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Hotel Kafka

By Susana Medina.

© Derek Ogbourne

Well, it’s like you rub your eyes and yawn. You roll out of bed and tiptoe to the kitchen where you feel the floor moving under your bare feet. You stand still next to the fridge to double-check, and manage to put the kettle on by stretching your arm as far as you can without moving the rest of your body because it feels so strange, and you step in the direction of the bathroom and stay completely still against the corridor’s wall, and yet, you still feel your body slowly spinning. You yawn again and rub your eyes to acquire waking vision. Maybe you’re more sleepy than usual. After all, it usually takes you an age to fully wake up, but the corridor is waving, it’s bobbing up and down, and you stagger, and trip over, and with infinite syrupiness your legs fold, landing you next to the intergalactic fluorescent green Hoover, and you’ve never seen it from this angle before, and you’re lying right next to a grey and fluorescent green object made out of high impact plastic and marvelling at its upright posture and the universe of stratified dust and fluff in its transparent cylinder and you can smell an earthy warm odour emanating from the carpet, and you think you must clean the Hoover, it’s filthy. You try to get up and stagger and reach the bathroom door and manage to sit on the toilet and the narrow rectangular room is like a cabin and it’s rocking and you’re in a storm at sea on a swaying ferry and the ferry looks exactly like an identical copy of your flat and you think all this as you stagger back to the kitchen and make a coffee and sit down telling yourself you didn’t drink a drop yesterday, though it feels like maximum inebriation, and while drinking the coffee, you wonder what the hell is happening, and the cup’s slightly blurred and you dip a wholemeal biscuit in the dark liquid, and then another one, and your vision feels fuzzy, as if it you were having a pixelated breakfast, and you decide you don’t like pixelated food, but solid, hyperrealist healthy food, with well-known digestive effects.

You rub your eyes and stop a yawn in its tracks with your blurred hand. You look out the window and it might be raining, it isn’t clear, the view is slightly out of focus and the window isn’t that clean and your vision is like looking through dense rain and you get up and take a step and shrink, and take another step and implode, and you stand on your knees and rise and stand still, very still, but you’re spinning. The ground you stand on isn’t solid anymore. There’s an extremely odd clash between space and your perception of space. Is that clash inside you or outside you? There are chasms everywhere in the flat and you don’t feel mentally drunk, it’s mainly an oh-so-physical thing. The walls, covered in books and CDs and paintings, are slowly spinning. Every room you go through is spinning and you stagger to the toilet again and you’re in nauseaville and everything gyrates in slow motion and you realise there’s a shift in your perception and you try to reach the sink and you succeed against all odds. You don’t have time to switch the light on and the sink fills up with the coffee and two biscuits you’ve just eaten, mixed in with all the bile and acidic juices in your stomach, and when you run the tap, all the brown viscous fluids that make up your disgusting vomit rise up, and your facial and neck muscles are extremely tensed up, it’s as if there was a rusty nail stuck in your throat, and you cough and cough and try and try, but nothing else comes out from your innards, just saliva and bile, as bitterness spreads through your palate, your tongue, under your tongue, your throat, and oesophagus, and you keep on spitting, and you spit nothing, and the taste of nothing is vile.

You sit down on the sofa and stare at a red- light-emitting-diode clock, and your vision is slightly blurred but you can see it’s 8:48 AM, and there’s a bit of coffee-drenched biscuit on your T-shirt sleeve, and you take the garment off. You stumble towards the bed as if it was a raft on the ocean of your dizziness and climb up and fall and you try again and when you coil up in bed, you realise the bed is also spinning, and you wonder: what was I going to do today? You close your eyes to have a rest from the spinning room, but the spinning continues as a sensation, there’s a slow circular motion gyrating around your organs and a whorl inside your forehead, and you close your eyes, and when you open them again, that’s all you see, a spinning landscape of senseless geometries.

You know there’s a spinning entity inside you. You don’t know how it came to be there. The walls covered in paintings, books and DVDs are waving and waving, and that can’t be, but it is. You close your eyes, and the room you’re in is both familiar and unfamiliar, that’s to say, uncanny, and you get up thinking you should sit on a chair and your reality is like a hand-held video camera sequence filmed while running softly. Everything is shaky and blurred as you sit on the edge of your bed. Everything is out of focus. You feel you’re out of focus yourself. You think odd thoughts. You’ve fallen through a huge hole on the floor which leads to a flat that is identical to your flat. Only, this flat keeps slowly spinning. The entire room is spinning. Reality slowly spins. The walls slowly spin causing their angles to fade away. You can’t see the invisible thread that lends continuity to things because nothing stays still. You try to stay dead still, but everything’s gyrating and you’re indeed in nauseaville when you hear a voice that feels as if a hotel receptionist was speaking through you: ‘Welcome to Hotel Kafka.’

And you wonder where the hell has that voice come from, and turn to one side and close your eyes, and immediately feel a pulsating pressure behind your eyelids.

The spinning entity thickens, and it keels over inside your body, slowing down your arteries. It twists your blood into redundant shapes. It makes your blood flow sluggishly, wearily. Microscopic wars are being fought within your blood. Spinning days go by in extreme slow motion. Sometimes the spinning entity is quiet. The quiet can last a few hours. Other times, it seems the spinning entity is both inside and outside your body, creating a field of centrifugal and centripetal forces that contradict each other making you keel over. When the spinning entity intensifies its being, the only thing you can do is assume the horizontal position and call on sleep to dissolve the turbulence, to postpone it if only for a little while. You close your eyes tight, and you are a rag doll hurled in a washing machine, going through all these programs ad aeternum, now spinning slow, so slow, now, even slower. Vertigo time is slow time that suddenly decelerates at corners subjecting the room to the laws of minimum speed. It’s life on the slow-slower-slow lane of vertigo. Slow-slower-slow and nauseous. You call for quiet. Shoo shoo. That becomes your mantra. It’s a perfectly useless prayer. You try to move along with the spinning entity. Not to go against it. To be supple like a reed so you won’t break. You fight against it. You can’t fight it. Nausea pervades your entire being. Eyes shut, you can see chasms everywhere. You realise there’s an error inside your body. Your whole body looks blue, bluish. You wonder: Will I come out the other side?

Hotel Kafka: rotating vistas, bleak ambiance, a room weirdly marooned in a spinning universe with a revolving bed that traps you in unbearable vertigo. To begin with, nausea is like a bad hangover. Then it becomes a bad bad hangover, then a killer hangover, then a perpetually monstrous something other. You don’t know it’ll be weeks and months intermittently living inside an infinite something else, a hangover inside a hangover within a never-ending hangover, a mise en abyme of hangovers.

And then you experience again a pulsating pressure behind your eyelids.

And the pulsating pressure behind your eyelids builds up.

And then everything is about to become worse while everything continues to spin.

Your eyes become sick eggs.

Your eyes grow and grow and grow like sick eggs about to crack.

You’re trapped in the corridors of pain.

You writhe and writhe and swear.

Swearing provides a slight respite.

You’ve become a creature of twilight and night.

Someone covers all the windows in Hotel Kafka with heavy blankets.

You writhe and call their name.

And then, the netherworld. Everything is black.

Indelible onyx black.

You are a guest at the demolition of your own reality. It’s like watching a building that’s imploding in extreme slow-motion and then realising you are that building. Buildings and buildings and buildings implode around you and within you. You’re a series of buildings that implode. You can see yourself in the fragments of concrete floating in the air. Everything changes continuously in the outside world, but your world remains caught up in a series of interconnected implosions. You take each day as it comes. One day at a time. You know all things must pass. You look forward to vertigo winding down. You can’t grasp what’s happening. The incredulity. You’re stupefied before what’s happening, as if it was a sick joke by the Almighty, one he should apologise for. But then you’ve always believed there’s no Almighty. God is absence, god’s the solitude of man and woman. Solace has to come from within. You’re in a space whose walls and angles are becoming an extension of yourself. You’re under house arrest. You’re flung into the void. You don’t have the energy to feel incredulous. You try to gauge the true dimensions of the destruction. That’ll have to be postponed. Close your eyes, you tell yourself. Sleep. Sleep until time becomes time as you know it. Sleep. Shhhh. Sleep, sweetheart.

You’re in a completely dark, humid and unknowable space. You’re at the end of a subterranean cavern where not a chink of light can reach. You think you might have become a bat, the violence of nature is inside your body, you’re in the eye of the tornado. Some people chase tornados, to wrestle directly with nature, with fate. The tornado is inside you. You cannot turn inside out and chase it.

You’re not yourself anymore. You’ve become a multicellular battleground for invisible forces. Your will has been sandpapered, until there’s nothing.

And between nothing and nothing, you’ve become a whirlwind.

Days and days and days and nights. Not knowing whether it is day or night, not that it matters. Nothing matters anymore except for the fact that you have to go through time. Come out at the other end. That’s what matters. Nothing else. You know the way to do it is to sleep, to wait it out, to just do the bare minimum to survive the tornado. You have to endure the nothing, go through it, until it wears itself out. Sleep. Dream.


You have just read an excerpt from Spinning Days of Night.

Tiger & Susana Medina
© Lorenzo Hernández

Susana Medina has just finished Spinning Days of Night, and Rebel Rebel, An Emergency Dialogue, co-written with Roc Sandford. She is the author of Philosophical Toys, offspring of which are the short films Buñuel’s Philosophical Toys; Leather-Bound Stories (co-directed with Derek Ogbourne); Red Tales (bilingual ed. co-translated with Rosie Marteau) and Souvenirs del Accidente. She has been awarded the Max Aub Short Story International Prize.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, June 14th, 2021.