What is this? Sorcery? Am I dead? This is not the Underworld. This is not what death should be. Why am I here? How long have I been here? I wonder if this is the first morning I have awoken in this room. Would I remember if it was not? Someone built this for a purpose. But what purpose? To confine me? Why? I have many questions but no answers.

When I wake in my hotel room, I notice that my alarm has not sounded, and I have slept in. I hope I have not missed breakfast. The alarm clock is blank and appears to have malfunctioned. I switch on the bedside lamp, but it is also not working. A power cut?

I sit up in bed and test this theory by trying to turn on the television. There is no response. 

My phone is still charged but has no signal. Does that make sense? Could the power cut be affecting the towers that carry the mobile phone signals? My phone says it is eight in the morning.

I walk over to the room telephone. There is nothing, not even a dial tone. Curious.

I decide to shower and get dressed. It is possible it is an electric shower which means the water will be cold, but I often prefer cold showers. Unfortunately, I find that the showerhead only dribbles water for a few seconds before stopping. The taps in the sink do something similar. This makes little sense, but perhaps the hotel uses electrical pumps to raise the water to this level. It seems unlikely, but I get dressed anyway. I can deal with this issue later.

Once I am dressed, I go to the window to open the curtains. Perhaps the mortals will be running around in panic, their cars gridlocked as the traffic lights refuse to instruct them and arbitrate their disputes. 

I cannot hear any traffic noise, and when I open the curtains I realise that something is wrong. I look out the window into another room identical to mine. Everything is the same, even down to the unmade bed. The only thing missing is me.

It may be a dream, but it does not seem so. I walk to the door and open it. Perhaps I can exit the room and work out what is going on. Again, the door opens into another room identical to mine. 

I consider the problem and decide to conduct an experiment. I leave the door open and keep an eye on the room beyond it as I back towards the bed. I grab the covers and pull them onto the floor, watching as the covers in the other room fall to the floor.


I walk over to the counter where  a small kettle and an array of tea bags, sweeteners, and creamers are laid out. I lift one of the small cartons of milk and carry it over to the bed. Through the door, I can see an identical milk carton floating through the air. I toss it through the doorway, and it passes into the other room, just as the identical milk carton flies towards me and lands at my feet.

Very interesting.

It is an exercise in symmetry. I pick up the milk carton and throw it through the doorway again, each time picking up the carton from the other room as it lands in front of me. For a few minutes, I amuse myself by attempting to have it pass precisely through the centre of the doorway so it hits the other milk carton on its way in. I have several successes, the milk cartons colliding in mid-air before falling back into their own rooms.

I realise I should be doing something more productive, but I cannot resist experimenting. I pick up the milk carton in my left hand and position myself in the centre of the doorway, half of my body in one room, half in the other. I reach out with my right hand and grab the floating milk carton in the other room. I try to move it, forcing it down, and feel a pressure on my left hand from the other carton. Fascinating.

This is not really my hotel room, it is only a facsimile, built to contain me. The water pipes lead nowhere, and the same is true for the electrical wiring. Someone built this place and stitched it together. It is certainly impressive.

But where am I? My phone has no signal. Is this place shielded from the outside world or…something else?

I close my eyes and prepare to shift, but I have little confidence I will succeed. Whoever made the effort to build this place will surely have taken precautions against me porting away.

I concentrate, attempting to examine that which is concealed all around me in preparation for moving,  but there is nothing. I sense nothing, but that is impossible. I reach further and still nothing. How can that be? How can there be no iron anywhere? There is iron inside the room, in screws and brackets, in pieces of electronics, in the kettle, in the bathroom. But there is nothing outside it, even in the identical rooms surrounding me. Interesting. The rooms outside of this one do not really exist. They are just copies of the room I am standing in.

I search again, feeling for the hidden pieces of iron embedded deep within the blood of the mortals. They always have it inside their cells. The smallest pieces of iron cloaked and smothered by other elements bound to them. They rob it of its magnetism, its character. I can still feel it if I concentrate, but not now. How can there be nothing? 

What is this place? There is nothing to hold on to, nothing to mould and manipulate. I feel helpless and that is something I have never experienced before. 

I concentrate on the kettle, vibrating the iron within it, heating it. It responds, and I can hear the small amount of water within it begin to boil. At least my powers still work here, for all the good they will do me.

What is this? Sorcery? Am I dead? This is not the Underworld. This is not what death should be. Why am I here? How long have I been here? I wonder if this is the first morning I have awoken in this room. Would I remember if it was not? Someone built this for a purpose. But what purpose? To confine me? Why? I have many questions but no answers.

My leg begins to hurt, and I wonder if the device is still working. It runs off of a battery, and the charge should last at least a day. What will happen then? I decide that is a problem for later. For now, I turn it up, and the pain fades.

I look through the doorway, and wonder why my clothes are not visible. If they are not part of me, should they not be duplicated like the milk carton? I lift my phone. It also has no equivalent in the other room. Neither does my new medical device. That must mean these things are real. 


I suspect that I now understand how this environment works, but feel the need to confirm it. I kneel in a corner of the room and grip the edge of the carpet, pulling it free from the metal spikes securing it. There are wooden floorboards beneath, which is not surprising. 

I go to the bathroom and wrench the metal shower pole from the wall, using it to break through the floorboards. Once I have made a hole of sufficient size, I reach my hand in and pull one of them up, hearing it snap before I work it free and throw it to the side. Below there is darkness and more wood. I again use the shower pole to smash through it. As a hole appears, I can see light beyond it, just as a piece of plaster falls onto my head from the ceiling above. I look up to see a small hole in the ceiling, just as I had suspected. I put the metal pole down and rub my hair to remove the plaster.


I check my phone again. I have no signal, but I can access photographs and anything else I have saved on it.

There is one more test to do. It is a risk, but I feel I have to know. I check the charge on my phone, and the time, before getting into bed. I do not undress as this will also form part of the experiment.

I close my eyes and choose to sleep. What will I find when I awake?

Hephaestus (Iain Houston)
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