**DISCLAIMER** Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and I do earn a small commission from them.
“There is no death. Only a change of worlds.”
– Chief Seattle
Sample From The Pool
The front desk was empty except for a bored-looking oversize cat. It stared at Shawn as it licked its paw like a Popsicle. The cat glared as if Shawn was a soon to be a dead piece of prey that it would bat around a little before devouring, bit by bit.
Shawn moved slowly toward the desk, trying not to scare the obese cat. He didn’t like heights, but cats came in at a close second. As he moved closer, he heard the animal growl. It seemed to come from deep inside of the cat, reminding Shawn of a horror movie he’d seen where a woman was possessed by a demon. He’d almost made it to the desk unscathed when the cat let out with a surprised hiss and jumped over Shawn’s head, raking a claw across his scalp. Before he could slap the cat away, it was gone. Shawn reached up and touched the spot where the damn thing had clawed him. He looked at his hand and was happy to see no blood. Grateful that the cat was gone, and that he wasn’t bleeding like a stuck pig, he let out with a laugh.
“Don’t mind Gobstopper. He doesn’t like many people. Hell, some days, he don’t even like me and I’m the one who feeds him his chow.”
Shawn jumped at the sound of the man’s voice; he hadn’t heard him come up behind the desk. But there he was standing behind the counter, smiling with teeth that looked to be stained by many years of chewing tobacco. The man turned his head to the left and spit into an old-fashioned spittoon in the corner that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in a while. The loogy clanged on the stained metal, the sound echoing through the small office.
The man wore an eye patch with a MIA POW insignia embroidered right in the center, over his right eye. The older man’s full head of white hair and beard made him look like a one-eyed Santa Claus; his oversized beer belly helped with the illusion. Shawn immediately felt good in the man’s presence. Despite the man’s eye patch, he looked like a jolly old guy. Like if Santa Clause had decided to quit making toys to become a pirate. He stifled a giggle that threatened to escape and smiled back at the man.
“So, what can I do for you?”
“Well, I need a room with two beds preferably, but if you haven’t got any available, I’ll take whatever you got. I’ve been driving for a while and I think I would take a floor and a sleeping bag at this point.”
The man gave him a knowing smile. He paused for a second, staring into space. Shawn knew the man’s gears were turning; he probably was going over a mental map of the motel.
“Mister?” Shawn didn’t know if the old man had lost his train of thought, or if the old guy was having a stroke. The man snapped out of his trance. Just as Shawn was going to ask him if he was okay, he spoke.
“Call me Jonathan. Jonathan Piedmont. Mister has always made me feel like an old man, and I already know I’m old, so I don’t need any reminders on the subject.” Jonathan let out with a full-bellied laugh that looked and sounded like it would shake the small office off of its foundation.
“Shawn Bailey.” Shawn reached his hand over the counter to shake Jonathan’s hand. The man’s hand was hot almost to the point of being uncomfortable. It made Shawn want to pull away, but he shook vigorously, not wanting to be rude.
“Glad to meet ya, Shawn. Now let’s see what we got open.”
Shawn watched the old man shuffle papers on a desk that had a thick layer of dust and old coffee mug rings. It looked like it hadn’t been used in years. He moved one of the coffee mugs that had seen better days and underneath it was an old-style room key; a real key with its own plastic tag, stamped with the number one.
“Here we go. Looks like you and your family got the last room in the whole place.”
Does it have two beds?” He was really hoping to sleep in a bed without the kids.
“You’re in luck, my friend because all of our rooms have two beds. We have hide-a-beds if you need them for your family, for however long they need them. Excuse me, for however long you and your family need them.” The twinkle in Jonathan’s single eye had lost some of its luster, and the man’s smile had gone from jolly to pursed. Does this guy think my kids and wife are going to leave me during the night? He shrugged the old man’s comment off and changed the subject.
“My kids are excited about the pool out front. They were practically jumping out of the car when we pulled up.”
The old man stopped frozen over his ledger book. His smile disappeared. Shawn watched as Jonathan shook his head slowly, letting out a long sigh that rattled in the old man’s throat.
“There are some rules about The Pool that you and your family need to know about.” The mood in the room had changed so fast, it took Shawn a second to even realize it had gone south. Even the temperature dropped a little, and the sun shining through the window dimmed as Jonathan looked at Shawn. The serious look on Jonathan’s face reminded him of his father.
“The rules of The Pool are quite simple. Number one: Only one person can walk through the gate at a time.” Jonathan looked at Shawn with his one eye. The single blue eyeball bored into him.
“Number two: The gate must be fully closed before the next person goes through, and that person must open the gate unassisted.” Jonathan paused and bored a few more holes into Shawn.
“The third and most important rule of all of these is you must be ready to enter The Pool. If you are not ready, the results could be disastrous for you and the inhabitants of The Pool.”