0025 – Gareth: Captivity, Part 8

Gareth stared into the mirror.

What stared back was an unshaven, sickly, haunted figure.

He couldn’t even bear to make eye contact with himself. There were bags under his eyes, and his pallid skin was covered in grease and filth. His unkempt, greying hair hung, limp and squalid, around his haggard and ruined features.

He had been crying, in alternate fits and starts. The rest of the time, he had sat on the floor of the landing, his back against the bathroom door, staring into the study where the cruel book had been lying on the floor, untouched since he had finished reading it.

Gareth had not consulted the book he had made himself, the one he considered his “familiar.” Dust was starting to gather around it on the desk.

He had spoken no word aloud, even to himself, for six days. He hadn’t cooked in all that time, either, and had barely eaten. It didn’t seem worth crawling to bed to rest, or putting the lights on when night fell.

His ears, attuned to the silence by now, picked up even the faintest sounds, from outside the cottage. He wished they wouldn’t. Pamela was experiencing silence too. It would bring him closer to her, as Karl had said.

Gareth was ready to be close to Pam again now.

And that was why he was staring into the mirror, the book entitled “Ei’nn Solida’n” – Eternal Isolation, he remembered – in his hand.

His lips parted.

He closed his eyes. He was hesitating. Why? He would never leave this cottage, he knew. And even if he did, he would never find Karl, let alone be able to do anything to him. The man could kill human beings with a single spoken word.

Pamela would spend the rest of eternity, undying, alone in her own mind, isolated. Really, did it even matter where her physical body was?

If he did this, wasn’t he practically right there with her? Experiencing the same things?

If his fingers deadened and felt nothing, he may as well be holding her hand.

If his eyes were blind, he may as well be gazing at her face.

If his ears were deaf, he may as well be hearing the soft sounds of her breathing, or her heartbeat.

Really, it would be like being right there with her, wouldn’t it? Holding her again?

He began to speak.

Halfway through the first word, he heard a bang from the study, followed by a brisk fluttering noise. He started, flinching. It was the first time in six days that he’d been exposed to anything more than crushing stasis.

The book fell from his hand, saving his life.

Gareth walked weakly over to the study to investigate the noise. Perhaps, somewhere inside of him, he was looking for anything to hold onto, any reason to keep living like a normal person, able to move and speak and hear and see and taste, for just a few more minutes.

The book lay open on the study desk, having opened with such force that it made air streaks in the thin layer of dust on the wooden surface. The swiftness of this movement had apparently caused a few more pages to turn than it had likely intended, showing nothing but blank paper.

Gareth thumbed back to the first page.

He had been expecting abuse from the book. He had been expecting it to call him stupid for even considering reading Eternal Isolation, or to chastise him for sitting idle for so long.

Instead, it had gotten straight to the point.

“CHECK THE ATTIC.”

Hope flashed in Gareth’s eyes. He didn’t quite know why. He had never thought to even investigate the hatch in the upper floor’s ceiling before. Upon inspection, it seemed to be designed to be opened with the aid of a long, hooked pole, which he discovered in the back of a cupboard after a few minutes of frenzied, messy searching.

He stepped over the piles of junk he had strewn all over the floor in his search, eager to make his way back to the landing, where the hatch waited above him. As he lifted the pole to the hatch’s crude lock, to hook and turn it open, a dizzy spell of sheer hunger came over him. He screamed in frustration at his own body, clutching at his head for an arduous thirty seconds before forcing himself to go on.

The hatch swung down. There was a ladder too, with a hook for pulling.

The ladder slid all the way down to the carpet, resting neatly against the floor. A cool, musty breeze came down from the attic, the air disturbed by the sudden opening of its ingress.

The rungs of the ladder hurt Gareth’s bare feet as he climbed, and he was weak and swaying by the time he reached the top. Some urgent, clumsy rummaging around the inside of the hatch revealed a small lamp, which he lit with frustrated, shaking fingers.

Inside the attic was absolutely nothing whatsoever.

Gareth didn’t curse, or resent the book’s guidance. Right now, his sole focus was on carrying out whatever instructions it decided to give him. It had thrown more than enough hints around to convince him that it understood something of the broader picture.

“DID YOU FIND ANYTHING?” The book asked, when he opened its cover.

“No,” Gareth croaked a hoarse response in his unused, dehydrated voice. “Nothing at all. Just a lamp. Is the lamp the important thing?”

“THERE ISN’T A BOX? YOU’RE SURE?”

“What kind of box?” He asked.

“A WOODEN BOX, SHAPED LIKE A TINY CHEST. CARVINGS ON THE TOP. YOU’RE SURE IT WASN’T THERE?”

“I’m sure.” Gareth rubbed his eyes. “The attic is completely empty. What’s going on? What’s the box?”

“NEVER MIND THAT. IT WAS WORTH A TRY. BUT NOW, GARETH, GO AND EAT SOMETHING. GET YOUR STRENGTH UP.”

“For what?” His shoulders sagged. He really was starving, he knew.

“I’M GOING TO GET YOU OUT OF HERE.”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: