“Greetings, pilgrim,” said the voice from the darkness. “You have come to this place of your own design. You are not of the faithful, and from this place you shall not depart until you have been washed of your sins.”
Kim closed her eyes, then opened them — there was no difference. All she saw was blackness. She raised her hand and put it to her face, but never saw the hand. The fingers touched her skin, not a blindfold, and found no injuries to her eyes.
She was enveloped in absolute darkness.
“Where am I?” she said, and she put out a hand in the darkness. Her palm struck a cold, unmoving wall before her arm reached its full extension. It made a hollow, echoing sound.
“You are in the world of your own devising,” said the voice. “You came to us claiming you were open. You came to us claiming that you understood. But this was not the truth. You are not of the faithful.”
Kim’s hand traveled along the surface of the wall until it found a corner, then she turned to feel the length of the wall. She stood in the middle of the room, wherever it was, and the room was no larger than half her arm length around her. She found no gaps. If air was getting into the room, she couldn’t tell from where.
“Why are you doing this?”
“You closed yourself to us. You closed your mind before we even began. Now, we isolate you — because that is the way you wished to be treated.”
“You said you would protect me,” she said, pounding on the wall in front of her. “You said you would help me.”
“We cannot help you until you wish to be helped. We asked you to open your heart — your mind. You did not. You built this room yourself, and you designed its operation with each moment you spent among us.”
As the voice choed and faded, it was replaced by another sound. it was a silvery, watery sound like liquid flowing down metal. Kim recoiled as her feet were suddenly hit with something cold and wet. Water — or something else liquid — was flowing into the room. Within seconds, it lapped at her ankles. She opened her mouth, but all that came out was a choked cry.
“We want to help you,” the voice said. “That is what we do. We help. We scrutinize, we analyze, and we interpret, and we find what’s wrong in your life, and then we help you get past it.”
“Please,” Kim whimpered, “let me out. I swear, I’ll do whatever you want.”
“Tell us why.”
“Because if you don’t let me out, I’ll drown!”
“No, not that,” said the voice. “Why are you here?”
“Because you put me in here, you sick freaks!” the water had reached her knees now, and it was still growing deeper.
“Not this room,” said the voice. “Tell us why you are here.”
Kim could feel tears stinging her eyes. “I came here to get help,” she said. “I came here because you said you would help me.”
“This is not why.”
“It is. It’s the only reason why. Because you said you would help.”
“And yet you are here.” The voice was not angry, not indignant — it was cool and calm and collected, even as the water reached to Kim’s stomach. “You walled yourself off from us, and now you are here. If you wanted our help, then you would have accepted us with an open heart and open mind.”
“Please,” said Kim, “just let me out. Let me out. I don’t want to die.”
“Then tell us why.”
“I’ve already told you.”
“You haven’t told us yet. You haven’t even told yourself yet.”
Kim sobbed quietly. The water crept higher and higher. She raised her hand above her head to see how far she had above her. The roof of the room was only inches above her head, and the water was up to her neck.
“Tell us why,” said the voice. “Tell us why you are here, and we can get you out of there.”
“I don’t know,” Kim sobbed. “I don’t know why I’m here.”
“Tell us why.”
She sputtered and gasped.
“I don’t know,” she said again, “I don’t know. You tell me. Just tell me why I’m here. Whatever you say — that’s why I am here.”
Silence answered her, and then came a sound — the sound of water draining.
“That,” said the voice from the darkness, “is a good start.”