I’m at a conference in Melbourne this week, and as tends to happen at these things I got chatting to a guy in the hotel bar. He told me this story, and I’m not really sure what to make of it.
It’s a common thing in hotels for there to be no thirteenth floor, and it’s a damn good thing. Too many people are superstitious and the anxiety isn’t worth the bother. What’s less known in the west is the unluckiness, in some cultures of the number four, which is perfectly rational.
I was staying in a hotel for a conference like this in Hong Kong, and I’d been out at a conference dinner late at night. Being a responsible adult, I’d drunk a fair bit, and stumbled back to my hotel late at night. Burbling at the front desk on my way past, I went into the lift, one of those key card jobs. I hit the button, or so I thought, for the fifth floor. Waiting, swaying in the lift, I felt a slight jolt and an odd sensation, like a held sneeze.
I walked out of the lift and staggered, I thought, to my room, slamming the key card in the lock. The door opened to the right, which triggered something in my brain. I’d been pretty sure that my door opened to the left, but I dismissed that odd sense memory- I’d stayed in hundreds of similar hotel rooms, must have beenn confused.
I went to my wardrobe to hang up my jacket, not registering the colour of the cupboard had changed. Hanging in the cupboard were my clothes, but something seemed slightly off about them all. They were all clothes that I woukd have selected- no garish shirts, and all colours that I would have picked. But none of the shirts were my shirts- all the stripes were slightly off, and my suits were all a different colour than they had been.
Going further into the room, I started to notice more changes. The lamp in the corner was different, and my notes were placed on a leather-topped writing desk, that I’m sure had been marble topped before. Now quite sober, I opened up my notebook. It was definitely my handwriting, neat and clear, but it was for a meeting I’d never been to on a topic I knew little about.
Not quite knowing what was going on, I grabbed the keycard from the door, and went back to the lift. The hotel seemed quieter than it had been, and as I waited for the lift I tried to read the sign above the lift. It looked like the Chinese character for four, but half formed, scrawled
I waited at the elevator for some time, hearing the machinery behind the door but no lift arriving. Getting impatient, I tried to force it, but I couldn’t even feel it rock a little on it’s sliders.
Hell, I thought, I’m only on the fourth floor, I’ll take the stairs.
I opened the stairwell door, silently hoping that the door wasn’t alarmed. The concrete stairs were lit by the green glow of the exit light, and I could see emergency directions on the wall. Looking over the bannister, the stairs seemed to spiral up and down for an eternity, slipping into darkness at the furthest edges of the parallax I could see.
I climbed up a floor and opened the door…
To be continued