Ivy stood outside the Rosemont Hotel with a cigarette clenched between her pouty lips as she tried to suppress the memories from her many stays. A cocktail of memories swirled through her cerebellum—recollections of times that had once brought her pure, unadulterated joy. She and Eddie Inferno evolved from giddy, immature fuck buddies to intertwined soulmates. They had explored every inch of each other’s bodies with microscopic precision, while achieving a state of intimacy that would be forever etched into their anima. On a particularly licentious three-day weekend she achieved an orgasm that rendered her catatonic for the better part of September 1984.
She hadn’t seen Eddie in a decade. She spent 10 years trying to reconcile unsound, intense feelings of love, lust and abject hatred.
“It’s you,” said a voice calling from a darkened corner of the trash-covered parking lot. “You’ve returned.”
Ivy turned to see a shadowy figure, walking from pitch-black darkness into the illumination of the parking lot streetlights. An old man stepped out, dressed only in a worn-out hotel robe. The once pearl-white luxury garment was now a dingy shade of beige. The gold ‘R’ on the breast had lost its luster. She was familiar with this garment. In her more frivolous days, it served as a post-coital comfort and sweat sponge.
“What happened here?” Ivy asked, staring at the husk of the Rosemont Hotel.
“They’ve all gone,” the emaciated, bespectacled apostate said. “They all lost faith.”
“You’re a Cinder,” Ivy said.
“The last Cinder,” he replied, adjusting his glasses. “The only one who still believes.”
Ivy stared into his eyes, welled up with tears. The broken glass in one lens returning a dozen different reflections.
“You’ve come back—just as I knew you would,” he said. “The spark that will reignite Eddie Inferno and usher in the age of burning.”
Ivy was familiar with the ramblings of the sycophantic and mentally feeble.
“The only thing I’m interested in igniting is his funeral pyre,” she said, flicking her cigarette into the darkness.
The bare bones staff of the Rosemont stared in disbelief as Ivy strutted through the doors and headed for the hotel’s famous crushed-velvet elevator.
“Miss Gams, we weren’t expecting you,” said the concierge, trying to keep up with the world’s most famous musical starlet.
“It looks like you haven’t been expecting anyone in ages.”
“We’ve been unable to accommodate other clients for years. He requires constant attention. Management had reduced staff to the bare minimum to handle Mr. Inferno. When the hotel could no longer be considered financially viable, he bought it and kept us on.”
“How altruistic,” she said, using her most scathingly sanctimonious tone as the elevator doors closed.
The corridor leading up to Eddie’s suite was cluttered with discarded room-service trays and stacks of newspapers piling up by the door. Ivy paused for a moment, summoning the strength she needed to confront the man who had given her so many reasons to live and just as many to die.
“Eddie?” she said, walking through the dor and into the once-lavish suite.
“Ivy?” said a voice in the far corner of the room.
She could make out one person slumped in a chair in front of the large picture window, looking out onto the sweeping vistas of Reno. The floor was covered in vinyl records and half-filled ashtrays, and an acrid stench permeated the air. A decade of smoke, liquor and despair hung like humidity.
“We need to talk.”
“Leave!” he said, reaching for a half empty bottle of discount ripple. “We’ve got nothing left to say.”
“Wish that was true, love,” she replied. “Unfortunately, circumstances have arisen that require our attention.”
“Our?” he asked in a snitty tone. “There ain’t no ‘our,’ love. It’s just me; it’s always been just me.”
“Happy to see you’re still ridiculously melodramatic,” she replied.
He wheezed, then coughed, and Ivy heard an awkward exhalation that resembled a snigger. It was as if his body struggled with the concept of humor—as if he forgot how to express cheerfulness.
“You always did make me laugh,” he said between gasps for air.
“I made you do more than laugh,” she replied, feeling ripples of their innuendo-laced wordplay that at one time would have signaled the start of foreplay.
“State your business,” he said, taking a chug from the bottle.
“The world is in danger, Eddie. Although it makes me violently ill to ask, I need your help.”
He could hear the vulnerability in her voice. She was still capable of eliciting a reaction from Eddie. He felt the first pangs of real emotion—feelings that had been long-dormant, that he assumed were dead and buried next to his sense of decency and enjoyment of Vietnamese cuisine. Plus, he had entered the first stages of erection.
“What is it now?” asked Eddie, still cloaked in the shadows of his near-lightless room.
“Not what,” she said, intentionally drawing out the sentence to try to heighten the drama of the eventual reveal. “But who.”
After a sufficient pause, she delivered the piece of vital information that would drive the story forward.
Anghus is encore’s 2020 fact or fiction writer, featuring the serialized piece, “Burning Sensation.” Read the prologue and previous chapters here.