The sunrise pierced through my blinds and bathed me in a warm glow. Ethereal rays created amber strips across my body that felt so heavy, pinning me in place. Mornings were always like this. Like I was paralyzed or catatonic. I pleaded with my mind to focus but I had lost all motivation. A coworker suggested playing asmr videos on my laptop of thunderstorms or blizzards, but they couldn’t make up for the heat radiating from every goddamned corner of my apartment. I borrowed my neighbor’s staple gun to hang bath towels over my windows, but light still leaked through the small gaps in the woven fibers. I considered using black trash bags, but that seemed tacky.
Then I found it. My sunglasses were so dark I almost didn’t see it, but while I was waiting in line for my coffee, a flyer caught my eye. In the midst of all the neon notices for gardening clubs and lakeside festivals, hung a pale blue page with a font that looked like icicles. All it said was “Experience Winter All Year Round” with the name of a town I couldn’t pronounce listed underneath, then a web address. I tore down the ad and walked out of the shop with the sound of the barista calling my name behind me.
At home, with the covers pulled over my head, I looked up the website on my phone. It was a resort that offered an immersive winter experience to replicate the Polar Night. The rooms were described as windowless. The site explained that a cool mist was pumped into the rooms every twenty minutes and there were no overhead lights or bedside lamps, only dimmed track lighting that ran around the baseboards so guests could walk without tripping. The rooms were guaranteed to be kept under 30 degrees and they provided blankets and quilts or a sleeping bag by request. They also had a suggested packing list to make sure guests stayed warm throughout their visit.
I showed up with all my winter clothes shoved into an overnight bag that the airline had made me check at the gate. The building was angular and grey and although the sun shone warm outside, there was a chill that grew as you approached the entrance. As soon as the automatic doors sealed behind me I was met with a heavy silence. My steps echoed through the empty lobby as I approached the help desk. There was a bell sitting to the left of a sign that read “please ring for assistance” but when I pushed down on the shiny silver button no sound came out. I flipped the bell over and saw that the clapper was missing. Then I noticed a smaller sign to the left of the bell that read “bell out of order.”
It felt illegal to speak but after a few more minutes of waiting I parted my lips and let a whispered hello float into the room. But no one answered. I turned to exit the building so I could check the address, but I bumped into a kiosk sitting in the middle of the room that couldn’t have been there before. On the screen it read “Welcome to Eternal Winter, Mr. Niles.” Then, without being prompted, it proceeded to the next screen “Please input your confirmation number.” I took out my phone and copied the series of letters and numbers into the kiosk. After a small wiring noise a card key shot out of the front. “You’ll be staying in room 9 located at the end of the hall. Please enjoy your stay!” then the screen fell black.
The sconces mounted on the walls grew dimmer with each step down the hallway. My head felt stuffed and fuzzy from the silence that pressed into my eardrums. By the end of my walk, there was hardly any light at all so I reached up and felt the number on the door before pressing the card key to the touchpad. The floor was covered in a thin layer of frost and I slid when I first stepped into the room. A muffled thud pushed through silence as the door shut behind me. I paused to let my eyes adjust and at first I thought I was seeing spots from the lack of light. But as my vision slowly came into focus I realized that stretched out before me were endless rows of eyes, unblinking and full of fear. Their stare held me in place and I stood frozen. Below the eyes were wide, gaping mouths that made no noise. I couldn’t tell if I was moving or the rows were marching nearer but suddenly I was surrounded on all sides by the unblinking eyes and the gaping mouths. I breathed deeply and tried to call out but my throat had become coated with ice, and through my gasp I swallowed the silence and not a sound could escape.