Have you ever wondered what happens in holiday resorts when all the tourists leave? Perhaps everything hibernates until the new season begins, or perhaps other forces come into their own.
Summer was drawing to an end. Beach kiosks put up their shutters, sun loungers were stacked and locked away in storage, and the children went back to school after the heady freedom of the long holidays. Music no longer emanated from every bar and club, and the banners advertising nightly entertainment were removed as the acts completed their contracts for the season.
Banks and shops reverted to normal hours as they no longer had to fulfil the needs of the influx of visitors who, during the main tourist months, outnumbered the residents by ten to one. Casual staff returned home, and the few remaining cafes and restaurants who stayed open relied on family assisting for the odd birthday party, or anniversary celebration.
As the nights drew in, the locals no longer promenaded along the coast road to enjoy an evening stroll, but hurried home from work to enjoy a glass of wine in front of the TV. After the hubbub of the previous months the silence descending over the town seemed almost eerie as the streets became deserted. The howling as the wind picked up, and the crashing of the waves against the rocks was often the only sound to be heard.
Nature was reclaiming her territory from the invading hoards, swimming pools were drained, and hotels closed in readiness for the winter refurbishments before the cycle began again in the Spring. With no daily cleaning or maintenance, spiders were free to build their webs across the once sparkling windows of the hotel foyers, and rodents made their homes in the now lush undergrowth.
The old man watched silently as his once beautiful hotel fell into disrepair. No maintenance would take place here. When a window frame rotted it lay where it fell, he had neither the money nor the strength to repair or replace it. For many years he had struggled alone after the loss of his wife, when even his sons moved away to find more lucrative work than the uncertain tourist industry. Eventually they had emigrated, and now, apart from a card at Christmas he seldom heard from them.
He preferred it that way. It wasn’t in his nature to become a burden and so, with the passing of the years, they were unaware of the deterioration in his health. To their minds he was just a stubborn, independent old fool who lived in the past.
The old man had begun to dread the fading of each summer, and as he grew more frail wondered if each winter would be his last. Alone with his memories he often forgot to eat, or could not face the walk up the hill to the small grocery store to buy food. The summer sun warmed his bones, but the chill and damp of winter made his arthritis worse, so on some days it was as much as he could do to get out of bed.
In its heyday his hotel had a staff of nearly fifty, and his reputation as a chef had spread far beyond the confines of the holiday town. He had been happy then. His wife had run the reception, his boys had helped with the guests, and although not rich they had made a good living. His temporary staff always returned with each new season, and they were one big, happy family.
It was strange that horrific world events had in some way contributed to his present status. With more countries becoming unsafe due to the threat of terrorism, this tiny island became a haven in an unstable world. As its popularity developed so the giants of the tourist industry realised its potential, and grand hotels lined the sea shore until the once beautiful view became a hoard of skyscrapers.
As quickly as its fame grew so it died, as long-haul flights to exotic lands replaced the simple pleasures of the traditional small town offering local entertainment and basic lodgings. The grand hotels were demolished and turned into flats, too expensive for anyone to afford, and eventually they too fell into disrepair, as the conglomerates moved on to pastures new. Their only contribution had been to put the smaller places out of business, and now it was too late, as the travel agents wiped the location from their books.
The once thriving area became virtually a ghost town; only a few diehards returned to the peace and tranquility of their memories. As they became too old to travel, the town was forgotten as a holiday venue.
On his good days the old man sat and watched the sea, but as the winter set in with a vengeance his excursions became less frequent. Some of his neighbours remarked they hadn’t seen him for a while, but thought no more of it as winter was the time for hibernation. Occasionally he climbed the broken stone steps to the roof, and gazed in disappointment at the rubbish tip that had once been a swimming pool. He remembered the excited shouts of the children, and the reprimands of their parents as they lay on sun loungers, sipping at cocktails or glasses of chilled wine.
In his mind he became a young man again, and decided to tackle the wilderness the pool had become to restore it to its former glory. Descending the steps in the shallow end he slipped, and heard the crack as he broke his hip. For four days he drifted in and out of consciousness, knowing there was no chance of rescue until the Spring.
‘I’m ready now’ he called, as he watched the tentacles emerge from under the rubble and carry him gently through the cracks, to wrap him in the warm comfort of the terrain behind.
‘This would make a fantastic location for our conference centre. An unspoilt, exclusive area, with the sea on the door-step, and full of traditional charm. We could demolish this old building and erect a luxurious spa hotel. It wouldn’t be difficult to buy out some of these local bars and restaurants. Pay the owners a pittance, just enough to let them live in what they would count as opulence, and make it part of the complex. Properly run it could be a gold-mine. Find out who owns this building and get the architects and money-men working on it straight away. We’re on a winner here, I can feel it.’
With unlimited money thrown at the project and the drive of the entrepreneur, it wasn’t long before the two sons were traced and offered a modest sum for the site. They jumped at the proposal but as negotiations progressed, the lawyers discovered they were not the actual owners; in law the property still belonged to their father. If the entrepreneur had not been so determined perhaps things would have ground to a halt, but he sent in a team of investigators to discover the whereabouts of the old man, who had not been seen since the onset of winter.
Money talks. With back-handers to the people in power the site purchase was completed and things moved swiftly. Even the bones discovered in the undergrowth when the pool was cleared were categorised as rodents and stray cats to prevent unnecessary delays.
Despite all the investment the hotel was not a success. Guests reported the smell of cooking in the early hours, developed strange allergies when swimming in the pool, and were disturbed by footsteps walking the corridors late at night. As the complaints spread, the hotel lost money and eventually the owners decided to cut their losses.
Once again the hotel fell into a state of disrepair. The water in the roof top infinity pool became stagnant, and slowly filled with debris as the winter winds increased. Cracks appeared in the tiles leaving gaps in the once pristine surface. The creature appeared to be smiling as his tentacles rediscovered the route up from the raging sea, and prodded through the fractures. It would soon be time to welcome his next unsuspecting guest.
© Voinks October 2017