It was the sun that woke me up. Half asleep, the light shining on my face momentarily confused me. I opened my eyes and saw a hole in the ceiling that I had not noticed the night before. A single pillar of sunlight paved it’s way through the hole to where it presently rested upon my face. A solitary bird whstled outside.
When I had arrived at the hotel late the night before, the front desk had been deserted. The lights were turned off but the doors hung ajar. The parking lot was empty, not entirely uncommon for a hotel this far removed from any town. I rang a bell marked service a number of times, but it appeared no one was present. What the hell? I thought and walked around to the other side of the desk. The board with all the door keys was behind the counter. There were only a few still hanging, I grabbed one from peg 215. Earlier that day I had reached the service road leading into town from the forest. It had been a two and a half day hike from the cabin, a hike I had made many times. There were no cars on the road, but that was normal for the area. I had walked the rest of the way to the hotel, but hadn't arrived until late.
After taking the key, I made my way up the stairs to room 215, opened the door and flipped on the lights. Only, the light did not come on. I flipped the switch up and down a dozen or so times, not sure why I was doing so. I would call room service in the morning and tell them of the problem, I told myself while too exhausted to do anything about it at the present. I kicked off my shoes, removed my pants and fell into a restless sleep.
I arose from the bed I was lying in, my head still cloudy from the restless night. Half remembered dreams swam into memory, but nothing I could clearly recall. I went to the bathroom and rinsed my face. My beard had become a thick matte of hair from the years spent in the forest. I resolved to shave the first chance I got. I turned on the TV and was greeted by a dead screen. When I picked up the phone there was no dial tone.
I took a shower. The water was cold, but I was used to that. Sleepiness partly abated, I decided to visit the front desk to find out about the serious state of disrepair this hotel seemed to be in.
I made my way out into the crisp, morning air, my lone companion long since having taken flight. The front desk was still deserted, I was puzzled by this. I left a note with my home address, explaining that I had stayed for one night, and that the hotel could bill me, for which I would be happy to pay. Satisfied with my good intentions, I left.
The road I travelled on was deserted, which seemed an odd thing for this hour. The sounds of birds and the wind rustling through the trees were my only company on the lonely walk. I was used to loneliness. The absence of company had become a companion itself. As much as I looked forward to the friendly faces of civilization, I must admit, solitude had its comforts.
I had never married. My only friends were a few I had kept in contact with since my days in school. Personally, I had never seen the point of marriage and measured myself as happier to be alone. Maybe that's in part due to my parents divorce. It had been a bitter time for me. I had isolated myself. I became content in that isolation and didn't long to end it any time soon. My friends were accepting of me although they didn't see life from my perspective, and I never expected them too. When I was around they were happy for my company and rarely bothered me for my choice of lifestyle. I appreciated them for that. The cabin had felt like my home for a long time now, and each foray into civilization was likened as a vacation to me. Although, I did maintain a house and payed for someone to clean it once a week while I was gone.
Presently, I was nearing my destination. A small train station on the outskirts of a town. I tried to recall if I was missing some holiday, and that was an explanation of the lack of people, which was really beginning to perplex me. Usually, there were cars and trucks passing me regularly by now. The sun had risen high in the sky and begun it's graceful decent, marking the beginning of the early afternoon. I was getting hungry, and as I had some provisions in my backpack, I ate modestly.
I arrived at the train station to find a building in shambles. I knew without entering that it was deserted. It had the distinct look of a building that had long gone unused. The train station was never an impressive buliding to begin with, but in it's current state with broken windows and unhinged doors, it was even more forlorn than I remembered it. The architect must have been a simple man, never bothering himself with extravagance in that which he built.
Trash marked the walkways leading up to the building, bushes were unkempt, the last surviving windows were dirty and marred with scratches. The entrance was comprised of two doors swinging opposite each other, both made of metal with bars cut through the middle as a means of swinging the doors open independently. The doors were chained together at the middle and one of the doors hung limply on one of it's hinges, propping itself up against the other. I walked around to the side of the building and then to the tracks in the rear. To the north and south the railway unwound it’s metal causeway. I travelled this route before and was familiar with the contours of the land. I peered in the distance for a few minutes, hoping that something would arrive, knowing with growing certainty that nothing would.
The platform was simple in nature, mimciking the building that it was attached to. A few benches littered either side of the tracks and some now defunct computer monitors failed to display anything but the blackness of an empty screen. This was a small town train station and, as such, it saw little use, but it appeared as if it had not been traversed in quite some time. The normal janitorial routine would have served to clean up the mess that stretched from the platform down onto the track into the distance. There was a ticket window along the back of this building that I recalled purchasing tickets from numerous times in the past. The window was now smashed in and broken shards of glass littered the ground. I peered into the once inhabited ticket office. Papers were strewn about, chairs were upturned. Some drawers lie limply open. The office was an empty shell. I stood still and listened for a moment, hoping to hear some vestiges of humanity, but heard none. Work had ceased abruptly here, that much was obvious. This forlorn platform was as devoid of human life as the lake I had been living by for the past 5 years.
My curiosity had been displaced by an eery sense of wrongness. Heretofore, the peace and stillness surrounding me had been a welcome, if not confusing, companion. That very same stillness had now become the source of my unsettlement. I recalled the few shops I passed before arriving at the train station, they had been eerily quiet. No lights, closed doors and shuttered windows. I jogged back to the nearest one, a local floral shop, and tried the door. It was locked. I knocked on the door to no avail. I repeated this at two other buildings with similar results. The town seemed deserted.