The Clairmont, Part I
Nickerson's Mystery Hotel meme.I am a long-winded bastard; hence, this is a serial. Probably. If anyone wants to pay me to find out what happens next.
Without further ado:
It was in the morning that things always became the hardest. In the cruel light streaming through the Clairmont's dusty windowpanes, it was less easy to pass off the previous night's affairs as a dream, a bit of bad sausage gone down wrong and left to rot too quickly during a brief period of somnolence.
Harkins had been manning the desk while I tidied up, as per usual, hoping for a quick bit of day business, perhaps visitors from the flop trade. As per usual, no-one came knocking.
I was glad, this once, that our door remained undarkened. Cleaning the rooms had taken too long, and the work had left me effusing strong scents of lye and copper, which would only fade with a good scrubbing (the latter) and a sprinkling of vinegar (the former). Harkins did not mind; he had in fact become so inured to the smell that he hardly noticed it, and so it was that I began cleaning the rooms in his stead lest the odors drive off our few potential guests.
Our two tenants had both made their exits in the wee hours - though not without paying - and with the rooms cleaned and freshened we had little enough to do with ourselves, needing only to pass the time until the shifting crescent of light on the floor became a sliver and the gaslamps and electric bulbs were brought to bear on the encroaching darkness.
I fancied a nap, and saying so to Harkins, I made my way to the cot in our office and wrestled with the lumpy cotton until it was in a shape that gave me some comfort, if little peace. The light was fainter here, a spattering of smears in the dust - Harkins' duty to clean the office, not mine, and come damnation I will not have lifted a finger to save him this of all troubles. The cascade of beams across the roughly-plastered wall brought to mind other, less hypnotic patterns, but nonetheless my eyes promptly closed, and I was asleep.
Cranes' calls, the soft bleating of the willows, and then this voice:
I was rigid, arms clenched at my sides, willing them to move but unable to lift them.
"Adam. Wake up."
I can see clearly, but yet my eyes will not open. Curious.
Harkins. My arms and legs wobbly, I attempted to roll from the cot, anything to get real legs under me.
"We have a guest."
And then another kind of paralysis swept over me. From the light that remained it was too early, too early by half, but there is no reckoning the time of a guest's arrival; they come when they come.
And so, to work.