A dark hotel room in a cold Midwest city. The only light there is comes through the love slit in the drapes. The bed in the room is a California King. It’s large, alone, built for four, but cradling one. The air smells of ghosts, gin, and God. There’s a noise in the deep uncomfortable band of golden gray light. The heater box by the window is puffing suffocating breath as the glittering ruby blue town twinkles like radiated space.
“I’m going to be late for my flight,” he tells her as she rolls like a comfortable cat on the giant bed.
“There will be other flights,” she says. “Come keep me warm. It’s so cold in here. It’s like elves have been chipping ice.”
He turns away from the window to look at her there. She looks welcoming yet evil.
“That’s a weird thing to say,” he tells her.
She shrugs, unwraps a piece of gum and puts it into her mouth. “What can I say. I’m a weird girl.”
“Why are you trying to sabotage my flight plans?” he asks her accusatorily.
She props herself up on her elbows and gives him a dirty look. “If you don’t want to spend time with me… Just say so. But keep in mind, I came a long way to meet you.”
“This whole thing was your idea,” he said.
“And you agreed to it… Reluctantly.”
“You know I must get back home. I have work tomorrow.”
She scoffs and moves to the other side of the bed. She sits up on the edge, her back to him.
He turns to the window again, spreads the drapes like he would a woman’s legs. The city is there, staring back. Tattooed gray homeless shelters, black as witches’ wings ramp and soar, the energy cuts through like a whip. Tall buildings penetrate the atmosphere of aluminum blood, erections of steel and glass, the people inside creating humanity bombs. Lights pop, flicker everywhere and even there. Strangers stand on a bridge and kiss before one of them walks away in the neon rain. Somewhere in a cardboard box a broken man is sad about the decrepit condition of his underwear and wonders about the angels. Where are they now? In their bourgeois arenas of hypocrisy.
Her disappearance mingled with the thunderclaps. There was nothing left of her on the bed. He wondered, had she ever even been there? He turned away from the window once more to verify he was truly alone. There was another round of thunder. He turned to look out the window again just as a crooked line of lightning illuminated the sky. He winces.
He glanced down at the winding water burrowing through the guts of the city. That’s when he saw them. Warships of elves coming up the canal. Pointed ears twitching, ice picks in small hands. The sight of them is far more ominous than the Winter Warlock in an animated childhood Christmas tale. There’s a sudden hard knock at the door. He whips his head around as his heart flies up his throat. He stumbles to the door and puts his eye to the peephole. Her blonde fish-eye image is pouting. She pounds on the door again with a flattened palm. He undoes all the locks and pulls it open.
He doesn’t know who she is until she says something. “It’s just me baby. What’s wrong?”
He points to the window. “Have you seen what’s going on out there?”
“It’ starting to storm,” she says as she looks at herself in the mirror and tosses her hair around. “Do you want to go get breakfast before I take you to the airport?”
“I’m not going to the airport!” he protests. “Not when there’s elves attacking the city.”
She spun around to look at him. She noted that he was completely serious. “What? Elves?”
“Come look out the window,” he encouraged her, and he took her by the hand and led her. He yanked the drapes apart. “See!”
She looked out and saw nothing except the city wrapped in a thunderstorm. She glanced at him, concerned. She touched his trembling face. “I think you need to see someone… Again.”
“What are you talking about. I can’t see someone when the city is under siege.”
“There’s nothing out there. It’s just a passing storm, my love.”
“Absolutely. Do you want to sit down. Or we could go to the lobby for some coffee. You always enjoy your morning coffee.”
He didn’t look at her when he spoke. “No. Go ahead. I may come down later. Just give me a few minutes to collect my wayward thoughts.”
She went to kiss him. Her lips tasted like grape water. “Okay. But don’t stay up here too long. You must get on that plane eventually.”
“I’ll miss you,” he mumbled as she went out the door. It closed with a heavy clunk.
He stood in the lobby and looked around at all the people there. There was a lingering fog of meaningless copulating conversations. He didn’t see her. He went to the front desk. The woman behind it smiled at him. “Good morning. Checking out?”
“Not yet. I’m looking for my wife. Have you seen her? We were supposed to meet for coffee.”
“Your wife, sir?”
“Yes. My wife.”
The desk clerk leaned forward and whispered something to him. “I believe she’s already left.”
“I saw her get into a taxi with another man.”
“Do you know where they went?”
“No, sir. No idea at all. But if you ask me, something’s not quite right.” She took a step back as a breathing black cloud came through the front doors of the hotel. “You better run!” she called out.
The horde of elves came upon them all there, screaming and shouting, thrusting their ice picks into everything.
He felt something pierce his heart and he fell to the floor. He gasped. His head swam and his hearing faded as he looked up at the dust and chaos all around him. He just closed his eyes and waited until it became quiet again.
There was a long pause in his life and when his eyes finally did flicker open once again, she was sitting in a chair beside his hospital bed staring at her phone. She jumped up as soon as she noticed he was stirring. She held his hand and her eyes danced all over his tired, whiskered face.
“What happened?” he wanted to know.
She squeezed his hand and almost cried. “You had another one of your spells.”
He tried to sit up. “It wasn’t a spell. It was real. It was all real.”
“Baby,” she whispered. “You told the doctors you were attacked by elves with ice picks.”
She sighed. “I’m going to run down to the cafeteria for a snack. I won’t be long.”
He watched her walk out of the room… Again. She was always walking out of the room.
A young nurse came in. She smelled like a freshly cleaned restroom. She smiled at him as she checked his vitals. She glanced at the monitor. She wrote something down. “Any pain?” she asked.
“Just my heart.”
She panicked. “You’re having chest pains?”
“Not like a heart attack. Emotionally. I’m broken. Isn’t that what it says in all those notes?”
She smiled at him. “The sun is out. Would you like me to open your curtains more?”
“Maybe a little bit. I’m not much for sun.”
“Okay,” she said as she moved toward the window, and he noticed when she turned and brushed her hair back… She had pointed ears.
His wife was the one who walked in when he was attacking the nurse. She was sprawled out on the floor, and he was on top of her. His hands were around her throat. “Baby!” she screamed out. “Stop!” She went to pull him off the nurse. He fell back. The breath of the nurse sputtered like a dying engine. His wife ran out into the hall screaming for help.
A team of nurses came thundering into the room and secured him. Someone called for security. The nurse on the floor was attended to. His eyes darted around madly as they worked to get him restrained in the bed. He caught a glimpse of his wife cowering in the corner. She was crying. A gurney was brought in and the nurse he attacked was placed upon it and wheeled off. He wondered if she was still alive. “That elven scum should not be allowed to live!” he cried out. Haldol was ordered by a doctor. A beautiful hospital pharmacy tech in tight scrub pants that accentuated her perfect ass went to work. The frantic day eventually ended, and the moon came out and barked softly above the city.
His imagination often went on wild rides in dark and lonely hotel rooms in midwestern cities with a brutal edge. He breathed deeply as he looked out the window. The storm was over. The elves were gone. He could hear the clock ticking away in his chest. His heart. He turns to look at the king-sized bed. It’s neatly made. Smooth. Empty. The digital clock on the table reads 3:13 AM. He hates it when he can’t sleep. He hates it especially when he’s alone. If she had been there, he could have at least held her close, felt her warmth. But she was somewhere else. He picked up his cell phone and called her.
“Baby? What’s wrong?” she said in a very sleepy voice.
“I just miss you.”
“Baby. You’ll see me in two days.”
“Right. I’ll let you get back to sleep, my love.”
He saw her beautiful face as she said it. “I love you so much.”
He ended the call and sat on the edge of the bed in the quiet, lonely room. He took a deep breath and went on living.