As he watched a twirling couple, he noticed that the lady’s dress was ripped at the bottom and swept the floor. He ran his eyes from the dirty hem, up to a bare arm placed at her companions back that was molted with green and purple as if the appended belong to a corpse. To his horror when the twirling gentleman’s face rotated around he was missing half his cheek and his yellow stained teeth poked through.
Danny gasped as he took in all the dancer, each one was decaying right before his eyes. A lady in a glamours red cocktail dress was missing a leg, and her partner dragged her along as if on the teacup ride.
“Some dance to remember, while others dance to forget, it’s very tragic if you ask me, don’t you think?”
Danny snapped out of his shock and looked at Pandora. She stood smiling next to a drinks cart, a wine glass held out toward him. He looked back at the twirling people only to see healthy looking faces smiling and laughing. Dany took the pre-offered drink and drained the contents; the apple juice tasted sour but refreshing. He wiped at the corner of his mouth and gave back the glass.
“I thought that would be wine?”
Pandora laughs and brushed his arm as a young man in a sailors uniform swaggers up to her and ran a finger down her cheek. She pushed him away playfully and blew him a kiss.
“Don’t be silly Danny; we haven’t had that spirit here since 1969. Come on darling; there’s so much more to see.”
She pulled at his arm again, and they dodged the dancers to emerge on the other side of the courtyard where people mingled about holding plates of food. At the end of the building two white French doors stood open, cream fabric curtain blew out in the warm air like decorative streamers. Danny ducked through, the smell of food wafted around and momentarily made him think of his last meal. Pandora was at his side again and pointed to the ceiling. Mirrored glass stretched the length of the room.
“This is the master’s Chambers,” she said with a giggle.
A long thin banquet table draped with silver platers of moldy, rotten food filled his vision. Maggots festered in the hollow of a chicken breast and crawled freely over bowls of fruit, putrid plates of undisguisable food sat at the edge and lines of pink champagne chilled in buckets of ice.
Pandora pulled at his hand, but Danny let his fingers slip from her grasp. Their eyes locked and for the first time since he had met her, he saw a fracture of her happy laughing face. She followed his gaze to the ceiling where a group of men and women stabbed at a pig carcass; the women laughed as black blood gushed from the wound and splashed her dress. Danny’s eyes widen with fright as Pandora tries again to gather his hand. He pulled it quickly away as he stepped back shaking his head.
“No, this isn’t right. I’ve..I’ve got to go.”
Pandora smiled sadly and poured her lips. “Where do you think you’re going, Danny?”
He stammered and fell backward through the open doorway into the courtyard. The twirling people had stopped and pointed at him laughing. Danny picked himself up and ran through the crowd. But as he broke through the people a blank wall stood blocking his way. He turned and darted through again. This time Pandora held out her hand beckoning him to rejoin her. He turned and fled once more. His foot caught in a cobble and he fell into the man in the sailor’s outfit.
“Steady there old chap, where do you think you’re going in such a rush?”
Danny looked into sunken eye sockets where eyeballs should have been. Terrified he threw the skeleton back.
“This can’t be happening; this isn’t real. I’ve got to find the passage back get to the place I was before.”
He turned in circles while the figures around him continued to laugh. Suddenly he saw the door and made a dart for it, the dimmer lit corridor stretched for an eternity as the disembodied voices sang around him.
“Welcome to the Hotel California.”
Danny fled headlong down the corridor, as he neared the lobby the old man rose from his seat. Danny raced past him and flung open the entrance. The driveway and cars were gone, replaced with an endless black abyss. He tethers on the threshold with his arms spinning wildly.
The night man reached out a hand.
“Relax Danny; we open to receive, you can check out anytime you like.”
Danny turned his head to see his smiling face and milky eyes before he lost his balance.
“But you can never leave.”
The blackness closed over Danny as he fell through the air, his screams mingled with the laughter of the people and the disembodied voices.
Danny snapped awake as the lane assist beeped, warning of the vehicle’s trajectory. He sighed heavily and sat higher in his seat to let the rushing wind battered his face and hair. The lukewarm air did nothing to alleviate his tiredness or the disturbing dream, so he sat back down and rubbed his eyes. Up ahead a small light shimmered in the distance, and soon he could make out a red neon sign that read Hotel California. The O, T and the whole of California blinked and fell dark only for it to blink back on again. Jason gunned the engine and sped past a lady with blonde hair waving from the doorway in greeting.
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