On Die Tote Stadt


The modern hotel is a mammoth, sprawling fortress on a hill; its endless hallways are dim and silent and uniform except for the temporal, scattered remains of room service left outside a door. If we see anyone at all — and this is rare, although we have been told the hotel is fully occupied — we hurry past with downcast eyes, sullen and vaguely ashamed; we never want to be remembered for having set foot here.

After perhaps five miles of wandering through this labyrinth, we arrive at our designated room and unlock the door with the plastic “keycard.” It slides into the slot above the handle with a surreptitious ease that ironically enough reinforces the sense that we are the one being watched. Inside, we greet brass fixtures, sheets and towels of the highest thread counts, specialty soaps and lotions, and a mountain range of pillows in every different size.

We set down our books on the mahogany desk and walk to the windows, which are large and panoramic and cannot be opened. Standing behind them, we begin to suffocate in the stagnant, recirculating air; we would be tempted to scream if not for the overwhelming sense of being just one of thousands locked away in this suburban nightmare of conformity and despair.

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