Room 1823 is a short story written for a sci-fi writing challenge.
It is only intended to contain one chapter although there possibly will be another chapter picking up where chapter one left off. That is yet to be decided.
Room 1823. There it was. The room. Rob had been there many times before. He reached his hand out and touched the handle. It was locked. As it should be. He stared at the door for a moment. He knew exactly what he would find on the other side of the door. A room with a king size bed. A bathroom. A few chairs, a table and a dresser. Besides the TV that was long gone, it was a very typical hotel room. Or, at the very least, it once had been. Not so much anymore.
Rob pulled a key out of his pocket and unlocked the door. He then pulled down his hat closer over his ears and made sure his goggles were on tightly. Finally, he put his gloves back on. He grabbed the handle with one hand and put his shoulder against the door. He pushed.
As the door slowly opened, Rob was greeted by a cold, rushing wind streaming through the widening gap created between the door and the door frame. He persisted and kept pushing until the door was open far enough for him to be able to enter the room. With his weight against the door, he reached for a small chair he had left right next to the door. Swiftly he pushed it into the gap and then slowly released his pressure on the door. As he had expected, the door was jammed open. He knew that if the door closed while he was inside, he would have a hard time opening it again. The wind created such pressure at that height that he would rather deal with the wind rushing through the room than fighting with a door that was being pressed shut by the wind.
He quickly stepped into the relative calm of the bathroom, immediately to the right inside the door to the room. He noted that everything looked like it had every other time he had been there. It was a moment frozen in time, covered with ice and snow, a glimpse into happier days when it was used for such mundane things as brushing teeth and washing of hands. Those days were long gone. He took a deep breath before he stepped back out into the hallway and slowly started making his way towards the window on the other side of the room.
The room was in shambles. The bed, or whatever was left of it, was broken in pieces up against the bathroom wall. The dresser had long ago fallen over, spreading its empty drawers all over the floor. The chairs and the table that once had served as a place to relax after a long they had blown up against the bed frame and the remnants of the mattress. The light fixtures had shattered long ago, spreading a layer of glass over the floor. The room was as dangerous as it was chaotic.
None of this made any difference to Rob. His most pressing concern was not slipping on the snow and ice that now covered everything in the room or being blown over by the wind that was rushing through the broken window.
After carefully navigating the room, he made it over to the exterior wall wall, next to the only remaining intact window panel. He paused for a moment before he peered out from behind the wall, through the frosted glass of the hotel room window. His eyes settled on the city skyline, partially obscured by the blizzard that was blowing in. Even though it was just after noon, light was already fading fast.
Although impossible to see, Rob knew that the coastline and the inlet was just a couple of blocks away from the hotel. He gazed right into the gray nothingness that lay ahead, imagining the coastline, the blue sky, the water. He sighed. It had been years since he had seen either. The nuclear war in the Middle East had made sure of that.
He took off his gloves and put them in his pocket and reached for a photo in an inside pocket of his coat. He carefully unfolded it and held it tightly with both his hands. It was a 5x7 photo, taken in this very room many years ago. The background was the very view he had in front of him but without the snow and the terrible wind. Instead it showed a beautiful sunset that painted the surroundings bright orange. The blue water from the inlet glittered from the reflection and a few scattered clouds were illuminated with a gorgeous yellow color by the setting sun. In the distance, the dark shadow of the mountains across the inlet created a jagged edge that appeared to be sticking out of the water, cutting through the sky. It was beautiful. Yet, it could not compare to the beauty of the woman at the center of the photo. He smiled as he looked at her. She had been his future. He had been hers. They had been happy, even though they had been so far away from each other, she in Anchorage, Alaska, he on the east cost with his military unit. Somehow they had made it work.
His smile faded. The photo was all he had left. Taken of the eve of the Winter, she had sent him the photo just hours before the end of the world as they knew it began. He had been on the east cost with his unit, preparing to ship out. When all hell broke loose in the Middle East, everything was suddenly up in the air. Chaos erupted worldwide. Communications were affected. The Internet went down. Society stopped.
By the time the situation had calmed down and he actually had a chance to try to contact her, she had disappeared. The hotel staff in Anchorage he managed to get over the phone remembered her but had no idea what had happened to her. The climate in Alaska had by then already been affected by the soot in the atmosphere and temperatures had started plunging. Tourists and visitors had left as quickly as they could. Large numbers of the otherwise resilient population had packed up and headed south, hoping to avoid the winter that scientists predicted would be extremely harsh, even by Alaskan standards. Where she had gone, no-one knew.
A few months later, Rob’s unit had been stationed in Anchorage. Despite the dwindling population, the military base was considered of significant strategic importance. With the change of venue came hope, hope that he knew was not rational. Yet, he clung to it. Desperately. He wasn’t sure why. He knew she wouldn’t be there. Not anymore. He just couldn’t get her out of his mind.
The situation in Anchorage was worse than he had anticipated. When they flew into town, there were few signs of life. Most of the city appeared to have been overtaken by the elements surprisingly quickly and was largely abandoned. Only a few thousand people remained in the city besides the military units on base. The hotel had been closed down and boarded up but he knew he had to go there, somehow.
And he did. The first time had been during a regular patrol. Suspicious activity had been reported and his unit had been ordered to check it out. It hadn’t taken long to establish that a few stray dogs had taken refuge inside but it had given him an excuse to take a detour to the room.
Since then, he had returned at least once a month, sometimes more often. Even though she wasn’t there, he was determined to cherish whatever memories he still had left, for as long as he could.
Rob was pulled out of his thoughts by a voice in his headset.
"Sergeant, are you there?"
Rob tapped his earpiece before he responded. "Yes, I'm here."
"We've got a situation. A mayday from a jetliner."
"A jet? A passenger jet?"
"Word is they’re trying to ditch. Engine troubles or something, not quite sure."
"What does that have to do with us?”
“The locals caught wind of it. They’re already on their way. You know that’s not good news.”
It wasn’t. Some of the local groups were heavily armed and took every opportunity to get into a firefight with the soldiers on base. Rob instinctively reached for his rifle.
"Alright, alright, I'll be right down."
Rob looked out the window one last time and then glanced back at the room. He smiled weakly before he carefully folded the photo and put it back in his pocket. He put his gloves back on and carefully made is way back across the room and exited through the propped up door. He removed the old chair and closed the door.
He looked at the room number one last time. 1823. He reached out his hand and touched it gently and sighed.
"Sir, are you coming?" the radio crackled.
"On my way." He let go and walked away.