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A Glass Hotel
 Anton Haugen
 






In the glass hotel stands an optic. Within its curve, the lobby lays flat, reflected. The image encompassed the outer edge. After the concierge had confirmed my reservation, I caught my own reflection within the glass. The optic stood at the other side of the reception desk. I turned my head to the left and met my eyes in the image. I made some faces to be sure. The reflection made each face back at me. Even the photographs I had seen of this type of curve were never of the size of the optic standing in front of me. From its center, I could not perceive its depth. I only knew that from where I stood, the reflection was perfect.

—In the hotel, everything is glass. The walls, the doors, the floors, even the windows are made of glass. Within and outside the hotel, all things assume the color of the hour.

Beneath the strands of the concierge's hair, clouds obscured both of her eyes. She had gone into another room. There was no one else to judge the depth. The glass furniture merged with the floors, which in turn, merged with the ceiling and the rest of the hotel. Only my reflection confirmed that the optic was not flat. No other body to perceive this. I moved to the left. My reflection bent slightly to the right. I moved further and was disfigured.

—It’s only one story.

*

The valet wheeled my duffel on a glass cart with glass wheels.  I followed a few steps behind. The hallway was too narrow to walk side by side without rubbing shoulders. His clothes were loose and green in the light. The keys twinkling at his hip were glass and green. His face must have also been green. We turned left.

—What brings you here?

—I need rest.

His pace was steady. His movement and sound made him stand out in the hall; otherwise, he would blend into the walls like the furniture. The walls, the ceiling, the floor, and his clothes were all green. When we turned left, I had noticed that the corner and the seams of the ceiling and floor were the exact same shade, making the joining of the panes imperceptible, as if the hotel had been built from one solid piece of glass. A thought passed, that at some further point or at a point behind us, the two walls at our sides would join together in the green. Perhaps the hall narrowed, but I could not say or judge at this point. In its brightness, the color concealed its mechanism. The valet spoke up.

—The lights always make me have good dreams. They change. It happens every so often, the color changing during the night. The first ones on are green lights. After them, yellow goes on. The blue light follows. And then, at some time before morning, the hotel is red. But to be honest, it hardly matters, the colors and their specifics, unless you are awake. Because, as you know, even white light turns into some other shade when your eyes are closed.

We turned left.

*

I pulled down the shade of the train-window. The sunlight was giving me a headache. When it had been much harder to find the opportunity to leave, I enjoyed looking through the windows of trains. In my daily life then, I enjoyed having a destination and being fixed to the space of a train where I could see other things move though, of course, I was the one moving. My face fell into my hands. I tried to sleep but thought, bewildered by exhaustion. The hotel would help. I took out my phone to check the time but took a picture of my shoes by mistake. I put my phone to sleep and wiped the oils from the screen. No notifications. I was losing signal, and my charger had been left among papers scattered across my desk.

I pulled up the shade. The sun was setting. The sky turned yellow above a line of trees. I made a video. The light washed out the image, bits of yellow and blue and a glowing black circle above a green lawn. I pulled down the shade. I spent the rest of the ride replaying the video. The sun continued setting and shone red through the shade.

*

The room in which I found myself was glass and green. No shadow was cast. It was difficult to distinguish the furniture from the walls and floor, except for the bed. The bed was white. I mean, in white light, the bed would be white. The bed was green. The sheets, covers, and pillowcases were white, but as they stood were green. The frame was glass and green.

I unzipped my duffel on top of the bed. The dresser, I knew, must be close. My eyes narrowed on a space where it could be. I needed to focus to make anything out. When my vision blurred around its edges, the outline of the dresser began to form itself. Every few steps, my eyes reoriented. I tried staring at something further away to relax the strain, but in the green, there was so little to perceive distance, so little else to focus on.

The drawers opened smoothly. I put my clothes in the dresser the way I had at home, each item placed in the order that they occur on the body. Two shirts in the top drawer, underwear and a pair of pants in the second, and in the bottom, two pairs of socks. Only the clothes I needed for the next day. No reason to do this other than ease of mind. The emptiness looked pathetic.

*

When I looked at each wall, I could not see into the other rooms. They probably could not see into mine. I undressed completely and folded my traveling clothes to place them and my shoes in the dresser. It was still empty.

I tossed my duffel underneath the bed and rested my head on the pillow. I stared at the green ceiling. I turned to my side and pressed my cheek into the pillow. The clothes floated in the dresser and in the green. I turned to my other side and squinted. The outline of the doorway to the bathroom came into focus.

I reached under the bed and got my shaving kit from the duffel. Above the faucet was a reflective optic. I brushed my teeth. The face was green. I spit into the basin and looked across the bed to see the clothes still floating in the dresser. I thought of a phantom made of clothes, some kind of animated assemblage. I laughed. I spit more green into the sink and turned the glass knobs. My teeth were green. The water rose from the base of the faucet, out of the spout, and splashed across the curve. I watched the spit and water swirl down the drain and flow down the glass pipe where it disappeared into the green. While the water ran, an empty, clear glass stood, overturned on a green glass coaster at the edge of the sink. The clothes were hardly put away. Under the faucet, the glass filled with water; the ripples dazzled in the green, shapes conveyed and flashed across its face. My hand was shaking, so I placed the glass at the bottom of the basin and let it fill with water.

I threw my clothes back into my duffel and shoved it underneath the bed. Under the covers, I stared at the ceiling and listened to the water run.

*

The valet's voice was worn. There were long breaks in between thoughts for him to catch his breath. I thought of the folds of his throat vibrating in glass dust, or because his back faced me, he strained his voice to be heard. We had been silent.

—Are you allowed to throw stones in the room?

I could tell the valet smiled because his head leaned back. A sound like a laugh moved in his throat.

—Of course. That only applies to glass houses, and as you know, this is a glass hotel.

I tried to lighten the mood further.

—The hotel turns red?
—Yes as I said before.
—No bulls, I hope.

The valet kept walking forward. We turned left, moving further in the green. The wheels on the cart squeaked.

—It would be like a bull in a china shop. HAHA!

I realized I had laughed directly into his ear. My pace slowed, and our distance resumed its normal length. I looked at the walls. They were green. The shirt on his back was green and tightened around his shoulders as he hunched over. He cleared his throat.

—You’ve never seen a bullfight, have you?

I shook my head.

—The cape, it’s not red for the bull. No, because that beast, you know, cannot see that color, only its motion.

He wiped the spit at the corners of his mouth with his thumb and forefinger.

—It’s for the audience, the matador, that color because bulls cannot see it. It’s for when he loses, the color, its shade. It is important then. Red for when he loses because the audience sees it, that color.

*

We turned left.

I stared at the green ceiling. I could not tell if it had an inner light or was reflective. My body was between the covers. I turned over in bed and reached for a book in my bag. The faucet hissed. I flipped to the page where I had left off in the middle of “The Beast in the Jungle.” I tried to read the writing, but I couldn’t imagine anything but the jungle, and this jungle took on the color of advertisements for artificial grass. All of the pages were green. The typed words were only outlines for the space where green did not reach. It was the failure of the writer that he could not bring to mind anything but green. The story did nothing for me.

I walked around the room in search of a new book, maybe a glass Bible. I focused on the left side of the dresser and made out the outline of a bookcase. As I walked closer, I narrowed my focus. The bookcase and its glass shelves took full form. I removed one of the books from the shelf, one of several thin glass volumes. Though through the cover, I could see a text, the words collapsed into a single mass, each mark blurring and forming a chaotic chain at the center. I held each of the book’s 33 transparent pages against the wall to make out each word and turned the pages to form in my head the verse,

ONCE////I////HAD////GLASS////THE////GLASS////
WAS////A////GLASS////THE////GLASS////TURNED////
OUT////TO////BE////A////GLASS////OF////GLASS////
GLASS////LIKE////REAL////GLASS////ONLY////
TO////FIND////MUCH////TOO////MUCH////
GLASS////ALLS////GLASS////BEHIND////

I dropped the book and picked up another. The book made a sound when it hit the floor. Its text was the same as the first. It fell into the green and made a thud. I went between the covers.

It was a relief at first to stare into the green when it was just the color of artificial grass, possessing a steady fluorescence. I rested my head against the frame. I stared deeper. The green pillow smothered my face. I pulled the green covers to my chin. Sleep would never come. I stared at the ceiling. Again, I sat up in bed and stared. My hair cushioned the back of my skull on the green glass wall. My eyes looked down at my green cheeks and into the green covers. My thoughts wandered through the wall to the other rooms. Everything was green. It was simple to prove. If my room were green and a neighboring one yellow, one wall would be a different shade. I knew the hotel because of my room within it. The glass hotel had to be green. But what about the neighbors of my neighbors? Light flows too easily through glass. It wouldn't make sense. The rooms are all green. If not, some rooms would be different colors. Because my room was green, all rooms must be green.

In my head, I visited each room and watched over each guest sleeping because I should be. I could not. My eyelids were green, and thoughts weighed. My eyes passed the neighbors to their neighbors and to the furthest room I could perceive. They then passed that wall. The gaze ended in a forest, or just its color.

*

A nighttime fog smothered the outside of the train station, the pavement still fresh from a fallen rain. A thick coat left on the steps to the parking lot still held the form of the wearer within it. The headlights of an approaching car dispersed across the grey. The driver placed my duffel in the trunk and slammed it while I took a seat in the back. There was a glass between the driver and myself. The tires treaded over the wet asphalt. I tried to find a knob to slide the partition open. The glass was a single pane, and I realized I had nothing to say to him. I leaned back in the seat and rolled the window down to breathe in the air of the woods. The succession of trees broke up the night. Wind whirled against the car door. Among that forest, I could picture myself, a hand clutching a root to dwell on the night, how within it, the moon's reflection diminishes the sun, uncovering that light's devices and returns life to its place among cold stars. The ocean crashed beyond the trees. My eyes closed to sleep, but never could I understand the need to close them.

The wheels ground an unpaved road. The air dampened. Before the hotel came into view, the light it created was first. It was what I had expected. Outside of the hotel was a large tarn colored green along with the lilies and leaves floating across its face. The lights of the hotel turned the fog and everything green.

When I stood in the lobby, I heard a dense but ephemeral music like the breath flowing through an organ’s glass pipes and the pressing of a tightened horsehair bow against the winding steel of a violin’s string. This sound in turn enveloped by a service bell’s punch and ringing decay, charged but emptying. The music came from behind, a glass armonica constructing the melody of a gnossienne, its rhythmic, imprecise rising, its faltering logic. Her spirited fingers graced the face of the water suspended in the glass bowl in front of her and ran across the rotating cycles of the armonica’s glass keys, all turning towards the player becoming an endless liquid sound. I coughed to be serviced. She lifted her hands from the instrument and moved towards me. In the silence, her fingertips touched the middle of her thighs. She stood behind the desk. After I told her my reservation, I tried to apologize for my interruption.

—Aren’t there supposed to be markings on those keys?

—That would be of no use to me.

The concierge had cataracts in both of her eyes. Two cats hopped onto the desk at opposite ends. One was black, the other white. The white one was green in the light. The black cat was black. With a cat under each arm, she disappeared behind the optic, and I saw my reflection in it.

*

We turned left. I needed to break the silence, but I could not find a word both rigid and fluid that would place my meaning. Then, it came out of me. The word, it came out of my mouth, all wrong. My voice broke.

—Labyrinth? This is hardly a labyrinth.

The valet coughed and let out a chuckle.

—No puzzle is in need of an answer. Even if it were, you would just need to wait until morning to get out. Clearly, you would see the outside. All of this is just the night, but of course, this is every night. Wait until the morning. It's less confusing then. You'll see the outside. That's not a puzzle, if it's more easily solved at one time of day over another.

—Well, I suppose, in a different light, I could see what you mean.

The valet laughed. The remains of the word still scraped my tongue.

—Just break the glass. That's the easiest. Breaking the glass would make a straight path. You would not have to walk so much.

The valet continued to laugh. We turned left.

*

While I stared into the green, my mind wavered between sleep and consciousness. A stone skips across and scrapes the face of a lake before sinking. I stood up and placed both hands on the green wall. The color could go on forever. The lights of the hotel went beyond themselves, assuming the darkness. Staring into the green was the same as staring at, nothing in the depth to focus on other than its surface. Staring at with the assumption of depth is when one stares into. The green could never be as deep as I thought because it only occurs within the depth of an eye.

When the yellow came on, the green descended as if I were ascending. The yellow came down from the ceiling and spread across. Between the colors was a narrow transparent strip. The strip was wide enough to pass a hand through if not for the glass. I touched the strip downward as the wall turned yellow. It was only a trick of light. There was a glass wall there, and the wall was now yellow. The glass hotel was yellow.

*

We turned left.
            —My room must be at the center of the hotel.
            —I can see why you would think that, needless to say, say that.
My eyebrows twitched. I could still be self-aware. I let out a chuckle.
            —Well, we can't be walking in circles.
The valet’s face flashed.
            —HAHA

*

The video of the sunset played on the phone pressed to the yellow wall. The sun is a black circle. I pressed play again to stare at the circle. I replayed it to watch the sunset. My phone died. No outlets anyway.

The walls were yellow like the color of the wallpaper in my childhood bedroom, a design repeating itself across the walls of that room. Underneath a window where drops of rain spread and blinds rustled against the glass with every leak of wind, I would sit on the floor. The floor was yellow. I would close my eyes and press my palms into their lids. I would see shapes appear like I was moving through a hallway covered in phantasms of light. I was not dreaming. I would press my hands in deeper to see the shapes again. My eyes were in pain, but I wanted to see the end of it, where the hallway led to, the world of light, but then my eyes would open—no, the wallpaper was not yellow.

I was thinking of the floor. The walls in the glass hotel looked more like the floor, dark like it. The yellow was total and enveloping but the flies in that room. It could have been the kitchen.

*

            —Wait, there are no markings on the doors.
He pushed the cart and quickened his pace. His body tilted back and forth.
            —How will you know when you reach my room?
We turned left. He did not hear me. His shoes slapped the floor.
            —Excuse me.
I grabbed his shoulder. The wheels squeaked. The sound stopped when he stopped. He was silent.
            —How do you know which room is mine?
His head pivoted on his neck. His eyes and mouth gaped, completely filled with green. He finished yawning and led the way.

*

I pressed my forehead against the glass during the next transition. The yellow drained into the floor. I was washed over by the blue slowly falling from the ceiling. A new color made a new space to wander in.

             
*

My steps had been mirroring his. The hall attached us together. He pulled me along with each step. We turned left.

*

It was easier to think of the night's colors having some meaning tied to each. Each color would not be empty. I would draw a diagram of each color and its meaning adjacent to it if I had paper and pen, and if the paper would not turn blue and the words would not turn into that color's absence. And the glass hotel would then be just a structured illusion and that perhaps, some day, someone would come into my room and enlighten me, that this blue I was in was only the shadow of blue. He would describe blue to me. Blue would come out of his mouth with his blue words. I would listen intently but be in the same blue room. His words just meant that the wall was blue, and the glass hotel was blue.

*

When I would look at the sky all I would see was blue, even when I looked back at you stirring and sipping your favorite milky tea.

*

I could feel the glare out from the blue and into the red. The vision of her open eyes, the follicles encasing each lash and each ridge in the irises waning but circling the clouds, filled my own sight. The red descended over the reflecting glare. The narrow strip disappeared into the floor. The glass hotel was now red, and a fissure spread as I created it.

*

Outside an edge of cracking grass, steps through sand fell to crawling and finding my own reflection there in the red water. Every finger tore it out. The water refilled and replaced it. The sun would rise. The head dove in. Lungs heaved and choked red. A breath echoed.







Anton Haugen is 






2018


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Hotel is a magazine for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. The magazine is bi-annual, the online archive is updated periodically.

The paper Hotel is designed & typeset by Niall Reynolds

Hotel
is edited by Jon Auman, Thomas Chadwick & Dominic Jaeckle


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The lead images on the home page are by Erica Baum—‘Two Blackboards’ (circa 1990)—excerpted from Hotel #1

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License           



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2018
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