A Darkness There Too

Short Story: Horror

“Are you sure you want to go through with this, Richard?” Despite her words, there is no worry in Cora’s face. She’s fighting to keep her excitement down, but it sparkles in her eyes. The question is only a matter of politeness.

“Perfectly sure,” I say. “Who better to be hypnotized for this than a hypnotist?”
Two others are with us: Dr Sandy Barrett, who is now plastering me with sticky electrodes and checking my blood pressure; and Samson, one of Cora’s students, and the one who found the study that brought us here.

Barrett looks up from the pressure cuff on my arm. “You know what supposedly happened to the others who went this deep.”

“Oh I know. I know Cora will pull me out in time.” I tip Cora a wink, and she flushes. But the flush is more likely from giddiness for the experiment than for me. Ah well, I can dream anyway.

“In any case,” Cora says, “the study was so poorly documented. The subjects may well have had underlying psychological issues that surfaced with the technique.”

“And I’ve got none of those, so far as I know.” I’ve read the article Samson had scrounged up, and the contents are comical. A technique not heard of outside this story from the 1800’s, a technique to go deeper inside the mind than previously possible, or possible since. But all of the subjects hypnotized had ended the session a vegetable or a raving lunatic, screaming gibberish and bashing themselves against the walls of their hospital rooms. None of them had been able to voice their experience intelligibly.

Am I afraid? Hardly. The study was poorly documented save for the technique, which only makes the article more suspect. No, I’m not afraid. Only a fool. So what if others had been driven to insanity by this process? I was already insane for Cora.

“If it even happened at all,” Barrett breaks in on my thoughts.

“Of course it happened,” Samson says, indignant at the suggestion. The college kid is a hefty Norse; he would have made a good viking back in the day. It makes me wonder why he’s going into psychology. “The hypnotism script was very specific.”

“As is a lot of fiction,” Barrett says. As Sampson puffs up his chest to respond, she quickly adds “Just a theory, is all I’m stating. It could well have happened, or not have happened at all.”

“We’ll find out soon enough,” Cora says. “Do you have everything ready, Dr. Barrett?”

“Yes, I’m ready. He’s a perfectly healthy specimen.”

How I would love to see Cora flush at that, but she only nods her head.

“And you, Richard?”

“Been ready. I’m in your hands, Cora.”

“Very well then. Close your eyes.”

I do, blocking off her radiant self from my vision. The glow of the lamps dims as Samson turns them down, and I see only dark gray.

“Listen to my voice,” Cora goes on.

“How could I not?” I say.

Samson storms over from across the room, his giant viking feet stomping on the floorboards, and roars “I thought he was going to take this seriously!”

“He’s right, Richard,” Cora chides me. “We must do this right.”

I hold up my hands, eyes still closed. “Sorry. I’m sorry. I’ll behave.”

Samson huffs, and Cora starts over. “Listen to my voice, and relax your muscles…”

She goes on, the usual induction stuff: relax your fingers, wrists, arms, shoulders, feel the wave of relaxation sweep over you. It’s all stuff I know already, stuff I tell people all the time, but this time Cora is speaking it and I’m entranced. Her voice is like honey poured over me, and I relax easily, willingly slipping into that meditative state. I’d like to be this way forever, with Cora’s voice telling me what to do, what to relax, what to visualize, stairs, mountain, river, whatever, anything, just so long as it was Cora.

“Are you hearing my voice?” she asks.

“Yes,” I murmur. Yes, yes, yes. I’m floating free of my body and there’s only Cora’s voice.

“I want you to feel your mind, embrace your mind. Let it swallow and surround you.”

I do as she tells me. All thoughts of staircases or mountains or sunlit forests fall away and there is only the black blankness of my mind. A void, calm and enveloping.

“Are you there,” she asks, “in your mind? Do you feel it as a place?”

“Yes.” My voice comes from far away, from somewhere else.

“I want you to look down.”

Somehow I understand, and I do look down. There is a blackness there too.

“Go down. Go deeper.”

Something in her voice startles me, but not enough to take me out of my state. I do as she says, lowering myself down, as if into a hole. It’s darker here. Blacker. I’m slightly concerned, but I don’t know why. I have no reason for concern; I’m in Cora’s hands.

“Are you deeper?”

“Yes.” Is that me? From where? My body must be miles away from me, though I’m in it. I’m in my mind. But here inside is miles away.

“Look down.”

I do. But there is nothing, nowhere to go.

“Below you,” I hear, “is an erebus. You must sweep aside the erebus.”

I’m not sure now why I obey these words, lovely as they are, but I do. I lift aside the erebus – it is like a curtain or blanket all around me – and then I see below me is another blackness.

“Go down. Go deeper.”

I don’t want to. There’s something down there. Something I’m not supposed to see or even know about. But I have to listen. Those words know what to do. A part of me still adores and reveres them.

I go. It’s so dark. So black. But there is only me. Surely only me.

“Are you deeper?”

Who says that?

“Yes.”

Who says that?

I wait for the voice to tell me what to do, and I hope she’ll tell me to climb back out of this. But it says

“Look down, and sweep aside the erebus.”

I look down. I grasp at the curtain. I sweep it aside.

“Cora, his heart rate is at extremely high levels.”

Someone makes a loud shushing sound.

I’m looking into the below. It’s so black. How can there be such a darkness?

I hear something, but it’s not the voice. It’s from inside, deep inside. Deep down.

I can’t go down there.

“Go down. Go deeper.”

“I’m frightened,” says a voice for me.

Go.

That voice is no longer honey, no longer wanted. It’s vile and loathsome, and I desperately want to not follow its orders but I can’t do anything against it. The force of it pushes me down, deep into my mind, and I am in the blackness, no blackness greater.

I hear it again. That sound for which I know no description, deep underneath me, deep inside me. I want to scream, but it’s only my mind here. How could I scream? Who would hear me? Could I beg that voice to let me leave?

“Are you deeper?”

“I need to get out.”

“Why?” The loathsome voice trills with excitement.

“Something is here.”

Yes, I plead. Tell it. Let me out.

“What is there?”

“Cora, his levels are off the chart. I think we should – ”

“Not now!”

“Richard, what is there?”

“I don’t know. I don’t…”

“Then look down.”

There’s a moan from far away as I do as it says.

“Sweep aside the erebus.”

I do.

How could I have thought I was in blackness? I didn’t know what black or dark was. Within is such a darkness that I can barely comprehend, and within it, things yet darker still. I can see them move.

“Go down. Go deeper.”

No.

“Then what do you see?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then go down.”

I go.

Somewhere something does scream, and I hear, just before the things cover me, “Come up!”

I rise, up and out, like a gunshot. I wake up screaming, falling to the floor.

“Richard!” The horrible voice collapses beside me, panicked. “Richard, what is it? Did you see?”

I did see. I saw what was in the deepest darkest recess of my mind.

I clutch at my head, nails drilling into my skull.

There are monsters there. They are in me still.

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