Tranquil Travels Motel blends in with the barren desert. Dust covered and soul-draining. Its neon sign glows a deep blue, creating the only light for miles and adds a drunken glow to the worn stone pathway, spreading out across the land with a somber intensity, in competition with the twilight stars. It sways, buzzing, blue and blurry in the stiff and deadpan air.
A mirage, a fever dream, sauntering away from reality.
A silhouette rambles down the road, enticed like a moth to a flame, perhaps it is the urge to escape the deafening quiet that calls to him, or perhaps it is the lies promised by the glow, promises of clean lodgings and warm food. Lies who cross their hearts and perhaps their fingers, hand you a bottle, and swear not to tell.
A baby's wails slice through the quiet and the silhouette sings sweet melodies, covered with sugar to hide the scent of chloroform. A whistle in the dark.
Jasper pulls his collar from his sweaty neck, his shirt sticking to his sunburnt flesh like a second skin. The darkness drives off some of the summer's heat but does little against the sandpaper air.
Tears skin from bone
And dries the soul
Memories of Dog Days fly on wings of dried petals,
Carrying dreams of-
Jasper thumps his pen against the notebook in thought, a bead of sweat slowly rolling down his pudgy forehead.
Carrying dreams of camels with purple saddles,
their eyes containing the tide.
A drop sweat falls upon the last word, the ink swirls, exploding into a rainbow of color. Jasper smiles down at his creation in a smug celebration.
The service bell dings, the sound echoes throughout the small lobby.
Jasper jumps, smudging his hand through the poem, leaving a long scar of ink across the surface. He bites his tongue and puts on the cold, deadpan mask he'd carefully crafted, glaring up at the stranger with practiced boredom and intense concentration. His gaze softens as he looks at the poorly lit man, and his eyes curve in surprise. Jasper G. Grey had seen a hell of a lot working for the Tranquil, but this was new.
Never once had a guest showed up in the dead of night, with a horrendous nose bleed and a newborn baby in their arms.
Jasper looks them up and down, regains his composure with a roll of his shoulders and grunts. He knows nothing good would come to the child, as nothing good ever comes to the Tranquil. The stranger wipes his bloody nose with his hand, smearing the blood across the front of his dress shirt.
Unlucky little thing
The stranger takes a swig of whiskey from a nearly empty bottle. He stumbles slightly and mumbles something under his breath.
"Room." He grunts, pointing at the keys hanging from the wall in drunken accusation. "Please." He adds as an afterthought.
Jasper tilts his head, wrinkling his nose at the obnoxious scent of warm whiskey. He picks up his notebook, frowning at the stain, and waves dramatically backward at the filthy blackboard, prices scrawled on it in poor handwriting.
The fan buzzes ignorantly on.
"How old's the kid?" Jasper questions, not looking up from the notebook, and covering up his concern with a yawn.
"Shut up," the stranger growls, his voice quivering ever so slightly. He adjusts his grip on the baby, who lay fast asleep in his arms as he pulls a bundle of cash from the back pocket of his jeans, slamming it down with a dull thud.
Jasper waves away the statement as if it were a mosquito and gazes at the bundle. He sighs.
"Well, we don't usually allow chil-"
The stranger slams a new bundle against the counter, the fan wobbles precariously, nearly falling from the desk.
Jasper looks at the second bundle, then at the baby, then back down at the bundle. He bites his lip and wonders how long he is willing to burn in hell. He pulls his sweaty collar from his neck once again, realizing hell couldn't possibly be much hotter than Nevada summers.
"I'm sure we can make an exception, Mr...?"
The stranger stares at him and shifts his weight anxiously, the baby beginning to wail.
"Mr. Winston." He mumbles, looking distressed by the baby's screams.
Jasper reaches over, pulls one of many sets of keys from the wall, and tosses them to Mr. Wilson, who scrambles to catch them. They stare at one another for a moment, a stare of mutual distrust, the baby becoming louder than before. Wilson marches off at Jasper's small dismissive wave. The moment Wilson is out of sight, Jasper flops against the desk with his head in his hands. He tries not to think about how suddenly the baby had gone quiet after they rounded the corner.
The clock ticks in a hypnotic rhythm.
It sounds like a shovel hitting bare rock, Jasper shifts uneasily, digging his fingers harder and harder into his scalp, the clock digging him deeper and deeper into his self made pit of guilt.
It's none of your business
The kid will be fine
Why do you care? You've never cared
The kid WILL be fine
Naive baby killer
Jasper growls, unplugs the fan with a yank, and hurls it towards the clock. It crashes against it with a slam, glass exploding across the stained linoleum floor. His chest heaves for breath as he collapses into the chair, laughing maniacally.
"Why do I care?" He mumbles a bit too loud.
Jasper pulls open the desk drawer, digging through the contents blindly until his hand happens upon a box of cigarettes, a package he knew better than the back of his hand. Shakily, he lights one, taking a deep puff.
Jasper shudders at the sound, glaring at the huddled mess of fan and clock. He reaches frantically for the television remote, switching on the tiny display, its colors unusually saturated.
He turns up the volume to near-deafening levels, drowning out both the clock and his mind. He takes another puff from the cigarette, glancing up at the news report. He tries to steady his breathing, forcing out thoughts of the bundles of money he'd been given, the countless hours he had sat in the chair, and blatantly denied his morals.
Killer. Heartless bastard. Money crazed baby murderer.
He turns the tv up higher.
The camera pans to a news reporter in a too-tight blue suit, awkwardly holding a bundle of papers, he clears his throat.
"The family of missing three-week-old baby from Boulder City, Nevada are making a desperate plea for help after a three-day-long search. Police believe the boy's father has taken him with possibly dangerous intent. The child was last seen-"
Jasper switches the television off, and runs a hand through his hair, staring at the black screen. He puts out the cigarette, stamping it unnecessarily hard with the sole of his foot.
It's probably not the same baby, it's probably...
A baby wails in the distance, he shivers.
Jasper reaches for the phone and freezes as the cries become louder. He considers his options.
Jasper spins slowly towards the drawer, pulling out his handgun, and loading it with a soft click, he smiles nervously, decisively, with a clear purpose.
Besides, hell couldn't possibly be much hotter than Nevada.