Room 675 - Red Horizons Hotel
"Room 675- Red Horizons Hotel read the carving on the key. "Welcome to Red Horizons and have a pleasant stay," said the young man behind the hotel reception counter.
August took the key and trudged through the chattering crowds in the waiting lounge. With the antique gift shops and the restaurants still open, the place looked as busy as a Saturday afternoon. In fact, if it weren't for his tired feet and sleepy eyes, he could have easily forgotten that it was one o'clock in the morning. While waiting for the elevator, he glanced at his watch and sure it was – one ten.
Ding! The elevator door opened. A sense of familiarity struck him at the sight of a woman in the elevator. "Susan Bell?" He gasped, remembering the news anchorwoman whom he had met decades ago at a charity dinner. "Hi, miss." August approached her. "Are you Ms. Susan Bell?"
"Why, yes. Yes, I am." She smiled. "You seem familiar. Have we met?"
"Yes, we have. Thirty years ago. At the Spring Charity Gala in Tokyo." he replied.
"Oh, I remember. That place was beautiful" – Ding! – "I'm sorry, I have to go. I do hope we meet again." She waved at him and gave him a warm smile before the door closed.
He smiled back. "Who knew I'd see you again after all these years," he mumbled to himself. In that moment, a distant memory flashed through his mind and his smile faded away. It was a cold Tuesday morning back in 2004. He'd just poured himself a cup of hot coffee when he saw the paper on his kitchen counter. It was none other than Susan Bell. Her angelic face was plastered on the front page with a headline that read – "Susan Bell: Victim of Murder or Suicide?" He recalled her funeral appearing on the evening news, and began to wonder how she was still alive.
Soon, the time came and it was his turn to go. He trudged out of the elevator and into his room. Peace, at last. He crashed onto his bed and passed out for the night.
Suddenly, a loud continuous ringing reverberated throughout the building and startled him awake. A fire alarm! Furious poundings landed on his door along with the sound of rushing footfalls and people screaming in the corridor. August opened his door and raced downstairs as quickly as he could. Frantic hotel guests carrying children streamed down from the other floors towards the lobby.
After running down the last flight of stairs, he was out of breath. He was panting with his hands on his knees. A gust of cold wind brushed against his shoulders. The air was still and silent. There were no more screaming, no footfalls, and no ringing. The once warm-lit lobby was empty, desolate, half-lit by the macabre red light that poured in from the outside. There was no one behind the reception counters. The walls were charred black, the restaurants reduced to rubble. Generous layers of crime scene tape were strung around from corner to corner and wall to wall.
As the cold wind blew about little bits of newspaper, August picked them up out of sheer curiosity. Where was he exactly? What happened? Some bits had dates on them, 10th December 1975, 5th August 1891... He followed along the the newspaper trail and was finally met with gigantic walls of notice boards. They were filled from end to end with obituaries on one side and well wishes on the other. His eyes scanned the vast number of obituaries and recognized a few familiar faces on the boards. Among them, at eye level was the neatest newspaper cut-out he'd ever seen:
May he rest in peace
4th November 1963 – 31st October 2018
Burial: 3rd November 2018
HAVE A PLEASANT STAY
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The KeyShort Story
October Contest for the Storytellers Saloon. Prompt: You find a key. What does it open? Where does it lead you? 500 word Flash fiction. Deadline: OCT 31st Winners to be announced, Nov 5th. ©All rights are reserved by the authors posted within.