I woke up multiple times throughout the night. Shakes assaulted me, as they frequently did. The television kept being turned off by a timer or some helpful staff member. Whoever it was escaped my attention between shivering and blissful blacking out. At times food arrived. I stared at it wondering about poison or other hallucinogens then repeated a broken cycle.
At times I sat in bed watching television and laughing myself to tears. It felt absolutely wonderful for no good reason. The list of names in my head felt further away than ever. Ted’s nonsense plan drifted while episode after episode passed by. I managed to blot out the bad times and messed up situations while awake.
“Mister Millard,” a voice said from the doorway. “I’m worried about your appetite.”
The hostess with the mostess annoying attitude stood in the doorway. She frowned ever so slightly and stared at an untouched platter of food. It had been forgotten while I binged an entire season on television.
“I’m watching my girlish figure. I want to look good for swimsuit season.” I refused to pause the show and wished there was a second screen in the room. Sitting in a bed like a couch potato was something normal people took for granted, and this opportunity wouldn’t skate by unappreciated.
“Your presence is requested in the main lobby Mister Millard. We must discuss your ongoing rehabilitation,” she said with one hand turned upward in front of her.
“After this episode?” I tried to turn my face up in a plea but felt bad for keeping my eyes glued to the television. Days might pass before another opportunity like this came. If I used meals to gauge time, it had been at least three days, a probably record, of uninterrupted show watching.
You understand right? They had everything in here just a few remote clicks away. The system made no sense to me, but all the television I wanted with no commercials put this place close to heaven. Best of all, no disasters.
“Very well. I will attempt to stall for more time and find room for our influx of guests,” she said then closed the door slowly.
I had no idea what the woman was stalling for. I almost cared, but paying too much attention would probably mean the end of catching up on all these shows. There were at least seventeen more seasons of various bits of nonsense worth watching. Ted’s opinion on my show choices could be damned.
I went through the cycle for at least two more seasons and felt almost blissful by the end of it. My shoulders were relaxed, the world around me had dimmed to nearly pointlessness, and I spent at least ten minutes wiggling my toes while giggling.
By the fifth night, or television season, I started making more trips to get ice down the hall. There were grunts and groans of the frustrated sort from other rooms. Some sounded downright disgusting. Others sounded like adults getting it on in ways that no sane grown up should. I think one actually sobbed and nails clawing against the door could be heard.
I swallowed down dryness upon hearing the crier and kept going. What happened here was beyond my power to solve, at least not without insane consequences. I only had one card to play with this stupid ability and the last time resulted in bad issues.
If you’re wondering, I don’t want to talk about it, ever. Bad felt like the kindest word to describe what happened the last time. Worse than crippling my sister or having those two siblings die in my arms. Worse than watching a small city get bombed from orbit to stop an outbreak. Worse than Walker showing up and resetting reality by a day or two. It was just…
I got my bucket of ice and stared down the stairs. They were always there, taunting me with each trip. My head swam when getting to close. The best answer was to walk down the hall and into my room again. There I watched another two shows, enjoying some pop singer has been telling other people trying their hearts out how badly they failed.
Then the ice had vanished again and my throat felt dry. I opened my door, looked bath ways for random interdimensional rhinos, and upon finding the way clear proceeded to walk down towards the vending machines again. I tried to ignore the stairs but found myself standing there again with melting cubes in a small bucket.
“Mister Millard, you’re not progressing very well I’m afraid,” the hostess said from my side. I jumped briefly and the world came back into focus. My foot had started descending the stairs before her interruption.
“Pretty sure you said I just need rest.”
“Rest is only part of the road to recovery. Here at our Hotel we pride ourselves on helping all guests leave a better, improved version of themselves.” The woman kept a straight face through nearly everything. It was amazing. I debated setting her up against the throne of torture and probably damned souls to see if she even batted an eye, or escorted that asshole prince to a room instead.
“You’re helping. I’m catching up on so many shows. This is like a dream vacation,” I rapidly fired off defensive lines.
“I’m not so sure the solution to your problems lies within our services. Respite means much, but means little if you don’t progress forward.”
“Just drop me off in New York when this is done, that’ll move me forward.”
“It also sounds unwise,” she responded dryly.
I closed my eyes and took multiple deep breathes. The muddle headed atmosphere of this place bothered me. Once I steadied myself both hands were on the rail, and the bucket of icewater sat spilled on the floor. Our, I guess it was our since there were other people here, Hostess had already started descending the stairs. She made the process look simple, but some reason going down there scared me.
My head kept shaking back and forth every few seconds, trying to shake of a daze. Sitcoms called and I answered their summons slowly. On the way back down the maze of halls I stopped to listen at the door where someone had been clawing. Their noise had weakened to nearly nothing.
I scrunched my face up in thought. Opening the door, assuming it even could be opened, might herald the good times and start god knows what sort of event. Or I could watch more shows. Watching more shows won that night. The truth was I hadn’t gone this long with even vague peace in months. You don’t begrudge me that, right? Because if you do, then fuck off.
So what if an episode later, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I found myself back at the same door with my ear pressed close to the wood. So what if I started knocking lightly. I just didn’t want to add another nameless soul to my list. There were already enough bags under my eyes from broken sleep.
“Hello?” I whispered extra quietly while looking down the hall both ways. “Person?”
That hostess lady would show up soon, surely. She always watched me during every trip down the hallway. Like, a painting that always stared at you, only moving and asking for meetings in the foyer. Foolish woman, I had no clue what a foyer was so the request made no sense.
“Hello?” I asked again while knocking.
A faint scratching noise answered back. It sounded like it came from further inside the room. I looked both ways before opening the door.
“Hello? Are you okay? I can get room service?”
One lamp at the doorway’s entrance cast a thin thread of light into the room. Their dresser sat askew from the wall. Blankets were clumped on one side around a mess of needles, one body, and clumps of hair. The room smelled of urine and moist fecal matter
“So, no?” I answered my own question while looking at a strewn pile of desperation.
Room service probably couldn’t fix holes in the wall. They might be able to replace the sheets and open a window, though this person’s room had bars lining the inside. The edges of tan fog could be seen pouring out between two thick curtains.
“Is there-” I started to ask when rustling came from the right. My shoulders tightened and eyes closed. Heavy weight knocked into me and I staggered then fell backwards.
The other person breathed heavily. Both arms came up to shield myself. Wild arms with no strength slapped at the meager defense. One foot slipped and I went crashing down.
“He’s dead!” a tired voice cracked out words while flailing. My head rocked but no one got the crazy lady off of me.
“Who’s-” Hands rained down from above. Thin fingers brushed across lips leaving behind a sting. I shut up and let the crazy woman have her say.
“You assholes! You people! I watched you kill him!”
Her form looked thinner than mine and worse for wear. The room was terrible and that smell had grown stronger. My assailant stood back and reached for a heavier object but was unable to get the nightstand to move. I pushed back towards a wall and tried to scramble towards the hallway.
“Bastard! Asshole! Turbin wearing pig fucker!” Blankets flew out along with more accusations. “You killed him! You sold him that shity shit to a good honest man and it killed him!”
“I didn’t kill him!” I shouted while pushing covering up my head as high heels flew into the hall after me. “I don’t even know who’s dead!”
“Rick! My Rick! He had a name you scrawny little piece of shit!” she staggered into the doorway while pointing a finger at me.
So her dick was dead. She wouldn’t be the first woman without one of those. I managed not to quip and glanced around.
In the lit hallway she looked even worse. Mascara ran down one side of her face and red hair sat in unwashed clumps. This female made The Alice look almost normal. You’d think at some point I might run into a super model or some sort of succubus, and I have, I’d rather have the soul twisting other dimensional creature instead of a strung out crackhead.
At least the view isn’t wouldn’t be so…sad.
“That’s what I get for trying to help,” I said quietly to myself while looking down.
The lady’s face twisted sideways turning ragged features to near demonic. She yelled, “Fuck you, go allah kaaba back your sand dune! Get out of here!”
“Yeah, I’ll leave you to your dead dick.”
“Shut up! At least Rick knew how to please a woman! I bet your scrawny ass couldn’t handle a real American-” her words cut off as something made her woozy. The woman’s body swayed against the doorframe. Her legs buckled and a series of wracked coughs came out. “Shit! This stuff-”
I took a few deep breaths to steady myself. No matter how many times people attacked me I never got used to being the subject of direct anger. It rattled my thoughts and made me want to crawl away to a room for more episodes of distant and controllable drama. The kind with a pause button.
“I don’t care what kind of bad trip you’re on” my brain hiccupped upon realize that Ted would berate me for my callous manner “but, I just wanted to see if you were okay.”
“Like hell I am!” she said, then turned around and staggered back into the depths of her wrecked room. The door stayed open as unwelcome scents wafted out.
I looked down the hall. In one direction a few people poked their heads out and looked down at us. In the other, towards a stairwell sat our hostess. Her hands were folded and the normal multilayered clothing had slimmed down slightly to a fancy looking nightdress.
“Mister Millard, it’s best if you don’t disturb the other guests during their recovery efforts. It can lead to complications,” she sounded dry.
“I hadn’t noticed,” I said while looking around. The woman inside crashed more objects around. Both blinds were pulled closed, the lone lightbulb in the entryway went out, and I heard water running.
“You are a worrisome guest. Please eat more. A healthy diet will help clear your mind,” she advised me while keeping her hands clasped.
Feet turned me back towards my room. One hand pressed against an eyeball. A headache started building anyway and my body felt more exhausted than ever. Days had passed and instead of being rested, I felt like a man slowly hang gliding into a vat of acid.
The sensation made me dip my head and shake it. This place, for all it’s creepiness or maze like doorways, had been one of the longest rests ever. I needed to get back to my room then stay there quietly until the time limit ran out.
Hostess whoever got past me and stood at a door that probably belonged to me. I didn’t question how. She motioned inward with one upturned hand.
“Your room, and I must remind you that we need to convene in the main lobby at your earlist convenience.” She lifted one eyebrow slightly. “It is difficult to assist so many guests, and your presence is inviting too many. We will be at capacity very soon which will cause complications.”
I lowered my eyebrows and squinted. The lights in this hallway made every footstep take longer than expected. Breathing came in slow labored gasps. My body felt so heavy and the air sat thick around me.
“You sound terrible. Perhaps the atmosphere here isn’t to your liking. It makes sense given you’re not a guest we can assist through our standard means,” the hostess said. “I must insist you visit me down below. It will help.”
“After one more episode.”
Her eyes narrowed for the first time and the frown went from barely twitching to downright obvious. The hallway behind her rippled and bubbled as if someone was shaking a large fabric out.
“I’m afraid your television privileges will need to be revoked as they are not serving their intended function.”
“And what is that?” I asked.
“Rehabilitation. Time is nearly out and I would offer you what final comforts I can. I request you attempt to get sleep, eat a meal, then visit us downstairs immediately thereafter. I do not force you, as I believe that may cause further complications.” The hostess smiled and her eyes stayed dead looking.
The bed sounded really comforting. I took a few steps while the world spun. My bathroom held extra shadows and the ceiling was too far up. There were stretches along the wall and the mattress was bigger than usual.
“Sure mom,” I said the turned back to look behind me.
I turned back to the door and saw that ghastly face filled with dark eyes and pale skin. The hostess was staring at me while the door closed of it’s own accord. Only the undamaged table lamp and faint glow of tan under the curtains lit up this room. The television, my favorite part of being in this otherworldly hotel, sat dim and refused to turn on no matter how hard I pressed the buttons.
Where ever I was felt like a benign nightmare. There had been places with beds that felt wrong, or distorted at angles that made my skin crawl. The worst came with whips, chains, and teeth of the all too long and sharp kind. This bed was simply fluffy, and that would be good enough.
I fell onto the bed and took slow breaths. It felt like the air was running thin. Fingers were blueish and a tingle filled my mouth. Sheep went by in droves but none put me to sleep. Instead I feel asleep to a cartoon version of tina, the frozen princess, chasing after General while The Alice chased Ted with knives.
Hopefully he was okay.
Then I slept, and for a few moments it wasn’t broken.
Thumping rattled through my slumber creating sound effects that were harmlessly absorbed into the dream. They grew louder and I cracked an eye to look at the ceiling. It bowed as someone upstairs thudded around the room. It sounded like a wall cracked and someone cried out.
There were people shouting in the hallway but my breath felt to shallow to get up. I flopped back the covers then laid there waiting for a disaster to come my way. The television static cast out secret codes across the room that my half foggy mind almost deciphered.
The rest had been fantastic yet brief and both those things bothered a small functional part of my mind. I tried to remember who looked more strung out, The Alice, or the drug bombed lady down the hall.
A loud echoing scream following by two more wall shaking cracks stirred my consciousness from its stupor. Both arms shot up grasping at air then fell back just as quick. My mind tried to stir and I turned out of the bed. Face hit floor and teeth slammed together.
You may have put it together, I did but it took a moment. Oxygen deprivation, that’s what was happening. I wasn’t getting enough air and had no clue why. That lady had mentioned something about guests and reaching capacity, did that have a part to play?
I was awake but barely thinking coherently. Connections were being made and the only idea that really stood out was this whole mess being my fault. An extra few episodes in exchange for death, not mine, but the guests stuck here, like the drugged out lady from before who only know how to say ‘shit’.
“To many guests,” I said from the floor. My words rolled across each other while arms failed to find strength.
Plants, it made sense if I thought of this place as a plant. Only so much oxygen could be produced. I could almost see green on the walls now instead of the faded tan that barely pierced my curtains. It used to permeate everything and only a thin layer still remained. No, plants made no goddamn sense on second thought. We weren’t in the world but in a pocket dimension. Pocket dimensions were crap.
Pain crawled through one eye as I took slow breaths. I struggled, got upright, and stumbled for the television. It sat lifeless. The dim red light taunted me with inaction.
Getting to the door took too long. The handle rattled angrily and refused to budge. I slammed my shoulder into it weakly then slumped forward. A ripple of force hit the floor and shattered television glass behind me. My sole light started to flicker violently.
Lungs burned. Fingers curled around cold metal that had extra bumps in the wrong spots. The wall shuddered again and screams finally made it through to my senses. I looked around the room. Something broke through and a wall crumbled further demolishing the poor television.
A man wearing huge shoulder pads with two teenagers under one comically large arm charged through. His other hand stood out in front like a battering ram which proceeded to crush the next wall over. Repeated thuds could be heard with louder screams.
I stumbled through the new opening. The lack of oxygen made everything blurry. Maybe there hadn’t been two teens under that guy’s arm. Upon entering the next room I found a row of mirrors glued to the walls. They showed no signs of being broken despite huge damage from the battering ram.
The door into the hallway open this time. I poked my head out and to figure out what all the screaming was above.
“Look! Look at all these sheep!” a man with pug like jowls spat his words. Slobber drenched one of the walls. His hand curled in a black claw.
Two people dashed by me blindly down the hallway and straight into the man with huge claws. He reached out then turned them rapidly into pieces. I blinked twice as my breathing sped up from horror. It never got any easier.
“Such a pretty color!” Part of the man’s face hung further down on the left. Blood sat in a splatter line across the walls and carpet. The hostess would be upset.
There was another fact to consider. God help me, when that dog faced man killed two people, it got a little easier to breathe. Part of me felt fucked up for being thankful while simple rational thoughts of terror causing delirium kicked in. I took a sweet lungfull of air and ducked back into the crushed path of walls. Please don’t hate me for running away. It wasn’t for self preservation, that would be pointless, but I don’t enjoy pain.
“Come out your pussies!” he said then started laughing. “Pussies! Pussies!”
I kept going through the rooms. Most were empty. Some were clearly distorted or held weird objects that made no sense. One had writing on the wall that scribbled on for hours in both numbers and hieroglyphics. In that room a man sat in one chair pouring over the text while muttering.
“Run, you need to run,” I whispered to the man with glasses in passing. Sounds of someone else screaming and the dog faced man’s deep rumbling laughter echoed through the door. Smoke filled the air as heat wooshed through. Amusement turned to horrified yells of outrage.
Aside from whatever nonsense fight was going on in the halls, was this idiot sitting there reading a book. The man held up a finger to shush me than flipped his page. He didn’t care about the war budding around us. Crushed walls and broken writing meant little as he researched away.
Fuck him, I tried.
I stepped into the next room. Four people were busy having some of the grossest sex ever seen this week. They ignored crashes and rolled around trying to figure out who was on top. A goat watched. This place was terrible. Clearly other people in here were busy serving their addictions over self preservation.
There were normal people, drugged out, having sex, or whatever, but normal people caught up in in this growing disaster. None of us could step away from our self serving attitudes long enough to help people. Being able to recognize the problem didn’t give me any epiphany. It was what it was.
I peeked out the doorway. There were people fighting down the hall. A dozen or more ran in and out of rooms like a cartoon show gone wrong. One woman threw fire while her hair stood on end. Another person hung off her leg trying to stab her with a pillowcase.
They were occupied doing whatever caped people do. I don’t know, give each other handsies. They would love the guests a few stops ago. As for me, I felt a bit more stable and walked two more rooms over and across the hall.
The door still hung open. Crazy man and his slicing paws were still a turn or two away crashing around. There were signs of other powered people fighting as well. Had they been here the whole time, or wass my fantastic, awesome, best ever ability attracting them?
I braced myself against the frame and looked around the dark room. A super powered disaster might have cleaned this place up.
“Miss,” I didn’t know what else to call her. I didn’t know anyone else in here. “Are you there?”
I had to help someone dammit.
She stumbled into view from the room’s depths. My face flushed and it was just the oxygen coming back. Finding a person to help always felt more simple than the actual process. The woman looked like shit.
“We, have-” my words took too much air to form. Despite the ease of breathing compared to before, I still wasn’t perfect.
“You won’t get me too!” She lurched forward with something in her hand.
“Ahh!” I found enough breath to collapse against the wall. The scraggly woman and her jagged bedpost went against the other wall.
Then she fell on the sharpened board and sliced something. The woman screamed once before a man running down the hall stomped right onto her outstretched hand. Bones crunched making her yell out again while I watched wide eyed with one leg jerking to push back.
“Shit, can’t even-” she tried to talk while hiccupping and cradling her own hand. Moans of noise came out that sounded broken. Between sobs the woman groaned out, “She said I would get better.”
“Come on, let’s get you help,” I said. Maybe someone in here was addicted to be a doctor. All I knew for sure is the female was in a lot of pain, at least I guessed she had to be to feel it through the narcotics.
Getting her down the hall was impossible. People were stumbling by in droves. They came from out of corners. No one went the same direction and many dodged into rooms instead of towards the blaring exit sign. It flashed green down past the stairs.
“Help!” I shouted at the people fleeing.
Either they didn’t see us, or didn’t care. I looked in a room across the hall and lost myself for a moment. Inside was a huge landscape and two people in tights and other gadgets doing battle.
“Help! Civilian,” the lack of air made me cough. Both knees felt weak. “In distress!” I finished after more coughing.
“They killed him, you-” she went into a mumbling fit then started sniffling. Water ran down her face and red stained the woman’s clothes. Around her arm was a plastic band and fresh insert markings where she’d missed once or thrice.
You know, to this day I couldn’t say why I cared or bothered. She wasn’t a pretty prize like General might have fancied but by the same token I didn’t know anyone else. Saving the television was no longer an option at that point, so, the one human I had met became a goal, something to focus on.
Because sure as shit, I wasn’t about to get in the middle of the obvious super powered people running. Stretchy Arms McGee, Psychopathic Puppy Paws, or Whatever the Flaming Fuck, that last one being the powered person sending heat down the halls. They were all on my list of people to avoid. Fire fucked up everything.
“Lady, we’ve got to go,” I said.
She ignored me while eyes rolled. The damage must have been terrible. I tried hard to get her into a fireman’s carry. It wasn’t as easy as other heroes made it look, and the woman groaned then batted at my ear with weak limbs. Neither of us had the strength to fight for long.
We made it through three rooms, each one different than the last. None had a doctor. None had anyone interested in helping. Fat lot of good they did. Most laid like lumps as the constant thumping, crashing, and shouting filled the air.
I managed to stumble through a doorway towards the hall and slammed into the far side. My passenger groaned and we both fell into a heap. She looked terrible, pale, and close to death. The stairwell sat too far away.
Soon those brown eyes would shut and never open again. I blamed myself, for all the good it did. If I had stopped one or two episodes sooner maybe this problem wouldn’t have happened. If I had eaten my food and kept up strength maybe we could have made it downstairs quicker. Making a choice, or not making a choice, it felt like the outcome never changed.
“What’s your name?” I asked her.
“What the shit’s it matter-” she gulped slowly while both eyes rolled -”goat fucker?”
My throat felt dry and swallowing hurt. The urge to cough hit me. Answering her with anything but sarcasm took multiple restarts, but finally I said, “Someone has to remember.”
There was no one coming to help her. The stairwell grew distorted while breathing grew harder. People in other rooms screamed. I heard the sound of other individuals with powers gearing up while someone downstairs yelled, trying to herd people outside towards destinations unknown.
“Cindy Jackson,” she answered.
“Pussy!” the villain from before yelled from far away.
Fingers fumbled over to reach for her neck. The thready pulse dipped twice more then stopped completely. She died while both eyes stared at the ceiling. I hung my head, took a breath, and started repeating her name over and over, committing it to memory.
Just like that, the list of names that had felt so far away resurfaced.
It always did.
|Name:||Stretch – (Real Name, Luke Ozwald)|
|Age:||31 Earth Standard Years|
|Generalized Ratings as follows|
|Strength:||7 [Excessively High]|
|Intelligence:||4 [Educated] – Some College|
|Agility:||7 [Excessively High]|
|Attitude:||Helpful, Heroic, Uptight|
|Other items of note|
Allergic to cats, widowed once, married to another team member, has only had one affair. Child is at a boarding school. Powers induced by science experiment involving chewing gum and a gorilla. Hates his ex-mother in law.
Stretch is able to extend his body in all sorts of directions and ignore many physical impossibilities regarding muscle usage and leverage. Those that do still pertain when he has expanded his limbs are normally overcome by his top heavy muscle mass. In most cases he is a able to use one arm as a counter weight while swinging the other around wildly. When expanded the limbs take on an increased durability, and damage taken on enlarged limbs is often reduced in size and impact when he returns to normal.
So far he has demonstrated the most skill when used his upper half. Past video tapes of conflicts show a low amount of power usage on his legs, and nearly no change in his waist.
Stretch has been spending much of his spare time honing his powers. So far he is able to apply the enlarging or stretching factor to every part of his body except one. While a psych profile for his current wife (number two) suggests there’s no need for improvement on this front, Stretch has been distraught by the failure. The team coach for Downtown Regulars assumes the block is a mental one with a direct quote of ‘I don’t care what power you have, no sane person tries to mess with their junk’.
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