By Todd M Guerra
He wakes up, shaken out of slumber by the same dream that has been
haunting him for the past three weeks. The basement of some old building; lit
sporadically with some old form of neon lights, adding a sickly green glow to
the walls. The hallways are lined with doors, one door after another, seemingly
endless. He follows them along the corridor which bends at a ninety degree
angle every fifty feet or so, the third and final section painted a deep red
with various indecipherable scratchings. He reaches the end: a large room, at
least seemingly large; the lights are out here. He can see the outline of the
doorway and reaches into his pocket for his lighter. Flick. Flick. Flick.
No flame springs forth from the lighter, and the mystery of what is in the room
remains. He doesn’t know what’s in there, but he knows it’s not good and yet…
He needs to know.
He wakes up next to his wife, Elizabeth. Wonderful, sweet
Elizabeth. The night air is cold, and he swears he can almost see his breath. He
gets out of bed to use the bathroom and takes a peek into his sons’ room. They
are both asleep, Mark and Michael, their snores almost in rhythm. He is
comforted by the sight of their sleeping faces, but he’s suddenly anxious and
can’t place why. He feels like someone is watching him, but a quick glance
around the room reveals nothing. He decides to check on his daughters and makes
his way to the other side of the house. He stands in the doorway of their room;
they are also asleep but do not have the snoring problem that his sons do. His
oldest, Riley, has left her reading light on again as she is known to do. He
hears a voice telling him to come in, steps into the room, and makes his way
towards the light. He doesn’t recognize the voice (but at the same time he
does) and as he’s not the lightest stepper, he accidentally wakes up his younger
“Love you, Dad.” She says, without opening her eyes.
“Love you too, honey.” He turns off the light.
What is in that room?
He wakes up in the basement again. The sickly green walls greet him,
the doors mock him and he’s even beginning to pick up a smell to the place. It isn’t
a pleasant smell, somewhere between rot and sweat. He is growing tired of this
dream, but also growing accustomed to it. He follows the path he’s become too
familiar with, but this time pauses shortly before the final turn into the red hallway.
He wonders if one of these doors leads to a way out. He pulls on one knob, it
feels sticky and wet, locked. He moves onto the next one, also locked. The
third door is locked as well but jiggles more than the other two. He gives this
one a good tug, the wood holding it shut breaks loose and a body wrapped in
plastic falls out and onto him. He screams, but the sound is absorbed by the
walls. He pushes the body off and screams again when he recognizes the
plastic-covered face as his own. Elizabeth’s voice appears and echoes around
the basement, she sounds concerned and calls out for him over and over again.
He answers every time, but his calls refuse to penetrate the walls of the
basement. She doesn’t hear him and continues to call for him. He runs
frantically down the hallway trying each door as he passes them, but none of
them open. He notices that the last door
before the red hallway is distinctively different than the rest. He stops
running and stares at this one, noticing scratches running down it. There are a
half dozen locks on this door, and a crude drawing towards the bottom.
He puts his hand up to touch the scratches as Elizabeth continues calling for
him, she sounds like she’s weeping now. His heart almost stops when he realizes
the scratches match up with his fingers. Elizabeth cries out again, wondering
what he’s done. He screams again, and again his scream hits the walls and falls
dead to the floor. He follows it down and begins to weep, holding his head in
his hands. From this angle he recognizes the drawing on the door: it is a rough
outline of his house.
He wakes up in his recliner while a Real Housewives of Wherever
episode plays in the background. Elizabeth is sitting on the couch staring at
the TV but not actually watching it. He calls out to her but it is ignored. He
wonders what he’s done to piss her off this time and gets up to go work in the
garage on one of his projects. He hollers for Mark to come and join him and
gets no response. He figures he must be out with his friends or playing a video
game or something and pays no mind to it. He enters the garage but can’t
remember what it was he was working on last, his pile of projects looms over
him like a thousand-year-old tree. It seems like too much to ever finish, too
much to even start; he wonders why he keeps adding to it. There is a picture
hanging up above his workbench of his youngest. He was the son he and Elizabeth
didn’t think they’d have. They thought they were done after the first three,
but God had other plans and ten years after their third child was born, along
He chooses to ignore the voice (so, so familiar…he can almost place
it) and realizes that he misses Michael, but he can’t pinpoint why. The
garage suddenly feels like a prison; the windows cease to exist, and the walls
feel closer than they did a minute ago. He wants nothing more than to escape
this room and—
Come in here, there’s no walls in here.
He screams for someone, anyone to hear him. He can’t even hear
himself scream and—
I hear you.
The voice is getting louder and harder to ignore. He runs to the
door and nearly rips it from the hinges as he makes his escape from the garage,
once back inside the house he sees that Elizabeth hasn’t moved an inch and the
house feels cold, feels empty.
He can relate.
It’s not empty in here. Come in. (he sounds almost desperate)
Who. The. Fuck. Is. That? (it’ll come to you)
He looks around the house for the children but all he finds are
notes that they’ve left and will be back later. He tries to call his one of his
friends, but it goes to voicemail. He feels something in the pit of his
stomach, some feeling that has been nagging him for a while but hasn’t fully
revealed itself yet. There is a plate sitting in front of his seat at the
dinner table and as he sits down he realizes what the feeling in his stomach is.
He starts to look forward to bedtime.
He wakes up in the basement again. It’s starting to feel like he’s
been having this dream for his entire life. He knows the layout by now, there
is no need to rush so he takes his time walking through the first hallway,
checking it out in detail. This section has a number of doors that are either
missing or half open, but none of them lead anywhere (there) and he
realizes these are storage rooms. He looks in as he walks by, the first one is
full of random children’s toys. Nothing recent, they appear to be all from the
mid to late eighties. The next open door has light coming out of it and he
feels a tinge of excitement until he looks inside; a movie is playing, one of
those grainy Super 8 films. He recognizes it as a Christmas from his childhood.
More specifically: a Christmas Eve. They were at his mother’s house in the
film, his family. He watches the film and sees his children opening presents
and laughing and thanking whoever gave them that one. God, how he missed them.
He feels a tingle at the back of his neck and turns around to find nothing
there. A faint laughter begins at the end of this hallway and echoes its way
Get over here.
The voice. The laughter grows louder and is joined by a guttural
sound as if the source was starting to choke on something.
Come on, I don’t have all night. (we’ve been doing
This is new, he’s never laughed before. The laughter grows in
volume and it—
Laugh, choke. Laugh, choke. Laugh, choke. Choke, choke, choke.
Laugh, laugh, laugh. What’s so goddamn funny? Come into the goddamn room.
YOU NEED TO COME IN.
—was almost deafening now; he screams for it to stop but his mouth
produce sound now. He thrashes around, kicking everything he sees, hoping (but
knowing) something (none of these) ends up being the source of the laughter
(good luck with that).
Suddenly everything goes silent. He realizes he is drenched in
sweat and starts to run towards the first corner. He’s thankful that the
laughter has gone away, but that fades quickly when he realizes that his
footsteps don’t make a sound either. He turns the corner and stops immediately
as he sees Joanna at the end of the hallway in chains, violently shaking and
Only there is no sound.
He screams (silently) that he is coming to save her and runs as
fast as he can. He sees a shadow creeping in from the third hallway, something
is coming. He runs and runs, as fast as he can, but doesn’t seem to be making
any progress; it’s as if he’s running on a treadmill, but without the
mechanical whir. She’s crying now, and blood is running down her arms from the
struggling against her chains. He yells silently again, he’s coming. Hold on.
He’ll be there. His lungs burn as he keeps running and failing to reach her,
and he watches helplessly as five dark fingers envelope her and her face
contorts in pain. Tears stream down his face as he watches his little girl
ripped apart by the shadow of claws. Suddenly he’s able to make progress
towards her but with each step the shadow rips another piece away.
He finally reaches her just as the last piece of Joanna is taken by
the shadow. He reaches out to grab what’s left and slips on the viscera left
behind, and sound comes rushing back as he slams into the wall behind her. He
falls to his knees, overwhelmed by the sound of fluorescent buzz and the
beating of his heart. He looks up to see the source, the shadow, a dark figure,
eating chunks of his daughter but the hallway is too dark to get a good look at
it. He can’t tell how much of her is left; the floors are painted the same
color as the walls. It’s all red.
As he loses consciousness a familiar sound taunts him: the voice is
chuckling, and he can’t wait to see him.
He wakes up in his house again, this time back in his bed. He gets
up and leaves his bedroom to find his family screaming at each other. The sound
is deafening. The furniture is all missing from the house, so their voices
reverberate around the house and he can’t even tell who is saying what.
Something feels off here, but he can’t place what it is. Someone is missing. Joanna.
How could he have (RIPPED) forgotten about her (APART)? His wife sits
cross-legged on the ground as the children go about things seemingly unaware of
her. One kicks the wall while yelling something, another walks aimlessly around
the room staring at the ground and the third has their hands reaching towards
the sky. He cannot hear what they are saying and can’t tell who is doing what,
just that they are there and no one sees him and no one is happy, this is not
how happy people act.
Are they crying? He can’t tell. He feels like he should care if
they are crying.
Everything is out of focus and he feels the tingling on the back of
his neck again. He turns around to see the dark figure from the basement in his
house, arms open, beckoning him. He turns back to his family, wishing he could
go to them. A phrase begins to become clear in the cacophony, repeating over
and over again.
He turns back to the figure. A low rumbling comes from it, a
rumbling that begins to sound like words, words that are also repeating.
Oh, it’s you. There you are.
He wakes up in the basement, surprise, surprise. He’s not doing
No. No. No. No. No. No.
This is exhausting.
Yes it is.
You’re not getting me.
Yes, I am.
(RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIPPED APART. REMEMBER THAT?)
He wakes up at home.
Is it home?
The house is mostly empty. Other than the dinner table, there is
nothing but ashes now. Ashes, or snow. He decides it doesn’t matter as he takes
his seat and stares at the dinner plate left out for him. It’s empty. (that
It’s snowing inside the house. But, if it’s ashes, do you say
“ashing?” He decides that doesn’t really matter, either. Ashes or snow, it’s
cold in here and he’s alone with an empty plate for dinner.
Alone. He can’t figure out if he’s happy about that or not.
She was ripped apart because of you.
Imagine what happened to the other ones. (I’d rather not)
He notices something on the plate. Something red. A tiny dot, which
quickly grows in size. Then another. And another. Something red is dropping
onto the plate. Nothing but snow/ash is falling and yet drops are landing on
the plate and picking up speed at an alarming rate.
He knows what this is. The real question is where is it coming
from, but as soon as he asks he loses control of his body and his head
slams into his dinner, breaking the plate.
Such a shame, that plate was a wedding present.
He wakes up back in the basement again, though unlike the previous
times he is already in the red hallway. He turns to his left to go back to the other
hallways but finds a wall. There is now only one. This isn’t the only thing
that’s different, the lights are brighter this time around, he can see the
entire hallway. It’s definitely red.
The walls are red. The ceiling is red. The floor is red, though the
floor is a darker shade. The doors are all gone. There is just the hallway, now.
And the room.
The hallway is illuminated, up until the doorway to the room at the
He knows who is in that room. There’s no tingle on the back of his
neck this time. No one is watching him anymore. Or, rather, they are…but from
the room. From in front of him now.
He takes a step forward.
Elizabeth’s voice begins to echo around the hallway. She is telling
someone about him. He wasn’t sure who, and her voice keeps cutting out. The
echoes come quickly and repeatedly, which makes it even harder to understand
what she was saying.
He takes another step forward and the echoes stop; her voice became
clear as day.
I miss him.
He pauses. What was he doing?
He takes another step forward and one of his son’s voice begins to
echo around the hallway.
I need you, Daddy. (me?)
He stops. It’s too bright in here. Too RED. The red feels like it’s
burning his skin. His son screams and the sound is abruptly torn away. (was
It’s cold out there. Come in, please. (I’m tired)
He takes another step. (I think that was Michael, it’s so hard to
I can’t do this without you, Dad. (You don’t need me)
This time it’s his daughter. He has trouble placing which one until
he sees the stain on the floor. He is overcome with sadness as visions of her (BEING
RIPPED APART) floods his mind.
Or was that Riley? (it’s so hard to tell)
You won’t have to think about that in here. Come in. Hurry.
He takes another step forward and it feels like he’s caught fire.
The darkness at the end of the hallway is practically pulling him in now, he
takes another three steps forward. He is close.
Come home. (I thought I was)
He falls onto one knee, as if he were genuflecting.
He looks up to see the dark room, he was only a step or two away
All that was left was the room, there was nowhere else to go. The
echoes of his family’s voices begin to fade, they were behind him now. He looks
at the doorway to the room, the darkness inviting him to join it; he feels the
relief coming out of it in waves. It’s blissful, it feels like relief, like
Like the first time he kissed Elizabeth.
Come home. (I am)
He stands up. (am I?)
Come home. (she is my home, they are my home, why aren’t I home?)
He takes another step forward.
Yes, yes, you’re almost here. You’re going to love it in here.
He takes a look behind him before he enters the room. The hallway
is still there, but something has changed. (I don’t know where home is anymore)
What is different?
Come in. You have to.
There’s something at the other end of the hallway.
Don’t kid yourself. You’re going to enter this room whether you
like it or not.
He knows this. What is at the other end of the hallway? It looks
Come on. You belong in here with me.
Come home, please.
Yes, that’s it. That’s what it is.
Enough. It’s time to join me.
He takes another step.
Todd M. Guerra is a longtime writer who will
take this thing
seriously one of these days. He is, as Doctor Octopus once described Peter
Parker, 'brilliant, but lazy.' He lives in Dayton, Ohio with his wife, children
and way too many pets.