The world is a spiral; not of colors, but of sounds, smells. It’s all a series of indistinct whispers in the wind, swirling together into one ominous howl which burrows into my deepest consciousness, scratching at the inside of my skull like a startled animal trying to escape. Where am I? I don’t know these scents or sounds. They are not the familiar stench and clatter of my unkempt bachelor pad in Chicago. Stink as it might, my home smells like heaven compared to wherever I now find myself. The air here smells like…like death. But why do I know that? Why don’t I know how I got here? And why is this place so dark? I can’t see a thing.
The last thing I can remember, I was out for a night on the town with some of my more reckless friends. We were having a good time until, as usual, they all decided to take things a step too far. I suppose that I probably should have tried to stop them when they began harassing that homeless woman. As always though, I had decided to bail before I found myself in any unwanted trouble. They may have been jerks, but they weren’t going to hurt anybody ―they never did. So I just left them to it. They’d get bored the same way that they always did.
The strange thing though, is that I’m sure I didn’t have a single drop of alcohol last night. I remember that it was because I had to drive myself home, but I don’t remember ever getting into my car. That realization only adds to just how dire this situation must be. My heart starts pounding like a bass drum in my chest, faster and faster. Where is this place? If I never got into my car, how did I get here?
I inhale deeply, and take a moment to collect my thoughts. Maybe the first step to figuring out where I am is finding a light switch. This place is ungodly dark, and it’s only freaking me out all the more. I’ve never been anywhere so pitch black before, and it doesn’t seem like my night vision is kicking in at all. I place my hand on the floor so that I can push myself onto my feet. I can’t help but notice that it feels like…nothing. It feels like there is no floor beneath where I’m resting, and yet still I’m pushing against something. Still, I somehow find myself on my feet. At least, I think I do. It’s hard to tell when you can’t feel the ground beneath you.
I place one foot in front of the other, but I can’t tell whether or not I’m moving. There is no wind. There is no crunch or patter as I take my steps. There is only cold. That seems to be the only thing that I can feel in this place; just this piercing, bone-chilling cold. I stretch my arms out, searching for anything that I can grab onto; anything that can maybe give me some kind of clue as to where I am. Still though, just as when I first stood up, I feel nothing. That definitely can’t be a good sign.
“Hello!” I call out. I am answered only by what sounds like my own echo at first, but very quickly transforms into something eerily unnatural. Each new refrain of the word bounces back at me from a new direction. Each one is warped or skewed in some new, strange way. The first is low, and elongated. The next is shrill, and raspy. And the one after that sounds like me, only it’s…laughing. Eventually the mocking caricatures of my voice fade back into the haze of indistinct sounds that fill this void. For the first time I take these strange, muted noises into consideration. If I can’t see where I am, if I can’t feel out any clues, then maybe I can hear something that will help me figure it out.
I close my eyes, though that’s mostly just an act of habit. I can see no less now than I could when they were open. For some reason though, it soothes me. I slow my breathing, and my racing heart soon follows suit. With my adrenaline now at least under some control, I try to focus on the white noise that surrounds me. At first, it seems hopeless. It’s still just the same indecipherable jumble of nothing that it’s been all along. But this is my last hope. I can’t fail here. If I do, then I am entirely out of straws to grasp at.
I redouble my efforts, shutting my eyes tighter and tighter until my temples begin to throb from the effort. Nothing…nothing…nothing…and then, a noise. Not just a veil of scattered filler, but an actual noise; something that I can understand! It sounds like a voice. It’s panicked, shouting, saying something. But I can’t piece together any of the words. I focus even harder, pushing my mind to the brink. At this point, my head is basically just a ball of pulsing, throbbing pain. But I push through it, and eventually I hear a word.
“Stop!” the shrill female voice pleads. “Please…please, don’t do this!”
The woman sounds familiar. I know her from somewhere. I know that I do, but I can’t remember where. As I tighten my focus on her voice, other things begin to slip through my fingers. Names, faces, dates all begin to fade into obscurity. I’m caught in a catch twenty-two. I need to keep listening for information so that I can get out of this place. If I do that though, it seems I might forget about everything that I am so desperate to escape back to.
The decision should be difficult, but it seems as though I make it without really being entirely sure of the reasons behind my choice. Perhaps I’ve already forgotten enough to dull my concern over forgetting much more. Regardless of why I do so, I continue listening. The woman’s speech has devolved into a series of hysterical moans and whimpers. I can hear her breaths come and go in ragged, shifting iterations. For a long while, she says nothing. The only noise that resonates through this empty space is the sound of her anguish. Then, after what could be forever, she says another word; a name.
All at once, my focus shatters, and I am enveloped once more by the haze of indistinct rabble which filled this space before. Jared wasn’t just a name. It was my name. This woman knew me. She knew that I was here. Was she calling out to me, begging for my help? Or was she warning me? What was happening to her? Would I be next?
The savage, pounding drum inside my chest returns at full force. I need to get out of here. Desperation takes hold, and I begin to run. It’s impossible for it to be this dark anywhere outside, so I must be inside of a building. No matter how big this place is, it still has to have walls. If I run for long enough, I’ll eventually bump into one. It will probably hurt like hell, but once I find a wall all I need to do is feel along it until I find the door to this place. So I run, and I run.
I just keep running…and running…and running. I never run into a wall though. I run until I can run no more, and then I fall forward onto my knees, landing once more on a bed of nothing. My emotions cave in on me all at once. I unleash a guttural roar of anger, and terror, and grief. Again, this place’s twisted echoes mock me. They warp the sound of my voice until it becomes nothing more than a joke without a punchline. Then, just as before, they fade back into the veil of sound. My mind is now at war with itself. One emotion fights the next, each struggling for dominion over my next action until, eventually, it is my rage that wins out.
“What is this place?” I shout through wavering breaths. Still, the echoes taunt me, but I no longer care. I shout once more, this time louder. “Why the hell can’t I see anything? Who is that woman? What did you do to her? What do you want from me?” an endless stream of questions pours from between my lips.
The space around me is now so full of those hideous shadows of my voice that I can almost physically feel them surrounding me, closing in on me, suffocating me. Still, I scream. I scream every last question that this place has drilled into me until there is only one question left; the most important question. “Why?”
“Why, why, why, why, why, why, why?”
Suddenly, I notice that my eyes are closed tight. My screams are no longer screams, but whimpers muttered beneath my breath. But…what is it I’m muttering, and why? The last thing that I remember, I was out for a night on the town with some of my more reckless friends. We were having a good time until, as usual, they all decided to take things a step too far. I suppose that I probably should have tried to stop them when they began harassing that homeless woman. As always though, I had decided to bail before I found myself in any unwanted trouble. They may have been jerks, but they weren’t going to hurt anybody ―they never did. So I just left them to it. They’d get bored the same way that they always did.
The strange thing though, is that I’m sure I didn’t have a single drop of alcohol. I couldn’t, because I had to drive home. I don’t remember ever getting into my car, though. That realization only adds to the confusion of this situation. Where am I? If I never got into my car, how did I get here? Slowly I open my eyes, but I immediately wish that I hadn’t. I am looking down at a floor that is wet with more blood than I have ever seen in my entire life. It is only now that I notice the foul, putrid odor that fills the dimply lit room. It smells like…like death. But why do I know that?
I wretch, heave, and fall to my knees. The contents of my stomach empty themselves into one of the pools of blood in front of me and the two fluids merge together into a sickly, horrid conglomeration of morbid colors. I hear a metallic clatter, and realize that a small surgical scalpel has just fallen from my hand. I was holding it. Why was I holding it? I finally work up the courage to examine the room. I find that the walls are all lined with sturdy shelves, on top of which lie an indeterminable number of garbage bags the size of human bodies. When I finally look directly in front of me, whatever is left inside of my stomach works its way free and becomes a part of the same puddle which I had vomited into moments before.
There, strung from the ceiling by her wrists, was Anna Miller. She was one of the people whom I had been out with. The front of her blue dress is stained red. The puddle of blood on the floor belongs to her
“Anna?” I call out to her through a heavy sob. She doesn’t answer. She’s dead. Did I do this to her? I can’t remember a thing about how I got here. What’s happening to me? What have I done?
I let loose a horrible, tortured shriek of pure grief. It echoes back at me, a perfect mirror of my voice. Nobody else hears it. There’s no one here but me. I am alone with myself.
The world is a spiral; not of colors, but of sounds, smells. It’s all a series of indistinct whispers in the wind, swirling together into one ominous howl which burrows into my deepest consciousness, scratching at the inside of my skull like a startled animal trying to escape. I don’t know where I am. I can’t make heads or tails of these sounds, but I know that scent. It is the familiar stench of death. I can’t see a thing, but it smells like home here. Maybe this place isn’t so bad.