You Reach a Hotel but the Only Thing that Hasn't Disintegrated is the Receptionist's Desk

"Hotel? HERE?" You're sure your mouth's hanging open.

It's full night. You can only just see the cabbie behind the wheel through the side window glass. Waving one hand around at the landscape in question.

"MONEY," you bark at the side window.

The cabbie waggles one hand. Plainly doesn't want money for the fare. It's inexplicable. As inexplicable as a cab from Athens, three hundred kilometres away, happening along a deserted road in the night.

You had thought it miraculous, the cab's happening by. "U S MONEY. TAKE ME SOMEWHERE ELSE. PYRGOS. ATHENS."

The cabbie waggles his hand again. He swings the cab around. The cab's only burning one headlight. It hasn't working tail lights. You shut your mouth tight just as the spinning tires spit the dust of antiquity over you.

You back away from the spraying dust. Back over rubble. You part-turn your right ankle.

The cab has left you by a debris field. At the heart of the place, a lamp burns over what looks to be the reception desk. Someone tall in a suit is wiping over the desktop.

You want a place for the night. Where you can think over next steps. And assume the identity of tourist and hotel guest. Just in case local police are on to something back there by the cliff.

Favouring your part-turned ankle, you thread your way over darkened rubble toward the light and the desk. And the wide-eyed man in dusty suit.

His pinched smile isn't convincing. "Madam. Good evening. Regrettably, we have no rooms available. Presently."

One night in a debris field is preferable to taking your chances out in the night. "I have US dollars. Your hotel will do. A chair will do."

Something flashes across the man's eyes. Possibly it's a trick of the intact Tiffany desk lamp burning just at his chest level. "As you will, Madam. Management cannot in good conscience provide you a room presently. Not even for US dollars. After the builders have inspected, tomorrow, possibly. Presently, management can only direct you to our lounge. There." He gestures past you.

You glance around, believe you have spotted remnants of furniture.

PUFF PUFF. The hotelier is blowing dust from the open book in his hands. He sets it down before you. "Please register."

You sign your alias. You offer a little chatter, to distract the man from noting the name you've written, from perhaps asking questions of his own. "So. What happened? Accident?"

The man's pinched smile returns. "Chef insisted on baked Alaska. Silly man. And the builders not yet signing a pass on our gas inspection. But then Chef's American. Was. No longer with the hotel, there it is. Mind where you step.

"Passport, please, madam, for the police."

Your fake passport is in the glovebox of the rental car. You swallow. "I...uh...forgot my passport in the glovebox. Ran outta gas. Somewhere."

"Rest assured, madam." His broad smile isn't reassuring. "Only the usual police formalities. Not that you're some kind of traveling homicidal maniac we should be on the look out for, heh heh. We will summon a taxi in the morning and retrieve your passport. Worry not."

You force a heh heh in reply. Your throat's suddenly dry.

The man slaps his hand down on the dusty desk bell. DING. A dusty short fellow pops up from behind the desk.

"Direct our guest to the lounge, please."


"Lounge. Show lady."

"Is everywhere, cannot she see?"

Their exchange might amuse you some other time. You start away over the rubble toward the remnants of furniture spotted earlier.

Behind you, the hotelier isn't giving up. "Chair. Find the lady a chair. QUICKLY."

The bellhop brushes past. You stumble left. Over-correct. Fully twist your right ankle. Topple back. And conk your noggin.

The End

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