Naomi shivered as the run-down air conditioner blared into her ears and pushed a chilling gust of air onto her back. For a month, she and her boyfriend, Matthew have confined themselves in this filth of a place. The beds weren’t any more comfortable than a slab of wooden boards, and they were home to pests Naomi hadn’t even seen before. The walls were nothing more than old cement with chipped paint from which bizarre liquid oozed from. Nothing electrical seemed to function except for the toilet and that God forsook air conditioner. There were no working showers, so Naomi’s once light brown hair became a dark shade of umber, and she reeked of disdain and cigars. The owners called it Motel Omelas; Naomi called it a joke.
The only solace Naomi had was Matthew. He was a charming young man that took a more optimistic approach to life, even in the darkest of times.
“At least we don’t have to pay a hefty house bill,” he’d tell her, “We’ll be in a better place soon, I promise.”
Naomi sighed and wrapped her pale, lanky arms around Matthew’s neck. He sat on the ground, which as Matthew claimed, to be much cleaner than those nasty beds and stared at the television with a beer bottle in his hand as he had every day this past month. Matthew gave a small smile at Naomi’s gesture. An advertisement for a dog toy called the Kerfuffle replayed for the fifth time that evening.
“Hey, babe, do you think we could get a dog?” Naomi asked.
“That depends on what the managers say,” Matthew responded.
“You think those trash handlers care about a lil’ mutt runnin’ around?”
Matthew snickered, “Probably not. I’ll have to save for one.”
Three months later and the couple is still held captive by the shackles of debt and filth. The air conditioner still sounded like it was shredding college applications, but it didn’t bother Naomi anymore. In fact, most things at Motel Omelas she had grown used to. She was losing hope in being able to find a house, or a dog, or even a stable job. Matthew had been drinking more than he used to. Perhaps he was losing faith in himself, too, though he would never admit it. He had grown tired, distant, and dull, while Naomi’s thoughts were swarming with warped fantasies. She’d sometimes imagine having a beautiful home with velvet couches accompanied by large, comfy beds that smelled like cherry blossoms and daisies. She’d imagine a small terrier dashing through freshly cut grass chewing on old twigs and branches. However, she sometimes envisioned herself in a cage filled with cockroaches and briars. It carried the odor of beer and rotting fruit. Standing in front of this cage were thirteen-foot tall guards, each of them bearing a resemblance to Matthew.
Their ability to trust and confide in each other had faded. Naomi cursed at him for quitting work and wasting money, which, in turn, lead to him drinking even more. The two argued constantly, whether it was about money, Matthew’s habits, or just about their relationship in general. Naomi’s former savior now appeared to be her own executioner, imprisoning her with false hope and late night conversations and killing her with drunk ramblings and insults. Their love was slipping, and so was she.
Around midnight, a klutzy Matthew stumbled around the motel. Dazed, he knocked, or rather, flung half his body at each door. Most of these doors were empty except a few rooms away from his and Naomi’s. Matthew banged on one door and accidentally punched himself in the process, causing him to fall back against the hall wall and hold his hands over his nose. He didn't feel pain but shock as the force of his fist caused his nose to bleed. A woman opened the door. She appeared to be quite older than the couple and wore a pair of black gloves that matched her suit-like attire and ebony hair. She stared at the man below her failing to conceal the rushing blood from his nose.
“...May I help you?” she asked puzzled.
Alarmed, Matthew clumsily shot back up to face her. “Uh---I need to find-”
The woman interrupted him. “Wait a minute.” She directed. She quickly ran back into her room, grabbed a box of tissues, and gave them to Matthew. “You can use these.”
“Oh, thanks,” he replied while taking the tissues, “What was I talking about?”
“You asked me about finding something.”
“Oh, right. I need to find my room.”
“Alright. Well, what’s your number?”
“Your room number, dear. What is it?”
Noticing Matthew’s confusion, the lady motioned for him to latch onto her for balance to which he obliged. “Perhaps we should pass each door and you’ll see a familiar number. Is that alright?” She suggested.
“Y-Yeah.” He replied with a nervous grin.
The two crept around the hall and examined the numbers of all the remaining doors. 154, 155, 156, 157… 157? That had to be his room!
“I think this is my place.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah… You can let go of me now. I don’t want my girlfriend to think, well, you know.”
“Oh, of course,” The woman released him but applied pressure to his hip before dashing away.
Matthew looked back, his visage bewildered. His focus returned to the door. He crept through the entrance, trying to not meet Naomi’s burning gaze. Fortunately for Matthew, Naomi had already decided to sleep without him in the room. The alcohol finally overtaking him, Matthew slouched down in front of the bed and immediately fell into rest.
In the early morning, Matthew awoke stiff with a pain in his neck and a pounding headache. He groaned as he stood from his spot and rubbed his temples. He groggily searched for his girlfriend who was exiting the bathroom.
“Oh, Hey. Where were you last night?” Naomi questioned.
“Just went to grab some beer.” He responded. He grimaced and grabbed his gut in pain.
Naomi sighed. “I’m not surprised,” She noticed that Matthew’s pocket wasn’t empty. “What’s that?”
“In your pocket.”
Matthew rummaged through his pockets and discovered a wad of money in his back one. His eyes widened in astonishment.
“How much money is that? Jesus Christ!”
“100, 200, 300, 4- four hundred thousand dollars!”
Naomi joined in his surprise.
“We can finally get out of this dump! How did you get all this?” She exclaimed.
“How did I get all of this?” Matthew repeated to himself.
“Well, How did you? You can’t just say ‘hocus-pocus’ and get four hundred thousand dollars out of nowhere! Did you play poker?”
“No! I can’t bet to save my life,” Matthew’s fogged memories of the evening before began to return to him, “I think I know how. Wait here!”
Matthew sprinted through the hallway and found the door the lady was behind. He knocked on the door only to receive no answer. He knocked again but to no avail. Knock. Knock. No response. Hesitantly, Matthew opened the motel door. The room was empty except for two objects: A small tissue and a pair of black gloves.