1. an establishment that provides lodging and usually meals, entertainment, and various personal services for the public
1. a person appointed and authorized to examine accounts and accounting records
2. a hearer; listener
While in the middle of haggling prices, the potential guest steps forward and says, “Look, do you know who I am?”
It’s a common question from stereotypical douchebags, but he doesn’t sound smug when he asks it, he sounds desperate, like nobody has ever recognized him and he’s one day away from suicide.
So I shrug and tell him no, I have no clue who he is.
He sighs and says, “Let me ask you something. Do you watch reality TV?”
The laugh that escapes me is unintentional but impossible to hold back. “No. That stuff is trash, man.”
The suicidal expression returns. He slumps over, arm resting on the front desk. “What if I told you that I’m one of the hosts of [some fucking car mechanic show that we aren’t going to publicly name because we’re not idiots] on the [reality TV network]? Would that ring any bells?”
“I don’t have a TV.”
“You’ve never seen my show?”
“I’ve never even heard of it.”
Defeated, he pays for his room and leaves the lobby. Later, someone in the room next to his calls and complains about a man crying loudly.
“Do you have any rooms?”
“Sorry, ma’am, but we’re all sold out tonight.”
“Not even one room?”
“Not even one room.”
“Not even for one night?”
“Not even for one night.”
“Seriously. You have nothing?”
“Yes. That is what ‘sold out’ means.”
“Well, what about the other hotels around?”
“What about them?”
“Do they have rooms?”
“Well, what’s the closest hotel that does have a room?”
“I have no idea.”
“You’re supposed to know this.”
“Is that so?”
“I work in the hotel industry, and I know you’re supposed to keep track of what hotels still have rooms.”
“Every hotel in the world is sold out. The universe no longer has any vacancies.”
“Listen, goddammit, I work in the hotel industry—”
“Yeah, you mentioned that.”
“So you need to get off your goddamn ass and you call around and find me a hotel.”
“I’m not going to do that.”
“What, you don’t have a phone, now?”
“Nah, but you do.”
“I’m going to call your manager tomorrow and get your ass fired so fast, you have no idea.”
“Thank you. That means a lot to me.”
I’m on the third night of training a new auditor. In another two weeks, I’m going on vacation, so this guy is our final hope. The previous two auditors I trained quit early on. The first guy, he left around 2AM to go get lunch and never came back. Maybe he died, maybe he got himself abducted, who knows, nobody ever heard from him again. Should we be more worried? Maybe. And the second guy, he started telling guests he was the co-owner of the hotel and offered free furniture from any of the rooms. For some reason, he didn’t last too long, either, not sure why. But my vacation is coming up and we’re out of time, this third guy, either he stays or my boss is going to be begging me to cancel my plans.
We’re three nights in and things are going pretty smoothly. So nice, in fact, I don’t even show up in my uniform. I stroll in wearing jean shorts and a t-shirt and tell the guy he’s running the show tonight. I’ve been wanting to clean out our first floor audit-storage room for months now, and tonight’s probably the only opportunity I’ll get in a long time.
The way night audit works is every night we compile the day’s paperwork along with various revenue-related print outs and stuff it all in a giant yellow envelope. The envelope goes into an empty printer paper box in the back office, and once the box is full (usually half a month’s worth), I store the box in a room located on the first floor. However, it’s a fairly tiny room, and at this point, the boxes are stacked from floor to ceiling. Supposedly, there’s a room on the fifth floor where the ex-maintenance man used to store these boxes. However, when I go up to the fifth to find this room, I find no such thing. I search every room in the hotel that doesn’t belong to a guest, and not once do I find any evidence of a second storage room. The audit boxes on the first floor only go back to mid-2014, so where the hell are all the boxes before then? Did the ex-maintenance man burn them after being fired for hiding condoms in his office’s mini-fridge? Highly possible. He was pretty crazy.
I double-check the room one last time, drenched in sweat because I’m a fat piece of shit, and discover a door marked STORAGE ROOM on the fourth floor. I try to open it with the maintenance key but it remains locked. I take the front desk keys from the guy I’m training, but they don’t work either, so I say fuck it and break open the red emergency box in the back office and swipe the hotel’s skeleton key. Finally, the lock gives, but not a single audit pack can be found in the room. In fact, the room’s completely empty. Well, almost empty. In the middle of the room, lying on the floor, is the unrated and uncut DVD of 2006’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
I stand over it and stare down for minutes, hours, who knows, wondering if I should open it, see what’s really inside. But I can’t. This thing is in this room for a reason. Maybe just by opening the door I’ve freed some kind of demonic spirit. Have I doomed the hotel? Is everybody about to die?
Is the ghost of Will Ferrell’s comedy career preparing to kill us all?
I certainly fucking hope so.
Two nights off, I’m not feeling refreshed at all, but people with these kind of shitty jobs, it’s not like they have a choice. You either clock-in or you start eating dumpster hotdogs.
Midway through my shift, I’m half-awake and fully paranoid about the fourth floor storage room. I can feel the Talladega Nights DVD calling me even from the lobby. It’s a powerful siren song that’ll inevitably lead me to my demise, so why even bother resisting? I abandon the front desk and slowly drift up to the fourth floor. I open the door and wince, certain something menacing is going to lunge at me and rip my throat out.
But the DVD is gone.
And the room, it’s no longer empty. Dozens and dozens of Christmas decoration boxes now take its place.
I kneel down and pray to the hotel gods.
What have I unleashed?
Max Booth III is the author of How to Successfully Kidnap Strangers, along with a bunch of other books currently occupying your local landfill. He's the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and the managing editor of Dark Moon Digest. In addition to Gamut, he's also a columnist for LitReactor and Slush Pile Heroes. Raised in Northern Indiana, he now works as a hotel night auditor in a small town outside San Antonio, TX. Follow him on Twitter @GiveMeYourTeeth.
NOTE: This is a free sample. To read more writing like this, please SUBSCRIBE. Thank you.