The Boiling Point
Jonathan Kent was driving through Colorado, a countryside unlike the flat plains of Kansas, everything that he owned in the back of his truck. His wife Martha sat next to him and their six-year old son Clark sat behind them. It was a long, quiet drive through the curving road appropriately named Sidewinder.
"So, we're there for six months," said Martha, worried.
"Yes, the interviewer told me that they're closed from Halloween to May 15th. The staff comes back two weeks before opening to prepare the hotel. He said I'm to take care of the hotel while everybody's gone. You know, keep an eye on the boilers, make sure rats don't get too cozy in the basement, patch up any leaks, fix anything that looks broken."
"I'd think everybody would come here for skiing. I know it gets lots of snow up here," she said.
"He told me this road we're on gets twenty feet of snow during the winter on average and it's impossible to keep clear so they can make a profit."
"Six months . . . that's a long time."
"We'll be fine," he said firmly, deciding not to mention what the interviewer had told him.
Two weeks ago
"Everything looks in order and Sheriff Ethan Miller gave you a glowing recommendation. Before I offer you the job, I do have to tell you something. Months of isolation is nothing to sneeze at. Is anybody accompanying you?" said the interviewer behind his desk.
"My wife and son," said Jonathan, wearing his best and only suit to the interview.
"Did anybody tell you about the Lang incident?"
"No, I don't believe so," he said, shaking his head.
"My predecessor hired someone to take care of the place during a particularly harsh winter. He had a wonderful wife and beautiful daughter, great references, and employment record. He seemed completely fine but he must have suffered a psychotic episode. He hacked his family to pieces and blew his head off with a shot gun. People say it must've been cabin fever."
"I understand that you must be worried but isolation is something I'm looking for," said Jonathan, thinking, After all, it'll be a lot easier for us to stay under the radar if nobody can see us. "As far as my wife is concerned, I'm sure it won't worry her a bit." After all, why worry her with something that couldn't possibly be relevant?
"Cal says that there's something creepy about the hotel," said Clark. "Bad things happen there."
"Cal?" said Jonathan.
"I'm sorry, Jonathan. That's Clark's imaginary friend," said Martha. "I read a lot of child development books and it's fairly common, especially for children who feel lonely."
Clark wanted to say that Cal wasn't imaginary but he knew that neither of them would understand so he didn't contradict her.
She turned to Clark. "Now, Clark, what has Cal so scared about the hotel? We haven't even seen it."
"That's right," said Jonathan sternly. After all, you're the reason we're here, he thought. "I'm sure once Cal sees the hotel, he'll stop being afraid. And there it is!"
"Oh!" exclaimed Martha at seeing the hotel. The three story tall building was done in the Georgian style whose hallmarks were symmetrical and regular features. Its walls were white and the roof was red. She noted that unlike the skyscraper hotels in Metropolis which reached for the sky, this hotel sprawled horizontally.
"It's got more than a hundred rooms and covers more than sixteen thousand feet," said Jonathan.
"And they expect you to take care of it by yourself the whole winter?"
"Aren't you going to help me?"
"Of course . . ."
"It's not like we'll have much else to do."
"I can think of other things . . ." said Martha coyly.
"It looks like croquet," said Martha. "Perhaps we'll play a game later. Now come along." She gently led him away from the players and into the hotel behind Jonathan.
"Welcome to the Overlook Hotel, Mr. Kent, I'm the manager Mr. Ullman," said the man with light brown hair wearing a tan suit, standing inside the lobby of the hotel. He offered his hand to Jonathan.
Jonathan shook his hand and said, "This is my wife Martha and my son Clark."
"Glad to meet you. Let me give you a tour of the hotel," Mr. Ullman said.
They walked through the Colorado Lounge. It was vast room with high ceilings where several chandeliers were hung and lots of windows to let in light. The floor was wood covered with woven carpets with symmetrical designs.
"Are these Native American works?" said Martha, noting some of the unusual artwork. The designs on the wall hangings and the sculptures featured a lot of octagons and figures with two heads but one waist. "They're really unusual."
"Yes, they're of Kawatche origin," he said.
"Kawatche?" said Jonathan.
"They're a local Indian tribe. Professor Joseph Willowbrook and his people have actually gone to court asking that the hotel be shut down as it's supposedly built on an ancient Indian burial ground. Fortunately, the court denied their last appeals. There were actually protests and sabotage during the renovation though they'll never admit to the second. According to their legends, men from the stars came here hundreds of years ago. One of them was about to do great evil but his brother stopped him and sealed him in the caves right underneath us. It's said that disturbing the grounds might reawaken the ancient evil. Bloodshed of any type is something to be especially avoided as it might awaken him from his slumber. Superstitious nonsense of course."
"Oh, of course," said Jonathan.
"Now the only `evil' underneath us we have to worry about are the boilers. They are antiques, almost as old as the hotel, and absolutely have to be drained daily but I'll show you how to do that later on. Follow me."
They walked through a few hallways and opened the door to the garage. Once they were all gathered, the manager pointed to the truck-sized vehicle with tracks instead of wheels. "Over here is the Snowcat. Easy to drive as a car but can go where no car is able to go."
"It's a little bit like a tank," said Martha.
They went back into the hotel and walked to the Gold Ballroom, which was as impressive in its own way as the Colorado Lounge with dozens of tables and chairs and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. They stopped at a long bar, bereft of liquor and glasses. The manager said, "We always remove all the booze from the premises during the hiatus to reduce the insurance we have to pay. I hope you understand."
"I do," said Jonathan.
"Oh, Dick!" said Mr. Ullman. "Come over here."
A tall dark man walked towards them. "Yes?"
"Jonathan, this is Dick Hallorann, our cook. Dick, this is the winter caretaker, Mr. Jonathan Kent, his wife Martha and son, Clark."
Handshakes were quickly exchanged. "Glad to meet you," said Martha.
"Nice to meet you," said Jonathan.
"How about you show Martha the kitchen while I show Jonathan the boiler room?" said Dr. Ullman.
"I'll be glad to," said Dick.
"Come here, Clark," said Martha, taking his hand.
"Biggest kitchen I've ever seen," said Martha as they walked through the hotel's kitchen, built to create meals for hundreds of diners. "This whole place is overwhelming."
"You get used to it after a while"
"I suppose I will . . ."
"If you're worried about what you're going to eat while you're here . . ." He opened a door to reveal a large refrigerated room, full of wrapped pieces of meat. "You can stay a whole year and never have the same menu twice. This is our walk-in freezer. Even an entire pack of wolves would have a problem eating all that." He closed that door and opened another door. "This is the storage room. It's where all the dried goods are. That's where the powdered milk is."
Ask him what's wrong with the hotel, Clark heard Cal say.
But . . . thought Clark.
Hurry and do it, Clark heard Cal say.
"Is there something wrong with the hotel?"
Dick frowned before saying, "And why do you think that?"
Martha sighed. "He's been afraid of this hotel even before we got here. His imaginary friend's been telling him that it's not safe here."
"Do you mind if I give him some ice cream and talk to him a little about the hotel? Maybe I can tell his friend Cal that there's nothing to be afraid of."
"How do you know his friend's name is Cal?" said Martha.
"I think . . . I heard Clark say his name while we're walking to the kitchen," Dick said with a slightly strained smile.
"Oh, OK," she said, puzzled but willing to let it go.
"What flavor do you want?" he said to Clark.
"Then chocolate it shall be."
As they sat at a table in the kitchen, Dick gave them each a bowl of ice cream. "I'm sorry," said Martha. "Could you tell me where the bathroom is?"
"You go outside that door and go left."
"Thank you," she said before running off.
Once Dick and Clark were alone, Dick said, "You know how I knew your friend's name? It's because I can hear people think. That's called shining. My grandmother also had it. We could talk without either of us moving our lips. I'm getting a sense there's something like that going on with you and your friend Cal . . ."
"You don't think he's imaginary."
Dick shook his head. "No, there's a conversation going on there. Whoever he is, he's not completely wrong about the hotel. It's not only people who shine . . . This hotel has something like shining. When something happens here, it leaves a piece of itself behind. Most people can't see it but people who shine can see it. A lot of things happened here and not all of them was good. But remember they're just like pictures in a book, they can't hurt you."
"What have you seen?"
He paused before saying, "Things I'd prefer not to but I've never had anything bad happen to me. And while you're here, don't go into any of the hotel rooms no matter what you see or hear. Just stay with your mom and dad and you'll be fine."
"Sorry, I took so long," said Martha as she ran back in. "I hope you didn't tell him any ghost stories."
"No, I just told him that he should just stay close to you and your husband and that there's nothing here that can hurt him and not to go to places where he shouldn't."
"Now that I've shown you the kitchen, I better get my luggage and fly south for the winter."
Two weeks later.
"Be careful, Jonathan," said Martha as she watched her husband climb up the ladder to the roof with his tool box.
"Don't worry about me, Martha"
Once on the roof, he slowly scooted his way across, looking for any signs of rot. Sensing that part of the roof felt spongy, he started ripping off the shingles and rotten wood underneath only to see a small globe that looked as if it was made out of grey paper mache. He realized what it was when he saw a wasp crawl out of the top. "Damn it!" he said, knowing that he would have to go down and get some bug spray to get rid of the wasp nest. He missed his step and slid a few feet down and let out a yell before managing to stop his slide.
His heart thumping wildly, he looked down and saw Martha teaching Clark how to play croquet in the distance. Hearing faint echoes of their laughter, he felt a sudden irritation that he was hard at work while they were playing. He shook his head, thinking, It's not like it's easy for Clark to be alone and Martha to keep him occupied.
A wasp landed on his hand and stung him. "Son of a bitch!" At least they don't have to deal with stupid stinging animals, he thought, the full force of his irritation returning.
Martha was preparing beef stew in the kitchen. She always had the TV on in the background to fill the silence of the hotel whenever she was cooking. She pricked up her ears when she heard the anchorman on the local TV station start talking about the storm coming right toward their area.
"Come Wednesday, a low pressure system will hit the Boulder, Colorado area," said the weather man. "The first of many storms."
She turned the range off and decided to look for Jonathan. She found Jonathan sitting in the Gold Lounge at a desk looking at various books and scrapbooks.
"Oh, there you are. What's all that?"
"I found them in the basement near the boilers. They're about the history of this place and the Kawatche legends about the surrounding area. Why do you look so surprised?"
"I just didn't think you'd be interested in that sort of thing," she said, noticing a Kawatche story about a prophecy about how the great evil sealed away swore revenge against the man who sealed him and his descendants.
"Why? Because you think I'm some sort of hick who only cares about cows?"
"Jonathan, I meant no such thing!" said Martha, exasperated at the sharpness of his temper. After they had adopted Clark, things hadn't been as smooth as they had been when it was just the two of them. She had blamed part of it to the normal stresses and strains a child always brought into a marriage. Perhaps things would've gotten better except Bill Ross had found out that Lionel had talked Jonathan into talking him into selling the creamed corn factory to Lionel, though not the fact that Jonathan had done it in order to adopt Clark. It had gotten ugly with Bill driving to their farm house and accusing Jonathan of selling him out. Jonathan couldn't bring himself to lie to Bill about what he had done but had insisted truthfully that he hadn't done it for the money. Bill had punched Jonathan in the face then left. That was the last time that he ever talked to them.
After word had gotten out, life in Smallville became so unbearable with the snubs and the glares and the insinuations that they sold the farm. The farm was so laden with debt that there was little money left over. After they moved to a dingy trailer on the outskirts of Kansas City, Jonathan had begun to drink pretty heavily for several months after that. She finally got tired of his constant state of inebriation and gave him a choice: the family or the booze. He stopped drinking though he found it harder than he anticipated.
"I'm sorry . . ." Jonathan sighed. "It's actually pretty interesting. A few Presidents have even stayed here."
"I'm not surprised. It is a beautiful place to stay," she said.
"A lot of people honeymoon up here. I wish I had enough money to have taken you to a place like this after our wedding . . ." Suddenly, he felt very tired of having to do without, working so hard and not having anything to show for it.
"Well, we're here now . . ."
"Yeah but it would be nice if we weren't just the help."
"I'm sure that one day that'll change." Martha noticed that one of his hands had an ugly purple bruise on the back of his hand. "What happened to your hand?"
Jonathan winced. "I was just checking the rat traps in the basement and one of them snapped shut just as I was reaching for it."
"Ow!" said Martha. It wasn't like Jonathan didn't have the occasional cut or bruise while they'd been on the farm. Getting minor injuries was an unfortunate part of farm life but it seemed that Jonathan was having mishaps almost everyday. There had been the wasp stings, hitting a finger with his hammer, a burn from steam escaping one of the boilers, and now the rat trap. Nothing that he had to go to the hospital for but painful nonetheless and irritating when the isolation was already bothersome.
"I just took some aspirin. You came out here to tell me something."
"Yes, a snow storm is coming this way. They're talking feet of snow as in plural."
Jonathan nodded. "I'll just have to make sure I take care of the boilers and go chop some wood for the fireplace." He got up from the desk and walked out of the Lounge.
A few seconds later, she heard him curse. She ran and saw Jonathan on the floor, holding one of Clark's toy cars.
"Damn it, tell Clark not to leave his toys around! I could have broken my neck!"
A week later
As they lay in bed in their room in the caretaker apartment, Martha said, "Jonathan."
"Martha?" said Jonathan, sleepily.
"I know that keeping the hotel in good shape has been keeping you busy but I was wondering if you couldn't take some time off to play with Clark."
"I thought you loved playing with Clark."
"I do, I do. I just think that tomorrow morning, I could look at the boilers and do some light repairs while you take a break. I remember that you used to take Clark fishing and you showed him how to ice skate."
Jonathan didn't say anything so she continued. "Is it because you don't want to play with him?"
"I know that you've sacrificed so much for his sake and you have no idea how grateful I am. And if he knew, he'd be grateful, too. You have every right to be angry and unhappy about having to do so but please don't . . ."
"Martha, I'm not . . ."
Their conversation was interrupted by Clark's screams. They both jumped out of their bed and ran into Clark's room that was next to theirs. Clark was in his bed, screaming with his eyes closed.
"Clark, wake up!"
Clark woke up, sweating and fearful. "Mommy, daddy, I had a bad dream."
"Well, you're awake now," said Martha. "What did you see?"
"There was a man with a beard named Zod and he was telling me that he was coming to get me."
"Zod?" said Jonathan.
"You know that name?"
"That's the name of the great evil sealed away in the Kawatche legends. Clark must've seen it from some of the books I found."
"They're just stories," said Martha. "Zod can't really get you."
"Go back to sleep, son. How about we make a snowman tomorrow? Try to dream about that," said Jonathan.
"OK," said Clark.
Martha gave Clark a kiss on the forehead and smiled at Jonathan.
Martha watched Clark play in the snow, utterly indifferent to the cold, letting his scarf and mittens fly off without shivering. She knew that he was special in a lot of ways. He never got hurt or sick and he was extremely strong and fast. When they still had the farm, Jonathan liked to joke that the way Clark was growing, he could probably do all the work in an hour by the time he was twelve.
However, she wasn't immune to the freezing temperature so she said, "Clark, we're going back in. Pick up your mittens and scarf!"
They ran back into the house. After Martha made them both hot chocolate and took Clark back to his room, she thought about Jonathan's job. While it was good to see Jonathan keeping himself busy, the caretaker position was temporary with little hope that anything permanent would come of it. At best, they would be able to buy some time so she or Jonathan could find a decent job. I know he doesn't want me to do this but I could work for my father or at least have him lend us some money until we're back on our feet again. Perhaps we could buy a farm somewhere else.
After she took Clark back to his room, she picked up the phone only to find the line was dead. "Damn," she said softly. She poked her head into Clark's room and said, "Clark, I'm just going down to the CB radio. Just stay put." She hated leaving him alone but told herself that there was nothing to fear as they were the only ones in the hotel.
Martha went to the CB radio and turned it on. "Hello, KDK12 calling KDK1."
"This is KDK1 receiving you. Over," said the ranger at the U.S. Fire Service office.
"This is Martha Kent at the Overlook Hotel. Over."
The radio said, "How are you guys? Over."
"The phone line is dead. Are the lines down? Do you know when will it be repaired? Over."
"They're down due to the storm. Telephone lines won't be fixed until spring. Is there anything you need? Over."
"Not at the moment. Over."
"I suggest that you just leave the radio on all the time in case of emergency. Over."
"I'll be sure to do that. Thanks. Over and out." It's not like I need to call my father this minute, she thought. Once the phone lines go back up, I'll call him then.
While his mother went downstairs, Clark decided to take a walk outside the rooms he and his family were staying in. At the end of a hallway, he turned and saw a beautiful girl with long dark hair and a pretty smile, wearing a pink dress. Surprised, he asks "What are you doing here? I thought everybody was gone."
"Hello, Clark," the girl in the pink said. She seemed illumined by a golden light that surrounded her, making her look warm and slightly hazy.
"You know my name?"
"Come and play with me. Come and play with me, Clark," she said, almost gliding towards him. "Forever and ever and ever. I'm so lonely . . ."
Cal said, She looks pretty but that's not really how she looks. Take a closer look.
Clark suddenly saw her as a rotting corpse wearing tattered pink rags with deep, bleeding cuts all over her body. He screamed, running back to his room. He lay on his bed, shaking from fear.
You all need to get out of there. There's still time, said Cal.
"But Mr. Hallorann says they're just pictures in a book."
I know what he said and he wasn't lying. He's just wrong. You have to tell Mom that you have to leave.
"Dad will say no. Dad doesn't want to leave." Even though his parents didn't know it, he knew even if he didn't fully understand how much they needed to be here and that he was partly responsible for them being here.
It's not your fault, Clark, said Cal. I know you think so but it's not.
Martha walked into his room. "Clark, honey, are you all right? You like you've seen a ghost."
Clark shook his head.
Martha sat down on the bed next to him. "Clark, I know you're scared. Sometimes, I'm scared, too."
"Sometimes, I walk into the kitchen and I know I closed all the cabinets and doors but a few of them are open. I occasionally get the feeling that I'm being watched but I look over my shoulder and nobody is there. It's normal to be a little scared when things are quiet and nobody's around. I usually just turn on the TV or I keep myself busy. It's just for a few more months. I promise that after this, we're going to find a new place with friends and things are going to be as good as they were before."
Clark nodded but did not look convinced.
It's a good thing I managed to fix the roof, made sure the attic was insulated, and cleaned the gutters before the storm hit, he thought as he walked through the hotel carrying his tool box. He had found that other than making sure the antique boilers didn't blow, taking care of the place was a lot like taking care of the farm. While there were always little things you had to fix, as long as you stayed on top of them, nothing major would happen.
Jonathan was changing a lightbulb in the room where the CB radio was when he heard a familiar voice call him by name.
"Jonathan," said the voice coming from the CB radio.
"You don't recognize your own father's voice?"
"Dad . . . you're dead . . ." he said.
"Jonathan . . . how could you sell the farm? It's been in the family for generations. I put all my sweat and blood into our home. The Rosses and the Kents have been friends for more than a century then you turn around and stab him in the back."
Jonathan picked up his wrench from the toolbox. "Shut up, Dad!"
"It makes my blood boil that you could make a deal like that with someone like Lionel Luthor. It's just like you, such a damn hot head. You never stop to think . . ."
"You don't understand! I had to do it!" Jonathan began hitting the CB radio while roaring in rage until Hiram's lecturing voice could no longer be heard.
"Look at what your son has done," said Jonathan, pointing to the smashed CB radio while glaring at Martha.
"You think Clark did it?" she said. "Clark had a lot of accidents when he first came to us but he got over that and he is not the type to play pranks."
"I didn't do it and I'm assuming you didn't do it. Who else is there?" All he remembered was going into the room to replace a burned out lightbulb and seeing the radio utterly smashed. "I've been busy working all day and I come to this!"
Seeing Martha's worried face, he snapped, "Martha, I don't see why you're so afraid. It's not like I can spank Clark hard enough to hurt him. His hide's tougher than leather!"
"It's not fair to blame it on Clark. Why would he do it and how?"
"You know as well as I do that he's strong enough to do something like this. Remember that time that Hill boy was teasing Clark and Pete? Clark shoved him through a door even the boy was twice his size? So don't tell me that he couldn't do this much damage." He ran out of the room.
"Where are you going, Jonathan?"
"Clark, get down here! Get down here now!" he said as he started up the stairs.
"Please calm down, Jonathan!"
Jonathan stopped walking upstairs suddenly. Martha looked up to see what had made Jonathan stop in his tracks and noticed that Clark had his knit top torn. She ran to him and noticed bruises on his face. "Oh my God. You did this to Clark?" She saw finger marks on his neck as if someone had tried to strangle him. "Damn you, Jonathan. Damn you."
"I swear I didn't do anything to him! I just found out about the radio just now! I just wanted to hear what he . . ."
"I'm taking him to his room!"
Jonathan moved to come with her.
"No, you stay downstairs! Don't come near us!" she said.
It's not my fault, damn it, he thought as he walked downstairs and through the halls. Rage and confusion filled his mind. When did the entire universe decide that I was its whipping boy? He stomped his way to the Gold Room, the large empty room full of tables and chairs. He turned on the light and walked to the bar. He sat down on a stool and rubbed his face.
Jonathan moaned, "God I need a drink so bad. I'd give my soul for a glass of beer." He remembered the buzz, the warm happy feeling it gave him, the feeling that he could do anything. Even if he had to pay for it later, he needed a temporary respite from this oppressive feeling that nothing was going to get better, that he was going to lose everything, that his life was merely a slow version of a death of a thousand cuts.
He stopped rubbing his face and opened his eyes to see a bartender with a wall of various bottles of liquor hiding the mirrors. "Hi, Milton," he said, the name coming to mind and it never occurred to him to be the least bit worried or astonished that the man had appeared out of nowhere. "A bit slow tonight."
"Yes, it is."
"Got any bourbon?"
"Of course," said the bartender, smiling as he pulled a bottle from the wall, put a shot glass in front of his one and only customer, and poured it into the glass.
Jonathan pulled out his wallet and found it to be empty. "I'm afraid that . . ."
"I'll just put it on your tab."
"That's very kind of you."
"How are things?"
Jonathan looked at the shot glass and knocked it back before saying, "Things could be whole lot better. My old ball and chain . . . She doesn't care that I've lost everything because of her so-called miracle boy, her angel baby. I know she wants to run to her father as if I couldn't be even more humiliated. I'm supposed to take care of things. The right thing to do was turn him over to the authorities . . . Maybe we could have had first crack at him but no . . . I made a deal with that son of a bitch Lionel Luthor to keep him because I couldn't stand to hear her crying, because I gave into her. Only my friend Bill Ross found out about what I did and everybody in Smallville turned on me like a bunch of hyenas. I'm the one being wronged here! I'm the one who has paid and paid and paid!"
Milton smiled. "Would you like another shot? It'll make you feel better."
"An excellent idea!" Jonathan roared.
"Mommy, daddy didn't hit me," said Clark.
Martha frowned. "Then who did?"
"It was the lady in 237."
"A lady?" Martha gasped.
"Do you know who she is?"
He shook his head.
"What does she looks like?"
"You know how you leave a Halloween pumpkin outside and it gets all mushy and moldy?"
"She looked like that," said Clark softly. "Mommy?"
"Can we leave the hotel? Please? I know daddy doesn't want to leave the hotel but . . ."
"No, he doesn't want to . . ." she said. A warning bell went off in her mind. "Did you break the CB radio?"
"It's broken?" he said, apparently puzzled.
Martha held him close.
Jonathan turned away from Milton. "Martha?" He turned back to excuse himself only to see Milton and the liquor bottles were gone. He slowly got up from the stool and walked towards the sound of her grating voice.
"What is it?" he said as he walked into the hallway and saw Martha holding Clark in her arms.
"Clark said that a woman attacked him in room 237."
"What kind of foolishness is this?" snapped Jonathan.
"Your son is saying that someone attacked him. The bruises on his neck are real! We need to leave!"
"No. I'm going to go up there and look."
"Jonathan, stop! You don't know what she'll do to you." Martha said, grabbing his arm.
"It's my job as caretaker to go up there. I can't just leave the hotel to some trespasser who'll do who knows what to the place. And I can't just leave because Clark says there's someone up there when I go through the hotel every single day and I have never seen any sign that there's anybody else in here. And I won't let some stranger threaten my family and stay one more minute here. Now, I want you to go back to our room and stay with Clark. Now let go!" he said, wrenching his arm from her grasp.
Jonathan went up to the second floor and stood in front of room 237. He found the door half-open. I know I didn't open it, he thought. He walked in and saw nobody in the luxury suite. He cautiously walked into the adjoining bathroom. He paused when he saw a shadow behind the shower curtain. The silhouette of someone standing up was seen and the curtain was pushed aside to reveal a beautiful naked woman with dark hair who stared back at him, utterly unashamed. He felt himself unable to look away or move.
She walked towards him slowly, her eyes expressing wanton desire. She wrapped her arms around his neck. Jonathan kissed her only to look over her shoulder and see that her image in the mirror was aging and decaying before his eyes. He stepped away from her and saw that she looked liked the image in the mirror. He let out a shriek and ran out of the room.
"Well, Jonathan, did you see anything?" said Martha as Jonathan entered their room. Besides her was a croquet mallet she had picked up from the sports equipment storage room.
"Not a thing," he said. It was a hotel room just like any other, he thought. He felt like he was forgetting something important but no matter how hard he tried, nothing came to mind.
"You sure you went to the right room?"
"Of course, I did. How is Clark?"
"He's asleep. Maybe he didn't remember the right room number."
"Martha, maybe . . . Clark did it to himself."
"To himself?" she said. "Surely you don't believe that!"
"If it's not him then maybe the Kawatche have decided to have some of their people scare us away."
Martha scrunched her face in utter disgust. She finally lost patience with his inability to deal with what was wrong. "And that's supposed to make me feel better? What was done to Clark went way over the line. Jonathan, we need to leave this place right now. There's something wrong here. I've gotten to the point that I don't care what's going on, Clark can't stay here. And if it is them, then I want to tell the authorities."
"You want to leave the hotel with him."
Jonathan gritted his teeth. "There you go again! I can't leave "
"If we leave here, what am I going to do? Wash cars, wait tables, dig ditches? Seriously, what?"
"I don't know, Jonathan."
"Tell me when you do know!" he roared before leaving their room.
Dick was about to go to bed in his apartment in downtown Miami when he saw a vision of a man with dark hair and broad shoulders in a white shirt and jeans looking at him. "Do I know you? You look familiar," Dick said.
"I'm Cal, a friend of Clark Kent, the boy who's staying at the Overlook Hotel."
"What about him?" he said.
"He's in trouble. I can't get to him from where I am but I know that you can. I would contact someone closer but you're the only one I know who can hear me like this. Please, you have to save them," he said before slowly fading from Dick's sight.
Dick picked up the phone and tried calling the hotel. There was only a busy signal. He called the ranger near the area. "Hello, this is Dick Hallorann. I'm the chef at the Overlook Hotel. I've been trying to contact the caretaker up there by phone but I can't seem to reach them. Could you please see if they're OK?"
"I'll try contacting them by the CB. Please wait twenty minutes."
Dick called the Forest Service's office again after an hour. "Hi, I'm Dick Hallorann. I'm sorry to bother you but have you heard from the Kents?"
"I'm sorry but I haven't heard from them even though I've been calling them repeatedly for the past hour."
"We'll keep trying to contact them."
"Thanks. Bye." He put the phone down then he started to pack.
As Jonathan walked through the hallway towards the Gold Room, he noticed party balloons and the faint strains of music. Once he walked in, he saw that there was a party going at full steam, the dance floor full of revelers and the tables occupied with people wearing black tie and formal gowns. Nobody seemed to take notice of his casual dress. "Jonathan, congratulations!" a man said.
"Congratulations?" he said. "About what?"
"You're the guest of honor and you don't know what we're celebrating?" a woman dressed in fine furs and a beaded silk dress laughed, her fingers lightly touching his shoulder.
"I'm afraid I don't," Jonathan said.
"You're a Senator," said another man.
"Senator?" he said.
"You're an important man."
Jonathan walked up to the bar again and saw Milton smiling at him. "Hi, Milton. If my credit is still good, I'd really appreciate a drink."
"It's better than good. Everything is on the house. What I have is something special." The bartender poured him a snifter of liquor. "Sip, don't slam it back."
Jonathan tasted the liquor and sighed in appreciation. "Oh, that's smooth." He sipped it as the man had instructed but it soon disappeared. He felt it work its magic on him.
"It's Hennessy Richard Cognac, high quality stuff. All you want . . ." the bartender said, pouring him some more.
"Why is that everybody thinks I'm a Senator? And I know this stuff I'm drinking is really expensive."
"Everybody is celebrating a little prematurely. But it's not out of reach given the right circumstances and the right support from the right person. And your bill is being taken care of."
"It's not important."
"I like to know who's buying my drinks. I've had enough of deals where the terms aren't spelled out," said Jonathan, holding up the snifter.
"Everything will be revealed soon. Why don't you enjoy what's already in there," said the bartender. "I can't pour back in what's already left the bottle."
After polishing off another glass, Jonathan got up from his stool and felt a delicious warmth flow through his veins. He felt almost invincible like nothing could hurt him. He smiled at the people who were glad to see him, the men nodding their head in respect and the women fluttering their eyes and smiling at him, not scowling and nagging and demanding . . .
Someone bumped into him and he a thick stickiness wetness through his shirt. He looked up to see a dark-haired waiter, looking rather apologetic.
"I am sorry, sir. I spilled some advocaat on you. Lets go to the bathroom so I can get it off." The man put down his tray with the spilled drink on top of a table. "Follow me."
Once there, the waiter dabbed at the stain a few times and miraculously the shirt was clean again. Jonathan didn't notice that as he was face-to-face with something even more jarring. He narrowed his eyes. "I think I recognize you. What's your name?" he said, thinking he had seen his face in one of the articles he had found.
Jonathan gasped, "Aren't you the caretaker that hacked up his wife and daughter then killed himself?"
"Where are they?"
"They're elsewhere at the moment. That's not important. What is important is that we believe your son is trying to get help from the outside."
"He's a cook who works here. His name is not important. He means to take your son and wife away from here, leaving you with nothing."
"That bastard!" said Jonathan, infuriated.
"Your son has great many talents, but he's now using them against you.."
Jonathan nodded, feeling the golden feeling from drinking dissipating and being replaced by a throb in his temples. "She encourages him. I keep telling her. Spare the rod, spoil the child and she just doesn't listen to me!"
"Perhaps they need a good talking to if you don't mind my saying so. When my wife and daughter tried to betray me, I corrected them most severely," Lewis said, stressing the word corrected.
Jonathan smiled wryly. "You may not know this but my son is a little hard to correct." "I am well aware of your problems in that area. I also know that your wife will be fighting against you every step of the way like she always has. You have friends here who are willing to help you with your problems if you're willing to take severe measures."
Jonathan nodded. He missed having friends.
"Are you sure this is the earliest flight into Denver?" said Dick as he talked to the counter person. "I'll even spring for first class if it flies earlier."
"I'm sorry but this is it," said the counter person.
"Put me on then," said Dick.
Martha walked hand in hand with Clark, holding the mallet in her other hand. "We have to tell your father we're leaving."
"If it wasn't for me, he wouldn't be here. I know that if it wasn't for me, daddy wouldn't have lost the farm."
"Oh, baby, don't say that."
"It's true. He's not going to be happy."
"Clark, you let me deal with that."
She walked towards the Gold Lounge. As she walked closer, she heard Jonathan talking though she couldn't understand what he was saying. Who is he talking to, she thought. She wondered if Jonathan had found the intruder and was making the rash choice of confronting a crazy madwoman.
She slowly poked her head into the room and saw Jonathan talking to himself as if there was someone else there.
"Mom?" Clark said softly.
"Shh," she said to Clark.
She watched as Jonathan said, "So, if I take Clark to the caves, then what?"
There was a pause.
Jonathan said, "His blood will unseal you . . . but I don't think he can be cut."
How can he talk so calmly about doing that to our child, she thought. Stunned, she dropped her mallet, causing Jonathan to turn his head and notice them. She hurriedly picked up the mallet again. "Martha, why are you dressed like you're going to go out?" he said, walking towards them.
"I'm leaving with Clark," she said, almost choking on the words. "It's not safe here . . . for anybody."
"Leaving . . ." Jonathan said slowly. "And of course, you don't care what I think about that? How it makes me feel that you think that I'm a failure as a provider, as a husband."
"Of course, I care but . . ."
"Have you had a single moment's thought about how little I have now? I have given up everything for you and now you want me to give up even more."
"What are you talking about? I was the one who left Metropolis. I was the one who learned to be a farmer's wife. When the doctor said that I was the reason we couldn't have kids, I told you that you could leave me. You told me to stay anyway."
"Martha, you are not leaving this hotel. I don't care what I have to do to make you stay even if I have to knock some damn sense into you."
Martha smelled the stench of liquor on Jonathan. But there's not supposed to be liquor here, she thought in a panic. "Clark, stay behind me," said Martha. She began swinging the bat to ward off Jonathan. "We're leaving and you can't stop us."
"Stop swinging the mallet. Put it down. Give me that!"
"You've been drinking! You swore you'd stop!"
"I'll do whatever the hell I want! Martha, give me the bat!" He came at her slowly, trying to grab it from her.
"Who were you talking to? There was nobody there!"
"God help me, Martha, I swear I'm going to wring your neck if . . ."
With a cry of fear, she whacked him on the head and Jonathan fell to the ground.
"Clark, I need your help," she said.
They each took an arm and dragged him to the dry goods storage room. Once inside, Jonathan slowly began gaining consciousness. Martha and Clark ran outside and locked the door just before Jonathan got to his feet.
After he tried to open the door despite the throbbing in his head, he yelled, "Martha, open the door!"
Listening to the man hurl insults and enraged commands, Martha felt sick, knowing that the man she had locked in the room looked like her husband but was definitely not the man she married or even the man who had drunk out of despair but someone else entirely. Even drunk, he hadn't been like this.
Jonathan was quiet for a moment before deciding to try a different tack. In a pitiful voice, he said, "Martha, I don't feel good. You hit me pretty hard on the head. I feel like I'm going to puke, I'm so dizzy. Please let me out. I think I need to see a doctor. I think there's something wrong."
"I agree, Jonathan. That's why I'm going to take Clark and we're going to drive to town and get a doctor to come back here," said Martha.
It was quiet in the kitchen until she heard him utter a low, quiet laugh that became louder and more raucous the longer he laughed. "I wouldn't be so sure about getting away. The Snowcat is out of commission. Unless you love walking through a blizzard, you're not getting away from here."
Martha took Clark's hand, and they ran to the garage. Oh, please don't be true, she thought. However, it was as Jonathan said. The vehicle was obviously damaged with several exposed wires cut.
"What are we doing to do, mom?" said Clark.
Martha thought, Calm down and think, Martha. "We're going to have to wait until the storm dies down before we try walking with snowshoes. If we can't get to the ranger's station, perhaps we can get to a hunting cabin that might have some way to get help or perhaps we'll see someone from the Kawatche reservation. In the meantime, we're going to our room, check to see if it's safe, push the dresser in front of the door and get some rest in the meantime."
"Hi, Larry, it's Dick," said Dick calling his friend Larry, owner of Durkins' Auto Supply, from a pay phone at the Stapleton Airport in Denver.
Larry said, "Dick, how's Miami?"
"I'm not calling from Miami. I'm at the Denver airport."
"The boss wanted me to check on the people staying at the hotel. It turns out that some of what the guy wrote on his resume was bullshit. Do you have a Snowcat I can rent?"
"Yeah, I do. Do you really have to go up there? It's snowing something fierce. It's the worst snow storm in decades."
"The message I got was that it was of the utmost importance," he said, thinking of his vision. "I'll be there as soon as possible."
As Jonathan took a rest from trying to open the door, he heard Lewis Lang's voice say, "I see that she has gotten the better of you."
"Why don't you just open the door so I can change that?" said Jonathan.
Mr. Lang paused for a long while before saying, "I doubt that it would do any good. You're too soft. You're not willing to do what's necessary. You don't have the guts."
"Oh, don't tell me I don't have what it takes. Just open the door and I'll prove it to you . . . and to her."
"I wonder if you're willing to make the kind of sacrifices it entails, whether you have the ability to overcome the obstacles in front of you."
"I'm a desperate man, Lewis and I'm not afraid of desperate measures."
"That's what I like to hear," said Mr. Lang.
Jonathan smiled as the door opened.
Martha was jolted awake when she heard a loud knock on the door and realizing that there was no reason that there should be any knocking. She woke up her son, sleeping next to her and said, "Wake up! We have to get to the bathroom." She picked up the croquet mallet, and locked themselves in the bathroom.
As she heard the door to their room being chopped to bits, she opened the bathroom window and saw that there was a large snow drift that he could slide down to the ground on. She said, "Clark, there's enough snow so you can slide down." She picked him and pushed him out. She stuck her head out but found that she couldn't squeeze through. She pushed the window up but it was stuck. "Clark, I can't get through. I want you to run. You're fast and you won't freeze so I want you to run to town and get help. Someone's bound to be able to come back here."
"Please, Clark!" she said as she heard the crash of Jonathan pushing over the dresser and the sound of him chopping up the rest of the door to get in.
Jonathan stood outside the bathroom door. "I've been chopping wood since I was ten. You think a flimsy little door is going to stop me! I'm going to teach you to mind me, woman!" With that, he began swinging the axe at the door. Martha screamed, "No!" as she saw the first sign of the steel head of the axe used to chop firewood appear through the door. Laughing, Jonathan pulled the axe back and struck the door again with the blade.
"Stop! Jonathan! No!"
After several more swings, he finally punched a rectangular hole in the door and peered into see Martha cowering while holding the mallet. "Here's Johnny!" he laughed before reaching into to unlock the door.
Martha smacked the back of Jonathan's hand with her mallet, causing him to pull his hand back and howl with pain.
Jonathan's howl of pain was cut short when he heard the sound of a Snowcat coming up to the hotel. "Oh, great, more work!" He ran from the door and down the stairs.
Mr. Hallorann stopped the vehicle and saw Clark outside the hotel. "Clark, what are you doing outside? Where are your parents?"
"They're inside. How did you get here?"
"I got a call from your friend Cal. What's going on?"
"You have to help mommy. Daddy's gone crazy."
"Stay outside and I'll go inside and get her." He picked up a log from the woodpile near the front door to arm himself.
Dick opened the door and looked around. He turned to see that Clark had followed him inside. "I told you to stay . . ."
Dick had only enough time to turn around to see Jonathan's axe bearing down on him when a flash of color shoved Jonathan so hard that it knocked the axe out of his hands and he flew down the hallway.
"Oh, my . . ." Dick said as he looked at Clark. "Aren't you full of surprises?"
Dick looked up at the stairs and saw Martha running down the stairs, looking totally terrified, holding the mallet.
"Oh, my God. Mr. Hallorann, is that you?" she cried out, dropping the mallet.
"Please, just get us away from here! Quickly!"
They ran outside and Dick drove them away in the Snowcat.
Jonathan woke up in the hallway, feeling as if he had forgotten something. I forgot to drain the boiler, he thought. I have to protect the hotel . . . It's all I have now. He ran downstairs to the basement and ran to the boilers where the gauge was already pointing into the red zone.
Martha looked back and screamed when the hotel suddenly exploded into flames.
Fifteen Years Later
Martha Clark of the law firm Clark & Clark sat at a table at Dick's Caf in Metropolis. Dick the proprietor walked out. "Hey, if it isn't my favorite customer?" he said.
"Dick, how's business?"
"It couldn't be better. Where's Clark?"
"He's going to be a bit late. He's with his friend Lex, working on a project."
"Did he say what kind?"
"Something about temporal physics."
As the heavy spray did its work, Clark slowly opened his eyes and said, "I only managed to save Dick and my mother. My father . . . He still . . ."
"Clark," said Lex. "I'm not letting you use the temporal telepathic transmitter anymore."
"But Lex . . ."
"It obviously makes you really sick every time you go in the flotation tank. The meteorite solution makes my lab rats ill, it can't be doing you any good even if you are immune to almost everything else. Besides, it's obvious that your parents wouldn't leave until they had proof but by the time there was proof your father was too caught up in it. The only one who could hear you was Dick and yourself. You've done all you could."
Clark didn't say anything.
"You told your younger self that it wasn't his fault. Don't change your mind just because he's gotten older." Seeing that the rinse water was now clear, Lex turned off the shower and began drying him off. "Your mother is waiting for you at the restaurant. Are you up to it?"
Clark nodded. "Yeah, I just need to get dressed." He stood up, took the towel from Lex and finished drying himself off. "I can't tell you how grateful I am for everything . . ."
"You know I'd do anything for a friend. How about I drive you to dinner?" said Lex.
"How about you join us?"
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