There's something wrong with the room. I'm not completely sure what it is, but I know that something isn't right, and it's giving me a headache.
I look under the chair. Nothing is there besides the floorboards. The wood is in pristine condition, with no dust or crumbs to be found on its surface.
How could there possibly be something off about such a clean room?
But, perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps its purity is meant to be deceiving.
Having found nothing to be wrong under the chair, I move to look beneath the table. Aside from a cracked floorboard, nothing stands out. The crack in the floor, however, only causes my aggravation to grow.
What is wrong with the room?
I stand back up, placing a hand on my right temple in an attempt to ease my migraine. But my fingers are warm against my skin, and I can feel my head pounding against them. My brain becomes overrun by thoughts of my skin tearing from my skull to escape the pain, only for my skull to shatter.
Nervously, I glance around the room.
The table and its four chairs are the only pieces of furniture in the room - a lonely quartet encircling their useless center. There are no other items, no decorations. As odd as that is, I know that the lack of furnishing is not what is bothering me.
It could also potentially be the lack of color - oak wood flooring that matches the oak of the chairs and table, cream-colored walls, and an off-white door. It's a bland room that offers no warmth - is that why my head is screaming at me?
I look back down at the ground and frown. More cracks have appeared on the floor.
With a sneaking suspicion, I get back on the ground. I glance under the table again. Sure enough, the crack is longer - or is it? Maybe it was always this long, and I just hadn't noticed. But that theory is short-lived as I watch on my hands and knees as more cracks grow from the one under the table. They sprout like stems and dig their way through the wood as if they were worms wriggling their way through the dirt. They are seeping through the floorboards and creating tiny channels—a carpenter’s canal system.
My brain yells at me, telling me that what I'm seeing is fine - normal even. But I back away from the table until I hit the wall. The cracks are wrong. The floor is wrong. The room is wrong.
I begin to walk around the edge of the room - keeping out of the path of the cracks - as I try to make my way to the door. My head pounds harder with each step I take.
You aren't allowed to leave, my brain tells me, you have to stay. You need to figure out exactly what is wrong. You need to look at what you did.
For a moment, I stop walking. I might have even stopped breathing. Chills run down my spine, and I put my head in my hands.
Stop, I tell myself, I haven't done anything.
I keep my head in my hands until my headache begins to subside. Then, I continue to walk to the door, keeping pressed to the wall as though I tread next to the edge of a cliff.
I spare a glance back down to the floorboards, and I recoil until there is absolutely no space between me and the wall.
There are cracks everywhere. They are all over the floor. I lift my foot. They are under me. My headache begins to start back up again with more force.
The cracks move, leaving their tracks all across the room. They slither with the silence of a snake moving through water, and they slink with the stealth of a cat ready to pounce. They are hunting, and I am meant to be the prey.
Stranded against the wall, I close my eyes and pray that when I open them, the cracks will be gone.
But, as I stand still, I can feel the cracks spread. They continue with their destruction of the floor and expand to the walls. They reach up, stretching and pushing until they touch the ceiling. Everything succumbs to their chaos, including me. I can sense the ones underneath me as they press into my shoes and through my socks. They burn into my skin as they continue to travel. I can see myself being branded by them. I watch as my body is overtaken by the cracks. They grow and grow and grow until my body can’t withstand them. And then, I shatter — just as my skull did earlier.
Knowing that I need to get out of the room as soon as possible, I sprint to the door. I imagine the floor creaking under my weight. I imagine more cracks appearing all around me. I imagine the sound as the floor gives way as I scream. I imagine myself falling into a black pit. I imagine the sound of my neck snapping.
Look! Look! Look! Look! My brain screeches. I ignore it as I reach the door, not able to focus on anything but escaping this purgatory.
Just as my hand touches the knob, my brain screams: LOOK AT WHAT YOU DID!!!
I freeze with my hand on the doorknob. The pounding in my head dies down as my brain whispers: Look at what you did.
Slowly, I turn.
The cracks are still all over the floor, but they are no longer just cracks.
You know that something in the room is wrong, but did it ever occur to you that the thing was you?
Blood has replaced where the cracks once were. The tiny canals are filled with rivers of blood, and the blood leaks from each floorboard to the next. Red paints the walls in immense, amorphous smears. It drips down, leaving streaks of blood behind as it returns to the rivers on the floor. But that is not all.
Bodies litter the floor as well. They are under the table. They are around the chairs. They are in the corners.
I look back down - not at the floor this time, but at myself. The blood is not just on the floor. The blood is soaked into my shirt, my pants, my shoes. There is blood all over my arms and hands.
I know that I should feel nauseous. I should feel bile rising in the back of my throat. I should call the police.
Instead, I smile as I twist the knob, open the door, and step out of the room.
None of it matters, I say to myself, the cracks do not matter, the blood does not matter, and the bodies do not matter.
What matters is that my headache is finally gone.