46th & Mercury — Update!

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I know I’ve been absent for a week or so, Dear Reader, but it’s only been because work on 46th & Mercury has been taking the lion’s share of my attention.

Today, I have something to share with you which I hope you’ll find truly exciting:

46th & Mercury will be delivered to you in the 2nd person present tense style of narrative. I was so impressed by the immersive quality of that style of narrative, thanks to my good friend Jefferey X. Martin’s work, “Short Stories About You” (read my review at the preceding link, and then buy your copy — if you haven’t already done so — here) that I wanted to try my own hand at that style.

And it works brilliantly. To prove to you how well it works, let me reintroduce you to a short excerpt, rendered in that new style:

* * *

As you step out of the stairwell onto the fourth floor, you rest for a moment. For a building with six stories to it, you’d expect an elevator. Who wouldn’t? But apparently the Paradiso was constructed before the advent of elevators. “I guess this is supposed to be what they call old world charm…” you grouse to no one.

You check the number on the tag attached to the key once more. 405. You step up to the first door to check the number on the bronze plaque beside it. You blink as you feel heat rise in your chest, flare on your cheeks. Look again. You growl. “Son of a bitch… European. Euro-fucking-pean floor numbers…” The plaque in front of you reads 301. You’ve climbed three flights of marble steps, but if the building uses the European floor numbering tradition, you started from the ground floor, and your first ascent took you to the first floor.

Then, strangely, it just… doesn’t bother you. You’ll simply have to climb yet another flight of steps, that’s all. You shrug. Your eyes shoot to your right even before you realize why. Another heavy footstep sounds before you realize that you heard the first one.

You take a step back as your weary eyes scan left and then right. You don’t see anything, but you hear a low rumble, as if something is growling only a few feet from you.

But there’s nothing there.

You blink, then look up and notice air ducts running along the ceiling on either side of the hallway. Your pulse settles and your breathing slows. Until this moment, you hadn’t noticed them. You shake your head. “God, I’m tired. Hearing things.”

You sigh and head up yet another flight of steps. A scant two minutes later, you stand in the open doorway of Room 405, and survey your shelter from the storm. The room reflects not merely comfort, but opulence. How much did you spent on this? A mental image of a frowning bank teller flits across your mind’s eye. You shrug it off.

Scented candles flicker at the window sill, beyond which lamps light the concrete paths that wind through the verdant dark of a park. Nothing fills the greenery except the falling rain.

Before the window stands a small writing desk; draped over the back of the chair which squats before it, you find a set of cotton pajamas — warm, soft, and blessedly dry in your fingers. You kick off your shoes, strip down to nothing, then slip into them with a sigh of relief.

You probably should have put a nice, hot shower between stripping out of the soaked clothes and stepping into the warm, dry ones — but you just don’t give a hot heap of damn right now. You’re tired, you’re scared, and you’re sick of being wet.

That growl comes again — this time, there’s no sense of direction to the sound. You look around for the source anyway… and for the second time, you realize something very strange as you’re unable to discover where the eerie, ominous sound is coming from:

You’re not even annoyed by it. You should be. Somehow, you know that you hate random sounds interrupting your thoughts. The idea that a hotel this nice should have weird, growly ventilation should put a scowl on your face, but… you just don’t care. And that isn’t right.

The growling fades. The room begins to follow suit, until it tilts backward and the back of your hand meets your chin, flying your eyes open again. Sleep doesn’t seem to want to wait for you to go to it — it means to come to you. But you really do want that soup and sandwich, so you get up out of the desk chair and stretch, slap the back of one hand with the palm of the other good and hard. The sting and the gunshot-like sound snaps the world back into clarity.

A few light taps sound at the door, and you suddenly find yourself reminded of a poem you half-remember from a long, long time ago — and then you remember the cops. Have they found you up here after all this? A thrill of nerves chases itself up your spine as your stomach clenches. “Who is it!”

“Room service!” a puberty-broken voice squeaks on the other side of the door. You steady yourself, then open up for the kid. There’s nobody there. No… no, there is.

You stare right at the kid — there he is, gangly and pimply as life, in his rumpled uniform, his hat tilted back on his head at a flippant angle — but your brain insists that you’re looking at empty space even as your eyes tell you differently. You take a step back. Then another.

The kid walks in past you as if nothing in the world can be wrong, and sets a tray on the writing desk before lifting a fancy silver entree cover from it and moving a bowl of steaming soup, a plate with the roast beef sandwich, and a short, wide glass of milk to the desk.

“If there’s anything else you need, sir,” the kid’s voice is a broken whistle, “we’re open all night.”

The more you stare, the more something in the pit of your brain squirms. “Go away, kid, you bother me.” you tell the kid bluntly.

The kid laughs. “That’s a good one, sir.” He turns and shambles back to the door on long, skinny legs, reminding you of a spider. That is, until you see why the hat rests at that wildly back-tilted angle. Or think you see it. You decide you didn’t see that. As the door clicks shut behind the mass of chunky, blackish-brown ooze leaking from under the back of the hat, you’re absolutely certain you didn’t see it.

But you aren’t hungry anymore, after all. You sit at the desk, sigh, and lowered his head into your hands. The room fades once again, and this time, you just let it go.

* * *

So, there you have it! What do you think? Let me know in the comments! In the mean time, you can support my writing by clicking the “Donate” button in the upper right corner. Remember — everything you read here is free, but a little generosity goes a long way. 😉

Also, don’t forget to preorder 46th & Mercury here!

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