Hendrick remembered how just a few minutes ago he was looking out the window now shattered, watching cars pacing along the road now floating helplessly in space, afraid of having a lunch date with a girl he now suspected to be dead. He fished his hand into the pocket of his pinstriped black slacks, pulling out a scrap of paper inscribed with a note written in purple letters. The note reminded him of Valentine’s day during his years in grade school when he would giggle with boyish delight upon receiving a card from his secret admirer.
It was nice meeting you Hendrick, what say we meet up again? I am staying at the Majestic Hotel until Thursday and wouldn’t mind if I saw you again before then. How about you meet me tomorrow in the Shining Beacon around two O’clock? I’ll be waiting.
The note had been written by a girl Hendrick ran across on a city transit bus, on his way back home after spending most of the morning talking with an admissions officer at the university he had dreamed of going to since he was twelve. It was a cool day in autumn, where a soft breeze circulates through the streets with a cheerful animosity, when Hendrick inadvertently stepped onto a bus that would change the course of his life. A rotund bus driver sat undisturbed in front of the steering wheel, sharing no interest in passengers as they loaded into the bus, instead focusing his attention to the rearview mirror which his squinted eyes stared through while he searched for any passengers starting trouble during his shift. Hendrick was careful not to trip on the third step, as he always did when he climbed onto a transit, before looking for an empty seat. During the middle of the day the bus was usually packed with people, all of which disgruntled from the presence of other passengers crowding the bus even further, and this particular day was no different. Hendrick brushed passed a businessman wearing a gray suit with a matching briefcase who, upon being nudged, contorted his face with displeasure and muttered an insult under his breath. The seats were filled on both sides of the bus, leaving Hendrick to hold onto the pole that protruded from the rubber floor. He looked to his right with an innate curiosity to see the faces of fellow passengers when he saw her face, a face too beautiful to ignore.
An elderly man sat in the seat between Hendrick and the girl, fast asleep from the long ride through the city. The bus stopped abruptly at the next stop, waking the elderly man from his sleep who shrieked in his daze of drowsiness as he slowly rose from the seat, claiming he was about to miss his stop. Hendrick slipped into the vacant spot almost immediately, eager to get a chance to speak with the girl. He suddenly remembered the girlfriend who had left him a mere week ago that shattered his heart and instantly he felt guilty of wanting to meet a girl so soon. The girl had been reading a book during the bus ride, pausing briefly to notice him, before returning to her book. Hendrick flashed a smile in that moment composed of a shaking lip from the fear of rejection and chattering teeth from the sudden flashes of his recently ended relationship. He felt as if the smile were a thin mask thrown over the broken confidence of his character that would be detected, but the girl smiled in return. Hendrick suddenly felt helpless, trapped in a situation he no longer wished to be in. He looked at the cover of her book, reading the titleUnder the Blinding Light and recognizing it instantly.
Under the Blinding Lightwas the harrowing tale of a man struggling with a severe drug problem who eventually comes to terms with his addiction and seeks recovery. The man, Harris Wells, who wrote of his personal addiction to several different narcotics, named the book after the moment that changed his life. Wells was lying on a bench in a city park during the middle of the night, strung out for numerous injections of a combination of drugs he personally concocted, when a streetlight above his head turned on. In the blinding light of the streetlamp he looked at himself, at the body altered by the lifestyle he chose; it was at that particular moment that he chose to recover from his addiction. It had been a best-seller for several months after being published, known especially for the level of detail given to the man’s emotions throughout the stages of his addiction. Hendrick had picked up the book from the store during the summer and read through the entire book in days. The side of his lip curled upwards as the faintest hint of a smile as he sparked a conversation with the girl. She eagerly discussed the book with him as they shared their favorite moments of the character battling his inner demons. Hendrick forgot about his past relationship for the duration of the conversation, as of any other troubles, while he absorbed the company of the girl. He introduced himself, but before he could learn her name the bus stopped in front of The Majestic Hotel and she stood up to leave. She paused in the aisle of the bus, pulling a purple pen from her bag to hastily write a note to give to him, before walking away.
The watch resting on his wrist lay soundless and the clocks hands still, relaying the same time as it had before, a solid one fifty-two; it hadn’t changed since the building had cracked. Hendrick imagined that time and the Majestic were intertwined as a single entity, meaning the destruction of one meant the demise of the other. Slowly, he began to collect his thoughts into a singular purpose that would lead him through the surreal world, a locomotive of thought that would continue along its cerebral tracks to his goal with ceaseless effort. He felt that sanity was something hard to hold onto in this environment, that any loss of motive would throw any person into a state of insanity. Gathering an ominous suspicion of the walls moving towards him, Hendrick paced along the stable half of the hallway towards the elevator, gaining a purpose along the way.I’ll go to the Shining Beacon to find the girl from the bus. If she was in the restaurant during the calamity, she might be hurt. At any rate her sanity is as much at risk as mine. I know the sight of another living being would make me feel safer.
As he walked he began to notice small details along the parallel walls on either side of him. The doors that spaced evenly down the hall were all painted white, with a gold-plated number hanging just below a peephole on each, wallpaper striped with lines of white and gold ran vertical along the walls, a light fixture hung at every three doors. At first he hadn’t picked up on the time elapsed before the pattern repeated itself, but as he continued to move forward he realized the space between every third light fixture had took a few seconds longer to reach. The elevator door at the end of the hall hadn’t moved any closer to him since he had started walking; it seemed to be taunting him as he continued towards it with increasing wonder. He considered the possibility of it being an optical illusion made real by a mischievous magician but brushed the thought out of his mind without a further word.
In the minuscule amount of time kept in the blink of an eye Hendrick was thrust to the door of the elevator before he could catch the air required to gasp. He blinked several times afterwards, not sure of what was safe in a place like this. He hadn’t even considered if the elevator would be in working conditions, it could function up until he stepped in before deciding to fall unexpectedly, but he pressed the call button next to the door anyways. He waited for the elevator to rise from the depths of the many floors below him while he stabilized his goal of finding the girl down in The Shining Beacon. The gilded doors of the elevator swing open slowly to reveal the black of an empty elevator shaft. It had appeared that the cable suspending the metal room had been cut during the calamity, leaving the vertical tunnel lacking the ability to transport Hendrick to a lower floor. Hendrick had poked his head through the open doors to observe the dark chute. The sound of metal screeching against metal came from overheard as he twisted his head to see orange sparks fly off of an elevator climbing higher into the hotel despite its cable dangling clearly from its bottom. Suddenly he felt the rush of air hitting his face as he fell into the black of the elevator shaft with the notion that someone had pushed him.
Fear took hold of him as he spiraled down the shaft with his arms flailing at his sides, his lungs exhaling large gasps as he screamed, his skin growing cold as small bumps formed along his forearms. The high velocity of the air pushing against him caused tears to form despite his eyes being shut tightly and they streamed from his face in thin unbroken lines that broke into droplets as they pulled from his cheeks. He kept his eyes closed, scared that as soon as they opened he would see the bottom of the fall while he splattered onto the ground. The air against his face lessened until it felt like a house fan cooling him off during a hot summer day, causing him to separate his eyelids in disbelief. He knew he was falling at a much slower rate but couldn’t understand why until a hidden projector flickered on in the darkness.
Thrown against the wall directly in front of him was a film clip that displayed a girl with blonde hair sitting at the table of an Italian restaurant: he remembered it as his first date with Sarah. Her brown eyes squinted to make room for her playful smile as he saw a hand, his hand, reach out and grab the rose out of a glass vase sitting on their table. The camera panned down to show his other hand trembling as it held a fork and he remembered how nervous he was back then. Hendrick shut his eyes, but opened them when he heard Sarah’s voice call out to him, the film now showed Sarah in a bathing suit standing in water at a beach which he remembered as their trip during spring break. The camera moved closer to her as she stood waiting in the water, her golden hair shining from the bright rays of the sun. She splashed water at the camera and giggled, telling him that the water wasn’t too cold. Hendrick looked at the opposite wall of the dark elevator shaft, but another projector flicked on to display his favorite moments with Sarah before they went their separate ways. The vignette that played on the wall had a different tone to it; it showed a memory he wasn’t too fond of. It was filmed from his perspective when he rode his bike to her house late in the summer, the scene sweeps over her neighborhood before zooming in on her house as he rides up to the driveway. Hendrick watched himself in third-person as he stopped before knocking on the door, instead deciding to surprise Sarah by sneaking through her window. He remembered the scene vividly from his nightmares, the event about to take place in the film that ate at his conscious late in the night at times, the memory that was seared into his head without any way of removing it. He shut his eyes, unwilling to once again mull over the memory and screamed at the hidden projector, hearing the echoes of Sarah claiming it was his fault.
Soft fabric brushed against the tip of his finger hanging limp in the free fall, before it enveloped the rest of his body like a cushioned mattress, soaking up the remaining motion left in his figure and allowing him to rest on a comfortable surface. The fabric was formed of thin strands of coiled thread weaved together in a pattern that offered support and comfort as its selling point; it was the carpeting the Majestic used for lining their most expensive rooms. He stretched his arm outwards and swiveled it in a careful motion, searching for a wall with a switch on it to turn on a light, while raising up onto his feet. His hand brushed past dangling pieces of fur, among other thick strips of hanging fabric, while on its blind journey for light. His hand wrapped around the rectangular switch and pulled it, flipping on a small light bulb that illuminated the assortments of coats that hung on the racks of the walk-in closet. Hendrick searched through the abnormally large closet for an opening that he would have fallen through from the elevator shaft, but knew no opening existed with the sole knowledge that suites were three floors higher than the hallway he stood in.
He propped himself against the wall without a rack fastened to it, fearing that sanity would be harder to hold onto than he had thought. He couldn’t have been in the strange new terrain void of human life or logic for more than ten minutes and it had already taken him to the one place he wished to never return to. He thought of finding the girl now more than ever before another hallucination terrorized his sanity. Hendrick had the notion that the hotel was uninhabited but the vast range of clothing in the closet made him doubt the assumption. He pressed against the closet door unsure of what would be on the other side, but continued on as the imaginative locomotive had in his mind.