The steps were the hardest part. By the time he reached the top he had bruises on his knees and elbows. Beneath his sweatshirt his heart pounded as he almost tripped on the edge od a rug. His shoe caught and came untied. He was forced to use the wall for support. The wallpaper was slick and icy, it burned his skin for the few seconds they came into contact.
The hallway was so long he thought he'd never get to the end of it. His hands were stretched out in front of him, a physical alert system to obstacles, like a wood door. Even with his hands out in front the door came out of nowhere. HIs head followed his hands in knocking. The handle ran into his right kidney.
"Come in." A friendly voice said.
The door was unlocked and the handle was warm. The crack between the floor and the bottom of the door glowed a soft orange. Once the door was pulled open there was no going back. The room was blindingly bright. Pure white light overwhelmed him.
He shrank into the corner and covered his eyes. They burne and itched. Tears ran down his face as he blinked behind his hands. Through the cracks between his fingers the world started to come into focus. He saw spots on his eyelids first. He knew sunsets in the desert were the same color. The side of his left pinky was blackened, the creases colored with charcoal. Almost as dark as the hall had been. His thumb had smashed into some lilac paint at some point. The flower's color complimented his pale skin. His sweatshirt was a basic blue, but it looked as soft as it felt. His jeans were ripped just as he imagined they would be. His bruises were small around round and hurt to touch. When he moved his finger the skin went from purple to white and red.
His hands were as he remembered them. The veins on the back were visible and blue blood pulsed under the skin. Through the tears he saw his shaking hands, the scars he felt finally had color. The scar under his thumb was a sliver of white tissue. The bruise on the side of his right hand was yellow, and the one on his elbow was a painful purple.
He dropped to the floor. His shoes were caked with mud. Tiny pieces of where he'd been stuck to his soles. Gum from the sidewalk, dirt from the road, gravel chunks from the front walkway, and of course glass shards from the vase he'd knocked over downstairs.
Beneath his shoes, an ornate carpet covered darkly stained hardwood. More tears blurred the rest of the room. Smudged colors suggestive of an office or lounge. He felt the walls around him. The molding long the edges was in a similair dark stain to that of the floor. The fireplace mantle was cool to the touch, but white to the eyes. A marbled stone rimmed the fire put and brightly smoldering embers.
The dying fire's light was enough to cast shadows. His own shadow stuck to the walls as he moved around memorizing every vivid detail. The furniture all face the firepace. A low coffee table laid on the rug in front of the fireplace. The love seat facing the same way was illuminated with a warm glow. Twin recliners stood to either side, flanking the center table. He touched the edges of the furniture as he crossed the room. Leather and hardwood, smelling of years of smoke, with a hint of ladies perfume still lingering in the background. On the wall opposite the door, a large painting.
He ran his fingers over the canvas. Each brush stroke stood out to him. Every hue had a different feel. The image was mapped only as far as his arms could reach. The top quarter of the painting remained unknown. Dark colors at the bottom of the image were thicky painted. Individual strokes were clear. The lighter colors along the top edges were thinly layers and blended together. The center figure's skin was so smooth, no paint strokes could be felt.
The crackle of the fire got his attention. Flames were beginning to die one at a time. He sat cross legged on the rug, staring at the smoldering remains. Buring veins of the logs radiated heat warming all the light touched. He could stay there all day and night just watching the logs' metamorphosis from heavy wood to light ashes. His breath stirred the air in front of the fireplace, ashes curled up and settled back down.
The last ember lost its color and he sat back on his hands. The longer he looked at the dark the less detail he remembered about the room. The color of the floor was fading from mind. The only way to stop it was to close his eyes and remember the room as it had been. Heavy closed curtains covering the windows. Wall clock over the mantle, frozen in time. Leather furniture around a fireplace. Shadows flicking on the walls, someone sitting on the other side of the room watching him move.
"Whose there?" He called out. They hadn't been there before, but he distinctly remembered their shadow. He turned around, mapping the room on his eyelids. A few feet to either side was one of the twin recliners. Directly behind him was the table and loveseat, the pillows all set to one side like a bed. On the wall across from the door was the painting and something else. It was tall, it's shadow had moved more frequently than the others in the firelight.
"I can see your shadow." He pointed out. The figure froze in place, a dark figure motioned to itself. "Yeah, you." He stood up and squinted. "Come closer. I can't see you." The figure started to walk around the room, turning him in cirlces.
He reached blindly reached out and caught something hard in hand. He moved his hands up and down it. "This is your wrist, and that's your hand. So there's your shoulder and collarbone." It froze under his touch. "Where's your head..." That's when it moved back out of reach.
"Stop playing around." The friendly voice from before, wasn't so friendly now. It reminded him of an angry boss, chastising an employee. He could imagine a finger wagging at his face. The tone softened. "Do you know why you're here?
"You want me to see something for you?" He hazarded a few guesses. "I saw something I wasn't supposed to and now you have to kill me? This room isn't real and I'm just dreaming?"
"It's all real. You don't have to pinch yourself." The figure took it's spot back along the wall. "And I don't want to kill you." That only left a thousand other possibilities.
"You want me to see something for you." It was the only logical choice. He started backing away to the corner, his hands searching for the door handle. He didn't want to see for other people anymore. The dark was better, it was easier to handle. There was less to see at once. "Someone in particular?"
The voice was moving again. "No one particualr to me, but you might find them interesting." The figure watched him sink to the floor, just out of reach of the door. "I promise you, it'll be worth it."
"How do you know that?" Not a lot of things were worth seeing. It was better to walk around in a haze than focus on anything. People saw a lot of things over their lifetimes; weddings, babies, death. The yelling over wedding plans, and crying in hospitals and shoveling dirt, those were the things that played all the time. That's what he saw, when he looked at people.
He saw their life from their point of view. Everything from the moment they were born to the moment they made eye contact with him. He could see them accepting help as a child, or fighting against those who only wanted to help. Long one way bus rides in the middle of the night. Fist fights in bars and alleyways. Meeting the love of their life only to watch them leaving in different ways each time. Car, or trains, or caskets.
There was never any sound to go along with the images. Silent movies with boring actors and actresses. The good movies never lasted long. They were over in a flash.
"You can't spend the rest of your life in the dark." The voice said bluntly. He turned around and faced the wall, frowning in the dark. "I know there are things you wish you hadn't seen but-"
"But what? It's worth it?" His tears were hidden in the dark but they were still heard. "I see all the time! I can't control it! I open my eyes and the world rushes in against my will!" He struggled to keep from shaking. Explain was hard, there weren't words for what he saw, for what he sees. Frustration flooded him. This wasn't what he expected. It wasn't what he had been promised. "When can I leave?"
The voice sighed. "I'd like you to stay until everyone arrives. After that, you can leave whenever you want." There was a sharp snap and the fire was resurrected. Embers glowed faintly and the figure returned to its place on the wall.
He yawned, his eyelids felt as heavy ad his legs. The corner became comfortable very quickly. He pulled his hood over his head and let his eyes close. "Wake me when it's over."