Mr Roy Hadley stepped off the train, dropped his bag at his feet and held his arms wide in the air, nearly hitting a commuter in the face. ‘I’m so sorry’ he said, after realising what he’d done. ‘It’s just… look at it’ he said again, this time carefully sweeping just one arm through the air in front of him. The commuter looked up at the hotel floating above their heads, then walked swiftly away, shaking his head. Passengers bustled by, oblivious to the interaction, as Roy picked up his bag and was swept along with the crowd to the exit.
Through the glass doors they went, and the crowd dispersed like a hose set to spray, leaving Roy standing there surrounded by people, yet alone. Lights flared around him, projecting holographic people, walking adverts that chased after people, some holding products, others with clipboards. After a few minutes a man in a yellow and black uniform with a cap appeared in front of him. ‘Welcome to the city’ he said as a taxi pulled up.
Within seconds Roy’s bags were bundled into the taxi along with Roy and they were speeding away from the airport before Roy could even look through his pockets to find the address of the hotel. ‘Grand Hotel?’ the taxi driver asked. Roy nodded, but the question was rhetorical as they drove through the vast tangled maze of buildings.
Sunlight bounced off the glass and metal towers, leaving narrow strips of sky that followed the roads below, as if the heavens were subservient to the structures of the city. They pulled up in front of a blue and green glazed brick art deco building, covered with geometric designs, with an illuminated sign saying the Grand Hotel, held up by two Metropolis style robots in gold.
A display next to the driver flashed up with a message saying payment authorised and Roy was whisked out of the taxi before he could thank the driver. His bag was collected by the porter and he was ushered through the entrance and up to his room without stopping at reception. Upon entering the room, the soothing sounds of waves on a beach washed over him and he felt his shoulders drop.
‘You’ll find all the information you need on the Vidscreen’, the porter said standing in the doorway and pointing to a screen where the window would have been. Daylight seeped around the edges as a beach scene filled up the screen.
‘Oh, thanks’ Roy said before taking out a bundle of notes from his pocket. The porter frowned, causing Roy to hesitate. He put the notes back and took out a card. The porter held out his hand and Roy touched it to his palm, ‘how much, sir?’
‘Um, ten credits?’ Roy replied, the porter smiled, ‘thanks for the tip, have a nice day’, he said before closing the door, leaving Roy to the sounds of a babbling brook and a forest scene on the Vidscreen.
A wave of tiredness struck him, and he lay down on the enormous bed that lay in the centre of the room. ‘Sleep’ he uttered as he closed his eyes, and a fine mist was sprayed into the air that smelt like lavender. Every inhalation sent him deeper into a slumber, until not even an earthquake would have roused him.
The next morning, he woke to the sound of birdsong and freshly brewed coffee being piped into the room. He showered, dressed in his suit and went down for breakfast. As he crossed the lobby towards the restaurant he bristled with nervous excitement, which radiated from him like sparks from an open fire. Other guests looked at him as he walked, and he beamed with pride, telling anyone that would listen about the interviews he had lined up all day. After shovelling down his breakfast he strode out of the hotel with a beaming smile.
Roy stopped dead in his tracks as he crossed the threshold of the hotel entrance. Opposite sat a woman in a milking stool, she was twenty feet tall, with long flaming hair, emerald eyes, and Mary’s Dairy in bold letters above her head. He stared at her, as streams of people flowed in front of him, then she turned to him and smiled. ‘Hi, Mary’ he said, before he caught himself, turned from her and carried on walking towards his first interview.
All day he criss-crossed the city, walking into buildings and rooms that were packed full of people. After the third interview, he began declining the free coffee, as his nerves jangled, and his heart raced. By midday his smile faltered, then as the streetlights began to flicker on it faded, by the time he started back to the hotel, a frown had set up camp on his face. With his head held down, he rounded the corner and saw Mary waiting for him, smiling patiently and his eyes shone with happiness once more.
He entered the lobby and started walking over to the stairs up to his room, when a voice from behind called his name, ‘Mr Hadley, we have a message for you’. His skipped a beat, already? He thought. Surely that can only be good news. He turned towards the porter who held out a piece of paper and when Roy had taken the note, he left his hand waiting. Roy tapped the card against his palm and unfolded the note.
His heart sank once more as the note was a message from his family. ‘We’re proud of you, Roy’ it said in big bold letters, full of hope. He stuffed the note into his pocket and went up to bed.
The following morning, he waited in his room for a phone call, but by lunch time it was too much to bear, so he decided to hand out copies of his resume, in as many places as would have them. He trudged around the city, determined to make good on that note from his family, yet he was met with resistance at every turn. After every rejection he pictured Mary’s radiant smile and for a few seconds his heart lifted, yet by the time he headed back to the hotel, he was truly dejected.
The lights came on automatically as he entered the room, but Roy manually overrode them, plunging the room into darkness. Around the edges of the Vidscreen he could see the city lights, so he walked over and pulled back the screens, in front of him was Mary. Roy dropped to the floor and wept. That night he propped himself up against the wall, looking out of the window and just watched her, until he fell asleep on the floor.
Day after day, he pounded the streets getting hungrier and hungrier as he ran out of money, until one night as the heavens opened and rain enveloped the streets, he returned to the hotel and just sat down next to Mary. She looked down at him with those pretty green eyes and just smiled.
The next morning, he woke with a renewed confidence. He descended the stairs with the same energy as the first day and walked straight out of the door ready to greet Mary for the day. In front of him stood the same man in the yellow and black uniform, twenty feet tall, he tipped his cap to Roy, ‘Need a taxi home?’ he asked as a taxi pulled up.