Must Never Find Out.
The computer screen was blank apart from the word 'HELLO' in green
text in the top left-hand corner. The green
cursor blinked below it, waiting for a response. It was the first thing
John saw when he opened his eyes. He shot
up from the bed, wide awake as he saw the wall behind it, then the room around him. He didn't recognise any of it. He was sitting on a bed that wasn't his in a room he didn't know. He called out, but nobody answered. His voice echoed for a moment, then there was only the static humming
from the strip light overhead. He panicked,
eyes darting between the bare concrete walls with no windows and the two wooden doors,
one near the bed and the other further along the long wall of the rectangular
room. The door farthest away was sealed by
a rusted iron bolt on his side and the other had a rusted iron keyhole. They
looked old. The keyhole was much larger than any keys
that were made nowadays, and the lock was fastened on by thick square bolts.
The computer was still
waiting on the desk near the bed. John took
a moment to compose himself, then got up and walked over, keeping watch out the corner
of his eye for signs of movement. A thin layer of grey dust covered
the keyboard and before he touched any of the keys, he looked around the room
Nothing. Not even a camera.
The green cursor on the
monitor flickered, counting each second that he wasn't typing. It was the closest
thing to keeping time in there. No clock. No windows.
No sun. No time.
Where am I? He
typed with one finger.
A few seconds passed before a reply came.
THAT'S NOT IMPORTANT
Who are you?
THAT'S NOT IMPORTANT
How did I get here?
WE DON'T KNOW
is this place?
WE DON'T KNOW
getting frustrated, looked around at the empty room
again. The air was cold and smelled of undisturbed
dust and damp. He wrapped his arms around
himself as he shivered.
John continued typing: Let me out
YOU REALLY OUGHT TO ASK ABOUT WHAT'S
IN THE NEXT ROOM
John read the message a few times
before looking at the bolted door. He never
noticed a moment ago, but there was a rectangular slider covering a peephole.
The green cursor blinked, waiting for him to ask. Instead, John edged towards the door. What was so special
about the room on the other side? It seemed
more important to the computer than he was.
bolt was roughened by its rust coating. Underneath
it, John could make out tiny markings carved into the metal. Lines and shapes like runes.
They made him uneasy about touching it. There
were no scrape marks in the rust. The bolt
had been there for some time, and perhaps had been closed all that time for a
Nerves took hold of him. He stepped to the side of the door and with his
eyes closed, pulled back the slider.
was a sigh of stale air as he uncovered the adjacent
room. John stood back from the door and looked
through the peephole. He didn't understand. He went right up to the door and looked deeper,
but the other side was just as bare as this one. Same shape,
same size, same dimensions. Aside from the lack of the bed, or the
computer desk, the room was empty.
“What the hell?” He said to himself, a little calmer for looking. His voice echoed around the room longer than he expected, speaking
back to him. He went back to the computer.
Nothing in there. He typed.
A minute passed.
THEN IT'S ALREADY TOO LATE.
WE'RE SO SORRY
John shivered as the hairs his arms
stood on end. For a moment he stood still, looking between
the blinking green cursor and the open peephole in the door, listening to the drone of
the strip-light. He went back to the peephole. I could just open the door, he thought. Someone's messing with me. But
even so, he couldn't muster it within himself to touch the bolt. He slammed the peephole shut, scolding himself for letting them scare
him and went back to the computer.
WE CAN'T DO THAT
me out now!!!!!
THIS ISN'T GOING TO HELP YOU
is kidnapping you know?
THAT'S NOT IMPORTANT
what is so important?
THAT YOU NEVER LET IT OUT
WE DON'T KNOW
did it come from?
WE DON'T KNOW
does it look like?
WE DON'T KNOW
it a person?
WE'RE NOT SURE
will it do if it gets out?
WE MUST NEVER FIND OUT
screen went blank. The text disappeared. The conversation was over and John was left alone. He sat down on the bed, legs crossed, and wrapped
the thin white sheet around himself while he waited for the computer to start up again,
but it never did. The sheet smelled like
dust and other people's sweat and was speckled with patches of mould, but it took the
edge of the cold off. Stopped him shivering.
That door, the one the computer was so afraid of, the
heavy-looking door, he was compelled to look at it. It was older than the other
one. Its white paint was cracking and chipping
off. Dark patches of mould in the corners
and rising damp along the bottom. The bolt
was his to open. He must never let it out,
but what was it? There was nothing there. He'd looked. Just
what had he been made custodian of?
He looked at the door to his right
and presumed, with its large-bore keyhole and cold draught blowing from underneath, that
it must be the way out. But where was the
key? He looked under the bed and behind the
computer, then it twigged.
The bolted door.
peephole was open. John was sure he'd closed
it. Though he couldn't precisely remember
doing it, it was so short an action, he knew, instinctively, that he'd closed it. He went over to the door again and looked
through the peephole. Again, nothing there,
not in any of the corners, not at the sides of the door. Just a cold
draught coming through the hole. He slammed
the peephole shut, telling himself aloud that he'd closed it this time, then went back
to the bed.
There was food on the desk when he opened his eyes. John shot up and pounded on the locked door, calling out to whoever
had brought it in to let him out. Nobody answered. There was just the striplight humming above him. It seemed to have gotten louder.
Had he been asleep? He must have been for someone to come in and
leave it there without him noticing, but he didn't recall ever feeling tired, or dreaming. He felt like he'd only closed his eyes for a few
minutes. At least I know there are people
outside, he thought. He ate the bowl of cereal,
sandwich and drank the whole glass of water in one go, then put the dishes next to the
computer that was still dead.
As he wiped his mouth
on his sleeve he realised that he kept looking towards
the bolted door. Again there was a force
drawing him to it, compelling him to look. The peephole was
open halfway. It was too stiff with rust to have reeled
back when he'd slammed it. Something was
opening it. He tried to look away, even turned
his back to it, but found himself looking over his shoulder, wary, needing to keep an eye
on it. He got up and looked inside.
John slammed it shut immediately and ran to the other door. He hammered it with his fists. “Let
me out. There's something in there. Get me out.”
He said. No response.
He bashed the keyboard, hoping to get someone's attention, but still nothing. He shouted for help until he couldn't speak, then
he collapsed on the floor by the locked door. He closed
his eyes and told himself not to look in again, never look in again, but at the same time
knowing that he would have to. There was
no other option. He had to know.
He touched the rusted metal slider and recoiled his hand
instantly. He knew he shouldn't. He
took a moment to gear himself up, then slid it open.
mass. A shadow in the corner of the room. Thick and heavy.
Tangible. A shape that defied any
definition or form.
said to it. The thing didn't respond or react,
but John was scared to take his eyes off it just in case. It wasn't there before. What was it?
He stood there watching it, trying to figure out a logical explanation until he
needed the bathroom. He closed the peephole
and relieved himself in the farthest corner from the bed, then went back to the door and
continued watching the dark mass. He had to keep watching
it. He had to know. Time passed
and he quickly became tired as the cold and the growing dread he felt beneath his skin
sapped the energy from him. All the while
it never moved. It never changed shape or
size. It was there, but it was nothing.
John closed the shutter and lay down on the bed, but he couldn't sleep. Eventually he dropped off from pure exhaustion, and when he woke he
felt like he'd only got a couple of hours. He
couldn't be sure. Time was immeasurable. The humming was constant.
There was more food when
he woke, and the shadow in the next room was not there. He was surprised to see the shutter was still
closed. Twice now it had opened on its own,
but why not now? He ignored the food and
went straight to the door. There was nothing
in the other room. The walls, the corners were all gone. Only a thick, impenetrable blackness, impossible to see into. Maybe the light bulb's gone, he thought. He touched the cold metal bolt, anxious to open
it and see just what was going on, but soon let go when he remembered the computer's words. He peered into the inky void. Not even the light from the striplight showed anything through the
peephole. The darkness was absolute.
He left the slider open, figuring that if anything changed in
there, he'd know about it straight away. He
slouched on the bed for what could have been hours staring at the small rectangle of darkness
and nothing happened. Not until he closed the peephole
for a moment then opened it up again. The
room was back, lit up, just as it had been before.
The lights weren't broken at all. John
was confused. He didn't understand it until
he saw the shadow again, this time in the opposite corner.
He realised that the inky blackness he'd been staring so close into was that shadow,
pressed up against the door.
John slammed the peephole
shut and ran for the bed. He wrapped the
sheet around himself, shielding himself from the door as he wept meekly for help. He swore he'd never open it again. And he didn't, but when he next looked out from under the sheet it
was open. It was back at the door, and two
ovals of white light stared at him from the darkness surrounding the peephole. As much as John wanted to close the shutter again he daren't go near
it, because the lights-- the eyes, followed him.
As he walked around the room. As he
stared back at them, wondering what thoughts, if any, were going on inside it. As he lay with the sheet over his head,
sobbing and begging to be let out.
The sound it made eclipsed the humming striplight, but John
refused to look from under the sheet. The
flaking remnants of his sanity wouldn't allow it. They were all he had left
now. Besides, he could already see it through the
thin cloth. A crooked, horizontal tear had
formed in it, undulating the sound. Like
static from a dead channel, gargled and choked. Its whole form shuddered
as it struggled to churn it out. A constant
note at first, then it changed. Warped. Altered pitch and rhythm. John covered his ears to block it out, but it didn't help.
Then it started to speak.
Half-formed words from a half-formed mouth, it stuttered and choked out the harsh
vowels. John shouted as loud as he could
for it to shut up, but it continued regardless. He rocked back and
forth trying to tune it out, forcing himself to think of somewhere else. Home, work, with friends. Anywhere but here, wherever here
“John, take the
sheet off your head and talk to me.”
shook his head. He couldn't hear it. He refused to hear it.
“Come on. This is silly. You know
He pulled his knees up
to his chest and made sure the edges of the sheet were
still tucked underneath him.
“John, I just want to talk. What's the harm?”
He edged himself further into the corner, closer to the
walls. His forehead pressed against the cold
“There's no point in being
like this. You look ridiculous.”
matter how hard he pressed his hands over his ears, he
couldn't block it out.
“Come on, at least eat something. That food's been there for a day now. You'll
Please let me go. God,
please, if you're there, please, please help. I
can't take it. Please help me. I don't want to die here.
what are you crying for?”
“I can still see you through
the sheet, you know.”
John said nothing. He
kept the sheet over himself as he shuffled over to the food on the table. It
had gone cold what must have been days ago and hadn't been replaced when he was sleeping,
because he hadn't been sleeping. He was exhausted. The pork tasted bitter and so did the
potatoes. He left the peas.
he turned to go back to the corner, the bottom of the sheet
snagged on the edge of the table, pulling out of his hands. It fell to the floor,
“There you are.
How you doing?”
John scrambled to pick
the sheet up, snapping his eyes shut before he could
see it through the peephole, but it was too late. He already
had. In the corner of his eye when the cloth fell,
he'd seen it. He felt the meat and potatoes
rising back up his throat. He turned to the
nearest corner as the food forced its way out.
“That's because you let it
John said, wiping a dreg of saliva off his lip.
“Just shut up. Get out of my
“That's not nice.
All I want to do is—”
up. Shut up. Shut up. For god sake shut up.”
He was stood in front of the bolted door now, facing it.
“I just want us to be friends.”
don't now anything about me. You're not even
real.” John said.
“Well that's just not true, is it? John, look at me. I am
“You're not me.”
John said. “You're a thing.”
“OK, so then what am I?”
“Didn't your computer friends
John didn't say anything.
He stared at it's face. His face. A perfect imitation, right down to the mole on
his top lip and the hole in his left ear where he once had it pierced. It wore his clothes. It
sounded just like him. It spoke just like him…
“I thought not. Just open
the door and we'll talk.”
John took a step back. It had never mentioned anything about the door before. He shook his head.
John glanced at the computer.
The thing must have seen it, because it sighed and said: “What, and you're
going to believe them? Tell me this, who
are they? What do you really know about them?”
“They said to never let it out.”
“And do you know why? Did
they tell you what I'll do?”
John shook his head.
“Didn't think so. Did
they tell you anything?”
He shook again.
“Did they tell you I have the key for that door over
there?” Its eyes cast toward the locked
door and it held up a large-bore iron key, covered in rust, for John to see. John at once realised why the person on the computer had said there
was nothing they could do. Why they were
sorry. The irony of his situation. To
leave, he would have to let it out.
“But even if you did manage
to get that door open, do you think they'd believe you're you? John, who do you think brought you here?”
Time passed. The humming was constant.
The peas he'd left had furry white
mould growing on them. He was weak and tired. Starving. His tears
had dried up from dehydration.
He tried to think of home and what
it would be like now. Would people be looking for him? Were they worried? Scared?
What would they think happened to him? He
knew he'd never find out the answers, because he knew he was going to die in this room. He was certain of it, but he was also certain
it wasn't going to be slowly.
“You know, even if you did
manage to get out of this room, you'd be sent to a funny-farm. Who'd believe you about all of this?”
It hadn't moved from the peephole since it first spoke his
name. It had been answering his thoughts
for some time now.
He tried to ignore it.
Focused on tying the bedsheet into knots. He thought of something else. Someone else.
missing you something fierce by now. Probably
worried sick, the poor girl. Its not the first time she's been abandoned,
is it?” It said. “Just
open this door and we'll both walk free. Imagine
how relieved she'll be when she sees you home. Well,
at least, something she thinks is you. And
it won't stop there. There's a great big
world out there.”
John turned to the wooden
door. The way the thing looked at him made
him cold inside. Though it was his own face
looking back, the one he'd seen every day in the mirror, he never knew it could look so
John wanted to close the peephole,
but he knew it wouldn't make a difference. It
wouldn't shut it up. It wouldn't let him
sleep. He made sure the knots were secure. One around the chains that held the striplight,
the other around his neck. Then he stood
on the table that he'd dragged into the middle of the room.
The striplight hum was so loud this close to his head. It won't hurt for long, he thought.
what you think.” It said, smirking.
We must never find out.
He'd said the mantra so many times
now it didn't mean a thing. Any resonance it used to have was replaced by
hunger, a yearning for sleep, for silence, sunlight, fresh air. He laughed at
himself for once thinking there might be a logical explanation. It was foolish. Logic
and rationality were just human ideas. The
world and its monsters didn't revolve around us, or our ideas. The thing in the other room was now more like John than he was. He was no longer himself. He was emptiness and desperation. He was nothing.
He tipped the table over with his heel.
A sharp jolt as the striplight took
The room went dark as the light broke. The other room went dark too.
plate smashed on the concrete floor.
bedsheet tore in half and John hit the floor.
the dark he could hear it laughing. It was in his own voice just to mock
him. The damaged light fitting strobed and
lit the room for a fraction of a second, and in that flash, John saw it grinning wider
than humanly possible, its inky black matter showing as its skin split.
It mocked his failed attempt at death on his own terms. His last choice. Now
there was truly nothing left. The laughter hurt him, insulted him, made him
angry at himself, angry at it. He boiled
over, too angry for reason. There was only
one thought left in his head and it was clear: One of them had to die.
felt around the dark until he found a sharp piece of broken
plate. Grabbing it, he got to his feet and
felt his way toward the wooden door.
John slid the bolt open.
The laughter from the other room twisted into the broken static
noise from before it took his voice. It rattled
and choked, getting louder as the wooden door creaked open. John could
see nothing in the pitch black. Then, through the strobes of light he saw
it. Walking towards him, its face twisted
and black, then reshaping into his own face again. Metres away. Another flash. Four
feet. The key was in its hand. The static gargling was so loud now it was so close. Painful, stabbing at his eardrums.
John thrust with the plate shard into the dark and hit nothing.
Then it was on him.
Its hand wrapped around his throat,
crushing it, as it lifted John off the ground. The
choking static increased in pitch, becoming a shrieking, deafening wail. John struggled. He sliced the hand around his throat, his
own hand, and the thing dropped him. John
lunged at it, taking it and himself to the ground. He thrust with the plate
shard again and again, feeling it sink into soft fleshy matter before he was thrown off. He dropped the shard somewhere in the dark. As the striplight flashed three times in
quick succession, John saw the open black wounds. Then they were closing up,
then the holes in the skin and its clothes had joined back together like they'd never happened.
Without waiting, John launched himself
at the thing, reaching for the key in its hand.
They struggled, both had one hand on it.
Both cried out in John' voice. One
toppled over the other, then back the other way.
They punched and scratched each other in the dark, rolling over fragments of plate
and mouldy food. Finally, John managed to
wrestle the key free and scrambled toward the locked door, only to be dragged back by the
ankle, inches away from it. Both John and
the thing yelled for help in the same voice and the same tone of fear and urgency. They spat and cursed at each other. One of them managed to bring a leg up and wedge it into the other's
chest. One thrust and the other was shoved
back. The key clanged to the floor, giving
them the opportunity to grab it and get to their feet.
The key slid into the
door, the lock turned, and the heavy door swung open,
letting in light and a gust of cold air. It was a stone corridor
outside. Light shining at the end.
“No, its not him.
Its the thing. Stop it. You've got to stop it. Please! Let me out!” The John lying on the floor cried as the other John closed the door
and locked it. The John outside ran toward
the light, towards the world outside, so glad to finally be out of that room, while the
other was left alone, locked away, screaming in the dark.
Sam is 30 years old and from England. He
first saw The Thing when he was 10 years old
and has never looked back. It remains his favorite horror movie to date, and
will stand in line for anything John Carpenter-related. One Halloween,
while dressed as Michael Myers, he hung a “dead body” made from old clothes stuffed
with newspapers and wrapped in a bedsheet from a tree. He was nearly
writers are Hemingway, Paul Auster, and Lovecraft.