The dim streetlight flickers as I walk on the old, cracked pavement below. I’ve lost count of how long I’ve been here, or where ‘here’ even is. All I know is that it is too late to continue my clueless walk through this nameless street. I need to find some shelter. Somewhere to sleep tonight.
But how am I to find it? Maybe I could call someone? No, I can’t. I must have dropped my phone somewhere between ‘Woop Woop’ and ‘Nowheresville’. I wonder how many missed calls I must have from my worried family. Hopefully I can find a phone somewhere, tell them that I am fine and organise a lift back home.
But my first priority is sleep, so I keep my eyes peeled for any clues, like people who I can ask about shelter, or maybe even someone returning to their shelter themselves.
And, as if like magic, my clue appears. A sign hanging from the rusty roof above. ‘Motel’ it reads. Beneath this sign is a wooden door that, covered in cobwebs and dust, doesn’t seem to be used very often.
Either way, I need sleep, so I reach for the metal door handle, its cold surface meeting my skin, and I twist it open. Inside, the air is warm and muggy, leaving a damp feeling on my skin as if it were glazed with a thin layer of slime. The dilapidated carpet that I step upon seems as if it has never been replaced (or even cleaned). It has been worn down to flat, matted mess with a large hole every couple of centimetres.
Directly adjacent to the door is a long hallway, and ahead of me, a wooden desk sits, bare of anything except a single bell. Besides this desk stands a tall, timeworn dress mannequin.
A mannequin in the entrance.
Its dissidence soaks into my mind, more and more with every second that I continue to stare. I suddenly don’t feel as optimistic as I had prior, but nethertheless, I need rest. I will just have to make sure that I leave as soon as possible tomorrow morning.
I ring the old, rusty bell, its corroded handle scratching my sweaty skin. As it vibrates my hand, letting off a hollow-sounding ding… ding… ding… I begin to feel tired. The sound is almost hallucinogenic, putting me in a semi-trance-like state. Wow, I am tired!
But I push through, this entrance is not a very safe place to sleep. I need a room. A bed. Echoing down from the dimly lit hallway to my left, a voice calls out, ‘Back Here!’. It must be the owner. I follow the sound down the never-ending hallway, across the same run-down carpet.
Usually, you’d expect a hallway like this to have doors running all the way along, but this one is just two bare walls, the further I walk; the more paint that has been chipped off. The voice continued, ‘Just a little further!’ ‘Down here’ ‘Almost there!’ Despite these affirmations, the walk still seemed endless; nothing in my view except the chipped paint and the antique cornices. Yet I finally made it.
In front of me stands a large, broken door frame. I step through. Within this dusty room, all that stands is a single desk, and beside it, a man. This man is scrawny and pale, with stretched skin covered in cuts and bruises. I’ve no idea why, but I honestly couldn’t care less. I am so tired; I just want a bed.
‘Hello!’ he speaks enthusiastically. I answer, ‘Hi, do you have a spare room available?’ ‘I do. Follow me’ So, I follow. We walk through pathways and corridors on what seems like an endless walk, until we return to the start again. That’s strange, I thought.
The man opens the third door from the entrance and gestures for me to enter. The room is pitch black, but, although with hesitation, I do as requested. The lights must be turned off, I think to myself, I will turn them once I get inside.
I stop mid-step, my body just past the doorway and I ask, ‘How much will this cost?’ ‘Do not worry’ he mumbled with an odd grin on his face, ’Will not cost very much’, his grin widens, ‘Just your sanity.’ He slams the door closed in front of me. Click! He locks it.
And the sound of this irregular footsteps slowly fades to nothing. The darkness of the room consumes my body, wrapping me like a thick, muggy blanket. It is warm and humid, and the feeling of dread and suspense that fills my mind increases with every second that passes.
But my thoughts are put at a stand-still as a sudden force meets the back of my head. I collapse to the floor, I make out the outline of a face leaning over me, illuminated by the light of the doorframe. All sensation leaves my body. Returning to consciousness, I open my eyes.
I’m back in the hallway, back where I started in this horrific maze of doors and halls. I attempt to step forward, but I can’t. It feels as if I am paralysed, as if a force is holding me back on to the wall behind me. An idea comes to mind.
A horrible, crazy idea. I look down. I am the mannequin in the entrance.