There’s a hotel in northern California, in a town called Byron, known as the Hot Springs Hotel. Once vibrant and full of life, the hotel was a place to escape from the harsh realities of every day life; a place for people to come and relax. But now the hotel has died and the guests are unable to escape.
Oh sure, you might see the living visit the hotel during the day. Teenagers from local high schools come to take pictures of the rubble for photography classes or as evidence of their bravery. They walk the broken halls and climb the cracked stairs. The boys laugh as they try to scare the girls. Others use the hotel to hide from the cops as they drink and smoke. But before the sun buries under the horizon, everyone of them leaves. Even the bravest of the brave are too frightened to remain at the hotel after sundown. For at night, you see, the ghosts come out. There’s an old man in ragged white clothing who paces in the lobby mumbling something about being robbed; there’s a young girl in a beautiful crimson gown ready for the ball, and if she asks you to dance with her, say no and run for your life; a little girl and her younger brother run through the halls searching for their dog. These are the nightly guests of the Byron Hotel. The Asian man who offers blissfully to tell you secrets, the old woman with the glass of sauvignon blanc complaining about the lazy hotel staff, and the maid who complains about the old woman. They glide through the hotel rooms like whips of fog or the thing in the corner of your eye. They long and moan for an escape in a way that only the dead can understand, but they remain trapped at the Byron hotel.
If they catch you they will sweep you up—for misery loves company—and take you away. They want you to join them as they glide and swoosh and float and fly.
For if you fail to leave the hotel before sundown you will join the flights of ghosts. And being a ghost is a very ghastly thing to be. See, when you’re a ghost, it isn’t so much the paleness and the coldness of yourself that gets to you, but rather the lack of vivid colors in the world around you. Your senses weaken to where the the gardens of Versailles would look pallid and dull. And you’ll hate the living for being able to escape to a world so filled with color and life; you’ll wish you could escape with them, but you’ll find yourself bound to the bleak and the muted. And you’ll roam the halls and whisk away the living just to see the vibrant color of their souls brighten in the instant before it grays and wanes.
So remember to leave by twilight. Return home and turn on your lights. Enjoy the colors of your room and in your cheeks and be thankful you were able to escape from the decrepit remains of the hotel, and pity the ghosts who remain its prisoners.
And if you’re ever dared to spend the night at the Hot Springs Hotel in Byron California, you would do well to refuse. If your darer calls you a chicken and makes clucking sounds, just dare him to spend the night instead. His face will fall and he’ll grow silent because he knows deep down in the marrow of his bones that if you spend the night with the ashy rubble, you’ll never be able to leave.