• thesurrealari

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    May 27, 2021 at 5:11 pm
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    I tried to post this last night, but the server appeared to be down.

    Here is my rough draft. It is really rough at this point, but I guess that is what a rough draft is supposed to be. Regardless, it’s due, and it’s only fair to @jojabarker that he see where it’s going so he can start drawing.

    A couple of notes:

    1. I will read all the stories I haven’t gotten to yet by the weekend and give feedback. I apologize for the radio silence the last couple of days. I had to get the draft done.
    2. I intend to go through and improve the quality of the prose throughout. With the exception of the first section, it doesn’t yet have the right tone yet.

    3. I’d like to do some more research about décor in the various time periods. I’d like to get some of the other periods to the same level of details as art nouveau section.

    4. I am looking for feedback in two general areas:

    a. what do you think about the infodump/worldbuilding in the second section? My inclination is to cut most of it or to try to weave it elsewhere in the story. After reading the draft, do you feel it’s needed?

    b. I am interested in your reaction to the order of the time periods. I tried to balance interspersing the hints about the narrator’s son with mixing up the time periods so they appear random, or at least not patterned. To what extend do you think that worked? Obviously, the nature of the story is that these can be shuffled pretty easily.

    1. General feedback is, of course, also welcome.

    There are no Ghosts Here, Only Memories

    By A. A. Rubin

    Before I begin my rounds, I open the locket which I wear around my neck. I look at the photograph of my son, a moment stuck in time, a memory trapped in amber. I give him a kiss and hope he can feel it, wherever he is.


    I am a chambermaid at The Time Inn, the ninth wonder of the modern world, where our patrons vacation not in space, but in time. People come here to revisit their pasts and to escape their present, to research their roots and fulfil their fantasies. It is somewhere you can go to escape, to spend a night or two somewhen else. Our guests often have trouble deciding which room to experience. Those of us who work here, experience them all, every day.


    I push my cart through the door of room 1924, careful no to let it slide across the marble floor. The stone is durable, but if I lose control, it might damage the molded lambris below the sculpted stucco bass relief, or knock one of the ornate torch lamps into the alcove which houses the silk-upholstered couch. I dust the crevices in in the sculpted wooden plinth and wipe down the columns. I pick my tip up off the ornate side table and laugh as I read that the thank you note which accompanies it. It is signed, “Gatsby.”

    Stay I away from the pool, I think, as I run my hand over the gilded moldings on my way out of the room.


    It is the eve of the revolution, and I pick up a wayward tricorne from the plank-board floor of room 1776. A scholar stayed here last night, you can always tell by the small anachronisms. The the papers scattered about the room are printed on a modern computer, on paper, not hand-written on parchment, and the dirty glass left on the desk smells of scotch not rum.

    I collect the glass into my cart to return to housekeeping, but am careful not to disturb the scattered documents. I’ve learned from bitter experience, that despite my inclination to straighten up the place, scholars hate it when you move their stuff.


    The fetishists, on the other hand, are exact in every detail. As I enter room 1845, I see the remnants of torn petticoats, blue velvet brocade, and broken shards of whalebone strewn across the floor. It seems a shame to have gotten all gussed up, only to ruin it by tearing it off in a night of ribald debauchery. I hope she found the effort worthwhile.


    Room 1969 is one of the most popular rooms in the hotel. It is difficult to push the cart into this room because of its thick, bright green carpet. I dust off the Janis Joplin record they’ve left on the record player, and dump the stubs of marijuana cigarettes from the ashtrays. Most nights, we get boomers who want to relive the Summer of Love, except for July 20<sup>th</sup>, which is booked solid for the next fifteen years by enthusiasts who want to watch the moon landing on live TV.


    The trashcan in room 1992 is filled with tissues stained with tears and mascara. A dog tag lies on the floor next to the nightstand. I pick it up and replace it next to the clock radio. I see variations on this theme many times a day. The year changes, but the grief remains the same. I wonder whether a mother or a widow stayed here last night. Without thinking, I touch the locket that hangs around my neck. There are no ghosts here, only memories.


    Room 1715, one of my favorites: One time, a guest left me tip in Spanish Galleons. Normally, it’s annoying when customers tip in ancient currency. It’s a pain to change into contemporary cash. Not many banks will do it, and those that do charge exorbitant fees. Not this time though. Those coins were pure gold. They would have made a nice college fund or nest egg. If only…


    Room 1976 features a picture-sized bay window. I pause in the middle of vacuuming the shag carpeting and part the window to look out on bell-bottom-clad pedestrians who move up and down the street. I wonder what would happen if I opened it and walked out. How far does the magic go?


    There is one final room before I complete my rounds. I always save it for last. It is one of our cheaper rooms, one of relatively recent vintage. The décor is nearly contemporary, but if you know what you’re looking for—or if, like me, you had time for extended looking—you’d notice subtle differences in the color choices, the shape of the desktop computer, and the style worn by the ghosts who flicker across the flatscreen TV.

    I stick my head out the door, and look up and down the hall and make sure nobody is watching, then flip the placard hanging on the doorknob to the side that says, “Do Not Disturb.”

    I take my shoes off, sit on the bed, and reach inside my blouse to pull out the locket. I open it and stare at that picture, at that moment trapped in amber.

    I cry until my tears run dry. Only then do I pick up the phone and dial his number.

    ###

  • krisburgos

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    June 5, 2021 at 6:18 am
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    Hey Ari,

    I absolutely loved the descriptions of each time period. It totally feels like I was with the chambermaid as she went from room to room cleaning the various time period “sets”. And I don’t feel there’s any need to reorder the rooms. I understand that something tragic happened to her son, my guess is that he fell in the pool, but the hints as to what exactly happened are too subtle. I reread the story twice to try to find more hints, but I feel like I failed at seeing more connections. If you’re thinking of eliminating some of the time periods for word count, my suggestion is to keep the ones that generally are linked to her son. If they all were and I just didn’t see it… that’s another issue.

    That said, I understood the story as one about a chambermaid who gets upset at the memory of her lost son… every day. And in the idea of working within a hotel room that has set dates for rooms, it’s apt that she herself is cursed to stay within a “time” period and not move on. Very nice.

    • thesurrealari

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      June 7, 2021 at 12:20 am
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      Thank you for the feedback. The only thing I think the reader needs to know about the son is that he’s dead, young. The how isn’t that important to me. The idea is that the rooms are not just decorated as the various time periods, but they are actually portholes into the time periods. If that didn’t come through, I probably have to bring out the speculative elements a bit more.

  • jojabarker

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    June 5, 2021 at 10:35 am
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    @thesurrealari Loving this story, and definitely sparked a lot of ideas (not sure where to post my sketch…maybe here?)

    I agree with @krisburgos it’s unclear what happened to the chambermaid’s son. Is this to be left to the reader to interpret?

    If left to the reader to interpret (as you’ll see in my sketch), I’m thinking of finding ways to hint at it — or at least provide my own interpretation (e.g. she lost her young adult son to a national tragedy like the Twin Towers).

    Even with your prompt to pay attention to the info-dump(s) I hadn’t really felt to heavy-handy as it were. But, this being a first-person story I gotta ask: How educated is this chambermaid? Some of the vocabulary i.e. word choices she uses doesn’t really feel working-class…but, if she’s not working-class then maaaybe work in more of that she is familiar with texts like Gatsby. And/or, when talking about scholarly patrons she could mention her own, “I’m too familiar with these types, especially before I dropped out of grad school.”

    Exciting story and thrilled to be on your team, my friend! Kirbyspeed ~Joel

    • jojabarker

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      June 5, 2021 at 10:38 am
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    • thesurrealari

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      June 7, 2021 at 12:57 am
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      There seems to be some issues with my internet, and my reply doesn’t seem to have posted the first time. If it posts double, I apologize.

      Joel, first off Thank You.

      Secondly, as I mentioned above, It doesn’t really matter how the son died, just that he’s dead. It’s flash fiction, and not a novel, so I chose to keep the moment in the immediate, and focus on the present (such as it is in the speculative world of the hotel) rather than diving too much into her specific past. I feel like focusing too much on her past, would mess with the momentum of the shifting time periods as she moves through the hotel. I could play with putting it back in, but am hesitant to do so.

      The second critique is interesting. I did have a section early on in a draft about her family criticising her for having this job despite her education but I took it out for a few reasons: A, I felt it read a a bit insulting to people in that line of work; B. There is a long literary tradition of erudite working class characters; and C. I would imagine that working in a hotel of that nature, one would become familiar with the historical details of each room. It’s probably part of the orientation for the job, and I would imagine that each room would feature some sort of placard or explanation card. Being in the rooms every day would also pique her curiosity, I think.

      It’s interesting that Gatsby seems to have tripped up both you and Kris. Gatsby was a deliberate choice. It’s taught in many–if not most high schools (practically every one in the New York area), and it’s been adapted into major Hollywood films, feature A list actors. It’s not unreasonable for someone with a high school diploma to be familiar with it enough to make the swimming pool remark (which is because of how Gatsby dies; it has nothing to do with the son). If people are finding that to be too much of a red herring, I could change it.

      I’d like to get some more opinions if any one else wants to give feedback about that specific issue.

      Thank you for your feedback. I’m looking forward to seeing the illustrations.

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