The snow fell softly. It was cold but it was bearable. Nothing like what the winters had been like in the past. By this time of the winter, schools would have cancelled three or four days because of the snow. Now there only three or four days when it snowed and accumulated. If we were lucky the sun wouldn’t melt everything away the following day. Before, it was a joke, ten degrees with a wintry mix one day, the next day forty and sunny bring out the shorts. Everyone stopped laughing once the ski resorts went out of business because a lot of people were affected by it. Hillside Run was a bustling town that had a lot of tourists stopping at the outlet mall in the spring and summer; hunters during the fall hunting season; winter was for the skiers. Now the buildings, hotels, and remnants of the ski lifts are just empty, abandoned reminders of what life once was.
There were only a hundred or so still remaining in Hillside Run. It was my job to keep an eye on the old resort. The occasional couple would try to make their way up to one of the old rooms or someone driving through town wanted to reflect on winters past. Once the alarm and cameras were triggered, I’d hop on the four-wheeler and make my way up to stop them from going any further. I had my pistol with me and was told by my superiors to use it if need be, but once I stopped whoever it was, they’d smile, look up at the old hotel, and turn back to their car with an I tried attitude. They would joke and I’d laugh. It was all the same to me.
My house backed the property of the resort. From the back patio I could see the old hotel perfectly. I was given this house and helped to move in there from my employer. I had my pick. Most of the houses on the street that circled the resort had been vacated once everything closed. A few families tried to stick it out as long as they could but they eventually moved out to the bigger cities for work. I choose this house for its view of the hill and the hotel. It was a three-story, two hundred room gem. Nice big lobby, meeting rooms, an indoor pool, and recently updated weight room. Though most of the hotel was gutted, especially the weight room, some furniture remained.
As usual, I ate my dinner at my chair and watched out the window. The trickling of snow had me in a trance. It was quiet. Peaceful. The ghosts of snowmen past filled my mind as I thought back to my childhood and the winters that we once had. I’d always think about were did we as humans go wrong? What lead to this? A simple snowfall was so beautiful now. So mesmerizing. So…
There was a blue flash from the hotel. It came from the second floor, left-wing. If I had to guess: room 210 near the elevator and ice machine. I jumped to the monitor and alarm system but nothing had triggered it. Everything was still dark. There were six cameras stationed around the hill and two inside the hotel. One in the lobby and one down the main hall aimed at the non-working elevator and staircase. I quickly backed up the tape to see if anything could have made it’s way to the hotel but there was nothing. No person. No animals.
I stood at the window with my binoculars and watched the window. There was a low blue glow still coming from the window. It was almost as if someone had the television on. A silhouette crossed the window. I stepped back. My heart raced. Someone is in there and they got past my security.
* * *
I parked the four-wheeler just outside of the main entrance of the old resort hotel. The wind was brisk compared to what was at the bottom and at the house. The tall evergreens swade in the breeze. A howl whipped through the trees as the snow blew in sideways. I gave the door a good shake. The glass rattled but the door was still locked. I pulled the hood to my coat up and started to circle around the side of the building when I heard a noise coming from above me. There was a voice. A muffled voice coming from above. In the abandoned silence of the hilltop, someone was talking. In the second floor window there was the blue glow. It faded in and out.
My hand trembled as I unlocked the door to the hotel. Even though I’ve been watching it for years, it has been years since I’ve had to come inside of it. The power had been cut off of it so the only source of light is from a flashlight. The lobby was empty. There was the front desk, a spot were the sundry shop once was. A tipped over newspaper rack. Cracked pottery with dead plants. A sign was hanging above the spot where the complimentary coffee once was saying A Coffee A Day Keeps The Angry Away – Help Yourself.
The beam of my light guided me past the closed elevator doors and to the staircase to the second floor. My footsteps echoed through the enclosed cement stairwell. I pushed the door open to the second floor. It was nearly pitch black and smelled of mold. There was a humming noise coming from one of the rooms. I moved as silently as I could while listening. There was a voice. They were loud and not trying to hide themselves. The voice was a male. Deep and in a language I couldn’t recognize. Chinese? Japanese?
The blue light shined from under the door to room 208 – I was close. I waited and listened. I never told anyone that I had to make my way up to the hotel in the event that something happened to me. It was always routine and never amounted to anything. This was different. My nerves began to get a hold my me. The voice kept speaking but I never heard anyone else responded back. It was just the deep voice of the man.
None of the doors could be locked. All of the locks and the key systems were removed right after the hotel seized operations and they knew that they would never use the building again. They did that with a situation like this in mind – people hiding out and potentially trying to live in one of the rooms. My hand went up to knock on the door out of respect and out of habit, but i hesitated. My breath was short and strained. They must have heard me and knew that I was there because the door opened before I could even touch it.
The man answered the door and waited as if I was room service or housekeeping bringing an extra pillow. He stepped aside and the blue light shined out blinding me. There was a low humming noise coming from behind him.
“I’m sorry sir but the hotel is closed,” I said. “I don’t know what you’re doing here but you’ll have to be leaving.”
He watched me for a moment. He appeared Asian. His hair was dark, his eyes unblinking. He was taller than I was at six-foot-two. Maybe by a foot at least. Seven foot tall? Perhaps taller. His skin was pale and clammy. He stepped aside and gestured for me to come in.
“No. No. No. You need to leave. Gather your things and leave.”
He pointed for me to hold on. I was growing impatient and aggravated from that humming noise. It was causing my neck to tighten and I started to feel a sickness come over me.
“Sir. Let’s go. Don’t make me radio the sheriff.”
He came back to the door as my vision started to become blurry. He had a mask on now that covered the lower part of his face. He began to speak but it was Greek to me. I was lost at what he was saying. It was urgent and rushed. He was speaking faster now. Everything seemed to be going faster now. An intense fear fell over me. He spoke louder as if I could suddenly understand his words.
“What are you doing in here?” I asked. He answered back in gibberish. He knew what I was saying and how to respond, but his words gibberish until he finally said:
“I’m here. Now. I’m here.”
“And you need to leave,” I replied.
His cheeks rose up under the mask from a smile. “I’m warning you,” he said as a matter-of-factly. “Grave danger. All come here.”
I pulled the radio from my coat pocket and called out for help. The speaker hissed back with static. I barked in an order asking for the county sherif to assist me but nothing was happening. I wasn’t getting a confirmation in return, only static. I plead with the individual to leave and was nearly coming to tears by the pain of the machine in the room.
“Turn off that light. That machine you have in there.”
“I need. This is how to get back. Away. To leave.”
My knees back weak and felt like rubber. The man grabbed my arm and guided me to the floor.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I was sent to warn of danger. Only I understand English to communicate. You need to wear this mask.” The man held an extra face mask and reached it out to me. It looked like an old World War II gas mask – flimsy like thin rubber with two glass eye holes and a large canister.
“I’m not wearing anything,” I told him. I don’t know what that was for or from or who else was wearing it. It could have been filled with a drug for all I knew.
“You will die if you don’t. My diseases are far more advanced than yours. My common cold will kill you. You are not immune to them yet.”
“Get out of here!” I yelled with what strength I had remaining. “This hotel is closed. No visitors. Get out.”
“This is a warning to save you. And the others. The climate can be repaired. You can warn the others. I need your help. I can explain the steps. You save all.”
The pain in my chest and lungs caused me to cramp. I felt as if my insides were about to burst. The man stepped back into the room. He gathered what belongings he had spread out and placed them in a bag. My eyes burned from the blue light as I watched to see his moves.
“Wear mask?” He asked. I shook my head no. He frowned. “I have to go back further in time than. It cripples me more. Each trip back.”
With that, he gathered his things. A box. There were papers that looked like scrolls. He looked back at me and waited to see if I changed my mind. At this point I was curious to see what he was doing with the machine and the light. I thought he would pick it up and I would escort him out of the hotel and down the hillside to his vehicle just like everyone else that came to the old hotel. Instead, he stepped into the blue light and in a flash he was gone. Gone. He vanished into the blue light.
I fell to the floor and stared up to the ceiling. What just happened? A pain shot through my chest. It was severe. I clinched my sides. My arm went numb. I tried to yell out but nothing would come out. Who would hear me anyway?
The hall was in darkness. I reached around for my flashlight but it was gone. Everything started to fade in and out. The there was white light. It was blurry. Bright. It danced around. Pressure pumped at my chest. My body was beginning to feel warm again. The coolness and damp feelings were receding. My blurred vision began to focus. Objects were coming in that I could recognize. Beeping. Machines running. Wires and cords.
I raised my arm up. There was an IV in it. A woman was waiting beside me. She was blonde. Red lipstick and crying. Obviously not a nurse.
“Chuck,” she said.
“What happened? Where am I?”
She watched me for a moment. I watched her. I had never seen her before. Hillside Run was a small community and I knew everyone in it – I didn’t know who she was.
“Who found me at the hotel?”
“Beatrice? Who is Beatrice?”
“Just relax now, Chuck. You need to take it easy.”
“How did she get into the hotel? How did she know where I was?”
“Come on now, Chuck. She’s one of the housekeepers.”
“Where am I?”
“Just take it easy Chuck.”
I told the woman to open the vertical blinds. The sunlight shined in like the waves of the ocean as she parted the blinds. My eyes adjusted to the light, I craned to look outside. It was snowing – thick heavy snow was falling. It was the type of snowfall I remembered as I kid. From my view of the side of the hill in the distance, I was in Hillside General. But Hillside General had been closed. And the ski lift in the distance was operating. Someone was dangling their skies as they made their way to the top of the hill.
“The weather. It’s back.”
She regarded at what I was saying. Her smile lit up the room.
“You and your climate change talk.”
“What happened to me?”
“You had a stroke, Chuck.”
Copyright © 2016 E.F. Olsson. All rights reserved.
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