Paradise Hotel 51

Where Gaming Dies

Epoch: Chapter 5

It was dark. Was it still night? How long had it taken…for Harman to get his ass down here? To Room…? What was the room number again? He hadn’t decided to leave the suite for the duration of his stay, so he hadn’t bothered noting the number. There’d been an arm chair, there’d been a mini-bar. There hadn’t been concern for anything else. Well…not too much of ‘anything’ else. Not some punk kid who’d decided-?

Art by Kitano Smith

It’d been funny. It’d been goddamn hysterical. A .50 round to the chest at close range…and it’d only…taken his breath away. Dan…didn’t recall the breath returning to him…until…now.

Senses widened themselves; this was a lot like, reminded Dan of nights drinking with Harry at Harry’s apartment. He’d always awakened more comfortably there than anywhere else. Than he had at his own apartment in 1980’s New York City. Harry’s apartment had been in Queens; had been in as safe a neighborhood as a polite war zone. Harry’d always loved that place. Dan had loved the idea that one day, he’d be free from the mediocrity of life as a Violent Crimes Squad member; the program, named Wide Eye, had been one that’d paired cadets fresh out of the academy ( and at least six months on the street ) with more seasoned Detectives to create a team of willing, ‘wide-eyed’, all observant rookies and true blue, hard-nosed Violence police.

It had worked, and very well; the squad had won many awards, and commendations, closed many cases. Still existed. Harry’d been no slouch in the ‘commendations’ department, and had earned a favor or two. Harry’d specifically requested him as partner. Dan had thought the red-headed Bronx child…had been out of his mind. Now, he was just…dead? Just…like…?

Dan opened his eyes so sharply, the air stung them. Even the dim light stung; his vision was blurred, but he was used to that in the mornings – afternoons, mostly. What time was it? Where was this? It wasn’t…whatever the room number was. 301? 103? 187? Dan wanted to chuckle, but found no strength in his chest. He laid wherever his body rested, and stared at the ceiling. The blurry ceiling. He didn’t know if he was angrier that he was groggier than usual or that he was breathing again. All over again.

When would that old man have enough of him? When would he be free of him and all the pompous bullshit. That stupid, rambling bastard and his field trips. Philadelphia was enough like New York to depress the shit out of him. Dan was content to simply sit in his hotel room, bandaged, healing, and see how many of those miniature bottles equaled one 750 ml bottle of White Horse. Now that had been appropriate. That stupid kid had just waltzed right in, and…well, maybe he’d wanted him to come.

Art by Dcat

The whole trip had buzzed of unrest. It had been some damn test, some coup de grace for Harman to rub their faces in, Dan was certain of it. His side had been killing him, and he hadn’t been amused. Fuck the Liberty Bell. Fuck liberty. At least his side no longer hurt. He could take a deep breath in without gasping. He did so now. The familiar scratch in his lungs from over a decade and a half of smoking was also oddly…absent. He hadn’t felt this good in years. He hadn’t felt this alarmed…ever. This was a foreign kind of disorientation to him.

Dan rolled over onto one side, and blinked frequently, testing his clearing eyes. He looked down…he was wearing…gym gear? College sweats? He couldn’t make out the insignia; his vision wouldn’t yet allow it. But…was this…a cover? No…no way in gods would he be caught dead in…well… There were certain circumstances.

This was a dream. That’s what it was. Maybe he’d see Harry again, like he would so often in dreams; the only person he’d ever grant audience to in the quiet provinces of mental nightfall; he was free to do so there, without any further threat of loss. He’d already lost everything he possibly could, besides the very bare essentials; those were listing somewhere in the back of Dan’s head. He didn’t care to acknowledge the list. No. Wait. There was…a fireplace? Why was there a fireplace? There hadn’t been one-? No, dreams were ridiculous commentaries on the inner realms of the desires, the mind. This…? Why was there a fireplace? Dan reached a hand up, his right, to his left arm…and he pinched. Hard. Then again. Again.

Fuck,” he croaked. Swallowed. Repeated.


That was better. Less weak. But the improved clarity in his voice had no impact on the matters at hand.

This wasn’t a dream.
He was still alive, or alive again.
And Harman…was somewhere, just around the corner, and ready to rub his face in it.