Christopher Nadeau

The May Selected Writer is Christopher Nadeau

Feel free to email Christopher at: christophernadeau71@yahoo.com


by Christopher Nadeau

The conierge laughed in my face. In my face.

Spit flew from his mouth, chunks of food spraying into the air like the remnants of a pulverized boulder landing on the counter mere inches in front of my hands. I slammed my fist on the desk once more, informing him his behavior was outrageous, unprofessional, classless and, worst of all, pissing me off.

At that last part he stopped laughing and fixed me with a icy glare. “Sir, one does not simply stroll casually into the Hotel Darkmore and expect to obtain a room for the night. There is no large number ‘six’ or ‘eight’ on our sign outside.”

I bristled as he visibly fought back further guffaws, his shoulders moving up and down as if he had landed the part of backup dancer in a large-scale musical. I wanted to punch him in his prominent nose or grab the back of his head and slam it repeatedly into the counter until his smug face turned into ground beef. Then I would grab the nearest bellhop, intimidate him into getting a key to the finest available room and sleep the sleep of the conqueror.

But I was a skinny, unimposing man who had seen better days. Even in those days I would not have felt confident to attempt such actions.  Not that the concierge was intimidating either; well, except for his demeanor.

I checked my timepiece and grunted. In the exactly one full minute since I’d engaged him in conversation, he’d already made me feel lower than a cockroach, stupid and pathetic. If I hadn’t come to die at the only place I’d ever truly lived, I might have turned on my heels and walked out with whatever remaining dignity I probably didn’t even have.

Instead, I weathered this peculiar storm or, Darkmore as it were, in the hopes that my troubles would soon be over. I wondered aloud if it were a test of my resolve. After all, no one returned to the Hotel Darkmore without having to prove their mettle. This, of course, drew further guffaws of obnoxious amusement from the man on the other side of the counter.

“Dear Lord, man,” I said. “Is there no end to the amount of food stored inside your teeth!”

For the first time since I’d arrived, the concierge appeared uncertain. “Mr.,” he glanced at the guestbook, “Fairweather. Please understand. The Hotel Darkmore receives countless guests, men and women of means eager to step off this rather dull plane of existence into a greater realm of infinite possibilities. These are daring individuals. Forgive me, but you appear neither daring nor particularly financially endowed.”

My face grew hot, my vision blurry, my ears rang. How dare he judge me so? Without the slightest bit of information about me, he had formed an entire narrative about my life. How dare he be so presumptuous?

How dare he be right?

“I did not come here to be insulted,” I said.

The concierge grinned. “Then you should not have come at all.”

“I have had quite enough!” I slammed my hand down on the bell, banging its discordant note over and over until a bellhop came running to the counter. “Young man, your concierge is conducting himself in the manner of a festering boil upon someone’s ass! I demand to speak with someone of higher authority than this glorified frontman immediately!”

I am unsure how, but the concierge managed to appear both amused and offended. Good. Let him stew in the bubbling cauldron of truth my words had created.

The bellhop, a paunchy middle-aged man with tired, swollen eyes, glanced uneasily from the concierge to me. “But, sir. There is only one authority higher than the concierge and to disturb him is to disturb Darkmore itself!”

“Disturb it, then,” I said. “Shake it upon its very foundations ‘til this transgression has been resolved. Go quickly!”

The bellhop looked once more at the concierge who gave him a barely perceptible nod, and off he went.

I checked my timepiece; another minute wasted. Only three remaining before I missed my opportunity.

Perhaps I should explain.

I, Stanley Fairweather, your humble narrator, should have never been born. Oh, I am indeed grateful for the chance to know what life is like, but I am an atavism, a remnant of something very old and mostly forgotten. For you see, even the Hotel Darkmore makes the occasional mistake. One should expect such an occurrence when dealing with dimensional rifts and space/time.

My peculiar conception occurred when a couple about whom I know very little decided to break the rules of the hotel and attempt communion with what lay beyond our rather limited little universe.  

I never met my parents; they were executed for trans-dimensional crimes the moment I was born. I have no memory of growing up in the Hotel Darkmore. Every so often I will experience the odd, seemingly random flash of imagery implying I did indeed live some semblance of a life there. However, these images are far too fleeting to describe or recall for more than a handful of seconds after they have concluded.

Sometimes I feel as if I have always known of the Hotel Darkmore, as if I once lived a very different, more complete existence. I have no reason to doubt this and, as far as conscious memory can be relied upon, no one has ever contradicted it. Because of that, I have never doubted the dubious state of my so-called existence. Simply put, I was never to be.

Naturally, I tried to be normal and human. There was a woman...isn’t there always?

Her name was Frieda and we were very much in love. At least, I thought we were.
I was naive enough to think I could confide anything in her and she would accept me as I was. That naivete was tested the evening I decided to tell her about the Hotel Darkmore and my unlawful conception.

“That is a den of demonic forces!” She slammed her fork onto her plate. “Do not speak to me of such a place.”

“But, my darling Frieda,” I said. “I am but a victim in whatever infernal machinations occur in that horrid structure.”

Her normally relaxed posture was now rigid and guarded, her eyebrow raised as it in preparation for a stern lecture. “Did you not just inform me that you are...part of that unnamable place?”
I looked up at the ceiling, staring into the light in the hopes that this simple action would dissolve the tears now filling my eyes. “In a manner of speaking, but—”

“There is no but, Stanley!” She stood from the table and pronounced our dinner concluded. “And to think, I was actually contemplating…” She turned away, sniffling. “I should very much like to be taken home now.”

I stood shakily, unable to look at her for more than a few seconds. “Of course, my love.”

She turned away at that last part. That was when I knew.

Days later, I began standing outside the Hotel Darkmore nightly, daring myself to go inside. Guests arrived and departed with disturbing regularity. The arrivals usually seemed upbeat and hopeful, while the departers appeared deep in thought, shaken, contemplative.  A few of them appeared downright emptied, as if something vital had arrived with them but has also remained inside. I felt I knew something about that.

Yet I remained outside the hotel, afraid to take that final, unalterable step towards my hoped for dissolution, Perhaps I would have remained so for far longer if not for what happened last night.
I’d taken up my by now usual spot, loitering mere feet from the hotel entrance, doing my best to blend into the bustling sidewalk. It was fascinating to watch those with no interest in the Hotel Darkmore avoid both it and me as if we weren’t even there. They walked past both of us, sparing nary a glance in our general direction. Not everyone shared their blissful indifference, however, as the still far away yet familiar voice cried out for acknowledgement.

The voice shouted my name followed quickly by words such as, “Abomination” and “Apostate.” I found the latter odd as I’d never in my life professed a religious avocation of any sort. But the voice’s owner cared not for accuracy, for she was a woman on a divine mission and I, her former love, had become the object of her crusade.

She did not come alone.

Frieda arrived with an entire platoon of hostile churchfolk, man and woman alike, all carrying Bibles and hymns, ready to do battle with...well me, I suppose.

“For far too long has this wicked place been ignored or overlooked!” she proclaimed from the center of the group. “Ask anyone about this place and you shall receive a look of utter befuddlement. Some will not be able to recall this place at all!”

She was correct. Many a wayward stranger had indeed responded with expressions of confusion and even irritation at hearing about something their minds would not allow them to acknowledge. However, Frieda and her fellow Christian soldiers proved this was not the case for everyone. Clearly the devout could perceive the Hotel Darkmore just fine.

“And there stands the Deceiver!” she continued, pointing a shaking finger at me. “He who made me love him before trying to turn me into another lost wretch like him.”

Made you love me, I thought. If only I had such power, I would make her run into my arms and abandon this fool’s crusade.

“You don’t understand,” I said, trying to be heard above the yelling and singing and praying. “I am a victim. I should never have been born.”

“Ignore his lies,” Frieda said. “For they shall sway you to commit acts of unforgivable sin.”

“I thought all sin was forgivable save suicide.”

“See how he twists the words of the Almighty?” a young man in the group blurted out. “The denizens of Hell speak in soothing tones and with persuasive words.”

I could not help noticing how closely he stood to Frieda, as if he’d had designs on her for quite a long time. And of course he had, for what pious young man in her company would not? Any hope of reclaiming what we’d lost died with that realization. I wondered if we had ever truly had anything at all?

I turned then, eyes filled with tears, thoughts filled with torment and reluctant acceptance. Their angry cries became a dull hum in my brain and I walked towards the entrance to the Hotel Darkmore, each step requiring Herculean effort. Frieda spat hurtful, taunting words at my back as I opened the door and stepped inside.

The instant the door closed behind me and I was inside, I knew I had only minutes before my fate was no longer in my hands.

So you can imagine how it felt when the concierge laughed in my face and treated me not unlike common riffraff storming the gates of some grand palace of antiquity.

Now, tapping my foot upon the floor, I wondered if perhaps I had made a terrible mistake in coming here. My memories of this place were insubstantial at best, disjointed at worst. No fondness resided in my heart for it and neither did anger and resentment. The calm knowing feeling I’d experienced upon first entering was gone, having been replaced with a tense indignation. I would have satisfaction one way or another!

The bellhop returned, his expression a mixture of deference and discomfort. He avoided eye-contact as he took his place to the left of the desk, his eyes filled with hope as the door opened and new guests entered the hotel. I felt for the poor soul. What did he, a mere functionary, have to gain from the uncomfortable scene that was sure to follow?

I was able to dwell no further on the subject as a voice both commanding and calm filled the lobby. It belonged to a tall, thin man in an impeccably tailored three-piece suit. He was likely much older than he appeared, his regal bearing intimidating. He raised an eyebrow when he fixed me with a stare. It was him.

“Lord Darkmore.” I heard the awe in my voice and cursed myself for a fool. “I am Stanley Fairweather.”

“Indeed,” he said, sniffing. “You have returned.”

I could not halt the sharp intake of breath that entered my lungs. He knew me. He remembered me.

Unable to summon the words, I instead gestured towards the hotel manager, whose previously amused expression had grown darker and less confident. Lord Darkmore redirected his attention to his subordinate.

“Speak,” he said.

The manager rolled his eyes. “The…gentleman barged in demanding a room as if we were some roadside inn waiting with bated breath for his arrival. I simply attempted to explain to him that we do not have—”

“You simply nothing!” My nervousness gave way to my rage. “He insulted me at every turn. Belittled me, as a matter of fact.”

“Is this true?” Lord Darkmore said.

The manager frowned. “Well, yes, of course.”

“Excellent.” Lord Darkmore’s stony face cracked into a barely noticeable smirk. He turned back to me and raised an eyebrow. “Was there anything else?”

Struck dumb, I felt my mouth open and close as if my jaw was unhinged. Was there anything else? Nothing had been addressed. Or had it? He had, after all, praised his subordinate for a job well done, that job being the total humiliation of me. What sort of place was this anyway?

I should have wanted to turn and flee this house of madness, but a glance at the clock on the wall reminded me I had only two minutes remaining before my fate was sealed forever. Still not quite knowing what they portended, I chose to stand my ground with the imperious Lord Darkmore, proprietor and overlord of the infamous hotel. The establishment my once love had branded a refuge for demons. Silly fool. Locked so firmly in her provincial mindset, she had no idea what the truth of our reality was.

And in that moment, with that brief flash of insight into someone else’s state of mind, I remembered. I remembered everything.

My birth. From nothing, from an inappropriate conception in a forbidden realm, I sprang into being far too early, my cries echoing throughout all realities at once. My parents, young and full of daring, cowering in the corner of their room as Lord Darkmore and his armed guards arrived. An execution, swift and without mercy, as per the rules set eons ago when this so-called “hotel” was built to conceal and contain what lay waiting on the other side.

My childhood. Painful and degrading, a large woman caretaker whose job seemed to be constantly reminding me I was an aberration. Playing with the children of guests who were simple-minded enough to bring their progeny into such a potentially dangerous place. Weeping when they left, never to be seen again. Helping make them into something useful when their parents did not come back.

Something useful such as a bellhop or a concierge.

I blinked, realized I’d been staring off into space for nearly a minute. Lord Darkmore merely watched me the way one might watch a vaguely interesting stage play. I remembered that look as well. He’d spent most of my childhood observing, discussing me with others in whispered tones. He’d been there on the day of my removal from the hotel. I was still a child but no longer a small one, but still too young to understand what was being done to me.

The abruptness of it all, the total lack of regard for how I felt, it was overwhelming. Three large men grabbed my arms and the back of my shirt and rushed me to the door. They stank of whiskey and sweat. It stung my nostrils. I cried out for help, for mercy, but no one helped. And as the door opened and I was tossed out into the street, I forgot.

I forgot everything.

“You understand now, yes?”

Behind me, the manager asked the bellhop in low tones if he knew what was happening. If the latter replied, it went unheard by me.

“I do,” I said. My voice shook. The clock on the wall told me I had one minute left.

Lord Darkmore addressed the room. “Young Mr. Fairweather is a unique and wondrous addition to our establishment. Through means entirely out of his control, he arrived to remind us why we are here. To expand.” He smiled for the first time since I’d seen him today. “I have been pleased with all of you, from the cooks to the lowliest janitorial workers. Each of you has made a noble and lasting sacrifice so that the Hotel Darkmore could thrive, so that it could become more than just a haven for bored wealthy humans.”

He took a few steps towards me and placed a hand on my shoulder. “But the greatest sacrifice, the one that will usher in a new era, was made several years ago when our beloved Stanley was thrust out into an ignorant world.” He placed both hands on my shoulders and closed his eyes. “But now you have returned to us.”

When he opened them again, Lord Darkmore’s eyes became twin openings into the very nature of existence. Whirlpools of stars spun before me, long tendrils of energy reaching out and spinning away. The very cosmos unfolded before my eyes and in that moment I had no further questions. I smiled. I had not come here to die after all, but to be born for the first time.

Lord Darkmore blinked and his normal eyes returned. “I would be honored to guide you into your new role.”

I nodded. “Where shall we start?”

He stepped back, waved his hand, and the door to the hotel swung wide. The sounds of Frieda and her idiot followers, including her would-be paramour, drifted into the hotel. Hurling words such as “demon lair” and “pit of sinfulness” as if they were holiday greetings, the determined churchgoers clearly planned to remain outside and protest for as long as they believed was necessary. The clock on the wall told me I had reached the five-minute mark.

“Ah,” I said. “Yes.”

I walked outside, surges of power electrifying my fingertips and my eyes. Flames danced in my vision as energy distributed itself throughout my body. By the time I emerged from the doorway, I felt as if I could fly. People screamed and stumbled over one another in their mad haste to escape.  

“Stanley?” Frieda said.

I smiled and showed her exactly how much love can hurt.

Christopher Nadeau is the author of the novels ‘Dreamers of Infinity’s Core’ and ‘Kaiju’ as well as over three dozen short stories in various anthologies and magazines. He received positive mention from Ramsey Campbell for his short story ‘Always Say Treat,’ which was compared to the work of Ray Bradbury and has received positive reviews from SF Revue and Zombie Coffee Press. Chris has also served as special editor for Voluted Magazine’s ‘The Darkness Internal’ which he created.

He resides in Southeastern Michigan and works for two libraries.