It started as dreams usually do, with a blank empty space that turned itself into something I recognized. Nothing actually changed, but it was like I just knew it was different. It was something I remembered. There were people there, as well. People that once again I knew, but they were faceless and detailess, but I knew them all the same. They weren't doing anything, but they were just there, not watching me, just existing in the same space. They were just passerbys, and I don't know if I was supposed to be afraid of them, but I wasn't. Why would I be afraid of people I don't know? Even dream-people for that question.
The room began to take on qualities that made it into the thing that I knew. And those qualities were extremely, gods, what was the word... quiet? almost unnoticeable? But they were still the ones I remember. Metal walls, metal floors, rounded curves for the edges. A large open space. A little podium console in the center. It's the Danger Room, but it's inactive, and I'm not afraid of it. Because I'm not going to touch the controls, and it's going to stay a room and nothing else.
I guess one of the faces disagrees with me, because he activates the room with a sense of authority overriding what I want, which is to just leave and get out of there. The room changes into something familar, metal walls switching to sterile, unemotional, and there's another feeling that I have to do this. Not because I want to. Because they're making me do it. One of the faceless people.
This is another moment when I know it's just a dream, where I know nothing is happening really. So I just stand there and watch things, staring straight ahead and absorbing all the details without looking at anything. Dream logic. It doesn't have to be right. I know it's not the same, that it's not real, but there's a familiar feeling in the back of my throat that once again reminds me that this might be the truth of my life, and I was just imagining everything else. That somehow I'd never left the institute that took away a lot more than a year of my life, but I know that this isn't reality. It's the Danger Room. It's a dream.
And the institute that I fear is no longer standing. It's been replaced by another facility, a veteran rehabilitation hospital. I checked a few years back, just so I would know what was there and what wasn't. Just so I would know what if I needed to stay afraid of it. I do, and I still am, but it's not there anymore.
It didn't really matter than it was gone. It doesn't matter. I'm still afraid.
Once I finished thinking about everything, which my dream wanted me to believe was only a few moments, I took a step back, reaching for the shadow that would never leave me since I couldn't feel any others around. My right foot slid into place behind my left, but there was nothing there. Looking down, I can see a dark patch that should have been a shadow, but it's a figment of the Danger Room, something the computer wants me to believe is a shadow, but it's actually just another trick of the light. My foot sinks into hard floor, and it's like I've just noticed my nose is missing. It's always been there, I can feel it constantly, I know that it's there, but I don't have to be thinking about it for it to exist, but suddenly, it's gone.
The shadows are gone. I've just realized that I can't feel them, that I haven't been able to feel them since this all started. Some one just pointed out that my nose is missing from my sight, and I can't seem to process this.
It's easier to understand when the nightmare tries to make itself worse, reminding me that this space I'm in, this memory of that room, has no doors. No windows. No anything. No shadows. Just faceless people who are watching but not.
The solidity of the floor is no comfort at all now. I'd much rather feel the soft comfort of a shadow, like the knowledge that the air exists, but neither shadows nor air are here. The fear that I'd been avoiding before rose fast and hard, without any chance for me to remind myself that it is just a dream, nothing but a dream. It's overwhelming, this fear, and it's almost intensified by the fact that it's a dream, because I can't get out of it until I wake up, and I'm fast asleep right now. I can't get out at all.
The fear was crushing, overpowering, and it made the room begin to close in without anything moving. There was just this feeling of oppression, a feeling that things were getting smaller and smaller until I would soon lose the option to move. I tried to run, but I was just frozen in that one place. My legs wouldn't move. Neither would my mouth, to scream, to shout, to make noise that told someone I was here and I needed help, but I couldn't do it.
I was just frozen here, trapped here.
I woke up then, fading into reality, half-in, half-out. I was mostly asleep then, but I was trying to force myself to forget the dream, calming myself down without thinking about it. There was music in the background, the radio I'd left on earlier, but I didn't remember it, so the noise was just another catalyst. I can't claim to know what I was doing, but whatever it was, like the usual nightmares and fears, trying to dismiss them only made them worse.
And it repeats again.
All at once, the danger room shifted, but the fear remained. I still couldn't teleport, even though I was knee-deep in shadows that I could see. This time, the setting was one a little happier than the last. It was backstage at the haunted house. Plywood and foam models were everywhere. Some of the details were missing, but they didn't need to be there. I knew where I was, and that was all that mattered. There were props all around, racks of costumes standing here and there.
They were old costumes, ones I recognized. Each something I'd been before, each one I could call my own as part of me at one point in time. Apparently the faceless people from before were back, and they'd taken over the costumes, like some bad remake of Poltergeist with a touch of the Exorcist added in for good measure. The radio from earlier must have taken its toll, because they started singing a song I was terribly familiar with. Word perfect. It was a song I knew by heart, but it was also something that I avoided listening to, just because it bothers me. It was rare that something actually bothers me, so I tried to avoid it, but once again I couldn't leave and I was trapped.
But I didn't make them stop. I just stood there, listening, dumbfounded, as they sang. The fear from before was still there, but it was dulled by my confusion about the song, the blade halting it's digging as something else made a wound.
No time for goodbye he said as he faded away
Don't put your life in someone's hands
They're bound to steal it away
Don't hide your mistakes
'Cause they'll find you, burn you, then he said
If you want to get out alive
Hold on for your life-
The song was interrupted with another relapse into consciousness, this time jolting me completely awake with a noise in the hallway. The dull fear I'd been avoiding rose back as reality returned, kicking in instinct and I disappeared. My sanctuary, however temporary, was the Twilight Zone, my middle ground between being trapped and being free. Thankfully, real life kept me away from the one place that I'd truly be trapped in - the Danger Room. The gods knew I wouldn't be caught there again. It'd happened once, but never again.
Waking with fear hadn't given me a chance to catch my breath, and fear and blind need outweighed my desire to go back to the real world. I forced myself to stay in the Twilight Zone until I was kicked out, needing to know that it was there and it wasn't leaving. I reappeared on the floor of my room, gasping for breath as I always did when I spent too much time in the Twilight Zone. The fear was still there, and it hurt more than a lack of air ever could, but at least I could feel the shadows there, even with my eyes closed tight against the world. The shadows were there, and there was no Danger Room to banish them.
It took a long time after that until I'd calmed down to try and go about my day, falling back into the happier me after I'd had time to think to myself, without worrying about what others could hear or see. There wasn't a chance of me being trapped again, so life moved onwards, as it always did. And the Spook everyone knew was back once again.