Sunset to Sunrise
The swirling dunes crashed ashore on the tar road, while the performance car sailed through the Baja desert with ease, with the arrogance as if the hunk of metal knew he was a performance car. Never mind the scratches the crushed quartz pecked through the midnight paint, never mind the heat of the late afternoon sun; speed was all, speed was everything, and speed was the end to justify the means as he raced the tumbleweed.
Modern technology never surpasses nature; the tumbleweed won.
He ran over a batch of the tangled webs and it strangled his front left axle. The driver, despite his twenty-five years of experience it did not prepare him to be slowed from a crisp one hundred and ten miles per hour, to a crawling fifteen, to a stoic stop at grand old zero. With curses, the driver in his nice business attire opened the door and got out of the vehicle to examine the damage. He was breathing heavily, in shock and frustration as he got on his hands and knees to unleash his baby from the briar bully. He touched the massive sphere of vines and cactus remains, of dead plants and the desert's own litany of botany experiments, he felt pangs of pain and discomfort, and his efforts of freedom were fruitless; his hands emerged all bloody and full of thorns.
He was in his early forties. Prime in the business world, so high in demand, so full of life and ambition, he was the epitome of success. Moreover, he went somewhere he was not supposed to go. Down this desert road, 'for shits, for giggles' he told himself, to test out his brand new Porsche. Instead, he tried his patience. While he could have been mistaken for being in his mid thirties, the typical male had his typical giveaways, such as the overly wavy forehead of wrinkles and the typical set of crow's feet on his eyes. He was six foot two with blue eyes and blonde hair with a mixture of gray. His glasses were silver, and he wore a longer haircut than his age would let him. His strong stature wore his white dress shirt, navy tie, and kakis very well, even to give a wandering eye to the passerby, or to Ceres herself. His name was Allan.
Allan looked around his car for anything that might aid him. All he found in the category of car tools was an ice scraper, a roll of paper towels, a tire jack, and a spare hubcap. His cell phone was roaming farther than he expected, he had his wallet and passport, and his coat jacket. He got back in the car and tried to start it. The key turned, but the engine failed. Allan Walker decided to live up to his name, and started walking toward the sun to see what he could find in the middle of the desert.
He roamed until sundown, and as soon as the sun started to say his prayers goodnight, Allan saw something in the near distance. It was a building, he could not precisely make out its purpose, but he sped up his pace, hoping it was not a mirage. It did not disappear as he moved closer, and he saw what the building was. It was a resort hotel, in the middle of an oasis in the Baja desert. The compound was humongous; there was a huge fence around the area, a view of an extremely large pool, and gardens with a rainbow of exotic colors and scents. The building itself was adobe brick, aged orange, with vines invading the sides, and a fountain in the middle. It had to be seven stories high. He walked to the front of the compound to the entrance of the gate, and it was open. There was not a car to be found in view, but he was sure they probably had a telephone because lights began to grace the windowsills of the resort. Capital lettering arched over the doorway of the resort, "LINDA SONRISA" Beautiful Sunrise in Spanish. He walked up on the Victorian style porch, which wrapped around the hotel, and he opened the door.
The lobby was decorated fancifully in that Western cowboy style. Ranch dressing could not be any more fitting for a place like this. Framed decorations, Frieda Callao, Picasso, and Diego Rivera painted the walls with their lively hood. However, the cheap adobe frame and the cracks in the wall added their own sense of the outdoors as the ivy peeped in like a peeping Tom on the shower of an unsuspecting victim. There was a couch and a table in the middle of the room, which graced the rug, handmade with bright colors which did not just take many suns and many moons to work on. It had the pigments of many suns and many moons and virgin blues, sunset pinks and whorish reds, purples of the desert bruises that sandstorms bring, grays the color of twisters. There was a bar with a stocky bartender at the far edge of the room, and on the right a counter, the check in, with a Mexican woman shuffling papers and adjusting her bun just so. Palm trees decorated the lobby as if to remind the inhabitants of the bountiful memory of water, of life, of the sacred H2O.
He walked up to the lady at the desk and smiled as he asked her for the telephone.
"May I use your telephone? My car broke down and I need to get back tonight. I have a meeting tomorrow with a very important client."
She stared at him and raised an eyebrow. Louder he repeated his request.
"I USE YOUR TELEPHONE?" he shouted.
Indignant, she rattled off in Spanish, cursing him and defending herself. She took a minute and composed herself to respond to a very impatient Allan.
"Sir we do not have a telephone line." She said clear, although accented.
"Then, is there a towing service around?" He insisted, wondering what savages do not have telephones.
"This is the middle of the desert sir; you only get here if you want to get here."
"Fine, get me a room, I'm tired, and I need to figure out what to do.
She started writing on a piece of paper, put his room key on top of the slip of paper and had him sign on the dotted line. He thanked her and went down to sit at the bar.
"Sir, give me some strong tequila on the rocks, I have a feeling I am going to need it."
Strong and silent the bartender did not say a word, but made, handed him his drink, and promptly started to clean the bar.
Another woman entered the room. He turned around once he heard the door open. A beautiful Mexican woman dressed in a red business suit with black trim sat down at the bar with Allan. She had her long hair in a single braid in the back, deep brown eyes, and an average countenance. She was not thin, but not fat, just a lot of meat on her bones. She ordered a margarita, lime, and addressed the bartender by name. Allan was mystified. He took his left hand and put it in his pocket. He pulled his hand out of his pocket without a certain band of gold on his finger.
"Hello there, you a guest here too?" Allan turned and asked the lady.
"No I am not sir." She turned to him and smiled, "But I know you must be."
"If you aren't a guest, are you a hooker?" He took a sip of his strong drink.
She about cried in hysterics. "No! I am the owner of this resort."
Allan was absolutely embarrassed. "I am so sorry ma'am."
She smiled. "It's okay." She adjusted her blouse just in case something about her made him say that.
"So why did you build a resort in the middle of the desert? It's not a very good business model."
"Oh it is! This is just the off season. No one is interested in heat, or magic during the summer."
"Magic you say? What do you mean?" Allan was intrigued on what magic had to do with a beautiful place like this.
"It is a legend. The locals in a nearby town to our West, say that the devil was killed on this very spot." She stamped her foot on the barstool. "A bruja, a witch, was conjuring her master when he appeared. She wanted to unite with him, to combine her power with his. She summoned a black mass and darkness covered the town. The lone cuandera, a medicine woman, who was starting to age, was deeply troubled by the events in the desert. She set out with her supplies until she found the devil and the bruja consummating their wretched spell. The devil walking on earth is always in human form say the townspeople. The cuandera had a desert wolf as her familiar, and the wolf tackled the devil and started to mangle him when the cuandera unleashed a spell of her own. She had prepared peppers in rosemary and hemlock, blessed in the name of her goddess, and commanded the wolf to back down. She promised the devil that the peppers would heal him and he ate them. It burned his insides with holy fire, and white light shone through his pores. Before he turned to ash, his spirit cursed the bruja, claiming that she betrayed him, and called upon his seeds to grow within her from sunset to sunrise. His soul would then be resurrected, possessing her for eternity."
"And people are morbidly curious enough to travel here to see that?"
"Yes. In that spirit, each floor of the hotel has a theme of a deadly sin."
He pulled out his key; there was not a number on it. "What sin am I living in tonight?"
She sipped the last of her drink, pursed her lips, and whispered, "Congratulations, you have won any room you wish in the entire hotel.
"May I be so bold as to ask for a tour?" Allan finished his drink in one gulp.
"Of course! You might want to get to know the place before you choose."
They linked arms and she led him towards a door.
"We have rooms here on the first floor. The theme here is Sloth." She opened the door to a wonderland of nothingness. The walls in the hall were white, and each door was made of very simple wood and had easy to remember numbers such as one, two, three, on them.
"Let me guess, economy class?" Allan snickered.
"You have much to learn. All these rooms are the same price. We just cater to your…preference of sin." She opened a door to room number two.
Inside the room were all white painted adobe walls, with no windows. The only thing in the room was a bed with brilliant white sheets and a lamp in the corner for extra light. There was no bathroom. A plaque read above the door WITHOUT SLOTH THERE CAN BE NO PROSPERITY.
"What's the plaque have to do with anything?"
"It's a reminder to our guests of why they are here."
"Philosophical I guess, in order to have one you must have the other."
"But aren't they justifications for the sins? Aren't they reasons for committing the sins?"
"Yes. I guess you can say that. I still don't understand how you can expect someone to pay for this room for the same price as a much better room. Maybe that's why you don't have many guests. You and I can talk business over dinner and see if we can't come up with a better plan…"
"Shhh… Allan. I am a shrewd businesswoman. I have guests. You haven't seen them yet. Look." She pointed to the side of the bed. There was a remote control attached. "Try it out."
"Get on the bed and try out the remote control."
Allan got on the bed and pressed a button three maids came running into the room. One carried a garden hose, one carried some soap, and another one carried some fresh towels and linens.
"Its called bath time." The manager said to him.
"I don't have to do anything or go anywhere; I can just stay in this bed and people will wait on me?"
"…Hand and foot Allan. They will feed you grapes from the vine like an emperor, or they will let you feed yourself as they entertain you. Your world centers around that bed. You would never want to get up."
"I see where you are coming from." He groaned as he got up from the most comfortable bed in his life. "Next floor shall we?"
They walked up the first flight of stone steps to the second floor once they were out of the room of sloth.
"What sins stay here?"
"Gluttony my friend. Any food you want is on this floor.
She opened up the hall door to open a gigantic banquet room. There was room for hundreds of people from each end of the table and the décor was full of paintings of food and sharing of food. Wine flowed from fountains, bottles and bottles of alcohol lined one wall. On the gigantic table were enough golden place settings to create its own Fort Knox. The tablecloth was silk, and the napkins were also silk. The plaque over the door read, WITHOUT GLUTTONY THERE WOULD BE NO DESSERT.
"This is the only place where room service is not required. As soon as the chefs finish a dish they bring it here."
She clapped her hands and a man dressed in a red apron brought her a bowl of soup.
"You must be hungry. Here, try the gazpacho."
It was quite tasty with lots of peppers.
"It's cold. Very tasty, but cold."
She raised an eyebrow. "It's gazpacho, its supposed to be cold."
He laughed. "Oh, sorry then, It is still quite delicious. It clears up my sinuses. Where do these people sleep?"
She sighed. "They usually sleep when they fall and where they land, until awakened by breakfast of course."
The manager led Allan out of the banquet room up to the next level. He could hear music coming from the inside. She opened up a hall door and they walked down the hallway. Each door was in the shape of a heart.
"Please tell me you understand this floor?" The manager asked hopefully.
"Its lust. Only an idiot wouldn't recognize that. Why do I keep hearing music?"
The manager opened up one of the doors and the music got much louder. Allan peered in and saw a honeymoon suite of his dreams. The plaque haunted him as he glanced at it briefly, WITHOUT LUST THERE CAN BE NO LOVE.
"Each room comes with a four speaker stereo, a collection of jazz music, and other commodities such as a pole, a heart shaped bed large enough to hold five, and a full bar, along with our own very special catalogue of, you guessed it, strippers, hookers, and other such women of the night. I mean, if you are going to vacation, you might as well not spend it with your wife."
"Yeah I mean, 'Honey, let's go swim with the dolphins!' 'But I'd rather go kill myself.' Gene is such a nag on vacations. She always wants to go out and see something special. I want to sleep. The whole point of a vacation is to not do anything."
"Gene is your wife?" The manager asked.
"Yes. She isn't that…smart…" He paused as he realized what he did and said.
"Pity, you will miss her." The manager said. "You can't fool me, put on your ring and act dignified."
Allan sheepishly pulled out his wedding band and put it on his finger. The manager unlocked arms with him as she took him to the next level.
"Here we have reached a midpoint, Envy." The manager unlocked the first door.
"We must remain quiet as we observe this room." She whispered.
The room she unlocked was simple. The plaque on the door read, WITHOUT ENVY THERE IS NO MOTIVATION. The room had a television, a bed, a desk and a chair, with a bathroom. There was a woman sitting by the window on a hand-cranked sewing machine. She was working very fast and had many wrinkles from grimacing. She kept sewing and sewing as she mumbled.
"What's she saying?" Allan whispered.
"Don't mind that, watch closely."
Out from her pocket she rang a bell. The woman jumped out of her seat and ran over to her bed. From her bed she uncovered a hole in the wall which she gazed into.
The woman spoke crazed. "They got a new desk, a new desk, I need a new desk. I want a new desk." She jumped from the bed to her sewing machine and whispered, "New desk new desk" over and over.
"What do you think she is doing?" The manager asked him.
"She saw that her neighbor got something new, so she is working hard to get it."
"Your Porsche right."
"Yes, what about my Porsche?"
"What did you do to earn it?"
"I slaved for years to earn that car. I worked late nights and I went in early. I got promotion after promotion and I saw how hard I worked and I rewarded myself."
The manager walked in the room fully and looked straight at the woman.
"Where are my new drapes?" The manager yelled.
"They are right here miss. They are right here." The woman pulled from a basket near her pretty purple curtains.
"These are awful! Pathetic. UGLY!" The manager took scissors from the desk and started to cut holes in them.
"You must learn to sew better! You will never get that chair! You will be so far behind Susan next door you won't be able to catch up."
"Those curtains took me months!!"
"DO THEM AGAIN." The manager walked back to Allan. "That's always my favorite part of my day. Susan has barely earned her bed yet." She laughed very heartily.
Allan noticed the sadistic measure to which the manager enjoyed destroying the woman's work. Allan began to feel uneasy.
"Are we close to the end yet?"
"We are almost there, two more levels to go. Aren't you enjoying the tour?"
"I am, I was just tired, that's all."
"Or maybe you felt like that woman did when the tumbleweed took down your Porsche." The manager gave Allan a Cheshire Cat smile with her crooked teeth jutting from their appropriate places.
Allan changed the subject. "So, what sin is next?"
The manager opened up a huge door into an incredibly large casino. Slot machines, a couple roulette wheels, blackjack, poker, and craps tables lined the room. "Avarice my dear Allan is the name of the game! Everybody always wins if they play here. "
"How do you make money if people always win?"
"They have already paid their dues." The manager winked at him.
"Then what is the point of winning?"
"To win. To just get more and more and more!" She responded.
The plaque on the main table read clearly, WITHOUT AVARICE THERE WOULD BE NO SUCCESS.
"Why do you work so hard Allan? Do you just want more and more money?"
"No, I work hard because I want to be the number one person in the company. Money aside. I never see any of my money; Gene spends it all."
The manager seemed a little disappointed. "You want to take a spin on the Roulette wheel?"
"No, Gambling is not my thing. I would rather earn money than waste it."
She got snippy. "Fine, we will go to the next level then."
The manager opened up the hall door to the next room.
"What we have here is Wrath."
"Wrath? Like anger?"
"Yes. Anger at others or anger at self."
She opened up a door to enter a room. The décor was black juxtaposed on red. Course cotton sheets and only one pillow were on the bed. It was very cold in the room. There was no television, but there was a full bathroom with black marble everything. The plaque was displayed as usual above the door, WITHOUT WRATH THERE WOULD BE NO MERCY. As soon as he read the golden message, he heard a scream.
"What was that?"
Before his question was answered. He looked up and saw a girl running out of her room with a large trail of blood behind her.
"Look at me!" She screeched. "I want to die! I came here to die! Why can't I die." She took the knife that was in her hand and tried to stab the manager, but she was weak and the manager grabbed her mangled arms.
"Suzie, get a hold of yourself! Get in your room. An attendant in red and black emerged from the room Suzie came from and dragged her inside. Allan saw a roll of gauze and bandages in the attendant's hand as he turned to the manager. He was really uneasy and suspicious.
"What was that about?"
"Oh, that was Suzie. We take care of her at the request of her psychiatrist."
"And what is this about dying?"
"Don't worry about it, she is quite disturbed. Drugs I believe messed with her mind.
Allan was heavily defensive as they continued up the next floor.
"What, are you scared?" She taunted. She leaned in close to him and loudly said "BOO!"
Allan jumped pretty high. She inserted the key into the slot, and opened the heavy wooden door.
He replied, "that's not funny."
"What, don't you like me anymore Allan Walker."
"I don't know what to make of you or this place."
To describe the room as ornate would diminish its beauty. A perfect view of the pool and the desert, he could see the sleepy outskirts of the town to the west, a few lights shone in accordance with the bright moon and stars. There was a king size bed, a dresser, a mahogany table and a ruby embroidered chair, with mirrors decorated with gold everywhere. There was a mirror on the ceiling over the bed. There was a bathroom with a giant tub and a sink, all beautiful polished wood. Above the door a plaque read in all capital letters, WITHOUT VANITY THERE CAN BE NO CONFIDENCE. Allan looked in one of the many mirrors and laughed. He started singing to himself, Hotel California by the Eagles.
"Mirrors on the ceiling, and pink champagne on ice."
"See. You have nothing to be afraid of. Would you like this as your room?"
"Please! This is just gorgeous! Thank you for the tour."
"You're welcome. My office is on the first floor if you need anything." She left and closed the heavy door behind her.
He stripped down and took a bath with one of the many complementary perfumes dumped in the clean water. He was glad they had power and hot running water, but he still did not understand why they had no telephone. He finally decided after sliding into the bubbles to suck up the roaming charges just to get back home. His hands stung as he emerged them into the brew of lavender, bubbles, and soap. When he got out he put on a complimentary bathrobe and sat on the very comfortable down feather bed, with pillows, and stared at himself in the mirror. He decided to get some sleep, as the day would be very tiresome ahead. He reached out to turn off the lamp beside his bed which had been burning for awhile, when he noticed a familiar light shining through the window.
It was sunrise. "Dammit!" He cursed, tired and confused.
Allan fumbled with his clothes, fumbled with his shoes and his pants, and buttons on his dress shirt. He exited the room and started to walk down the hall, when the manager called out to him.
"Allan Walker, what do you think you are doing?"
"I'm leaving! I have a meeting soon and I really have to get going back to California."
"What is waiting for you there?
"A house, a job, a wife!"
"A dead man doesn't need those things. Why do you need them?"
"I'm not dead."
"You won't be alive for long"
Allan was getting very intensely nervous. "Why not?"
"You must pay me Allan Walker. The wages of sin is death."
She leaned in close to him as she whispered. "I am the bruja of the desert. Welcome to Hell on Earth!"
Then something really did not make sense; he felt cool water on his face.
Allan violently jerked up. He opened his eyes and saw the morning sun glaring in his general direction. He looked all around him and there was a Mexican police officer standing there with some water.
"You should be careful Señor, the desert is a bruja herself."