those that regularly enter listed and described for the record’s accuracy
Jonathan is the creature from some wilderness Mister God travelled many many years ago. Its appearance is variable, yet its fur stays white and stained with lots of disgusting bile. Its claws hurt, especially against my back, my pelvis. It speaks guttural, whispers high and strained. It is like nothing I ever wish to see again.
Mister God is the man in control. He brings others and takes them away. He sets the rules of the “game” (his word). I do not know his real name, and I don’t think anybody ever will; Mister God is just how he introduces himself. He is tall and strong and fair-skinned and very average looking and is not, as far as my knowledge reaches, a God of any sort. Yet, why question it here, in his world?
Faith Girl is also absent of a true name, yet her title comes from what others who have been taken away have given her. She is very pretty, with the most beautiful dark skin and eyes and hair, and she is always donating a smile even when the air dictates lows. Sometimes she performs favors for us. I cannot figure out why she would be working with Mister God except for the fact that she may have woken up here with a headache like everyone else. She won’t tell me, but I suspect she may be the only other to have escaped this room within the bounds of the rules.
the mural on the north wall
This is the artwork Jonathan created long ago. The uninteresting bit: it depicts cats fighting over a bridge, as in, very large cats hovering over a bridge, fighting with their claws and razor teeth and scratching the fur right out of each other in bloody tufts of matted vile. The animals are made this way to remind me every day that I am worth fighting for. Jonathan told me this in its effort to transcribe its feelings for me, its mating urges which I have always denied. I have had more luck than others.
The interesting bit: Jonathan painted the whole thing with their leftovers.
the toilet next to the mural on the north wall
is covered in some type of bile. It smells of factory gases and rejected parts and oil and steam and hate. Its contents brown and rough and sometimes in large chunks, I may only use it with permission from Jonathan and from Faith Girl and you can be certain I’m not asking Jonathan for any favors. It likes to watch already as it is. So I ask Faith Girl please please a few times a week and eventually, because she is Faith Girl and not Mister God and her mind is nice and forgiving in the most empathetic form, she allows me to. Afterwards I always laugh because I try to flush even though it doesn’t function like that any more. Ha!
I do remember when the toilet here wasn’t such a diseased thing, when the porcelain was white as ghosts and smooth and the thing didn’t quiver with the rumbling underground. I enjoyed its use so much I gave Faith Girl a headache due to so much asking. Then someone else came here and was messy because Mister God fed him something he was allergic to, something that made his stomach eject forms of paranormal paraphernalia not yet known to this world or the next, things that wriggled and wagged in the bowl’s rancid water, and rocks, and hair. He vomited all of this up so intensely, there was so much of it, that his throat began to bleed and his eyes rolled back to hide in his skull. He coughed up one more irregular stone and then sank down to the linoleum tiles and never moved again.
One of the others once said that maybe Mister God fed him those things because his death with such poison and creatures rooted in his body would have been so much more agonizing and slow. I told him that wouldn’t be the case. I told him with tears streaming down the front of my still very pretty purple party dress that that man suffered as much as he did because Mister God wouldn’t have it any other way.
The toilet’s been decompressing in debris ever since.
The sink is about as clean as the toilet the first time I saw both. It still gives me joy when wetting my body in its warm splashing. Sometimes, when I cry, it’s the only thing that saves me from self-hurt and -destruction and -damning and -abbreviation.
When one of the others was here with me, she would be constantly cleaning herself. She’d take a handful of water and rub it all over her body, the shine of the fluorescents tingling her skin to a glow. I remember her eyes were piercing snow blue and with the water they’d be shocked awake, deafening like violins courting hawks. She is also the first other I’d fallen deeply in love with, so wouldn’t it figure that because she did not reek so much of old restroom grout membrane Mister God decided she had to go. Those eyes watched me as he, a bastard, and Faith Girl, a reluctant, and Jonathan, a thing, ripped her arms behind her back and pulled her from our shared mattress outside the bathroom into the world to be
[a crackle from the intercom / a light face in the window]
“Beautiful One, are you okay? Why do you weep?”
“I weep because of my memories, Faith Girl.”
“You know how Mister God feels about the tears, Beautiful One.”
“Muffle them or he’ll take notice with his ears and”
“beat me until I’m blue.”
“I am sorry. I am wiping the tears now and will dry my party dress.”
“I’m smiling to you.”
“Hide your notebook soon.”
the tapestry on the east wall and what’s under it
A world, if you can imagine it. Before the tapestry there was the window not yet boarded up looking out along a wonderful valley with towering conifers teasing the foreground before spikes of mountains jutting from the horizon. Birds would dance above the glass along branches and nests and bears would occasionally come with their cubs to play along the berry-speckled bushes and tall grasses. I would watch with whatever other was with me as the creatures scattered among themselves, telling their own tales and singing to nothing and everything. I cried for better reasons then.
Then another joined me and was terribly upset and couldn’t bring itself to enjoy the view. It was maybe too hot with its winter coat standing ungroomed and messy. Its black eyes sent wishes outside and to me and to the door, but when these wishes were flattened to piles under the mattress, the other tried clawing its way out of the window. It scraped deep into the tiled wall. The noise encountered bad attention, and Jonathan came down, and Jonathan took the other and told it that if it wanted to go outside it had to wait patiently or leave this life, but the poor thing wouldn’t stop squirming even though I’d told it to stop, so Jonathan, with its breath reeking from the protruding tongues between white bloodied fur, said
and I haven’t seen that other ever since.
The tapestry, for records: large print of a nebula in space. It has beautiful colors, but not so much as what it hides.
the mattress along the south wall
I’ve lost track of the number of hours spent on the tattered, wheezing thing. Splotched with mold and growth and darkened spots, it’s had the roughest history out of all of us. I consider it the oldest other. The worst-off. Without blankets or a pillow to cover its scars it lays bare on the floor, Schrödinger-status, crusted with fluids dried like desert sweat, like a tongue left out in the sun.
There was a time when Mister God tried to take it away. He came down and screamed, told the three of us in the room that we were resting too much, that we must stand more, that we must pace more actively. He and Jonathan entered with fury displayed on their chests and ripped the bed from its place, swinging it wildly around, predatory. Jonathan used its claws to rip and tear its bruised skin until only tatters were left. We thought, staring at the light shadow left on the tiled floor, that it was over for good, until Faith Girl held the two monsters back and freed the mattress from Hell. It was the only time in recent memory she acted against Mister God, her profane spit spattering against his wild red eyes as she cried No, told him You won’t do this.
Later that day, she snuck yarn down to us for sewing the wounds.
the carcass hung up on the south wall
On rare occasions, it speaks to me in sweet, humid tones. When its voice penetrates the buildup in my ears, its fur wavers. Hung spread-eagle face-forward eyes-up heels-down, the smallish body shimmers and very nearly glows when it asks me if I’m happy here, why have I not left, where the others have gone. I pet it, the fur greasy and depleting in matts, tell it I’m as happy as one can be right now, because I can’t leave, because everyone else has moved on to a better place. I tell it my confessions, like: sometimes I secretly believe I don’t want to leave, because I’ve lasted this long, because maybe the day will come where I’ll win and everything besides will be failure, like: I’m afraid of what will happen if I’m released back into the world, what with how it’s become, with what it’s like now without the safety of buildings and shelters and family, like: I don’t miss my world left behind because I’ve forgotten it, like: I am always afraid, like: I am always numb.
The carcass will never respond.
the bowl of nutrients under the door, west wall
I never know exactly what it’s filled with. Sometimes a yellow hill of corn-like mash will be spilling over the rim nearly in waves, others a hardened puck of grey matter will sit at the bottom of a pool of warmed water. All of it is barely edible, but I ask myself, shouldn’t I be thankful? Shouldn’t I savor the moments of eating unlike how I did before the entrapment? Shouldn’t this nutrition bring me just a split sliver of joy, even for a moment?
The tastes are oftentimes more jolting than the sight of the food itself. The sensations feel alive and separate from the buds of my dried tongue. It’s nighmarescape bible taste, a polluted cornfield simmering in the sandiest heat or a violent encounter of dead pacifism in a filthy alley. Something unnatural comes each bite. Something dastardly and above it all, a meal cooked by servants of shit and carrion. Mister God outdoes himself each and every time, and his victory is only in the minutes of my vomiting in the sink or on the linoleum or straight back into the bowl. The smell hurts Jonathan’s eyes if he’s ever near and he slips the spewage from my view and hurls it back at me with remarks of Whore do not do that again Disgusting whore Whore. And then a day or two or three without a meal, which is how I find that my vomitus will always at least vaguely resemble a taste close to familiar, and I can finally pretend to enjoy a meal again.
the door on the west wall
is not a door at all. There is a frame of wood, yes, and a small pane of glass for a window, and a doorknob, but trust my words when I implore that the thing that I call a door is in no way that. It is a portal. I know this because of the sounds and lights and colors upon its opening. Example: when Jonathan or Faith Girl is charged with bringing my food to me, they first approach the door, ring the intercom, and inform me they’re coming in. This is accompanied by a face in the window behind which is darkness. Yet, on the opening, a blast of synesthesiac feeling. Sounds winding themselves into snaking corridors that shave off colored hair to the floor, which I can pick up and touch, noises that I cannot hear but feel, and they feel like cotton and they feel like warped metal and they feel like hot steam, feelings that represent themselves as strobe lights in the hallway, as teeth falling from the doorframe. This burst of violent action blinds me to the person or thing entering or, as was the case with the others, exiting. I am not the only one to notice this; the others have always and will always comment on it, and some of them have lost all mentality because of it. I have heard some say that it is Hell outside of the room, and others have said that it is somewhere else entirely. Me, I’m not entirely sure. It’s different than everything though. Different. So again, I repeat with urgency
THE DOOR IS NOT A DOOR
[a crackle from the intercom / a dark face in the window]
“Mister God, for what reason are you here?”
“I know about the notebook. I have seen your small head down into it.”
“I can explain.”
“You cannot. I have set rules that so far you have not yet broken.”
“You’ve been good, Beautiful One, you have. Yet there is a saying isn’t there? About all good things.”
“They are merely notes.”
“To the next other we catch for the cage, I intuit.”
“Yes, and do not lie!”
“What is the punishment?”
“May I finally allow pet Jonathan to have its way with you?”
“I swear I will not do it again!”
“Or shall I beat you myself?”
“Say my name louder!”
“You are not in control of this anymore Beautiful One, whore girl. You thought that power was yours in your little book, fucker, unbelievable.”
“I will never disappoint again”
“but you will”
“but I won’t I promise I swear I”
“I am the power here.”
“I have done nothing not good!”
“You evil, sinister, bitch.”
This is the note under the bed. This is for you
If you find this
“get that fucking pen out of your thin fingers”
Then I need you to know
That I, in this moment, tried everything to make sure you didn’t find yourself in this room.
“I’m coming in there.”
[door begins to open / steam and crashing / rocks, hell noise / heaven noise / strobe]
“I’m going to kill you if you come into this place!”
[pen / poised for stabbing]
[deafening airwave slop / burst carcass screech / invisible violence]
Alec Ivan Fugate is an award-winning writer sitting in a puddle over in northeastern Indiana. His work can be viewed through kaleidoscopic at Occulum, Soft Cartel, Burning House Press, Bending Genres, and elsewhere.