escape room

Photo by Anna Shvets on

The first thing Julia noticed about the room was that it didn’t have a door.

Her heart gave a protracted thud, a response to an instinctive, automatic thought: I’m trapped. It left behind a tightness in her chest.

She had woken sitting cross-legged on the floor. Despite her effort, she couldn’t remember how she got there. Her unfamiliar clothes were all white, like the room—a shirt and pants in heavy cotton, similar to painter’s coveralls, but without pockets.

Julia got up and took in the large, empty cube. It seemed, in her estimation, to be about thirty feet in all dimensions. There were no windows, but recessed lighting in the ceiling lit the space well.

The ceiling also had a vent. Julia took a deep breath. The air cooled her nostrils and had no scent, but she couldn’t hear a fan in the echoey space where her breathing was amplified, and her blinking eyelids clicked.

The floor was identical to the walls in colour, seemingly made of concrete, and surprisingly warm. She dragged her bare foot from left to right, leaving a faint trail of sweat on the rough surface.

Julia inspected a wall. It had a papery texture, and was dusty. The dust cradled the ridges of her fingerprints, as fine and soft as pastry flour.

She began to look for seams. It wasn’t long before she came to one, at about eye level, which didn’t run far up the wall, or all the way down. It formed a perfect square. An electrical panel?

Using her fingernails, she dug at the edges. The paper-like covering refused to give way. She pressed until her nails were cracked, bloody, and full of compacted dust—but it wouldn’t budge. She wondered if there was something hidden in the room to pry it open. Searching using the pads of her fingers, she found two more squares, but couldn’t open these, either.

Returning to the floor, she rested her head on her knees and closed her eyes. She reminded herself she was resourceful, and clever.

Maybe it won’t be torture, just a puzzle, she thought. Maybe the pieces…

She returned to the first square. Putting both hands inside, she pressed as hard as she could. The edges spilled dust onto the floor as they moved inward. She pushed until the resistance felt absolute, then released. The square popped back—not flush with the wall—and she was able to get a purchase on it. She pulled the piece out and revealed a small wooden bookshelf.

On the shelf was a watch. It was analog with a brown leather strap, and read 10:45. She put it on, and moved quickly to the next square.

This opened the same way, and inside she found an eye mask. The mask was smooth and silky, and black inside and out. She tied it around her neck with its thick ribbon, which was covered in black embroidery styled like lace. The mask smelled homey, like it had once lived in a drawer with potpourri.

On the last shelf, Julia found a glass jar of thick white paste, which oil had risen to the top of. She replaced the lid and shook it. Dipping in a finger, she found it was cool, and grainy. It smelled acidic, and had a bitter taste which dried out her mouth instantly. As she bit her tongue to salivate, Julia noticed her fingernail had healed.

Julia sat against the wall while she rubbed a small amount of salve into each of her stinging fingers, and was grateful for it.

But what do I do with the mask and watch?

If she was going to be in here long enough to go insane from not knowing the passage of time, long enough to need to sleep, then she would also be in here long enough to need to toilet. The skin on her arms prickled at the repulsive thought.

Wondering if the mask would block enough light for her to be able to sleep in the bright room, Julia raised it to her eyes.

Through the mask, the walls and floor of the room were black, the corners barely defined. But there was something more. On the wall to her right was a glowing message, wispy and waving like a trail of cigarette smoke.


Her stomach turned, and she winced. But there was also something else—nearly as high as the ceiling—a window, tinted dark. Beyond it, she saw herself, talking to someone she didn’t recognize.

“Oh my God, that was horrible. I’m so glad to be out of there!” The other-her chuckled.

The stranger patted her on the shoulder, saying something Julia couldn’t make out, as they walked out of sight.

Julia’s heart rate rose in panic. Her next thought was determined:

I really do not want to crap in this room.

This story is my response to the March 11th prompt, “Describe a scene in vivid, absorbing detail. Reference as many sensory inputs as possible.”

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