the mystery hotel

Shane Nickerson's Mystery HotelShane posted this picture of a mystery hotel in his blog over the weekend, and I suggested to him that it would be cool to have writers post short stories that it inspires.

I’ll be honest: I’m terrified right now, before I hit publish and send this out into the wild. I’m not the best in the world at brevity, and whenever I attempt fiction, I feel incredibly self conscious.

I also made the mistake of reading Otis’ story after I wrote mine, and I feel (like I often do when I read Otis’ writing) like a kid who belongs at the card table, pretending to sit down in the dining room with the adults.

So now that I’ve managed to lower your expectations to UPN-like standards, please enjoy. . .

Room 302

by Wil

Farnsworth frowned as he shuffled the photos. He dropped them on his desk and looked over the top of his reading glasses.

"I can’t use any of these, son. I can hardly see the men, and there’s too much whitespace in here." He picked up one photo and pointed at the tin ceiling. Martin recalled how brightly it had reflected the flash, and how the younger man had flinched in the light. 

"Mr. Farnsworth –"

"Look, you’re a good kid, and even if your photos aren’t always front page material, you rarely let me down."

"Thank you, sir."

"I know that you have a baby on the way, but I can’t pay you for photos that I can’t use." He leaned back in his chair and folded his hands across his chest. "Hotels don’t stay in one family and celebrate their hundredth anniversary every day, though, so it’s news that I need to run. So why don’t you go back to the hotel, get a closer shot of the Ellisons, and I’ll pay you double for it." Farnsworth smiled, and put the photos into an envelope.

"I’ll see what I can do, sir. Thank you." Martin took the envelope and traded the quiet of Farnsworth’s office for the chaos of the newsroom.

Martin needed the money, and it was important to keep a man like Richard Farnsworth happy. Evelyn was due in two months, and these freelance newspaper jobs were all he had.

But he wasn’t going back into the Ellison, today or ever. There was something very, very wrong there, and Martin felt it in his soul when he walked up the stairs into the second floor lobby. Those men were terrified, and Martin wanted to get out of there before he found out why.

He took the number five bus home, and left the envelope on the seat when he got off. The sooner he could get way from it, the sooner he could begin the long process of wiping that feeling from his memory. He hugged his wife tightly when he walked into their apartment and felt his unborn son stir between them.

Back at the Ellison Hotel, the tenant in 302 woke and rang the front desk. Father and son looked at each other.

It was time to eat.

83 thoughts on “the mystery hotel”

  1. I loved your story, but I’d say it was more “Night Gallery” than “Twilight Zone”. That’s OK by me, though!
    Did you ever see a movie called “Burnt Offerings” with Karen Black and Oliver Reed? It was a Dan Curtis (RIP) Production, but IMO, the scariest thing he ever did. Your story reminds me of that movie. Check it out sometime.

  2. Mystery Hotel

    Shane Nickerson at Nickerblog has put up an interesting looking old photograph of a hotel lobby from the early twenties. Wil Wheaton then proposed that people should write short, 300 word stories inspired by the picture. Here is mine. it’s…

  3. Very creepy. Inspires me to try my hand at one. We’ll see if I can eke out the time in my day… I like how you managed to create a fleshed out character with so few words. That takes considerable talent!

  4. How about this?
    Radio Free Burrito – Fiction Edition Episodes
    A story such as the one above, narrated episode style.
    Just a thought. I’d certainly be listening to it.

  5. Joe’s suggestion rocks. If all of my favorite authors had blogs where they narrated original fiction, I’d PAY to listen to it.
    That would be simply fantastic.

  6. Otis may have had a slight edge on plot, but you killed him on characterization. That is your strong suit in writing, and the most valuable one to have. No matter the genre, we enivitably read for the characters. I’ve thought for a very long time that you should be writing fiction (novels, rather than short stories, so you have room to develop the tales) – it’s your destiny.

  7. Nice job Wil!
    I was looking for a writing prompt for today..guess i have you and Nickerblog to thank now! I normally write poetry, and SOOOO had an idea in my head once i saw the picture, but used the chance to try something other than poetry.
    Again, great job…and will you write more?

  8. A Splinter in Time

    “Just what the hell is going on?” Devane asked in shocked disbelief.
    The archaeological society had searched for the lost frontier town for years before declaring it a myth. Despite Devane’s insistence of its existence his colleagues had subm…

  9. That ending sucks. Why don’t you make it so that Martin goes home, and shoots his wife, then he runs away and joins the Texas Rangers? Something good like that.

  10. Dear Wil,
    I really liked your story!!!!
    How ironic it is to find you here. Do you remember a girl in dreads, and a Bob Marley shirt on, chasing you down the Fun Zone arcade in Balboa CA.?
    After yelling “THAT”S WIL WHEATON!!” you took off running into the back of the store? Say 1988ish? That’s ME!
    Ha Ha…You also gave an autograph to the guy working there for me. I saw you later at the Del Taco, ordering drinks…
    Small world. I still have the autograph, and with huge stars in my eyes, I tell all I know about that encounter…
    Listen, Wil…Keep doing what your doing…I am proud of you.
    Never forget us crazy folk who chased ya down!
    I am glad to hear that your life has gone on.
    By the way, I have normal hair, still love Bob Marley..married with kids too! And the ironic thing is my maiden name is the same as your step children.
    Love and God be with you.

  11. Awesome story, as usual. Ill put up my meager offering to this thing soon as I type it up and figure out how trackback works. Failing that, Ill just stick a link here.
    Here’s another thought…what about making something like this a weekly thing? Post a new pic each week for one of these.

  12. Great stuff as always, Mr. Wheaton. I love the idea that picture presents and I hope others attempt something like this. I remember the news paper in my area when I lived in Florida used to run a paragraph for Halloween and then you had to complete the story in under X ammount of words; I always liked participating in that. I’ll be sure to give this a try on my blog. Anyway, I’m glad to see creative-writing on the blog; it affords a rare chance to see more of your talent as a writer.

  13. I liked it: creepy and fun! If we are voting on it, I LOVE the idea of a RFB Fiction Edition. I really like the idea of you going all Vincent Price in my head as I listen to the podcast. The very idea gives me chills!

  14. You’re travelling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind…next stop – the wwdn zone.
    Nice story Wil.

  15. nice! short short fiction is super hard, but you got a whole story in. i think the creepiness of the picture is much more apparent when you can see the detail of the men in the pic; maybe you could post a cropped version too?
    something else i wonder about the picture: why are there all those wall calendars?

  16. Wil,
    I think this was a nice start to a short story. It really captured my imagination and my attention.
    I also read Otis’ and while I thought it was also good, it didn’t make me want to read more as much as yours did.
    Thanks for sharing!

  17. Mystery Hotel

    Since Wil Wheaton is one of my writing inspirations, I figured I would take on one his writing challenges. This is originally from Shane Nickerson’s Nickerblog. The hardest part for me was getting it down to under 300 words. My

  18. Oooooohhhh! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
    I really liked your story! It reminded me of the stories I used to read in the old Alfred Hitchcock anthologies.
    I esp. liked that you followed Mark Twain’s advice: “Don’t tell us the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream!”
    I would love to see more memes like this!

  19. Dude, I read this post a few days ago and last night, I dreamt that I was in a hotel room and the phone rang. I think it was dark, too. Anyway, I picked up the phone and the person on the other end said, “It’s time to eat.” I immediately woke up and looked around the room in the dark. After my heart beat was regular and I figured out that it was just a dream, I went back to sleep.

  20. Oh that is too creepy for
    words-good work, Wil!
    I tried enlarging that pic-and it really looks spooky-
    something like out of “Thriller” (the Boris Karloff one)!
    I think it would be fun if you did something like this every couple of weeks!

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