“We’re lost. I told you to ask for directions! Do you even know where we are?” Jake was bombarded with these questions for the past 15 minutes, possibly longer. Amanda was a nervous wreck.
“It’s not my fault!” Jake was shouting at Amanda now.
“You were in charge of reading the map!” Amanda was quiet, realizing there was no point in arguing, and looked out of the window, searching for a sign or anything to tell her where they were.
This road trip to L.A was nothing like how she imagined it to be. She had a bad sunburn after the first day and Jake was stung by a sea urchin on the next. Now that they were heading back, all she wanted was to get home as soon as possible.
Jake was driving slower than usual, not wanting to miss anything that could tell him where they were. He must’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere because they were in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly, he noticed a couple of lights in the distance. “Amanda, look!”
Amanda turned to where Jake was looking and saw the lights too. “Jake, maybe someone there could help us. Drive in that direction” Jake continued driving even more slowly –he didn’t want to take another wrong turn- and figured that they would reach the lights in another half hour or so. He hoped it was a hotel where they could get some rest before heading back on the road.
He turned over to look at Amanda but she had already fallen asleep. This trip had tired them both. The car was quiet for the rest of the journey.
“Amanda, wake up!” Amanda woke up slowly, taking in the surroundings. There was a tall building and at the entrance was a neon sign that said ‘Hotel California’. He helped her out and went to the back of the car to take care of the luggage.
Amanda and Jake carried their suitcases inside where a bellboy was waiting with a baggage cart. The reception itself was decorated with antique furniture and had a huge chandelier hanging in the center. It almost looked regal. Jake went to the reception desk where there was a beautiful, young woman waiting.
“Hello, sir. How may I help you?”
“I’m looking for a room for two”
“Right this way, please”
“Don’t I have to pay?”
“Not right now, sir” He had to admit, there was something entrancing about this lady. He had to remind himself that he was here with Amanda. He quickly called Amanda to her side. The lady spoke once again. He could listen to that voice forever… No, snap out of it, Jake!
“Sir, ma’am, your baggage will be taken up to the room. Let us show you the recreational room” She opened a door and inside was one of the largest halls Amanda or Jake had ever seen. It looked like the casinos in Vegas, only bigger.
Jake turned to ask the woman about the hall but to his amazement, she had disappeared. There were people everywhere. Amanda and Jake made their way to the bar to share a bottle of wine but when they asked the bartender, he said that they haven’t sold wine since 1969.
Amanda struck up a conversation with a woman sitting next to her.
“Hi, I’m Amanda. My boyfriend Jake and I just arrived. What about you?”
“My name is Julie. I arrived four days ago with my husband. We’re celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary”
Amanda was surprised. Julie didn’t look older than 25. How was she celebrating her twentieth wedding anniversary?
“Excuse me, I don’t mean to be rude but which year were you married in?”
“1964? But that was 50 years ago!”
“Oh sweetie, you’re mistaken. The year is only 1984”
Amanda left the table and asked another guest, a man.
“Excuse me, sir, but do you know what date today is?”
“It’s the 3rd of February, 1969”
Something wasn’t right. She had to talk to Jake. Suddenly, she found the woman who had brought them here. She asked the woman how long it had been since they had checked in and the woman had told her 2 days.
“2 days? It doesn’t even feel like it has been 5 minutes!”
“That’s the beauty of this hotel. Once you enter, you don’t leave”
Amanda had to find Jake. She saw him near the slot machines. She tried to talk to him but it was like he didn’t remember who she was. She had lost him.
She had to leave. She couldn’t be caught in this trap! She was about to turn around and leave when she was suddenly filled with this feeling of ecstasy. She felt something pulling her towards this place. She was slipping away and she liked it.
Kriti Varghese, 11 ISC
*This story won the second place in the inter-house story writing competition.