After being led through this door under the direction and aid of a . . . Cat, I’m pretty hesitant about what I might find. For the first time in many a door – perhaps not since the first Ostium door that took me to Roanoke – I step through and stand with my eyes firmly closed, taking slow breaths. My remaining senses tell me little; there is next to no sound. A light breeze perhaps? Yes, I can feel it on my face. I take in a deep lungful and can smell . . . The sea . . . Could it be? Could I possibly be somehow back in the Ostium Network? Am I now standing on the terra firma isla of Gibraltar? I do have a sense of wide open space about me.
I open my eyes . . .
No such luck.
It’s a hotel . . . A hotel ballroom in fact. And I’m overcome by a wave of hotel-related thoughts – yeah, I have to go with the water metaphor here, being on the ocean and all. Thought number one: I’m brought back to the Avalon Casino on Catalina. Yes, I know that’s not a hotel, but the ballroom possesses a grace and grandeur quite similar to the one I find myself in now. Except this one is in a state of disrepair. At the far end from me is a sweeping vista of what was once a continuous line of majestic floor to ceiling windows. The view must’ve been simply spectacular. Now every window is broken: a series of jagged glass jaws making it seem as if in the waters everything wants to bite you . . . I guess that’s not too far off from the truth.
Thought number two is, of course, the Overlook Hotel. Yeah, it’s not just the jagged windows. This whole place is old and abandoned and used and . . . Damned creepy. So expecting Johnny to come jumping out from somewhere proclaiming his arrival is . . . Par for the course here. It is at least sunny out, with a deep, dark blue ocean. So I should be safe from the cold.
Thought number three is the sheer lavishness of this place. At one point, with the lights on, it’s must’ve been all shiny gold and silver and other expensive things from every angle. Gaudy to the max. And I’m automatically thinking of Hearst Castle. Can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s a California mainstay and if you haven’t been, its really worth the trip. You know, so you can see what one does when one has so much damn money they can literally fill their house with whatever decadent, priceless piece of art or furniture they feel like.
Thought number four is . . . And yes, again, I’m aware I’m not talking about an official hotel, but the ballroom on the Titanic, or at least in the Titanic movie (made it through all three hours, and he could’ve got on the iceberg with her in my humble opinon) definitely has some similarities with this place. It’s got the same over the top feel, not to the nth degree as Hearst Castle, but there was some serious money put into this place for some seriously rich hotel guests.
And thought number five . . . Nah, that’s it. I’m all out of hotel thoughts.
I walk across the great ballroom, feeling dust and grit crunch and scrape beneath my feet. I reach one of the broken windows and breathe in that wonderfully fresh sea air. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the ocean, not since the old rock of Gibraltar. It’s a clear sky, a warm sun shining off the water giving it that incredible glinting effect. And then something launches itself out of the ocean in the distance. I don’t catch it in time. All I see is white foam.
Okay, whatever it was, it was big.
Then I see another sign of movement off to my right. Again, it’s too fast and I miss it, but it looked grayish. The amount of foam is about the same, so we’ve got two big somethings out there.
I look to the middle and don’t really focus on anything, waiting for a sign of movement.
And then before my every eyes, two monstrous sea creatures erupt from the dark waters and cross by each other like curving . . . Well, I guess a double rainbow is pretty accurate. There’s two definable halves to them: a solid bullet shaped half, and then long tentacles held together like a grouping of water pipes . . .
Holy shit. Is it possible? Gotta be.
I’ve just seen my first Kraken . . . And that’s plural.
ETTA: Is someone there?
I turn around, mighty majestic sea creatures instantly forgotten.
ETTA: Who are you? What are you doing here?
I’m not sure what to say.
ETTA: Are you . . . Frank? No, that’s not possible.
JAKE: I’m . . . Jake. Jake Fisher.
ETTA: How did you get here? What are you doing here?
JAKE: Fair questions, and they’re sort of related. I came through that door from . . . Another world. I’m . . . I’m a time traveler of sorts, and going through doors to different times and different worlds is my thing. And whatever’s running the show has decided that this place is my next port of call.
ETTA: The Transcontinental Bridge.
JAKE: The . . . What?
ETTA: You don’t even know where you are, do you?
JAKE: Not a clue. But this looks like a pretty special place, or at least was. And I just saw something out there . . . That shouldn’t be possible. At least not where I’m from.
ETTA: Well, you’re in what used to be the Transcontinental Hotel. Just past Watchtower 8.
JAKE: Okay, that doesn’t really help. It’s almost like you’re speaking a different language.
ETTA: Sorry. Okay, the Transcontinental Bridge spans the Atlantic Ocean, coast to coast, providing a scenic and great way to travel the continents. Along the way are a number of attractions, like Aqualand, the Gold Dubloon Casino, and amenities such as the late Transatlantic Hotel. There are also Watchtowers spanning the entire Bridge, providing aid and constant traffic updates via radio.
From where we’re standing I can see one part of the Bridge spreading off into the distance until the horizon swallows it up. There’s not a single car in sight.
JAKE: Constant updates? Isn’t that a little . . . Excessive?
ETTA: Yeah. It is. That’s why I prefer to tell stories. Stories about the Bridge. And its history.
JAKE: Do you know the story of this place? The hotel?
ETTA: I do. The story of its sudden end. I know it all. But first, I want your story.
JAKE: I only have so much time I get to spend in each world. I don’t know, it’s just how it is. And I just know when that time is up and I’ve got to leave. But it’s always been that way, since I went through the first door. Even if I didn’t know it then. I’m always on borrowed time, so to speak. And until recently, every time I went through a door – whether it was just me, or with Monica or Steve, it was always just us there. No other people. And I still have no idea why. It’s something I’ve been wrestling with for a long time. Why are there no people? Were they there before and once that door from Ostium was opened, did they go somewhere? Did something on a . . . I don’t know: quantum, metaphysical . . . Supernatural level happen? Or were they never there to begin with? Is it all some construct of the Ostium Network? Something manufactured, possibly. Or is it something else entirely? I simply don’t know.
ETTA: Are you . . . Telling the truth? You’re not lying to me right?
JAKE [sincere]: No. Absolutely not. This is what really happened to me. And if Monica or Steve were here, they’d back me up completely. And the no people thing is one of the strangest aspects of this whole crazy journey, and I don’t know if it’s somehow because of me, but I sure hope not.
ETTA: I don’t think it is.
JAKE: Why’s that?
ETTA: Let me tell you my story first.
ETTA: When I was a little girl, this hotel was a thing of luxury, where those who could afford it got to experience a piece of paradise on the Transcontinental Bridge. For the tenth anniversary there was a special party. My mom was the concierge and we got to have our own little party with the staff. I was 8, so I couldn’t keep my eyes open for long. My mom put me to bed in a special place. When I woke up I was on a boat. The day after the party there was a sign out front of the hotel saying PERMANENTLY CLOSED.
ETTA: Everyone had disappeared and no one knew where they were or what happened to them. Except for me. I got out. I was found. But I still don’t know what happened. I guess, sometimes, people disappear and there isn’t a good or logical reason for it. And you can keep worrying yourself about it, or live your life.
JAKE: That’s . . . Incredible. I’m sorry for your . . . Loss, I guess. For what happened. So you’ve moved on?
ETTA: Gods no, definitely not. I keep coming back here, hoping I’ll find something I missed. Some clue. I’ve dedicated my life to finding every little piece of this place that shows up. I’ve tried to move on, but . . . I can’t.
JAKE: Yeah, I know how that goes. And unfortunately, I’ve reached the end of my stay here at . . . The Transcontinental Hotel.
ETTA [Amused]: I hope your time here was enjoyed and worthwhile and you’ll consider us again in the future.
JAKE: Oh yes, it certainly was, and I definitely will. I’ll even give you a five start rating on Yelp.
ETTA: What’s Yelp?
JAKE: Er, don’t worry about it. But I need to get moving on, to the next place. The next world.
ETTA: A lot of people wouldn’t believe a word you’ve said. But I’ve seen a lot on this Bridge. So, I think I do. Yeah. And I hope I’ve been able to help you, a little.
JAKE: You have. Thank you for that. Thank you for making me feel . . . Less alone in the group of people who keep losing people. The arena of lost souls . . .
ETTA: That was a little creepy.
JAKE: Yeah, it was. Maybe morbid too. Sorry.
ETTA: So how do you make your exit?
JAKE: Same way I came in. I go through that door.
ETTA: Safe journeys, Jake.
JAKE: And good luck in your search . . . Hey, I never got your name.
ETTA: Etta. For Henrietta.
JAKE: That’s a really nice name. Good luck, Etta.
ETTA: You too Jake.
[Door opening, then closing.]