Day Five: Kate
It came naturally to her to help her friend in need. She did not know what Ashley had done to find herself crumpled in a heap in the dark night, but it looked as if she was trying to escape and had not succeeded. She supposed that everyone who was ever here–who knows how many people that was–felt the same way about the place and wanted to get out, but apparently it was not a very easy task. Of course, getting out was only part of the challenge. She had seen endless miles of dark forest on all sides, with nowhere to go to find anyone else. She could not imagine that a place that close to Portland could be so remote. It made no sense that a hotel would be located in a place so distant from the beach or from human civilization at all, and she wondered what kind of design had placed a hotel like this one in a place as desolate and deserted as this one. No wonder that Ashley had wanted to escape, and yet she had found herself knocked out and unable to do anything about it. Even though Ashley was not the ideal roommate, Kate cared a great deal for her well-being. She was not the sort of person who wanted anyone to suffer and had a genuinely kind heart when it came to such matters. She was certainly not the sort of person who would let someone else suffer if she had it within her the power to do something about it, and here she did, at least a little bit.
She would likely be unable to remember it now, but once upon a time she wanted to be a nurse. She would have made a good one, to be sure, with her concern and her compassion, her tolerance of long hours, her natural conscientiousness, and all of that. She would have made a fine nurse, had she realized that childhood dream, but her life took a different direction. She had a hard time remembering the past, except as it involved her friend, and she sometimes wondered what was blocking her mind from an understanding of what had gone before. She knew that she had lived a decent life and had moments of genuine fun and excitement, that she had traveled and seen the world a bit, and yet she could not bring those matters to mind easily. She did not know why, and did not know who to ask about that. It was not an easy matter in a world where forgetfulness was seen as the first sign of mortal doom from a horrible disease like dementia to ask someone else whether they too had memory problems that prevented them from calling to mind the past as easily as they did before. She had lost access to a great deal of her own memories, but at the same time she was aware that there was something to remember. It was like the windows of this hotel. There was a wall in front of them but one knew all the same that there was something blocking the windows from the inside. It was not a pleasant reminder, that the hotel should so closely resemble the state of her own mind.
She tried to do the best she could to take care of Ashley. She could tell that there was breathing, but there was no response to anything she did. Kate made sure that her patient of sorts was resting comfortably on pillows. She was surprised that there was no obvious head wound as surely she had knocked herself unconscious with something like a serious concussion. Yet it had not broken the skin at all, and for that she was grateful. She wondered why there was no trip to the hospital, no clearing for athletic activity by a licensed medical official or anything like that. Conditions here, for such a place as this, were rather primitive. It puzzled her and she wanted to figure out the mystery, and she resolved to ask the bellhop about it. It was not, of course, the first time she had ever given unlicensed but useful help to her friend. How many times had Ashley had a bit too much to drink and she had nursed her back to health after a bad hangover? What about those pregnancy scares when a one night stand threatened with becoming something far more serious, something that would have horrified Ashley to think about, the thought that she would be connected through a living being to someone who had been merely temporary entertainment and the satisfaction of her considerable but ill-focused longings and desires. It had not been easy to help take care of Ashley, and yet here again there was the matter of secrets. She hoped that Ashley would be able to talk to her, to tell her what was troubling her.
After spending some hours doing this, she turned off the lights and had a few hours of fitful sleep herself. She seemed to remember herself on a road, the car weaving back and forth, feeling greatly anxious, and then seeing a bright light and the world going black. She wondered what it meant. Was this a nightmare or a memory? How was one to tell the difference? It troubled her, and she was not the sort of person who appreciated being troubled by such a thing, or was used to it. She was used to the sleep of the blessed, where she could not remember her dreams and was used to waking up full of energy and encouragement to face the day ahead. It was not like her to be troubled and tormented in herself, as if her mind was trying to work out some sort of trauma, with the results that she would be reminded over and over again of something horrible that had happened that had to be faced with grim courage day by day. She had lived a good life that was relatively free of intense suffering, at least so much as any life could be free of such torment. It bothered her that something had happened that she could not understand that was robbing her of a great deal of the joy of life. She enjoyed having loving and friendly company to be with, but it felt as if she was being imprisoned for a crime that she could not conceive of, and it was not a happy feeling.
After a few hours of fitful and unsatisfying slumber, she awoke to find her friend still unconscious and insensible, but breathing relatively peacefully, and so she resumed her nursing duties with as much cheer as possible. Yet it was a lonely and unpleasant task, and after a few hours of this she wondered if the task would not be better with company. She hoped she was not interfering with the work of the bellhop, since she knew he worked a fairly normal shift most days. He, like many people, was a creature of habit with his own routines that he held to, perhaps more tenaciously than most. She picked up the phone with some hesitation and gave him a call. “Good morning,” she heard him say, a bit sleepily, she thought. “This is Kate,” she replied, feeling a bit idiotic for being so obvious. “I trust all is well with Ashley?” “About that.” “What about that?” “I think it would be better if you came over here,” was the concerned voice she summoned. “Will do. Would you like some fresh towels?” “Would I ever!” “I’ll be right there.” They closed with some loving words that no one likes to hear who is not a lover oneself, and with that she had to wait for only a few minutes before there was a knock at the door, and when she opened it, she saw the bellhop with a laundry cart taking the towels and replacing them with some fresh ones. She was certainly glad to see that, and would feel a lot cleaner when she used those, that is for sure.
Not long after the bellhop arrived, Ashley began to stir, keeping Kate from asking the questions she wanted about nightmares and about her feeling of being imprisoned here and what Ashley was up to. Ashley opened her eyes and put her hand to her head and saw the bellhop. “Get out of here,” she said somewhat fiercely. “It’s your fault that we’re here.” He looked at her a bit puzzled, with his head tilted. “I don’t know what you mean.” “You’re the jailer here, aren’t you?” “No, I too am a fellow inmate. Perhaps I am a lifer while you are new here, but I am certainly not your jailer nor anyone else’s.” “You want to hurt us.” “I want nothing of the kind, but if it will make you feel better for me to leave, I will do so and leave you to the tender care of your friend.” Kate looked a bit sad, knowing that he would sacrifice his own pleasure at her company to keep her friend from being irrationally upset. The two of them kissed and made a promise to see each other later and talk, and then he was gone as quickly as he had arrived. Never had she felt that her friend had been more unreasonable or had denied her of more pleasure and enjoyment from the company of someone, but she supposed that people who had just knocked themselves out while trying to get out of a mysterious and somewhat creepy place were not the sort of people who could be relied upon to be the most reasonable beings around. She did not know if she would respond any differently or any better to the same sort of circumstances herself, and tried to have mercy on her friend even if she was irritated.
Kate looked at Ashley, who appeared to have a spark of realization and asked something. “Where is the bellhop’s room?” “It’s a small room near the lobby.” “Is there anything interesting in it?” “There is a somewhat fancy box on a desk and a lot of books.” “Okay, so no bodies or anything like that?” “No, nothing like that.” “What kind of books are there?” “There are novels and a lot of history books, and quite a few volumes in other languages that he seems to be able to read.” “Oh, okay,” and with that Ashley was silent. “How do you feel?” “I feel like I had too much to drink last night, except not nauseous.” “You knocked yourself out pretty good at the gate.” Ashley seemed to remember this a bit. “I was trying to get away from here.” “We figured that. The bellhop and I found you out cold on the driveway and brought you back here.” “Thanks for that, I suppose.” “Don’t mention it. Why do you think the bellhop wishes to harm us?” “He’s the only other person here and this place is obviously shady, so what else could it be?” Kate had to admit that Ashley’s logic was at least superficially plausible, even if she thought that the truth was more complicated. “You’ve got a point there. I have some questions for him myself about that.” “Are you going to stay here?” “If you’d like me to, I will, but I did want to see the bellhop again this evening.” “Go to him. I think I can manage myself as long as I keep the lights low.” “Alright, fine by me,” Kate said, relieved that Ashley was getting back to herself again, or at least a more pleasant version of herself. Kate then busied herself with getting ready for tonight, finding a lovely emerald green dress with a black belt, and then taking a luxurious bath in order to help herself feel more relaxed and using some of those fresh towels to feel clean. Feeling clean always made a day or evening easier to face, especially if one had questions that one wanted to get answered. And with that, she was off to talk to the bellhop and hopefully enjoy a pleasant date together with him once again.