Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

A Horror Story In Little Aleppo

Tommy Moors needed quiet. Art requires concentration. He woke up in Room 302 of the Hotel Synod very early, around an hour before dawn, and changed from his pajamas into a blue suit. Brown wingtips. Before he put on his jacket, he would roll up the sleeve of his white shirt and shoot heroin into the median cubital vein of his arm–he would alternate sides–and then pause. Breathe through his nose deeply. When Tommy was sure that there was no blood issuing from the puncture, he would roll the sleeve back down and insert a cuff link made of silver through the hole in his French cuff. Then, the jacket.

To the desk. In high school, the other boys had mocked him for taking typing classes, but he thought they were the best education he ever got. No teacher had ever taught him how to write, but Miss Tessmacher had taught him to type. Sixty words a minute, and mostly clean copy; if he made a mistake, he could eliminate it with the power of the IBM Selectric II. It was a correcting typewriter with a strip of white erase-o tape running beneath the ink ribbon. It did not have individual striking keys, but a typeball with every letter on it that made its mark with a sound like SHWUM SHWUM. It had a power switch, and when Tommy Moors flicked it before dawn, it hummed and the back of the machine grew slightly warm.

He wrote short stories for the pulp magazines. Sometimes about space, and sometimes about fucking. Occasionally, about spacefucking. Seven cents a word, or a dime if he could get it. Tommy wrote for Spectacular Fantasies, and for World-Wide Wonder, and Zoid!, and Shplurtz!, and The American Journal of Amazing Tales. (That last one was a bit snooty.) He wrote about humans on Mars, and Martians on Earth. Time travel stories, and machinery that attacked its creator. Robots that took their programming too literally. A lunar base named Haleb with all sorts of weirdos living there.

His window faced north, so the sunrise did not poke him in the eyes. A gradual lightening: violet, and then indigo, and then blue as hell.

What was that sound?

A thrumpty-thrump coming from the other side of his front door. Boogie music, it seemed.

Tommy ignored it. He had 5,000 words to write before dinner. A story about post-apocalyptic draculas with a twist at the end. He had come up with the twist first, and worked backwards.

Thrumpty-thrump.

His eyes twitched and his asshole sucked into itself. Rudeness. Jesus, the rudeness. Tommy Moors removed his reading glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. Waited.

Still: thrumpty-thrump.

Pushed his chair back from the desk, shut off the Selectric. Checked himself in the mirror. Tie was perfect–blue with white spots, half-windsor knot–and he combed his thinning brown hair from left to right with his hand. Out the door. Down the hall and listening, searching, hunting for the progenitor of the noise. He tried not to look at the terrible wallpaper, brown and slipping from its glue.

Room 311. Boogie music.

WHACK WHACK he tried to knock politely.

No answer, but the music still played.

Tommy counted to ten. He had excellent posture.

WHACK WHACK WHACK he tried to knock exasperatedly.

Still: no answer. Boogie music continued. The hallway shook with it.

Not trusting the Hotel Synod’s elevators, he walked to the stairs and descended until he reached the ground floor.

“Mr. Teakettle.”

“Mr. Moors.”

Frankie Teakettle had a flyswatter and was trying to kill a fly that may or may not have existed.

“There is a terrible racket coming from Room 311.”

“Describe the racket.”

“Music of the boogie variety.”

“That will happen.”

Tommy Moors put his hand on the front desk to steady himself. He did not ring the bell.

“It shouldn’t! It’s a problem, Mr. Teakettle. It’s disruptive to my work.”

“What do you do again?”

“It’s no business of yours. Your purview is the hotel.”

“Hell of a purview.”

“Mr. Teakettle, will you take care of this?”

“I absolutely will. What?”

“The noise issuing from Room 311.”

“Consider it done.”

Tommy Moors walked away from the front desk and back to his room. Within a few minutes, the thrumpty-thrump sound abated, and he got to his writing. O, that apocalypse. O, those draculas.

When he was done with his work, he took another shot and sat in his chair reading Pepys’ diaries for a few hours. Then he had another shot and changed into his pajamas and went to sleep. In the morning, he awoke and put on his suit and hit his median cubital vein and rolled down his sleeve and sat at his IBM Selectric typewriter. 3,000 words on zombies eating brains at the speed of light.

Thrumpty-thrump.

Tommy’s eyes opened wide and his nostrils flared. He shut off the Selectric and walked into the hall with the shoddy green carpet. Listened for the sound. Room 308. Banged on the door WHAP WHAP with a passive aggression. No answer. Again: WHAP WHAP. Nothing. Down to the front desk via the stairs.

“Mr. Teakettle.”

“Mr. Moors.”

“You said you would take care of the racket.”

“And I did. No more noise from 311.”

“Yes. But now there is a blaring cacophony issuing from 308.”

“Well, that’s a different problem.”

“Will you take care of it?”

“Consider it done.”

Tommy Moors went back to his desk. Shortly, there was quiet and he began to type and then there was no more quiet because of all the damn boogie music. It went WHONGAboomWHONGAboom up his neck and played with his earlobes. His lips were affected and his tongue spit out like a lizard. A man needs to work, Tommy thought, and keeping him from that work was sinful. It was actionable, goddammit, and so he switched off the typewriter and pushed back his chair and stomped out into the hall.

Thrumpty-thrump.

He listened at each door. It was Room 305 this time. Tommy Moors reeled his hand back to knock furiously, but didn’t. Instead, he hitched up the legs of his trousers and sank to his knees. Put his head on the floor like a Muslim at prayer. Tried to peer under the door. Just darkness. Stood back up and knocked BAM BAM. Waited a moment. BAM BAM again. No answer.

Tommy feared that he would strike Frankie Teakettle if they spoke again–he was near vibrating with anger–and so he went back into Room 302, into the bathroom of Room 302, and wadded up toilet paper into the canals of his ears and forced out the rest of his story. He could still make it out, the boogie music, beyond the tissue jammed against his eardrums and he hummed tunelessly to himself to block it out. When he was done writing, he cooked himself a double-shot, and did not read the book he had open on his lap and then to bed without putting on his pajamas.

Tommy Moors rose before the dawn without an alarm clock. The Hotel Synod was silent. He dressed and fixed and tied his shoes and sat at his desk. Flicked the power switch of the IBM Selectric II.

Thrumpty-thrump.

“No!” he spit, and did not need to stalk out the door because the boogie music was coming via the wall. It was next-door, he knew this, but still burst into the hallway with clenched teeth and examined his neighbors’ doors for sound.

Room 304.

Down the stairs again. The lobby. The front desk.

“Mr. Teakettle.”

“Mr. Moors.”

“It is next door, Mr. Teakettle. The problem is next door. The music–if you can call it that–is coming from within feet of my skull. How many complaints must I register?”

“This one might do the trick.”

“Please! I’ve done nothing to deserve this. I pay my bills on time. I bother no one. I want quiet, that’s all. Is it too much to ask, Mr. Teakettle?”

“It shouldn’t be.”

“You will fix this?”

“I’ll do everything in my power.”

“Am I making my complaints to the right person?”

“Most certainly.”

Tommy Moors rapped on the front desk twice TAK TAK with his knuckles and walked back up the stairs to the third floor. He sniffed around. Silence. Golden silence shimmering in the noontime light coming in through the window before his desk. Switched the IBM back on and arched his hands like ballerina spiders over the keys and SHWUM SHWUM began making seven cents a word again. Hours later, he typed THE END and pushed back from the desk. Stood up, went to his reading chair. Median cubital. Pepys. Early to bed.

He awoke to a thrumpty-thrump coming from in front of him, behind him, issuing from the sheets and blankets and thin pillow folded in two under his head. Tommy Moors was in his pajamas, striped, and his feet were bare in the hallway of the Hotel Synod. Listened at doors. Not this one, not this one, either. Up and down the hallway, but could not find the room responsible even as the noise of the boogie music filled up his skull. Down two flights of stairs to the lobby.

The front desk has a bell that makes a sound like BING BING. Tommy waited. BING BING. He checked all around himself, and then peered over the desk and into the back office. BING BING BING BING. Nothing, so he walked back up to the third floor and walked down the hallway with its bubbling brown wallpaper and shitty green carpet that squished slightly under the soles of his feet. Put his ear up against the door of 311, 308, 304. No. The sound was not coming from any of those rooms, but he could hear it O God could he hear it THRUMPING in his head and smacking out all of his words and all the stolen stories he was being paid seven cents a word for. He reeled back and forth in the corridor like a drunk during an earthquake and then he found the source, pinpointed the problem.

His room. Room 302.

Tommy was in his pajamas and his feet were bare. The door was unlocked and swung into the room easily and then came the sound, all the sound in the world, boogie music going thrumpty-thrump and his bladder emptied down his leg. Frankie Teakettle was sitting at his typewriter, body towards the window and head facing the door.

He smiled at Tommy Moors, and said,

“Would you like to boogie?”

And the editors at Spectacular Fantasies, and for World-Wide Wonder, and Zoid!, and Shplurtz!, and The American Journal of Amazing Tales made call after call, but they could never get Tommy Moors on the phone ever again.

3 Comments

  1. The Stephen King fan in me loves this. Nice work, as usual.

  2. “He had come up with the twist first, and worked backwards.”

    Not that I mind. I was feeling more Kilgore Trout then Steven King, but whatever you like.

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