The fundraiser was much better than expected. Sam had been bullied into attending by the Library Director; every time he went to get a Sci-Fi book, she emerged from her office to ask if he’d got his ticket yet. But he wasn’t ready to commit. He may be somewhere else; somewhere better; who knew? But eventually under pressure he’d handed over twenty bucks.

It was the best investment he’d ever made. He won first prize in the raffle – a night in the Wells Suite at the Regal Hotel. He’d seen that place when visiting the City, but had never imagined staying there. It was the grandest place in town. The only snag was that it had to be this Tuesday. Why couldn’t it be next week, he thought, or last week?

On Tuesday his girlfriend was working late and said she’d join him later, so he checked in alone. The receptionist said, “Welcome, Sir. It is a privilege to have you stay with us. We hear that you attended a charitable event, and won first prize. Indeed good deeds are always rewarded. We hope that you will enjoy our humble lodgings. If you need anything at all, please do not hesitate to ask.”

The 20th floor penthouse was amazing. It was hard to describe the decor – maybe “retro modern”. Chandeliers brightened its blue-striped walls. The reception room contained a large green table, sofas, and footstools. The bedroom had a four-poster bed, all draped in blue. The bathroom held golden fittings and a claw-foot bath. If only his girlfriend would hurry up – they could make good use of the bed and bath; though he doubted things would get as steamy as they had with some other girls. Maybe he should have invited one of them.

Sam hit the mini-bar – the library was paying after all – and he smoked a joint. His girlfriend texted, saying, “So sorry, love. It’s an emergency. I can’t get away. Will call you later.”

“Bitch,” he said to himself. For some reason he didn’t believe her. Once he’d dreamed of making her his wife, but recently changed his mind. It just wasn’t like it used to be. Their endless laughter and passion were gone, and were unlikely to return. So why bother?

Sam noticed a locked internal door. Had they forgotten to open a room? He called downstairs. The formal receptionist appeared, sniffed the air and said, “Have you been smoking Sir? You do know that this is a non-smoking hotel?”

“Of course I haven’t,” said Sam.

“Very good, Sir. I will take your word for it. Many wouldn’t.”

“I would like you to open this door.”

“Sir, are you sure?”

“You said I shouldn’t hesitate to ask.”

The receptionist unlocked the door and left. It was a spacious windowless room, with a dark desk at its centre. There were bookshelves filled with science texts and holy books. The only other notable item was a full-size mirror with an ornate golden frame. Sam peered into the mirror, cut some smiles, and left the room.

He couldn’t believe it at first. Was he dreaming or drunk?

The room’s decor was completely different. Gone were the blue-striped walls and green furniture. The whole room was white. It had a few sleek items of furniture – more loungers than sofas – and there was no obvious source of light, but everything was glowing. As he moved forward, the light increased around him, as if an aura. A wall-sized screen came alive slowly, showing waves lapping a beach at dawn. Sam peered outside, and saw flying cars. He was so surprised that it took a while to realize that his movements were jerky; he was stumbling along. Then he noticed his hands were wrinkled and knotted with rope-veins, and his feet were like clubs, which shunted rather than flowed. What had happened to him? He tried to return to the study, but the door had locked.

“Knock! Knock!” He wasn’t sure whether to answer the front door. “Knock! Knock!” But what else could he do? There stood the receptionist. He spoke in a too-loud voice. “I thought I’d check up on you, Sir. Is all well?”

“You can see that it isn’t.” Sam’s voice was different. It held a rasp. “What has happened to me?”

“I’m afraid that only you know that, Sir.”

Smug bastard, thought Sam. “Can you let me back into the study?”

“Of course, Sir.” He unlocked the door and left.

Sam sat on the edge of the desk and tried to comprehend the situation. Then he thought he’d better see himself, and looked in the mirror again. He looked just like he should; still forty years old. The futuristic world must have been a delusion. He really should drink less. He left the room.

The room was different again. There was a huge orange wall-hanging, filled with circles, and a fat yellow sofa beneath. The carpet held mixed yellow and orange squares. There was a boxy brown television with many chrome knobs. Sam heard the bells of trolley cars outside. Again he was stumbling along, but in a different way. He tensed his face, and looked down at his hands. They were chubby and small-fingered. Child’s hands. He turned instinctively, but the study door was locked once more. And just at that moment, “Knock! Knock!” He toddled over to the suite door, pawed and eventually opened it.

The receptionist smiled in a patronising way. “Sir, is all well?”

“Nooo. It bad. O-pen door?” He sounded so cute, even to himself.

The receptionist unlocked the door and left.

Sam went straight to the mirror. He looked unchanged; still forty. He decided to leave the hotel immediately. Sure, he’d taken some crazy trips before, but nothing like this. This was way too weird. But when he tried to leave the study, he found that he couldn’t. However much he walked towards the door, it never got any closer. The desk was always before him, and the bookshelves to the right. But the door remained far away. He was stuck in the mirror with no future or past; no fantasy or memory. Just all the time in the world to reflect upon the present.


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