Okay, so let’s get this straight. First things first, I signed up to go to the Silk Road. Instead, I got to a hotel. And so I stand there, staring at the hotel in the middle of the forest as our bus drives off down the dirt road.
At first, I was like, WHOA, THIS is a HUGE hotel!
And then our teacher was like: “Boys and girls, this is the largest hotel in Asia!”
And then I was like: “Yeah whatever.”
“Okay guys, follow me!” Our teacher yells while waving his hand in our direction. The students start to follow him.
It is like the entire structure was made out of blankets and pillows. The ground we are standing on is fluffy and quilted, as if we are stepping on a huge bed or something. Red-orange light flitted from cracks and glowing bulbs hang from above, creating a warm, almost sleepy, environment.
I follow my group down into the lobby and heavy wooden doors creak shut behind me, cutting out all natural light.
Okay, heavy wooden doors blocking my only exit, haha, very funny, I think as I crane my neck looking around for an emergency exit. There is surprisingly…none, in sight.
Okay…I repeat in my mind, it’s okay everything’s going to be fine your classmates and teachers are all here (only two teachers) but who cares you’re going to be fine! Right?
Someone bump me from the side, murmuring something like “excuse me” and continues to walk.
My vision is blocked for a split second. By the time I can see, my group is…nowhere to be seen?
“Um…” My mind is blank. “Um…” I say again. I spin around. “Uh…”
There is no one that I know to be seen.
“Oh dang…” I mutter. I’m going delusional and talking to myself.
Still no one.
I pace around, tip toeing here and there, trying to catch a sight of anyone, anyone that I know, anyone from my group. Even that freaking tall senior dude with hairy legs is fine. But there’s no one. Just me.
Okay. Let’s sort this out. Team, gone. Teachers, gone. You’re alone, in a hotel. Your team is in the hotel. Conclusion, go find team in hotel. Ta-da!
I spin around in one last circle. No one I know is in sight. Well, looks like I have to go to the reception desk! I start whistling Whistle all the way.
“Hello,” I lean my elbow on the desk and stare into the lady’s hazel brown eyes and wink. No reaction. She must be an android then.
“Um, do you need any help?”
“Well, I lost my group and they are nowhere to be found and I have no idea what I should be doing now of course I’m absolutely fine!”
“I’m happy you’re doing fine, have a good day!” The lady smiles at me and turn to address another middle-aged man to my right.
“Well, these androids are…. simpleminded,” I say, trying to find the right word.
I turn around. “Well, looks like it’s just you and me, my lovely Silk Road t-shirt,” I say to my graphic desert shirt. It remains where it is. “Thanks for staying on me,” I say. It remains where it is.
“Looks like I’ll have to find my group myself then!” I say. I start walking. “Hello, kind and altruistic sir, may you please tell me where the elevator is?” I ask.
He points to his room. “You can take my shower if you want, elevators don’t exist in this place, come,” he waves me over.
Now according to common sense, you’re not supposed to follow strangers around. Especially when you’re alone in an unknown place that you have no idea where it is. And especially when the person is a human three times older than you, and is inviting you to go to their shower. I follow him.
“I’ll remain in the bedroom so that you’ll have some privacy,” the man informs me.
“Well, gee, thanks,” I say. I walk awkwardly to the bathroom and push open the door. If you are expecting blood and ooze all over the place, I would like you to first wash your brain with a bar of Bath and Body Works soap. Because it look like a freaking normal hotel bathroom.
“Hello is this a shower?” I say as I walk into the man’s bathroom.
“It’s a shower,” the man confirms. “But it’s also…” He presses on the button next to the glass revolving door. “An elevator!”
“Holy cows you must be kidding me,” I cross my arms and step in. “I thought you were supposed to stay in your bedroom but whatever. So how does this work?”
“It works automatically,” the man says.
“No, I mean how do I get up?”
“You press this button,”
“Um, can you press it for me please?”
“Ok,” he presses the button.
The shower starts to shift up.
“Well, okay this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life,” I say aloud.
“Don’t worry, life is still good!” Random guy calls from underneath. “I’ve stayed here for years!”
Staying in a hotel for years well that’s weird. “Uh…thanks for reminding me Mister!” I call back. The man suspiciously winks at me.
I reach the second floor. Second floor is the candle room. The sign on my right says it isn’t but I’m going to call it the candle room because I feel like it and nobody’s going to make me change it. And there are holographic candles, literally everywhere, in this place.
I reach the control room. Or what I thought is the control room. Maybe someone might help me in there, like, there’s got to be a help desk somewhere right?
But seriously after spending a day in a bed hotel and the only way to get to second floor is using someone’s shower, I’m not sure the bright room would be the help desk.
I go in any way. I don’t really have a choice, do I? Well, I do but I want to go in the room cause it looks quite cool, being the only room with white lights that look ‘modern’.
So I push open the door, and peek my head in. Now you might except I dunno, a WOW moment where suddenly everything explodes I realize that this is all a dream? Or where I see a gigantic robot with spinning chopsticks on the verge to destroy me. Or even better, a TARDIS.
To say, I am quite disappointed with what I see. A tall man in a suit. Squatting there, back faced towards me.
A tall man in a suit. Out of all time and space, what in the world?
“Who are you?”
The man turns around sharply, his hands flying to the gun I noticed clipped to his side. Seeing I am no threat, he lowers his hand and straightens. “I ask you the same question,” he says stiffly.
“I’m Kai Jie, a freshman in Concordia High School,” I say.
“Are you lost?”
“Um… yeah…” count on the British to guess your every move. Wait, a British guy? “I was hoping for a help desk,” I continue. “There is none, obviously. Plus I’m really lost, there must be a thousand rooms in this hotel or something and there’s stupid androids on the bottom floor being stupid.” And what is the British doing in Asia.
The man shifts and I catch a tiny barcode printed on the back of the neck. I shift around awkwardly. There’s really no where to go; this hotel is freaking huge, providing housing for guests from Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. It’s the largest hotel along the Silk Road. The New Silk Road, that is, the old one is pretty much dead due global warming yada yada, people died. So now its located further down south for absolutely no reason apart from the fact that it’s the place where all four countries are connected and the place that happened to have a forest, in fact one of the last forests in the world.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“Decrypting the code,”
The man sighs. “This is a bomb,” He gestures at the panel he’s working on. “it’s going to explode, in 17 minutes. Small bomb, actually tiny, the range couldn’t be more than one meter however we have to take precautions. Not much of a big deal, unclear who placed it here; I’m trying to defuse it. ” He stops. “Wait, why are you still here?”
“Um, I got lost. I mean, I’m not lost, I lost my classmates and the group I came here with so…”
The man turns around and looks at me up and down.
“I kind of need you to help me find them? Cause this hotel is really big. You work here right?”
The man laughs. “No, I’m just trying to disable a bomb here. This hotel is currently holding over 1000 guests and spans 3500 square miles along the border of Yunnan. If something goes wrong, it will bring the forest and the hotel along with it. This will displace not only China, but Vietnam and Laos with it in the war.”
I nod. “Ok, I see.”
The war has been raging on for, how many months? Almost one month, if I remembered correctly. Borders are tense, amazingly the British and Americans decided to side with the Asian countries because they were each promised with one quarter of China’s land if they win the war. In return, smaller countries will have to aid give China power to rule. Not a bad deal, I guess.
“But I thought you said it was tiny,” I say, trying to get a better look at the panel he’s working on.
“It is, but it’s placed here for a reason. An unknown reason so I’m sent here to investigate.”
My white Silk Road t-shirt begins to string together an image of the hotel I’m in. Intricate strings of light crisscrossed the fabric to form a map of the hotel and constantly shifts as I move around.
“Really? Now you provide me the map of the hotel,” I murmur, trying to get a better look at the map.
The man is silent for a moment. I realize I have stared at my clothes for too long. He quickly looks away when he sees me staring at him and absent-mindedly looks down at his own clothes. A white dress shirt followed by black dress pants and a black suit jacket. In other words, the typical work outfit for an MI6 agent.
“Um, what’s your name?”
“Ah… nice,” I should call him RJ. Easier to type.
A small explosion of sparks flew from the panel he is decrypting. “God —,” RJ swears.
“Whoa, language!” I look over his shoulder. “You okay?”
RJ examines his hand “Fine,” he says. Part of his finger is charred from the electricity leak and it looked like some weird blackened stick because it is.
I stare at the panel he is working on. “Uh… there is a countdown,”
RJ glances up from his injured hand and stares as numbers fall from 3:49 to 3:45. “Well,” he mutters. He bursts into action and I swear he is literally pressing every button he can see.
“Well, shit,” he says again but this time with a slight agitation to his voice. “Shit.” He stands up.
“What?” The numbers are already at 3:34.
“Come on!” He gives another tug. An agent with a temper, I brood.
I let him drag me. We speed through the halls until we reach another room. RJ allows the computer to scan him and the dial pad lights up in green, confirming his identity. The doors open and RJ walks swiftly in. I try to follow but the door closes right after I take a step forward. Huh, so an international student is not allowed in some secret room and a MI6 agent is allowed?
I flinch at the sudden sound of alarms blasting from hidden speakers. The familiar yet alien sound of warning—a threat is in presence—leave and enter bomb shelters immediately.
People around me freeze. Someone screams, “Bomb shelters! Negative 15th floor, now!”
Negative 15th floor? That’s quite deep man, I think.
And the world around me erupts into a flurry of action. I have no idea what to do.
As if on cue, RJ exits the room, face devoid of emotions. He grabs me by the arm. “Come on, bomb shelters. They have identity scanners down there so your group will find you soon.”
He leads me to the emergency elevators, large enough to fit a hundred people and moves twice as fast as normal elevators.
“You go first, I’ll have to stay behind and keep order,” he pushes me into the crowd and disappears.
I stand there, dumbstruck at everything that happened. I am pushed with the crowd, going to an unknown destination. Going on my tiptoes, I stretch to see the elevator not far ahead. This time, instead of pushing me in, they’re all pushing me out, away from the elevator. Everybody is trying to get on themselves.
The elevator starts to beep, signaling that the carriage is full. Yet people are still trying to get on, pushing and shoving each other off. I catch sight of the hotel guards trying to prevent people from going on. The elevator’s beeping intensifies. Now, guests are being pushed off the elevator in order to let the doors close. The elevator starts going down, its door slamming to a shut.
“SHIELDS ARE DEACTIVATED. SHIELDS ARE DEACTIVATED.”
The alarm changes, this time, to the unforgiving pitch changing alarm. The alarm for air raids. Now people are fighting to be the first on the elevator and the guards have brought out stuns and batons.
There is such a clamor I had to plug my ears, pushing myself away from the crowd. My head hurts. There has to be more than this one emergency elevator. Around me—there are eight emergency elevators in this room—are all crowded with people shoving to get in. I struggle against the tide. There has to be more elevators outside too.
A thundering sound explodes above. The ceiling shakes and the lights go out for a split second. People around me scream. Another earthquake shakes the building. This time, the lights go out longer than before.
I’m finally out the room and into a large, spacious, room, the ceiling stretching hundreds of feet above me. I spy a familiar face in the crowds, waving at guests to go to the emergency elevators. The ground shakes again. I nearly toppled over if it weren’t for the amazing wall behind me.
A deafening sound of a whistle cuts through the air and sends a shockwave to the walls up front. Large cracks began to form but the wall holds. More screams. Someone crying.
This is definitely my first air raid. The lights go out.