THERE’S NO PERCEPTIBLE INTERVAL between the end of one Movie and the start of the next. Now I’m watching what appears to be an architectural walk-thru video in which the Hotelier (played here by a razor-burned egghead in an ill-fitting dress shirt who looks like he’s 20 at most) takes us up and down what he refers to as the “Corridors of Power,” constructed last night by an architect known only as the “American MC Escher.”

 

The architect, or an actor playing him, follows along, staring at his feet like he doesn’t want the Netflix crew to see his face.

 

“The American MC Escher,” explains the Hotelier, all too happy to be photographed, “did a real bang-up job for us. As soon as Col. Pussygrab emerged victorious, and the question arose of where Pussygrab Palace would be located, we knew we had some superimposing to do, and fast. No location save for the Hotel itself would suffice, but, at the same time, the Hotel was far from adequate for accommodating such an august and entitled ruler.

 

“So, in short, the American MC Escher, who turned out to have been living a quiet life in one of our Rooms all along, patiently developing a method for superimposing one Hotel upon another” — ‘just as art!’ the American MC Escher interjects, still hiding his face in the background of the screen, ‘just to prove it was possible!’ — “got straight to work superimposing Pussygrab Palace onto the old Hotel, so that Pussygrab and his Inner Circle could move immediately into the most luxurious and elegant residence Dodge City had to offer, bar none.”

 

The Hotelier clears his throat and adds, “To give you a sense of the wealth disparity we have succeeded in creating here, there are 884 guests in the Hotel, and only 8 members of Pussygrab’s Inner Circle, each group occupying the exact same amount of space! This, I think we can all agree, is truly what we as a society ought to be striving for.”

 

He clears his throat, then adds, “And, for the low price of $999,999, you too can purchase a timeshare in the Palace. Leave your email in the Comments section of this video for more info …”

 

Disconnecting from the image-feed as the Hotelier attempts to wipe off the shame in his eyes, I look around, finding myself still in the drafty side room where I ended up after my Conversion Therapy, and I wonder, not for the first time, whether I’m in one room, or two.

 

“Two, clearly,” says the Hotelier, winking at me before returning to the walk-thru, the American MC Escher dawdling behind him. “Here, as you can see, is one of seven Access Portals” — he touches what appears to be a solid section of wall — “a means of traveling, for those at the correct clearance level, between the Hotel and the Palace. A means of stepping, as it were, from the old Dodge City, the one we knew, in which the Rule of Law held sway and we felt as though the train was, so to speak, still on the tracks, and into the new one, the Empire of Pussygrab, the Glorious New Nation he has pledged to usher us — well, some of us — into.”

 

With that, the Hotelier disappears from the screen, presumably out of the Hotel, still visible on Netflix, and into the Palace, which no camera is yet able to record.

 

*****

SO I’M ALONE in the Superimposed Hotel, or alone watching myself in the Superimposed Hotel on Netflix, when the idea comes to me that perhaps, if I try leaving the room I’m in right now, I’ll emerge into the hallway I just saw onscreen and will thus manage to escape through the Access Portal. Perhaps, I think, the purpose of the Movie was to show me the Portal’s location, and to encourage me to find it before it disappears. An instruction video, not a mere entertainment.

 

And if I can just slip through, I go on thinking, perhaps I’ll wake from this nightmare and emerge back into the Real Dodge City, the one where …

 

I’m not so naive as to imagine that the Real Dodge City still exists — it is, in essence, a Pretend City now, a diorama, an ant farm — but I’m not sure this distinction holds any water. So I’m determined to find it anyway.

 

I can’t say exactly what gives me the confidence — perhaps the Conversion Therapy has indeed altered my way of thinking — but once the thought occurs to me, it remains embedded. So I get up, close the laptop, and try the door.

 

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, if this is all part of a sinister masterplan, or a symptom of reality’s total collapse) it’s unlocked!

 

Now I’m wandering a carpeted hallway I’ve never seen before, in the Hotel or the Palace, like a cardboard cutout on a Chutes & Ladders board, hoping to emerge through one of the Access Portals before it’s too late — though I can’t imagine how things could get any later than they already are.

 

When I find the Portal, I go through, setting off an alarm so loud I start running in terror, through the American MC Escher hallways, up staircases that lead down and along corridors that warp upward, until I make it outside, into the static of the Town Square, past the throngs of goose-stepping swamp things, and into … DaltonLand?

 

*****

I CATCH MY BREATH INSIDE A SCALE MODEL OF YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, under a big sign that reads Welcome to DaltonLand: in SwampWorld, this park no longer exists!

 

Savoring the fresh air (even if it’s artificially flavored), I pass geysers and canyons — all shrunken down to scale and made of cardboard — avoiding the distant signs that read ChaosLand (the near future or the distant past): Keep out! though I don’t doubt that, sooner or later, I’ll find myself among the cave people and giant spiders I can already see massing along the horizon, restrained only by what appears to be a velvet carnival rope.