You enter the dilapidated, moldering lobby of the Hollywood Tower to join other venturesome visitors whose curiosity has also gotten the better of them.

Take heart that there's safety in numbers and no elevator in sight. This decayed foyer betrays little of the hotel's diabolic secrets — though it's obvious by the newspaper, walking cane and other personal effects that those who last occupied this lobby left in a hurry. If indeed they departed of their own will at all.

Wisely none of your fellow trespassers dare disturb these forlorn artifacts, for their antique value carries a heavy price in tempting the Tower's curse. Best to let sleeping ghosts lie: steal even the smallest memento and you may well become the next souvenir collected by the Twilight Zone.

The claws of curiosity dig a bit deeper into you as you leave the lobby and the gathering of morbidly curious intruders. You pass the concierge desk with its cobwebbed key boxes and abandoned mail — messages that will never reach departed guests... unless you would care to deliver them personally? Perhaps more can be learned about this tragic mystery in the library...

Turning left down the corridor, you pass quickly by the blown-out doors of the ill-fated elevator banks. You note that the Out of Order sign hung on the first mangled cage door is the understatement of the century!

As you venture deeper into the hotel, the decaying damage inflicted upon the Tower grows more evident and severe. Large cracks in the plastered walls and ceiling starkly contradict the elegant, richly appointed Southwestern architecture and decor. These fatal fractures give the hall a spiritually and physically broken pallor — the vanquished combatant in a war with otherworldly darkness.

You can almost feel the ethereal energy of yesteryear's movie stars and studio moguls brush past you... the wafting aroma of French perfume, or the ancient scent of a Havana cigar long extinguished. Was that the faint echo of an elevator bell sounding across the gloom? No, impossible. The fossilized arrows on the floor indicators show no movement, and have remained deathly still for decades.

Outside the intricately carved wooden doors of the library, patches of damage expose the lathe and plaster skeleton of the Tower. You can't help but wonder if indeed the hotel is structurally sound — how many years longer will this battered building stand before the elements and its own decay cause a sudden, catastrophic collapse? A year? A month? A week? An hour..?

Or perhaps some supernatural, sinister curse keeps these crumbling walls standing upright, its floors solid, so the Hollywood Tower may continue enticing unlucky victims into its shadowy heart? Will the tragically merciful forces at work here afford this lonely hostel unending generations of guests? Indeed, the Twilight Zone understands that an empty hotel is an unhappy hotel, unfulfilled and hungering for a steady diet of souls seeking lodging, be they visitors or victims.

And as your own intrusion here illustrates, there is no shortage of inquisitive souls willing to explore this haunted tower, even at their own risk. No doubt this is how shadowy realms of the Twilight Zone are continually populated: the few and foolhardy will always ignore the warning signs, and by the time they see the welcome sign, it is too late to escape.

You promise yourself a quick look around the library and then a hasty exit, before you become the latest permanent resident of the Tower.

Yet this untended, unsettling collection of ancient and ominous artifacts displayed only piques your foolish curiosity. Bizarre masks stare blankly at you amid statuettes, trinkets and odd keepsakes, all woven together in a macabre tapestry of dusty cobwebs. The dim lighting of the library casts an eerie pall over this collection, perhaps as disparate and disconnected as the ill-fated souls lost forever in the Tower's haunted heights.

But before you can examine these artifacts any closer, a brilliant flash of lightning suddenly crackles outside the library window. Certainly the skies were crystal clear tonight, with not a cloud in the sky to spark this storm? The growling peal of thunder quickly answers your startled mind: no weatherman alive can forecast the fickle and fateful atmosphere of the Twilight Zone.

As the storm grows stronger, the library lights flicker out entirely, plunging you into total darkness. An old television set stored on a shelf sparks to life in the gloom, and out of its ghostly static, a familiar face and voice call out from beyond time...

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© 2004 scott weitz