When Peter got to the hotel, the first thing he did was taking off his shoes and socks. He massaged his feet for a while after arriving, checking if it was as bad as he had imagined. He had some blisters on his foot, probably because he had used the wrong shoes or the wrong socks or who knows. The point was he couldn’t walk anymore so he decided to shower in order to freshen a little bit and then go to bed.
He decided to sleep naked, as the rest of the body also ached from the long day and he wasn’t planning on doing anything special the next day. He wanted to be comfortable during the night and that was a nice way to be at ease. The weather was nice so he wouldn’t feel cold at night or anything like that. Just five minutes after getting into bed, he was already asleep, dreaming some wild story were he had to run and do many things that he would simply not do in the current state of his poor feet.
All night long he tossed and turned and pushed his pillows to the ground and pulled up the covers and then down. He couldn’t stop moving and he finally woke up when his body felt the smell of smoke. His senses were not very good but he was certain it smelled as if someone was smoking right there in his room. He looked from one side of the room to the other and couldn’t see were the smell was coming from, if that makes any sense. He came out of bed and suddenly the room’s main door was pushed open by a group of men with flashlights.
Poor Peter fell backwards and looked like a turtle trying to get back up. He had hurt his back and the men had to help him up and tell him to go out. With a hand on his back, the man obeyed and walked towards the door and it was there he noticed the smoke was everywhere. Maybe he had so many weird dreams because of the smoke and no because of his own head but, yet again, he always had weird dreams.
He continued walking down the corridor, barely seeing were he was going, until he hit a wall and didn’t know where to go next. He noticed a fire escape sign on a wall and followed it. The firemen had remained behind, probably fighting the source of the smoke, so he had to go down some dark smelly stairs all by himself. He wasn’t thrilled to do it, especially since his feet hurt and he couldn’t walk very fast.
It was just before descending the last step when he heard the voices of many people and realized he had arrived to the lobby, which was packed with people; probably waiting for the firemen to extinguish whatever fire they were fighting against. It was then when Peter realized he wasn’t wearing any clothes, not even underwear or a t-shirt. Not a towel, not a robe, nothing.
He decided to remain there, in the darkness of the stairs and just hear the people talk in the lobby. He got very near the door and heard someone saying the fire was in one of the rooms, not very far from his own room. It was probably because of a smoker, said a man in very deep voice. He blamed the hotel for not having a policy against smoking and letting some people just do whatever they wanted. He also reminded his audience, which Peter couldn’t see, that many children had caused a scandal the night before at dinner in the restaurant and that it was rumored an old gentleman had once peed right there on the lobby.
Peter wanted to laugh because that last story had to be false but the man had said it as if he was talking about some very important matter. Even if he couldn’t see him he was sure he knew who he was, a guy that looked at everyone as if they were a bother to him. He had seen him once during breakfast and he thought it was curious that such a large man could blame others for not respecting boundaries. That thought made him want to laugh but he knew he couldn’t.
Then, he heard some noise coming from upstairs and decided to hide on one side of the stairs. Thankfully the space was almost completely dark except for the emergency exit signs. Sure enough, about five people were coming down the stairs and a fireman was accompanying them. He assured them everything was going to be fine and that they just had to join the rest of the people in the lobby. They passed very near Peter and opened the door, flooding the space with light for a while. Everyone outside turned to look at the family coming out.
It was really unpleasant to hear so many people faking worry, as if they all knew those people. They were a mother, a father and three children, probably the same children the fat guy didn’t liked and he was one of the people to ask if they were okay. It just proved how false a person could be. Shortly after, the fireman attracted attention to him and announce the fire source had been found and that they were close to extinguishing it. After they had done that, sleeping bag would be borrowed for people to sleep in the lobby.
Someone asked who had been the responsible for the fire and all that smoke but the fireman refused to answer that as the most important thing was that everyone was alive and well. They were still going floor by floor checking no one had been left behind. He then asked people to be still and let him count them in order to know if someone was missing from the lobby. After all, they had the list of every single person staying in the hotel and they could easily find out who was missing.
When he heard that, Peter felt some cold sweat in his forehead. It was obvious they were going to see he wasn’t there and if that fireman had been one of the men that had entered his room, it would seem even stranger. The most obvious thing would have been to come out and just reveal himself naked as he was but he had a better idea: he climbed up the stairs as fast as he could and waited by the door there to check for anyone passing by. When he noticed that the floor was deserted, he came out and started pushing every room door he could.
That level wasn’t as filled with smoke as the others but people must have been evacuated anyone. The bad thing was that many rooms had blocked automatically but not every one of them. Some had been left open and the system hadn’t closed them back. He entered some rooms and realized many women were at the hotel because he couldn’t find a single clothing piece for a man. He finally decided to put on some pajama pants he found in one room and just come down like that, with nothing else.
Hoping no one would notice their pants on him, he went back down and opened the door to the lobby to reveal… Well, nothing. No one was there. The place looked even more deserted that the floor he had been in before. He had no idea where so many people had gone so he decided to go around the place to see if he could find someone. They weren’t in any of the two restaurants, or in the kitchens. They weren’t by the reception or by the smokers lounge. Finally, he saw some people running by the building and screaming. He understood right then he had to go out and see what was happening.
Just as he crossed the doors, a horrible sound flooded the space. He knew he had to run but not why. He followed a fellow runner and just sprinted as fast he could which wasn’t much because of his feet. But he had to make them hurt because his mind knew it wasn’t a time to choose. He ran for at least to blocks until he stopped. Many people were running more but he just couldn’t. His feet were red. He sat on the ground and looked up, realizing why he had been running so much.
The fire in the hotel had apparently been much more serious than what the fireman had said. A whole floor had sunk and the top part of the building had collapsed into the other and now it looked like one of those futuristic visions of architecture, the top part of the structure not far from collapsing into the street. It was certainly going down but for the moment it stood there, in an odd balance that everyone was fascinated with. He realized many people were looking at the spectacle besides him and that the people of the hotel were just some steps away.
He walked there slowly, sitting on a bench near them. The fat guy was arguing with some lady, a woman was drunk or high or something, fighting against one of the fireman and a paramedic was curing a child that cried incessantly. Peter felt tired right there. So much he closed his eyes and the last thing he heard was: “I have a pajama just like the one he’s wearing”.