Road 436 has no cameras and almost no traffic. There are only a few signs here and there that say "Caution: Wildlife Crossing." Several years ago, after two tunnels were built nearby, Road 436 grew quiet. Barring holidays, cars rarely come through. On an afternoon with rain falling like April cherry blossoms, a man's truck sped by. Three kilometers away from the motel, all vehicles on the road had the same destination.
The unmanned motel towered high in the hills, the only landmark visible from the road. As soon as the building came into view on the left, the man turned the steering wheel widely with one hand and unbuckled his seatbelt with the other. Next, he pressed down on the power button of his incessantly ringing phone. The cheerful ringtone died. From every direction, silence.
The underground parking lot was filled with dusty cars. He had never spent the night at the motel, but every time he visited he had to scour the lot to find a place to park. There was a reason why people came to such an isolated place. Motels were like casinos in that they were hard to leave. After finally finding an empty spot and parking, he pulled a box out of the bed of his truck and went inside.
The hallway floor was moving like a conveyor belt. Vending machines flowed by slowly like conveyor belt sushi. The floor rotated as relentlessly as the Earth orbited—snow or rain, guests or [End Page 179] not, it never stopped. If you were a guest here, all you had to do was open the door to your room, come outside, and wait for a vending machine you liked to pass by. You just opened your door, and faceless kiosks abounded. You didn't have to leave the building to buy what you needed. Each floor was plastered with advertisements stating that the conveyor belt was ready to cater to customers' every desire. The man stood in front, watching a familiar vending machine go by, then quickly climbed aboard the conveyor belt. Fantastic Love. It was a party supply vending machine he'd installed in this motel six months earlier.
Every sort of party imaginable was possible in the motel. If you wanted balloons, they were there; the same for bubbles, ropes, and garter belts. Because of this, the vending machine was filled with all sorts of things that didn't seem to go together. But it wasn't a problem. When you pressed the button for "balloon" or "garter belt" or whatever else you wanted, the object specified was the only thing that would emerge.
The man placed the box at his side and opened the vending machine. Bills and coins for the goods sold were waiting for him in one corner. He liked the way vending machines would spit out change if given too much money, and how they indicated sold-out items with the words "out of stock." Filling that space between where the money went in and the product came out made him feel like his life was in order. To him, Fantastic Love was a party in itself. He put the balloons, firecrackers, and ropes in their respective compartments, and then closed the door. Fantastic Love was splendid once again.
Since installing Fantastic Love in the motel, he had gotten rid of a few other vending machines he'd set up around the city. Unlike those other machines, which were always backlogged with inventory and just ran up the electricity bill, Fantastic Love was quite profitable. He had been able to pre-order several months of party supplies thanks to its proven sales record. His plan was to buy two more machines in the spring. When he left the motel after polishing the outside of Fantastic Love until it shone, the world [End Page 180] was covered in snow. It had piled up in just an hour and a half. He looked at his watch. Five p.m. Time to return to the city.
He got into his truck and pulled the seat forward. The slope leading back down to...