New Fiction by George Gad Economou: “Dark Room”

The darkness of the night had engulfed the room; the only light the edge of the lit cigarette, hanging from her lips. The night sky in front of her eyes, the full moon illuminating the calm ocean underneath. Her sighs were deep and silent, her mind occupied with thoughts of him. Suddenly a sound.

What the… what was that? No, it can’t… there’s no… I’m all alone in here. No, there’s… it did came from the closet. But… a moan from inside the closet? But… but I’m all alone in here! There’s no one in the house BUT me!
Fear overcame her, as the sigh was repeated. Her glare was fixated on the still close closet; she wished to open it,

"Distance" Photo by Phil Slattery circa 1993-1996
Photo by Phil Slattery
circa 1993-1996

to confirm its emptiness. Yet, she was afraid. Scared of what may hide in there. I’m going insane! There’s… there’s no one in there. All I got to do is… just open the damn door, Jill. Just… I can’t do it! What if… something is, in fact, hiding in there? What if… NO! I’m… It’s nothing! I have to…She got up; with small, uncertain steps she approached the now silent closet. Her heartbeat elevated, her heart pounding hard up against her ribs. Her breathing heavy; sweat ran down her eyes. The lit cigarette still hanging from her lips. A voice came from within the closet. No, no. It can’t… I just… Damn it Jill, get it together! I’m hallucinating, I’m… I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me! All I need to do is to open the closet, and… then what? She stared at the closet; observing it in fright. She knew it all too well, all her clothes were in there. She opened it just a couple of hours ago, to retrieve a clean pair of underwear. Then, there was no one in it. But now… she gulped, her gaze fixated on the closet.

“Jill, it’s me…” An eerie voice reached her ears, coming from within the closet; yet, seemingly from far away as well.
No, no, it can’t… there’s no way it’s… how could it be?! I can’t… Damn it, I have to stop drinking, I have to… No, it’s been three years since he… three damn years since… It can’t be him, it simply can’t….
“‘Tis me, my long lost love.” The voice repeated, distantly, and yet affectionately .
She jumped backwards, in bewilderment. “John…” She whispered, in sheer disbelief. She stared at the closet, eager to open it, yet terrified. For she didn’t know what to expect, what she’d find.
I’ll find nothing! Nothing but my own clothes and underwear. I’m going crazy, that’s it. I’ve been alone for far too long. Nothing less, nothing more. I’m sitting here, sobbing still for John, and… and suddenly I hear his voice. There’s nothing supernatural… No Jill, there’s nothing but your own mind playing games with you.
“Baby, please open the…” The voice started, then stopped. Another loud sigh came from within the closet, shattering, albeit slightly, the wooden doors.
No, no, no! I can’t accept that… there’s no way in Hell that this is…
“John?” She repeated ,her glance unable to move away from the closed closet. “Yes, ’tis me, honey. ‘Tis…” The voice paused ,and drew a deep breath .”I don’t have time, I… I need you to save me!”
I must stop drinking. I must… whiskey and vodka don’t go together. I’m hallucinating, I’m hearing voices. Damn it John, why did you have to… why did you have to die on me, damn it? And now… now I’m tormented by these… these hallucinations, or whatever they are… Why did you do this to me?
“I’m really here, my dear Jill.” The voice continued. “You have to open the door, release me from my… prison.” She gasped, her mind adamantly refusing to accept the situation; dead certain she was barely hallucinating, perhaps just dreaming.
That’s it! I’ll just pinch my arm and then… Ouch! Nope, still here, still… nothing’s changed. I’m not dreaming. Alright, then I’m barely hallucinating; I’ll just go to the couch, lay down, and…
“NO!” The voice yelled, causing the heavy closet to tremble, a horrible sound amidst the still of the night. She glared, scared and astonished, at the closet. She ran her fingers through her hair, then wiped the sweat off her forehead.
Can it really be? Can it… is this really John? My John? Can it really be, that… NO, no, it can’t be. It’s all my mind, playing dirty tricks on me. Just when I was about to forget… well, not forget but… get over the… overcome… who am I kidding? I never could forget him, never could move on… I could…
“You should.” The voice startled her once again. “You must move on, my dearest. Yet… first you must help me. Open the closet, and… and release me!” It demanded. She took a hesitant step towards the closet, suddenly overwhelmed by feelings previously unknown to her. She wanted to see for herself, she wanted to prove to her own mind she was merely imagining the entire thing.
I’ll just open the damn closet; see my clothes stare, blankly, back at me… then I’ll go lay down. Get some fucking sleep. I need it, apparently, more than anything else in the… why is there light coming out of the… what the Hell is going on?  She froze still, staring, perplexed, at the bright red light, emerging from the small opening between the closet’s two doors. She licked her upper lip, her heart beating violently fast within her chest. She drew a deep breath, unwilling to accept the sight of the horrific light.  No, it’s… just a part of the dream, or whatever this is. I… there’s nothing in my closet, but my damn clothes. The light, the voice… all this; they are not real. They ‘re nothing but ideas; nothing but my damn imagination. There’s nothing else… I can still open the closet, nothing will come out of it, nor will I see John. More certain, she moved closer to the closet, standing almost in front of it. She reached, hesitantly, for the handle. After a mere instant, she retracted her hand, with a painful scream.
What the…? The damn thing is HOT! It’s… it’s fucking burning. What’s going on? How’s it even… okay with the voices, even with the light… these I can imagine. But… but this? No, this is something more, something…
” Don’t be afraid.” The voice then reassured her. “Nothing can hurt you. You’re not…” The voice paused, and Jill heard its deep groan. “What is going on?” She demanded, still rubbing her aching hand on her blouse. “Nothing you can understand.” The voice coldly replied, then turned softer. “Yet, I have to plea with you, again; open the door, free me! Free the love of your life, I beg you, with… with all I have left!”
No, no, it’s insane. This whole damn thing is… I don’t know what to even make out of it… I… What the hell am I supposed to do, damn it? How can I… Get it together, girl!  There’s nothing wrong with opening your closet. Just prove to yourself you’re insane, and… and then try to sleep it off! That’s it, reach for the damn handle, the heat is not real; it’s all in your mind.  She bit her lips as her palm burned, and pulled the closet open. Instantly she backed away, stumbled and fell flat on the floor; incapable, at the same time, to avert her gaze from the closet’s inside.  What the fuck is this? How’s that… Where are my clothes? What happened to my… no, it’s not… nothing’s real. Just a very vivid hallucination; or an incredibly lucid dream, from which I refuse to wake up. There’s no other explanation, nothing else can possibly..
“‘Tis all real,” the voice said, more clearly now, “what you see, is Hell, Jill. Hell.”
NO! It can’t be! First of all… John in Hell? That’s… that’s insane. Secondly, even if… which I refuse to accept, but even if… how can it… how did it come inside my closet? How…
“No time for explanations!” The voice hastily added. “You have to… you need to…” The voice paused.
“No, I refuse to…” She complained loudly. “There’s… it’s not there! All this, is nothing but…”
“It’s all real, Jill.” The voice replied .”You have to… you need to save me! I’m trapped in…”
No, no. There’s no way this is real. I’ll just close my eyes, count to ten, and… and then I’ll wake up! I’ll find myself on my bed, or on the floor. I’ll have the worst hangover ever, I’ll go through seven stages of shit, but… But the closet will be closed, and my clothes will be the only thing in it! Yes, I’ll… She closed her eyes, and drew a deep breath. “STOP!” The voice demanded. “Jill, listen to me… I don’t have time… I can’t explain everything but…” The voice paused; Jill was staring into the awful scenery.  A tall mountain was expanding in front of her eyes. She could see it in its entirety, despite its massiveness. She also noticed several village-esque places , scattered all about the mountain.  In fear she glanced at the three headed figure sitting atop the mountain; an insanely tall, hugely built monster, munching on some unfortunate bodies, she couldn’t recognize. Near the mountain’s base some red-colored lakes laid, where a vast number of bodies were swimming, struggling to remain on the surface. Around the lakes walked demon-like creatures, with long tails and pointy nails, laughing and mocking the swimmers.
And then she saw him, John. Somewhere along the middle of the mountain. Standing on a small platform; huge, threatening snakes crawling around the platform. John was staring back at her, his eyes filled with both horror and hope. Her heart skipped a beat when she first noted him. She nearly fainted when one of the snakes jumped, extremely elegantly for a creature this size; yet it didn’t reach the top of the narrow platform, missing it for mere centimeters.
Oh my God, what is this? Can it be real? Is it even possible that I’m looking at… NO, it’s… I’m merely hallucinating. John is not in Hell, and I’m most certainly not staring into Hell, like a modern day Dante! It’s simply… I’m too drunk  and tired, that’s all! It’s nothing but…
“Jill, please help me!” The voice erupted. “I shouldn’t be here, I… I don’t deserve this punishment, I…”
She merely glared, unable to move. She examined the vast mountain, and noticed even more places of torture, pain  and despair. She saw legs coming out of the ground, devils poking them with large forks. She heard the moans of the buried heads; the foul smell of the ground they were buried in reached her nostrils, causing her a sudden urge to vomit.
“Stop focusing on them!” The voice pleaded. “I am the one who can be saved .I’m… I was your husband, I… I still love you. You still love me! You’ve got to help me!” The voice broke down in loud crying.
“What am I supposed to do?” She whispered, incapable of getting up from the floor; her breathing had become short and rapid, her eyesight blurry.
“Reach for me!” The voice explained, hurriedly. “Get me out of here! Only you can save me!”
No, it’s… It’s all in my mind. There’s no vision of Hell in my closet! There is no Hell, and even if there was… NO! This is all a dream, and nothing but a dream. A sick, vivid, dream.
“Please, my time’s running out!” The voice cried. “You must help me, you…” The voice was interrupted by a loud, sickening laughter.
Her skin cringed at the sound of it, and her heart stopped beating for a few seconds, as she noticed the changed expression on John’s face .
“Now it’s too late!” Another, very deep, voice announced. “Sinners are not meant to be saved; yet you were given the chance to do so! And you wasted it!” It laughed again, even louder and even more sinisterly; causing her a tremendous heartache.
What was that? How vivid is my imagination? How can it be… It’s… It can’t be real, can it?
In sheer despair she noticed the tears running freely on John’s face; suddenly, one of the snakes jumped again, and this time reached the platform. She was staring, in terror, at the large creature crawling around John, who was squirming in pure fear.
“No, please don’t!” She yelled. “I’ll do anything to…”
“Don’t say it!” John yelled back. “Don’t!”
“No, I can’t let you…” She tried to protest.
“Damn it, Jill!” John replied, angrily, whilst the snake slowly crawled around his legs. “Don’t you see it? You squandered your chance! Now… I will NOT let you sell your soul to Him too… I…” His voice was muffled, as another snake jumped on him, reaching his mouth with ease.
Oh my God! They’re choking him, they’re… please God, save him. I beg thee, do something! I must…
“It’s pointless to pray!” The deeper voice announced. “This is MY kingdom. He has no power in here. His is another realm. This is where the sinners pay for their crimes! He has no right to intervene. I gave you a chance to act, to save your friend. Yet…” The voice laughed .”Yet you did nothing! For you were too busy convincing yourself this was all but a dream. So…” The voice sighed. “So, take a last look of your friend, for the Gates of Hell are closed to you; for now!”
No, don’t… stop torturing him! He’s in pain; my God, what did I do? Was it really me, that… no, it can’t be, it…
She watched, involuntarily, John’s body being now covered by snakes, as four of the larger ones had found their way up on the platform, slowly squeezing the last traces of life out of him.
She sobbed loudly, as the vision of Hell vanished in an instant, and the closet door was shut violently from the inside.