av Håkon Strand Bølviken.
Detalj fra Dulle Griet,
av Pieter Brueghel.
The odd thing is that I never considered myself a lonely person in my youth. Granted, I had never been the most popular boy at my old high school, but throughout school and college I had a steady circle of friends I could talk with, party with, even confide in. However, as it so often is, moving to a different country and beginning on that seemingly eternal walk through the adult’s working years proved a more solitary experience, and I often racked my brain trying to remember how I had made friends before. It had seemed so easy at the time, in those environments with so many my own age looking for friends themselves.
However, here my conversations with coworkers never amounted to anything more than small talk, and so it was at the gym and everywhere else. So, then, after an initial burst of attempted socializing, I settled into a routine shared by so many of us, of work, the gym, home. This continued for quite some time, and as I slowly lost contacts with my old friends back home, my little apartment became, it seemed, my whole world.
What follows is, admittedly, fantastical. All I can say is that it is true. Unless I am insane, which is, perhaps, the most likely explanation, what follows is the truth. Perhaps my own corpse will be found to lend credence to the idea that something mystical did indeed happen, but I doubt my body will ever be found. It is about to disappear forever. I also very much doubt that these hastily scribbled notes will ever find another pair of eyes to read them, and so writing at some level seems useless. However, there is a desire in humans to leave something behind to be remembered by, and if any family or former friends ever wonder what happened to me, they might get some closure from this. So to start:
Walking home from work on a day where the clouds constantly threatened rain without ever going through with it, I looked up on the apartment building I lived in, that gray cube that looked like the architect had put as little creativity into it as possible, and found myself transfixed on one of the windows on one of the upper floors, maybe five floors above my own apartment. The usual square of the window had turned into a circle, so very different from the others in the house, and red curtains together with a circular shadow in the middle gave the clear impression of a red, staring eye.
While I stood there, watching, the eye suddenly moved. It turned its frightening pupil towards me, and I felt a sudden chill, the feeling you get as a child when whatever grown-up frightened you the most (for me that was my angry old neighbor who had always yelled at me and threatened to beat me if I ever set foot on his lawn) sets their sight on you. I stumbled backwards, trying not to look at the deep black shadow in the dark red sea, but failing. I could not take my own eyes away.
I tried to call out to other people in the street, but could not. What could I say? What if they found it silly, what if they did not see what I saw? What if they laughed? I had, socially, become not only a hermit, but a coward, and so instead I ran into my own apartment and locked the door.
It was a cheap and impersonal apartment, as I had never had the energy to put up pictures or make it my own, yet it had become part of me, more so than what was healthy, looking back. The cheap furniture came in varieties of gray, excluding a red carpet that I bought out of a desperate idea to bring some color to the white-gray walls and furniture. There was of course also a bed, I spent much time in it, often not bothering to get up in the weekends. I collapsed on top of it, trying to convince myself I had seen nothing. That day, I dared not even go out to buy groceries, I stayed in bed until it was time to sleep.
However, I had seen something. As the days went by the eye became more and more real, turning into a bloodshot sphere with clear irises following the people in the streets. One day another window turned into a new eye, so two were watching me from above. They both had this intense feeling emanating from them, perhaps it was hatred, perhaps disgust. Perhaps it was the hunter's certainty that their victim shall die. Each day I got more frightened to return home, and yet each day I at the same time left work and went straight to the apartment building, feeling the sweat build up and my back hunching as I came close. I was getting disgusted by myself, my inability to do something, to in any way break out of my own routine in order to address the creepy mystery that now occupied so much of my thought. No one else seemed to notice, which only furthered my confusion and fear. I rarely met the other tenants in the building, but when it happened, it still felt like my tongue had been cursed to silence. At most I tried to see if their eyes were as tired and frightened as my own, but even when I believed I saw glimmers of it, I still did not speak, and simply passed them by.
Further days went, and the changes continued slowly and mercilessly. The house seemed rounder, the windows uneven. In my apartment too, I felt changes. Towards the window the floor seemed to get uneven, white blocks slowly rose and splintered the wood. The red carpet, I was certain, grew in size. And yet I did nothing, while cursing that fact. I stopped going to work, as the worries and the fear built up and paralyzed me. Also, I was too afraid of what the house would look like to go out, for I realized it was transforming into a face, a face I was far too afraid to see.
I stopped eating and drinking. I remained in bed, trying to ignore it all, but as the days passed it felt more and more like I was trapped in that room, in the bed, unable to leave even if I had been able to muster the courage. Had the house itself started working its powers on my mind?
Then one night I heard the rasping voice coming from the walls themselves, a loud, never-ending breathing that kept me awake and made me realize that the house was alive. I felt the pulse of the house and I saw the walls move rhythmically, as if I was inside a sleeping giant. When I touched the walls they were warm and slippery, slimy, as if I was touching the throat of a an alien being. It was like I had been swallowed by some alien creature.
I wanted to run. To run out of the building and never look back. But I couldn’t. This time I did not confuse it for my own cowardice, I noticed something holding me back. Try as I might I could not bring myself to go outside. I could barely go into the hall outside the apartment, but I now found myself trapped. Was it the fear of the face outside that had gripped me to this degree? Or was it the force that had created the face that would not let me leave?
In that moment, I was gripped with sudden decisiveness: I was to go up to the apartment where it had all started, to confront whoever or whatever was there. The room which was now an eye. The stairs up was almost unrecognizable, organic, shivering and coiling when stepped on, and green in color. Then I stood in front of the apartment. I heard the breathing of the building, and deep rumbling elsewhere which I did not know what was. The door in was gooey and white, and I almost choked as I tried to touch it, the soft ooze reminding me of the backside of an eye. Yet, I knocked.
For a moment, the door did not budge, but then, suddenly, it flew open, and I peered inside the dark red sphere, trying to grasp the contours within. There was no furniture, nor anything that would remind you of an apartment. It seemed like nothing more, nothing less, like a giant eye.
However, in the very middle there was something. A black figure, long and stretched, suspended between the roof and the floor like a massive retinal vein. When it moaned, I suddenly understood it was the resident of the apartment, his limbs now stretched and and twisted into long vines and bound to the apartment. A part of me wanted to cut him down, but somehow I knew it would do no good. The house had swallowed him, and the black strings that had once been a human could never again leave. So I ignored the moans, which may have been a cry for help from lips no longer able to speak, and I ran, ran like a coward. As I ran down the stairs the doors exploded open, and inside I saw those horrible creatures that had once been people living there, now merging with the walls or transforming into organs. I heard the muffled sounds and now recognized them as pained screams, but covered my ears and continued running, down and down until I finally reached the bottom floor. To my surprise, even the outer doors flew open, and I was able to run out of them without trouble.
It was a cool night, and for the first time in so long I felt clean air. I had not noticed how stuffy my room had gotten. I breathed in, and felt a strength I had thought long gone return to me. As I stood on the sidewalk, though, I could not stop myself. Even though I knew I should not, even though I knew nothing good could come of it, I looked back. I wanted to know what the building had become.
Before me was the fully realized creature. A long mouth, dark and ready, I felt, to devour me. It opened its mouth, and I saw the teeth, each as large as I was, ready to impale and tear asunder. The skin was a dark green mass similar to green tar that covered the building. There were boils and marks like what you would imagine from someone suffering from the plague, indeed, it felt like a severe illness had taken hold of that face, and like it was about to spread to everyone around it. Finally, my eyes met the eyes of the building. Oh, those eyes, larger than myself, bloody red and dark and terrifying, slightly glowing in the night. The malevolence radiating from those eyes I will remember for the rest of my short life. I could do nothing but cower before them, my previous energy gone. My power left me. Silently, under the spells of those eyes, I slowly returned to my apartment. As I write this, I do wonder whether the building let me out just to taunt me.
The apartment had changed completely when I returned. Now the white bulges were clearly teeth, and the red carpet had taken the clear shape of a gigantic tongue, a tongue that was moving throughout the mouth trying to find things to taste, dripping wet and twisting and turning. I felt the breath of the building, its rancid smell. It made me dizzy, and I fell to the floor, barely keeping my conscience. As I lay on the floor, the images of the other residents flashed before me. Was I to become part of this monster too, a patch of skin writhing in pain, but unable to speak or move? Was this my destiny?
I tried to move, to at least twist my head a little, but I could not do anything. I lay there for I do not know how long, waiting, but nothing happened. I could hear the tongue move, though, and suddenly I understood my own purpose in this place. Of course I was not to be made part of the face, that was already finished. The mouth was ready formed, the tongue alive and searching for things to taste. There was no such role left for me, so my part had to be a different one. And as I laid there in the mouth, it was crystal clear what the role was: I was the food for this building. The quiet bite of nourishment without agency or life or anything else, a mouthful for this creature to wolf down. Here I was to be eaten.
I felt the tongue move over me, it seemed it finally had found it was looking for. It licked me, drenching me in disgusting spit, and its coarse surface scratched me up as it tasted me. Then the tongue suddenly lifted me up, and it launched me backwards, to what should have been a wall, but was now a black hole. The walls surrounded me, but instead of stopping me they forced my body downwards, down below ground, down into eternal darkness.
And now I find myself in a room I do not recognize, one without windows or doors, just an opening where the roof should be. The stomach. As I lay here I find myself slowly dissolving, not merging with the creature as the other residents but simply becoming its food. My legs have already disappeared, turning into mush. Slowly even my abdomen will be gone.
The odd thing is that it is not unpleasant. I do not feel anything currently, no pain nor fear. All anxiety is behind me as I rot away here. A couple of sheets of paper and a pen could be found in this room, and so I wrote these short notes. Do not pity me as I lay here, rather pity what I was before I accepted my fate, as I hope all the other residents here accepted theirs. I must end this now, while I still have limbs to write. Goodbye.