There was no denying the wall was dirty. It was time to clean.
The problem, as far as the staff was concerned, had more to do with the nature of the wall than the difficulty in cleaning it.
It was… different.
The room itself was nondescript as such rooms go, meant for little more than a place to put a bed. And rare was the guest who requested the room for the privilege of spending the night.
It was the portal that brought the customers rather than the room itself. It was interdimensional in the sense of many variants within the same space and moment, but also in regard to time/space fluidity. It was this unknown that brought the thrill seekers and the curious to the room in the first place, and arguments about whether it was better to time travel, or experience the same moment in multiple dimensions within the same time frame, were common.
But for the staff working at the hotel, it was the one room no one on staff wanted to clean. The manager was forever having to cajole or threaten in order to keep the room even remotely hygienic. Adding to the problem, the portal would routinely spit out all matter of ectoplasm and ephemera from the worlds on the other side.
So, on a bright sunny Monday, the staff was called together for a meeting to hash out what was to be done with room 13.
The manager, a short stout woman named Betty Dunbar, laid plain what was already known. “If we don’t keep the room clean, the Department of Health is going to shut us down.”
A murmur went through the room.
“I heard we were going to get robots for this,” a woman named Delores said.
Betty shook her head. “Too expensive and their union is too demanding.”
“Well. I’m not going in there,” Delores continued. “All that PPE makes me all sweaty and it’s hard to hear.”
“The health department assured us the ectoplasm is harmless,” Betty answered. “You don’t need to wear all that gear when cleaning.”
“I’m not touching that stuff; I don’t care what the health department says. They said the water was safe and look at Bennie,” she pointed to a man across from her, “he’s got three arms now.”
“No, I heard that’s because he went through the portal too many times in a row,” said Anck Su Namun.
“Bennie does not have three arms,” a frustrated Betty told them.
“Show ‘em, Bennie,” said Anck.
Bennie held up only two arms.
Betty crossed her arms. “Well?”
“I got better,” Bennie protested.
“What about Uriah? I thought this was his gig, man?” asked the Dude.
“Uriah got his programming degree and works off-world now,” Betty informed them.
A collective “Oh” went through the room.
“Off-world, man, or outer-rim?” pressed the Dude.
“There’s no difference,” said Xenophanes, the Alien from beyond the Moon. “It’s all the same. Trust me it’s just propaganda meant to make it look better than it is.”
Betty clapped her hands. “Were getting off point here, people.”
“I don’t think we should even bother,” complained Xenophanes. “The minute we’re done, some yahoo comes through and just messes it up again. Why aren’t we requiring our guests to clean up after themselves—”
“And how is it you can go back and forth without getting crap on you, but leave crap all around?” asked the Dude.
“It doesn’t matter,” an exasperated Betty said. “The guests pay very good money to use the portal and cleaning is a service provided.”
“What do they do on the other side?” The Group turned to Zebulon, who’d been quiet up till then.
“It’s not a hotel on the other side,” said Bennie.
“It could be though,” Xenophanes corrected. “That’s the beauty of interdimensionality.”
“I just want to get back to my explorers party,” a down-trodden Zeb said.
“Got to pay attention when you’re jumping, dude, otherwise you get stuck,” said Bennie.
“No, I’m the Dude,” said the Dude.
“I wasn’t talking to you, Dude,” Bennie chided.
“Again,” Betty said, trying to redirect the conversation, “we’re here to talk about getting the room clean.”
“See, that’s another thing,” added Delores. “I don’t want some crazy-ass grabbing me and pulling me through that thing, and don’t say it don’t happen cause I’ve had a few crazies try it.”
“You’re being too rigid, man,” the Dude counselled. “Expand your mind. You can do the rope thing, man—”
“Use nylon,” advised Bennie.
“You’re cutting in on me, man,” said the Dude.
“I’m allergic to nylon,” Delores said, “and the last thing I’m going to do is listen to a pair of potheads.”
The offended Dude shook his head. “Wow, that’s harsh, man, harsh, and we only imbibe after hours, man.”
“PEOPLE!” Betty shouted.
“Can’t shout at us, Betty, it’s in the contract,” Anck told her.
“Fine,” she said, taking a deep breath. “I tried to give you a say, and this is what I get. I posted the schedule and whoever’s on it, it’s your turn.”
Betty got up and left the room.
“Wow, so much negativity in this room, man,” said the Dude.
Anck Su Namun raised a dusty finger. “I have a potion we can give her.”
“Or some gummies,” advised the Dude.
“I’m not listening to any of this,” Delores said as she got up.
The others got up as well and slowly meandered around until the only two left were Xenophanes and Bennie.
“How come you don’t go back home, Xen?” Bennie asked.
“The nachos suck, man. Nothing but Soylent Green.” Xenophanes visibly shook as he thought about it.
“I don’t think Soylent’s too bad, “said Bennie.
Xen raised his long thick unibrow. “With synthetic cheese sauce?”
It was Bennie’s turn to shudder. “Yuck.”
©2020 David William Pearce