The dark hits me first. It’s so dark it’s almost palpable.
I blink a few times, right after I cross the threshold from the hall, and try to let my eyes adjust. Dusty shafts of pale white-blue light slash through the blackness from the filthy window panes, but they just pool on the crud-crusted floor without lighting anything else. The patterns made by the detritus on what might have been carpet once almost form a path, ground through the squalor.
The “path” goes around and between ancient piles – piles of boxes vomiting contents from moldering tops, or piles of mildewed papers, or piles of other things I don’t recognize and don’t want to recognize. I step into the maze of garbage, and spot things glinting in the dimness. The crap underfoot crunches like gravel or dirt when I step on it.
Groans rise from the floorboards when I move forward, shifting my weight from one area to the next. I snap my head around at what I think is a skittering of paper and debris. But when I freeze, eyes bulging, straining into the dark, I don’t hear anything. The dust motes dance and laugh at me as they spin and fall.
I follow the crumbly path almost straight back toward the high windows, at the back of the room, the rectangles of pale light my only beacon through the dark. The room’s stench chokes me, the stink of must, mildew, and maybe something rotting, something festering in some black corner, something decomposing into thick, putrid liquids. I don’t want to know.
Biting back my bile, I step ahead, cool sweat breaking over my brow, my palms, my neck. It makes my button-down shirt stick to my slick skin. There’s a sense of dread, and a growing sensation of something moving toward me, just out of sight, just beyond my vision range. I turn back, but the red walls of the hallway beyond are framed in the room’s black doorway. I lick my lips but have no spit to wet them.
Dizziness blurs my vision, and sets my ears ringing. I blink, take a deep breath and almost gag on the odors again, and for a heart-stopping moment I almost fall over, pass out. I shake my head and clear it, but I can feel my pulse hammering hard in my eardrums, my throat, my head.
I shut my eyes, but snap them back open. The last thing I want is to be in here with my eyes shut. A shudder twists down my spine at the thought.
I exhale through my mouth and try to get calm. I step forward again, and the room’s thick, stale air swallows me. I work my way to a spot on the path where it splits and disappears into the black to my right, but the other fork continues ahead on a slight angle to the left. For a few seconds, I don’t know which way to go.
The path ahead looks more worn, clearer of junk. Something in my gut tells me that’s not the way. I wipe my hands on my jeans and go right, into the black jungle of rubble.
It’s so dark this way, I’m starting to think the walls are painted black. Wouldn’t surprise me. I fight the instinct to put my hand out, to feel in the dimness, to keep from walking into something. Anything I walk into here would be wrong, dreadful, beyond nightmares. I slide my foot forward but there’s too much crap on the floor. My loafers won’t slip over it.
So I stick my hand out about chest-high, and step forward. One pace…two…
The scream is torn from me when the clammy grip closes on my wrist.
The image didn’t inspire the piece, but it fits well! I found it online and it belongs to jessegina.deviantart.com.