“We Never Close”. The sign stated proudly over the deserted highway. “We Never Close”. The Young Hotel technically never did close down, but there were no more guests. The charcoaled abandoned building attracted no customers despite the neon signs best attempts. The building was far from empty though. The Young had traded many guests and staff for the hot desert sand and sun. Nothing lived inside the building. The blackened walls harbored no mite and the dead flesh in the kitchen remained untouched by the starved beasts of the desert.
Years ago the police investigated the fire that had consumed the building and all of its patrons, but they never found anything conclusive. The investigation had slowed and died and everyone began to forget the Young Hotel. People stopped passing by. The occasional car would still drive by the black husk and the neon sign, but they never stop.
The nearest town, miles away from the Young, finds a few tourists curious about the blackened shell of a building alone in the desert. Sometimes they are told about the fire. Sometimes they are told about the mad caretaker that was blamed for the blaze. Sometimes they are told about how if you listen at night you can hear the crackling of flames and smell the smoke of a burning building. Whatever they are told, they always move on.
To most of the people in town, she never existed. Asking about her will only cause suspicion and trouble. The people only knew her as Mary. She was just like any other tourist. She took photos of the small quaint town square and main street. She talked fast and drove her car up to every Mom ‘n Pop shop in town. She looked like any other average city-girl. She was thin, had long brown hair, and was dressed for the beach not for daily life.
Eventually she found herself in a small town diner for a bite and some old fashioned country chit-chat. She was perfectly friendly and open for a city-girl. When she was asked what a girl like her was doing in such a small town she politely and eagerly answered with a bubbly and charismatic smile that she was driving just ahead of her moving van to her new apartment in the next city.
Mary’s luck turned sour when she left the diner. She turned her keys in the ignition of her old beater car. The engine coughed, and sputtered, and died. She tried several times, but the car would not start. A young mechanic was called over from the garage to look at her car. After an hour of good old-fashioned elbow grease, he managed to get the car working again. The sun was setting, and Mary was antsy to leave. The mechanic told her that the engine was old. It could go out again at any moment. He invited Mary to stay the night in town. He would order a new engine overnight and fix her car up in the morning. She kindly refused his offer, but agreed to put his number into her phone incase the car broke down before she reached the next city. Then she drove straight out of town.
She never called him.
At some point early the next morning, a suspicious vehicle was reported parked outside of the Young Hotel. The near town sent a few police officers to make sure that everything was alright. They found the car parked right outside, completely unable to start. They searched the surrounding area for the car’s owner. They found her.
The coroner’s report listed the cause of death being burnt alive, but several things did not add up. There was no remnant of drugs in her body, but there were also no signs that she had struggled or even moved while her body was engulfed in flames. Many other items in the police report seemed strange. She was found laying in a bed, with the scorched and tattered sheet covering her. Many items were placed throughout the room she was found in: A new outfit inside the bedside dresser, her toothbrush on the bathroom counter, and her cell phone, with an alarm set, sitting on the dresser. None of those items had been touched even by smoke. The strangest piece of evidence they found was a hotel key in perfect, mint condition, next to her phone. All the keys had been warped and destroyed in the original Young fire.
The police still do not know what had happened to Mary that night. Some people think she was killed elsewhere and then staged. Others think that it was some form of deranged suicide. Others yet believe it must have been some freak accident. But, then there are those who believe that the answer lies in the night. When the wind blows the sound of fire and the smell of smoke creeps across the desert. When the neon sign still turns on; brighter than anything for miles. “We Never Close”.