This is a story about Las Vegas.
Now, I know if I tell you that, and I tell you I was there on my birthday, and I was driving a rental red convertible Camaro for the occasion and I got pulled over by the cops, you’re going to think this is a very particular sort of story.
But it is not that sort of story.
I was in Las Vegas for the NCTE conference (already this story has changed in your mind, I can tell), and it was the very last night of the very last day. At that point I had a very limited agenda: do the finest job of sleeping I could possibly imagine in order to not hate and destroy the world when I got up for my exceptionally early flight home.
I feel you can already sense this didn’t go well.
My hotel was pretty fabulous, I have to say, aside from the decor, which I’d describe as “tastefully misogynistic.”* The walls were sound-proofed within an inch of their lives, creating a pleasant, tomb-like existence which encouraged fantasies that I was the only person left on the planet.**
*much like a Cary Grant movie
**later I would regret this
And my room was massive. As I lounged against the kitchen sink and then the couch and then on the bed and then got lost in the palatial two-roomed bathroom, I realized it was larger than my first apartment by several degrees of magnitude.
The hotel room:
My first apartment:
The bathtub alone was larger than my first apartment’s bathroom. In fact, the hotel tub was one of those jetted numbers that promises luxury and indulgence and other words they often say in jewelry commercials. For my part, I don’t like sitting still and I don’t like bubbles, so all I could think was: they could have put a trampoline there instead.***
***Actually, it was Las Vegas. There probably were some rooms with a trampoline option.
But back to my tale. As I got ready for bed after a late night book event, I felt strangely creeped out. You should know that this in itself was unusual. My parents had an affection for old houses in my youth, and I have had an affection for shadows since I was germinated in one, and just, in general, I tend to be the most harmful thing in any given space. These things combine to mean that it’s hard to rattle me.
And yet, I was creeped out.
It is just the poster of the headless naked girl, I told myself. You’re just eager to be home, where her nipples will not glare so resentfully at you.
I turned off the light. I closed my eyes. I began to hear . . . sounds. Knocking. Thunking. Footsteps?
Recall how before I had been delighted by the room’s soundproofing. I had spent three nights in a tomblike hotel room and now NOW, where was my tomb? Moreover, the noise didn’t seem to be coming from the hall or the rooms adjacent. Instead, the sounds were coming from the bathroom. I’d like to refer you floor plan above. Do you see how it has an interior wall? That is where the sound was coming from — knocks on that. So my first thought was: someone is in here.
I did what any author would do if they believed someone was in their hotel room. I hit the lights, seized the telephone from beside the bed as a weapon, and leapt upright on the mattress. What a threatening and tastefully misogynistic form I must have cut as I bristled in my t-shirt and underwear, clutching a James-Bondesque retro telephone, ready to bash someone’s brains in.
But of course there was no one there.
I turned on all the lights and checked the rooms out, but they were empty. I was in fact the last person on the planet. So I climbed back into bed. I turned off the light.
Sleep, Maggie. Your flight is in six hours.
Knocking! Thumping! Footsteps! The most annoying part was that I knew, now, that they hadn’t been going on while I was investigating the room with the lights on. I began to feel as if Something was toying with me.****
****I do believe in ghosts. I believe in them the same way I believe in albino squirrels. Sometimes, when you see something white, it’s an albino squirrel. But usually it is just a cat.
So I did what any author would if they believed there was a supernatural entity in the room with them. Without turning on the light, I said to the room, “If you’re a ghost, I’m not interested! I have heard far worse and I’m not in the mood!” And I closed my eyes.
Which is when a sound like a plane landing exploded from the bathroom.
I couldn’t immediately figure out what it was. It was, in fact, a stone-cold excellent first-place horror-movie sound. It roared, louder than anything, and it didn’t stop. Its timing had been perfect. And while I still had heard worse, as I had promised the room just a moment before, it had been a very long time.
I will admit, this was when I first quailed.
But I couldn’t just lay there. I very much would have preferred to. But instead I turned on the light, swore hatefully, and made myself go into the bathroom. I expected probably it was the last time, in fact, that I would ever go into a bathroom. Whatever was making the noise was going to kill me and in fact the story of Maggie Stiefvater was going to come to an end on the tiles of a Las Vegas bathroom, as so many stories do.
Spoiler: I did not die. The noise was the bathtub — all the jets had come on. Because I never use the things and because the jets were not really meant to be able to come on without water in the tub, it took me awhile to figure out how to turn them off.
Silence, finally. The hotel room really was tomb-like. Emphasis on tomb. Double emphasis on tombs have dead people in them.
I went back to bed. It took me a bit of resolve to turn off the light this time. I told the room, “I’m sleeping now. You may take a bath by yourself.”
I closed my eyes. Really hard. Like I meant it.
Sleep, Maggie, you have a flight in—
I wish you guys were all right here so I could demonstrate where this next sound happened. If I was telling the story in person, it would involve me slamming one fist into another. And I would do it right beside your face. So you jumped and blinked at me.
Because this sound happened right beside my head, and it came with an actual thump of the bed shaking, as something hit the headboard from my side of the wall.
I turned on the light.
I sat up.
The nipples across the room looked at me pointedly.
I just slept on the plane.*****
*****When I checked out, I told the guy what had happened.
him: oh, that happens a lot.
me: the jets coming on by themselves? So it’s a malfunction?
him: oh, no, creepy things. People ask to change rooms all the time. But it doesn’t help. *laughs*
me: *laughs* *wishes she’d slept in the convertible Camaro*