Please keep reading.
This isn’t a joke. This isn’t a prank.
Don’t be afraid. Just look. Listen.
I was born not too far from here, the middle child of a well-to-do family.
I had a nondescript childhood for a few years before my younger sister was born and sucked all the air out of the house. She would need constant supervision for the rest of her life, her existence gave my parent’s lives meaning. My brother’s achievements gave them pride. I could offer them nothing except mediocrity, and so was left to my own devices much of the time. The tragedy and the glory of it was that I never would have made my most important discovery if I did not have long stretches of facetless time to myself.
It happened gradually, perhaps over a period of months even more faceless than me. Most children are permitted the luxury of nyctophobia, I was never allowed a nightlight or any sort of bedtime fuss. I coped by letting my eyes adjust to the dark until I could pick out the shapes of furniture in my room. It was just a way to occupy my mind until sleep took me, I didn’t think it remarkable or odd that some of the shapes I could make out disappeared in the daylight.
It wasn’t until the night I got up to use the bathroom and had to move a heavy oblong object that was blocking my door that I noticed something off. It felt completely unlike anything I had in my room just then, a stony, smooth texture that was cool to the touch. It was in my quest to ask my parents what it was that I found that it wasn’t just that objects appeared to me in the dark. When the door to their room creaked open, I saw their bed—empty. The same with my sister’s, her harness straps still buckled.
Perhaps a normal child would have felt a panic unlike any other, but after a lifetime of being alone I did not have the strongest sense of reality. I thought that returning to bed and sleeping might bring about the return of my family—and it did. The morning light revealed my doorway empty of any obstruction, my family all bustling about their daily activities.
I asked them once—just once—about the night things. My mother seemed about to embark upon some condescending monologue of childhood imagination, but my sister began choking on her applesauce and her thoughts scattered like birds before a tractor.
Suffice to say, once I discovered a world empty of anyone but me, I attempted to explore it. One of the first things I discovered was that the dark world had no concept of “outside”—my front door led to a vast hall, and from that, cubicle offshoots. My second was that there were no sources of light within this world, there were shapes of the lamps in our house, but these were merely composed of solid structures and served no functional purpose.
It seems logical that I began to grow into myself after this. I was already a nonentity in school, now I began to recede from even my casual acquaintances. I did not suffer from lack of sleep, though that was the reason the principle used, but lack of interest. Once you discover a world unique to you, everyone else’s reality falls by the wayside.
I did not complete the tenth grade. My father halfheartedly threatened to send me to a psychologist, but my sister’s pancreas had been going through complications and the tide of attention turned yet again. My brother had left the house ages ago, working on a medical degree halfway across the country. I decided to make my exit as well, getting a low-paid security job at a department store. Night watchman.
Even the most strict teetotaler will tell you, once temptation has been bowed to, it gets increasingly difficult to ignore. It was all too easy to turn off my flashlight and wander through new spaces. Only once was I close to being caught: when I turned my flashlight on again I was in a space I could not possibly have accessed. I did not have a key for the door, which was locked from the outside anyway. The district manager gave me an odd look, but since my entrance did not register on the hall camera they were forced to vindicate me.
I was so swamped with the joy of freedom that I did not notice the problem until, perhaps, the point of no return.
Daylight began to dim. I blamed the changing seasons, until the day I missed a traffic light due to my fading vision. The company sent me to an eye doctor, who found nothing especially odd about my vision. I hadn’t the heart to tell him that I could see the numbers perfectly in the half-dark, only that I could not detect the change when he switched the lights back on.
I feared the worst. Was my lifestyle giving me some strange new disease? If it were discovered, and ultimately linked to my little world, would it be torn open for discovery? The fear of losing my reality was greater than losing my sight, so I tried to hide it. Navigation in daylight was nearly impossible, so I did what errands I could under cover of darkness.
Then the last, and worst, problem presented itself.
I was walking along the bedding department when I noticed the path above me narrowed into a hallway. The bedding department was open on all sides, in fact the only hallway in the store led to the manager’s office. Fearing the worst, I tried to turn back and found myself on a plain that very nearly resembled the hardware section.
For the very first time in my life I panicked. I ran, calling, switching on my flashlight, to no avail. I could find only spaces from the dark world, nothing familiar from my daily life.
You may have read the headline: “STORE NIGHT WATCHMAN DISSAPEARS, LEAVES NO TRACE.” I had left plenty of evidence of my arrival at work, nothing of my leaving. The store’s manager attested to my work ethic, but puzzled at my erratic behavior. I’ll be forever thankful that he didn’t imply drugs were involved. I had not taken anything. I was just simply not there.
You may wonder what happened after that. Well, I thought I had found my way back to the usual rooms. But I could no longer return. Switching my flashlight on and off did nothing, and eventually I left it somewhere. I found not only the department store, but the rooms of my childhood home and school. All empty. And that’s where I’ve been until now.
You’ll forgive my errors, I’m not used to keyboards. That was a very long time ago, though I have nothing to measure time against. I have simply had time to ponder if the two spaces can’t somehow connect in another way, if the one can’t affect the other. Which led me here.
I don’t know you, I can’t see you and you can’t see me. I simply picked a room at random and started typing. The machine isn’t even connected on my end, and I can’t read the screen. I just keep typing in the hope that you’ll read this and somehow know what to do.
Because I’ve been in here alone for so long.
But now I think there’s something in here with me