Word Count: 1,148
I had never believed in any form of afterlife. Once you were dead, that was it, there was nothing beyond that. It just seemed more logical than watching your loved ones from above. I wasn’t sure if I wanted anyone watching what I was doing all the time anyway, I mean how embarrassing is that? I think that people who believe in the afterlife are entitled to do so but they do it so it gives them some hope that the person they love isn’t dead completely, that they’re still living somewhere happy and at peace. Me, on the other hand, I know that when you’re dead you’re dead.
That’s it. Final. No second chances. You only have one life and even though it’s the longest thing you’ll ever do it’s astounding how time can pass you by in the blink of an eye.
This all changed though. All my beliefs and everything I stood for disappeared from underneath me during the summer of 2012.
School had finally ended and as promised, my parents were taking me to America to celebrate my “graduation”. You have no idea how happy I am that school ended. Whoever said they’re the happiest years of your life was clearly fucking high. They have no idea. High school is brutal, especially if you look like me; tall lanky and ginger with freckles and glasses. Can you imagine how many time I got the shit kicked out of me? I wasn’t exactly popular and I pinned it down to my appearance and general awkwardness in social situations. I wasn’t even that cute awkward either, I was that weird awkward where everyone gives you sideways glances and looks at you like you’re covered in shit or something.
The holiday destination, Mum had told me, was in Nevada. A place called Reno which was about four hundred and fifty miles away from Las Vegas, if my research was correct. I searched it up on the internet, just to get a glimpse of what it may be like and it didn’t look that bad. Bright lights illuminated the city when it was dark and massive buildings reflected the blinding sun during the daytime. Anything was going to be better than the small rainy town in England that I was currently living in though.
After a painstakingly long flight, we had finally arrived.
We were stopping at a place called the Quality Inn, which was about ten minutes away from the airport. I had also researched that and discovered it looked like a total dive. I secretly wondered why my parents hadn’t booked anywhere amazing. I had subtly slipped it into the conversation on the aeroplane and their reply was: ‘Joe we paid enough for the flights and this holiday is going to cost us a fortune. Are you really complaining?!’
I had shut up after that, wondering how many other fifteen year olds had been given a trip to America as a present for finishing school. It did seem a bit ostentatious, but maybe what they were really saying was ‘we know you got bullied relentlessly Joe so here’s a present for persevering through it.’
As soon as my feet touched American ground, I realized how hot it was. I didn’t know the first thing about Nevada, but I was pretty sure it was a desert which would explain the humidity. Pulling off my jacket, I dug into my bag and retrieved my sunglasses, specially designed so I wouldn’t be completely blind if I wasn’t wearing my normal glasses.
After collecting our luggage, we caught a taxi to the hotel and I had to admit it looked better up close than it did on the website.
‘I still can’t believe I’m in America,’ my mother gushed. She had always harped on about wanting to see the world, pestering dad to take us places. I think the trip was more for her than it was for me.
We stepped through the automatic doors and I was hit with that fresh hotel smell. You know, the air fresheners that fill every room and the faint aroma of cigarette smoke that drifted in from outside. Fancy lights hung on the ceiling above us and there was a large, polished oak desk in the corner of the room with a smart looking woman sat behind us. She smiled warmly at us all.
‘Welcome to the Quality Inn hotel. Did you have a reservation?’
‘Yes,’ my dad showed her some papers. ‘Under the name of Hartness.’
The woman typed something into the keyboard and she smiled once again. ‘Ah yes right here. Room 84.’ She handed dad a set of keys. ‘It’s just round the corner, up the two flights of stairs and at the end of the corridor. Enjoy your stay.’
He thanked her and led the way to the room. Even though the place wasn’t exactly the Ritz, it wasn’t that bad. The walls had been painted gold and every few metres or so there was a mini chandelier hanging from the ceiling.
‘Why don’t we just take the lift?’ I suggested, nodding my head in the direction of the double gold doors.
‘Because clearly you can’t read Joseph,’ mum replied. ‘The lift is out of order.’
Sure enough, a clear sign above the doors informed me of that fact. Oh well. The stairs it was.
The journey seemed to take forever. The minutes stretched out endlessly and by the time we had arrived I just wanted to sleep. Being on a plane for such a long length of time really took its toll on me. First though, I needed a shower. My clothes were sticking to my skin and my hair clung to my forehead. The sudden change in weather was a shock to the system. I was used to cold, rainy summers in England.
Dad fumbled with the keys for a bit and I let out a long sigh. Mum tutted at me.
Finally he got the damn things to work and he pushed the door open. My view of the room was obstructed for a few seconds as mum and dad bustled in before me. Dragging my suitcase behind me, I stepped inside, expecting to be met with grandeur and class.
It was just a standard hotel room. The same floral patterned carpet they have in all the hotels stretched out beneath my feet and I grimaced at it. Our room did lead out onto a balcony though, even if all you could see was the IHOP (whatever that was) opposite the hotel and a relatively busy road. A telly settled into the corner of the room stared out back at us, the screen blank. There were two sets of draws and a large-ish wardrobe opposite the beds and a full length mirror attached to the wall just beside the entrance.
Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.