By Joshua Feyen
Click here to read the first post in this three-part story.
I explored a couple more hotel rooms, rifled through a suitcase full of trinkets and more letters, climbed into a wardrobe and discovered it had a false back. I pushed it open and stepped into the apothecary. That’s where I first spotted someone without a mask. A woman danced by, pursued by a man. It was time to watch the dancers, so I joined the dozen guests trailing the couple. We stopped in a large room with a bare Edison bulb suspended over a billiard table. The walls were made of stacked cardboard boxes, intact, not flattened. The floor was covered with rubber shavings. At one end of the room, a second man without a mask tended bar. I pulled up a stool to watch the performance.
The couple danced a tango on the floor, the billiard table, the bar, and even on ledges protruding from the box walls. The music ended abruptly and the woman hurried out. Her companion walked to the far end of the room, lifted the flap of a cardboard box, and disappeared into a hole in the wall. I turned to the bartender who was engaged with one of the guests. He pushed a glass of brown liquid toward the woman, she pushed it back to the bartender. He pushed it toward me, I picked it up and drank it. It was scotch, which surprised me but didn’t disappoint. I set the glass down and returned it to the bartender. He refilled the glass and pushed it back my way. I drank the second glass, this time merely colored water. The bartender put the glass away, locked up the bottle, and walked out of the scene.
I followed him down a narrow flight of steps to a cavernous room. “Sleep No More” is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and I recognized this is when the three witches gave Macbeth advice. The room was dimly lit, the witches were macabre and they swayed around a steamy cauldron. The music picked up, strobe lights flashed and the witches danced frenetically. Macbeth removed his clothing, donned a taxidermied deer head with a huge rack and the witches painted him with something red. The room went black, then got very bright. The witches had disappeared but I spotted Macbeth running down a hallway.
At this point, I had to make a decision. I could stay and explore this room. I could track down the witches. Or, follow the naked guy.
And that’s when I made the most important decision of that day, that year, and what I like to think of as the rest of my life. I followed the naked guy, trailing bloody Macbeth down a narrow stairwell. We descended two flights, exited, and arrived at a small bathroom. Macbeth sat on the floor, the shower rinsing his naked body. The red paint washed onto the white tile floor and curled its way to the drain.
Macbeth turned off the water, and with his raised hand, pointed toward me. It took a moment to realize he wasn’t pointing at me, but rather at a towel hanging on the wall behind me. I handed it to him. He began to dry himself, at first sitting on the floor, then standing up. He pointed again past me and now sensing what to do, I handed him a pair of trousers, and then a shirt. He returned to the stairwell and I followed him to the basement.
The two-story room was large and surrounded on three sides by a balcony. The audience was watching Macbeth’s final scene. A banquet table was set on a dais, and many of the characters I had seen earlier were seated at or standing around the table. I found Jay just as the scene ended. The house lights came up, we collected our coats and phones, and re-entered the real world to walk to our hotel.
I excitedly related my experience in the McKittrick, sharing how I followed the “fortune favors the bold” advice and interacted with both the physical space and the dancers in it. Then I stopped, knowing my husband well enough to recognize that that while I was doing all the talking, there were other reasons he hadn’t yet said something.
Come back next week to read the final part.
© 2022 Joshua Feyen
Josh Feyen was raised on a farm, went to college in Milwaukee, lived abroad for four years on three continents, and now finds himself with pandemic free time and stories to tell. In the middle of 2021, Josh set about writing 50 short memoir stories in his 50th year. Sharing this story with truestorieswelltold.com is an unexpected surprise; the main focus of Josh’s 50 in 50 writing journey is to share what he’s learned with his four teenage nieces and nephew. Josh lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and writes from his COVID-converted attic studio.