The transients of Humboldt Bay.
The door stuck. The doors at these kinds of places always do.
I opened it slowly, not knowing what would be on the other side -- just knowing it would there.
A short hallway hosting the bathroom sink -- located a mere five feet from the bathroom -- opened into the yellow-on-amber bedroom, high-ceilinged and stocked sparely with dark, dark wood-ish furniture. All that was immediately apparent was a dresser, the yellow waterfall foot-end of a king bed, and the abrupt knowledge of intruding upon someone already there.
They swiveled my way, surprised but not startled: a reluctant host that was rarely put-upon. You could just about feel a newspaper dip nose-low, and, after a moment of bored observation, feel the attention affix itself to you.
Right, don't be rude. "Hi."
I was both surprised and not to find my room at the Eureka Inn haunted. The whole place was a holding station for transient not-quite-goners.
I wasn't excited to stay at the Eureka Inn. One of the few paid-for pit stops booked out of necessity, I snapped up a cheap enough room the day before I arrived in town.
The moment I saw the building, I pulled over. "Shit."
"Eureka Inn hotel haunted" I typed into Google. "You bet your sweet ass it is," Google said.
Again: shit. The streets were deserted except for me and the fog. It looked like a movie set. I walked into the lodge-like main area: empty. Through French doors to my right was a vast, empty bar lit in purples and blues as if a massive crowd of pent-up conference attendees were going to show up and throw down at a moment's notice. I walked in, tentatively, suitcase in hand.
The young bartender came to life, clearly delighted to see another human: "Hiya!"
I nodded a hello and scanned the room. It was huge. Cave-like. Meant to feel like an exclusive night-club, but silent and bereft of life.
The front desk was about as excited for my stay as I was. I got my key, pulled my life-on-wheels into the elevator that would surely become sentient by the second floor and begin a psychological waterboarding of Kubrickian quality, and read the alarming graffiti ("GET THE FUCK OUT") until it dinged open onto my floor.
Some of the greeting signs in the elevator.
Empty. No one.
Well, not no one. Plenty of people. They were just dead, is all.
Filled with the dread of knowing I wasn't going to sleep that night, I found my door and opened it to meet my temporary roommate.
This wasn't my first ghost by a long stretch. I grew up in houses rife with them, raised by women who saw,, felt, and heard them, too.
Growing up with ghosts was about as awful as one would imagine -- at least, with our ghosts. I couldn't walk up our stairs without my back to the wall until I was a teenager. I'd lie awake at night, hearing the same man and woman talking downstairs in hushed voices, as if they didn't want to wake us. Figures would appear just as I was falling asleep, only to send a jolt of panic through me that would keep me up another hour, a cycle that would start again when I would next give in to the drowsiness.
I spent much of my twenties learning how to work with, rather than against, what I came to decide was a gift and not a curse. I have had some extraordinary experiences with all types of energy, the vast majority of them at once informative, inspiring, grounding, and mystifying. Most. But not all.
And knowing the unknowable nature of energy, I had more than one reservation during my stay at the Eureka Inn.
I went into the room with the immediate understanding that it wasn't mine, and wouldn't, at any point during the night, be mine. I left to get a seafood dinner -- a massive ordeal more satisfying in its salty quantity than quality -- and returned to the room, hoping the Chardonnay-and-shellfish cement in my stomach would conk me out.
No such luck. The air was static with eyes on me. They had the upper-hand: when you're facing eternity in limbo, an all-night staring contest is an easy win. I turned the lights off. On. Off again.
Here's the thing about ghosts, spirits, whatever you want to call them: there's no "two can play this game" approach. There's no retaliation. You just don't want to go there. I tried to make my peace, but they weren't interested.
So I did the only thing I knew would work well enough for the night, just as it did when I was a child. I turned on the TV.
The light noise and ambient junk a TV gives off was always enough to camouflage ghost-static. I flipped around and found something innocuous enough: a marathon of a show called the Great British Bake-Off.
Sometime around 4am, my watery eyes gave way and I slept like a stone until the alarm got me up in time for check-out.
I left in haste, my passive-aggressive roommate ignoring me so obviously until I couldn't ignore them. "I'm leaving," I said. They sniff. A newspaper page turns.
Eureka in daylight was nominally less depressing. There was a farmer's market set up. I didn't want to imagine where the vendors lived.
I walked down to the bay, where a transient man complimented my shoes and continued to follow me across the empty plaza. I walked faster until he cursed at me and went another way.
I would have cursed Eureka, but it already was: a vacant, foggy place to pass through, and hopefully never get stuck.