"Alright, I think it's been 8 hours". I said from the front seat of my old Volvo wagon."I'm getting pretty tired myself", replied Garrett, my lifelong friend and yearlong band mate. "Let's stop at one of these inns up the road, do you guys have cash to split the bill?"
Our bassist Jerry grunted in affirmation, aroused from his backseat doze. A short wait under the motel awning later, we were carrying our bags in, string instruments included to avoid damage from the elements. I mentally saluted my uncle for instilling that piece of wisdom in my mind. He also instilled some basic working knowledge of guitar in me, but I still had so much to learn and moved at a slower pace than other musicians. Had I not been the one who actually bothered scheduling practices and seeking out gigs, I doubt my two friends would have been in a band with me. I threw my guitar on one of the beds, trying to shake off this insecure bit of hopefully bullshit.
"God Damnit!" exclaimed Jerry, shaking me out of my reverie. Apparently the two of them had flipped a coin for the cot and he'd come out the loser. "In your face!" cried Garrett gleefully, falling into a backward sprawl on the bed next to mine. Jerry sat on the cot, the center of it sagging unpleasantly and emmitting a faint screech. "How do you guys think the show went tonight?" he asked. Out loud, we all agreed that it went well, inside I had my doubts.
"You sounded really good tonight Jack, your solos are really starting to pick up", said Jerry, who could play circles around me. I knew they only played with me because we were all best friends.
"Yeah..." I said, "what is that door to? Is this one of those adjoining rooms?" I asked them, seizing the first opportunity to change the subject.
"It's gotta be, they wouldn't put a latch on a closet" Garrett said, standing up and walking over to the door, "but they'd have this locked since we only rented a single room." He reached out to open the door and suddenly, for no logical reason whatsoever, I really didn't want him to touch that doorknob. He turned it and to all of our shared surprise, the door opened. It was dark in there but he stepped in and turned the light on, walking inside and exploring. A couple moments later he walked out, looking bewildered. "Guys? I don't think we should stay in this room."
"Why?" Jerry and I simultaneously inquired.
Garrett shut the adjoining door behind him, "Um... It smells like mothballs, and they don't serve hot breakfast, let's stay at that motel across the street instead."
Having known Garrett for roughly 12 years, I could immediately sense his reaching fabrication. Jerry hadn't known him as long and hadn't seen his face when he'd emerged from that door, and dropped the subject easily, with a simple. "I'm not moving." For all his initial frustration at being stuck with it at first, he seemed to have gotten used to the rusty little cot in the corner, stretching across it contentedly.
Garrett sighed and went to sit on his bed. I said nothing but had been struck with curiosity.
All of us appeared to slip into his own world of contemplation(and likely exhaustion as well given the length of this godforsaken drive) and said nothing for a stretch of time. I did, however, catch Garrett sneaking glances at the closed door next to me. He clicked the TV on and they both started snoring not so long after. Garrett must have left the light on in the adjoining room on since there was a bar of yellow luminescence underneath the door.
I had been dying to get a good look around that room since my friend's strange reaction to it, and decided now was the time.
I stood up and opened the door, trying to be as quiet as possible. There was nothing astounding about this room at first glance, but I did notice pretty quickly that the furniture looked different than what was in our room or even in most hotels or motels. It looked old, for one, retro in a sense, more like something you'd see in someone's private study than a motel. There was a lamp in the corner, lit by an actual flame and wick dipped in oil. I had time to register some confusion at the fact that Garrett had stood in the doorway and seemed to flick a light switch on when he had peeked in earlier, when I noticed that something else was off.
This room was what my mom would likely describe as "quaint", and charming it was, but something was just fucking weird. My body noticed this as well; every hair was standing at attention while my stomach was turning slow somersaults.
I walked over to a plush and welcoming recliner across the room as if hypnotized. The strangest part of this all is that my memory of the room ends here, and I was closing the door behind me as I came to. I still had that strange sense of foreboding and mystery as I made my way over to my bed.
I saw my guitar leaning up against the bed and reached for it, unzipping it in a mesmerized state of numbness. I began to play and noticed a sense of ease and flow, the likes of which I had never encountered previously. I did not even bother to notice that my two friends were sleeping but they soon woke up and reminded me. Instead of being angry(like Jerry probably would usually have been) they seemed entranced, sittring on the floor in front of me with mouths hanging open.
I am a mediocre guitarist. I have written no original songs since I started, and what takes others less than an hour to learn, takes me multiple days. But I had just played something I had never heard played before that had to be uniquely mine. I knew that this sudden breakthrough of genius creativity had to be something related to that crazy little alternate universe of a room, but my band mates did not, and had no reason to suspect it. I decided to pretend that nothing unusual had just happened, and convinced myself of the same, though part of me was feeling a bit scared. Something was very wrong with the vibe of that room, but at this moment of musical accomplishment, the details really didn't bother me. I suddenly had very optimistic hopes for my future as a musician.
My band mates and I left the hotel the next morning, those two still in awe at my sudden musical prowess. They were too polite to say anything outright but I think they both assumed that I had finally hit my stride.
We went on to play much bigger shows, and soon I stopped being as interested in playing with them. They simply could not keep up, and I got bored. I craved fame and fortune. I joined another band that sold out large venues, always receiving high praise for my playing, and soon got bored of that too.
I figured it might be time to move up a little more, desiring to kill my chronic boredom and disenchantment, and made the decision to seek out that motel my old band mates and I had found a while back.
"If I can become an even greater musician, I won't get bored anymore. How could I?" I reasoned.
I pulled under the slightly familiar awning of the motel and got out. I requested room 212 to the desk clerk. She seemed slightly startled but not interested enough to ask questions, and gave me a key. I mentally thanked fate for allowing that room to be open, and assumed this to be my destiny.
I walked in and felt my stomach drop slightly. Not wasting any time, I turned to the door. As the doorknob rotated easily in my hand, I wondered why this door was never locked. I stepped in and flicked the light switch, this time not caring how a switch could light an oil lamp. I had a one track mind at that moment, set on musical perfection and glory, and as the result of that, satisfaction.
The same creepy unreal sensation stole over my body as I looked at the room. This was some secret gold mine of genius that I had unearthed, and I was damn proud of that. Why had Garrett seemed so turned off after stepping in here?
I felt giddy and disoriented, so excited that I was nearly breathless.
Moments flashed before my eyes. Practices with Jerry and Garrett, watching one of them play their instrument with fluent ease while I burned inside with jealousy, my uncle repeating for the 5th or 6th time a chord progression he had been trying to show me and me raging at my own incompetence. Hitting a wrong note when attempting a cover song at the high school talent show. In essence, sucking, and never being good enough.
Whatever this chair in the corner had given me before, I needed it. All of my experiences of humiliation and inferiority, I deserved it. I ignored the slight pangs of guilt and nostalgia stirred up by my thoughts of Jerry and Garrett and went for the chair. Greatness, I thought, doesn't need guilt and excuses. I deserve this, I told myself again.
I made my way to the chair and sat down. I waited, and waited... the bad and wrong feeling I felt slightly increasing moment to moment. When I eventually became so nervous that i could no longer sit in this room, I made to stand up out of the chair, and it seemed to be stuck to my body.
Struck with panic, I grasped the arms of the recliner and pushed up with all my might. I managed to get out of it, but not without a sensation of the chair attempting to suck me back down.
Once blessedly standing again, I started to make a run for it, only to notice the floor beneath my feet starting to produce a suction effect that made it harder to move. Somehow I made it to the door and the knob melted off in my hand, as the carpet pulled me ever downward like some demonic household quicksand.
My last conscious thoughts before being completely enveloped in this mad defiance of sanity forever were about the pure and simple joys of creating with friends, not worrying about who was more skilled than who, but only enjoying the experience.