The Purest Solitude

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
First person narrative of a depressed man's experience with isolation and neglect

Submitted: November 26, 2016

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Submitted: November 26, 2016

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They’ve got me working graveyard again. They know no one ever comes in during these tired hours. They know very well, for that matter, that no one ever comes in at all. There are days where I feel like all of this is borderline unlawful. Unnecessary, at the very least. I’m spending countless hours in this office, and it seems like each one is longer than the last. It gets to the point where I might as well be working on the same assignment for years at a time. How can they do this to me? Not a moment passes that I don’t wonder. This office, this tiny, painfully drab office… It exists separately from the everyday world of human interaction and what have you. I do enjoy being alone from time to time, but this is something worse. This is no way to live, and this is no way to work. But leaving my shift early is something I dare not even dream of. They’re watching me, observing. There’s no cameras, no microphones, so it baffles me to know that they are wise to every action, down to the slightest breath. Sometimes I’m even afraid to think. They hear it, they document it. It’s so unsettling, nerve wracking. The tension only builds with each passing second, there is no limit or meltdown point, just more… And more… And more… Tension. I fear that they… Control me.

I stare blankly forward at the empty, eggshell white wall in front of me. Empty aside from the clock that they’ve never got around to fixing or repairing. The hour and minute hands are stuck forever in place, while the second hand clicks back and forth between the fifty-ninth second marker and the first. Over and over. If the clock were correct, it would be six thirty right now, AM or PM. But the clock is stuck. It’s been stuck from the very first time I laid eyes on it until now, and will continue to be stuck. I can’t be certain of what time it is during the late shifts. There is a window in the office, in the center of the wall to my right, and through it, a darkness so deep that you might guess it was boarded up on the outside, or draped over with a black certain. But no, that is in fact the outside. Tension… I try not to look at the window that often. It is impossible to tell if there is anyone or anything within the darkness through the window. But sometimes, I can feel it. Not all the time. Just… Sometimes. I have looked through the window before, and I know that I had been looking directly into the eyes of a pale, disturbed figure. So close to the window, the figure was, with its askew features touching the glass. Cold breath expelled through its slightly opened mouth, a stain of condensation growing larger with every exhale. So faint, barely perceivable to the mind and not at all to the eyes. I have looked through the window before, the figure’s frozen eyes interlocked with my own. I saw nothing, but can’t say the same for the figure. Its gaze runs deeper than I could ever even imagine. I have looked through the window before, and became so stricken with grief that I began to tremble and tear. I quickly took my eyes off the window and nervously lept out of my chair. I dashed to the door and left the office, and fearfully paced down the dim hallway to the restroom to splash some water on my face. I’d felt my temperature rise rapidly. I began to sweat and itch. My heart pounding visibly through the plain white, collared shirt I have to wear. I  have looked through the window before, and had been overwhelmed by just how empty this place is that surrounds me. The figure was watching me, but I’m not sure that it is here for me at all. I’m just in the way. I dried my face with a paper towel, though that little effort proved meaningless, as the tired and lonely man in the mirror in front of me began to weep.

I try not to think about the window or the figure outside since that day. When I think about the window, I don’t get much work done. And we can’t have that right now, they expect results when they put you on graveyard shift. Results and finished products. On the desk in front of me is a stack of papers probably six inches tall. All are blank. Not empty, but blank. The content holds no significance for me. In fact, I can hardly recognize this as language. But this is my current project. I need to study all of these meaningless reports and return with a summary of it all. I’ll have to think outside the box to do this, to do this for these alien scribbles. I have all night. All day. All night. Tension… There’s no way I can do this. What really do they expect from me? The second hand clicks. Tension…

An ever present feeling of dissatisfaction and neglect has been expanding inside of me. Like a tapeworm, it feeds off of anything positive that might come my way, even the simplest glimpse of joy, a half smile, a good dream. Everything is gone before I’d ever had the chance to really know it. I am left sickly and so painfully insignificant while the tapeworm slowly devours me and my emotions from within. However, there is no tapeworm. I will continue to live for the time being, I am not ill. I will continue to work in this office. I will continue to erode my conscience with this mind numbing project. I will continue to be alone. The days are so I long that I can’t even recall ever interacting with another human being. The office doesn’t exist on any map or atlas. There are no towns or services near. No one comes into the office. There’s nothing for me to be present for. It’s been so long that I’ve even forgotten what it is that I do. I’ve forgotten if I’d ever known a life aside from this. Perhaps worst of all, I’ve forgotten if I was ever a man aside from this.

Tension..

Oh dear God, this tension! I focus my eyes on the stack of papers in front of me, and there it is written… A single word repeated hundreds of times. Thousands. Each page filled with no spaces or punctuation. I feel my heart beginning to race again. I feel my skin beginning to perspire again. And now my eyes are beginning to water, my vision blurring. A cold wind cuts through the suffocating air of the office. The window is open. The outside is as black as ever. The faceless breeze lifts up and carries the stack of papers out the window before subsiding. The tension surrounds the office. Eyes still watering, my muscles and nerves start to behave in a strange way that is out of my control. I drop to the floor face up with lukewarm rivers of tears cascading down my cheeks. My legs are convulsing while my upper body stiffens, and I am overcome with a most unpleasant paralysis. It feels as if my body is caving in on itself. All I can see is a vast and empty white as all the features of my office melt together. All the edges and corners are no longer present. But I also see the clock, minute and hour hands now pointing straight up to twelve. The second hand remains forever clicking back and forth. I cannot control my body at all, and from the clock I cannot look away. Now, amidst this whirlwind of strangeness and discomfort, the door to the office is struck with a quiet yet forceful knock. A single knock. This can’t be, a client after I’d sworn that I’d never see another soul inside this building other than my own? Our very first client, and under these circumstances? The door is struck a second time. I open my mouth to tell the knocker that I am busy and cannot see anyone right now, but my voice would be replaced with an airy, unpronounced hiss. Another knock, no louder or quieter than the others, but no less ominous. The knocks continue, seemingly in sync with the ticks of the clock. I am still glued to the floor, like a small and unsuspecting insect landing on a strip of flypaper. I can only imagine that the insect knows its time is done. There is no escape for the insect. There is no escape for me. The knocks are beginning to grow louder and more intense, while that synchronicity remains. Tick goes the second hand of the clock. Knock goes the other side of the door. My head is still locked in place, and my cheeks continue to drip with tears.. I can move my eyes, the only thing under my control, but the image does not change. The image of the faulty clock and its stuck hands. It is true, the knocks continue in time, and now I can feel hostility from beyond the door. Our only client, our first ever client, knocking louder and louder on my door. And I am held to the floor, crying like a fool. The door is struck now with a rapid succession of five aggressive knocks, and silence would follow. Maybe the client had grown tired of waiting. Perhaps they’ll return some other time, earlier in the day, not during the dreadful graveyard shift.

Convulsions are spreading from my legs to the rest of my body, until I am  flailing and twitching pile of a man, crying on the floor. After just a few seconds of unpleasant spasms, my body returns to that stiff paralysis feeling. I can move my eyes, even shut my eyelids, but the image of the clock remains in the dead center of my field of vision. The ticking of the second hand has ceased. Without it, I am wrapped in a silence even deeper and colder than usual. There is no sound now, no ticks floating through the sterile air of my office. Why can’t I move? What is happening? Tension…

Through this even greater silence comes a faint metallic click. It is not the clock, still stuck now at twelve. It came from the door but was not a knock. With great precision, several more very faint, very hollow clicks resonate from the handle of the door. Slowly, carefully, almost painfully so. Tiny clicks and rattles continue to sounds from the handle. Has our client returned? Can they not wait for another time? The door is locked from the inside. I am always paranoid about locks and doors, even if I know I’m alone. I thought I would always be alone here, but it would appear finally that I am wrong. Once they realize that the door is locked, they should leave for good. I can’t let anyone see me in this state. The door knob was being handled oh so cautiously. The mechanism continued with its clicks and rattles. Click! The sound of the handle being turned all the way down successfully, and the sound of the door unlatching from it’s previous state of shut. The lock had failed, or perhaps I had actually forgotten to lock the door at all. Though all I can see is the clock, I knew that the handle had been turned and was now being held parallel to the frame of the doorway where the mechanism had been shut and locked in place. Held for some time. The door had not yet begun to open. This is the moment when a door shifts from closed to open, all at the will of the one on the other side. But the door remained closed, still. What could be going through the mind of the owner of the hand that currently holds the handle, unlatched? The door will open now only from a small exertion. A meaningful push, and the client and I will be in the same room in seconds flat.  But as the door remains held shut, I can only imagine what is going to happen next. Is our client going to leave me to my work instead? I cannot move and I cannot speak. I’d almost go as far as to say I couldn’t breathe. There is a strong weight upon my chest and each inhalation is difficult and strained. I can only hope they leave, and whatever has struck me down and constricted me to the office floor will pass on. I can only hope to get back to work. Tension… My documents are gone, they’ll surely have me pay for this. I won’t hear the end of it.

And the door remains shut with the handle still turned, able to be pushed open with ease at any given moment.

Tension…

And I remain motionless on the floor. The convulsions and tears have ceased.

Tension…

And the clock, the only thing I have been able to see through this whule ordeal, remains stuck.

Tension…

I have never known a dysphoria as immense as this. The more I attempt to move or speak, the worse it all feels. I feel strange vibrations throughout my body, as if I were electrified.

Click!

Crash.

I slam my face on the desk in front of me. My head resting on my hand had slipped. Startled, I look to the door. The handle is back in place. In front of me, the clock’s hands are as well, pointing to six. I had dozed off. What a strange dream. There was present, a feeling unlike any I’ve ever had before. This job is beginning to get the best of me. My eyes are so heavy, the struggle to keep them open is unbearable. I can’t remember how long it’s been since the start of my shift, and I don’t know how much longer it will be. This damn clock. I think I’m going to have to let someone know that it at least needs to be replaced. The second hand clicks but the time does not change. All the tension that is constantly building within me is only amplified by each glance of the clock. Maybe the clock isn’t busted. Maybe time has come to some kind of loop, and I exist outside of it, able to perceive the one second of the dimension. The last second. The only second. All the while, I am cased within an invisible sanctum, immune to the final, looping second of the regular world. I wonder… What could that mean? Am I somehow protected inside an impossible shell, while the world I’d known for so long is reaching its end? If I am in here, unaffected by time, will I live on, able to witness the approaching eternity, but untouched by any of it? Maybe I’ve passed, unbeknownst to myself, and this is all it is. Just this, and I will continue to watch the same instance, possibly my moment of passing, forever. That is a scary thought, to be deceased and totally unaware of the fact. Though I couldn’t say for certain that it is a scarier thought than that of the impending demise, your death. You can’t avoid it, you don’t know when or where it will happen, but the idea is always with you. No matter your mood at any given moment, deep within, the thought swells. The most brooding and terrible thought any man can have, knowing that it is a guarantee, some day your life will end. You can suppress it as deep as the mind can dig, but it will never leave you. And people wonder how others can develop a crippling, life altering depression. As well, death is an alien concept that no one can grasp. Those who know the secrets of the end, well they can’t tell us anything, can they? Staring blankly forward once again, trying to dig the hole to toss all these thoughts in, at least for now. I need to focus on my job. I still haven’t a clue of the time, it could be close to the dawn, and I haven’t gotten anything done.

If I were dead… And stuck in this shell… This project wouldn’t mean anything. If I were, I’d surely like to know. That could be almost comforting. The brooding thoughts of death would be gone, and I would be here. So this is it? I’d think to myself. Perhaps a little dull, but seemingly painless, not as frightening as one might think. Could I be? The clock continues not to function properly. These documents are nothing to me. It is empty outside, except for… But who could that be? Is everyone else followed by a strange figure as well, when they pass on? Are we not alone in the afterlife? I know the figure means no harm, at least it is not set on causing any. But its very presence shakes me to my core. I have looked through the window before, and while no image had been caught by my eyes, a familiar feeling started to bubble within me. The figure stared back at me, and beside the overwhelming dread that grew before I left the office to go to the restroom, I felt a deep longing. I felt alone, more so than I usually do on the job. Every relationship I’d ever formed in my lifetime came to my mind, all at once. And it was so peculiar to have these thoughts, as work generally erodes anything I think about and any feelings away. Lifeless and so painfully indifferent until the day’s end. This is what overwhelmed me, I have looked through the window before, and within that endless black void, I could see everyone. Everyone I’ve ever loved and cared for. All within the vast emptiness, within that pale, ghastly figure. But they all seemed even more lifeless than myself. That’s when I began to break down. It grew so hot and suffocating in the office and I needed to snap out of it and get back to work. Watching myself in the mirror as my eyes began to moisten. Watching myself break into a very deep fit of weeping. I have looked through the window before, and I could see them all, but I could not reach them. Though I could not see the figure, I imagine its face resembled my own, but overflowing with the images of those we’d loved, now long gone but still haunting our very souls. The morose figure was in more pain than I. It was this that I could not bear. A truly horrid, pale representation of a mortal man, forever plagued with these memories, but unable to ever feel them again. With my eyes fixed on the stack of papers before me, and a ballpoint pen in my right hand, I start to wonder again…

Tension…

The office air is thick with uncertainty, and I know now that I am not going to be able to finish the project. Within that scathing uncertainty is that thought, that thought that I am not even alive anymore, and if it were true, there'd be no point in continuing the project. There’d be no point in anything at all, perhaps that’s not true. It would not be pointless to learn the truth, and to continue on with whatever is to come, finally knowing that I don’t have to ever worry about death again

My heart does continue to beat and my lungs continue to breathe, but at the same time, the clock is frozen. Perpetually six thirty. I’d forgotten about my heart, which had just quickened the pace it’s beating slightly, but noticeable. With each look down to the stack of papers, the content doesn’t change. It is still nothing to me. And the clock… Ticks. After that single second, the hand clicks to the twelve, but immediately back again. If it’s true that I am dead, I wish at least that I could have passed somewhere from this incessant ticking. I wonder, can a dead man go mad? Every second a tick, and my heart rate continues to increase subtly.

I looked to the door. The door that I know I had locked, the door I deliberately make sure to lock first thing after shutting it. The door that horrified my sleeping conscience by staying in a position between open and closed, ready to swing open on a whim. The door that was now unlocked. That could only be done from the inside as the handle on the other side was built without a keyhole. Every day I lock it, and test it, and make sure that there is not a single chance that it could be unlocked from the outside. I had done it earlier. I kept my eyes on the lock the entire way to my desk. I sat down to begin my project knowing one hundred percent that the door was locked. One. Hundred. Percent. And here I am, my heart rate accelerating, so slowly that it was barely noticeable, looking at the handle to the door, the one lock of the door. And it was unlocked. This is not the way I left it. I haven’t left the office at all today,. I hadn’t any cathartic run ins with the lone office window, no need to flee the scene today. I have not even left this chair. Impossible. Surely I have fallen asleep again. Paralysis had not set in though, and it all felt nothing like a dream. With an ever climbing heart rate, I reluctantly turn my attention to the window. Through it the blackness, dark as ever.

“What is it? What are you trying to prove?” I shout. “You just can’t take enough from me, can you?” I point to the clock. “Stop the clicking, please. I have one thing left. My life is empty and alone now. And whether or not it is still with me right now, it does continue. Somewhere. A dead man’s heart doesn’t beat like this. But I can’t do it anymore. It doesn’t feel right anymore. I know you know just where it is. So go one, erase it, anything, please… Anything to silence the ticking.”

My heart does not stop. The clock does not stop. The dawn has not yet come. My project… It is not finished.

Looking back to the door that has been the source of so much terror, the lock is just the way I left it before sitting down. Back to the empty documents. Back to the window. The figure looks on, expressionless. To not see the figure only deepens its presence. Cries and laughter echo in my mind as I hold this gaze, stuck on the figure, as well as it’s was stuck to me.

“I can’t believe you could do this to me.” I said softly with a quiver. This short flurry of emotions, faded away, as did the figure’s gaze. And the clock ticks...Tension…

With my head in my hands, I begin to think. I should just leave. There is something awful growing with each second, and I don’t want it to show itself. Who knows what might happen. I think I should quit the job entirely and drift away into obscurity. Drift away from the figure and its nerve wracking stare. I can leave the office and begin anew. Something within that soul crushing blackness there has to be more. Vision only stretches about five feet from the building when you’re outside. A white light hangs from the roof over the front porch. There is a single step before the ground, cold, gray, and plain. I imagine this is how the surface of the moon might feel. The blackness begins where the light ends and I know nothing beyond that. As I’ve been here so long I’ve forgotten the way. I lose memory of everything when I’m here. I have said it before and will surely say it again, I have no recollection of a life that isn’t this. The office grinds away your imagination as well, and I can’t even paint a picture of of anything but the white walls, the faulty clock, the short hallway, and the plain restroom at its end. Even in the mirror I see a stranger. So lonely he is.

I have not yet begun browsing the documents in front of me, and I’ve decided I won’t at all. I need to leave this place, and whether or not I find a beacon of hope, or a path to the world I’ve forgotten, I will feel better knowing that I had finally searched for it. I will feel better after leaving this job, knowing I am no longer being observed by management or by invisible deities. Anything will be better than this. So I lift up on my pen to write on the top sheet of paper, a farewell to my employers.

I have decided to part ways with the company. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to work for as long as I have, but I cannot take it anymore. It has been so stressful as of late, and I need some time away from it all. My self esteem is at an all time low, and everything is slowly but surely losing all meaning to me. I cannot continue with this project in my current mental state. I am feeling more and more like I am reaching a limit I’d never hoped to be near. I am unsure at the moment if I will return to the office. I am off now to the outside.

Thank you.

That should do the trick well enough. So I leave the note atop the stack on the desk and make for the door. It opens with ease, though it had brought about so much paranoia and grief. Down the hall to the left is the restroom, to the right the front door, the only three doors in the whole place. I shut the office door after hearing the repeated ticks of the clock, hopefully for the last time. After my short journey down the hall, I find myself outside, stepping off the stoop to the moon-like ground. I have never travelled beyond the light, and was in fact very weary, but I feel that this is something that I must do. Slowly I step forward to the very edge of the light. I stop for a moment  at the spot as far as it reaches, directly before the dark. I look behind me to the office then back in front of me. With a sigh, I walk forward. My feet land on a surface that feels the same as the ground you can see, illuminated by the light. The only difference being that you can’t see it. Just a few steps in and I feel like I’ve feel like I’ve walked so much further. I turn to see that office had disappeared. No sight of it anywhere. I was in the black completely.

Is this the world? I wonder if I might stumble upon some new landmark, I wonder how long I’d be walking. I’d been losing my mind in the office, even this empty darkness was a welcome change of scenery. I’m slightly shaken, however, that the figure also dwells within. I pray our paths do not cross. Is there anyone else? I wander through the dark cautiously, trying to make any sense of it. My figure is not obscured by the darkness, so it would seem I am completely alone in a primordial space, not sure if there is ground or sky. All I see is myself. I keep walking.

There is a deep, deep solitude, the likes of which I’ve never known. I feel ever more isolated out here than in the office. The solitude stems from this darkness. I would never know if another soul is near, and that only potentiates this feeling. Knowing that I am outside now, and experiencing no lives aside from my own. If this is life, that is thoroughly depressing. Is it this… Forever? I couldn’t handle it. Maybe I can make it back to the office, although the darkness permits no sense of direction. I can’t be sure if I am walking straight or had turned around.

Tension…

That’s all there is. No point in stopping.

There is a smear in the blackness before me, like the world’s colors are running. It is intimidating. It is not the figure. It is something else. The blur stays ahead of me while I walk. It knows me very well. The company of the blur is disturbing. Where am I going? The blur begins to expand and surround me as I travel. Like a barrier, possibly for protection. Walking along with the blur is bringing about these feelings, the feelings of a mortal man. Feelings that are strangely familiar. The spirits of all I’d ever known assemble the blur. Still in front of me, too far to reach out for it. I am so close, but I will never reach it. The further I go, the further the blur slips away, never in my grasp. I am distant from the blur, and my heart begins to race again. Behind me travels the figure, deep. It is following while the blur is leading.

“You did this to me.” I say. “How could you?”

I spot the white light ahead. I’ve done a full circle, it would seem. I’m not as cut out for the outside world as I once thought before. I’m returning to the office.

I make my way to my desk, probably will start the project. The note that I’d wrote on the top sheet is gone. The clock now reads eight thirty. The blur and the figure watch from outside the window. They’ve done this, haven’t they? They’ve put me here. You did this to me. You all did this to me. The souls within the blur, the figure, they don’t know what has become of me. You did this to me. Tears begin to form and I start trembling.

"You did this. You did this! How could you?! How could you have no compassion, to put me here? Do you realize what you’ve done?!” Tears in full blast now and I start to raise my voice, start to scream while my voice cracks through the catharsis. “Dear god! How could you?!” I drop to the floor and hysteria is taking over. “Have you no heart? Please, I beg of you, take me away! Take me back! What have you done?! Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, this is such a horrible thing to do. How could you?! Are you happy with yourself?! ARE YOU?!”

The tension that has been growing is on the floor beside me, like the corpse of my own person, and I am the soul, now separated.

“If I am not dead, please make it so!! I can’t do this! I would rather die than live through the torment you have created, unintentionally or not. End it! Please, please just end it.

The figure mocks me from beyond the window, the blur shows me the companionship I will never again know. I have never cried this hard. Through more and more screaming my voice begins to fade. But I still shout, I shout but cannot hear.

He’s acting out again. Throwing another fit in there. I think we should sedate him to keep him from hurting himself.

“Damn you!” I yell to the tension, the tension that has completely manifested as my own form. “Damn you!!” To the window and the ethereal spectators. “Damn you!!” To myself, to my job. Damn you… To all.

Alright, be careful with him, he could be dangerous right now. Subdue him while I administer the tranquilizer.

“The tension! The pain! The torment and despair! Now you’ve done it. You’ve finally done it. I have nothing. I am nothing. My body has evaporated. I am but a tortured vision, and all I can do is look on. Are you happy?”

Alright keep him still, hold on tight. Let me deliver the shot.

The tension stares at me, unblinking, expressionless, as this pain suddenly subsides.

“How… Could you… How could you do this?” My voice grows weaker and weaker, and I feel nothing of the physical body I’d inhabited.

There we go. He should be fine for a while. The only reason he’s here is to avoid him getting hurt, he really is quite functioning. But these episodes come up every now and then.

I feel nothing. Absolutely nothing. Maybe there is after all, nothing to feel. The tension has vanished but I have not regained form. Still crying, but it begins to wither away.

“I hope you know what you’ve done. I hope you know where you’ve put me and how it’s been killing me. I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone, good or evil, not even you. No one should feel this way. You have more or less ended my life and wiped away my emotions. I hope you know.”

 

Epilogue

 

Two doctors walk down the hall to the padded cell of a patient, and open the door to address him.

“You had quite a scene there. Glad to see you feeling well again. So, it’s visiting hours. Would you like to be notified if you have any guests? Or would you rather opt to have them sent away and leave you be?”

“It’s no bother.” tThe patient says. “I know no one will come anyway.”


© Copyright 2017 charmicarmicat. All rights reserved.

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