"Please, come in. Make yourself at home. They should be ready, soon."
I looked for somewhere to sit down, but there was no furniture. Instead, the ceiling was covered in what looked like giant, melted gum drops.
"Whoa! That's a very unusual ceiling you've got there!" I said, not sure what the appropriate response should be. Was it intentional, or a horrendous mold? I put my bags down.
"Yes, it's a unique feature of Harikawa's design."
"Harikawa, the designer," he didn't seem impressed by my lack of culture. "It's unusual for him to do interiors, but I was very persuasive. In fact, he did everything in the house. He calls it a living museum."
"Why, living?" Mold, then, definitely mold. Great, my first Air BnB experience is in some dilapidated mansion full of infectious spores out in the middle of nowhere! Just my luck. Perhaps, it wasn't too late to cancel? I'd forfeit the first night's deposit, but it wouldn't be a total wash-out.
My host continued, oblivious to my concerns. In fact, he seemed very house-proud. "The entire structure is made from organic materials. Even the furniture."
"No kidding?" I said, but that only made things worse.
"Yes, it's self-healing." He could see I was baffled. "Here, I'll show you." He took out a pen-knife and approached a white sofa that I'd failed to notice, probably because it resembled an old man's backside more than a piece of furniture. He drew the blade across the arm of the sofa. A green substance, not unlike blood, oozed from the razor thin gap. Within seconds, it began to congeal. "In half an hour, you can pull off the scab and it will be as good as new."
I was impressed. "So, what, then, exactly..." I looked up at one of the hanging gumdrops. It dangled like a long white sock, weighed down by large red bulge at the bottom.
"Harikawa calls them fly traps".
I couldn't help prodding the bulge. It yielded, as if full of mucous.
"I wouldn't touch that if I were you," he said, curtly.
"I'm sorry, I was just curious." For a moment, I could swear that the bulge juddered slightly, as if something inside was still alive.
"How would you feel if I poked you in the stomach?" He seemed more amused than angry.
"The house has to eat," he said. "It's organic, remember? A living structure."
"What does it eat?" I'd taken care of people's pet before, but this was going to be more of a challenge.
"Anything it can. Insects, small rodents, birds."
"How does it eat birds?" I laughed. That was ridiculous.
My host didn't find it funny. "They land on the roof sometimes. Perch for a moment, then discover they can't alight. After a few days, they become absorbed."
Now, that was creepy. Okay, I'm definitely going to look into alternatives. However, it would have to wait until tomorrow, because we were literally in the boonies.
"Come, let me show you to your room," he said, "I think you'll like it."
He wasn't kidding about the room. It was enormous, full of light, and had breathtaking views out over the mountains.
He must have seen the look on my face. "Impressive, isn't it? I was at a loss for words, but managed to nod. "I don't often let strangers stay here, but needs must. Besides, I checked you out."
"You did?" That was worrying.
"You're a writer. So am I. This is a very good place to write."
"Yes. I was hoping to spend a week away from everything to work on my novel."
"Well, you've come to the right place. Nobody will disturb you here." He smiled. "Now, I'm sorry to run, but I have a plane to catch. I've written down everything you need to know in a book on the kitchen counter. The phone doesn't work, but I assume you have a mobile?"
"Yes, but I've noticed reception is a bit spotty."
"Best place is on the roof." He looked at me sincerely for a beat, then laughed. "Just kidding." His laugh had a mocking, not reassuring, ring to it.
I heard the door close behind him. I was alone in the house. Although, alone was not the feeling I got.
As beautiful as it was, I couldn't get the feeling that I was living inside somebody, rather than some-thing. Surfaces were warm to the touch, occasionally clammy. There were low rumbling sounds, sometimes, that didn't sound like a boiler on the blink. Indigestion? I didn't want to think about it.
Strange that none of the other Air BnB'ers who stayed here never left a follow up message, or review. Perhaps, they were trying to keep the place their little secret? I could understand why. The place was huge and secluded in the most amazing, natural surroundings. Still, you'd think...
Out of curiosity, I took out my phone and opened the App. Darn. No signal. I wanted to see where they had gone to since.
If only I'd had signal. I would have discovered that none of them stayed anywhere else. Ever again.