The mesh door groaned behind G as the rusty spring strained to return to its dormant position. The insect-hollowed frame cushioned the doors arrival to a dull thud and wood dust puffed softly out.
G's every footstep across the vast foyer crinkled as he stepped on a plastic sheet splattered in paint.
He caught sight of himself in one of the six square mirrored columns. In the silence, he took time to really look. Slowly his face changed from the image he expected and projected to an accurate portrayal of his current appearance. There was fine desert dust in his hair and his beard bringing them both to a light sandy colour. His skin, an angry red glowing through an earthy brown, was dry and when he changed expression it pulled taught leaving lines for fortune tellers to read.
In the reflection he saw the reception for the hotel over his shoulder and though there was no-one there, he turned towards it. Behind the desk, birds had nested in the recesses where keys were kept. All the keys were in. A grey bird with a bright orange beak squawked as it rearranged itself in its nest, rattling the keys to room 15. The sound echoed down the two corridors leading down the east and west wing, making dust jump, plaster crumble and window panes shake in their loose fittings. A few minutes later the squawk returned down the central corridor, though because the hall in the east wing was cluttered with mattresses and the bird call had lingered for a rest, the squawk that started life in the throat of a bird as one, came to die in the foyer as two.
Then another sound came swishing down the central corridor. It was a whispering sound G had originally thought was wind, but now heard to be rhythmic. He turned to look at the bird, it was disinterested. "Go look if you want, I'm not stopping you."
The central corridor was dark, instead of light switches, cables wrapped overzealously in black electrical tape twisted their way out of the wall. Even in the darkness G could make out patches of paint, some fresher than others. There was only consistency of hue in about a two meter radius, after that it was either faded and dusty or newer and slightly truer to white.
Unused to being stepped on, the fibres of Persian rugs along the corridor moved apart to let his battered leather boots touch the humid cement floor directly and then crawled back into place as he slowly lifted his foot for the next step.
Someone had written the room numbers in chalk on the wall by bare wooden doors. The draft his head stirred by turning pushed open doors on disintegrating hinges.
At the corner he could see a vague outline of a pile reaching the ceiling. Reaching it he noticed it was a pile of furniture and cushions stacked as if they had collided coming round a blind turn. The mountain forced him to shuffle along the wall mindful of the legs of upturned stools and regal chairs.
Once safely on the other side he stared down another long dusty hall, but here he noticed that the three doors closest to him had brass numbers.
Something fell on his head, sending tingles down his hairs before his scalp recognised it as a cold liquid. His hand returned from an exploratory journey with white gooey substance smelling somewhere between pine and gasoline. He looked up and felt the liquid seeping towards his neck. He gasped, and sent sonic waves racing each other to the foyer. High above him on a bamboo ladder resting on one wall with its feet at the base of the other, was what at the distance looked like a young boy stretching his arm as far as he could with a paintbrush. Another drop fell and the boy followed it down onto G's nose. The boy was shocked, the ladder rocked and as he fell he seemed to grow and age. By the time he landed in a puff of cobweb dust on the cushions of a discarded sofa G saw he was an old man. The old man jumped up with glee,
"Hello, peace be with you. How are you? Fine? Is your family well? Your mother, your wife your children? Is your business prosperous? What is your name? It’s a pleasure to meet you. I am Amadullah. You are fifty five years late for Osama. When he came, I took his bags. As you see we are redecorating. This is the third time I paint that spot. How are you?"
Two sandals landed on the floor and Amadullah stepped into them.
"Room?" Amadullah arched his eyebrows inquisitively and ducked his head.
Amadullah held G's wrist and led him to the first door with brass letters on it.
"We only have one at the moment."
Inside Amadullah ran over to one end of the bed, held the frame and gestured with his head at the other end.
G picked up his end and followed Amadullah out of the room to the empty one across the hall. They set it down and Amadullah said "you wait" and scuttled off.
G took a deep breath and disturbed the balance of the room. The hat stand balanced on a box of matches fell over. A column of ants marching up the wall scattered in all directions. A series of squawks chased each other through the halls.
Amadullah returned and set a lock down on the floor with a clunk. He then proceeded to drill a hole in the door. Termites set about the wood shavings and they disappeared as quickly as they fell. Once the lock was fitted, Amadullah searched around his deep pockets. He pulled out a number 2, then leant out the doorframe, then threw the number back. He took out a five and a one and nailed them to the door. Finally, he handed G the key, smiled, put his hand on his heart, and rushed off, the termites following him.