I am not one to indulge in the manufacture of absurd fictions, but for the sake of posterity–that at some point in the distant future perhaps, a concerned party might have these outlandish discoveries recorded so as to verify the authenticity of future accounts–I relate to you what occurred one night while I was traveling, incognito, through a strange, bewildering city.
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It was late in the day, and I was exceedingly tired, so I went for the nearest hotel, which was a large, grey house in the middle of a broad thoroughfare, standing, sentinel-like over a street heavy with traffic.
I quickly and easily went in, having already made reservations, and had my baggage brought upstairs for me by the bellhop, a rather oddly pear-shaped young man who, nonetheless, moved with a speed I could hardly have credited him with. He turned to me before he went, and in a voice that sounded as if it were emerging from a ring of warped rubber, told me that, as they were full up, they had had to substitute my original room with another, and that, consequently I would have to share. He innocently enough inquired of me if that would be a problem, and I assured him, indeed (as I was a most agreeable chap in those bygone days) that it would not.
At any rate, I was simply tired and wanted some sleep.
I went into my room, noting the two beds set side by side, and taking a few things out of my valise, prepared to settle myself down to sleep.
I spread myself out on the bed luxuriantly, wondering for a moment if I should endeavor to read from the large volume of dusty stories I had brought with me for the duration of my trip.
I decided against it, and, putting out the lamp, pulled the covers of the bed under my chin. I reminded myself that someone would be shortly joining me in the room. I hoped against hope that they would not be too loud or, God forbid, in a highly intoxicated state, as such a situation would certainly not lend itself to conducive slumber for me.
I closed my eyes, and after a few minutes a light sleep began to settle over me, and I beheld strange vistas in far- off places, and fancied I could see dancing girls and hopping men in a garden, and any other number strange and bewildering visions. As I said though, it was a light sleep, though when I was finally aroused from it, it was with a vague confusion as to whether or not I might actually still be dreaming.
It was not long after I had settled into the dreaming state that the door to my room began to rattle, and a key was inserted into the lock, and I came half-awake at the sound of a heavy and stertorous breathing. Suddenly, dim light from the hallway poured into the room, and a shadow spread itself across the wall. I blinked several times as I moved toward complete wakefulness, for the shadow bore several odd properties for which my still half-asleep mind could not completely account.
Suddenly, the door closed, and the light was blocked, and all that served to throw shadow against the far wall was the rather bright and milky moonlight as it poured through the window between the beds. Not wanting to immediately turn over to greet my lodging companion, but curious as to the nature of the strange shape of the shadow I had seen projected on the wall, I tilted over slightly on my side, still feigning sleep, and had myself as good a look as can be imagined in the moonlit room.
What I saw was quite startling. Before me setting down a valise by the side of the bed as he very slowly and cumbersomely prepared to go to sleep himself, was the strangest figure I had ever seen. Imagine, if you will, a very old, hunched man in an impeccable suit, with a very lean cadaverous face, and wispy white hair spilling out from under his bowler, who breathes with a heavy, rasping wheeze, very slowly, and who wears a cloak of the type most often seen around the shoulders of male sopranos in an Italian opera. Now, imagine this character possessing two of the longest arms you have ever seen on any human being in your entire life.
Arms that reach well below the high, hunched waistline. Arms that could quite easily stand as tall as their owner.
The man could have walked on his palms and scarcely worried about dragging the rest of his bulk across the floor.
I lay in bed for a moment, assuming that I was still dreaming, and suppressed the urge to scream. However, I appeared to be struck dumb by the revelation, and the terrible old man simply bowed his shoulders, said, “Excuse me for disturbing you. I won’t be a moment,” and then took off his hat.
It amazed me to see him do this, for it appeared as if his arms were made of some rubbery substance altogether different from human flesh, and that they bent in several places to accomplish the aforementioned act. Then, as I reeled up in terror, he, seemingly undistracted by my steadily increasing fear and outrage, commenced to change from his clothing into a long nightgown and tasseled cap, and do so at such a prodigious speed I wondered if he had not, somehow, managed to defy the basic laws of physics. It was no time before he became a gentle lump under the covers of his bed, blankets pulled up beneath his face (which bore very little in the way of a chin), and a loud snore, little different from his breathing, commencing from his lungs.
I do not have to tell you that I slept very little that night, and when exhaustion finally claimed me, I descended down the steps of sleep into a dream word haunted by queer phantasms and shambling, long-armed horrors.
I was grateful the next morning when I awoke, that the last glimpse I got of the long-armed man was his back going out the hotel room door. I paused for a moment, wondering if what I had seen was real in the accepted manner of what we perceive to be conventional reality, or if there was some vague, extra-normal force at work, and then, realizing I should never know a moment’s peace as long as I stayed at that particular establishment, I bounded from bed, washed my face off in the sink, and threw on my clothing as quickly as possible (though admittedly, not as quickly as the strange gentleman had thrown his off the night before), and gathering my bags by hand, hurried from the room as quickly as possible.
It was in the lobby, while I waited to check out, and scanned the morning papers, that I happened upon yet another mocking horror of a sight. Imagine if you will a conventionally-attired man in his mid-thirties perhaps. Very elegant in his own manner, and wearing an impeccable jacket, bowtie, and bowler. Now, imagine that such a man has a very short torso, short, almost child-like arms, and a very small head upon which to rest the aforementioned hat. Now, I ask you to imagine that gentleman to be in possession of the two longest legs you have ever had the misfortune to see in your entire life, legs nearly three times as long as his entire body. Now, I ask you to imagine that those legs, contrary to what is considered normal and wholesome by the vast majority of living men, actually seem to grow larger as the proceed downward to the floor, culminating in ankles which must have roughly the circumference of small tree trunks, and ending in feet that were, truly, a nightmare shod in shoe leather.
I felt the morning paper begin to quiver in my fingers, and realized that the sound of this was audible to the abnormal giant, whose tiny head nearly missed scraping the ceiling of the lobby by a few inches. With a tread that was amazingly quiet given the freakish proportions of his feet, yet, which still possessed the quality of a shoe being pulled slowly from an adhesive sheet, he walked over, stood in front of me with his tiny fists on his skyward waistline, and asked, rather huffily, “Is there something I can help you with? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I cast my eyes heavenward, my mind trying to take in the overwhelming sight of the curious man, and said, as politely as possible, ‘Not in the least. I’m simply famished, and I suppose it is playing hell with my nerves. I must go for breakfast at once.”
He seemed a bit placated by this, turned his head curiously, shrugged his shoulders with a tiny “humph”, and proceeded out the door, which he was forced to bend quite low to scissor under. I never saw him again, and for that I am quite thankful.
I dropped my paper. I had had enough of this bizarre business, and I wanted to speak with the manager of the hotel. I wanted an explanation, and I meant to have one post-haste.
At the desk the clerk was busy reading the morning paper. I banged angrily on the bell, and suddenly, irritably, he let the paper drop.
I felt my mouth fly open, and a scream escape from my lungs and die, silently, in the air.
The clerk, or at least this clerk, a man who I had not chanced to see the previous evening, stood revealed before me in all of his naked wonder, a very unhappy scowl upon his face for having been so rudely interrupted. He placed both palms on the counter and said, rather brusquely, “May I help you?”
As he said this he leaned over, until the tip of his nose was nearly touching the tip of mine. He didn’t have far to lean, though, for his nose was of such a prodigious and horrific length, I daresay it might have put Cyrano De Bergerac to shame. I began to stutter in confusion. The nose that stabbed at the air angrily in front of my own was a good twelve inches in length at the least.
I suddenly lost my nerve and bolted for the door, leaving my luggage behind. Oh, well, I thought madly, while huffing and puffing out on the walkway in front of that macabre hotel, I can always send my servant around for the luggage. I couldn’t tolerate stepping foot back in the place in my present condition.
Later, while drinking at a common pub, I began to regret my nervous haste. After all, I reflected, I should be far more tolerant of the abnormalities of others, especially those imperfections and deformities they suffer through no fault of their own, but merely as an accident of birth; a freak of nature.
Tolerance is the hallmark of the truly refined intellect.
After all, I can hold an entire globe in the palm of one hand.