Tyler needed to tell Mars and Kaplan something. It was something important. Something critical to the mission. Everything was very foggy at the moment. It might have to do with the sheer shock of what just occurred. It might have something to do with the fact that he was dead, looking down at his body standing next to a guy who only identified himself a few minutes earlier as “Izzy” and informing him that since he died on an official quest, he had to “slog all the way down to Tennessee to collect his soul himself” with more annoyance than Tyler thought he’d encounter in the afterlife.
“So... now what?” Tyler asked of his new companion.
Izzy sighed and started walking.
A few hours earlier, Tyler, Evie, Elizabeth, Mars, and Kaplan were working their way around a dark road in the backwoods of Tennessee, assured by the glowing light of smartphone that there was a hotel nearby. It had almost three stars, so it shouldn’t be that bad.
“You really didn’t have a spare tire in there?” Mars asked.
“That WAS the spare tire!” Tyler said. He had protested several times that he wasn’t prepared for a trip all the way down to New Orleans to kill a homicidal actor.
“Let’s just calm down,” Evie said. “Complaining won’t get us there any faster.”
They continued down the road, all wishing they were wearing more comfortable footwear except Kaplan, who always wore comfortable footwear. He wished he could claim because he never knew it was when he was going to be walking down a back road in Tennessee to save the world, but no such luck. He had plenty of experience wearing uncomfortable, fashionable shoes.
After a round and a half of half hearted “Walking on a Back Road Bingo” they finally made it to the Scenic Hotel. That was the name of it: The Scenic Motel. They couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps it was an ironic name, as even in the dark they could tell the one side faced the road, while the other faced endless and vast forest. It looked nice enough from the outside. The parking lot was pretty full, there were two stories and each one had a pre-requisite ice machine that made a low pitched buzzing noise near the room that customers who were rude to the front desk staff often got placed in. The five of them pushed through the glass door that made up what they assumed was the lobby, but apparently doubled as a type of laundry room, as well as where they could pick up the continental breakfast they most certainly wouldn’t be eating. The previous morning’s breakfast still clung to life on a small coffee table.
With their luck so far that night, they half expected it to be run by a chainsaw wielding maniac, so they were somewhat relieved to see it run by a pair of twins wearing identical red plaid shirts, the same combovers, and the same sad little mustaches that didn’t so much cover their upper lips as they made an attempt and gave up halfway.
“Um... how much per night?” Mars asked, pulling out his wallet.
“59 dollars...” the twin on the left said.
“... a night,” the twin on the right finished.
Mars looked at Kaplan, who gave him a shrug and a look.
“We’ll take five rooms, then, I guess,” Mars said.
“Can’t,” Leftie replied.
“Only two rooms left,” Rightie responded.
Kaplan leaned in to the Twin on the Right, “You... you’re the fun one, I bet.”
Mars pulled him back violently by his shirt, “Fine, then, we’ll take the two rooms.”
“Just need...” Leftie said,
“A credit card!” Tyler responded. The twin on the right gave him a dark look, and Tyler took a step back.
“A name,” Rightie finished, fulfilling his purpose.
After a brief awkward moment of deciding who was going to pay, it was decided that Mars and Kaplan would be paying, since, of course, they were the chosen ones, and being the chosen ones they could probably turn in the receipt at the end of the journey and be compensated. Unsurprisingly to Mars, Kaplan didn’t have his credit card on him, so Mars ended up purchasing the two rooms.
“Let’s get some sleep, then we can get Tyler’s car to a garage and then get back on the road,” Mars dictated handing the extra key to Evie.
“Why does she get a key?” Elizabeth asked.
“I figured girls in one room, boys in the other,” Mars replied.
“What is this, church camp?” Kaplan grabbed the key from her hand. “You stay with the party that brung ya.”
Mars, Evie, and Tyler made their way to the hotel room. It was nicer than they would have expected, even with the three star rating. It looked and felt very hotel room-ish. The whole thing was covered in wood paneling, and there was some questionable art on the wall, but other than that it was a perfectly serviceable place to spend a few hours getting some sleep before they continued on their journey.
“So, be honest,” Evie said, “the creepy twins... you expected this to be a lot more The Shining, didn’t you?”
“I’m surprised we made it past the creepy twins, if we’re being completely honest,” Mars replied.
Mars prepared to have the awkward conversation about who was going to sleep with who when Tyler saved him.
“So, I’m going to go get some food. I’m still hungry, and my App app says that the diner is only a little bit into town. I’m sure I can walk there in a few minutes,” he said, showing his phone. The App App was something he downloaded to his phone a few days ago when he decided that he was a foodie. It was supposed to tell where tiny mom and pop restaurants were so he could go on a foodventure. What he didn’t realize was that it was another level of advertising, and it would actively block out the location of any restaurant that didn’t pay. The “tiny cool restaurant” he was looking for was actually a disguised Burger King.
Normally, Mars would try to stop him. It was dark, they had to get up early, and they really had no idea where they were. But this delayed him either having to sleep in the same bed with Tyler which didn’t appeal to him on many levels, or trying to awkwardly sleep in the same bed with Evie, which appealed to him but not something he felt like discussing now or under these circumstances.
“Hey, be careful,” Mars said, “We’re getting up early to go out and finish saving the world.”
Evie perched herself on the edge of the bed, “It’s three in the morning. It is early.”
“Well... early but later than this.”
They wouldn’t get a start until three, and only then it was because they needed to check out of pay for another night. But that’s much later.
“Hey, when you’re out, see if you can find a place we can get different clothes. I didn’t plan on going on an adventure today,” Evie noted she was still in her work clothes, which meant looking pretty, but at the cost of comfort.
She quietly wished she could throw on a Spiderman Shirt like Kaplan has been wearing. She didn’t realize it was now the same one that was currently tossed haphazardly on the floor of his room, and he was snuggled up in bed, eyes closed shut and snoring. Sleeping was never a problem for Kaplan. He was so entrenched in sleep, he didn’t hear Elizabeth step out as well.
Tyler stepped out of the room and breathed in some of the cool Tennessee air. He really was much more tired than hungry, but he didn’t want to be in the room with Evie and Mars as they googly eyes at each other. Granted, they didn’t do it often, but there was something about this trip. They were getting closer, and he felt it. There was also the fact that they were on the road to stop Nicolas Cage from ending the world, and he needed a few minutes to process it.
He started down the steps that led to his room, taking two at a time in an effort to get his blood pumping and make him stay awake a bit longer. It was then that he heard someone on the phone just behind the ice machine that was making a low-pitched buzz.
Tyler crouched behind the buzzing machine and looked to see a figure was on a payphone near what passed for the lobby of the motel. At first it was the curiosity of the fact that not only did a payphone still exist, but someone was using it. Then, as he started to understand what the person was saying, he thought he’d need to listen.
“Yes. Yes, absolutely. Mars and Kaplan are in Tennessee. Are you sure these are the guys, I’ve been watching that Kaplan guy for...” As the figure turned around, he noted that it was Elizabeth, “Yes. He’s only sending Gomez? I’ll try to keep them to the back roads as much as possible. The brunette bitch and the dork? I’m going to try to ditch them tomorrow so it won’t be much work.”
It was at that moment that Tyler heard a door open. A man who was clearly half asleep wearing an open bathroom that showed off his dingy white t-shirt and striped boxers shuffled out of his room. He very noisily shoved a bucket of ice into the machine that Tyler was hiding behind.
“Hidin’ behind the ice machine?” the man yawned.
Elizabeth turned around. For a brief second, Tyler hoped that she didn’t see him. That was pretty much lost when she pulled out a knife and started running towards him.
“Seriously,” Tyler said, getting up, “Who the hell needs ice at three in the morning?”
The man watched as Tyler ran away, then watched as Elizabeth followed. Satisfied that neither of them were voting members of the tiny town that he was currently an alderman for, he walked back into the room with his mistress, unaware that a reporter for the local paper was taking photos from across the street. When the story would break later that week, no one would care.
Tyler often wondered what he would do if he was in an action movie, being chased by a knife-wielding maniac. Given that he didn’t have that much to do during the day, he often had time to either concoct elaborate scenarios like this one, or watch movies on his cell phone using the company’s free wi-fi. Often, he would taken them down with his super ninja-like moves. Of course, when really confronted with someone wielding a knife, he realized he didn’t have ninja like moves... he barely had Tyler like moves.
He weighed his options. Run back to the room, he could warn Mars and Evie. Run to the manager’s office, he could try to get help from the creepy twins. Or make a break for it through the forest, he might be able to lose her, double back, get Mars AND help from the creepy twins.
Had he weighed his options more carefully, he probably would have chosen to go get help from Mars, who at this moment was sleeping peacefully as Evie was taking a shower. Of course, if was able to weigh his options, he wouldn’t be running from a knife wielding maniac. And if he was able to weigh his options, he wouldn’t have run into the forest. It was at that point that he realized the “Scenic” part of the hotel meant “Scenic Overlook” and Tyler found that the fifth step he took into the forest was actually an extreme drop-off, and he tumbled down to his unfortunate demise.
Elizabeth, satisfied at the outcome, looked down the drop-off at Tyler’s now lifeless body. Armed with the knowledge that they spent the night earlier going to the Angel of Death’s office, his death didn’t mean the end to his knowledge. So this time, she weighed her options. She selected the closest car in the lot, broke in, then sped off into the night to report her failure to the Man in the Dark Hood and Nicolas Cage.
Across the street, a reporter tracking down the alderman from a tiny town resumed her parking space and her vigilant watch after getting some coffee from what she didn’t know was a Burger King.