If Only Our Perceptions Could Speak For Us
If Only Our Perceptions Could Speak for Us
“I know we came this way?” Magdalena said.
“Then why did you say it like that?”
“Like it was a question.”
They paused in a corridor that had flowers embroidered on the walls. Tom did not know the names of flowers, but this pattern and color reminded him of the carnation he chose to match the girl’s dress he took to the prom last year. He had not thought about that girl until he found himself standing in the corridor examining the texture of the strange wall. He had not thought about that girl since he watched Magdalena dance to the Daphne song in the parking lot outside the Palace Video even though not so long ago he told that girl he loved her but she didn’t respond. Something about the pattern of the wall kept his imagination rapt. There was a subtle texture moving beneath the flowers placed at equal intervals along the corridor.
Tom moved his hand close to the wall but hesitated to touch it. The texture formed lines that seemed to waver the longer he watched them. He wanted to feel if they were moving or if it was an illusion created by the ever present darkness that seemed to crowd in from all around. Everywhere they moved the darkness stayed with them.
“What is it?” Magdalena asked.
“Don’t you see that?”
“What do you see?”
“The wallpaper is moving.”
“Is it wallpaper? I was trying to figure it out. There is something strange about it. It doesn’t have the quality of the wallpaper in my house.”
“So you see it?”
“It’s so dark in here I don’t always believe what I see.”
“Did you see anything else?”
“Every now and then.”
Magdalena reached out and put her hand on top of Tom’s hand. She used her fingers to close his fingers. Tom turned to look at her. He did not expect to feel the sensation that rose up in his stomach when her hand fell on top of his. He knew what he felt showed in his eyes when he looked at her.
“I don’t think you should touch it, Tom.”
“You see what I see, then?”
“Don’t you think we should be back to the place where we started? Don’t you think we should be back to the room with the camera by now?”
“We have been walking for quite some time, it feels like.”
“That doesn’t bother me as much as the walls are moving.”
Magdalena turned away from the way that Tom still wanted to touch. She went to the other side of the corridor to check if it was similar to what Tom noticed on the first wall. There were flowers on that wall as well except they were a different type of flower. Why would the person who designed the interior of the house use two separate kinds of wallpaper in the same hallway, she wanted to know?
“Magdalena?” Tom said. He noticed the wallpaper near the floor had begun to peel away from the wall behind. He followed the wavering lines from the decrepit paper upwards along the surface. He still had not touched it, but his hand was getting dangerously close. “Magdalena?” Tom said again.
When she didn’t answer the second, Tom glanced over his shoulder. Even when he didn’t see her standing where he thought she should be standing he wasn’t frightened because he dark had been playing tricks on his eyes for some time. Magdalena has spoken about the sense of objects moving just beyond their periphery, and he had seen it too. Maybe she had walked just far enough down the corridor to be swallowed up by the encroaching shadows. Perhaps she was only ten feet away but he just couldn’t make her out in the soupy dark.
Tom abandoned the wallpaper that consumed his imagination. He wandered into the gloom of the corridor.
The word seemed to be swallowed up as soon as it left his lips. The word was absorbed into the darkness. Nothing returned from the mire. Magdalena didn’t respond. There was no reverberation from his own voice even as the word trembled in the air outside his mouth. Also, no words returned to him from the girl that only a moment before was standing beside him. He could still smell the Banana Boat sunscreen and saltwater. She was not a part of his imagination. She had been a real and breathing girl standing next to him.
Tom was afraid to move at first. He felt like the universe had turned itself upside-down. He no longer understood what anything meant. He didn’t trust the floor he was standing on.
He yelled: “Magdalena.”
Again, he sensed that the gloom that swirled around him drank the vibration of his voice.
He took three steps in the direction she went. She had barely moved away from him. She had walked to the other side of the corridor from where he examined the wallpaper. She had not ventured off alone down the corridor. He knew she wouldn’t go alone. They would not separate from each other. They were lost. They agreed that they were lost in this maze of hallways. They had walked for a long time only to find themselves standing in the middle of another hallway.
It made no sense that she wasn’t standing right where he was standing. This was exactly where she walked to only a moment before. He didn’t know why she stepped away from him, but he knew she didn’t go far. He could feel her presence.
If he felt her presence, why didn’t he feel her absence?
It felt different to be alone in the hallway.
He suddenly felt an overwhelming dread.
The idea occurred to him in a flash.
What if Magdalena didn’t vanish? What if he vanished? What if Magdalena was looking for him instead of him looking for her?
He spun around in his heels. He glanced this way and that. Was he in the same place he thought he was only moments ago? Was this the same wall he had been examining? Where were the flowers that looked like the flowers he bought for the girl on prom night? These were not the same flowers that he was looking at only a moment ago. These flowers have petals. Even the background of the paper was different. The background of the wallpaper had changed as well. There were hundreds of tiny faces in profile. The etching of the face had the elegant angle of royalty. The closer he studied the pattern he noticed how the expression continuously changed. The smile twisted into a frown then returned to a smirk and flattened into neutrality. Tom blinked. He rubbed his eyes. But when he relented, when he opened his eyes again, the profile grinned at him. The one open eye seemed to wink at.
Tom stumbled backward. He fell over and found himself sitting in the middle of the carpeted floor.
His first thought, only moments before, was that Magdalena had been swallowed by the house. Somehow the walls had shifted, the corridor had moved, and Magdalena was trapped in the machinations of the shifting pattern of the castle. But he was wrong. Magdalena was probably standing exactly where she was standing the last time he saw her. He was the one who vanished. He did not know how it happened. He didn’t feel anything move. Until he found himself looking at different wallpaper he wouldn’t have known it was him who had vanished and not Magdalena.
Perhaps this was why they thought they were lost. Perhaps this was why they believed they had walked for so long. Perhaps the corridors shifted even as they wandered through them. Was the house trying to lead them somewhere? Maybe it was guiding them away from something it didn’t want them to discover?
He was alone now. Alone in the dark with no sense of which way to go.
Magdalena was alone too.
Would she think he abandoned her? She was in the same place where he left her. She might think he wandered off? She might think he left her alone?
He sat in the middle of the corridor with his hands covering his head, shielding himself from the gathering dark that seemed to touch everything in equal measure. And he suddenly felt terribly alone.