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Friday, October 29, 2010

At No Time Did I See Rod Serling

Another day, another dollar/dollar-and-a-half, depending on where you live, and we arrive, breathless and just a tad giddy, at the cusp of yet another glorious possibility of a weekend.

And as we have in the past, we look to my iPod and its shuffled-song predictions for the future.

Because everyone knows that the songs played during Friday morning’s commute have bearing on the upcoming weekend.

Banana Pudding by Southern Culture on the Skids
Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie
Hem of Your Garment by Cake
The Fear by Lily Allen
Sharks by Morphine
I Feel for You by Chaka Khan
Pala Tute by Gogol Bordello

What’s it all mean? It means welcome, my pretties, to Friday. Please take the hand of the artist closest to you and press it to your cheek – no! the other one! – and be thankful.

And without further ado, we bring you to Scary Story Three in our Scary Story Trilogy.

To recap:
Scary Story One: I take direction.
Scary Story Two: My mother gives direction.
Today? Scary Story Three: Direction becomes meaningless.


Philadelphia, PA. Why not go? A couple days, just as a lark, just me and Willie. Nine years ago it was. We ate a Philly cheesesteak, got drunk one afternoon with a bunch of new friends in a small pub where Willie turned over the “Galaga” machine. We went to the zoo.

And one night, we went out.

We went out for dinner, shared a taxi to a bar with live music with people we met at the restaurant. We went to bed that night a little after 1:30, me chattering away as we lay in the dark.

“Shhh,” Willie said, his fingertips on my eyelids. “Go to sleep.”

And when I next notice, I am no longer in our room.

I am upright, walking, when I gain consciousness. I stop. There is an elusive, slippery aspect to thought that I’ve not experienced before. I am more confused than I have ever been. I can’t make sense of my surroundings. Scarier yet, I can’t make sense of myself. Why am I walking? Where am I walking? Why am I cold?

And I am abruptly, horrifyingly aware that I am naked.

I have nothing: no clothes, no purse, no keys, no glasses. I stare at my bare feet as the questions throw themselves against the inside of my skull: Where are my clothes? Where have I been? What have I been doing? Where is Willie?

Where is Willie?

The hall is absolutely silent; and, without my glasses, unreal in its lack of focus.

“Home,” my head says. “Go home now.”

I bolt down the hallway in the direction of the elevator.

I press the button, flatten myself against the wall. The world has been reduced to the maze-like, brick-walled halls of the Clarion Hotel.

The elevator doors open. No one comes out. I dash into the elevator, my head swimming, cloudy. Press 8. My eyes are glued to the door, unblinking. I am breathing through my mouth. How did I get here? Why am I here? My heart pounds. Panic, a concept I had only truly known through books, builds in my blood. I can taste it. Panic tastes like copper.

I swallow hard.

My room is 822.

822 is the farthest room from the elevator at the end of a twisting hallway. I am forcing myself through the elevator door as it opens; and by the time I reach the hotel room door, panic’s war on my grip on reality has firm footholds.

My fists reach the door first.


I rap, long and hard, and then stop, panting. I am in the hallway outside a hotel room in Philadelphia. I am naked. Am I dreaming? My head is swimming, off-balance.

“Willie!” I pound the door. There is no answer. The hallway seems to narrow and then to tilt. I am dizzy, bright spots in front of my eyes.

Where am I? Am I here? Am I real? How did I get out here? Why isn’t Willie answering the door?

Panic seizes my chest. I have to get to Willie. I have to ask him. He’ll know. He’ll know why I’m out here.

I need a phone.

The elevator. They have phones in elevators, don’t they?

The panic swimming in my blood grabs on to the thought of the telephone in the elevator, propels me forward; and I am half-way down the hall when I hear a bell and the sound of the elevator doors opening. I hear two women laughing, talking. At a full run, I spin on my heels, spin away from the elevators and back to 822.

I am pounding on the door seconds later.

“Willie! Willie!” I cry. “I’m outside and I don’t know where I am!” I swallow panicked tears and crouch against the door.

The voices of the women, drunk, laughing, increase in volume as they get closer. I cover my breasts with one arm, my groin with the other and bury my face in the door jamb.

“Willie,” I sob, whispering into the door jamb. “Open the door! I’m afraid.”

Just around the corner, a woman says, “… and then he told me yes, he was still married, but she was in a coma!” They both laugh. Keys jingle. There is a failed attempt and then a successful opening of a door. The door shuts and the laughing women are gone.

I am alone.

I jump up and bolt for the elevator. I am sure there is a phone in the elevator. I am sure of it. I will call Willie. He will tell me why I’m alone.

The green of the carpeted floor seems to leap up. The walls are askew, tilted. My heart is pounding as I reach the elevator.

I press the button only to be terrified, suddenly, that it will open. I press myself against the wall next to the elevator. I have no clear idea of what I will do if the elevator is occupied.

The doors open. No one comes out. I step in, the muscles of my arms jumping, legs trembling.

There is no phone.

My mind stops.

There is no phone. I had been so sure... My mind drifts off, just for a moment, and I am snapped back into reality, if that's what this is, as the doors of the elevator close. The elevator begins to descend.

Floor! What floor?!

From the mirrored walls of the elevator I watch the image of a naked woman frantically pressing “Door Open”, then, stupidly, “8”, followed by “7”. Her frightened face bounces from one mirrored wall to another, a fun house of desperation.

The doors open to no one on the 7th floor.

Relieved, I step out. The doors close, and I begin to walk away.

But where am I going? I stop. There aren’t phones in hotel hallways.

The phones are in the rooms.

Or in the lobby.

New fear grips me as I turn back to the elevator. I cannot go to the lobby, and I cannot roam the hallways looking for help. I have to go back to 822.

I press the button. I wait, heart pounding in my chest, in my ears. Again, it is empty. I step inside: the naked woman in the mirrors works hard to avoid her own reflection.

I step onto the 8th floor without incident and then run, on tiptoes, to the room, the last room around the last corner on the top floor.

I throw myself at the door, knock long and hard. “Willie! Willie! It’s me! Am I dreaming?” Nothing happens. I hammer the door with my fists. I kick the door, hard, twice, and leap back in pain, my toes screaming. I see stars again.

Is this real? How can this be real? The panic in my blood wins and my imagination leaps off a bridge and takes me with it.

“Willie! Oh my God, Willie! Am I dead?”

I put my hands over my face and fall to the ground.

The door opens.

“Oh my God. Pearl.” Willie’s voice is the sound of utter disbelief, and he pulls me up, pulls me into the room, and holds me tight.

“Where have you been? What are you doing? Where are your clothes? Why were you out there?"

He pushes me out to arm's length and stares at me. "Good God, you are ice cold!”

I look up, sobbing. “I’m naked.”

It is 3:28.

How long had I been wandering before I “came to” – and where was I during that time?

Why did it take so long for Willie to wake up?

Is there surveillance video at the Clarion?

Do I really want the answers to any of these questions?


Sausage Fingers said...

Yes, another Gogol fan. Alcohol is my theme song and what I want played at my funeral along with bagpipes of course. Happy Halloween.

Pearl said...

Sausage, I love that song as well...

powdergirl said...

Jesus Pearl,
I kept waiting to hear that was a bad dream...

How perfectly awful.

But hey, I think the playlist means that you'll never be naked again, I mean you may have a little banana pudding on the hem of your garment, but at least you'll have a garment.

And why the hell did it take so long for Willie to wake up? I'm perspiring in empathy over here.

Bossy Betty said...

I want these questions answered immediately!

Symdaddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Symdaddy said...

I hate your Friday posts!

Wait! Wait!

I mean, they ARE good and they ARE funny!

But do you have to rub it in all the time that you have an iPod?

I belong to the down-trodden masses and do not possess such an implement of evil ... although I would like one!

However, you never fail to deliver!

Loved it this week, although this bit ...
"... panic’s war on my grip on reality has firm footholds" ... did have me imagining someone holding on with their feet until I read it properly.

Nice one Pearl

Erm ... you wouldn't have any pictures of that elevator scene, would ya?

Pearl said...

powdergirl, never found out! And I wasn't quiet about trying to get in the door -- the next day I had blisters on the knuckles of both hands. I will never forget how surreal it all was...

Bossy Betty, I feared for a while that there was video...

Sym, I don't -- and let's hope no one else does as well!

Gigi said...

Oh wow! And am I dreaming or did you not tell us at one point that when you wake in the middle of the night it's at 3:28 am?

Eva Gallant said...

You are full of stories! That was very well written....had me breathless!

Pearl said...

Gigi, Whoa. Yes! Yes! Holy crap, Gigi! Gives me goosebumps when people see things in my writing that eluded me...

Eva, thank you! I tell you, I was "weirded out" by this experience for a good week!!

Linda Medrano said...

Pearl, Pearl, Pearl! That scared the hell out of me! It doesn't matter if it was real or a dream, it was terrifying! Lord! Don't drink tequila. Ever.

Flea said...

Pearl, this is the scariest story I think I've ever read. Horror is entertaining, but real stories ... *shudder*

Did you mean the other hand or the other cheek?

Sweet Cheeks said...

Pearly Girly

I am speechless.

What the hell?!

The fact that this wasn't a dream is positively frightening.

We must speak further on this.

Fred Miller said...

I would have let you use my phone.

Pat Tillett said...

I don't know or even care if it was a dream or hard liquor induced reality. It was AMAZINGLY well written and maintained a break neck pace throughout. I don't think I took more than a breath or two while reading it....AWESOME!

Saimi said...

Are you sure you weren't in The Hotel California?
Because I was pretty convinced you were!

Well done!

Douglas said...

What, exactly, were you drinking that night? I want to corner the market on it.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

This is a fabulous story, so tightly paced and horrifying.

SeaD said...

You were "weirded out for a week"? I will be weirded out for you, forever. Very well written. I felt like I was in that hallway with you.

a Broad said...

I'm sorry, I have not been well, I am only allowed to read non-scary stories at this time. And none about naked women in elevators... ever.

Ms Sparrow said...

Whoa! Your story is just loaded with the universal themes of vulnerability, abandonment and loss of control. You worked them into a terrificly suspenseful story. Be sure to let me know when the movie comes out!

Jhon Baker said...

great write! I have yet to write about any of the times I've found myself somewhere strange and naked. I always had clothes nearby though so it was far better and with a lot less to fear.

Pearl said...

:-) You guys...

We were drinking beer. I will admit to being drunk, but not crazy-drunk. I remember everything about the night, right up to falling asleep -- and "coming to" in the hall.

I have other sleepwalking stories. My brother sleepwalks as well.

Sue said...

Sounds like one of those Ambien stories!

Loved the writing.


Cheeseboy said...

So is this like a yearly scary story like the Simpson's Treehouse of Terror thing?

Excellent stuff. I enjoyed the yarn, but the drunk thing does make it make more sense.

lunamother said...

Jeebus, Pearl- I just wanted to snatch you up through the computer screen and make you safe...

Eric said...

My friend Andy and I used to play with Ouija boards. In 7th grade Andy liked a new girl who had moved into the neighborhood and we asked the Ouija board if he and the new girl were going to hook up. The radio was on and the Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House" happened to come on right after we asked. We became convinced it was a sign and spent a few hours debating how to warn her family. We told another kid, Paul, and asked his advice. As I remember correctly the family ended up going on vacation and we rode past the house on our bikes every day to make sure it was fine.

R. Jacob said...

while reading I had the feeling of falling and watching the ground rush up at me.