Day Six: Kate
It was not like Kate to dwell on the negative. On the plus side, Kate didn’t have the same nightmare she did the previous night, when she saw how she had died. This nightmare had the feeling of premonition. Perhaps she was unaware of such matters, but she had the nagging intuition that she was not seeing her past as much as seeing her future. She saw herself waking up in the bed of the bellhop, and looking around to see the books on the bookshelf. She saw herself taking a shower, and putting on a bellhop uniform. The more she thought about this, and by now the dream was a lucid one that she wanted to see and not disturb by becoming too alert too quickly. She saw herself looking through the rooms of the hotel, which all looked like her own, and doing a boring job in an empty hotel. Where was the bellhop? Where was Ashley? This seemed like a funhouse version of reality, something that was just off enough to be strange but close enough to reality not to seem out of place. She was not the sort of person who understood or cared very much about prophecy, but she definitely knew that something was uncanny about the scene and she wanted to be awake as soon as she knew that she would wake back up in her hotel room with some company in the generally barren hotel and not end up all alone for decades like the bellhop had mentioned. She couldn’t imagine what kind of torment it was to be alone for so long–she had been fortunate enough to never be particularly lonely. If she was not breathtakingly beautiful, she had always at least been part of the group of cool kids, the nicest one of the lot, and she had never known what it was like to suffer crushing isolation. Some people have to steel themselves to such an existence, but she had not been used to that, and there was nothing to warn her but a dream she didn’t even realize was trying to communicate with her.
She woke up at length and looked at the clock and realized it was still early in the morning, and she was not interested in bothering the bellhop while he was working. She did not think that he had a strenuous job, exactly, but she knew him to be a conscientious enough person that he would not have wanted to be a robber of time by doing his own personal business while being paid, even if there was little to spend it on here. She could have guessed that some people would have had entire second careers during the course of their paid jobs, writing novels with a gusto or something of that nature, but he did not strike her as that sort of person. She wondered what she would do to pass the time. Perhaps, if she was wise, she would have tried to tease out the meaning of her dream, to record the details as best as she was able. If she would have noticed, she would have seen that there was a pen and a pad of paper for that purpose that had been provided in her room, but she was not alert to its presence. She had not been fond of that game as a kid where one looked at two pictures and tried to spot the differences between them. If she had been fond of that game, it would not have taken her very long at all to realize that she now had the means of recording her thoughts and feelings down just when it was within her interests to do so. Keeping a dream journal is quite useful, after all, when one has weird dreams. It does one no good to have weird dreams if one is not in the habit of recording one’s dreams to muse upon them at a later time when one is more conscious and can put one’s full intellectual guns to bear on the problem rather than the sort of feeble effort one usually provides when still half-asleep and not fully alert to the significance of an active dream life.
She turned on the television. At least it was something other than a Judge Judy marathon this time around. Instead, the most interesting thing she found related to the dream she had, which struck her as a rather odd coincidence. She was watching a documentary on hotels. The documentary was sufficiently interested that even though it was not a subject that had truly ever gripped her before, she watched with some attentiveness. She saw discussions of the history of inns and how they were looked down upon early in history as being dens of thievery and prostitution, and pondered about how some hotels, at least the lower end, still had that sordid reputation. There was a discussion about the medieval inn, abbey, and monastery as well as the caravanserai. Then, around the time of the industrial revolution hotels became very widespread wherever European civilization spread, as the growth of industrialization and faster and more regular means of travel created quite a market for vacationing. She wondered who would ever vacation at a place like this. She had to admit that a great many hotels were beautiful, and even this hotel had beauty in the garden as well as a beautiful if desolate view from the top of the hotel, but if she had been all alone here this would have been a difficult place to be. Most hotels, of course, had quite a large staff of people in the restaurants or serving in the lobby, or involved in cleaning. In some countries, she discovered, there was a great deal of interest in educating people on the finer points of hospitality and restaurant and tourism. If a great deal of a nation’s or an area’s income depended on soothing the ruffled feathers and otherwise charming tourists and inducing them to part from some of their hard-earned currency, then the resources of education would be turned readily to such a practical end. The United States was not a nation that appeared to view this as a task of higher education, but she supposed that in other countries working in the hotel industry should be seen as a sign of honor for those who had particularly winning interpersonal skills rather than as a place for those whose legal status and linguistic capabilities were a bit on the uncertain side. Much depended on a nation’s priorities, after all, and how necessary it was seen to be charming.
After the documentary she looked over to the other bed to see that Ashley appeared to be sleeping soundly. Kate did not wish to disturb her, although it would have been nice to have someone to talk to. For some reason she felt like she was in the mood to talk. There were a great many times when she was in the mood to listen and was the ideal audience for someone who felt expansive, but today was one of those moods where she had much to say and much to ask, and she knew of only one person around who was interested in talking to her. How much longer would she have to wait, she wondered as she looked at the clock, and time seemed to go slowly. What was it about time going slowly when one was looking forward to something but proceeding rapidly when one was caught up in enjoyable activity? And what was it about the reverse, that the memory of boring times was fleeing and the memory of times of excitement was full and expansive, allowing one the leisure to relive moments of great excitement and importance over and over again while while days and weeks and months and even years of tedium and boredom vanished into the memory hole never to be seen again. Of course, her memory had not been very good since the accident. She preferred to think of it that way, to call the cause of her death an accident, which it was, not a failure of nerve on her part to provide for her own safety and to not have depended on the bad driving of a drunk driver in order to get home safely. She wondered if she would ever see her family again, and if they blamed her and thought her responsible for what had happened. Yet between her and them there could be no communication. There was a veil between her existence, such as it was, and the mundane world that went on without her and might not have even known she was gone, for the most part. She tried not think of that, because it depressed her.
She did not realize at first that the phone was ringing, and it rang several times before she picked it up. “Hi, this is Kate,” was her surprised response, wondering why he had called. “Hey, it’s me,” he replied, as if it could be anyone else, since he was the only other person in the hotel outside of the two in her room. “What’s going on?” She was genuinely curious now. “Well, the hotel decided to ‘reassign’ me,” he said in the kind of way that suggested he was putting air quotes around the offending word, “And they have decided that you are to take my place.” There was quite a pause after this. “I don’t know when you want to begin talking about it, but it’s about 3PM now and this hotel stops work on the Sabbath day, so we’ve only got an hour to an hour and a half of any work to do today.” While she did not generally refer to Saturday as Sabbath, she caught his drift and she explained to him that she still needed to get ready and that she would have to shower and change before their conversation, when they both had a lot to talk about, it seemed. “I’ll meet you at your room in half an hour then, dear,” he said gently, and with that the phone conversation ended. She was truly shocked at this, and now she realized that her dream had been more than just a dream, but a prophecy. She was not used to being given oracles of the future to come, and her dream no longer seemed as uncanny and surreal as it had just a few hours before. Instead of feeling as if it had been a nightmare, she now started to feel as if someone was trying to talk to her through her dreams, and the thought made her feel even more alarmed than she had been with the nightmare. She wished that she could remember more of it, and she supposed she would have to ask the bellhop what it is that he did, and why anyone would think of her as a suitable caretaker for a creepy and empty hotel nearly entirely devoid of guests.
She figured it would be good to get ready at this point, so she found a nice skirt and blouse combination as well as some clean undergarments and took a shower. For some reason, as she showered she felt the need to sing Hotel California, perhaps the most appropriate song that came quickly to mind about a hotel like this one. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave,” she mused to herself and recognized that this was indeed the most appropriate song for the moment. How long had the bellhop said that he had been here? Decades? And unlike the Eagles’ song, where one could at least enjoy a feast and the company of others, this hotel was nearly entirely bereft of guests and could likely be a very lonely place. And this was to be her place, she wondered to herself with some degree of concern if not alarm. When the shower was done she toweled herself off and put on her clothes and ran her fingers through her hair and sat down on the bed to be at least a few seconds ahead of the familiar knock. She got up and answered the door and the two of them were at once walking towards the familiar restaurant to enjoy another date. Again, as both of them had a lot to say to each other, paradoxically, they were quiet at first. Conversation flowed far easier when one didn’t have something that one wanted to say. It was when one wanted to say something that one struggled with it. So it was with the two of them tonight.