“When I woke up in a different room than I remembered falling asleep in, I knew it was going to be one of those days.” That’s a line I normally associate with the morning after I had a few too many. But that wasn’t the case, not this time. I went to bed in my hotel room after a long day’s flight. I didn’t drink on the plane and I didn’t drink before bed. In fact, I barely ate before going to bed, just the other half of the tuna sandwich I bought at the airport before the flight. So what I’m saying is that I was stone cold sober, as a matter of fact, to coin a phrase.
So how did I end up in this room? It’s a nice room, very well appointed. In fact it’s a hell of a lot larger than my hotel room. This looks like a swank suite on the top floor, not my modest single on floor 6. A college prank entered my head. Some asshole drew a penis on my forehead with a black felt-tip marker after I crashed on the sofa. I spent the next morning in the shower, the whole damn morning, trying to scrub the thing off. No one ever fessed up. So I think, OK, if this is some sort of prank, at least it’s in better taste than drawing genitalia on my body. The room was sick: full kitchen, entertainment center, wet bar, and a full master bedroom suit with a master bath that contained a humungous shower plus a whirlpool bath. I felt less like a hotel room and more like a model condo for the stars. But I still didn’t know how I got there, and that kept me from enjoying all the amenities.
Someone knocked on the door. It startled me. I looked at myself and saw that I still wore the same boxers I had on when I went to bed in the hotel. OK, whatever, I thought, and answered the door in my drawers. I wasn’t sure if my clothes came with me, though admittedly I hadn’t looked.
I opened the door and this dreamboat stood there: square-jarred, deep brown eyes that sat wide apart, shaved head. He wore a tailored outfit, that is, it fit well in all the right corners. So OK, now I’m in heaven. First the room, then this guy, that is, if he’s into vanilla as much as I’m into chocolate.
“Dr. Sebastian Gordon?” he said to me.
“Yes?” I said.
“I’m Rick Travers, sir. May I come in?”
“You mind telling me first, Mr. Travers, where the hell am I?”
“I know this must be very disorienting for you, Dr. Gordon. And everything will be explained in the fullness of time, sir. But please, I want to make sure you are comfortable here and that everything went smoothly. May I come in?”
He’s smooth. Just finding out how comfortable he could make me was reason enough to step aside and let him enter. So I stepped aside and let him enter. As suspected, the rearview was a nice as the front. I closed the door.
“Are you comfortable, Dr. Gordon? Did you sleep well?”
“Yeah, like a rock,” I say with an edge.
“And did you find your possessions? Your clothing, your computer, did you locate them satisfactorily?”
As I said, I hadn’t searched the room for my stuff.
“I was too much in shock to see if any of it followed me here to Shangri-La,” I said.
He brushed off my sarcasm with the most gorgeous smile I’d ever seen. No man should have a smile like that. It should be illegal.
“You’ll find your clothes in the closet just inside the master bath and your computer is in the top drawer of the desk over there,” he said.
I walked over to the desk and open the top draw. There sat my AirBook. I took it out and opened it up. The screen came on.
“You’ll need the password to access the network, Dr. Gordon. It is N-I-A-B-D.”
I stared at him a bit, half wondering what would happen if I tapped those random letters into my computer. But then I go ahead and do it anyway. It was the smile. He had me at the smile. And nothing bad happened. I had a network connection. All worked fine. I opened my e-mail and the usual flood of garbage filled the screen. I opened my Maps app, to find out where the hell I was.
“That won’t work, Dr. Gordon. I am sorry, but our location is secret. You can access just about anything you want online, but I regret that some things must be held back from you. I am sorry.”
“Look, what was your name again?” I said.
“Rick Travers, sir.”
I was trying not to look nervous, and doing a shitty job of it.
“Look Mr. Rick Travers. I don’t know where I am, you won’t tell me where I am, and you are holding me here against my will. In my calculus, that all adds up to kidnapping. And where I come from this is a crime.”
“Yes, sir. It is, sir.”
“So you know you have committed a crime here?”
“Yes, sir. We have, by that definition, committed a crime.”
He walked to the wall and pushed a button. The curtains opened. The one thing I didn’t do was look outside. I was too transfixed by what I saw on the inside. As the auburn drapes pulled apart, they revealed a panoramic view of a vast, lush, rich tropical jungle. Palms. Ferns. Deep blue skies. A mountain peak rose in the far distance. Mr. Travers walked to sliding glass door and opened it.
“Come take a look, Dr. Gordon,” he said.
I went out with him, in my boxers. Warm air touched my body. We were up a pretty good ways. Was he planning to push me off and watch me fall, with that smile on his face as I descended towards oblivion? No. He didn’t touch me.
“Over that way, you can see part of the beach,” he said, pointing towards the right.
“Well if guy has to be kidnapped,” I said, “this is certainly a nice place to take him. But I’m still a kidnap victim, Mr. Travers and I don’t like it. Not one bit.”
“I can’t tell you everything, Doctor,” he said in a soft voice. “All I can say is that you will come to absolutely no harm and that the best interests of humanity is why you were brought here.”
“Humanity? Isn’t that a little grand? What are you talking about?”
“Please, sir. I’ve already said too much. Let’s go back inside.”
I hesitate. “No, what about humanity? What do I have to do with humanity?”
“We all make up humanity, Dr. Gordon. Therefore, we all have something to do with it. Places like this are rare because of the actions of humanity. This place is an oasis in a sea of climate change. It exists because of the actions of a few, but even it cannot exist forever.”
His eyes betrayed him every time. He wanted to tell me more, but stopped talking. Instead, he extended his arm, a gentle nudge to get me to go back inside. I entered this time, now wondering if the room was bugged and if that was the reason we stepped outside. Though at that moment, I still felt like he hadn’t told me anything worth concealing.
“If you can make yourself ready, Doctor, I can escort you to the meeting. There, more will be explained. I will wait out here while you change in the master suite.”
“Don’t I at least get breakfast?”
“Breakfast will be served at the meeting, Dr. Gordon.”
“Then how about a cup of coffee?”
He smiled again. “I can do that for you, Dr. Gordon.”
I wanted those lips. Instead, I turned and walked into the master suite. Despite being scared out of my skull, I still had enough wits about me to imagine Mr. Travers lying on the bed, slowing peeling off the layers of fine clothing he wore. Those lustful thoughts kept me going, I suppose.
After showering and changing into the suit I had originally intended to wear while I presented my paper, I walked back into the great room to the smell of coffee and cinnamon.
“Is that a Danish I see?” I asked.
“Yes, Dr. Gordon. I was told you had a fondness for cinnamon morning buns.”
Those weren’t the only buns I had a fondness for, but I kept it to myself. He poured me out some coffee in a travel mug and set it and the Danish on the high counter for me. I approached it from the other side, while he stood next to the stovetop. I took a sip.
“Well, Shangri-La has some damn good coffee.”
“Thank you, Doctor. We grow our own beans here.”
“Still not going to tell me where ‘here’ is, aren’t you?”
He shook his head, no.
“I do not wish to rush you, Dr. Gordon, but we should be on our way. The meeting will not start without you, but they do want to get underway soon.”
“Will you be at this meeting, Mr. Travers?”
“Please, sir, call me Rick. And no, I will not be there. But I won’t be far away, sir.”
I do as I’m told and carry my Danish on a napkin along with the travel mug of Heaven Coffee. Rick opened the door and closed it behind us. I don’t think he locked it.
The hallway was wide and semi circular. We proceed to the left. There were other doors on our left, presumably other swank condos. But then to our right, the wall turned into a full ceiling-to-floor window with a tropical rain forest glowing on the other side. There was even a waterfall. I walked to the window and looked up. The complex went up another several floors and I could see a monorail traveling in and around the top floors. It all started to look like Syndrome’s island hideout from “The Incredibles.” I love that old movie. My friends bought me an old DVD copy of it, to add to my collection of Incredibles memorabilia. If I ever find an old DVD player to play it on, I would.
We reached a very wide door at the end of the curved corridor. Rick pushed a button. After a moment, the door opened. An elevator. We entered and he pushed another button. The elevator moved up and then sideways. It was nearly all glass, so we had a stunning view of the rainforest.
After several ups and downs and forwards, we came to a stop. Rick pushed a button.
“This is where I must leave you, sir. When the door opens, just go to the end of the hall and enter. The door at the other end is unlocked.”
“Locksmiths must be in short supply in this place,” I said.
“Someone will escort you back to your room at the end of the meeting. But if you need me, you can reach me with this card.”
It was a standard-issue ident card, the sort you put into your computer to reach someone either by phone or visually or whatever. This one had his picture with his smiling face on it and his name and title, Concierge, and a logo. I stared at the logo, which looked like a profile silhouette of Thomas Jefferson, minus the wig. OK, whatever.
“Uh, thanks, I think. But Rick. . .”
“Just go to the meeting, sir. They will explain it all to you.” He released the button. “Take care, Dr. Gordon.”
“You can call me Seth. That’s what folks call me.”
He smiled. “Alright, Seth. See you soon.”
He extended his gentle arm again and I exited the elevator. The door closed. Presumably he went off to wherever. I walked towards the large double doors at the other end of the corridor. After having been exposed to so much glass and natural light, this corridor felt confining, constricting. In fact, it felt like it was elongating and closing in on me as I walked its length. It freaked me out a bit, sort of like the Berlin Jewish Museum, where the corridor really did shrink as you went along. But eventually, I reached the doors.
They seemed massive, like no one person could possibly open them. I started to try, then hesitated. I felt the door first: cool to the touch. Good, I thought. No fire. No lava would flood towards me to fry me to a crisp. What else? I sniffed along the crack between the doors. I couldn’t smell anything. If they planned to gas me, they at least used something odorless. All this seemed unlikely, though. If Smiley Rick was sent to lower my defenses, then it worked. I just kept thinking of his fine smile and ample butt and I felt better and better. My one great weakness: I loves me some good-looking men.
“OK, pretty boy, let’s see what you have in store for me.”
With that, I heaved open the doors with the backs of both hands. I entered. It was like a coliseum and I was walking into the middle of it. I could see the galleries filled with people, about ten rows high. And as soon as they saw me, they all stood up and started clapping.
Clapping. A standing ovation. Who the hell were these people?
And then I started to recognize them. John Phelps, the particle physicist. He disappeared over a decade ago, presumed dead. And there was Laura? Oh my God, Laura Spiel, cosmologist. And Big Dumb Frank. We called him that, but Franklin Reynolds-Holst was anything but dumb. He, too, had disappeared without a trace. What was this place? And why were these giants, people I’ve known and admired since forever, clapping for a schmo like me, a schmo carrying a Danish and a travel mug of coffee?
“Welcome, Dr. Sebastian Gordon!”
I turned around and there stood Dr. L. Sandra Clarkson, one of the world’s greatest theoretical physicists. Hell, she invited me to give my paper, the one that I was supposed to give at that conference in that crummy little hotel in Cleveland. She was here, too.
She raised her arms and the clapping simmered down. Silence overtook the large meeting space.
“Dr. Sebastian Gordon, on behalf of the assembly,” she said, “I want to congratulate you for your pioneering work on Lambda energy. Your breakthrough is nothing short of revolutionary.”
More applause. Hell, how could she know or any of them know about my work, in detail? I haven’t presented the damn paper yet.
“Please have a seat there behind you, Dr. Gordon,” she continued, “and then we can begin.”
To be continued . . .
© 2012, gar. All rights reserved.