Picture description. A ramshackle house up a tree... Image drawn by
To be honest: It wasn't exactly a
house up on that tree, but rather a ramshackle, rickety hut, though a really,
really big one, with a story, an attic, a gable, it had all of that – and even a
weathercock on top of it! On its roof, clearly visible from afar, one could see
a huge wooden board with bright shining letters emblazoned on it, which read:
"VACANCY". The sign apparently meant real business, for a lamp next to the front
door exuded soft light. Strange, huh? Especially because in order to get up to
this curious construction one had to climb a long, long makeshift ladder that
looked even more frail than the rope bridge – or the house itself for that
matter. Needless to say, quite a spooky affair, the whole thing!
What added to the mystery was that it rained and rained, there at this queer
place, on and on, without ever letting up. Water came pouring down in torrents,
descending from above like there was no tomorrow. Aside from the grotesque hut
with its faint light at the door, everything looked so hopeless, as if the
future was just a distant dream or a mere illusion. The wind howled and shrieked
and whistled and wailed, shaking the rope bridge, the frail looking ladder and
the eerie skeleton that was the tree; and sometimes he was also wildly rocking
that construction on top of it – so hard, that one was tempted to think it might
plunge down any moment and be devoured by that gaping fathomless maw of
darkness. The wind made the hut all creak and groan and moan, and yet the
structure up there so far still had resisted to succumb to the untamed forces of
But let's have a look inside this bizarre hut now, in order not to catch a cold
out there in this forbidding weather...
Ah yes! Inside, things looked much calmer. Sure, there was no escaping the
unswerving hammering of the rain against the window panes, but after a while of
listening to the monotonous pitter-patter its rhythm was quite soothing to the
ears. An old oil lamp was sitting on a tiny reception desk near the entrance,
merrily spreading its warm light and providing some homey atmosphere. Aside from
the desk it also illuminated an expensive looking carpet in front of the table
that led along a small corridor towards a flight of stairs, a filing cabinet was
in the back – and, most importantly, there was a tiny, skinny figure. It
belonged to an old, crookbacked man, who was hunched behind the desk and right
now turned a page on a book he was reading. A few moments later a faint knock on
the door was to be heard.
The receptionist looked up, not sure whether he had misheard, but then called
out: "Yes? Anyone out there? If so, please come in!"
And someone did come in. It was a young man. Timidly he peeked inside, then
finally entered while clumsily folding his umbrella. Despite all his precautions
against the weather, he was soaked. That's what you get when you climb a ladder
as high as a full-grown tree in midst of a storm – with or without umbrella
makes little difference.
"He... He... Hello..." the youth stuttered.
"Greetings, dear sir," the desk clerk said, slowly removing his spectacles and
putting his book away. He appeared calm, but precise in the sparse actions he
undertook. Most of all however he sported a hearty, friendly smile that made the
guest feel at home instantly. "Welcome in our humble hotel!" he went on. "I
gather, you'd like to get a room? And get out of those drenched clothes of
yours? It's rather ghastly out there, isn't it?"
"Quite... quite ghastly indeed, yes!" The young man mumbled and looked around,
checking every corner of this unusual and unique establishment. "And I... I...
thought nobody would be up here!" he confessed.
"Mr. Nobody? A relative or a friend of yours? I fear we don't have anyone around
here with that name. We've got a few Somebodies, though," the desk clerk
"Oh, oh, sorry, sorry, I... I... think you misunderstood," the yourh stuttered.
"I... I thought I... I... might be all alone here."
"All alone, sir?"
"Well, yes, given the... the... location and everything. You know, like the
bad... bad... weather and... and... such..."
"Yes indeed, the weather..." the clerk acknowledged. "It's always that way
around this time of the year," he added. "But then again this time of year
happens to occur more often than one might actually think it does... I know for
sure, because I live here!"
The young man stared back at him, not quite certain what he was talking about.
"Anyway, no need to worry," the hunchbacked receptionist went on. "You're not
alone up here, sir, not at all! There's always somebody up here. That's
because I'm up here. And as I said before: We've got a few Somebodies." A
trace of a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.
The young man nodded, a bit absent-mindedly, as he was still taking it all in.
"So... I... I... I'm supposed to take a room here?"
"Well yes," the receptionist said. "Of course! People who don't want a room
don't go through all this trouble getting up here, right? I'm pretty sure that's
the case with you as well, no?"
"I... I suppose so..."
"So there. Now which room would you like to have? We've still got number 3, 5, 7
and 8 vacant at the moment."
"What... What's the difference between the lot?"
"No difference whatsoever," the clerk stated. "They're all exactly the same. All
rooms with a view. The abyss looks spectacular from up here, I'm sure you'll
enjoy it tremendously!" He smirked. "Seen from the right angle it's perfectly
"Well, then I... I'll take number... hmm... well... 5 maybe?"
"Number 5 it is then!" The hunchback lilted melodiously. He grabbed the key from
the board behind him and handed it over to his most recent guest. "There you go!
And if I may ask..." He rose and looked left and right and behind the young man.
"You don't happen to have any luggage I could help you with, sir?"
"No, no..." the youth answered hastily. A melancholic quiver rang in his voice.
His eyes began darting back and forth again. "No... None... none at all. I... I
had to get rid of it, you know. It's..."
"I understand," the old man interrupted him. "I won't bother you any further
then. Have a pleasant stay, sir! – Oh, just one last thing: May I ask you to
sign here?" He produced a large bulky tome he had stored away under the desk,
opened it and offered him a pen.
The guest hesitated as he was about to write his name down. "See, I... I...
don't even know yet exactly how long I will stay here, I... I..."
"Don't worry, sir," the clerk assured him. "It's fine, trust me. Stay as long as
you wish. Room 5 belongs to you now."
"But..." The young man still felt uncertain. "How... how... much is it a night?
I couldn't possibly afford more than..."
"The first night is free, sir." The hunchback wiped some dust from the corners
of the registration book he had just spotted. "And it's always night out there
in this part of the world, you know, that's part of the attraction. – In other
words: There's no charge, sir."
"No charge, sir. Please sign!"
At last the young man put his name in the book. It was quiet for a few moments,
safe for the scribbling of his pen and the monotonous rain that kept on pounding
on the nearby window. But then another sound joined in coming from the outside:
a repeating creaking noise of wood being strained in regular intervals. Someone
was climbing up that ladder!
"Ah, another visitor," the desk clerk said enthusiastically as the door was
thrown open and a lady stepped in, a bundle of garments under her arm. She
didn't even have any protection against the rain. Needless to say, she looked a
mess. The clothes she wore were mostly in tatters, the hair unkempt, the bundle
she held was soaked through and through. She gazed at the two men, who gazed
back at her. A strange picture to behold: Three strangers up on a hotel on a
tree in the middle of nowhere.
"Excuse me... But I saw the sign..." the woman almost whispered. "There's a
storm outside..." It's not that nobody wasn't aware of that.
"Certainly we've got one more room," the old man nodded and motioned the young
man to step aside. "Oh, and welcome to our humble abode, My Lady!"
The young man mumbled an almost unintelligible greeting as well. "I... I'll be
off then to my room," he finally finished after a few awkward silent moments. He
didn't want to interfere in other people's business anyway. "Maybe we'll...
we'll... see each other later." He attempted to smile, but wasn't entirely
successful at it, however the lady – as bedraggled as she looked – made an
effort to smile back at him, and that was reward enough for him.
"Until later maybe," she breathed while he headed upstairs. "I'm sorry that you
had to see me this way. I'm really, really sorry." But the young man had already
gone, busy with his own thoughts. "I'd like a room then please," the woman
sniffed towards the hunchbacked clerk.
"But of course!" He pushed the registration book towards her. "People who don't
want a room don't go through all this trouble getting up here, right?" He smiled
even more heartily at her, for he didn't fail to notice that she wasn't only
drenched from head to toe by the rain, but that streams of tears must have been
running down her face only a short while ago. Her face looked puffy, her eyes
were red and when she talked her tone of voice kept shifting between whispering
The lady picked up on the man's compassionate look and pointed at the bundle she
carried with her. "My bride's gown," she said curtly, her eyes getting moist
"It's alright." The clerk made a dismissive gesture. "We don't ask questions
here. It's just the way we do things, and it turned out to be the best for
everyone. Anyway, you've made a good choice seeking out our establishment. As I
explain to everyone: Your first night is free, my dear, and you can stay as long
as you wish." He leaned over his desk. "And I may add that it's a true pleasure
to have you here!"
The lady gave a wry smile, but then looked at her sorry self which she could
barely bear to see herself and said: "Well, I'm sure you compliment everyone who
enters here, don't you?"
The old man looked the woman straight in the eye. "Granted, I might say such
things to others as well, My Lady, but this time I say them only to you, and
it's not that I don't mean them. And that's what counts." The lady's eyes began
sparkling slightly in that swollen face of hers. "So would you please consider a
room number, dear? We've still got 3, 7 and 8 to choose from."
"Which one would you recommend?" Still teary-eyed she tried to pull herself
"Ah, any will do, really." The clerk let his fingers play with the various
remaining keys on the board behind him. "They're all exactly the same. Rooms
with a view. The abyss looks spectacular from up here, and I'm sure you'll enjoy
"Thank you kindly," the lady said. "Just pick one for me then."
"Fine with me, My Lady... Let's see... I'll put you in 7 if you don't mind? It's
right across the young man you just met."
"Thank you, kindly, again," the lady said, took the key and signed the register.
"It's upstairs, second room to the right! Have a nice stay!"
"I promise I will try my best, sir!" And thus the lady trudged off with her
bundle, leaving behind small puddles on the carpet.
Once again silence took over in the reception. The clerk stowed the register
away under his desk, reached for his spectacles and leaned back on his chair.
Picking up the book he had put away a while ago he now continued where he had
left off, with the warm light of his oil lamp assisting. The pitter-patter of
the rain outside hadn’t ceased, it never ceased he knew, and now that the room
was all quiet again, the rain briefly conquered its noisy dominance back. Which
lasted only a little while however. Soon the clerk didn’t notice the monotonous
rhythm anymore, so absorbed was he in his reading, that he almost overlooked his
It was a dark, lean figure, wearing a thick, coarse coat and a hood over his
head. As the hunchback at the desk looked up, the man had already entered and
was already about to close the door behind him. He almost tumbled in the process
though – clearly he was not in full control of himself. He also reeked strongly
of cheap booze. Finally successful with the door, the newcomer and his squishing
shoes lumbered towards the reception desk. As the hood was pulled back, a gaunt
face with a tattered beard surfaced.
"Ya happen t'have a room?" he managed to produce in the drunken slur of his.
"I-I... thought I might as well be he-he-here, not the-he-here. A-a-almost...
fell off that dratted ladder, too, y'know?"
"Yes, we have a place for you as well, sir, don't worry," the desk clerk assured
him. He decided however not to bother him with the registration process this
time, given the circumstances. "Just make yourself feel comfortable! We're glad
to have you with us, sir!"
"And a fine welcome t'you too, little one! Glad t'have you too!" the haggard
drunkard babbled and bowed, bumping into the desk as he did so, almost toppling
over. "Say, ha-ha-have you got a... now... how's the word... a- a... sort of...
be-be-beam in your rooms?"
"A beam, sir? To what end exactly would you require one?"
The drunkard opened the topmost buttons of his coat. A noose was hanging around
his neck. "Sort of... sort of… to attach things, y'know?"
"No beam, sir. No beam in our establishment. House regulations, I fear."
"No? I don't know if I'd like that... Hrmph..." the drunkard stumbled about,
considering whether he should leave again.
"Well, we've got something better than a beam, though. I suggest we try room 3
then, sir! Please... – Shall we?" The hunchback got up to accompany the man to
his room. Grabbing his hand he shoved him firmly along the corridor towards the
The drunkard's curiosity was piqued. "Better than a beam? Now what in the world
might that be?"
"An exquisite room, dear sir, trust me on that, a room with a view. You'll enjoy
it tremendously, you'll see…”
And then silence spreads once
more in the reception. Slowly the pitter-patter of the rain against the window
pane regains its monotonous reign. And it rains and rains outside of this queer
place, on and on, without ever letting up. Water comes pouring down in torrents,
descending from above like there is no tomorrow. Aside from the grotesque hut
with its faint light at the door, everything looks so hopeless, as if the future
is just a distant dream or a mere illusion. And the wind howls and shrieks and
whistles and wails...
Few people pass by outside, crossing this forsaken land in the middle of nowhere
next to the abyss. Very, very few go there. If they chance upon it, it is only
because they get lost, or they are just passing through, not intending to stay
longer than necessary. Like a circus for example, on its way from one town to
the next on their mission to keep people entertained, for this is these people's
business. Nobody cares for a desolate wilderness and gaping abysses. Or tree
houses overlooking it all.
Every now and then someone will stop however, noticing the odd construction up
that tree on that giant rock, connected only by a frail rope bridge from the
mainland. And he'll go: "What is this? Who is responsible for building such a
monument of nonsense? A ramshackle hut on a tree, complete with rope bridge,
ladder and surrounded by nothingness? It must be the work of a madman!" or
they'll say: "Is this supposed to be some kind of artwork perhaps? For this
clearly cannot be taken seriously!” And they’ll rant about the uselessness of
any artistic profession. “They'll better do something proper like the rest of
us!" Others, who consider the hut to be real enough that it might be inhabited,
would complain: "If someone enjoys living up there on a tree that way all by
himself, so be it. But why make it a hotel?" And then there are those, who, more
sarcastically, are likely to add: "A brilliant shelter that is in the eye of the
raging storm! What a gloriously foolish idea!" And most of them will agree that
whoever seeks refuge there cannot possibly be in their right mind. Really, it
seems nobody ever says anything good about that weird hotel. Well, there are few
who get some laughs out of it, simply because it looks so grotesque, but that's
And yet, there's always a light on at that ramshackle hut on the most unlikely
of places right there in the middle of nowhere. Undoubtedly, as we've seen, it
also has its guests. They come and go. Maybe you'll pay the hotel a visit there
too at some point, and perhaps that's because you'll have to, not because you
want to, for certain vacations we cannot choose ourselves. Rest assured, there
will be a place for you there should you really need one. Remember, the first
night is free, and it's always night out there in this part of the world. Right
now – though a bunch of guests have arrived just yesterday – room number 8 is
still available. And it offers exactly what's needed for those who dare to climb
up there, so I've heard, which is – ah, I see you know already –: a room with a