Francis Caldwell, certified professional accountant and frequent flyer #7005412, had a particular ritual that he performed whenever he checked into a new hotel room. Whether or not he needed to make use of it at the time, he would sit down on the toilet with his suitcase open in front of him, examine each of the bathroom’s complimentary toiletries one by one, then hide each little bottle in his luggage. Once satisfied with his haul, he’d pull up his pants, zip the suitcase shut, then call the front desk to complain that he hadn’t found any soap or shampoo upon arrival. Without fail, housekeeping would emerge shortly thereafter with replacements.
When it came to the Hotel Coagula, however, Francis found his routine interrupted by a single, anomalous item: a tiny jar labeled “try me first! black champagne and anise-flavored reality enhancement blend.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry sir!” The clerk replied upon enduring his complaint. “We’ll send some more up right away, but I’m afraid that you’re going to miss out on one of our promotional items.”
“Promotional items, you say?”
There was a significant pause on the other end, the sort of silence drenched in regret at having said anything at all. Then: “Why yes. I’m afraid that we just ran out of some unique… health supplement that came in from our supplier. It was a pilot program, one night only, so we don’t have any refills in stock.”
“Well now, isn’t that a shame?” And through those profane arts of complaint known only to the cheapest of the cheap, Francis negotiated the delivery of a free bottle of wine in compensation for their alleged crimes against hospitality. Seven minutes later, a maid arrived with six little faux-mason jars in addition to his riesling, none of which contained the reality enhancer. This confirmed his suspicions that yes, this item was indeed something special. Once housekeeping was gone, he opened his luggage, looked over the strange, pygmy jar one last time, then poured its contents down his throat.
The flavor was terrible, like licorice dipped in black bile, but the effects were almost immediate. Everything looked vaguely the same at first, but after a few seconds of focus, Francis began to notice details that he was certain weren’t present before. The television’s remote control contained the usual sets of buttons for channels and volume, but there were others as well which listed stage directions. His hands could sink through the king-size bed’s duvet- it seemed to be composed of a warm, liquid cotton that flowed through the fingers without any resistance or adhesion.
One by one, he reviewed the jars that housekeeping had brought up, and understood at once why the label had recommended he take the shot first. “White wine and molten pearl bodywash.” “Mint and mandrake shampoo- fortified with aqua regia.” “Traditional ambrosia facial scrub- with 100% real mirror honey.” All of the flavors had changed; each one had become a miniature wonder of personal hygiene, the miracle of some small god. The jars even had little velvet ribbons wrapped in bows around their seals. They were perfect.
That night, he took the best shower of the rest of his life. The nozzle had seventeen different massage settings, from the traditional rapid pulse all the way up to a simulated thunderstorm. The agave-and-lyngurium soap cleared away wrinkles that he thought were permanent, and the alkahest mouthwash left him utterly speechless. Most noteworthy, however, was the shampoo- it was the first one that he’d ever used that had actually been strong enough to wash away the entire human down below.
And with that, the so-called reality enhancer proved that it lived up to its name, for the world had been cleansed of Francis Caldwell.