I experimented with the insanity-inducing neon.
It took some doing. The motel manager had unplugged the “FREE COFFEE” sign, which had already affected three people, and wouldn’t let me plug it back in. He wouldn’t sell it to me, either, but he finally let me take it to my room so I could view it without him.
He tripled my deposit in case I broke the sign or went crazy. I assured him I had plenty of experience with malevolent objects. “No worry tripling your deposit, then,” he said. Fair enough.
I detached the sign from his office window and carried it to my room. This was around 9:30 P.M. I closed the room’s blinds and put on only the bathroom light, with the bathroom door mostly closed, so there was just enough illumination to find an outlet and power up the sign.
I sat a long time, enjoying the spectral warmth I always feel around neon—a flush I associate with being buzzed but not yet drunk, or half-undressed with a stranger—and experienced no peculiar effects from the sign’s green glow. I must have fallen asleep.
How I ended up in the manager’s private room is beyond me. I was standing in his shower, fully dressed and soaked with hot water. When I stepped out of the bathroom, I saw the manager hogtied on the bed. He was unconscious.
He was also soaked in gasoline from a can on the floor. When I reached into my jeans for my pocketknife to cut his bonds, I found a Zippo lighter that didn’t belong to me.
I cut the manager loose, checked his vitals, and anonymously called an ambulance from his room phone. Then I got the hell out of there. Back in my own room, I changed out of my wet clothes and watched through the blinds as the ambulance arrived. I saw the manager walk out with the medics, looking dazed but OK.
The neon sign was missing from my room.
I spent the night expecting police to come but none did. In the morning, I couldn’t resist going to the motel office to see what the manager remembered.
The neon sign was back in the window it had come from. It was lit. The manager greeted me cheerfully, as if I were a stranger. He didn’t remember us meeting and had no record of me checking into the motel. When I asked about the neon sign and the incidents surrounding it, he had no idea what I was talking about.
I don’t either, anymore.
— report filed by Claire Maple