Blackness


Rope 

Blackness.

Not just darkness, but blackness, engulfs you. The rich colour of tar; a bath of treacle: it is all you can sense. No sound, just blackness. Focus on your body standing in this blackness, feel the absence of touch. Feel the hairs on your skin rise up to meet nothing, and fall back without sending a single nerve impulse. Memories refuse to blossom in your mind when you try to summon them. How did you get here? Why are you here? Where is here?

These questions float about you, unable to latch onto even a hint of an answer, and like pollen dislodged from it’s tree, drift away from you into the distance forever. In the blackness you reach up to your face with a hand, waving it centimetres from your nose you can still sense nothing. You touch your eyes, checking for any form of mask blocking your vision. You find none.

You move your legs slightly, and stop, something isn’t right. More cautiously this time you edge your leg sideways and are amazed to find that you’re not standing at all. You’re lying on something soft. You glide your hands over it; soft silk, satin or something similar. Depressing it slightly with your hands conjures up images of a luxurious mattress. Your hands slowly explore the area surrounding your body, and after a few seconds your left hand grasps onto something. The edge of the mattress? All your senses are directed to your hand as it moves up and down the edge. The mattress is deep and you can’t reach its bottom, but it feels normal. With caution you lift your body up and twist, pushing your legs out over the edge and pulling yourself into a sitting position. Click. You freeze, sitting on the edge of the mattress with your feet dangling into empty space. Did you really hear a noise just then? It sounded just like the tick of a clock; no, better still, the click of a thermostat.

You sit perfectly still for about a minute, straining your ears for the slightest sound but you can hear nothing. The back of your calf muscles draws your attention. They are resting against something cold and hard. Bending down a little you reach with your hand to stroke along the metal bar that’s against your legs, presumably the frame holding the mattress up off the floor, but how high? You stretch your legs down, pointing your toes, but you still can’t reach the floor.

Gripping the edge of the mattress with both hands you try to decide whether to jump or not. Tensing your arms you get ready to push off when something stops you. A soft breeze buffets your chest, coming out of the void in front of you. Suddenly for the first time in the blackness you feel exposed. All at the same time you become aware that you are naked, that you are, for all you know, dangling your legs over a precipices and that anyone or anything could be watching you from out in the blackness.

Click

That sound again. How long has it been since the last one? Is it a regular noise? What’s changed? Something’s changed. Something feels different. What is it? No breeze. You raise a hand up to your chest, feeling the cool skin but no cool air pushes against it. That click, the first time you heard it you started feeling the breeze. The second time it sounded, the breeze stopped. That click doesn’t just sound like a thermostat, it is a thermostat. The breeze is some sort of air conditioning, not a draft from an empty cavern.

With a sudden feeling of confidence you tense your arms and slide yourself over the edge of the bed. To your horror your feet feel nothing. You can picture your confidence sitting on the mattress waving at you, smiling, as you plummet into the unknown void. You suddenly jerk your body round, too late to catch the mattress ledge you know, but worth a try. Your body swings round you throw your arms up to catch the ledge and as you expected you can’t find it in the dark. Flailing your arms around now in desperation, your right hand hits something silky and soft, quickly grabbing at it and feeling it, you notice two amazing things. Firstly it feels just like the mattress you threw yourself off but it’s about waist high, and secondly its not rushing past you, or rather you’re not falling past it.

A wave of foolishness washes out the panic in your mind. You’re not falling, you’re standing. Scratching a foot around the floor, you realise it is made of the same substance as the mattress, barely noticeable to the touch.

You feel with your hands around you in an arc away from the bed. Then slowly, like a blind man who’s lost his cane you start walking away flailing your arms out in front of you. After a few steps your right hand strikes something cold in front of you. Your left hand rushes to its assistance, and your fingers tentatively stroke up and down the hard cold surface. It’s not long before you know it is a wall. Your hands continue to explore it up and down. It’s cool, hard and smooth to the touch. One of your hands brushes against something at about head height in front of you; a raised circular ridge. In the centre of the ridge is something smooth, made of a less cool material. You push what you conclude must be a button.

Light.

It’s too bright to see as flashes like lightning reflect around the room then stay firm. Bright strip lights glow in the small square room surrounded by white walls. There’s a black bed against one wall, the opposite wall has the button you’ve just pushed in its centre, and a small grill about waist height slightly to one side. The other two walls are completely bare. There is no hint of a door out of the room. The ceiling is the same colour as the walls, and has three strip lights hanging down on chains. One chain on each light has a wire snaking round it and up through the ceiling. The floor is black like the bed and seems to be made of the same substance as the mattress. There is nothing else in the room.

Bending down you look under the bed, barring the four metal legs that support it, there is just empty space. The light has done nothing to make this place more welcoming.

Standing in the middle of the room you wonder what to do. You can think of no options. How do you escape from a room that has no windows and no door? Your eyes focus on the grill. Too small for you to fit through, but it is a start.

Kneeling down you examine it more closely. The grill covers a shaft, about a foot square, which disappears into darkness. It looks like it is held in by screws or wing nuts of some sort, screwed in from the inside. The front edges are smooth, a few swift tugs on the grill show that it is held firmly in place and you let out a sigh. You look around again. It’s quiet, silent in fact. You can’t help but think in hushed whispers. The silence seems to extend beyond the room, giving you the impression that you’re not just alone in this cell but that you are alone in the world.

“Name”

The word hung in the air like a circling vulture. You look around you, startled. It’s impossible to tell where the voice came from; it just seemed to appear in the room. You start to doubt that you heard anything at all, but to be on the safe side you stammer your name to the room in general.

“Age”

Well at least you know you didn’t just imagine the voice. It sounded a little rough and gravelly, but with definite power behind it. Although it was not particularly loud now, you could tell that if it was needed the voice could become booming without much warning. You say your age to the room, looking round you for the source of the voice. Silence. You suddenly get worried about being left alone again. “Where am I? who are you? Let me out! Why have you brought me here?”

“Answer only the questions”

Comes the voice, then there is the subtle low hiss of a snake. You look around the floor in alarm. You can see nothing on the floor, it just looks wavy. The walls also look wavy. You spin around startled; everything seems to be rocking and moving. The room appears to be melting.

Blackness.

Not just darkness, but blackness, engulfs you. The rich colour of tar; a bath of treacle: it is all you can sense. No sound, just blackness. Focus on your body in this blackness, feel the absence of touch. Feel the hairs on your skin rise up to meet nothing, and fall back without sending a single nerve impulse.

You stretch out a hand to one side and feel the edge of a mattress like object. Pulling yourself up, you drop off the bed slowly and hesitantly move towards where you remember the wall being. It takes ages to find the button this time, but once pressed the lights flicker on the same as before and after a few seconds delay you hear a familiar: “Name”

“Mickey Mouse” you reply in a load voice. “Now let me out, I’m not going to play your stupid games. Let me out.” You thump the wall hard, hurting your hand.

“Answer the questions correctly”

The snake is back, you can hear the hissing somewhere to your right, but still you can’t see it. You look down, focusing on the air vent and watch as it goes wavy and…

Blackness.

Not just darkness, but blackness, engulfs you. The rich colour of tar; a bath of treacle: it is all you can sense. No sound, just blackness. Focus on your body in this blackness, feel the absence of touch. Feel the hairs on your skin rise up to meet nothing, and fall back without sending a single nerve impulse.

You lie silently for a minute, considering what you can do. You could lie here and do nothing. Not play their game and maybe they’d get bored and let you out. Then again maybe they’d just leave you here to die. There seems to be no hatch for food or water. You could always answer the questions and hope that once they find out all they want to know they’ll let you out. But what exactly do they want to know? What is it that you’ve done that they want to find out about?

You decide that your best course is to find out more about what’s going on, and the only way of doing that is by playing their game. They know your name and age because you told them that already, but maybe you can get away with not telling them any more. Getting up you find the button and press it.

“Name”

You answer correctly

“Age”

Again no sense in lying there. Once more there is a long pause. Sitting on the bed you stare at the button waiting for more questions.

“Many years ago, you walked through a small wood”

This was certainly possible. It was hard to know if it was a question or a statement, but you decided to say yes anyway. Click. You jumped at the sound, looking round the room startled. A soft breeze hits your face from the far wall and you relax.

“You saw a man with a rope.”

Memories flood back into your mind. You were eleven, walking through the small woods behind your house to play with your friends. You’d stumbled on a man in a clearing, tying a rope to a branch of one of the trees. There was something by his feet too, something blue. You could remember the man whistling as he tied a knot: a happy little ditty that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a film like Mary Poppins. The memory was so vivid it is like you can hear the whistling right now. Startled you realise you can hear the whistling, it is in the room with you.

“You saw a man with a rope” Came the voice again. You suddenly realise you haven’t replied. You stutter a weak yes.

“You watched him hang a young girl.”

The words were still without emotion, it sounded wrong to hear these things spoken so plainly. It hadn’t been like that. You’d seen him standing there whistling, you’d seen the blue thing at his feet. You’d watched as he’d lifted the blue thing up and put a noose around a girl in a blue dress.

The whistling was still in the room, repeating itself over and over.

“You watched him hang a young girl.”

‘No.’ You reply, ‘I saw him tying the rope, I saw him lift a blue thing up, I didn’t know what he was doing. I couldn’t have stopped him anyway. I was young, I was scared.’ You are shouting at the voice now, you are shouting so loud you didn’t hear the hissing sound.

Blackness.

Not just darkness, but blackness, engulfs you. The rich colour of tar; a bath of treacle: it is all you can sense. No sound, just blackness. You focus on your body in this blackness, feeling the absence of touch. You feel the hairs on your skin rise up to meet nothing, and fall back without sending a single nerve impulse.

Softly, as if you were gradually getting closer to the source, you can hear whistling. You leap up, lurching across the wall, hitting it repeatedly till you catch the button. The light flicks on, the whistling continues.

“Name”

You reply correctly.

“Age”

You reply correctly

“Many years ago, you walked through a small wood”

You reply correctly

“You saw a man with a rope.”

You reply correctly

“You watched him hang a young girl.”

Pausing, you remember the man lifting her limp body, her blue dress was pristine, and ribbons were in her freshly washed hair. She had little, shiny, black shoes and white socks on. You’d seen the man, still whistling, sliding the noose round her head. Planting a soft kiss on her forehead, still holding her up.

“Yes” you say quietly.

“You killed her.”

The man had lifted her above his head, at first you thought he was going to put her on his shoulders, but he just held her there in the air for a minute. Then quickly, without fuss, he dropped her. Her body jerked as the rope pulled taut, her neck flicked to one side and she hung there, swinging slightly. Still the man whistled.

And you ran, as fast as your young legs could carry you, you ran home. You spent the next week in your bedroom, tortured by news reports, that whistling always in your head.

“No, he killed her, I couldn’t have done anything. I couldn’t have stopped him, he was too big.” There was a pause, you half expected to hear a hiss. Instead the whistling stopped.

“Did you report him?”

Sitting quietly, you hung your head.

“No” you say softly. “I was too scared, I was worried if I said something people would ask me why I didn’t try and stop him. I was worried people would blame me. I just wanted to forget about it.

“He killed again.”

This was news to you, as far as you’d known there had been no more murders near you. Suddenly you realise it wasn’t a statement, it was a question.

“I don’t think so” you reply.

“That makes you feel less guilty about not reporting him”

“Yes” you say weakly.

“It doesn’t make her feel any better.”

A sentence like that should be sneered. But the voice still carried on as it always had done. There seemed to be no judgement, and that was worse. “He took his own life shortly after killing her. They never found his body. He was never linked to her death. People wept when he disappeared. People still speak his name fondly. Her name only brings sadness now, people avoid it, try to forget it. This is your fault.”

“No its not,” you shout. “It’s his fault.”

“If you had reported him, if you had tried to stop him, if you had done something, instead of ignoring the world around you, he would have been caught. He would have been punished. She would have been avenged, and she would now be happy. She will never be happy, but she will be avenged.”

The hissing returns, you happily let it wash over you. It felt like it was over, maybe they’ll let you go now.

Blackness.

Not just darkness, but blackness, engulfs you. The rich colour of tar; a bath of treacle: it is all you can sense. No sound, just blackness. You focus on your body in this blackness, feeling the absence of touch. You feel the hairs on your skin rise up to meet nothing, and fall back without sending a single nerve impulse.

Softly, as if you were gradually getting closer to the source, you can hear whistling. You are unsure what to do. You don’t want to go through all that again only to end up back on the bed in the dark. Then again, without light you can’t do anything and you don’t want to lie here with the whistling. Standing up, you take a step towards the wall but you collide with something, it swings away from you, the whistling is extremely loud now. You grasp the object in front of you, it’s covered in a soft fabric, and you know what it is. You push it away and jump back onto the bed. The object swings back towards you, catching you on the face with a cold leather shoe. You hear the object creaking as it swings, like a branch in the wind.

Suddenly the lights start to flicker around you. Lightning strikes. The air conditioning starts pumping out a hurricane of air. Every flash of light illuminates the girl swinging in front of you, her hair and dress flapping in the wind. The whistling can still be heard over the gale blowing inside the small room and the creaking of the swinging body.

You collapse forward onto your knees, staring up at the little girl. Her blowing hair, her clean perfect dress, her polished shoes, her tilted neck, her open eyes. Those eyes, those cold, dead, dark eyes. Staring at you, unblinking, vacant. You can’t stop staring into them. Her pupils are wide. Their dark centres pull everything towards them; two miniature black holes, too dark for light to escape them, too dark for you to escape them. Still you stare; falling down into their dark void.

Blackness.

Not just darkness, but blackness, engulfs you. The rich colour of tar; a bath of treacle: it is all you can sense. No sound, just blackness. Slowly, as if approaching from a great distance, the whistling starts. You just lie there.

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