By Aarron Mondello
Standing again at the end of a corridor similar to the first only this time lit by flickering yellow fluorescent tubes that cast an eerie glow along the walls. They shone just bright enough to dispel any shadow between them. As before, behind him was only a blank wall with flaking paint and no clue as to how he came to be in this place.
He retained full memory of his last trip down a dank corridor lit by burning torches in sconces above dilapidated old doors that opened onto a maddening black nothing. He still didn’t understand what significance that hallway held but he had a feeling the picture would be somewhat filled in as he travelled this one. He knew there would be other doors under those faulty old lights. He wasn’t so sure he wanted to open any of them though.
He took a deep breath and slowly started walking forward. After all, what else was there to do here? His mind kept going back to the fist Corridor. The madness he had started to feel as he traversed it’s impossible length. The darkness and sounds experienced behind each door tickled familiarly at the edges of his brain but he couldn’t quite manage to grasp why. Everytime he thought he almost had it it slipped away, slid between his fingers like an eel coated in oil. Apprehensive and nervous he walked to the first flickering yellow tube above the first door.
The door he found was not rotten and dilapidated as he was expecting. Quite the opposite it looked brand new and fit for a mansion as opposed to this dark Hall. Pristine white it seemed to gather the light to itself and reflect it cleanly from every gleaming surface. The paint like pure snow, the shining brass hinges and golden oval doorknob all seemed lit from within.
He relaxed a little at the sight of it. A door this lovely to behold couldn’t be hiding darkness and madness…could it?
As he reached a tentative hand towards the sparkling doorknob he noticed a light engraving on the white wood, so soft it was barely there. “Terry?” he asked softly of the tiger etched in the pristine wood. No answer came and he wondered then who Terry was and why the name and image seemed so familiar in his heart. Ultimately it didn’t matter, he turned the handle and stepped through the door.
He sat on a pale blue, circular rug in the middle of a room with walls painted to resemble a cloudless sky. Looking up he saw a bright yellow sun-shaped shade hanging motionless from a light in the ceiling. On one wall there was a four tier bookcase with filled with children’s stories. Strangely though, he could not read the titles, he could see where the words should be but they were just nonsensical shapes. Against another wall were two toy boxes. One was a plain soft green shaped like a chest, the other shaped like a dinosaur with its back open. Between them a mountain of teddy bears and plush toys were stacked staring at him with black glassy dead eyes. There was a bed, low to the ground and made to look like a red race car. And on the last wall the white tiger etched door stood open through which he could see the corridor.
From somewhere else in this place, a place apart from this room he could hear voices though he could not understand a word they said. Time to move on he decided. On to the next door in the hopes that it would not be exactly the same. He tried to sand and found he had absolutely no control of his balance. Every time he tried to stand he’d fall heavily to the blue mat.
He began to yell in frustration. Smacking the rug with an open hand.
“Oosha adda iddy ad?” a woman’s voice called from beyond the door. His heart swelled with love when he heard voice. He tried to call out and tell the woman he couldn’t stand but all he could do was gurgle and make noises. He tried again and when he still could not talk he began to cry. Great heaving sobs shook his shoulders and his high pitched scream bounced off the walls, reverberating in his ears and hurting his head which made him want to cry more.
The sight of her stopped him, confused and unable to grasp just how she was walking towards him through a wall in the corridor. He could see her coming closer. As though she walked along a passage but she was in the wall! It hurt his head to look at. His mind refusing to make sense of it. It was as though the corridor he had left was layered over another place and the people that existed here were unaware of his world. They couldn’t touch his and he couldn’t see theirs.
Thankfully, finally, she stepped through the door into the room and the sickening image of her walking towards him from far away in a solid wall was gone. She stood before him tall and beautiful looking down on him with startling green eyes. She was beautiful, but he was afraid in a corner of his mind. A corner that still stood in the corridor.
“Up to Aunty?” she asked him and he was relieved to find he actually understood this time. He reached up to her and she bent to pick him up, holding him on her hip.
“Oh ee Dad?” one word he knew but he made no effort to reply. He just stared at her and she turned to walk out of the room. As she passed the threshold he felt a jolt, like an electric shock encompassing his entire body and he found himself back in the corridor looking at a pristine white door with police tape stuck in zig zags down it’s face.
He passed two more doors and they held very similar encounters. Both times the same woman who would come to get him in the midst of a tantrum and somewhere she’d mention “Dad” before walking out of the door and thumping him back into his own body.
The third door took a darker turn as he sat on the blue rug crying. From somewhere in a world he could not see he heard screaming. A man’s voice and a woman’s voice yelling gibberish at one another for what felt like hours. Then it all went silent and he began to cry, scared.
There came a dull thump followed by a yell and crashing, the sound of smashing glass. A man said something in a harsh voice and the thump came again. And again. And again. Over and over. It began to sound wet, like someone punching a self-saucing pudding. Finally the world went silent again.
He was very afraid now and wanted to get out of here. A strong feeling of deja vu swept over him and he almost saw…what? Red? He started to pull himself towards the door. God! Why was it so hard to move here? Inspiration struck him and he pulled his legs up under his belly and began to wobbly crawl towards the door. Slowly but surely he passed the threshold and pounded back into his own body.
His vision cleared. Looking into the room with the blue rug. The toy boxes, the bed, the teddies. “I’m a baby in there” he whispered to himself. Shocked he had not realised it sooner. When the woman spoke he didn’t understand, save for a few words. She picked him up and carried him on her hip…that world beyond the door blurred the lines in his mind and now he realised that, what was true in there was the only truth. He didn’t realise earlier because in there, it was normal, it was reality.
Then it finally registered to him that the door was still open. All the others had closed as soon as he left them. Why was this different?
He looked left and came face to face with himself. Startled he jumped back with a cry. Arms wrapped around his chest and held him. He struggled, kicking and squirming but the arms about him seemed made of steel.
“Quit it,” the person behind him spoke in his voice and he sagged like limp spaghetti. The arms about him held him in place.
The Him in front of him spoke now. It made his head spin to see himself standing there talking in his voice. “You have to go back in there. It’s not over.” “What is this place?” he asked Himself. As a response the Him just reached forward and tapped his forehead. And before he knew what was happening he was launched through the air and back into the room with the blue rug.
Footsteps came echoing down a hall he could not see and the figure of the woman walking towards him though wall appeared again. It was still hard to look at, someone walking towards him from within a flat surface.
She stepped across the threshold and leapt into perfect clarity, he saw she was crying. This agitated him and he began to whimper like a sad puppy.
“Oh no, don’t cry,” she crooned at him while hastily wiping her eyes. “Come. Come,” she bent and picked him up “Eh O to eh Park,” he felt excitement bubbling at the only word in that sentence he knew. He loved going outside and had learned to associate “park” with sunshine and outdoors. She started heading towards the door with him on her hip. In a small corner of his mind, the small part that remained himself he tried to prepare for the jolt back into his own body.
She stepped through the door into a short hallway leading down to a set of stairs. The floors shone dark and polished. Halfway down there was a stand that had photos and fake looking flowers on it. A framed painting of a beach side shack hung on the opposite wall. He had just enough time to be surprised before this reality swept over and became all he knew again.
Down the stairs at the end of the hall they went. An open kitchen on the left was pristine white and he cooed softly knowing that’s where ‘num nums’ were.
He vaguely noticed the splashes of red along the white bench top and up one of the white walls as something not normally there. Then it was swept from his mind as they neared the front door. He started bouncing excitedly on her hip at the thought of outside. As she opened the door he turned around and saw his dad asleep on the kitchen floor. He looked different…red. But outside beckoned and he was just a baby. His father’s smashed face never dawned on his limited knowledge or attention span.
The front door opened and a sudden white, warming light flooded over him and wrapped about him. Both him-as-baby and him-as-man felt physical sensation, a tingling that ran over the whole body as the light blocked out all vision. Slowly it faded, grew dimmer and he found himself back in the corridor looking through the open doorway at a world whizzing past. Houses passing in a blink, trees swooshing by. He experienced a brief vertigo when his mind reverted back to Him-as-baby and in his thoughts ‘PARK’ rang loud and clear, a little spark in a mind fogging over with sleep. Then the door closed softly and police warning tape began to unravel from thing air and zig zag down the door frame.
He stood staring at the faintly etched tiger on the door. Faint memories of a teddy that he carried everywhere for the first few years of his life swimming across the front of his thoughts until a soft scuffing noise caught his attention. He turned to his left and saw the two others, the Hims. One smiled maniacally, eyes wide and crazy and the other wore a dour expression.
Dour Him spoke “That’s where it started. Even if you don’t remember.” Crazy Him laughed “Did you see his face? Hehehe haha haha heheheh.” They advanced on him, one laughing and one silent and he had no where to run, no where to go for the walls enclosed him in a box with these two apparitions. They covered him, smothered him. He couldn’t see. He couldn’t breath. He was suffocating and his vision was growing dark. ‘I’m going to die’ he thought sadly as the last of the light faded and he fell into oblivion.
Featured image found here