Hotel Paradiso

There is an order in society, if we fall gravity takes us down, if we walk into a wall it hurts. The sun sets, the moon rises and so on.

Alice had always believed in science. So much so that she had made her career out of it. Studying at university, then working in the pharmaceutical industry and now as a science correspondent on a national newspaper.

She enjoyed the world of make-believe as well. The theatre and the movies were fun. She was also aware that some people chose to live their lives adhering to fairy tale religions. Alice though had her beliefs securely grounded in maths, physics, biology and chemistry.

That was of course until she checked into the Hotel Paradiso. It was no different from all the other mid range hotels she’d stayed in around the world. A busy street outside, workmen, pedestrians, cars, buses, trucks. The lobby, the lifts, and long corridors. Alice made her way high into the building and found her room overlooking the street below. She was in Stockholm for a conference the next day and then she would fly home.

That night a storm engulfed southern Sweden, wind and rain driven south from the Arctic. Four hours it lasted and then such a stillness and clearness of the night sky. Alice woke and pulled back the thick room curtains, the type designed to block out the noise and light from the city.

Outside nothing much had changed except the street below was quieter. There was one thing though, a thing she had never seen before. The night sky had turned from black to billowing wispy greens and greys.  The city despite it’s mass of street lighting and lights from buildings was being treated to the most spectacular show of the northern lights that anyone had seen in a generation. It lasted for hours and Alice just sat by the window mesmerised by the wonderful display. After all she didn’t need to be at the conference until lunchtime the next day.

Next morning when Alice awoke and went down for breakfast, into the breakfast room for the first time. It looked as if it doubled as the hotels disco. A large room set out for breakfast but with all the trappings of a disco. It had a bar, stage and glitter ball. At the far end of the room was a doorway that intrigued Alice as she sat eating her fruit and drinking her coffee.  It simply stated ‘Hotel Entrance’. She asked the waiter what it meant.

“I suppose it’s our unique selling point,” he said. “We offer our customers the experience of a hotel within a hotel.”

“What for,” said Alice, “what’s the point, I don’t understand.”

The young man who had been clearing plates though was now gone. Alice was left staring at the double glass door with the words ‘Hotel Entrance’ above.

Often afterwards she wished she hadn’t gone through the door. She had though and that was twenty-three years ago. She knew one day she would find her way out of this situation. There was a logical explanation she just hadn’t come up with it yet.

That morning she went through and found an identical hotel only half the size. The strange thing was she fitted in proportion. Did that mean too that she was also half the size. She went straight back and out the front doors of the first hotel. She found a hotel twice the size and she was in proportion. Did that mean she was twice the size. Alice thought she preferred the hotel that made her smaller.

Over the years she had traveled backwards and forwards through these identical hotels within hotels. Each one she entered had a ‘Hotel Entrance’ leading in and out. At first, she managed to keep a track of where she was in relation to the original hotel. Now though she had no idea whether she was in a smaller or larger version of the first.

The staff over the years never seemed to age or give any satisfactory explanation of events. They would only repeat the mantra that the hotel within a hotel was their companies unique selling point. The guests were an ever-changing flow of confused people passing from one hotel to another. The guests aged and presumably died. Where they went afterwards she had no idea. There was no shortage of replacements as there was always a constant stream of people coming through the doors on business or holiday.

Occasionally you would see some you recognised at breakfast or passing on a corridor but not often. How many hotels were there, Alice wondered if it was infinite or was there a a beginning and end. Today Alice decided she’d had enough. She was resigned to the idea that she may never get out of her holiday from hell. The plan therefore was simple. she would head into the smaller hotel and keep going day after day until she reached an end. If there was no end, well she just needed to know. After her breakfast she got up and headed into the smaller hotel. She had checked into twelve by lunchtime, it wasn’t fun but Alice needed answers to her predicament. This for now was the only way she could think that she might get them.

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