However, I wanted to post part one of that story that I let you guys read a few weeks ago. It's something that I worked really hard on. I'm proud of it. I work-shopped it for my fiction writing class and I got a lot of positive responses to it. I do have a disclaimer. If you are going to internalize this and assume that certain parts are written with certain people in mind, then you shouldn't read this. Yes, I did make this piece personal...but no, it's not about any particular person or event. Please, keep that in mind. Also, stop being so easily offended!
This is all in your head
The old man stood in front of the giant ebony door and sighed. He had stood there day in and day out for years, but on this day everything seemed to crash down on him. He felt irritated and uneasy. It just wasn’t his day. Why didn’t they call me and tell me to stay home, he remarked to himself. He looked at the door and noticed that he could vaguely see his reflection through it. His black suit made him look even older than the wrinkles on his head. He never understood why he wore a suit every day. He surmised that when he started this job he must have felt that he had a purpose. Now, it just made him stand out from the others who wore t-shirts and flip-flops. That’s probably why they never assigned anyone else to work with me, he thought, staring at the suit. He looked away from his reflection, noticing after all of these years that his door never had a door knob. Why have I never noticed this before, he questioned. It had a simple silver handle that he used to pull the door shut, and a lock placed inside of the door, which kept it from swinging back open. He was told to always keep the door locked, something that he had never questioned, even as he stood in front of it on this day.
He looked down the hall he was standing in; several doors just like his ran along both sides of the corridor until ending under a sign that read “exit”. There were no decorations or gaudy designs ornating the walls, just doors, with the name of each department written on them in metallic silver-blue lettering. Every door but his, which he was convinced was done on purpose, as if someone was playing some cruel joke on the one department where things went when they were supposed to be forgotten but never actually were. He thought it a cruel joke that he had to walk past every door, with the almost glowing letters burning into him, just to get to his door…the one with no writing at all.
His bony hand reached into his suit pocket and pulled out an old-fashioned skeleton key. When he started his job many years previous, he was told to hold onto this key for dear life. He was also told that it would become his most sacred possession. He was still waiting for that to happen. He wished, on most days, to lose it so he’d have a reason to not come into work. He wished someone would steal it so he could be rid of it. He didn’t care for the key. He looked at it, his feeble hand struggling to bare the weight of such a simple thing. He turned it in his fingers, hesitated, turned it again, and put it into the lock. As the door unlocked, it gracefully opened without a sound. To his knowledge the hinges had never been greased or maintained. It should stick closed or be in some sort of disrepair, but day after day, it silently slid open, waiting for him to enter. He stood there on the precipice, thinking the same thing he often thought these days, do I really have to go in? Sighing, he stepped into the darkness, making sure to grab the key before shutting himself in.
The first thing he did was lock the door. He then put the key back into his suit pocket and then buttoned it closed. Next to the door was a small, wooden table. It was painted black, which he thought fit the room perfectly. He placed his few belongings on the table and took off his suit coat and wrapped it around the back of the simple wooden armchair that stood sentinel next to the table. He sat down taking in the darkness that shrouded everything. He was breathing hard, trying not to think of the task at hand. Sometimes, he’d lean back into the chair as far as he could and listen to the blackness. He’d count his heart beats, the creak from the chair as he adjusted his position, and sometimes he’d strain his ears hard enough so as to faintly hear into the room next door. He’d sit there and pretend that he was with them. He could hear them laughing as something funny would happen or gasp in anticipation as something surprising occurred. He could even hear them cry together when something terrible was going on. He never knew what was actually happening in the room next door, but as he’d listen he would sometimes forget about his lonely calling. They had each other, and when he sat there in the darkness, he could feel as though he was a part of them. But, then his undertaking would beckon and he’d be forced to return to the abyss.
In the middle of the room hung a light that swung low from a wire to which it was attached. It dangled there lonely, save for the string limply descending next to it. Below the light, someone had constructed a well. It was made of dark cobblestone bricks and if the old man wasn’t careful, he’d often run into it when he was turning on the light. It had no roof to protect foreign objects from falling into it, and had no bucket or rope from which one might receive water. The old man hated it. It stood there like a beggar, mouth wide open and waiting for its charity. He disliked going near it, and despised the fact that it was it more lit than anywhere else in the room.
The area around the well was quite large for the little it contained. If anyone else were to ever see into it, they’d find it to look almost prison-like. It was shaped like a box that had no opening at the top, there were no windows in which one might look out into the world, and the only exit was through the one door that was meant to always be locked. Along the three walls were placed book cases, each wall having three of them. They stretched from the ground to the ceiling, standing like silent soldiers holding up the wall behind them. They each had three sets of shelves, all of which were one foot deep and six feet wide. They were all constructed with the same deep ebony as the door, which often startled the old man, he thinking that the bookcases themselves were melting into the wall.
The old man picked himself up from the arm chair and pulled the string, lighting the room in a faint blue hue. He looked around, no new bottles today. Why was I called in then, he thought bitterly. He walked to the shelf closest to him, picked up a bottle, and stared at it. It was made of clear glass but he couldn’t see the contents inside due to the amount of dust that had collected on it. He shook it, hearing the liquid slosh around inside, knowing somehow that it had refilled itself from the last time he picked it up.
He convinced himself that he didn’t remember what was in it. Maybe it’s one of the good ones he mused. He walked towards the well, haphazardly holding the bottle in one hand. Over the years, the fear of breaking one of the bottles had vanished, and the desire to destroy all of them had taken its place. It wasn’t until he approached the stones that he held it tight, taking the top off and exposing the contents that longed for freedom. He was about to pour the liquid into the dark hole when he heard it, a baby was crying. It was so loud it hurt his ears.
“Who’s there” he shouted.
No one responded, and the crying stopped. The old man started sweating. This is not one of the good ones. Dammit, I knew I should have stayed home today, he muttered. He looked at the bottle, blaming it for his sudden fear. There was a job to be done however, so he began to slowly pour the contents into the well. As the liquid was disappearing from the bottle, the smell of cigarette smoke was filling up the room. It bombarded his nose and burned his lungs. He thought he heard someone blowing the intoxicating fumes directly into his nostrils, assaulting him and setting fire to his chest. He started coughing uncontrollably and he couldn’t breathe. He thought he heard someone laughing at him, telling him that he’d never be good at anything, yelling profanities that hurt worse than the smoke in his lungs.
“God Dammit, who’s there” his hoarse voice screeched, but still no one answered. Then, as fast as it came in, the smoke seemed to dissipate and the old man breathed in the stale air of the room. He quickly dumped the remaining contents of the bottle into the well, put the top on it, and put it back on the shelf. He ran to the chair, picked up his suit coat and felt for the key that was nestled in his pocket. His hands were shaking as he felt around for it. I hope no one took it he feared, terrified that he’d be stuck in the room forever. He sighed, as his skeleton hands touched the one thing that offered him escape. He put the suit coat back on the chair and turned to face the room once more.
One more, he told himself. One more and I can go home. He walked to another bookcase, moved some bottles around, hoping to find the smallest one he could. In the back corner, on the middle shelf, covered in cobwebs, was a blood red pill bottle with a cork top. He brushed off the webs and picked it up.
“I’ve never seen you before” he said to it. “How long have you been hiding in that corner?” He held it gently in his hands, like it was the baby that he had just heard crying. He wondered why he hadn’t noticed it before, probably its size he thought. He was so used to bottles just showing up, that he didn’t even realize when this one took up residency. He found it odd however, that the bottle didn’t shine. Usually, when he picked one up, it’d produce that sheen he thought was so eerie. But, this one seemed as dull as ever. He couldn’t even see the liquid inside of it. He then tried to take the cork out. He did everything from biting down on it with his teeth to gently tapping it on the side of the well, but cork wouldn’t budge. If only they supplied me with a corkscrew, he frustratingly laughed. As he continued to work at taking the cork out, he noticed that the bottle had some writing on it. He had never seen writing on any of the other bottles, which fascinated him. He walked over to the light and tried to read it. Everything had been scratched out, and no matter the position he put it in, he wasn’t able to decipher a single letter. This made him really frustrated and squeezed the bottle in his hand and almost threw it across the room, but instead just slammed it on the shelf where he found it.
He quickly grabbed the one next to it, a blue one that seemed to light up his whole hand as he lifted it off the shelf, and walked to the well. He didn’t spare a moment to even look at the bottle, but opened it and began pouring it into the hole. As the contents were being poured out, he noticed that he had begun to cry. What’s going on with me, he pondered. Why am I crying? I never cry! Then he heard the shouting. It was jumbled at first and he thought it was the people in the department next door, but then it got louder.
“Do I have to do everything around here”, a woman’s voice screamed.
“Mommy, I’m sorry”, a little boy replied.
“Don’t tell me that you’re sorry. If you were sorry, you’d never have done it in the first place”, the icy voice yelled back.
“Please mommy, it’s Christmas. I’m sorry. Please, just stop yelling!”
The voices soon faded away and the old man started sobbing uncontrollably. As he tried to compose himself his throat started to close and he began again to cough. This time, the room filled with the smell of two cleaning chemicals, making war with each other, and taking center stage in his lungs. He was coughing so hard that he started choking, which made him cough more. It felt like the two substances were jabbing his chest with sharp needles. Every time he’d try and take a breath, it felt like the needles were piercing him even harder. Nausea soon settled into his stomach and he leaned over the well and began to heave. He held his hands in front of his face, allowing the vomit to rest in his palms because he didn’t want to throw up in the well. He had never before felt like this after opening one of the bottles. Every inch of his body was feeling the effects of this war. His hands began to itch so bad that he threw the vomit across the room, it splattering all over the bottles on the bottom shelf of one of the bookcases. Then, the yelling resumed.
“You will use the cleaner that I gave you. I don’t want to hear any of your whining”. The woman shrieked.
“The smell is so strong. It’s burning my eyes and hands. Please mommy, don’t make me use it”, the boy muttered inaudibly through uncontrolled coughing.
“Oh, is it hurting? Poor baby, maybe you should have thought of that before you decided to make a mess of things” She mockingly replied.