what did you think you left behind? | the fifth room | a short story | part 5

Vince, I’ve decided that the next room will be your last.

My readers –

Yes?

They expect me to go through all of them.

Does that matter to you at this point? Can you not tell how you’re feeling? So there is more, what’s it to you?

Do you know what I’ve seen, Stefan?

Follow me. Through here.

I don’t know what to say.

There’s nothing to say, Vince. Keep going. Almost there.

Stefan stopped in front of a door indistinguishable from all the others in this corridor. Vince felt like a barely contained churning liquid in his own body and that he was approaching a needle.

Last one?

Last one, Vince. I know.

Why do I feel this way, Stefan?

What way?

Like I won’t see you again? Like I won’t make it out of this room?

Don’t cry, Vince. You don’t know what you’re feeling. You’re still thinking about your readers. They are not a memory, Vince.

I feel so alone, Stefan. Please.

Vince, listen. Look at me. I will open the first door. Then you will stand between two doors. Don’t give in to feeling claustrophobic. Your body is familiar. So, two doors. One that you have exited through and one that you will use to enter the last room. Once I close this first door not a lot of time will pass before the second one opens itself to you. Whoever appears in this room has always known and seen you, but you won’t be able to. In fact, you won’t see a thing. You will only see what you feel, see what’s in your head. You will step into darkness, you know it well. Don’t you dare think about your readers, Vince. They are in a different room. They don’t concern you. Their movements don’t matter right now. What matters is how you enter this room and how you stay in it. You will hear the door unlock, whoever is a part of you waiting will know when to let you open the door. You have to open and close it. You know that you’re not alone, why are you trembling, Vince? Stop thinking about paperwork and everything unfinished. I’m running out of time. Vince, you’re not looking. I have opened the door. I won’t touch you.

I don’t have a pen. I have nothing.

That’s very untrue.

The door is open.

You understand, Vince. Stop panicking. You know how to proceed.

I don’t know what to say.

Watch your step.

Stefan closed the first door. Vince froze. His body barely fit. Staring at the door that seemed like all the others. Just a stupid door. An object. He was a human being. He could command his body, objects, anything. But was his humanness his weakness in the dark? He folded his hands and stopped there. He was the hero encountering another obstacle. But how could he possibly know whether he was in his own story or someone else’s? How could he be certain that someone, something else was not commanding him, his body, his decisions? Watch your step, Stefan said.

The second door unlocked itself and Vince stared at the handle that was waiting for his fingers to clutch it. He felt the room before he reached out. The darkness infected the tiny in-between corridor as he opened the door widely. It smelled like an outside world, but not his, not the one he knew, like a memory still. Fresh air, but something had been spoiled. He stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. Silence. He couldn’t tell how big this room was and where he should go. Why would he even walk, and whereto, wouldn’t that be a risky thing to do, wander in the dark without knowing the layout, anything really? Watch your step, Stefan said. Silence. Should he say something? He didn’t know who was listening.

I don’t know.

Silence.

So, I’m here then.

Silence.

I have to finish this.

Silence.

Okay, so, you have to talk to me because I can’t see you.

Silence.

I mean, I smell it.

Silence.

Something needs to happen for me to get out.

Silence.

You can probably tell that I’ve moved forward a bit. I don’t know whether I’m closer to you now or not.

Silence.

So is this just a dialogue with myself, is that it? Talk about the portrait? No.

Silence.

Am I missing the point? Should I just shut up too?

Silence.

Vince contained his thoughts and started fidgeting, stretching out his fingers. He could feel something that wasn’t there. Like the idea of silk, the sensation of silk, but bodyless. At his fingertips. Swooshing. Tingling.

Is this you?

Silence.

How can you belong to me if you’re not made out of flesh and blood?

Silence.

The air was heavy around him. His arms tightly around his chest, he walked forward, faster this time, he needed to move, he thought.

Okay so, I haven’t tripped over anything, I haven’t fallen into a hole so far. What kind of ground am I standing on?

Vince squatted and as soon as his fingers touched the ground beneath his feet, the same sensation appeared, silk, inexistent, light, as if he was only convinced of standing and walking but in reality he was floating with nothing beneath him.

This is fucked up. This is so fucked up. Okay, so it’s not you and I haven’t met you yet. You’re making this very hard. Why? Are we not supposed to work through the same things? Shouldn’t I be feeling your presence if you’d been of any importance to me? Answer me!

Silence.

I can’t deal with this silence. What good does that do? Hello?

Silence.

You should be ashamed of yourself. Give me something. Come on, now.

Silence.

Fuck this.

Vince started to run further into the space, he started to punch, to wield his fists through the darkness until he heard something fall somewhere behind him. The fall had been accompanied by a childlike voice. Briefly, but it resonated with him, the sound of it. Gone.

Gotcha, you fucker! Where are you, now? I’m coming to get you.

Silence.

This is what you want from me? Violence? You want me to be a bad person?

Silence.

Where did you go? Are you scared? See? No fists! Now come back. Such a coward. We’re not on the same level. Enough already. Fuck!

Silence.

Why won’t you talk to me?

Silence.

You know what, I’m done. To hell with it all.

Vince, out of breath, sat down wherever he was and felt that sinking sensation beneath him, on his body, touching him, expanding, and he just stared ahead, pretending to be unaffected. He sensed an extension of something within him, reaching out, beneath him, examining him, from the inside, and he was pulled in, slowly, losing himself to the matter, the room, the presence swarming inside of him.

What is this, he cried, his chin elevated, but he couldn’t move, he had lost agency over his legs, his arms, hanging in his lap, just his face belonged to him still, the mouth released from its physicality, something was pulling and something seemed stuck. He still had his tears. They felt too big for his extinguished body. Don’t leave me, stay, please, stay. Whatever it was that tried to get its hands on something within him, rose through him, his skin perceived the weightlessness, it tapped on his forehead, eyelashes fluttered against his own, it was that close but he couldn’t see, he was losing all his senses slowly, I don’t want to leave without knowing who you are, he thought, he had lost language, the fluttering continued, silence, the dead come here to live, the darkness entered his body, the room took part in him, to die, how it happened, how, I don’t know, all of it, please, give me the words, you know I need them, to collect, the eyelashes dug into his, tearing his eyelids open, I stay where I am, no, no, no, silence, stop doing this, stop talking, silence, nobody knew, silence, where is my portrait, they never gave it to me, gave it back, to me, silence, I didn’t give them anything, didn’t give them permission, silence, I didn’t know, the sensation pulled everything away from him through his eyes, sucked in, downwards, pulled down and through, head to toe, like a thread, detangled, distilled, under the hammer, going once, going twice.

My own drawing © Laura Gentile 2023 | Instagram: croque_melpomene

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