I remember when I was little. Mom came home with a brand-new doll that I’d been begging her for ages to get me. The reason for her sudden gift still eludes me to this very day, but I remember being so happy. She also said something, something that really struck me as a child, something profound. But I can’t recall it, all I remember is that happiness of the brand-new doll. Perhaps I was too young to understand the importance of what she said, or simply too naïve. Or I just simply forgot.
“HEY! CAN ANYONE HEAR ME!? HELLO!? I NEED HELP! SOMEONE, PLEASE HELP ME!”
With each pound I was hoping I was hitting the door hard enough to turn it to dust, but with each pound, the realization that I was a prisoner slowly started sinking in. The door was going nowhere, and neither was I. I’d been awake for two hours, and desperation was starting to kick in. Or rather, it was taking over. My fists were starting to ache from all the hammering, all of it to no avail. The only response I got was a deafening silence.
I returned to the neat, little living room, hurling myself into the lounge chair. Why was I here? Where exactly was here? And the most important of all, who was I?
My memory was covered in an unfathomable fog, one which I could not penetrate no matter the amount of concentration I poured into it. All I could remember was what I believe is my name. Ken. From whence it came, I do not know. But whenever I tried recalling my forsaken memories, that name popped in. It was like an eerie voice, whispering in the back of my mind, and what scared me, is that I’m unsure whether it was my inner voice, or someone else’s. However, at that moment, uncovering my lost memories was the least of my worries. I was still locked inside this house.
And this house, this house was so horrifyingly perfect. The living room draped in royal red, and lavished with the most dazzling antiques, from the grandfather clock inscribed with Greek letters, to the fireplace that could’ve been ripped straight out of a Renaissance book. The kitchen, terribly outdated, yet still retaining the charm of old fashion, with the dining table placed right in the middle. The second floor, with its marbled bathroom, and two fully furnished bedrooms fitted with king-sized beds. Everything was perfect, too perfect. The only imperfection, hidden in plain sight, was the sky. Glancing out the windows, one could see that the tapestry that was the sky, was nothing but another diversion, carved into concrete walls which encapsulated every window. Upon breaking the glass, I had uncovered the illusion, and come to realize that the only way out of here, was the one, locked, front door.
If someone had decided to keep me captive here, then for what reason? Ransom? I couldn’t remember a single relative nor friend, so who would that be? Then why was I here, locked up? Maybe it was some sick experiment? Or some game show? Even a joke struck me as a possibility, but this was too extensive to be a joke.
I…I can’t give up though. There must be a way out! There must be an answer to this! There must be…
My fear of starvation was turned obsolete, as when I woke up from my nap, I discovered that the fridge was filled to the brim. I know it wasn’t before. Someone must have been in here. Someone knows of my presence here. Someone is keeping me here. But who? Why? These questions still swirled around in my head, like a storm that would not settle down. A storm that kept brewing. The many empty hours got filled by theorizing, pounding, yelling and occasionally, begging.
It’s getting…frustrating. Why was I here? Who was I? Something deep within me tells me that all the answers are on the other side of that locked door. But maybe, maybe if I was patient. Maybe my warden would reveal themselves. Maybe, I would have answers.
Food got refilled. Same with drinks. I’ve noticed that nothing unhealthy is being provided. Only along the lines of salads, smoothies, and the occasional meat. I was in pretty good shape, maybe my warden would want to keep me that way.
I walked around the house, the perfect, little house. Nothing new. Nothing. Just a vast emptiness in a room filled with meaningless trinkets. I picked up a pillow and threw it across the room in frustration.
Something…something about that movement…familiar…was it perhaps familiar?
My head started throbbing, as I desperately chased that memory, on the verge of catching only for it to seep through my fingers like air. Have to lay down. Maybe, I’ll remember it later.
Nothing. No one’s coming. I’m alone. I…I think I’m going crazy. I thought I saw a silhouette of someone, only to realize it was my own shadow. Sometimes, I think I hear a creak, even a voice. But there’s no one here. Except me. Why was there two bedrooms? Is someone else coming, or maybe, was supposed to be here? There’s…too many questions without answers.
I tried throwing the pillow again, in hopes of triggering the same memory that eluded me two days ago. But nothing. Almost…like it was deleted, like a bug in a program that was not supposed to exist. Everything about this situation, was surreal.
I had to turn the pictures in the living room around. I think they’re watching me. I’m not going mad; they’re definitely watching me. Hope is dying, along with my fighting spirit. But the worst part about this perfect, oversized house, is the silence. Only me. Only my footsteps. Sometimes, I wish the things my brain conjured up for me to see or hear was real. Just so I wasn’t alone anymore. I don’t care if it’s a ghost or a serial killer anymore.
The silence…it was horrifying.
Vivid dreams haunt me. My imagination is running wild. A red cup keeps flashing in my mind. A party. Was I at it? Why can’t I remember anything? Who am I? Who am I!?
I’ve stopped hammering on the door. It’s no use.
I tried staying awake once. To catch whoever is bringing food, but I never saw them. Eventually I fell asleep, and as I woke up, food was replenished. My hunger was satisfied, but not my starvation for answers.
Give me something. Something.
All alone. All alone. No one is coming. I’m all alone. All alone. All alone. No one is coming. I’m all alone. Will I die all alone? All alone. No one is coming. I’m all alone. All alone. All alone.
…What is this?
As I entered the living room, the scent of spices and cookies lured its way into my nostrils. Upon the table, a tea party was set, two cups brimming with piping, hot liquid. I sniffed, but couldn’t recognize the smell, which immediately made me suspicious. Something was different today. Why though? I heard a creak from upstairs, but as my imagination had proved multiple times that it loved putting me through cruel jests, I thought nothing more of it. Something must have been different today. Why two cups? Something within me throbbed faster, as a tiny hope reignited. Maybe someone else was coming? I know how callous it was of me to wish another person into this horrid situation, but for me to go through it alone any longer…I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle it…I’d even contemplated an alternative way out. I took a quick sip, in case there was any drug or poison in it. My fears were quelled when I tasted the sweetness of citrus tea. It was utterly exquisite to have something besides the diet food I’d been force fed the last month…month…it’d already been a month in this confinement. I couldn’t take another month, I just couldn’t.
Lately, I’d been trying to sleep as much as possible, make time pass without having to be awake in this madness. But my body refused, as my brain made too much noise. So instead, I’d been exercising, doing different exercises to keep my body in shape. It was already pretty chiseled; and I’d like to keep it that way. But my hair was becoming a nest of black, messy locks.
I did my routine and went to shower. I thought the biscuits would serve me as my reward. As I passed by the second bedroom, the door was partly opened. I was sure I’d closed it yesterday. Just to calm my nerves I went in to check it.
And in the bed of the second bedroom, laid another person, a guy, sleeping soundly like the world was at peace.
Still asleep. I couldn’t find it in myself to drag him from the realm of dreams. Drag him into this horrid reality. And he was alive, I’d seen his chest silently rise. I’d descended into the lounge chair in the living room to ponder. Who was he? Why was he here? Although his arrival had brought with him a pile of new questions, the weight of which I felt weighing me down, he also brought something else. Hope. I wasn’t alone anymore.
I heard the very same creak I had yesterday. Was he finally awake? I couldn’t stay put, not for a second longer. I ran up to the second bedroom. And there he sat, his face draped in grogginess, pushing a few long strains of brown hair out of his face, as if he’d just woken up from a long slumber. He looked…handsome, slimmer than me, but roughly the same age.
No, that was wrong to think. Wait, why was it wrong? I felt another migraine taking root in my head and decided to stop thinking about it unless I wanted it to sprout further.
“Uh, who are you?” he asked rubbing the sleepiness off his eyes.
They were dark blue, like the depths of the sea. I flustered, as I didn’t know entirely how to respond. Had I been this alienated by human interaction?
“I’m…Ken. You can call me Ken,” I responded awkwardly.
He looked at me, as if something was strange. Then I realized what.
“Uhm, who are you?” I stifled.
His light voice trailed off, as if the answer was lost to him.
“I…I don’t remember…,” he faltered, panic engulfing his eyes.
His response caught me off guard as well as himself. He sprang out of the bed, half-naked, and grabbed my sides.
“Where am I!?”
How could I respond to that?
“I…I don’t know. In some house?” I explained.
But just like that explanation hadn’t satisfied me, neither did it him. But it seemed like the two of us were in the same predicament and thus, he deserved to know what I’d learned the last month. I found some clothes for him in the closet, and together, I showed him around our prison.
No name had come to the guy, but something was needed to address him by, so he wanted the name Alex. Just like me, he’d tried to pound on the door, scratch on the concrete that laid behind the windows, and even seen if there were tools to demolish the walls. He had found nothing.
The food rations had been increased along with the occupants in this perfect, oversized house. We’d been sitting in the living room, but there wasn’t much for us to talk about. Neither remember anything, Alex seemingly less than me. Yet somehow, he seemed more confident, more hopeful. Of course, his spirit hadn’t been broken yet. Unlike mine.
Alex was a restless soul. He continuously walks around the house, for the sake of movement. I felt an odd sense of happiness though, as I wasn’t alone anymore. Someone shared this nightmare with me, and that made it a bit more manageable, as egoistic as that sounded. But I still wanted to escape. I still wanted answers.
Alex wasn’t into exercising, but he certainly was cheering me on and pushing me while I did it. It felt nice, as I wasn’t stuck in this empty space anymore. He was a quirky soul; he conjured the most insane possibilities of what might have happened to us. Aliens, mental hospital, that we were among the last survivors of an apocalypse, and the stories went on and on. He was good at telling stories and acting them out as well.
“Have you noticed huge shadows passing by every now and then?” Alex inquired.
I shook my head. The madness must be lurking on him, and I didn’t want to fuel the disillusions. We probably both saw the same ghosts haunting us, any sane person would go a bit haywire under these circumstances.
Tea and biscuits were a common occurrence rather than a rarity now. Alex had told me to watch out so I wouldn’t gain any weight from all the cookies, but I rebutted with the fact that I don’t believe there’s enough to sustain a weight gain. We sat in the living room, drinking, snacking and laughing. Alex went on about a big conspiracy theory, and I was lending an ear to his absurdities. He had such a charisma to him, an opposite of me. He still hadn’t lost hope, quite the opposite, he almost seemed to enjoy himself in my company. Which somehow made me…glad? No, that wasn’t right, something was…wrong about that. But when I tried digging for why, the headache started.
“Hey, are you okay?” Alex reached for me.
“Yeah, just a passing headache, it’s gone now,” I reassured him.
“I have those too, on occasion. Often at night, it’s really scary.”
I met his eyes, and they were even deeper than I’d noticed before. Like a bottomless ocean.
“Especially…when I go through it alone…,” he added.
I felt my heart beat faster, heat rising in my cheek. I was unsure whether the implication was wishful thinking from my side or his intention. He rose and went up the stairs. I followed, hoping that instead of tallying more question, I would finally find an answer tonight.
He’d gotten undressed and placed himself underneath the blankets, leaving enough room besides him for someone else to join. Someone like…me. A throb jolted through my head, as if something was alerting me of the wrongdoing I was considering. But why was is wrong though? Wasn’t this…who I was? What was wrong with that? I ignored the pain, and stiffly lowered myself next to him. We laid there, in an unshakeable silence. Until finally, Alex wrapped his hands around me and placed his head on my chest. The physical contact with another human was so comforting, and without my permission, my own hands instantly wrapped themselves around Alex.
And then, we fell asleep.
We’d continued sleeping together, even kissing sometimes before we let our consciousness slip into the realm of dreams. The house had gotten warmer since then, cozier. We still laughed and talked together, but something else was lingering in the air. I was truly happy that Alex had come. I never stopped thinking of escape, but suddenly, the days seemed to have gotten a lot shorter.
The night before, we tried sex for the first time. I had felt so dumb. Alex needed to show me everything, and I felt like a child. But once I’d gotten the hang of it, our naked bodies clashed together repeatedly, as if moved by an unseen force, in pure ecstasy and pleasure. He told me he had plenty of other things to show me, that would heighten the experience. Some were a bit too…extreme to me, which seemed to disappoint him. He told me it was okay, but I could see the dismay in his eyes. Maybe…maybe I just needed to loosen up a bit. I couldn’t stand the thought of annoying him.
So many days have passed. Alex found it curious that I kept count. He thought it was a bit obscure, and he didn’t see the meaning of it. He felt that every day should be valued, and not counted like a number. I agreed but counting brought me some comfort. He’d just shrugged it off, but I could tell it bothered him. I hadn’t tried some of the new sex stuff, maybe if I did, he wouldn’t be so annoyed with me. I had been reluctant and perhaps somewhat distant lately. I couldn’t stand the thought of bugging him.
I had the weirdest dream last night. My vision was obscured in darkness, as if I was floating in nothingness. But I felt everything. Hands, hands undressing me, touching me, groping me. I couldn’t scream, as if my mouth was unable to produce the sound. I couldn’t move, as if my body was frozen in place. I woke up, sweating, startling Alex who was sound asleep next to me.
“Are you okay?”
It was a dream, but something within me told me I wasn’t.
The cup, the pillow throwing, the dream, what was their connection? Who was I? Lately, I’d gotten more obsessed with the questions haunting me. I wanted out, out of this fog that clouded my mind and out of this house. Alex had tried calming me down, but I was reaching a breaking point. He tried calming a storm that had been brewing for far too long. An effort which he didn’t want to spend energy on.
“You’re overexaggerating, we’re doing fine here, and someone will come to help us,” he growled.
“How do you know that!? For God’s sake, we can’t even remember our names!” I yelled.
“We don’t need names! We have each other, don’t we? Isn’t that enough? Am I not enough?”
It was as if an invisible bullet had been shot, and I had to stagger upon its impact. Alex looked frustrated, and I could feel myself on the verge of tears by his implication.
“N-no of cou-!”
I was cut short by his loud scoff, and he turned around and went upstairs. I followed in pursuit, but he’d locked himself in his room. He wouldn’t answer my desperate calls. I cried and cried. I couldn’t stand the thought of losing him.
His bedroom door was open when I woke up, and he was gone. Vanished. Nowhere in the house. I tried the front door. Still locked. It was like…he’d never existed.
Tea and biscuits weren’t served today.
I was all alone again.
No, Alex couldn’t have been a figment of my imagination. His touch had been real, the things we’d done had been real, even the pain of it had been real. But where was he? Was this…somehow my fault? But why?
Time passed with the drop of my tears, as they steadily streamed down my chin. I couldn’t stop it, just like I couldn’t stop the flow of time nor stop this horrid nightmare I was living in. I shouldn’t have pushed Alex, shouldn’t have driven him away. This was my fault. It had to be. Maybe this was my captor’s punishment? I don’t know. What I did know, was that Alex was gone.
And I was
All alone. All alone. Alex isn’t coming. I’m all alone. All alone. All alone. Alex isn’t coming. I’m all alone. Will I die all alone? All alone. Alex isn’t coming. I’m all alone. All alone. All alone.
Where? Why? How? Who? Would I ever know? No, don’t think of that. It had made Alex leave. Never think of that. Please, Alex, just come back to me. Please…
I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’msorry. I’msorry. I’msorry. I’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’msorry.
Maybe, maybe the curtains could be tied into a noose? Maybe…maybe they could…
The bright light slowly faded into a familiar darkness, as the fabric tightened around my neck and stopped air from flowing into my lungs. I didn’t struggle, why would I? This was liberation, from this confinement of despair. I would be free. Although, I would die alone.
But I wouldn’t.
As air once again began flowing through my lungs, I opened my eyes to find my savior standing above me. It was Alex. I thought it must be another mirage, another illusion conjured by my desperate mind. But a single touch revealed that he was there, in flesh and bones. I cried tears of joy and couldn’t manage to formulate a comprehensible sentence. He wiped my tears.
“I…I got the door open, Ken. I’ve been outside. That’s why I didn’t come back. I didn’t want you to see it,” he whispered.
I didn’t understand nor did I care about the outside. All I cared about, was seeing Alex again. We could have been stuck inside that house for eternity for all I cared, as long as it was with him.
“It’s…a rough world. The things you have to do to survive. I couldn’t do it alone, Ken. I need you; I need your help.”
He needs me. That’s all I wanted to hear.
“I’m sorry, so sorry,” I stammered, the guilt of our previous encounter still weighing heavily on me.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, you can make it up to me. There’s someone, someone who wants to see you. He can help us if we help him. But he wants you, wants something from you. Can you do that, do that for us, do it for me?” Alex smiled.
I couldn’t lose him again. I blurted out yes without hesitation.
It hurt, sometimes, depended on the man. They were everything, from young to old, skinny to fat. But for me and Alex to be together, I had to do it. For us to survive. That was what Alex told me. He didn’t want to show me the world, he said it was ugly and cruel. That I was better off letting him take care of it. I didn’t question him or this world. I wouldn’t risk losing Alex again.
So, I would suffer, through the pain, through the emotionless sex, through Hell itself, just to be with him. After all, we escaped the dollhouse together…right?
Now I remember what my mother told me. I can’t believe it has eluded me all these years.
“Never treat people like dolls, Alex. Never treat people like they’re an object for you to use, to take advantage of, to play with. People aren’t dolls, Alex.”
How wrong that bitch was.
Tekst: Tobias Klausen