Off Limits

The room, if you would call it that, was dank and stale.  The naked light bulb cast a sickening green hue on the white dingy tiles.  Mold crept out from cracks and decaying grout like a horde of stringy black spiders and somewhere there was a faucet dripping.  If you listened closely you would know it had been dripping for a while because of the echoes the ripples caused.

I didn’t want to move or breathe; surely infirmity was in the air. When I looked up at the ceiling I saw nothing but an abyss of darkness.  There was no ceiling.  I thought to take a step but as I said before this “room” felt more like a hall.  It was leading me somewhere I didn’t want to go or commit to explore so I stood there frozen in place daring to just breathe. 

My eyes were wide with fear; perhaps terror would be a far better word.  I was afraid to blink.  Surely I would miss a sudden attack from some unknown creature lurking just beyond the bend.  I swallowed hard and decided to take just one step and that’s when I heard something clatter and skid across the floor in the distance.  Every joint in my hands locked and I looked at my foot that stepped out willing it back to steady me but it just stayed there. 

Obstinate foot.

I heard a soft chuckle, nothing eerie but it was enough to cause my blood to chill like you read in so many books.  It was terror liquefied and it was coursing through my veins.  And then I saw her or the shape of her.  Perhaps she had been there all along watching me.  My eyes had finally adjusted somewhat and there she was, naked, I think, sitting on the wet dank floor.  Her hair was a mess but no other features I could see.   

I felt as though I knew her but I wasn’t about to get close or shed green light on her to get a better look.  I could very well leave this place happy to not know her or ever think of her again but I didn’t feel that was an option.  So I remained frozen staring at her.

“It’s okay to move.  I won’t bite.”

I laughed nervously.  Bite?  May be she would eat me.  There was no telling how long she had been hiding down here wherever “here” was.

Clack, skitter, slide

I foolishly looked away from her towards the noise.

“They’re just letters… words on cards.”  She sighed as if she were annoyed or anxious.

“From whom?”  I dared to ask her.

“An admirer.”

I laughed despite myself; the kind of laugh that comes out of your nose.  I apologized sheepishly.  I blushed or at least I think I was blushing.  Thank God for the darkness.

With sudden found bravery I ventured out and found the pile of letters.  It was just around that creepy bend in the hall, except it wasn’t creepy anymore.  Anyway, there at the foot of some stairs was a small pile of letters.  Some letters littered the steps.   There were thousands and most were still sealed. 

“May I?” I called out over my shoulder.  The girl had not followed and a little part of me was glad for it.  I shuddered.

“Go right ahead.”

Letter after letter spoke of a tremendous love, one I could not fathom but yearned for myself.  She had thousands of them, there on the floor, untouched!  As soon as I could pick my mouth off the floor I had to ask her.

“Why are you down here when you have someone, up there… somewhere,” I looked up into the abyss, “who loves you this much? I don’t understand it.  Do you know how many women would die to be loved like this?  And yet you treat these letters like they were the weekly paper.”

I shook my head in disbelief and paced for a while.

“He wants to come down here but I won’t let him–”

“I don’t blame you.” I interrupted in a huff of sarcasm.

“He says he doesn’t care.”

“Why are you here?”

“I feel safe here.  I can be naked — the real me and there’s no one here to judge me.”

“Doesn’t sound like he would.”

“Yeah, that’s what he says.  What if he doesn’t like the pictures I’ve hung on the wall?  What if he wants me to change this place?”

Pictures?

“Yeah, I suppose.  The mold does add a je ne sais quoi …”

“Besides, I go up and visit him.  I clean up real good but sometimes, when things get to be much I leave.  He doesn’t like it but I always come back.  This is my space.”

I heard her stand to her feet.  From the shadows I could see her run her fingers down the moldy walls, hear her feet on the wet floors.  She was walking towards me and I didn’t want to see her.  I took a step back.  She was probably filthy, in a contagious sort of way.  May be she looked like Smeagol.  I couldn’t bare it so I walked towards the stairs thankful for the escape route but she called out to me.

I turned and when I did I saw that she was… me. 

Then everything went black. 

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