In The Dark
A heaviness leaves my body as I stand outside the once grand house. It is not a house I recognise yet it feels familiar, like an old friend. Dilapidated with boarded windows, surrounded by woods. It is not a welcoming sight and yet I find myself drawn toward the door. A carved message etched into it ‘make your choice’. Choice? I don’t know where or who I am or how I came to be here, I’d flee but options appear limited. The door seems to radiate a coldness but I don’t shiver, nor do I move as the door creaks open unaided. I peer in but nothing back black is to be seen, no light. Just as there is no light out here, it appears to be night but there are no stars. It should seem strange that I can see with no light, however the dark wraps around me like a blanket and somehow I feel at home.
I enter the dark and the door swings shut behind me with a resounding thud. Candles spark to life illuminating my surroundings. No entrance hall greets me as I expected, I stand in a long corridor. I glance left and right, I see no end to this passage and either side appears identical. On the wall opposite a mirror hangs, tarnished silver frames the glass. I see myself approaching. The door is no longer behind me, just a wall covered in scratches. The tips of my hands take on a dull ache, I glance down to see the bloodied ends of my fingers. Had I tried to get out? When? I look to the mirror for answers. I look pale my eyes dull and hair limp. As I peer at myself the corner of my eye begins to itch, I pull my gaze back to examine the whole mirror. Blood dances across the glass, I’m transfixed as I stare at myself. A hand protrudes from my chest my heart in its palm. My chest clenches around the arm as it pulls back, the sound of ripping flesh and cracking bones reach my ears. Tears slide down my cheeks as I watch my heart move back into my chest. Where is the pain? Surely this should be excruciating and yet I feel numb. The hand leaves my body and heartless I collapse to the heavy carpet. I instinctively put a hand to my chest. No wound just a bloody shirt, and now as I look up, no mirror. A laugh echoes around me, a child’s laugh accompanied by the croaking of a door.
I turn to the sound, there is now an end to the passage. I stand and begin the short walk to the door, a rancid smell creeps out yet my feet still carry me forward even as I gag. Strange shadows skip around the walls, a lava lamp? Why would there be such a thing here? I begin to question if I am in some strange dream or hallucination. But leaving my questions unanswered I look at the walls, frames cover them but I struggle to see the images they contain. I move to get a closer look my curiosity leading the way.
The rancid smell is stronger the closer I get, I see the congealed blood. They’re not mere images, they’re faces. No eyes, no bone, just skin. Flayed faces stare at me as I walk along the wall, they seem to age upward until I stop at the last. I recognise the features even in their collapsed state. The arch of the brows, the liner still on the eyelids, and the curves where the bones structure should be. I back away not wanting to see them anymore, my legs bump against something. Hands grab me pinning me down, straps pull too tight constricting my legs and arms, and my head is put in a vice. Bright light shines in my face and I squint.
“This’ll be a pretty one.” I stop my struggle upon hearing the voice. A coldness creeps over me, do I know this voice? Something inside is screaming yes, telling me to fear it. “That’s it, be still. There’s a good girl.”
I blink against the light, in the corner of my vision I can see the figure the voice is attached to. A white coat but no gloves. He stares down at me, is it a he? Yes, something familiar about the way he touches me. Hands caressing my arms, legs and chest. His face blocks out the light for a moment. Bright icy blue eyes stare at me, a surgical mask obscures the rest of his face. I see something glint in the light.
“Now, show me that brave face.”
Unimaginable pain flares through my features, I feel every stroke of the scalpel. No, please I don't want another brave face. Another? I have ore than one? I feel the muscle separating from skin, every nerve ending is on fire now and the sound of my dripping blood mixes with manic laughter.
Smooth cold against my face, my face? I turn onto my back my hands caressing my intact skin. My breath comes rapidly as I lie on the smooth cold. I move to my front again to stand, the distinct creaking of glass opens my eyes. Dull eyes stare at me through a blood soaked face, I shoot to my knees in shock. The mirror creaks again. The same mirror on a different wall, how am I lying on the wall? I glance either side of myself, endless doors make up the floor. The ceiling and ground now the walls though the chandeliers still think they’re hanging correctly. A fracture under my hand, slowly growing. I notice bloody words upon the glass, the same as words on the door earlier. ‘Make your choice’. What does that mean? What choice? How can I make one if I don’t know who I am?
I slowly crawl to the frame, cracking glass echoes in the empty corridor. Nearly there, my hand touches the frame then the wall. My fingers dig into the peeling paper. A loud shattering pierces my ears and the feeling of floating holds me before I drop. I grab the frame glass embeds in my wrists as I dangle, the dark greets me again as I look down. I can’t pull myself up, the glass in my wrists all that holds me in place. I watch as it rips away the flesh, as I descend I see said flesh evaporate into black smoke.
Bones crunch as I land, I feel them protruding through my skin. How am I not dead? Though I suppose none of my other injuries have lasted long either. I need to leave this place but I cannot move. I feel my body go numb as I hear something. Was it me? I appear to be standing, walking to find a way out. My eyes adjust, no light but I can see again. A rock face, a cave? Why would there be a cave behind a mirror? I touch the rock and it feels strange, webby. Yes, like a web I think as I hear something move. Am I scared of spiders? I don't know but whatever is down here with me is nothing I've encountered before, of that I am certain. The sound of many legs and the feeling of many eyes alights my fear. I feel my way along the rocks not wanting to look behind me, I hear it getting closer. I feel a presence scuttle past me, rocks scratch my spine until I fall backward. I look up to see trees, I scramble to my feet as I see a spindly leg around the edge of the cave.
Trees fly past my vision as roots try and trip me and my lungs are burning with effort. How long have I been running? I slow down slightly glancing behind, nothing but trees greets me. I stop to allow my breathing to return to normal. There is no wind, the leaves on the trees are silent and there are no birds. The only sound is my breathing. In the distance I see the once grand house, how is the house over there if I fell through a mirror inside? My feet move toward it, do I want to go back in there? Apparently so as I still walk toward it until the corner of my eye itches again. I pause, rubbing my eye and looking back up a door stands before me. No walls just a door and those words again. I glare at the out of place object walking around it. What are the options for this choice? And why is it so important? I can’t resist the urge to open the door, why? It can’t lead anywhere. My hand touches the handle and that familiar coldness returns. I want to run away but I can’t, I have to open the door.
The room is bright and grand, people dance elegantly around the floor. They turn to stare at me whispering to each other, some glare looking me over. I glance down at myself, I'm clad in a forest green ball gown. The blood is gone from my hands replaced manicured nails, I feel a choker of velvet at my neck. I glance back to see no door, only a banquet tale filled with beautiful food and a champagne fountain. How is that possible?
“Ladies and gentlemen, our guest of honour has arrived.” That voice, he appears before me. Those bright icy blue eyes smile down at me, his face now unobscured by the surgical mask. He’s handsome I find myself thinking, his suit flattering and a tie to match my dress. His arm weaves around my waist as he glides me over the floor, we dance in a loving embrace. He pulls me close to whisper.
“You look divine, precious.” I'm comfortable in his arms and yet something doesn't feel right. I feel a tightness around my neck, the light flickers. In that second his eyes turn harsh before changing back. I can’t bring myself to break from him, it gets harder to breath as the tightness around my neck increases. I hear people laughing as the lights begins to dim, I blink. I'm lying on the floor his hands around my throat, his eyes contain power.
“Sorry, precious.” I struggle against him but he’s too strong, my arms fail me and I try turn my face away. The sight of a fiery red-haired girl catches my eye, she looks down at me disappointed. She wears a white dress and her eyes glow green. She shakes her head at me.
“You should’ve known better.” She walks away from me the crowd parting for her, I try in vain to call out to her to beg for help. Who is she? She too feels familiar, I know her. But who is she?
The pain fades with the light and I am left alone in the darkness. I crawl along the floor until I find another door, different words this time ‘Choose quickly’. Next to the door is a clock with thirteen hours on it, I begin to wonder how long I've been here and if I’ll ever get out.
I open and go through. Another corridor though not endless this time, I follow around the corner. Hallways, stairs, corners, dark narrow passages and silence. No more doors. This place is a labyrinth of faded wallpaper and heavy rugs. Frustration bubbles up for the first time since being here, I slide down the nearest wall the paper ripping. I hold my head in my hands trying to remember why I'm here and who I am. Though it seems natural to be here, the feeling that I've simply forgotten the way toys with me. I lay my head back against the wall, upon opening my eyes yet another door is presented to me. Crude crayon letters are drawn on the wood ‘down’. I'm sick of doors with cryptic messages, I want to go home wherever that it.
Down. A challenge or a helpful hint? This whole ordeal seems to be some sort of challenge but what’s my prize? I stand staring at the crude letters, what have I got to lose? I open the door into the expected darkness feeling for stairs and I hug the wall as I descend. I walk aimlessly through the dark, I have no idea in which direction. I follow the corners round, I could be walking in a circle for all I know. After a time I feel anther presence walking along side me, an aura of safety emanating from the unknown. I reach out around but feel nothing but crumbling walls. The presence seems to be ahead of me I try my hardest to keep up with it hoping its leading me to sane answers. Then the safe presence is overwhelmed by something else. I'm grabbed roughly from behind a hand over my mouth as something sharp goes in my back, I feel the coldness as the sharp object is dragged across my spine severing it. I cannot move though I feel someone moving me.
Light floods my vision again, my senses in overdrive. I still can’t move but I feel everything, the roughness of the carpet beneath me and the vibrations of someone waking around me. My eyes adjust to the light and I see those eyes again. He stands above me and inhuman glow in those icy blues, he’s shirtless scars and tattoos covering his arms and chest. Somehow I don’t need to look to know where each of them is placed. I do know this man, every instinct in me is screaming for me to run. But then my heart aches as though it were broken. His gaze drifts over my body and I notice I'm naked, I'm not embarrassed though I want to cover myself from his eyes. He looks hungry as he kneels down next to me, I feel the coldness of his hands as they move my legs apart. Tears slide down my cheeks as I steel myself for what’s to come. He holds himself above me his jeans suddenly missing, a malicious grin on his face.
I do know this man my memory screams and I too try to scream as movement returns to my body but alas no sound escapes me. He’s not finished, he holds me down and puts a knife to my throat. I turn my head away from his eyes, the red-haired girl from before stands there a blank expression on her face.
“You remember. He’s the one that broke us, you gave him our innocence.” Her face gives away nothing as she speaks, she then looks beyond us. Nick, I remember, my first love and fear. I turn my eyes back to him as he makes the first cut, then another and another. I keep trying to scream as the pain flares through me, I feel him laugh atop me. Relief floods me as the safe presence surrounds me, Nick is thrown off me and I'm blinded by light again. I turn back to the girl only to see her disappear into black smoke.
A light breath of air tickles my skin, I open my eyes to stare at the moon. It shines through a skylight in the distant ceiling, I can tell it’s the only light. Movement next to me turns my head, the red-haired girl sits reading a book.
“You’re wondering why all these horrid things have happened to you.” She states never taking her eyes from the pages. “You can’t speak because you have no voice here, you've allowed him to be the inner voice instead of me.” She finally looks at me. “Who are you? You’re not me any more, you’re not his any more, so who are you?” She may appear as a child but her gaze is far older.
“That’s not fair.” A new voice, another familiar one along with the overwhelming safe feeling. I look at the owner of said voice as he steps into the light. He is tall with a kind face. “She needs to wake up soon, you can’t keep her here.” He stands on the edge of the moonbeam as though not daring to get too close to me.
“But she hasn't learned!” The red-haired girl pouts as suits her age. “She just doesn't get it.” But I do I want to scream at her, I understand. She’s me, she’s the child I was before I met Nick. My memories flood back to me as the tall man, my safe person, Johnny, crouches in front of me.
“Ginger.” I look at him and smile as he strokes my cheek. “You need to wake up.” Am I in a dream, no, this is my mind. I’m trapped inside myself.
A sinister laugh echoes from the darkness. “Ah, what a trip ‘ay precious?” He doesn't step into the light he walks around it glaring at me. “You know you deserved though, right?” Fear takes root again and in the air I can feel the coldness battle with the safe presence. Nick and Johnny have never met but reflections of both live inside my head. “There is a choice to be made.” He grins as a door behind him opens and more light flows out. He glances back. “You’ll have to get through me first.” I begin to shake but I stand anyway, I feel Johnny behind me his safe presence calming. I hold my head up high and charge at Nick, he grabs me around the waist as I try and kick him in the nether regions. He holds me like a vice then he lets go and I fall to the ground. I look back Johnny has him in a choke hold.
“Run.” Johnny yells at me and I do.
The room is bright white and smells obsessively clean. My eyes adjust quickly and happiness fills me as I see my mother, she’s asleep in a chair her face red from crying. Then I see why, I lie broken in a hospital bed, tubes and needles hanging from my veins. Bruises on all visible skin and the endless slow beep of my heartbeat from the machines.
“You’re running out of time.” Someone new, a voice I don’t remember. I turn to see a figure in black sat paying chess, next to them on another small table is a tea set. “Sit.” It motions at the chair opposite, I walk to it staring at the figure, when I sit I know I should be shocked. It’s a skeleton in a black cloak, the Grim Reaper. How do I know that? “Tea?” I nod not wanting to be rude. “So, here we are again.” He says pouring tea and handing me a cup. I accept it nodding my thanks. “It’s not very often I get to have tea with the same person more than once. This seems to becoming a routine.”
“Sorry.” Was that me? I can talk now?
“You found your voice, took you long enough.” His empty eye sockets seem to stare at the chess board as he makes moves, spinning the board to play himself. “That retch you let live in your mind was right, you have a choice to make.” He sighs. “It’s not hard, it’s the same choice I always give you.”
“I don’t suppose you give many people that choice.” He lifts his empty sockets to me.
“Indeed, so what’ll it be?”Beep… beep… beep… beeeeeeeeeeeeeep…