Trakker opened his eyes, blinked…gazed about in wonder. He had come full circle. Gone for a thousand years or a fraction of a second…somehow he had been returned to where it all began: a deserted Lobby…a ticking grandfather clock…midnight at Hotel Earth.
Stanley Cooper, the Night Manager, glanced up from his paperwork at the front desk…and grinned. Trakker took comfort. Some things hadn’t changed. Stanley’s rumpled suit was still rumpled, his cigarette ash still impossibly long, spirals of smoke twisting and turning upwards – emblematic of the man’s restless spirit.
Seemingly lifetimes ago, Stanley had stood in that same Lobby and whispered in the musician’s ear, “This Hotel…it’s not made of wood or steel. It’s made of stories. Everywhere you look, everything you see. Stories.”
After one of his classic penetrating looks, he had added,“Pay attention, kid. I mean truly. It’s the only investment that ever really pays off.”
Trakker had nodded to his friend with semi-conviction. In his travels he had run into many mentors with many bottom lines.
But after tumbling through the warren of Rabbit Holes that riddled the ancient building, Stanley’s words had gained momentum. The hidden character in things could only be drawn out if he were fully there, fully engaged. If he did so, he would be rewarded with a kind of quiet magic that seemed to alter the mix. And the mix on this last trip had a million faces: from Gypsy Moments and Urban Tigers – to a Limo voyaging out along the invisible highways of the Milky Way. And in this light every encounter seemed to possess an extra dimension…an unknown soldier sitting on a bridge, cradling a pistol; an aging ballerina standing before her mirror…a runaway teenager, who heard lullabies beneath every sorrow and every triumph on this Earth.
Now, louder than ever, Trakker could hear the spirits talking throughout the Hotel. They were in the glinting chandeliers and floating staircases. They were behind the Hotel’s stubborn eloquence and attention to details – a last resistance to the cut-and-paste world moving in.
As Trakker focused, he could feel his own muses beginning to stir…the first symptom of transition. Could this mysterious home of his be yet another Rabbit Hole along the way?
This thought struck him oddly – as if something had hit his spiritual funny bone. Suddenly light-headed, he felt the space around him begin to wobble.
A nearby motion disturbed his reveries. Instinctively he turned. Three feet away, the festive ruin of Stanley Cooper stood watching him, an ineffable light in his eyes.
“Coming down with something?” the Night Manager asked with a sizable amount of whimsy.
Trakker stayed with this a second then said, “Could be.”
“You’re on the Threshold, pal. You’re thinking about checking out of the Hotel.” He paused, tilted his head, “…or should I say…the Hotel’s thinking about checking out on you. Am I right?”
Trakker shrugged. Being a half breed – part fiction, part true – he spent his time shuttling between realms. Sometimes Earth-bound, sometimes Off-world, he had learned to travel light…nothing but guitar…and the ability to land on his feet.
“So what’s next?” Stanley asked.
Trakker laughed out loud. He never knew. That was the point. His life was one part certainty – a million parts mystery. These were odds he’d come to respect.
“Come on man,” Stanley goaded, “give me something to work with.”
Trakker rocked back on his heels. His doctrine had been honed to a few simple truths. Aware of it or not, everybody had a White Rabbit. If you had the temperament, you followed…staying open, taking risks. If you got cemented in one mindset too long, the Consensus would surround you…steal your soul…kill you, bit by bit. So you had to get out ahead of it. Out on the edge…or deep in the center, you followed your muses – checking and double-checking your own integrity as you went.
After the long silence, Stanley spread his hands in the air, eyebrows floating up. “Well…how about – you’re off to see Tomorrow.”
Trakker let the word gather. Life was not a casual event. It took everything…and gave everything. But tomorrow was a sanctuary – a place of buried treasure, a land of opportunity where broken pieces could be made whole. That’s what gave every day of living its second chance.
By now, the muses were calling loudly…and a new song was beginning to fill his heart.
“Thanks, man,” Trakker said to his friend, “I needed that.”
Stanley shot him a sturdy look, clapped him on the back and drifted away…accompanied by the clouds of gray graffiti that rose from his ever-present cigarette.
Trakker felt the realm of Hotel Earth winking in and out all around him. It would always be there to find again if needed. But the musician was moving on. And now his song was taking shape and gaining strength. It would be a celebration of us…the wellspring of forgotten grace that flows like a river of underground light…carrying us along, beating back the darkness.
As the landscape faded, the blurred outline of Trakker could be seen reaching into that darkness…trying to catch something invisible as it rolled by.