what did you think you left behind? | the second room | a short story | part 2

Stefan led Vince into the second room. There was no way out except through where they had come from or through a pitch-black hole in the middle of the room on eye level. Going back was not an option.

What is this?

Vince stepped closer. The more he approached the hole, the more engulfing it seemed. The more life-sized it appeared to him. He felt drawn to it and yet fearful of it and its growing suction on his state of mind and physicality. He thought that it would be absolutely silent, but there was movement, speed and a powerfulness inside and below. This thing seemed to spread out, a pulse throughout the house. He looked around the room, there was nothing else, just this frightening unknown open mouth that was waiting for him to make a decision.

Stefan put his head inside and repeated his guttural sound from before which turned on water streams inside the black hole, disappearing into nothingness.

I will see you down there.

Vince was waiting for Stefan to go first, to show him what to do. Of course, he knew, but he was frightened of what he’d go through, what would see him but what he wouldn’t be able to see, what would wait for him at the end, would there be light? He told himself that he would not die here. That all of these absurd things, these haunted rooms, were part of a daily routine for this guy and he was still kicking, eccentric, yes, but still alive, so what was the worst thing that could happen, honestly? He’d come out the other way. But that was just it, he was scared of an unknown yet innate version of himself that he’d have to live with, fight against or learn to like perhaps love, and what he would have to bury and let go for the sake of going full circle and regeneration. Why was he thinking all of these things? What did he know what was lurking down there? That’s the point, isn’t it, he brings himself to it.

Stefan observed Vince’s thought process and his rapid breathing, the goosebumps on his skin, the effects of the first room still lingering around his body.

It’s a slide, Vince. This is a house of fears. And here you are, in room 2. There will be a third room after this one. This is the only way to get there. In you go now.

Vince sat down in the black hole, holding on to its corners, it felt magnetic, something was waiting for him, longing for his body, pulling him in and he preached to himself that he would be all right. He glanced at Stefan who he thought looked like an undertaker from this angle and that was the last observation he made before he let go and was rushed by rapid streams of water into obscurity.

Vince felt like a little kid and he enjoyed this sensation. He didn’t think. He was just being carried away. Splashing about. The slide got faster and steeper. And he felt like he was losing control once more. The slide increasingly changed its angle, rendering him more powerless, a pawn in the field of transcendent physics. And in a matter of milliseconds he caught a glimpse of what he was rushed towards, an outside abyss, an impenetrable dark hole in a body of water, whirling, sucking, hungry. And he screamed, his whole body turned pale and tensed up, tears stampeding over his face, hyperventilating in the short amount of time and he remembered what had happened years ago, in the school pool, but it was too late. He was catapulted out of the slide and into this deep darkness that absorbed him fully, pulling him in, all the way to the bottom at an unimaginable speed. A heavy body of water around him, above him, holding him, weighing him down, he was part of the abyss, within the black hole, at the bottom of it all, blind and hurting, experiencing, thoughtlessly, feeling the depth of darkness, the immovable quiet, himself, quivering, scared to death.

At the height of his fear, he was pulled out with an immense pressure and force, and breathed out as he splashed out of the water and started swimming towards the edge of the pool, he swam and swam, away from the hole, until he could stand and rush towards Stefan who was waiting for him pointing the way towards the sauna before they’d go to room 3.

He sat on the edge of the pool, staring at the slide above from afar, then at the current around the black hole beneath it and he couldn’t believe that he had been in there, down there, all by himself, helpless, close to death, in the middle of his fears, and he felt light, as if he had lost a suit of dead skin in the downward stream, in the black water. He cried. He screamed. He was shaking uncontrollably, now that he was reimagining what he just went through, the images, the lack of words, the incapacity to act, the self-submission to death, the tense state of prolonged static fear, the blank canvas of absolute thoughtlessness, the ecstatic body, the soul, present, sharp, encompassing everything it contained and carried around, contaminated and holding together, bursting itself into the atmosphere to make its mark in the darkness.

You need to warm up and dry.

Stefan’s sonorous voice brought him back to reality.

And like a little child in a man’s body, he stepped into the sauna, and felt that he’d run out of tears before he even reached the third room in Stefan’s house of fears.

<<part 3 coming soon>>

My own drawing © Laura Gentile 2022 | Instagram: croque_melpomene

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