I sit in a well-ordered room, admiring my surroundings. On the walls are paintings done by masters of their craft, Manet, Van Gogh, Degas, to name a few. They are arranged evenly upon the walls, exactly four inches from each other at precisely the same height. Three of the walls have logs blazing in gilded fireplaces, illuminating the chamber to cancel shadows and false images. Under my feet is a crimson carpet of the finest Persian manufacture, each thread the exact height to its neighbor. Everything around me is just-so, and I can tell where anything can be found in this room without even looking at it.
My leather high-backed chair is comfortably cushioned, supporting my large frame evenly and without the pangs of imperfect stitching or padding. The carpet massages my bare feet to a contented numbness, allowing me full faculties of the room around me. I have no need to adjust the smoking jacket and pajamas I wear, for they too are precisely tailored and sit upon me as if I were wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes. Nothing I touch interferes with the quiet enjoyment of my solitude.
From my jacket pocket I pull a cigarette from its case, lighting it with a match. I throw the stick into one of the fires to incinerate it. Taking a drag from the rolled tobacco, I let the scent and flavor play upon my nostrils. Exhaling, I let the second-hand smoke trail up evenly into the rafters of the room, adding a sweetly exotic scent to the already present notes of incense burning in each of the four corners of the chamber. It all mixes together like the notes of an orchestra, my nose receiving the full benefit of its serenade. The smell of this place is relaxing, unmolested even by the burning blue smoke coming from my cigarette.
A table to my right holds a bowl of figs and nuts, and I decide to indulge myself. Taking some, I let their tastes mingle in my mouth along with the aftertaste of my smoke. Nothing is out of place here, and I delight in the supple flavors coming together on my taste buds. Sitting there in my chair, I am blissfully at ease. Swallowing the mouthful, I draw in a breath and taste the sweet air in the room, cleansing my palate for another snack should I so desire.
I sit quietly in my room, eyes closed, listening. Music from Bach’s Piano Concerto No. 1 plays for me, no echoes or other acoustic imperfections impeding the performance. My ears enjoy the performance, the sounds of the master’s work adding to my general contentment. No other sounds exist here without my knowledge or permission. The entire universe is me in this place, the sights, smells, touch, tastes, and sounds of perfection in harmony.
A thunderous knock crashes through my quiet enjoyment on the wall in front of me. I open my eyes and behold a massive black door, obsidian or onyx with no handle and a demonic silvered door knocker. Its infernal eyes glow red, like embers in a dying fire. This portal is here without my permission; I do not know from whence it came. Fervently I command it to go away, but the demon mocks me with a laugh, rattling the knocker on the door.
Another thunderous knock, and the door cracks. Blinding light pours through the tiny openings into my chamber, disrupting everything I have so painstakingly created for myself. Pleading, begging, imploring myself for mercy, I wish for that door to go away and for me to return to the quiet solitude where I belong. But the cracks widen, the light pours in, and the demon continues to mock me.
A final cacophonous rapping disintegrates the door, leaving the knocker floating in the air. I shield my eyes from the light pouring through. Nothing more in my life do I want than to hide behind my chair and will that light away and wait for everything to return to what it was. But the demon beckons me onward. Cursing him, I move to interpose the chair between me and my tormentor, but I am pinned to the furniture. And then…the chair leapt forward a foot. Another foot, and then another foot, sending me towards that opening.
While I hear the demon laughing, I am thrust out of my comfortable surroundings and into a place of sheer terror. Uniformity is not a word that could describe anything of what I see. Colors move and swirl and part as if of their own accord. They would be beautiful if trapped on canvas, but here their marvel is lost because they obey neither rhyme nor reason. Sometimes they form scenes of peaceful repose, like a meadow in the spring or a brook in the countryside. But then they arrive at macabre scenes of death and violence. Why must I bear witness to these terrible things? What have I done to warrant such abysmal scenes of pain and sorrow? I wish I could make them go away, but they haunt me still!
Particulates would fly about me like a swarm of gnats or flies on a corpse. Cutting my flesh, they threw my nerves into a perpetual state of agony. I desperately wanted them to go, but they would only bite deeper into my exposed hands and feet and set my flesh on fire. The pain should have made me catatonic, but as soon as it started it was over. My cuts and bruises healed, and then the particulates would start over again. Why must I endure this torment? All I wanted was to live in my well-ordered room.
Throughout this ordeal the changing scenes brought new realities to my beleaguered senses. If I saw an aftermath to a battle, the stench of decaying people wafted up through my nostrils. If there was a quiet country scene, I could earn a temporary reprieve of cut grass and pine scents. If I tried to keep the pleasant smells within me for too long, a new scene would come and linger until I needed to draw breath. Nothing pleasant stayed the same for long. Oh, how these vile stenches remind me of what I’ve lost!
After one incredibly vile odor, the contents of my stomach were expelled. I could taste the figs and nuts again, but this time they were mutated into a vile mash that left me more nauseous than before. The cruelty of it all! What was once sweet is now bitter! Would that I could return to the sweet taste of dates on my tongue, the savory notes of the almonds in my mouth! All I know now is the loss of what I long for!
But above all else I remember the cacophony that resulted after leaving my chamber of repose. Noises of the particulates flitting about, living yet unliving and merciless. Sounds of the scenes paraded about before me. Hearing my own heart racing under the stress of my new environs. There was no music or order to it at all. It was only one new assault on my senses after another. Some rhyme or reason was too much to ask for. I longed for Bach, for Mozart, for anything to sooth my mind instead of agitate it.
I tried turning around to find the doorway I went through, to escape this new reality that had been foisted upon me. But there was no escape or reprieve. It was gone, vanished into the surrounding mists outside my perception. What I would give for one more day, one more hour, one more minute of quiet contemplation!
And then something truly miraculous happened. As I focused my thoughts on my innermost desire, the scenes began to reform themselves. The particulates changed and formed solid objects around me. Mists swirled and masked a truly wondrous thing, eventually to blow away and reveal a marvelous construct. I could not explain how it happened, either from a bestowed reprieve or a font of strength unknown to me.
It was my chamber, as it was before. So I sat down, grateful for the second chance at peaceful existence. Henceforth, though, I’d always keep an eye out for that demon reappearing.
3 thoughts on “Sunday Fiction: Sanity”
Excellent imagery. A very good read.
Thanks! Imagery has always been the weakest part of my writing, and I keep having to force myself to practice at it.
Your practice has paid off. I could almost see, taste, smell, and feel all that your protagonist was experiencing. Well done.
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