The photograph intrigued Charu to no end. She loved a good mystery but had never encountered one in her seemingly boring life. This photograph paved the way to her first-ever adventure, and she was more than ready to take it. The alphanumeric code made no sense to her at the moment, but she decided she could figure it out later. At least she had a hint as to where to begin- Hotel Abyss. The name itself interested her, and she knew she was going to thoroughly enjoy the events that were about to unfold.
Without wasting any more precious time she packed a bag, putting in all the items she thought she would require. She went to her grandmother, quickly bid her goodbye, and made her way towards the hotel. Hotel Abyss was located at the outskirts of Fort Kochi, the area deserted and desolate. As Charu stood facing the gate of the hotel, she gave herself a last chance to turn around. But she was just too excited to let go of this once in a lifetime opportunity. So she walked through the gate, leaving all her qualms and inhibitions outside.
She walked towards the front desk, ringing the bell for the receptionist. A middle-aged woman walked in, subjecting Charu to heavy scrutiny. Her intense gaze was making Charu increasingly uncomfortable. After what seemed like an eternity, the woman finally spoke.
"How can I help you, Miss ....?," she trailed off.
"It's Charu. I would like a room, please. And may I inquire as to how many other people are staying here?"
"There are a few occupants but this hotel is not open for everyone. May I know how did you come across our hotel?"
Charu contemplated whether or not she should show the woman the picture. Having read enough fantasy novels she deduced that maybe the picture was the key to getting access to this hotel. After all, it wasn't open for the general population. She slid the photograph across the table to the receptionist. The receptionist analyzed it carefully and passed a key to Charu after being satisfied with what she saw. Charu entered her room and took out the photograph, trying to decipher the alphanumeric code.
After numerous failed attempts, Charu decided to take a break. Just as she was about to lie down, she noticed a letter being slid under the door. Her curiosity piqued, she instantly picked it up and started reading it.
Greetings! I suppose congratulations are in order, for you are one of the lucky few who have responded to our call. I know a myriad of emotions must be crossing your mind right now and creating confusion. Trust me, you have embarked on a beautiful journey and things will get clearer as you traverse this path. To tell you the gist of it, I am the founder of a group that allows its exclusive customers to fulfill their fantasies. We do it very discreetly, hiding the photographs in inconspicuous places, letting fate decide its finders. Then it's up to the person whether they want to go through with it or not. Be rest assured, this is nothing dangerous or harmful. Though what we do require from our customers is a flair for adventure. So, if you believe you have that, then be ready for the most amazing experience of your life. But if that is absent, then you have no need to worry as you will get the option of withdrawing your name.
I believe you met our mentor and guide at the reception- Ms. Shruti. Till the time we get the honor of meeting each other, she will be the point of contact for you. You have any doubts or queries, you can contact her. We will begin the process shortly, we are just waiting for all the participants to arrive. Until then, feel free to mingle with the other guests. I am sure you will find them quite interesting.
- SHERYL VARGHESE"
I would be lying if I said that I wasn't scared. Whoever this Sheryl was, I know she has assured us that it is nothing dangerous, but my gut was telling me to run the other way. Everything did seem a little suspicious to me, but maybe it was because I didn't know much about it. Maybe interacting with other people would put me at ease. With all these thoughts eating my mind, I dressed up and went out to divert my mind.
The first person I saw was Ms. Shruti. She waved cheerily at me, beckoning me to come to her. I felt moderately relieved after talking to her. She told me there was nothing to be afraid of, and that she had been part of this program too. She was part of the experimental batch and considering that the program was still on and she was right here, I am guessing it was quite a success. But she refused to disclose any more details, telling me that it would be a surprise.
She pointed me in the direction of the hall, where the other participants were waiting. Taking Sheryl's advice, I started interacting with them. She couldn't have been more right when she said that I would find them quite interesting. We were 8 of us, belonging to varied age groups and castes. We were 2 short, who were expected to arrive by the subsequent morning. I instantly gravitated towards the twins, Sia and Tia. They were super sweet and fun, quite similar to me.
Next, there was Mr. Dhairya, about the age of Ms. Shruti. He was quiet and reserved, not interacting much. Then there was a man towards the older side, Mr. Ashok. He had served in the army but had long since retired. He was the one giving motivational speeches. The most intriguing was a couple- Naina and Piyush. They weren't together anymore, but fate had brought them under the same roof. I guessed that things must have ended on an ugly note, considering the death stares they were throwing at each other. Lastly, we had a boy who was the youngest among us- Aryan.
Just as we were enjoying our dinner, Ms. Shruti entered, holding a number of papers in her hand. She passed them around and told us to fill it by the next morning. After dinner, we all retired to our rooms, ready to fill out the form. Most of the questions were quite generic, like our personal details- Name, Address, Age, Mobile number, Hobbies, Favourite food, etc. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by the last question- Tell us a fantasy you have always wanted to fulfill but were unable to do so. I thought long and hard about it and began writing.