The Miniature Hotel
Stacy breaks into her room in the miniature hotel and opens the miniature drawer and places her miniature bible inside. It’s the updated and condensed King Alabaster edition, where all the snakes are dogs since the snakes are all dead now.
It’s not just the snakes that have been replaced. The King Alabaster focuses mostly on the stories with arcane magic and barbaric violence. The ones where adulterers are stoned to death or thrown into lava, both digital and literal. Lots of people get pleurisy or have their feet turned into stones.
There’s other bad stuff in those stories that get mete out but basically people wear sandals, people molest each other, people suffer plagues and elaborate tortures and feel various types of wrath.
There are tests. A person has to climb a really high obelisk that has poor footing and long faces. Another one is where a father is forced to rip out his daughters’ teeth but isn’t given any tools. Some other unhygienic stuff. Most people fail the tests. Some magical stuff happens, but less than you’d anticipate after reading the exhausting introduction. Circles are revealed to be other circles. A tattoo gets removed. There’s a round of applause from a studio audience even though those also went the way of the snakes. Stacy swallows both the syntax and the chemax and puts the miniature bible back in the miniature drawer and her magnifying glass back in her bag.
She writes a Facebook post about her down payment on a motorhome. She paints her toenails with a type of paint that is toxic to specific breeds of small dogs and most species of house plants. Some species come to life and terrorize the house and last time she had to move out because her roommate couldn’t control the plant any longer. She feels poetic in this moment:
“It’s easy to be mindful when you are in a pretty place. It’s more difficult when the lighting is terrible, and it smells like rotten garbage and even though you live alone, you keep finding clothes in your drawers that you don’t own.”
She writes another sonnet, this one is about how she has blood in her stomach. The sonnet portrays the blood as a community swimming pool for the other stuff in her body. On a recent whim, Stacy held a magnifying glass to her head while looking in the mirror, and she noticed, clear as day, air bubbles in her brain. She saw electric currents were riding the bubbles like balloons away to a nether region that shouldn’t exist.
Stacy was condemned to die at seemingly any moment. She had been told this when she was eight years old. A doctor took her aside and said she had maybe six months, and to get her affairs in order. Stacy wasn’t sick or anything, the doctor said. She would just be dead in six weeks. Did she say months before? Or was it nine. He said he had dyslexia but with numbers. He said he couldn’t remember the name for it either. Anyway, at this point Stacy was way overdue.
As she became a teenager, she accepted that death was just another state. You could just be dead. Life was some sort of present you were given, and you could give it away again. That was something that actually happened. She wrote a poem about it on a roll of toilet paper and hung it upon a tree, the way they do with poems in Japan. Hers was a sight forever unfinished.
I don’t like to think about those things. I leave that for Stacy. I spend my days avoiding picayune dreams and places that serve avocados while I try to stay positive and not read sandwich boards - walking from torch to torch in a reined-in stupor - it’s easy to fall into clichés because it’s comfortable - it’s also easy to criticize clichés because it’s comfortable - it’s harder to be enamored into a lonely life of self-actualized virtue. There’s less in the way of backslaps and conversations about daily problems and you seem like a kid that everyone is avoiding because he has bloodstains on his shirt.
And if you, yourself, are craving a non-mnemonic interaction, what kind of stoic could you be? I asked Stacy this and she cracked her jaw in response. Smelling the bright sharp clutches roving polite and quiet between each torch as you find a way to live with yourself in any city, because it’s all the same problem, whichever hotel you land in, because you can complain about any life, and if you try hard enough you can be happy in any moment: that’s what the literature says. You need to focus on your breathing. You need to find these quiet moments. You need to pay attention to the energy before you disintegrate from within, over this and any, tenuous connection to the world. You get a letter, that breaks through. You’re at work and a customer passes you a note and it says - “you’d feel better if you got more exercise” - so you dunk your head into a steel drum of mysterious black water.
And remembering that day, Stacy decides to break back into the smaller miniature hotel inside of the miniature hotel and cuts her knee while she goes in through the window, as it’s a pretty tight space. She yelps involuntarily. She thinks for a moment that the miniature manager might call the miniature police. There’s human-sized blood all over the extra miniature room. She realizes the miniature police can’t stop her. They cannot get their miniature handcuffs around her enormous, and frankly flabby arms. She climbs under the sheets of the extra miniature bed. Her feet are firmly planted on the floor. She’s so uncomfortable, she wants to start crying. And it's really drafty now, probably because of the broken window. She whimpers to herself and the ceiling blinks back. Through a fresh lens in the ceiling, Stacy sees The Muscular God that lived in the space between the two hotels. He’s a central and unforgiving character in The King Alabaster bible.
He’s flexing in the mirror, calling himself King Jacob: The Rude, the lord of immaculate thunder, the great borrower of time. He says he did not just know the answer to the riddle, but he himself was the riddle, so if he knew himself, he could help others. He has the strength of a thousand ghosts. He can summon the attention of sultans, friars, shepherds and angels.
Stacy feels that the creeping fog from the hill just past the miniature hotel wasn’t yellow or colored orange by the sun - as she would’ve liked it. It would have been an easier mental image. It’s easy to like things when they’re agreeable. Life is easier if you make it easy. If that creeping fog was drab, maybe just a shade less ominous, maybe if it wasn’t cackling as it crept closer, she would’ve found it a little more comforting. When it comes down to it, it’s really all about the lighting.
James Case is a fiction writer based in Brooklyn. His fiction has appeared in The Airgonaut, Quail Bell Magazine and The Ames Progressive. His novella, Heathener, is due to be released by Anonymous Energy in 2020. He is very tall and attended The Evergreen State College. He's worked as a bartender, a janitor, a projectionist, a social worker, a delivery person and sold high-end dog and cat food. He currently works at a brewery and looks for cats to pet.