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Invisible Lines (Novella)

The Room
by Nick Nicholson © 2008


speculative fictionThere is a room. A square room. There is a bed in the middle of the room. A square table. A chair. There are no windows. No doors. It is neither hot nor cold. The only sound is that of your breath knocking against the silence of the room. There is a single fluorescent tube, on the ceiling, washing the room with a bleached light. And in the middle of the wall facing the foot of the bed there is a silent television. There is static on the screen, visual white noise, the television trapped between channels.

You see all this when you wake up. For several minutes, perhaps longer, you don't move. You lie still, on the bed, your head on the pillow, your gaze moving steadily from the fluorescent light, to the windowless walls, to the table, the chair. To the television.

You are covered by a sheet. You become conscious of being naked under the sheet. You decide to move your hands, touch your face, your arms, your chest, you reach between your legs, touch your penis. To assure yourself that you are intact.

It's a dream. You think it's a dream.

You sit up, put your feet on the floor, look down. The floor is white, but a strange white, a white bleached of whiteness by the weak fluorescent light. The sheets, the pillow, the walls, the table, the chair, all the same, an odd bleached white that looks somehow grimy. Your skin has taken on a similar hue. Only the static of the television screen is grey, the result of the random simultaneous flickering of all the shades between black and white. Blips of reception swarming on the screen like a colony of electronic ants. The static, the mindless frenetic activity of firing electrons, is the only thing that seems alive in the room. You approach the television, realise that there are no control knobs or buttons, no switch to turn it on or off. You look behind it. There is no electrical cord.

You think it's a dream. You return to the bed, to sleep. You think to yourself that when you wake up, everything will be back to normal.

*      *      *

Fluorescent light pries your eyes open. You blink.

The same windowless walls. The table. Chair. The television, the same insistent static.

A panic curls in your stomach and spreads to the extremities of your limbs. You hope you are still dreaming.

You're out of the bed now and you kick the leg of the table with your big toe. The pain tells you. You are not dreaming.

*      *      *

You search the walls for a hidden door.

You scream.

The sound of your scream is swallowed up by the silence and the television static.

You wonder if there is a finite amount of air in the room. You hyperventilate. Then you realise your foolishness. You calm yourself.

You look under the bed, under the mattress.

You toss the table and chair.

You look behind the television again, for something, anything. A hidden camera perhaps.

You bang the walls with your fists.

Scream again.

You lie down on the bed. You have forgotten you are naked.

After a while you realise your eyes are stinging with tears.

*      *      *

You are not dreaming.

The room is a prison. You think it's a prison. And then you become aware that your mind is in a prison too. The prison of your head. Solitary confinement. Your mind, your tangled thoughts, the fog of your feelings. In a cell within a cell.

*      *      *

You wake up again. You realise there is no food. But then you realise you aren't hungry. Or thirsty. Your body has no need to defecate, to piss.

You keep thinking it's a dream. It has to be a dream.

Your body seems alien, separate from yourself. You are conscious of it. Conscious that it is not you. Yet you are conscious of inhabiting this body. You recognise it as your body.

Then you sense something. You throw the sheet off your body and you see it. Your penis, erect. The shock of it like an electric chair. It doesn't seem right. An erection in this room. This white room.

The television, like the single horrifying eye of a Cyclops, continues to stare at you.

*      *      *

Time is rubbery. Slippery. You have no sense of day or night. Impossible to tell how long youve been in the room. You have forgotten what month it is. What year.

You wonder how you got here. Who brought you. Why. In the face of the unimaginable your thoughts disintegrate into nothingness.

*      *       *

You are lying on the bed and you notice that the television screen is flickering, differently from before. Something is struggling to emerge on the screen. The pained birth of an image.

You get up and stare at the television, willing the formless thing to take shape.

And then it does.

A face. The face of a woman. In black and white. Long dark hair framing her face. Behind her, a blank background. You don't know her. You have never seen her before. Yet the vision of the woman awakens something within you. The evanescent vestige of a long-forgotten memory, like an evaporating breath on a cold window. Thick lines of moving static rupture the smooth features of her face. She is looking at you, your eyes. Her lips move. She speaks. Appears to speak, to you. There is no sound. You try to read her lips.

She could be twenty. She could be thirty-five. You can't tell. Her face has an indeterminate expression.

The static threatens to overwhelm the woman's visage. It seems as if she is warring for dominance with the television. The television wins. The woman's face breaks up, shattering into blades of grey light that shear across the screen. She vanishes into an electronic quicksand.

You kneel in front of the television and press your face against the glass.

*      *       *

You are riddled with inertia. You have no choice. You sleep. Wake. Sleep again.

You wonder what you have done to deserve this punishment. You try to think back. The awful things you've done. But they're not so awful. The ordinary crimes of life. You never killed anyone. You don't remember killing anyone.

*      *      *

She's there when you wake up. In the room. The woman from the television.

You remember dreaming of her standing in the room. And now she's there. You are not dreaming. She is real. Her tangibility dumbfounds you. Words form in your mouth only to shrivel and die when you open your lips.

You try to envisage how she got from the television into the room, but you can't.

She is standing at the foot of the bed. Arms by her side. Just standing. Looking at you. She is naked. She appears unaffected by her nudity. You think she must be a delusion but you can sense the blood pulsing beneath her skin. Her chest rises and falls with the inhalation and exhalation of air. You are conscious of breathing in the same air that she breathes out.

The woman is slender, her features clear, unclouded, her body curved with supple flesh. There is an openness about her. An intelligence. You feel drawn to her. Inescapably drawn.

You wonder who she is. Why she is here. You ask these questions of yourself knowing that it is impossible to deduce the answers.

You close your eyes. Wait for her to speak. She doesn't. You open your eyes again and she's gone.

You sense your erection weeping beneath the sheet.

You weep.

*      *      *

You dream. In your dream, the woman is asleep. She is lying next to you. Her hand around your sex.

You want to move, push your groin against her hand, the instinctive urge to thrust, but in your dream, you don't. Don't want to risk losing this feeling. Her hand, touching you.


Then in your dream, a dark glistening image forms. The image crystallising the inchoate thoughts that seep from your memory. You see a great cavern of wet black rock. Through it runs a subterranean river, snaking in the darkness. In your dream you realise that you have always sensed the ancient flow of the river, deep underground, but its existence has never been verified until now.

Then you see the spectre of the woman's face floating in the blackness of the water.

*      *      *

Your dream dissolves. You wake, and your breath catches in your throat like a fishhook.

The woman has returned. She is standing by the side of the bed, her gaze upon you. Again, she is naked. A fleeting glance at the eye of the television screen. The static has intensified.

You desire her but you are frightened. You don't know her. You wonder what will happen. You don't know. There is only one way to know.

You touch her.

You sit up, reach out. Place your hand on her hip. Gently. As if touching the most fragile thing you've ever known. Your hand remains still. Her skin exudes a warmth, a heat. You try to remember if you've ever felt such heat. You can't remember. She leans her hip faintly, so faintly into your hand. This movement, almost imperceptible, arouses you. You keep your hand there, not wanting to break contact. You lean forward and touch your lips to her stomach. She rests her hand on your head.

It has never occurred to you before, but now you wonder if you had died. Wonder if this is your afterlife.

You look up at the woman.

Who are you? you ask.

She doesn't reply straight away. The woman from the television looks at you intently, as if to ascertain if you are ready for her answer.

Then she replies: I'm the one you've always wanted.

Her voice is a balm. She bends down and touches her lips to yours. The connection, shockingly soft, transfixing you with its ineffability.

Close to your face, she whispers: You have never seen me, but you have always known me. You have always wanted me.

There is a veracity to her words that you sense deep within but do not fully understand.

She continues: I am the woman you have been seeking, the woman behind the faces and between the legs of all the lovers you have ever known. You have only seen fragments of me. Now you see me whole.

A realisation cracks through the layers of your mind.

You know me, you say.

I have always known you. I have been waiting.

You place your hands on her buttocks, her skin as soft as cotton, and draw her to you.

Where am I? Why am I here? you ask.

The woman answers: The room is you. And you are here because you finally
wanted me enough. You called me.

She lies next to you. You don't move. Dont want to move. She falls asleep in your arms. Her hand around your sex.

*      *      *

Drugged by her presence, the scent of her hair, the feel of her skin, you cannot sleep.

When the woman wakes, you make love to her. Under the thin fluorescent light. Under the omniscient stare of the television. Within the bleached white windowless walls of the square room.

You know you are not dreaming.

You touch her body and she responds. You kiss her, she responds. You remember her words to you. You dont know her, you have always known her. And so you make love to her, knowingly and unknowingly. You sense that you are inside a mystery. A mystery conjured out of the unseen particles between yourself and the woman. A mystery that is potent only if it eludes dissection.

You take her breast into your mouth. You suckle on the mystery. Drink her in. You cannot stop, nor do you want to. You kiss her lips, her face, her neck, you kiss the whole of her body, taste the fever of her skin. You want to possess her. She opens herself to you. She wants to be possessed.

You enter her. Flesh within flesh. All the openings to her body. Your desire to fill her fills you. To know her. To lose yourself in her. In her mouth, her sex, her anus. To find her. To forget. To remember.

She envelops you. You penetrate to her core. You swim in a sea of juices, nectars, unguents.

You love her. You think it's love.

*      *      *

You dream of heaven. Or rather, a kind of heaven.

You dream of the woman, with you, in a room. A white room.

*      *      *

Sleep abandons you.

You stare at the florescent light. The bleached glow comforts you now.

Then you become aware of an absence.

You are gripped with dread, as if by the hand of a monster. You sit upright in the bed. Scrutinise the room. There is terror in your eyes. The woman has gone.

The television. You leap up from the bed and kneel before it. The woman's face is there on the screen, snared in a cruel distortion. Lines of static like a shifting electrified fence. She is looking at you. There is no sound but she is speaking. Her lips enunciating your name, over and over.

Your fingers tremble as they touch the television screen. Despite your fear, your pain, you know you can bring her back. You know.

At that moment, something catches your eye. Something that wasn't there a moment before. On the wall to your right there is the thin rectangular outline of a door. An exit. An exit from this white room. The door has a handle. A white handle that almost disappears into the white of the wall.

You look back at the woman on the screen. The static is weakening, her face clearer. You remember.

Something tells you that the door is transitory. You realise then that you have two options.

You choose one.

© 2008 Nick Nicholson. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Bio: In the past, Nick has tickled the ivories, composed thousands of notes of music, painted pictures without brushes and inhaled photographic chemical fumes for the sake of art. Nowadays, he secretly juggles naughty words on a laptop screen. Nick also has a pretty good job. The current love of his life is the fast red car he recently bought.

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