ROOM WITH A VIEW

A SANTHARIAN MYSTERY TALE

 
The Tales of Monsonius   
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Introduction. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by all but gaping abyss you can find a house up a tree, a hotel to be precise. In the ever present raging storm a makeshift ladder leads up there, but first you need to cross a frail looking rope bridge to even get to the tree... A strange house, strange guests, so much is certain. Well, let's take a peek inside and learn more...

 

p an ancient leafless tree, with branches as dead as bones and twigs that looked like spindly fingers, there was that notorious house.

Yes, you've heard me: Up on a tree, a house. But that not enough! The tree itself had grown on a giant piece of rock, in what might as well be called the middle of nowhere. Further east there was not much else, only utter emptiness. The seeming bottomless maw of the gaping abyss surrounded the pitiful excuse for a piece of land, as if this maw had forgotten to take the very last bite as well, swallow it, and thus make it all disappear forever. And so it had just remained there, forsaken, that piece of land with the mysterious tree house on it. Only a dangerously looking rope bridge connected our mainland to such an odd and outlandish place, which for some reason existed in its perfect isolation on its very brink.
 

A ramshackle hut up a tree

View picture in full size Picture description. A ramshackle house up a tree... Image drawn by Morjer.

To be honest: It wasn't exactly a house up on that tree, but rather a ramshackle, rickety hut, though a really, really big one, with a story, an attic, a gable, it had all of that – and even a weathercock on top of it! On its roof, clearly visible from afar, one could see a huge wooden board with bright shining letters emblazoned on it, which read: "VACANCY". The sign apparently meant real business, for a lamp next to the front door exuded soft light. Strange, huh? Especially because in order to get up to this curious construction one had to climb a long, long makeshift ladder that looked even more frail than the rope bridge – or the house itself for that matter. Needless to say, quite a spooky affair, the whole thing!

What added to the mystery was that it rained and rained, there at this queer place, on and on, without ever letting up. Water came pouring down in torrents, descending from above like there was no tomorrow. Aside from the grotesque hut with its faint light at the door, everything looked so hopeless, as if the future was just a distant dream or a mere illusion. The wind howled and shrieked and whistled and wailed, shaking the rope bridge, the frail looking ladder and the eerie skeleton that was the tree; and sometimes he was also wildly rocking that construction on top of it – so hard, that one was tempted to think it might plunge down any moment and be devoured by that gaping fathomless maw of darkness. The wind made the hut all creak and groan and moan, and yet the structure up there so far still had resisted to succumb to the untamed forces of nature.

But let's have a look inside this bizarre hut now, in order not to catch a cold out there in this forbidding weather...

Ah yes! Inside, things looked much calmer. Sure, there was no escaping the unswerving hammering of the rain against the window panes, but after a while of listening to the monotonous pitter-patter its rhythm was quite soothing to the ears. An old oil lamp was sitting on a tiny reception desk near the entrance, merrily spreading its warm light and providing some homey atmosphere. Aside from the desk it also illuminated an expensive looking carpet in front of the table that led along a small corridor towards a flight of stairs, a filing cabinet was in the back – and, most importantly, there was a tiny, skinny figure. It belonged to an old, crookbacked man, who was hunched behind the desk and right now turned a page on a book he was reading. A few moments later a faint knock on the door was to be heard.

The receptionist looked up, not sure whether he had misheard, but then called out: "Yes? Anyone out there? If so, please come in!"

And someone did come in. It was a young man. Timidly he peeked inside, then finally entered while clumsily folding his umbrella. Despite all his precautions against the weather, he was soaked. That's what you get when you climb a ladder as high as a full-grown tree in midst of a storm – with or without umbrella makes little difference.

"He... He... Hello..." the youth stuttered.

"Greetings, dear sir," the desk clerk said, slowly removing his spectacles and putting his book away. He appeared calm, but precise in the sparse actions he undertook. Most of all however he sported a hearty, friendly smile that made the guest feel at home instantly. "Welcome in our humble hotel!" he went on. "I gather, you'd like to get a room? And get out of those drenched clothes of yours? It's rather ghastly out there, isn't it?"

"Quite... quite ghastly indeed, yes!" The young man mumbled and looked around, checking every corner of this unusual and unique establishment. "And I... I... thought nobody would be up here!" he confessed.

"Mr. Nobody? A relative or a friend of yours? I fear we don't have anyone around here with that name. We've got a few Somebodies, though," the desk clerk informed him.

"Oh, oh, sorry, sorry, I... I... think you misunderstood," the yourh stuttered. "I... I thought I... I... might be all alone here."

"All alone, sir?"

"Well, yes, given the... the... location and everything. You know, like the bad... bad... weather and... and... such..."

"Yes indeed, the weather..." the clerk acknowledged. "It's always that way around this time of the year," he added. "But then again this time of year happens to occur more often than one might actually think it does... I know for sure, because I live here!"

The young man stared back at him, not quite certain what he was talking about.

"Anyway, no need to worry," the hunchbacked receptionist went on. "You're not alone up here, sir, not at all! There's always somebody up here. That's because I'm up here. And as I said before: We've got a few Somebodies." A trace of a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.

The young man nodded, a bit absent-mindedly, as he was still taking it all in. "So... I... I... I'm supposed to take a room here?"

"Well yes," the receptionist said. "Of course! People who don't want a room don't go through all this trouble getting up here, right? I'm pretty sure that's the case with you as well, no?"

"I... I suppose so..."

"So there. Now which room would you like to have? We've still got number 3, 5, 7 and 8 vacant at the moment."

"What... What's the difference between the lot?"

"No difference whatsoever," the clerk stated. "They're all exactly the same. All rooms with a view. The abyss looks spectacular from up here, I'm sure you'll enjoy it tremendously!" He smirked. "Seen from the right angle it's perfectly entertaining!"

"Well, then I... I'll take number... hmm... well... 5 maybe?"

"Number 5 it is then!" The hunchback lilted melodiously. He grabbed the key from the board behind him and handed it over to his most recent guest. "There you go! And if I may ask..." He rose and looked left and right and behind the young man. "You don't happen to have any luggage I could help you with, sir?"

"No, no..." the youth answered hastily. A melancholic quiver rang in his voice. His eyes began darting back and forth again. "No... None... none at all. I... I had to get rid of it, you know. It's..."

"I understand," the old man interrupted him. "I won't bother you any further then. Have a pleasant stay, sir! – Oh, just one last thing: May I ask you to sign here?" He produced a large bulky tome he had stored away under the desk, opened it and offered him a pen.

The guest hesitated as he was about to write his name down. "See, I... I... don't even know yet exactly how long I will stay here, I... I..."

"Don't worry, sir," the clerk assured him. "It's fine, trust me. Stay as long as you wish. Room 5 belongs to you now."

"But..." The young man still felt uncertain. "How... how... much is it a night? I couldn't possibly afford more than..."

"The first night is free, sir." The hunchback wiped some dust from the corners of the registration book he had just spotted. "And it's always night out there in this part of the world, you know, that's part of the attraction. – In other words: There's no charge, sir."

"No charge?"

"No charge, sir. Please sign!"

At last the young man put his name in the book. It was quiet for a few moments, safe for the scribbling of his pen and the monotonous rain that kept on pounding on the nearby window. But then another sound joined in coming from the outside: a repeating creaking noise of wood being strained in regular intervals. Someone was climbing up that ladder!

"Ah, another visitor," the desk clerk said enthusiastically as the door was thrown open and a lady stepped in, a bundle of garments under her arm. She didn't even have any protection against the rain. Needless to say, she looked a mess. The clothes she wore were mostly in tatters, the hair unkempt, the bundle she held was soaked through and through. She gazed at the two men, who gazed back at her. A strange picture to behold: Three strangers up on a hotel on a tree in the middle of nowhere.

"Excuse me... But I saw the sign..." the woman almost whispered. "There's a storm outside..." It's not that nobody wasn't aware of that.

"Certainly we've got one more room," the old man nodded and motioned the young man to step aside. "Oh, and welcome to our humble abode, My Lady!"

The young man mumbled an almost unintelligible greeting as well. "I... I'll be off then to my room," he finally finished after a few awkward silent moments. He didn't want to interfere in other people's business anyway. "Maybe we'll... we'll... see each other later." He attempted to smile, but wasn't entirely successful at it, however the lady – as bedraggled as she looked – made an effort to smile back at him, and that was reward enough for him.

"Until later maybe," she breathed while he headed upstairs. "I'm sorry that you had to see me this way. I'm really, really sorry." But the young man had already gone, busy with his own thoughts. "I'd like a room then please," the woman sniffed towards the hunchbacked clerk.

"But of course!" He pushed the registration book towards her. "People who don't want a room don't go through all this trouble getting up here, right?" He smiled even more heartily at her, for he didn't fail to notice that she wasn't only drenched from head to toe by the rain, but that streams of tears must have been running down her face only a short while ago. Her face looked puffy, her eyes were red and when she talked her tone of voice kept shifting between whispering and whining.

The lady picked up on the man's compassionate look and pointed at the bundle she carried with her. "My bride's gown," she said curtly, her eyes getting moist again.

"It's alright." The clerk made a dismissive gesture. "We don't ask questions here. It's just the way we do things, and it turned out to be the best for everyone. Anyway, you've made a good choice seeking out our establishment. As I explain to everyone: Your first night is free, my dear, and you can stay as long as you wish." He leaned over his desk. "And I may add that it's a true pleasure to have you here!"

The lady gave a wry smile, but then looked at her sorry self which she could barely bear to see herself and said: "Well, I'm sure you compliment everyone who enters here, don't you?"

The old man looked the woman straight in the eye. "Granted, I might say such things to others as well, My Lady, but this time I say them only to you, and it's not that I don't mean them. And that's what counts." The lady's eyes began sparkling slightly in that swollen face of hers. "So would you please consider a room number, dear? We've still got 3, 7 and 8 to choose from."

"Which one would you recommend?" Still teary-eyed she tried to pull herself together.

"Ah, any will do, really." The clerk let his fingers play with the various remaining keys on the board behind him. "They're all exactly the same. Rooms with a view. The abyss looks spectacular from up here, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it tremendously!"

"Thank you kindly," the lady said. "Just pick one for me then."

"Fine with me, My Lady... Let's see... I'll put you in 7 if you don't mind? It's right across the young man you just met."

"Thank you, kindly, again," the lady said, took the key and signed the register.

"It's upstairs, second room to the right! Have a nice stay!"

"I promise I will try my best, sir!" And thus the lady trudged off with her bundle, leaving behind small puddles on the carpet.

Once again silence took over in the reception. The clerk stowed the register away under his desk, reached for his spectacles and leaned back on his chair. Picking up the book he had put away a while ago he now continued where he had left off, with the warm light of his oil lamp assisting. The pitter-patter of the rain outside hadn’t ceased, it never ceased he knew, and now that the room was all quiet again, the rain briefly conquered its noisy dominance back. Which lasted only a little while however. Soon the clerk didn’t notice the monotonous rhythm anymore, so absorbed was he in his reading, that he almost overlooked his next visitor.

It was a dark, lean figure, wearing a thick, coarse coat and a hood over his head. As the hunchback at the desk looked up, the man had already entered and was already about to close the door behind him. He almost tumbled in the process though – clearly he was not in full control of himself. He also reeked strongly of cheap booze. Finally successful with the door, the newcomer and his squishing shoes lumbered towards the reception desk. As the hood was pulled back, a gaunt face with a tattered beard surfaced.

"Ya happen t'have a room?" he managed to produce in the drunken slur of his. "I-I... thought I might as well be he-he-here, not the-he-here. A-a-almost... fell off that dratted ladder, too, y'know?"

"Yes, we have a place for you as well, sir, don't worry," the desk clerk assured him. He decided however not to bother him with the registration process this time, given the circumstances. "Just make yourself feel comfortable! We're glad to have you with us, sir!"

"And a fine welcome t'you too, little one! Glad t'have you too!" the haggard drunkard babbled and bowed, bumping into the desk as he did so, almost toppling over. "Say, ha-ha-have you got a... now... how's the word... a- a... sort of... be-be-beam in your rooms?"

"A beam, sir? To what end exactly would you require one?"

The drunkard opened the topmost buttons of his coat. A noose was hanging around his neck. "Sort of... sort of… to attach things, y'know?"

"No beam, sir. No beam in our establishment. House regulations, I fear."

"No? I don't know if I'd like that... Hrmph..." the drunkard stumbled about, considering whether he should leave again.

"Well, we've got something better than a beam, though. I suggest we try room 3 then, sir! Please... – Shall we?" The hunchback got up to accompany the man to his room. Grabbing his hand he shoved him firmly along the corridor towards the stairs.

The drunkard's curiosity was piqued. "Better than a beam? Now what in the world might that be?"

"An exquisite room, dear sir, trust me on that, a room with a view. You'll enjoy it tremendously, you'll see…”

And then silence spreads once more in the reception. Slowly the pitter-patter of the rain against the window pane regains its monotonous reign. And it rains and rains outside of this queer place, on and on, without ever letting up. Water comes pouring down in torrents, descending from above like there is no tomorrow. Aside from the grotesque hut with its faint light at the door, everything looks so hopeless, as if the future is just a distant dream or a mere illusion. And the wind howls and shrieks and whistles and wails...

Few people pass by outside, crossing this forsaken land in the middle of nowhere next to the abyss. Very, very few go there. If they chance upon it, it is only because they get lost, or they are just passing through, not intending to stay longer than necessary. Like a circus for example, on its way from one town to the next on their mission to keep people entertained, for this is these people's business. Nobody cares for a desolate wilderness and gaping abysses. Or tree houses overlooking it all.

Every now and then someone will stop however, noticing the odd construction up that tree on that giant rock, connected only by a frail rope bridge from the mainland. And he'll go: "What is this? Who is responsible for building such a monument of nonsense? A ramshackle hut on a tree, complete with rope bridge, ladder and surrounded by nothingness? It must be the work of a madman!" or they'll say: "Is this supposed to be some kind of artwork perhaps? For this clearly cannot be taken seriously!” And they’ll rant about the uselessness of any artistic profession. “They'll better do something proper like the rest of us!" Others, who consider the hut to be real enough that it might be inhabited, would complain: "If someone enjoys living up there on a tree that way all by himself, so be it. But why make it a hotel?" And then there are those, who, more sarcastically, are likely to add: "A brilliant shelter that is in the eye of the raging storm! What a gloriously foolish idea!" And most of them will agree that whoever seeks refuge there cannot possibly be in their right mind. Really, it seems nobody ever says anything good about that weird hotel. Well, there are few who get some laughs out of it, simply because it looks so grotesque, but that's about it.

And yet, there's always a light on at that ramshackle hut on the most unlikely of places right there in the middle of nowhere. Undoubtedly, as we've seen, it also has its guests. They come and go. Maybe you'll pay the hotel a visit there too at some point, and perhaps that's because you'll have to, not because you want to, for certain vacations we cannot choose ourselves. Rest assured, there will be a place for you there should you really need one. Remember, the first night is free, and it's always night out there in this part of the world. Right now – though a bunch of guests have arrived just yesterday – room number 8 is still available. And it offers exactly what's needed for those who dare to climb up there, so I've heard, which is – ah, I see you know already –: a room with a view.
 


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Mystery tale written by by Artimidor Federkiel View Profile