Did you ever wish to not feel a thing, to just be numb? I did.
My name’s Katie, I’m in my late twenties and that’s all you need to know about the miserable existence you’d call my life.
Until a few months ago, I was happy. Now, I don’t even know what that feeling is anymore.
First, an unexpected illness struck my father, the only family me’d left. He withered away and died within a month. Soon after, my boyfriend of many years broke up with me.
I think those two events broke something inside of me.
From then on my life comprised nothing more than getting up, eating, going to work, and then back to sleep. It had become nothing but an endless, empty cycle that plunged me into depression.
It wasn’t long before I stopped going to work. I loathed myself to waste it like that, but I knew dad’s life insurance would last for a while.
I spent most of my days at home, alone, and only left the apartment to get food, food that didn’t taste like anything.
Life wasn’t life anymore. It had become nothing but depression, thoughts of suicide, and the medication I took to keep me from going through with it. At least for the time being.
That’s all there was for me. Well, almost all. There was another detail, an insignificant one, I thought at the time.
It was a certain reoccurring dream.
I’d had it every night, ever since I’d fallen into this state of depression. It wasn’t a nightmare. No, it was a strange dream, or better, a dream sequence.
At times I dreamt about my father, at others about my boyfriend. Yet, whatever I dreamt about, each dream ended in the same way.
I’d be standing in front of a figure shrouded in darkness. The only thing I could make out of it was a ghastly white arm and hand. It would hold out an object and always ask the same question:
“What am I holding?”
Not once had I been able to answer. I’d shake my head and say I didn’t know. The figure would say one more thing. It too was always the same:
“It’s a cube, my dear.”
After that, I’d wake up. This dream puzzled me. What was even stranger, I could never picture the object as anything but a large wooden cube. Yet, in the dream itself, I never knew what it was. It was the strangest thing, this dream.
I’d asked myself countless times where the dream came from and what it could mean, but I never found an answer.
About a week ago, as I was sitting at my desk, my thoughts went back to the dream once again.
Soon I’d opened countless websites about reoccurring dreams on the internet. There seemed to be an endless number of them. For hours I read about dreams of being followed, teeth falling out and other, weirder things.
Some people mentioned dreams centered on certain objects, but it was something of importance or meaning to the person. Their first little bike, a favorite toy, or an old photograph for example.
The dream I was having, though, seemed to be different. I owned no wooden cubes or boxes resembling one. Even after looking through old photo albums and the few belongings I’d left of my parents, there was nothing like it.
So, I sat there for long hours, wondering how this dream and the cube in it were connected to me. I cursed. This was driving me mad!
“Just let it go, Katie. Ignore it. It’s probably another side-effect of the damned medication,” I told myself, rubbing my temples.
Even though what was I to do? Wake up every single morning, telling myself not to think about this strange, reoccurring dream? No, by now it had already become a lasting misery that seemed to crawl back into my memory repeatedly.
For a few more minutes I sat there, pondering about it before I got an idea. It was ridiculous, and I laughed to myself, but maybe it would do… something. At least, I thought, it was a way of spending the time.
I took out a sheet of paper and a pencil and went from my desk to the kitchen table. For a few minutes, I just stared at the empty sheet in front of me.
Then I started.
The beginning was a square. Next, I added depth. With this, the rough outlines of the cube were done. After that, I added all the symbols carved into its surfaces. As I drew them they reminded me of ancient nations and long lost civilizations.
It was all so easy, so clear. It was as if a door in my mind had been yanked open and like a blazing light, memories of the dream flooded my mind.
There was no spot, no detail on the cube I didn’t know. My hands were flying over the paper, adding more and more intricate details to it.
Strange symbols that reminded me of ancient hieroglyphs covered one side entirely. Crawling, twisting snakes covered another one.
I don’t know where all those memories came from. I just kept drawing.
Once I was done, the table in front of me was covered in sheets. They showed the various sides of the cube or close-ups of specific details.
Looking at all those drawings, I couldn’t help but shiver. Where had all this come from? How had I remembered all this?
As I sat there, I realized that the sun had long since set. I must’ve been drawing for hours, almost as if I’d been in a trance.
Only then did I realize how exhausted I was, and not even half an hour later I’d dozed off in bed.
My dreams that night were nothing but a foggy mess. Except for the end, of course. Once more I stood in front of the same figure and like so many times it held out the object to me.
This time, though, the answer to its question was clear to me.
“It’s a cube,” I answered.
“Indeed it is, my dear. And now that you’ve realized it, it is yours.”
The fingers of the hand motioned for me to come closer.
“What’s it for,” I asked as I took the first step.
The figure giggled before giving me an answer.
“You will find out when the time comes.”
The hand holding the cube had been right in front of me, only an arm’s length away, yet it didn’t matter how many steps I took, I couldn’t seem to reach it.
“When’s the time?”
The voice of the figure became stern and foreboding as if revealing an old secret or some hidden knowledge.
“When you find it in the real world,” it answered, “at a place that knows neither day nor night.”
And finally, at this moment, my hands reached the cube. Yet, the moment my fingers brushed against its wooden surface, I awoke.
When I got out of bed, I felt dizzy and for a moment the world was spinning around me. It lasted only for a moment though, then euphoria washed over me. The dream, it had changed!
Then I remembered the words of the figure.
‘Find it in the real world.’
What the hell was up with that?
“All right, Katie, calm down, it’s nothing but a stupid dream. A silly thing conjured up by your subconscious.”
As I made myself some coffee though, the words of the figure came back to me again and again.
“Was there… more to this?”
I laughed and shook my head.
“Don’t be stupid, it’s a dream, nothing more.”
‘A place that knows neither day nor night.’
What was that even supposed to be? Stupid brain, giving me riddles like that.
I tried to go on with my day, but it was futile. The figure’s words seemed to reverberate inside my head and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
‘Find it in the real world, at a place that knows neither day nor night.’
What sort of place was that even supposed to be?
Eventually, I decided it might be a good idea to leave my cramped little apartment for a while to get some fresh air. Who knows, maybe being stuck inside all day was the reason for coming up with stupid things like that.
As I stepped outside, I was surprised by how cold it had gotten.
“Guess I missed summer,” I thought to myself before I hurried back inside and put on some warmer clothes.
As I started down the street near my apartment building I saw how the colored leaves on the trees were shaken by a gentle autumn breeze. When I stared at them, I couldn’t help but compare myself to them. Small and shriveled up, soon to be abandoned.
I forced myself to look away and fought back the tears that welled up. I felt anger rising, self-loathing anger.
“Stop being so damn weak,” I cursed at myself and stepped on.
I’d only wanted to take a brief walk, but I somehow walked on without so much as glancing at my surroundings. Minutes became hours and soon I found myself in the western outskirts of the city.
It had once been a flourishing part of town, but in the past decades, it had gone downhill.
I wondered how I’d ended up so far out. It was almost as if my subconscious had led me here.
Then that the memory of the dream pushed back into my mind. It was like when I’d drawn the cube. Maybe going on a walk had once again opened up a door inside my mind?
Old and abandoned buildings lined the street, only a few of which seemed in use still. As my steps led me on, the sun set and darkness descended upon the city. It gave this whole, empty area an eerie atmosphere.
By now I felt almost like a spectator, watching my body move on its own.
Eventually, I stopped in front of a small alleyway and without knowing why, I took the first step inside.
The alley was a place of shades. Night hadn’t reached it yet and never would because of the dim glow of an old street light. The daylight wouldn’t either. The two buildings to either side towered above me. They were leaning so close to one another, they made it impossible for sunlight to reach the bottom of the alley. It had to be a place that was constantly in a state of gloomy twilight.
Daylight never touched it, I thought, yet the darkness of the night never engulfed it. I smiled a bit. It fit the description to the point.
As I continued, I felt the hairs on my body stand up. It felt as if I’d entered a forbidden place.
For a moment I stopped, thought about going back before curiosity drove me on. I’d been told to come to this place, I thought as the gloomy twilight surrounded me.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, I noticed a dim light to my right and when I turned I stood in front of a small store. I stared at it in confusion, wondering where it had come from. Had it been there the entire time?
I couldn’t help but shiver. This was all so weird.
“What kind of place did you end up at, Katie?” I asked myself.
A strange feeling washed over me and for a moment I felt the sensation of being watched. Yet, when I turned around, I saw nothing but the same gloomy twilight. It was almost as if the world I’d come from had been swallowed up it and nothing remained. Nothing but myself and the small store I stood in front of.
I was torn from my thoughts when I heard a sound. A scream escaped my mouth when the door to the small store was pushed open.
I took a step back and waited for someone to leave or to see who’d opened it, but there was no one else around.
For long seconds I stood there, staring at the cracked door ahead of me. Finally, apprehension was overtaken by curiosity and I approached the door. The room I entered was old and musty, filled with nothing but broken furniture. A single candle holder illuminated the room and in its light, I could make out one more thing. It was another door at the opposite end of the store.
The moment I saw it, I recognized the symbol carved into it. It was the very same cube I’d seen in my dreams. There was no mistaking it. This was the place I was sent to find.
But what exactly was this place? Was it some sort of dreamscape? But I was awake, wasn’t I? So how could something like this exist?
The sheer abnormality of the situation became clear to me and with it came confusion, even fear. How had I even found my way to a place like this? I thought back to the strange feeling I’d had during my walk. Had I come here on my own volition, or had I been… lured here?
Quick steps led me back to the entrance door. None of this here made any sense. None of this should even be real.
“Go home Katie, get out of here and go home,” I told myself.
As I reached the door, I heard a voice from behind me.
“Didn’t you come here to get it?”
I froze when I heard the voice and stood there, shivering at the sheer absurdity of it all. It was a voice I knew so well because I’d heard it in every single one of my dreams in the past months.
This was insane. None of this could be real. I must’ve snapped, gone insane because the alternative…
“If you want it, then followed me. There’s no need to be afraid, my dear.”
The tone of the voice was reassuring, friendly even. Finally, I took a deep breath and turned around, afraid of who or what I’d see.
There was nothing though, the figure was nowhere to be seen, and the room was as empty as before. The door with the cube on it, however, stood wide open.
I gasped, but there was only darkness behind it. It was a darkness so thick, it seemed to stream from the room and to swallow up the candle holder’s dim light.
“Run,” every part of my body screamed at me.
“This is wrong! This place is completely and absolutely wrong,” a voice reverberated inside my head as the first step lead me closer to the door.
Closer and closer I inched forward and with each additional step, my insides screamed at me to go back and leave. Yet, I shut them all off, pushed them away as I continued.
A heavy smell wafted through the air. It was like nothing I’d smelled before. It wasn’t repulsive, neither sweet nor sour, it was different. The smell gave you a feeling of another realm or place.
After a short while of staring into the darkness, my eyes had adjusted and I could make out a figure sitting in the center of the room.
The only thing I could see clearly was a ghastly white arm, a hand, and the cube resting on it.
A strange feeling took a hold of me, drew me forward to grab it. My hands were sweaty, my heart rate went up, all in anticipation as I stared at the object.
“How is any of this even possible?” I forced myself to ask.
The figure giggled. “It is possible because of you.”
My mouth opened again. I wanted to ask more questions, but my eyes wandered to the cube.
“What is that cube?”
“It is your cube, my dear.”
Once more I was pulled forward by this strange desire. I wanted to own the cube. It was mine and being so close to it I could barely fight the urge to jump forward and to rip it from the hand it rested on.
“All right, calm down, Katie,” I told myself and took a deep breath.
Then I walked over and reached out for it. My fingers brushed over the edges, testing and probing it, to make sure it was real. Then, in one swift motion, I swept it from the hand it rested on.
My hands closed around it and I clung to it like to a long lost treasure.
“What’s it for?” I asked as I studied the many carvings on it, the euphoria in my voice surprising even me.
Again the figure giggled and for the blink of an eye, I saw something else in the darkness, something strange and twisted.
It was gone in an instant and I didn’t know if it had been a mere trick played on me by my imagination.
“You will find out when the time comes.”
I wanted to know more, wanted to learn about the origins of the cube, but somehow I knew it was wrong to ask any more questions. This place was only to deliver the cube to my hands. What had to be done, was done.
As I turned and began walking towards the door, the figure behind me giggled again. It grew into laughter and out of curiosity, I glanced back.
I wish I hadn’t.
What I’d seen before in the blink of an eye was now fully visible. The real nature of the figure was now visible to me in all its horrendous, abominable glory.
It was a thing that defied reality itself, formless and twisted, an amalgamation of white, pudgy flesh so bloated it seemed ready to burst open. I saw tentacles and claws, eyes on places where they didn’t belong.
The laughter grew louder and louder and seemed to originate from dozens of throats at the same time.
Primal fear washed over me and in sheer and utter terror I rushed from the room and out of the shop.
I don’t know for how long or how far I ran. When I could finally think again, I was a shaking, panting mess. My lung was stinging, my body was sweaty and powerless, and for a moment I almost crashed to the ground.
Once I could move again, I noticed that it had to be late at night already.
For a second the image of the creature crawled back into my mind and my eyes darted here and there, expecting to find it lurking nearby. But now, there was nothing but an empty street.
“Had it all been a dream?” I wondered.
At that moment I noticed that I was holding something. It was the cube. In shock, I almost dropped the precious object before I pressed it against my chest, cradling it like a baby.
“Finally you’re mine,” I said out loud, wondering only for a second where all this happiness was coming from.
The one thing I didn’t know, though, was what it was for.
‘You find out when the time comes.’
The memory of the terrible abomination drove yet another surge of primal fear through my body. I stumbled, froze up, and had to lean against a building when my body started shaking.
A woman passed by and turned around, a worried look on her face.
Only when the shaking had stopped did I realize how weak I was. This entire thing had been too much for me.
I found the nearest bus station and took the bus home. People were staring at me as I clung to the precious cube, but I didn’t mind. No, I didn’t care.
When I arrived in my apartment, I carefully placed the cube on my desk before I slumped down on my bed.
The next day started like every other day. I woke up in bed and for a while, I contemplated to just lay there and never move again.
Then I realized something was different. For the first time in months, I couldn’t recall my dreams. There was no memory of any strange figures and neither of the cube.
At that moment I remembered what had happened. I jumped out of bed and rushed to my desk.
My precious cube was still there. It was astonishing, beautiful, a genuine work of art and for a while, I couldn’t do anything but stare at it. Then I reached out for it. At first, I only touched it delicately, moving my fingers around the edges before I picked it up.
There were so many carvings and symbols on it. It was mesmerizing. I sat there, turning it around and around while I studied each of its sides. When I could finally rip my attention from it, almost an hour had passed.
I went to the kitchen and made myself some coffee. As I waited for it, I noticed all the drawings on the kitchen table. When I compared them to the real cube, I realized they were identical. It was crazy, but what I’d drawn back then was the exact image of the real one resting on my desk.
I told myself again that something was wrong about this. Not only wrong, but somehow dangerous. I knew I should throw the damned thing away.
Yet, whenever I stared at it, I could not do so. I felt drawn to it, treasured it, and all thoughts of letting it go evaporated.
Whenever I touched it though, every fiber in my body seemed to tremble, seemed to cringe back, but I had to. I had to feel the wood, the carvings, the secrets hidden inside of it. Oh, I knew there was so much more to this cube. There was a connection.
‘When the time comes, you will know.’
I kept hearing the word again and again whenever I stared at the cube. My mind was a mess. All my thoughts revolved around this mysterious object and what it was for.
I wasn’t able to do anything that day. Hour after hour passed, studying the cube and searching for any hint of its purpose.
When I put it down again, I realized it was already early evening. As I turned my eyes from the cube for the first time in what must’ve been hours, I realized how drained I felt. I looked at it one last time, fought the urge to pick it up again, and went to bed.
My dreams that night were more vivid than ever before. They were a mess. An oh-so terrible mess of all the sad things that had ever happened to me.
From the death of my first pet when I was no older than six to mom’s accident and dad’s illness up to the break-up with my boyfriend. It was all there in each painful little detail.
I woke up devastated and curled up into a ball. When I stared at my phone, I realized that barely three hours had passed. It wasn’t even midnight yet.
Where had all this come from? Why now? The tears streamed from my eyes and didn’t stop. I could do nothing but lay in bed and cry and cry and cry.
Suddenly I felt something. It was an indescribable feeling. The crying stopped and after a while, I got up and left the bed behind. My steps led me through the room and I knew right away where I was going.
To the cube.
With this strange feeling came knowledge, a revelation. It seemed the right time had come because I knew exactly what I had to do.
With quick steps, I hurried to the kitchen, got all the tools I needed, and put them on the desk right next to the cube.
The procedure wouldn’t be easy, but with the cube, I knew I’d be able to do it.
There was no going back now.
With that, I picked up the first of the many tools and cut deep into my chest.
It was almost morning when I was finished. I picked up the now pulsating cube and carefully put it on a pillow in a drawer. It was a place where it would be safe, at least for the time being. Then I went to clean up all the tools, put them away, and took a shower.
When I was done, I sat down on the couch to take a rest.
I wasn’t sad anymore. All the sadness and helplessness I’d felt for so long were gone. Not only they were gone, but all my feelings were too.
There was nothing anymore. I was empty and devoid of all emotions. An emotionless expression appeared on my face, something that might once have been a smile.
While I was sitting there, the sun was rising. I watched as night changed today and darkness was pushed back by light. The scenery outside was supposed to be beautiful, at least that’s what my memories told me.
Yet, I didn’t feel a thing.
I watched as the golden light of sunrise engulfed the world outside. There was nothing about it. I saw it, but I didn’t feel. Even as tears ran down my cheeks, I didn’t feel a thing.
It was as if my body was reacting to something it remembered, but that wasn’t there anymore. Something that was a part of every human being.
The ability to feel.
I realized what I’d done. What I’d lost. And as the tears kept flowing, I knew I’d lost it forever.