Gauze Womb

A unfortunate soul awakens to find themselves in a pitch black cell with no recollection of a life before the darkness. Both sensory deprived and malnourished, they discover that sometimes there's salvation to be found in suffering...

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1. One

Dripping water. Shrill metallic scrapes. A dull ringing in my ears. Deafening silence. This has been my soundtrack for an undefined amount of time. Sensory deprivation has plagued me with hallucinations-figments of my own imagination manifesting themselves within the blackened confines of this dismal cavernous hell that has been my dwelling. There is no semblance of memories prior to this blackness; no recollection of the events that have led me here, nor how long ago I arrived. No memory of a life outside of this darkness. No name. No origins. Perpetual darkness, silence, and unrelenting hallucinations prohibit me from making any sort of logical assumptions of where or what my holding may be. Unfathomable fear engulfs me during consciousness at all times. I do not make a sound. I scarcely move, and I dare not attempt to roam from where I have been laying.

The last shred of my sanity allows me to deduce that I've most likely not been here longer than three or four days. My mouth is ungodly dry and my tongue feels like sandpaper. Any longer and I would have succumbed to thirst. Or have I already? Has dehydration taken me in my slumber and this black numbness is merely my soul drifting aimlessly through some sort of void in the afterlife? I wish the latter theory were true. I wish death would have granted me a happy ending, but I'm afraid I can not speak of such pleasantries.

Just as I feel the dark once again transitioning into unconsciousness, I'm abruptly roused from my stupor by a deafening roar of creaking metal. And a light... a blinding light. I fight the burning pain behind my eyes, desperately attempting to regain the focus I've lost in the dark. My eyes still have not adjusted, but I can decipher shapes. Two silhouettes. Both taller than myself and slender. Gray, draped in veils of pure white satin light. They stand before me in the doorway. Motionless. Silent. I plead for answers, for help, but the effects of dehydration have taken my voice. My tongue feels wilted and the words move through my throat like razor blades, escaping only as feeble raspy gasps. I attempt to stand and make a dash towards the door, but lack of sustenance and movement have rendered me too weak. My legs give out from underneath me and I collapse onto the damp floor. Frantically, I spill forth any words I can conjure through the pain in my throat.

"H-help."

"P...lease."

"Where?"

"Who?"

"He-."

My voice fades. I'm answered with silence. Through squinted eyes, still wincing in pain from the light, I glance up again. The silhouettes have turned. Their backs are now towards me, making their way out. I scream with everything that I have left. Nothing but a hoarse moan escapes, unintelligible to any human or being other than myself.

The door slams shut with a force that sends vibrations through the walls and ceiling. Bits of dust and rubble fall from above. A faint sound piques my attention. The sound of metal scraping against metal. I look up again. My eyes still struggle to maintain any sort of focus. A small slot on the door has been slid open. I try once more to scream for help, but my attempts are in vain. A thin ray of fluorescent light pours through the slot on the door, illuminating a small section of the floor in front of me. I grab bits of the fallen ceiling and throw them at the door. A pathetic attempt to draw attention. The door is solid steel, or a similar metal, and the small chunks of rock do nothing but produce a pitiful thud before crumbling to little more than dust as they fall back to the ground. I slouch in defeat, letting the remaining rocks and pebbles slide through my fingers back onto the floor. I stare through blurry eyes at the floor in front of me. My head pounds as my eyes continue to regain clarity, focusing on anything and everything that may be illuminated around me. The floor is a sloppy, aging mixture of concrete and dirt, and it appears damp as though it had just recently rained or there was a leak coming from above or below. The concrete is smeared with a thin layer of wet dirt. Beneath the dirt, the concrete is tarnished with strange green and brown stains and splatters. Though the light seeping through the slot is intense, it illuminates only an isolated region, much like a spotlight on a theater stage. A vast majority of my holding is still obscured by unearthly darkness. As I scan the room for anything else observable in the light, I notice something on the floor, sitting just barely out of the direct ray of light. A metal thermos and a bowl. The gray silhouettes must have placed them there before I shook off my disorientation. My weak frame trembles and my mouth waters as I drag myself towards the thermos, praying that these too aren't hallucinations. I reach an arm out and slide both the bowl and thermos towards me, into the rectangular ray of light bleeding through the door slot. My eyes burn, face warms, and cheeks ache as I smile for the first time in seemingly an eternity. These were not hallucinations.

Water... and food...

I grab the thermos with both hands and uncontrollably chug every single drop of water. The taste is metallic and riddled with hints of mildew, but in this moment of ravenous thirst, I feel as though it could very well appease the Gods themselves. Without a moment's pause for air, I finish off the water. I lick the insides of the container for residual moisture. Holding the thermos above my protruding tongue, I foolishly plead with the universe begging for just one more drop of this heavenly liquid. My debilitating thirst is not yet quenched. It's insatiable. Infuriating. I heave the thermos at the steel door in frustration-in grief-only to have it ricochet back towards me before clinking onto the concrete and rolling into one of the abysmally dark corners of the room. I collapse onto my side and exhale in despair. The ray of light catches my attention again, pushing away the sleep that would have inevitably come had I lay there a moment longer. My eyes are drawn towards the center of the spotlight, focusing onto the bowl-a rusted metal vessel filled to the point of overflow with a strange looking sludge. It was thick and lumpy. Like mashed potatoes and meat in a blender. Without a moment's hesitation I lop it up with my hand into my mouth as fast as humanly possible. I have no interest in finding out what sort of atrocity I'm consuming. I only wish to appease the otherworldly growls in my stomach. My brain focuses on nothing except devouring this sludge. I do not even stop to breathe. I gasp for air and my chest heaves as I catch my breath. I scrape the sides of the bowl with my finger. My stomach roars. Waste none. The bowl-wiped completely clean-falls from my grasp onto the floor, rolling slightly out of the light's reach. Both the bowl and the thermos lay in the dark. My only source of sustenance. Empty. Depleted in the blink of an eye.

A paralyzing chill washes over me. What have I just done? Was I meant to savor this meal? How long would it be before the silhouettes return and grace me with the privilege of more water and sludge? This meal was undoubtedly meant to last. Right? Of course it was! How could I be so foolish? An entire bowl and thermos could be rationed. Any sane individual of sound mind could have turned it into days worth of provisions to keep themselves from falling victim to dehydration and starvation. My mind explodes into a frenzied panic. I grab the rusty bowl and sling it with all of my weakened might at the steel door, screaming until my throat becomes raw and words cease to escape. I can feel my eyes start to burn as I begin to cry, but my dehydrated state allows for no tears. The sounds tear at my throat as I force out one more gravelly plea, both pathetic and futile. I hear a familiar metallic scrape in response. The slot on the door slides shut and the darkness blankets the room again. No more light. No more sound. Disorientation sets in quickly and a numbness takes over. I can no longer see, hear, or feel. I sit alone in isolation with only my thoughts. My own personal abyss. The only signs of my existence on this plane are the smell of musty concrete and the taste of blood in the back of my throat.

-

I can not, if I tried, begin to express how long this malevolent routine has been continuing. I can only assume that it has been days or weeks on end. Perhaps even months. The agony of incessant hunger and thirst has ravaged my mind. I am kept in total darkness. Any concept of time I once had died long ago. I am haunted by hallucinations, both auditory and visual. My only salvation in this hellhole is the singular moment of light when the silhouettes return to serve me my water and sludge.

I can not tell you for certain if this is my second, third, tenth, or even twentieth meal time, but what I can tell you is that this particular time there is more light bleeding through the door slot. At this point in my captivity, my delusional mind struggles to retain coherent thoughts; but, even through my delusions, I've recognized a distinguishable pattern. Now, I have yet to discern whether or not the gray silhouettes are observing me during my feedings, or if the slot is left open to indicate that it is meal time. But, for one reason or another, the door slot remains open only for the duration of my feeding. Never longer. I fight the urge to devour my sludge as I routinely do. As methodically as possible, maintaining caution to avoid rousing the suspicion of my potential observers, I savor my sludge and water, using these moments to allow my eyes to adjust to the increased illumination.

More meticulous than ever, I scan my surroundings once again. The walls to my left and right, as well as the ceiling above, are still completely shrouded in blackness. The newly revealed inches of flooring reveal little more than the same green and brown staining that I've noticed time and time again. I glance behind me. My eyes ache as they struggle to adjust to the constant varying of light. The wall to my rear is significantly closer in proximity than the walls to my left, right, and forward. The light from the door slot is weak, but strong enough to dimly light the wall behind me. The wall is built from ancient stones of some sort, crudely mortared together and covered in a thick layer of unidentifiable transparent slime. At approximately eye level on the stone wall are two metal fixtures, securely bolted an equal distance apart. They appear slightly aged, but not rusted. Fastened to these fixtures are fortified metal chains that drape down to the floor. The chains glisten slightly in the dim light. They are without question newer than the fixtures they're fastened to, as though they arrived in this cell not much earlier than myself. My eyes start at the fixtures, following the chains down to the floor, tracing their path as they make their way towards... myself. My stomach drops. I am nauseous as horror engulfs my entire being. I stare at the chains. At the end is a metal brace clamped tightly around my torso. I am tethered to the stone wall behind me, and I am certain I have been this entire time. How had I not noticed it? Obviously I could not have seen the fixtures and chains through the darkness, but how hadn't I felt the cold steel against my skin? Could disorientation truly numb you that much?

My tortured mind races. The shrill metallic scrapes have not been figments of my imagination at all. No. They were not hallucinations caused by my brain to counter the deathlike silence. They have been real this entire time. They have been the sound of my own chains dragging against the concrete floor! This entire time I have been worse than just a captive. Worse than even a prisoner. I have been chained up in darkness like some sort of subhuman abomination. My mind continues to race. One emotion after another. Horror. Shock. Disgust. And then rage. Unbridled rage. I feel my face burn. My chest is on fire. My entire body shakes as fury spills from every fiber of my being. I feel my chapped lips and dry skin split and begin to bleed as my face twists in anger; screaming as I claw at the metal around my torso and yanking at my chains as if my frail, malnourished frame could somehow rip the fastened metal from the stone wall. My voice cracks and fades as I scream myself hoarse. My palms begin to bleed, torn apart by sharp bits of metal on the chains. Overexertion gives way to exhaustion and I collapse back onto the floor, winded and defeated. I lay motionless in the ray of light next to my unfinished bowl of sludge and thermos of water until finally the door slot slams shut and I'm once again thrust into the black. I let unconsciousness take over without fight, hoping that perhaps this will be the last slumber and I'll be free from this Hell.

-

Consciousness is a fleeting entity and it's becoming harder and harder to discern the malignant hallucinations from nightmares as my tormented mind can no longer differentiate between being awake and asleep. I no longer sit up, nor do I attempt to use the light from the door slot to identify my surroundings. It no longer matters. The only coherent thought I find myself having anymore is a question. Do I continue to eat and drink, or do I let malnourishment take me away from this Hell? My contemplation of surrendering to Death is interrupted by the infernal groaning of the steel door being opened by my silhouetted keepers. My weary eyes squint in the direction of the doorway. I am lying on my back, the door behind me, upside down in my vision. The silhouettes were in their usual position in the doorway. Silent and motionless-like sentries. And though my eyes are still blurry, I could notice a peculiar and startling difference. They had grown not so subtly both in height and build. They were gargantuan. Twice the size as the usual silhouettes. These were not the same beings. No, these were not the usual deliverers at all. And I do not think that they have come to serve.

I attempt to communicate with these new figures, but my voice is just a distant memory. One that I, myself, can barely recall. I let out an indecipherable string of noises and grunts and I am again answered with silence. Though I am too weak to stand, I raise my arms and motion towards them, hoping that my feeble movements will be interpreted as a signal for help. Silence. Stillness... but only for a moment. The towering gray silhouettes break their statuesque posture to move out of the doorway... toward me.

My eyes widen as I continue to grunt and flail, flopping around on the damp concrete like a wounded fish out of water. I see the silhouettes take position next to me. One on each side. The familiar sound of metallic scraping once again fills my cell. Louder. Faster. Until... CLANG. The metal brace around my torso now lay on the floor in two pieces, kicked aside by the silhouettes. I attempt to lift my head, but I had not finished my sludge and water during my last meal time and I have grown noticeably weaker as a result. My movements are limited and I am exhausted. I fight to maintain consciousness as the silhouettes remain in their positions next to me, one on each side still. I feel a strange sensation. A lightness. A weightlessness. Like a feather falling from the sky, gently swaying to and fro. I glance over. And then down. The floor grows further away. Inch by inch. Foot by foot. The silhouettes are lifting me off of the ground. I can see their arms underneath me on each side, but I can not feel the physical sensation of their limbs against mine. Have I died? Have some sort of angelic beings come from beyond to escort me to the other side? Is this finally over? My panic fades. I give into the weight of my eyelids and let them shut. The questions in my mind subside. I am at peace.

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