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from Horror Collection by Steve Boseley

Acceptance

So here I sit, cogitating upon my predicament.

I know neither where I am nor how I came to be here. I know only that my name is William. I know not how I know this morsel of information, but I know it to be true. If I have other names, they are hidden from me, as are all other facets of my life.

I have understanding of this place and nothing beyond. Around me are four walls, above me a ceiling. There exists no furnishing of any kind, nothing but stone beneath my feet, yet I do not remember ever leaving this place.

There is light here; a single candle stands in the centre of the room, ensconced in what appears to be a glass box. I say appears to be, simply because I am unable to break it to access the candle within. Its light flickers, casting grotesque shadows across the walls and ceiling of this prison in which I find myself. I know neither how long the candle has burned nor how it got here, but it has endured as long as I. It is my one confidante, my companion in this accursed place.

The cold stone walls are divested of any coverings, save a layer of putrid smelling mould, creeping between the stones where foul-smelling and glutinous discharge oozes from unseen clefts.

Two of these walls carry a door, neither of which I have ever opened, and for good reason; minute fissures in the walls permit me to see beyond the bounds of my confinement. Beyond these walls, I see only darkness, devoid of shape or form, lacking illumination from any star or moon. From time to time I hear what I assume are the wails of some kind of animal. A bird perhaps? although I am disinclined to investigate such conjecture. Most disturbing, are the sounds I hear beyond these doors. They are always the same: scratching, knocking, probing sounds, accompanied by a baleful wailing. These are followed by hammering blows that shake the door in its frame. I have come to think of this thing as The Beast, for I know not of a creature that sounds or behaves in this fashion.

Thus I remain. For how long, I cannot say, only that it seems an eternity. I have neither bodily functions nor do I require food. Simply, I watch the flame, peer through the holes in the wall, and retreat from the pounding on my door when I hear it.

But this is no life, if life is what I am enduring, and I cannot warrant that. My time here has been spent in solitude; I do not recall a time I uttered a sound that could even loosely be described as speech. I am not sure that I would even be able replicate speech were I to try. These long periods of silence benumb my senses; they lay heavily, pressing down on me, forcing me to my knees. I cannot recall a time or place beyond here, but there is a hole within me that I cannot fill.

Am I the last of my kind? A lone human in this God-forsaken realm of solitude? I need something; the touch of another’s hand; the breath of another on my skin; a word uttered in joy. Even a word uttered in horror or sorrow would, I believe, make my heart sing. No more would I share my existence with a flame in a glass box. No more would I cower in isolation from whatever beast dwells beyond these walls. Were there to be another, I would hold them close and together we would tremble in the shadows. We would comfort one another as the beast outside breathed its terrible breath, and scraped its monstrous claws. The thought of that joy, of being close to someone, of having a companion with whom to endure this perpetually benighted realm with, is almost too painful to consider. But consider it I do, and it is certainly a painful exercise, one that has proven to be a futile endeavour. I am alone, and have been for as far back as my recollections reach.

But does that mean I must accept my lot in this pseudo-life? I do not believe so. I still have free will, or at least I think I do. Could I not simply throw open the door and march into the world beyond? And what of the beast that dwells beyond this portal? Why, I would face it, of course. I would face it and drive it away. The thing would have no power over me. It is a lower-animal, devoid of the ability to think for itself, acting only on instinct and impulse. It will be no match for the human intellect. I shall cast it down and send it scurrying back into the darkness from whence it came, with my foot as a reminder to stay clear should it encounter me at some future point. And surely, dispatching a creature of that magnitude, one who must stand at the pinnacle of its food chain, will send ripples and waves crashing down through said chain, ensuring that I am left unmolested on my passage through this dark realm.

But if my predicament were so easily remedied, would I not have followed this course at some point before now? Perchance I have already attempted to exert my mastery over this creature and the world beyond. Mayhap I tried and failed. Surely I would remember such an endeavour. Yet I do not. Does that signify a failure of my mental capacity? Should I harbour concerns about other recollections I have, their truth or validity? I remember only being in this place; being alone; being afraid. If there were ever others like me, I am unable to bring them to mind. If I have ever attempted to leave this prison and was turned back, I am similarly at a loss. If that were true, that I have never attempted to flee these walls, that would mean that my course of action is still to be determined. I could simply choose to leave as I have already proffered.

So what is it that holds me here?

My biggest fear is not the beast that shakes the door. It is that I am somehow tethered to this place; this putrid-smelling, dank and foul abode. If that were the case, then I am cursed to exist here for eternity, alone and scared. Ending my own ‘life’ has occurred to me. Do not for one minute think I have not considered this, but I ask you to consider my predicament: I recall no item of food or water ever passing my lips, yet I am stricken with neither hunger nor thirst. Do you believe that opening my veins or depriving myself of air would have a different outcome? I do not. I am not even sure if air is what my lungs pull in, if they pull in anything at all.

And thus, I am here, and whether or not I have been here for an eternity or merely the blink of an eye, I am still alone and see no future in prolonging my time here. More and more my thoughts turn to others like me. Perchance there are countless others, each ensconced in their own version of my private hell. These dwellings may exist just beyond my ability to see them, hidden by perpetual darkness. Perchance walking mere feet beyond my door would reveal these stone cells to me. Inside them would be others like me, with the same vexations, the same fears, the same longing for companionship, just waiting for me to discover them.

The knowledge that others may exist, almost close enough to touch, is maddeningly infuriating. This urge to connect with others threatens to drive me insane, if I am not already there. Surely the beast outside, whose wails grow louder and more menacing as time passes, can do nothing to me that is worse than the conditions I already endure. What if it were to rend me limb from limb? Would it have the power to end this existence where hunger and thirst have failed? If it could, I say that would be a fair trade and o...






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