I woke in a grey room with grey flooring and a grey ceiling. There was a table to my side and a porthole in front, which I looked out of, and saw a vast expanse of blue-black with an occasional white, slowly moving and wispy. Beyond the translucence, I could make out ruins of cities. It took me a while to comprehend. I was on an airship flying high above the clouds. As soon as the realization dawned, I felt sickness in my stomach, and I laid down again amidst the crumpled sheet on the uncomfortable bed.
This was when he came, the man with no features. His demeanor was calm and gentlemanly; his nose, or at least the flatness of the face where his nose should have been, was definitely upturned, I’d have mistaken him for a butler.
“Go find a room for yourself!” he commanded.
It took me another confused moment to analyze the situation. Then dazed, I ran for my life, out of the room, out from the door, slamming it shut behind me. It made a dull thud and I found myself standing in a seemingly endless hall, with two rows on either side, all with identical grey doors with nameplates hanging on them. One by one, lights switched themselves on before me, first near and then far so that the furthest ones blended into the grey of the background. I couldn’t read the names – they all seemed be etched in eerie squiggly curves, and I was deathly scared of no-face following me, so I just darted into one. And then, I bumped into her. Thankfully, she looked just as she had looked always. She looked up from the book she was reading, folding the page to follow it later, and her fingers unknotted themselves from her hair.
“Do you want something to eat? I made you something.”
My tongue seemed to be momentarily paralysed, and before I could utter a word, she pointed to the bed.
There were huge red ants crawling all over the room. On the floor, on the ceiling. My hand involuntarily went to the doorknob, but they were there too. Pile upon pile of red ants, all marching around the bed, under it, even on it, marking territory except for a small silhouette, like a living chalk mark from a homicide. I untied my tongue and looked back to ask her: “What in the name of…”
She had disappeared.
Instead on the bed, lay a maggot-infested, barely recognisable, rotting corpse, now home to a civilization of red ants, holding its hands a grey plastic tiffin box, slowly slipping out from its rigor mortis. Ants ate fiercely away at maggots and larvae crawled out, half gnawed and dying, twisting and wriggling through the eye sockets. Ligaments, bone and sinew transformed into one another and then decayed away, and for a moment the carcass seemed strangely alive, as if giving me a wink. One by one, its fingers lost contact with the tiffin box, and as I leapt to catch it, the grey box fell to the ground and shattered into glass pieces. Out came a swarm of flying ants, buzzing and crowding over me, stinging me in a thousand places on my hands. I felt a swelling, throbbing pain and utter horror. I threw myself towards the door as the lights turned to darkness, and the cadaver arose.
I was frozen in mid-air. Everything seemed in stasis, except the ants which were blowing away into clouds of grey smoke. I tried to turn to the door and failed. I couldn’t turn back either. But then, I didn’t have to. I recognised her voice.
“Why did you have to do it? Why did you have to go away? Why? Why, why, why?”
And as I felt her icy touch on the nape of my neck, I kicked and flailed and screamed and twisted and wriggled, until the grey clouds of darkness turned to pitch black, muffling my cries but somehow making hers louder, surrounding us completely and forever.