Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Michael K Laidlaw About 5 000 words
#406 3524 31st NW
Calgary, Canada T2L 2A5
I wake in a hotel room, staring at the ceiling, as a gecko runs across spackled stucco. She sleeps beside me, murmurs as I move my hand along her back. A television glow fills long curves, wrinkles of her pale blue sheet. Snow prickles across the curved television screen, lines of black noise rise, but there is no sound. Somewhere, far below, surf mimics static. Get out of the room, she says, now, her face appears, in snow, through noise lines and ghosting, lasts only for a moment, her voice a whisper. It could have been a dream. I hear approaching footsteps in the hall. Wait, I say, my hand on the bed, where sheets are still warm. A remote control rests on flattened, fragrant creases. She is gone. The door buckles inward on first blow, shatters open on second blow. Orange hallway light silhouettes their dark shapes. They swarm into the room as if a swarm of gray bats, clicking and whistling in sonar pursuit. High, aching hissing. I defensively wave the remote, I point it at a tube-TV, I zap to a twenty-four hour pornographic channel. A woman and man imitate sex. Undead shield eyes from the light, bare fangs fluorescent as white plastic, someone laughs dryly. Sex does not interest the undead, only life does. I zap to another channel, a Spanish language game show about blind dating. Dating does not interest the undead, only blood does. I zap to another channel, a Sesame Street rerun. Somewhere on the mainland it is morning and children are watching this commercial for the number thirteen. The undead count with the song, in thin, harsh whispers over cheery singsong. A look of melancholy ennui crosses their youthful, pale faces. I slide out the door, I run blindly, I hear their cheer as the commercial ends. A swarm of gray bats, clicking and whistling in sonar pursuit, flies after me. I slam my shaking hand on the elevator panel, doors closing quickly but slowly as the elevator falls. Gold-veined mirrors line three walls, multiplying my image into blurred infinity. Orange light pulses a sickening rate from an overhead grid. I feel pulled to a lower corner, moving diagonally downward. I try helplessly to imagine plausible architectural structure of the hotel. Nausea struggles to correct errant perceptions. I waited for you, she says, you took so long, she says, I was afraid, she says. She rises beside numbers on the elevator panel, satiny dress, shiny nylons, spike heels dangling from her left hand, as color of her dress, as color of her hair, flicker from black to red to blonde, hair short, hair long, hair tangled, hair musky with sex. She begins worried tentative smile. I held the elevator for you, she says, her long, her chipped, her red fingernail pointing to the bottom floor. It is dark glass and numberless. Gold-veined mirrors multiply no images of her. A triangular white fang emerges from her crooked smile. And the falling elevator crashes in screams of twisted metal her howls of frustration. Mirrored walls shatter, sharp mirror fragments envelop her, walls fall, and only endless darkness is outside, where the garbage falls, the monsters live, where there is no escape. I fall onto diamond-patterned hotel hallway carpet. Walls are on fire, peeling wallpaper flaking off, peeling skins of ash drawn upwards in roaring convection rolls, revealed in vertigo, out the door, looms the charred iron I-beam skeleton of many lower floors. There are many closed rooms to either side, there is no way out. A sign beside the elevator panel speaks to me, In case of fire do not use elevators, use stairs. I close the orange fire door behind me and start to use black metal stairs, white concrete warm to my urgent touch pushes me forward, railings calming frantic descent, halting my frantic fall. I glance at floor numbers on the doors as I clatter down the stairs. Thirteen. Twelve. Sixteen. Twenty-two. I hear footsteps coming from above and batwings beating from below. I go out the next door. He is already there but I do not turn to see him.
I wake in a hotel room, staring at the ceiling, as a gecko runs across spackled stucco. She sleeps beside me, murmurs as I move my hand along her back. A television glow fills long curves, wrinkles her pale blue sheet. Snow prickles across the curved television screen, lines of black noise rise, but there is no sound. Somewhere, far below, surf mimics static. Get out of the room, she says, now. Her face appears, in snow, persisting through lines and ghosting. It lasts only a moment, it could have been a dream. Wait, I say, how, I say, my hand on the bed, where sheets are still warm. I roll away, do not look at the emptiness. She holds her image long, she fights noise, but a twist of transmission causes fear on her features to distort into plastic blankness. Fly, she says, off the balcony, she says. The first blow shatters the door, the second blow explodes the TV. Television does not interest the undead, only life does. Eyes glow, brighter than cats, reflecting some distant orange fire, they see everything in the dark. I stumble back out the balcony sliding door, tear at veiled curtains. I smell history of the hotel room trapped in perfumed cleaners fabric has been treated with, I continue backwards as fabric wraps around me as if a cocoon, as if invalid, pins my arms rigid to my sides as if a mummy, it covers my face, my eyes. I tear at the veil, flailing in hysteria, stumble onto the windy balcony, the curtain rips open like a damaged parachute on the metal railing and spills me out into blue city sky. Hotel towers of Waikiki line the beaches, the windows dark, the tourists asleep, the locals home. Moonlight glistens off pale blue wrinkles of breakers so far below, inland clouds rest low over mountain ridges, intermittent tides of red brake lights wash between dark towers, as white headlights float down. Roads and streets parallel the beaches and wander up the valleys and ridges. Someone is screaming. I fall, I turn, I look down to the terrace racing quickly to me, I see microscopic detail, I see highest resolution. I am weightless in pleasure and terror, I tense, I wait for an impact that does not come. Poolside terrace is filled with dancers swirling in complex display patterns, along teasing edges of lapping swimming pool glowing blue as a tube-television screen, blue as a nuclear cooling pool, blue as buried neutrino detector, then dancers stare up, then dancers scatter blindly, then silent gasping, then silent screaming, then music crashing to silence, not as if all sounds fail but as if I have gone deaf. I fly. A swarm of gray bats, clicking and whistling in sonar pursuit, dive after me. Evaporate in a burst of sunlight. I turn on my side, sigh in heavy heat, pool-water-wet and tired. I look to my left. She is there, smiling, sleeping. Her tanned body shines with coconut oil and sweat, vivid red and black suit curving low on her back, high on her hips. Her eyes flicker open, she turns her face away before I see their color, before she dons black sunglasses. I waited for you, she says, you took so long, she says, I was afraid, she says. Her voice ends, her eyes drain to terror, she says something urgently, I try and decipher her voice through conversations and poolside music slowed to a drone. I hear her clear, hypnotic, compelling voice from somewhere. Phone call, she says, please pick up the white courtesy phone in the lobby, she says, Mahalo and Aloha, she says. Her voice fades. She sits on the lounge, confused and angry, she shrugs her shoulders nervously, she rolls her shoulders forward, she leans away, she rises unsteadily up. Are you coming, she says, she kisses me, I stumble to my feet, she steps away, I drift through tanning lotion scent of sun worshippers. I walk as if through water, I feel tired, I hear as if through deep blue pool water, only my sight remains clear and sharp. She clamps her hand on my wrist, she pulls me after her, she will not release me, she is confused, she is angry, her look of concern, her teasing pout uncertain, her indefinite-color eyes tremble behind black lenses. It is blue city night and the poolside terrace is deserted. She pulls me into cobalt blue water. It is not deep at this end, not cold, she guides me by her grip and water rises to my chest, to her throat, to her jaw, to her lips. Sunglasses float off unnoticed, revealing indefinite-color irises, black pupils now coming close, now fading as black mirrors. I am drowning. A full moon dissolves and coalesces on rippling reflections of blue pool water. I see my wavering hand above pool water reflected as black silhouette but there is no hand holding it. Her scarlet lips part, she bares fluorescent plastic fangs. He is already there but I do not turn to see him.
I wake. Phone rings again, I pick it up. Call me as soon as you get out, she says, you know how, she says, you are a fast learner, she says, but get out of the room, she says, now. How, I say. I hear only dead line, only distant murmur of static surf, I blink at TV blue glow on my waking eyes, I barely find her scared face in snow but it lasts only for a moment, the voice a whisper, it might have been a dream. I am on the balcony before footsteps disturb the hall. I fly. A swarm of gray bats, clicking and whistling in sonar pursuit, dive after me. Evaporate in a burst of high noon sunlight. I turn on my side, sigh in heavy heat, wet and tired, I look to my left. She is there sleeping, tanned body shiny with coconut oil and sweat, vivid red and black suit curving low on her beautiful back, high on her hips. Eyes of indeterminate color flicker open, she turns away, covers her indefinite-color eyes with black sunglasses, scarf covers her hair. I waited for you, she says, you took so long, she says, I was afraid, she says. Her shoulders roll forward, she leans to one side, she rises up. I'm going to get a book from the room, key please, baby, she says. Black lenses reflect my body lying face-up on the lounge. I reach down into our beach bag to find the card key, it feels smooth, blank on my fingers but as I pull it out I glimpse our number thirteen-thirteen. Her fingers take it from suddenly hesitant hand. I'll be back, she says. She smiles, pushes sunglasses up, fangs show, fluorescent white behind her scarlet lips. Her kiss silences me, her touch freezes my right shoulder as she walks by. I am unable to get off the lounge, I look up through bronze lenses, at the empty sky, at the unforgiving sun, as ice courses through my veins. Nothing will thaw this ice. Down my right arm, down entire right side of my body, I am frozen, I am already cold and numb on the left side. Someone turns up shrieking old boombox to a very high volume, directly behind me. I hear her clear, hypnotic, compelling voice from somewhere. Phone call, she says, please pick up the white courtesy phone in the lobby, she says, Mahalo and aloha, she says. I force my left arm to move, I reach into our beach bag, I find my music, clumsy fingers numb on putting ear buds in. I am already deaf on the right side. Music is roaring static but fragments of a voice emerge from the static, and this voice is she. Her voice speaks at a volume just below noise, only fragments clear. I arrange sounds into words I do not know and listen, I hear her voice thaw the ice. Leave the pool, she says, now, I rise up, walk, she says. It is blue city night and the poolside terrace is deserted. I walk along the rim of glowing cobalt pool. Water laps against tiled edges and over my feet like chlorine tongues, then pool is disturbed as if by a storm, but there is only a gentle, salty breeze. Moon is full and clear and bright, but city light does not cover stars in the great dome of sky, crossed by a line of surf, a breaker others call the Milky Way. I search for shapes and names of constellations, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Orion, Gemini. I do not know shapes and names of constellations that my ancestors used to track this vast ocean in centuries past. I see a constellation of the southern hemisphere, a remembered sight I should not see at this latitude north. I do not know its name, only the name given by those who felt they had discovered this vast ocean, Southern Cross, surprised and disturbed to discover its many islands already populated with brown people the like of which they had never seen. I am halfway to the lobby, halfway around blue pool. Dancers swirl very complex display patterns along teasing edge of lapping swimming pool. I wear a tuxedo, pale-blue striped shirt, no tie, black wingtips dangling from my left hand. I see her approaching from the far curve of the pool, she walks quickly, she begins her tentative smile, indefinite-color eyes watch me. She wears a satiny dress, nylons patterned with small black daggers, spike heels dangling from her left hand. Dancers reel open a path for her. I hear familiar romantic, swaying waltz, she now walks very slowly. Everything, everyone, moves very slowly. Music moans, pace distorts, tones deepen as if dying, as if batteries are dying, as if dying. I see her face over dancers swirling around me. I hear fragments from each face, fragments hypnotic, fragments compelling, fragments clear, they know the room number now, she says, there will be no footsteps, she says, no warning, she says, they may even be in the room. I see her lips move more but I do not know her words. Her face fades, her face turns away, her face lost among other faces of family and lovers and friends and enemies of past and present, familiar faces on swirling dancers, faces that turn away before recognition. Everyone greets me but few know each other. Faces gather and press around me, smiling, leering, joking, pull my attention away, roaring laughter static over her voice. Everything, everyone, moves even slower, high-resolution of frame-advance, faces of dancers are angry, faces of dancers are confused. Her voice comes clear, details, recall every detail, she says, everything, anything about these family, these lovers, these friends, these enemies, she says, even invent details, invent possibilities, invent rationales however absurd, she says, listen, listen to me, hold them in as much detail possible, she says, confuse them, slow them down, she says, they know the room number now, she says, slow them down, force them to explain everything, she says, she cannot help you. Her eyes drain, voice changes, becomes breathy, becomes seductive, she clinks tulip glass of champagne against my tulip glass. She sips, she smiles, she examines at me as if I have just returned from somewhere far away, as if she sees me talking to another girl, as if she sees and is jealous, as if she sees. Dancers recede into hazy darkness as others do in her presence, in her gaze, at her touch. I was waiting for you, she says, you took so long, she says, I was afraid, she says. I feel gentle irresistible weight of her hand on my shoulder, her cold freezing hand, she pulls me closer, she needs my comfort, she captures me. Her indefinite-color eyes close, she smiles, she sighs, as we sway in romantic waltz. She is tall, she is almost my height, her cheekbones, her fragrant hair, rest against my cheek. Her face tilts slightly open and up as if to ask a question, her scarlet lips part, her fangs brush against my collar. I try to escape. He is already there but I do not turn to see him.
I, I had to do it, she says. She kneels on the bed, her familiar lean body in glowing blue light of an old tube-television, the room awash with static surf. Details of sensual and sexual experience rise in my body, flood my eyes, each curve and softness, each move and response, each scent and taste and sound. My hands are on her shoulders. I pull her down to me, I kiss her, I kiss her. She pushes me away, turns her face away, she looks to the right, she gasps, she moans, she struggles away. Sleepy desire drains into eyes filled with terror. I, I had to do it, she says, her eyes plead helplessly, her mouth moves, sounds come but I do not understand the words, her mouth closes, she bites her lip, she looks at me, she blinks, her face blanks, her voice changes to an urgent plea, get out of the room, she says, now. She moves off the bed, she stands, she blinks in anger, she stops, she returns, she wavers confused as if she wants to speak, as if she does not find the words, then her more seductive voice continues, I, I hadto do it, she whispers, he had a gun, she says, she settles on the far side of the bed, blocking the door. I look where she is pointing, I see a motionless vampire slumped in dentist's chair beside television and mirror, the reflected chair empty in the mirror, the undead have no need of a gun. In the mirror I am the only one in the room. What, what did you do, I say, how, how did you, I say, I, I had to do it, she whispers, he had a gun, she says. She reaches for me over the bed, she wants my comfort, she frowns as I flinch away. I waited for you, she says, you took so long, she says, I was afraid, she says. I look at the corpse as in some few seconds, centuries of rot are released, mutilating first possibilities of recognizing its face, mouth slack and open revealing darkness missing its fang teeth, its papery skin pulled back around the skull, revealing death. A metal chain wraps around the chair, holding him down. An operating light pulses at sickening rate from the operating light suspended above him, highlights spots of bright red blood, newly fallen on the tool tray, and a pair of fluorescent white fangs. How did you stop him, I say lightly, I say curiously. I was afraid, her words soften, her eyes plead, she says Please leave, please, leave, she says, leave this room, leave this hotel, she says, right now. How did you take them out, I say, her voice becomes seductive, You took so long, she nods toward primitive dental tools, she walks around the bed, moving slow as if she walks in deep snow, as if in quicksand, as if the air thickens. She is undeterred by this, she is patient and inexorable, she slowly comes around the bed, she will not stop, she jerks back a few steps, she is confused, she is angry but does not leave, now she is crawling on the bed, she is worming on the bed, she is reaching for me from the bed, she is gasping, she is moaning, she is staring, she will not stop. I see shadowy blue ghosts blocking the balcony, I see her hand flick these ghosts away or just draw my inattention back to her. I slide toward the door. I hear approaching footsteps in the hall. She perches now on the distant edge of the bed, before an empty mirror, she is not angry, not smiling, just waiting. How, how did the, the dentist's chair, I say, I waited for you, she says, the dentist's chair gone and in its place a normal hotel room chair sits, facing an old tube-TV. I zap the remote but nothing happens, I reach to switch to a live television channel, but there is only snow and more snow, there is a hotel card reader for using the TV. I have no hotel card. I reach back to the bedside table where I have left my wallet, but there is only dim lamp. I see a porcelain white telephone on the far bedside table, beside an empty mirrored headboard, an out-of-service tag wrapped around it, as now the hotel chair corpse reverses its decay. I see the face now, emerging as if out of TV snow, I recognize his face, I recognize a friend of my youth, his face becomes younger, his face becomes his age when last I played him. What, what are you doing here, I say, smiling. His falsely young face, his papery old face tilts up, as he reaches out for the set of white plastic joke fangs, in spots of bright red blood, on tool plate by the desk. I jerk the plate away, balance the plate in my palms, teasingly offer the plate as if a gift. How's the tennis game, he chuckles, think you can beat me yet, he smiles, Where, where are you, where are we. He looks at me blankly, as if not hearing, as if ready to dispute a line call. You, you're in my head, aren't you, I say, you, you're not really here, I say, in my hotel room, I say, are you. He looks away, bored, looks down at his tennis racket, frowns, sighs. He bounces yellow tennis ball on tense strings, he smiles. I concentrate on slowing the ball's trajectory down, watch it rise and fall in slow arcs, but soon he bounces it higher, brings it down faster. Do you know my friend, I ask her, as she sways behind his chair, smiling , familiarly mussing his hair. Tell me about my friend, I say, He's your friend, she says, I'm your special friend, she says, we're all your special friends here, she says, are we in your head or in your hotel room, she says, well, where are you, But if you're my friends how can, can he, Becausewe're your friends, she says, the more people you draw into this, she says, the more he can use against you, she says, you, you're all alone, she says, she can't reach you, she says, don't you see, she says, she frowns, as indefinite-color eyes drain into blank terror and she becomes young and younger, as she mouths words I do not know but recognize the tone, Please, her voice changes to an urgent, pleading whisper, leave, she says, leave this room, this hotel, she says, right now. I slide toward the door but distance becomes elastic, air thickens, escape recedes every move. I search for other ways, any ways, ways to leave. I try to recall previous guidance. She has said the more details, more explanations, the more you slow down, slow them down, she said, I say, so how, how do I have, have this room number, thirteen-thirteen is not a hotel room number, they never use those numbers in hotels, it’s too common a superstition, I say, I was afraid, she says, sits close to me, leans to me, strokes my arm, needs my comfort, She said you need details, you must explain details, You took so long, she tries to hug my still body, she says, Why, why do they like the number thirteen on, on Sesame Street, I say, Because thirteen is your number, she says, your secret number, she says, your special number, she says, you used to love Sesame Street, she says. I know they see everything, I know there is no escape, I do not know who she is or why her voice traps me or why her voice helps me. I was waiting for you, she says, She, she said to call as soon as I, she mocks surprise, mocks severe displeasure, I am she, she says. I cannot move away from her arms trapping me. You are not she, I say. A polite, a familiar knock taps the door. I know he is just outside, waiting. I feel her icy touch freezing me in place, she pulls me gently down, she becomes cruel and strange, her eyes drain to confusion, become indefinite color, I am not she, she says. I feel points of fangs depress skin of my neck, approaching puncturing pressure slowly, languorously. He is already there but I do not turn to see him.
I wake in a hotel room, staring at the ceiling, a gecko runs across spackled stucco. She is kissing me, I am kissing her. Sensations of arousal are so complete, so powerful, they wash over all memory, they drown all fears, they offer false happiness. I live in these sensations. Surf crashes quietly, then a steady whisper of static of distant erupts once, loudly, the television tube implodes, the circuitry overloads, the sound distorts. I hear her clear, hypnotic, compelling voice from somewhere, I hear an echo of her voice, her urgent, her terrified, her pleading whisper. I know she is not she. I rise above her, gently try to free myself from her embrace, but there is a conflict of intent and pleasure. I decide, I hope, that when she is very aroused, when she is she, she will tell me anything I ask, she will tell me where we are, where she is, who she is, how do we leave. I pull her down to me, I kiss her, I kiss her. I invent sensual memories. I close my eyes so I do not see her, I tease her though I do not know her, I know only that we have been making love for hours, that she is aroused past ever leaving, ever changing again, she is past fear, she is past. How do I get out of the hotel, I say, Elevator, she says, or maybe the stairs. Sleepy arousal drains into eyes filled with terror as her voice changes suddenly to an urgent whisper, fly, Where do I go, I say, Anywhere you'd rather be than here, she giggles a curious smile, her voice switches back, Please, leave this hotel, right now, she says. I hear helpless tears in her urgent, her terrified, her pleading whisper, I hear how much she wants to help me but she does not know how, as I want to help her but do not know how, she speaks words I do not know, she whispers, I speak words she does not know, we share with each other only in staring eyes, in blank silence. She changes. She is not she. Already her hand on my hip begins the freeze. There is no need for a polite, familiar knock at the door, because he is already there, behind me. He is already there but I do not turn to see him.
I wake in a hotel room, staring at the ceiling, a gecko runs across spackled stucco. She sleeps beside me, murmurs as I move my hand along her back. A blue television glow fills curves of her back, ridges of white sheet. Snow prickles across the flat television, a line of black flickers up. There is no sound. Somewhere, far below, calm surf mimics static. Sleepy arousal drains into eyes filled with terror, numbs all hopes as I strain to hear her voice, Please, please leave, she says, leave this room, she says, leave this hotel, leave me, she says. I listen for approaching footsteps in the hall, I gaze at the empty balcony, I look at the empty chair, I wait ready to flee, but I never can. I know he is already there, on the distant side of the bed, behind me. She is she wants to speak, she whispers urgently, she wants to guide me, she wants to help me escape, but what she wants can never overcome the vampire. I never have escaped, I never do escape, I never will escape this room, this hotel, these vampires that chase, that wait, that feed. Vampires are never reflected in mirrors but are always beside me. Her hair is short and blonde, her face is smooth and young, her eyes are blue and clear, her mouth speaks words that only the vampire knows, as he speaks words to me that she does not know, so we never speak to each other, our shared terror mute, our shared terror freezes our bodies, holding us close together, breathing together. She holds me. I hold her. I will not leave this hotel without her, I will not leave her, I will not. She looks at me as I will ever want to be looked at by girl or woman, she holds me as if she does not want to leave me, she holds me as if she loves me, she holds me as if, as if. She shyly bites her lip. She wants to say something but she knows I will not understand, so she remains silent, she waits quietly, she waits. She does not want to leave me, she does not want to leave, she does not. I see her last helpless, crying gaze, before her voice changes, before her body becomes cruel and strange, before her scarlet lips part, before fangs emerge from her crooked smile. He is already there but I do not turn to see him. I do not even have time to close my eyes.