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The Old Hotel
Darkness, faded at the edges.
Darkness, faded at the edges. Then, half-swallowed on the left but more defined on the right, the curve of an archway, pale marble, carved with simple frames, polite rectangles pressing up towards the top and bending inwards in deference to the empty ring at the arch's apex, an empty ring ornamented with small bouquets of cold, stone flowers. The archway reaches down and becomes two columns, tall, their lips jutting out into the wide open space, themselves resting on the bottom step of a small flight of stairs, three steps to be precise, which lead up through the archway from the doormats on the floor below to the dusty tiles on the one above. Above: light falls across the floor in a heavy glow from two large windows made up of many small panes, little squares set into an ostentatious frame, gently curved at the top, making harsh black bands of the risers of the stairs in the archway, and also of the much greater staircase beyond, its first flight leading to a small square of landing with the option of continuing forward through a dark wooden door, plain and functional, recessed into the wall, or turning and continuing upwards in a boxy spiral from one floor to the next, the whole area beyond the archway being one great stairwell done up in fine ornamentation. At the bottom of this great staircase, the stairs spill outwards onto the floor in smooth curves, almost organic, reaching further back behind the stairway's rise as each lower step spreads further out from the constriction of the newel, like layers of gently cascading milk. Running along the staircase is an ornately detailed wrought iron banister, the space beneath the handrail filled with thin, springy curves framing and supporting black, blossoming central spires surrounded by wide bubbles of emptiness. The undersides of the staircase are cool, pale marble, like the archway, and inscribed with similar designs, simple frames bending around floating rings. The floor of this stairwell, by necessity, contains a small, awkward area beneath and surrounded by the ascending flights of stairs which itself is of indeterminate purpose, unfit for anything in particular, an unavoidable, mildly discomfiting byproduct of the grandeur of a spiral staircase such as this, one which it is best to politely avoid lingering on while appreciating the beauty of the cumulative effect. In an effort to put it to some semblance of use, a wooden chest has been left there, sitting on the dusty floor, some strings hanging out of the top, as have a couple large blocks of unpolished stone, one partially hidden behind the other, creating simple geometries half-doused in shadow. Behind even these blocks is an alcove carved out of the stairway's underside, lovingly ornamented but hidden in shade almost the entire day. In this alcove sits a statue of a woman, life size and unpainted, dressed in flowing robes, her face and right arm missing, not roughly broken off, like common victims of some historical violence, but the arm a smoothly rounded stump, and a serene uncolored blankness where the face should be, as if she was always meant to be that way. But, my friend, she was not. We live in the closet built into the spandrel beside her, the closet which can only be opened with the lever hidden on the backside of her pedestal, and we know. We know. But no one speaks here, at the Old Hotel, and neither do we. Instead, we sit beneath the arc lamp and play Rammes until we bleed, and each night we tie ourselves to the cracked plaster walls and dream our nitrate dreams. Above us the Hotel reaches out into eternity, and has a fossilized guest in every deafmute room.
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