Phantom Architecture by Will Waller

Phantom Architecture

Will Waller

On Thursday, April 18th, 1906 at 5:12 AM, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck Northern California. Between the quake and the resulting fires, 3000 people died and 80% of San Francisco was destroyed. Among those landmarks destroyed was the Palace Hotel. Although a ‘New’ Palace Hotel would open its doors at the same intersection in December of 1909, the construction site earned a reputation for being haunted. Numerous sightings were reported of an older gentleman seen walking through the rubble carrying a potted palmetto plant.

“Ah! Mrs. Winter. Congratulations and good morning and welcome to the Palace Hotel. Yes. We have your reservation here. One adult, one senior, one child, and in the very luxurious Presidential Suite. Oh! No no. Put that away. It’s all paid, as is your dinner and all your drinks at the Pied Piper Bar and Grill. Now, here’s your ticket for tonight’s auction, in our illustrious Garden Court. Doors open 9 PM sharp, that’s West Coast time now, and welcome to San Francisco!”
“Jim! Welcome back!”
“Hello, Jenny. How’s Conner’s swing?”
“Bad, his team lost by three last week, and since he struck out near the end, he’s sure it’s all his fault.”
“Ah. Tell him, once, when I was his age, I lost a spelling match on an easy word: descent! Know what my teacher said? ‘Without the ‘s’ it’s decent! Ha!”
“Funny. I have the same room for you as last month. Number seven.”
“Splendid! Such a lovely view of horse dung, with just a sliver of Market!”
“Heh. Here’s your key.”
“Hi. I’m here to pick up a card key. It should be under Sara Rahman. R-A-H-M-A-N.”
“I’m sorry, we don’t have any spare keys under that name.”
Sara sighed, and almost walked off right there. Instead, she took a breath, and said, “Try…” She looked around at the crowded lobby, and lowered her voice a little more. “Buttercup.”
“Oh my god. That’s you? Oh, um-”
“He thinks he’s funny.”
“O-Of course. Here. Floor nine. Room nine-nine. G’night, Ma’am.”
Sara cringed. Ma’am.


Editor’s note: This is just the beginning of Will Waller’s entertaining and unusual piece of fiction, which uses the position of words, sentences, and columns relative to one another to bring additional depth to the story telling. When reading on a mobile device or some web browsers, many of those relationships would be lost. We believe this piece is best viewed in its original layout, which we highly encourage you to read as a PDF here.


© 2017 Will Waller


Will Waller is an author of speculative fiction, scholarship, and experimental writing originally from the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York. After two years in San Francisco spent working as an editor for Eleven Eleven Literary Journal, he relocated to St. Louis to found The Fantasist. His writing focuses on memory, music, and the weather, and has been featured by Bay Area Generations and Heavy Feather Review, Rivet Journal, and is forthcoming in the On Fire anthology out through Transmundane Press.