Black Fork Ribbon

The House With No Doors

"Eric, where are you?"

I smile. The voice of my girlfriend Rachel echoes to me from a distance. I am presented with the hazy mental  image of her huddled over the skillet in our small college apartment while she tries to make stir-fry. I’ll eat what she cooks just because I love her, and when she reminds me of her shortcomings, I remind her of her cooking.

I open my eyes to a feeling of disorientation, with no familiarity of anything around me.

“Rachel?” I call. My voice is weak and tired, as though I have a cold.

What is this on my face anyway? What is going on? 

I peel off the thin bandana only to find that the room is just as dark as it would have been had I kept it on. Being able to open my eyes makes me more aware of the cool air surrounding me- unnaturally freezing. I sit up. My body feels extremely heavy, and I realize that I don’t even know what day it is. I scan through my memory, trying to catch hold of this most unusual spacetime.

With horror, I realize the last thing I can remember was being at the bar. Rachel had gone to join our other friends. Feeling not at all in the mood to socialize, I sat alone- sipping my drink. Then after that, I remember nothing.

"Hello?" I call out.

No one answers me. I feel like I'm in a bad movie. 

Now that my eyes have adjusted, I see a thin outline of what looks to be an ordinary room. There's a bed in the corner (which I would have loved to be on rather than this mattress on the floor), a trunk at the end of it . . . a rug?  There is light coming from what looks to be flickering candles in another room.

Beyond confused, I stand. I feel unsteady at first, but I quickly catch my bearings.

I think it's engrained in human beings to go towards the light. We think we'll find something there, because we're always so wary of the unknown. It's like the dark drowns us to the point where we can't even contemplate which way to go- how to move.

I walk, trying my best not to trip over anything in my path. There are toys scattered across the floor, like a kid has been here. My stomach drops and my throat tightens. I am on alert now, for I realize that this is no ordinary situation. I am now aware of the sick feeling coursing from my head to my toes. It's like my body knew I was in trouble before my mind did. 

 I emerge into another room- more like hole in the wall. No door frame or anything.

 

Why isn't there a door frame? Where are the windows? 

I enter the room with the light, not feeling any more comforted. It's a kitchen. I see a broken down fridge, a stove . . . counters. . . But no windows. No passages. There is a candle though, which means someone must have been here recently. Recently enough to see my lifeless body on the floor and try to do something.  

There's a wall blocking me from the grim truth of my current reality, more walls than in this place. If I weren't so scared, and my psyche weren't trying to protect me right now, I would know that I am in some kind of danger.

This person knows I'm here. . . Whoever they are. Certainly not one of my friends. This would be too sick of a prank even for their random antics.

Unless I am going completely crazy, I think I see a sandwich in front of me. And a glass of milk? It is then I realize how intensely hungry I am.

Should I eat it? 

The logical part of me protests, but the animal in me eyes the sandwich greedily. I don't even care what kind of meat is on it- or if there are pickles. My body wants food right now, and it wants it fast. I stumble to the chair and sit. The sandwich is so normal in this room. It's so innocent, if that makes sense . . . a Sandwich, the domestic image of familial bliss . . . and there's a glass of milk near it. 

I touch the glass. It's cold. He's been here . . . just minutes ago. He had to have known I'd follow the light . . . he had to have known that I would be hungry. That means he's probably watching me. He probably has a camera. 

I scan the room. It would have to be one of those night vision cameras. I wonder if he gets off watching people eat. This is way too gross for me to contemplate. I push the milk away, making a compromise: I can eat the sandwich, but the milk is too sketchy.

It's one of those tuna sandwiches you can find in a convenience store. Nothing special, but I devour it. The chewing is so loud that I barely hear the faint laugh from behind me. I spring up, knocking the chair over. I didn't see anyone come in.      

Am I just imagining this? I peer into the darkness to see a thin figure.

 "Who the hell are you?!" I yell out. At least I had my voice back.

The figure doesn't answer. He turns (I can now see it's a man), and walks towards the opening in the room. Then, he disappears around the corner.  My mouth is still wide open.

Now that was probably one of the creepiest things I've ever seen in my life. . . 

I take a deep breath and stand again. I don't think this food helped me much. I still feel like I'm about to fall over.

Did he drug me again?

Panic starts to set in. The goddamned dreaded panic. When I was younger, my mother would find me underneath the covers with a flashlight. I wouldn't leave my room for anyone after I had a nightmare. As I got older, my father dealt with it and I was shamed into feigning all inclusive bravery. But the panic is still here- the familiar sense of childhood fear. It's not going away either. Oh no- I am in for a bumpy ride . . . and not just because of this maniac- but because of my own mind. The worst thing is, I still don’t know what time it is. This nags at me in a way I don’t except. I keep looking up, looking down, trying to find a damn clock.

Even now, a 6"4 man, I feel as helpless as I did when I was 5 feet shorter. The room starts to spin. It's like everything is threatening now. I sink back down to my feet and put my hands on my head, pulling my hair apart. I close my eyes, not wanting to open them just to see the nightmare unfolding before me.

"What. The. fuck!? Who the fuck are you man?! Answer me!"

Still, no response . . . not even the sound of laughter this time. The silence pierces me and my panic has finally set in fully. I'm fighting the attack like anything- harder than I ever have. If there's any time I need to be alert, it's here. . . I need to be calm. It doesn’t stop my inner child from protesting though.

I'm having an out of the body experience. Any second I expect to crawl towards the door like I did as a child- cry out for my mom . . . but there is no fucking door this time. There's just a cut out. Whoever this guy is, he's sick. He wants me alive just to see me squirm. Well, I'm not giving him the satisfaction of said squirming.

I wonder who they will ID my body. It is then that it hits me. My wallet is with my phone. Human stupidity. Of course it would be in my pocket, with my cell phone- and as soon as I have this realization, I feel it.  The heavy weight of my phone and my wallet pressing beneath me, almost in a friendly way.

I laugh. In fact, I shake and curl into a ball, and wobble back and forth, hitting my hands on the ground. The whole time safety was right in front of me and I was too much of a blathering idiot to feel it.

Almost as though my phone has a mind of its own, it vibrates. I fumble in my pocket, knocking my wallet onto the floor. I don’t care though, and I look at my phone. It’s 5pm on Friday. I relax immensely knowing the time and the day.  My battery is almost dead . . . and fuck. Only one bar. Maybe I can make a call…

My fingers are shaking so bad I can barely find Rachel’s name in my contact list.

The phone beings to ring in a faint way, teasing me with how close I was to home.

Luckily, she picks up.

“H-llo” I hear, muffled. "We have all been looking for you- where the hell have you been?"

“Rachel- this guy- this house. I’m-" but before I can finish, the phone dies.

I stare at it with wild eyes. Anger overtaking me. I yell out and throw my phone. It hits the wall and I am pretty sure it shattered- if an iPhone could do such a thing.

“You should have just called the police yourself imbecile, not that it will do very much",  comes a soft voice from the back.

My heart lunges, and my body responds with it. I crawl against the wall and search blindly. The candle is still lighting the room- but still barely. I grit my teeth and grumble.

 

“Who are you? You sick fuck!”

He laughs. It’s almost a warm sort of laugh- it knocks me off guard. This isn’t the laugh of a captor- it is the laugh of a father, an uncle- someone familiar and close.

“You are the most interesting subject yet. You react as though you think you understand what is going on.”

 

Rage seeps through my skin like venom. It gives me the power of nerve.

 

“I’ll never understand weirdos like you!” I spit.

“Trying to understand my mind is like inserting your eyeball into peanut butter, and expecting it not to be covered in peanut butter.” he responded. “In other words, simpleton, your ignorance suits you well in this game.”

So this is a game. A game. It makes sense to me, as much as something so outrageously insane can. He wants to play with me like a toy, maybe. Try to make me tick. After I tick, perhaps he’ll eat me. Or worse. Something I am certain I cannot even imagine. 

My response is silence. Partially defiance, and partially a lack of anything else to say. I think we’re all trained to respond in certain situations, and no one, not even my professors, have ever prepared me for something this odd. My brain hasn’t even imagined enough of this to create a schema in which I can act upon.

I think the sandwich was laced. This amuses me. A laced sandwich. I am beginning to feel tired. Very tired. I slump. I’m not sure if he is still here or not, but such a state of fatigue overtakes me that I don’t care anymore. I fade away again, into the floorboards where I first woke up. They’re cold and comforting, and smell like a good temporary home.

   

PART II

When I wake up again, I find myself on the bed. This time the room is lit up with even more candles, and I can see my surroundings. I know now that he drugged me, and I am perfectly clear that this is not a horrible nightmare. Oddly enough though, I am calm. Maybe it’s a side effect of whatever he put in the sandwich, or maybe it’s just that I know now. My mind isn’t at liberty to wander as freely as it could. This is the nightmare- I am a part of this “game” and I am also in trouble. Clean. Cut. Dry.

I am no longer wearing any clothes. This instills a new sense of panic. I am as naked as the day my mother brought me into this world, undoubtedly- and even more bare because I am entirely shaved. Head to toe.  My hair, which was once long (the way Rachel liked it, she always runs her fingers through it) is short. Cut into shreds. My stomach drops.

“Fuck!”

There is no hair on any part of my body. I am also smooth- glistening. Now that the flickering light is pouring around the room, I can see that it is empty as well- with a few toys on the floor that I spotted before. And then photographs. Photographs of masculine and feminine figures, painted with different scenes. Cityscapes. Pornographic images of men and women performing oral sex on each other. And all of the men in the pictures are in odd positions. Hands up. Bent over. Curled up. In fetal positions. The wall is covered in these odd photos.

I peel my brain for ways to understand all of this- ways to get out of this room. Again, I see the cut out that leads into the kitchen. I carefully get off the bed and proceed forward. What I can see now is a hallway that leads to another room. I pass the kitchen as I curiously walk over to it. There is nothing in this room, except in the corner. . .

Tombstones?

I am in shock. Neatly in a row are 10 tombstones. All of them with “Subjects” written on them in corresponding numbers. Above “Subject 1” is a plaque that reads

To those who were born without a choice, who became my creations and then were free.

Eric Posner.  January 4th 2000- January 11th 2021. 

“Oh God. . .” I croak. My voice is dry because I realize that I need water. I need water like air- and I need a way out of here even more than I need air. These men are dead. The men in the photographs never left, and died in a house with no doors.

Would this be the way I died? I always remember in fleeting moments wondering when and how my day would come. I thought that I’d die in the police force, or maybe in my sleep with old age. Or like most of humanity, I never felt I’d die at all- death was just something that happened to other people, and never to me. Death was something that I could put off in exchange for living- an odd thought I never grasped fully.

 

But in this room, in front of the other “subjects” I now see that I am not so different from the rest. I am one step away from being Subject 11, and maybe some other guy will be standing in this very spot, marveling at the horror. Maybe the other ten subjects did this exact thing, with the exception of Subject 1, who did not know the horror to come, and probably clawed and screamed with no one to hear him, never knowing that the rest would be standing before him, the first brother to go.

A feeling of anger ignites a spark in me, bright enough to light up this whole room. I will not be a subject- and I must bring justice to all of the others. I feel close to myself again with this feeling- I feel powerful. This is the part of me that wants to be a cop- the part of me that is brave, and will eventually catch creeps like this. This is me.  Steven Eric Posner.

This is the me that loves Rachel, who I want to return to. I try to think of her for comfort, but she’s nowhere to be found in this place. It is cold and dead, and she is warm and soft. I wonder how many Rachels never saw their subjects again.

I walk away from the tombs, disgusted. There has to be a way out, because there certainly is a way in. Where? This place has no doors or windows yes, but maybe the entrance is in plain view. Maybe it’s not as cryptic as I think.

I begin to scrape the walls, trying to search for a cut out. A door.  Somewhere he could come in and out of with ease and certainly bring me in with ease. As I go along, I find my broken phone. It has a crack in the screen. It comforts me, because it is not a part of this place. I try to turn it on but it remains black- as black as this hell.

My search goes on for at least an hour. I think time is double in this place. Maybe it was three hours, or more. I am feeling tired again. My whole body is heavy, and each step feels like hell. Whatever he gave me made me weak- and I’ve only ever felt this kind of fatigue during the flu. But this is worse. I am fighting to keep my eyelids open. Then, his laughter again. I stop in my tracks and stare ahead into the bedroom that is just beyond the kitchen. There is a figure standing there- thin. I can see he is wearing glasses. The candles have dimmed, keeping him a mystery from me. I try my best to make out facial features but he is clever- lost in the dwindling of the wick he lit, for no other reason but to allow me the light to find that I am trapped beyond any comparison of the word that has ever existed before.

I would lunge at him, but I can barely stand after all of the searching. My body feels heavy. It’s like he has every piece of this sick game planned out perfectly. Like one of his sick human paintings.

“What’s interesting about this, is that as fucked as you are, I can’t find the way out. Do you study

architecture?” I ask quietly.

“Actually, none of the above. You can take that in two ways.”

What is he talking about now?

“I haven’t lost hope you know. I will get out of here, and you will be put away. Only thing that sucks is you’ll be in a much better place than here.”

“Hope is a powerful thing, you know. I have no desire to take hope from you. In fact, I hope you will be understanding during your transformation into one of my masterpieces.”

I don’t respond.  I still am not sure how to.

“I am God. I am the creator. You have been created into a world of slavery. When you become mine, I revive you. Then I will give you to the earth as your Master.”

I think I feel acid seeping into my gut. Paralyzing terror I’ve never known- not even in my deepest nightmares becomes an extension of me- like a hand I cannot grasp or reach out to because it is too slippery- too much.

This guy is fucking crazy. He is going to paint me, photograph me, murder me, and then bury me.

He laughs again, amused by my response. He slowly turns. I can see some hair that is starting to thin. Then, he disappears into the dark. Like some kind of a sick phantom. A monster that is even worse than inhuman because with his thin stature, familiar voice, and thinning hair, he is a monster that is entirely human, and knows how to be just as twisted as a human can be.

 

I grasp onto the hand of terror for a moment, and then I let it go. I am still. My mind is cutting itself in two, because now I know even more that I have to get out of here, and right now. Third time is the charm, and I have a strong feeling that he is going to come back and start to work on his newest subject.

Still tired and weak, I press on carefully into the room he just left. One thing I know now, is that this is the place where he enters and leaves. He made a mistake this time, not coming through the kitchen or somewhere else. He was far too excited not to make mistakes.

Unless he knows that I’ll never get out of here even if I think I find the way out.

I try my hardest not to let this final thought destroy me. I still have hope. It is in this room. I continue to search, trailing the walls- averting my head when I see the photographs of the victims I feel I already might be. The only living person who could relate to their nightmare, and who could live to tell it.

Where is the entrance? Where. . .?

The room is almost entirely dark. I can barely make out my reflection in the mirror ahead, but I can tell I am totally different. Distracted by this, I don’t notice as I step on a very sharp object.

“Shit!”

I look down at a toy train, with a smile that is plastered on and mocking. Fake.  But wait.

The toys.

I had kept overlooking them. They were the only normal and comforting thing in the house with no doors, after all. There by chance, and by what chance I wasn’t sure. I hadn’t added up the odds or bothered to figure them out. I topple to my knees from excitement and start peeling away the toys. I am fueled by my desire to find the light- reminded how human I am again. There are so many. So many stupid bears- action figures. Finally though, I see it. The cut out of a trap door. Still not a regular door, but definitely an entrance.  My fingers are almost too weak to get in the grooves and pull it open. As soon as I do, hot air hits me. It is oddly warm compared to this room. At the bottom is completely dark. I can see a ladder- glistening chrome in the dark. Almost like it’s saying “it’s now or never, kid. You either get out, or you die here.”

With trained precision, I hold on to the one schema I know to be true here. I need light.

I get up weakly from the door and walk over to the mirror, where there is still a faint candle flickering. I hold it in my hands. It is warm. It belongs in the room below- it’s just as warm, I think oddly.

As I climb the steps down, I think about what he said “None of the above.” I mumble. It makes sense that the only way out of his hell was deeper into the pits. But when I get down to the ground, I am no longer soothed. What I see causes me to grasp again at the hand of terror that was now becoming my captor.

Even in the dim light, I can see jars of paint- all kinds of colors. In front of that, a table. With  chemicals.

 

Gloves. Thick ropes tied into nooses. Paint brushes.

He is crazy. Absolutely crazy.

Images of him slaughtering the other subjects fill my head. The light draining from their eyes as he “set them free” to become “one of his masterpieces.” My ego protests. Hell no. Not me man. Not fucking me.

I feel nauseas. My stomach shakes, and my ribs feel like they’re going to explode. I keel over and begin to vomit. Strands of stomach acid and saliva come out. It is then I realize how thirsty I am, but the hunger is gone. The only hunger I feel is to get the hell out of here- to see fresh daylight again. To hold Rachel. To be in a warm and safe room with them, complaining over things I would have formerly found to be nightmarish- until I was introduced to a place deeper and more treacherous than hell.

I circle the room. Noting numbly how many different colors there are- colors I’ve never seen. He certainly knew his art supplies. My humor does nothing to comfort my mind though, and I continue to search. My heart races. I am hyperaware. This is when I see another ladder.

It leads up this time.

This is all I need to know. I try to run, and I fall. I curse- my knee feels like it just shattered against the concrete. But I don’t care- in fact, the surge of pain propels me forward- like the last battle of a video game, the last can of gas.

The candle has dropped in front of me, lighting the way. I smile at it, and crawl to the ladder- barely climbing it with my legs- just my hands.

So close. It’s so close. I am almost out.

The trap door isn’t locked, luckily for me. It doesn’t surprise me though. I was wrong- someone as mentally unstable as him couldn’t have planned the perfect crime. The others were just unlucky enough not to be sick enough to look under the toys- but part of the reason I think I chose to study law and psychology was the fact that in many ways, the house with no doors was a place I could understand. As well as its Master.

But not my Master. Not mine. 

When I emerge, I find that it is lighter here. And yet another familiar sound and smell- a washing machine. I am facing what appears to be a normal laundry space- with the comforting sound- the click and clack of the dryer. When I was a child, I would have my mother rock me in front of it.

It was the only thing that could calm me down.

Now, it filled me with glee. Glee mixed with a total state of confusion. My mind could not fathom what was going on- but my body knew better. My body knew that I was close to freedom- that this was a good sign.

This is a basement. Of a house. A house with doors. Above a house with no doors, which is beneath another dungeon.

There are voices, somewhere distant. I cannot process them. Instead I proceed forward. There is a dim bulb lighting the place- one dim enough that I can’t make out details, but bright enough that I can see stairs leading up somewhere. Somewhere hopefully safe, with a phone- people, somewhere that I cannot imagine, but could only have dreamed of the last however many days, hours, or years that have gone by- with me, naked, bare. But not broken.

I crawl up those stairs, trying not to lean on my injured knee. There is a light beneath the door. The voices are more clear- they’re happy.

I open the door. I barely have time to make out the image of a woman over the stove before she looks back at me. The baby in the highchair, and the beautiful day outside. The smell of the food.

The kitchen table, and a bottle and a few toys that were identical to those that held me in captivity strewn across it.

She looks at me, eyes wide.

She begins to scream.

I’ve never been so blinded by light before.