The neon pink sign flickered overhead. Its buzzing no less perturbing than the placid stray cat by the door. In fact, the sound of its malfunction was comforting. Any sound, for that matter, was comforting. Perhaps there was hope after all.
Welcome to my world. Or, shall I say, what’s left of it. Before this dreary mess, hope wasn’t a preposterous pipe-dream. There was a time where, despite the toil of survival, laughter and cheer prevailed. A time of sound, I call it. Sound of cars whizzing down the highway. Sound of steam hissing from the coffee machine. Sound of trees rustling in the evening breeze. Sound of another – breathing, moving, living. But then they all came to a stop. The world ended – the apocalypse. Sound lost its dominance, as the living that made it drew their last breaths. And the world, as we know it, became silent.
I’ve lived in this quiet – alone – for a while now. There was a time I actually enjoyed it. After the chaos ended, the absence of even the faintest noise was solace. The peace, accompanied with the ringing in my ears, chased the maleficent thoughts away. Alas, it was short-lived. Soon I wanted to hear something – the howling wind, the dripping tap, the heavy footsteps. Soon, I needed it. Unfortunately, there were none. I could make my own to fill the void – to help me keep my sanity – but they weren’t organic. They weren’t real or true. They were contrived. But just before I lost all hope, I heard it – the sliding of paper from under my apartment door. It was deafening in my muted world. Its sound and its black, slanted words, offered to feed my hunger.
So, there I was – under the sign of the dingy massage parlour embracing the buzz. I would’ve continued in my languor, but the creaking of the door broke the spell. As it opened from the inside, I saw my first human. He was a six-foot, clean-shaven man.
‘Are. You. Sure?’ he mouthed. He didn’t speak as though to deprive me further.
“Yes,” I replied.
The man nodded and gestured for me to enter. With hope, I did. Into the forsaken foyer, heavily laden with dust, I went. But inside was noone.
“Where are they?” I asked. “You said there were people.”
Shutting the only exit, the man spared no word and took the lead. I was tempted to ask once more, but I tailed him like a lost puppy instead. When we finally came to a stop, it was before another door. This time, he spoke.
“If you live, you live with us,” he said – repeating the offer on the paper.
“And what must I do to live?” I asked.
“Fight,” he replied.
The man pushed the door open, and a breath-snatching reverb hit me. It was overwhelming. My eardrums thumped. My chest tightened. And I hesitated. In the presence of my heart’s desire, I contemplated.
Ahead was a descending flight of stairs, and at its foot was a room lit in dim neon light. Rising from the unknown were disembodied voices. They shouted my name. And their calls wrapped me around their preternatural fingers. So instead of turning back, where it was bright and familiar, I shuffled down the stairs. Oh, how quickly I regretted it. The moment my feet stepped onto the solid ground, I received a nerve-shocking blow to the jaw. And just as I stumbled backward, a cheer erupted.
Where were the people? Attempting to get my bearings, I found myself in the dark. Despite the light, I could barely grasps my surroundings. Everything was a blur of swirls, alike the sky in a post-impressionist painting. What was happening? Where was I? I knew I had to fight to live – to live with these people – but how, when I couldn’t see?
“I can’t see,” I shouted.
There was no response. The cheering continued as a hand reached for me. To spare myself from another painful punch, I repeated, “I can’t see! Stop! I can’t see!”
To think those words would make a difference proved my naivety. Yet in the oddity of the entire experience, they did. Declaring my weakness, a white light flicked on – blinding me in an instant – as the voices quieted down. And in the return of silence, my eyes adjusted. Where I was, was an empty basement with moulding walls. There was nobody around, not even the man who’d ushered me in. And I was alone, in silence, again. What was going on? Had I lost my mind? I must’ve.
“Hello?” I called. “Is anybody… there?”
No reply. No echo. No ghostly creak. Nothing.
“I can fight now,” I muttered. “I can see now.”
At that moment, I knew the only person I’d be fighting was myself. There was only me in this world. But as long as I could see, I could fight – whatever the fight was.
Pink, apocalypse, and massage were words given by Vincent Lim on Facebook. If you have no idea what this story is about, great! It’s up for interpretation.
Now, it’s your turn. I challenge you to use this same three words and write a piece of your own. But before you do that, leave a comment below with the 3 most random words you can think of. I need your creativity to stir my creativity.
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3 Words, 1 Story © 2017 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)