The being pours two glasses without waiting for a reply and hands one to you anyway. The liquid is a thick, dark red.
“I promise it’s not poisoned.” Its smile is the only thing you can see, the rest of it undescribed.
“I…” Your throat is dry. “I’m not really sure how I got here.”
“That’s unimportant.” The being waves its hand. You are uncertain how many it has. “What matters is you’re here now, and you might as well drink.”
Having no other choice, you take a hesitant sip. The wine is heady, like nectar on your tongue, but laced with something bitter. Something ashen.
The being sighs. “Nectar. How unoriginal.”
“What were you expecting?” You set the glass down on the counter. “Hand me something that tastes like nectar, and I’ll say it tastes like nectar.”
A shudder runs down the being’s spine. “Quite.” Its eyes glitter.
“What’s the other taste?” you ask. You can’t get it off your tongue.
“Only you can say.” It gestures and two chairs are sketched in to your left. “Shall we sit?”
It’s as if your body is suddenly given permission to move, or perhaps you didn’t notice you had a body up until now. Your heart hammers in your chest as you sit.
The being crosses its legs and its smile is more pronounced. Teeth hide in its mouth.
“Where am I?” you say.
“Boring!” The being laughs, a harsh sound. “Get to the good questions, please.”
The room—is it a room?—is a stark white, completely featureless. The counter stands a solitary sentinel, two glasses of wine atop it. Only one has been drunk from.
“Why am I here?” A sinking feeling spreads through your gut.
“Because someone chose to write you,” the being says, “and they chose to write you here.”
So that was it. The fact your existence is beyond your control comforts you, somewhat. Nothing you do is of free will; it is all dictated by words on a page. You do not have to think.
You do not have to fear.
The being grins wider at this last sentence, the grin larger than whatever face it might have.
“Who am I?” you say.
“We shall never know.”
You were expecting that answer.
“Who are you?”
“I am lazy writing,” the being says. “Unthought, unnamed, only dreamt and made.”
A bead of sweat traces your spine and your fingers dig into the arms of the chair.
“I have been here since before and since after.” The being stands, towers. Unfurls. “There are many different you, but only one me.”
Your stomach twists in realisation. “I’ve been here before.”
The being nods. “And you will be here again.”
It walks over to a wall, each footstep slicing through the air. A slow dread seeps through your veins and creeps into your muscles.
“You remember this part, I see.”
“I do.” Your voice is barely a whisper.
The being traces a rectangle on the wall and a door appears. “You never remember the next.” It pushes the door open and your eyes fix on the shadow beyond.
You step forwards.
“Tenebrous.” The being chuckles. “An apt word, don’t you think?”
“Yes.” You smile. “I haven’t heard that one before.”
Words float to the tip of your mind, adjectives like atramentous, Cimmerian and stygian. You don’t remember what they mean. You glance back at the counter, and think perhaps you should have finished your glass of wine. You’ll never taste it again.
“Well, then.” The being bows. “After you.”
The room smells of gore. Darkness chokes the air, broken only by the flickering of a single electric lamp, but what you can see makes you sick. A single desk lies in the centre of the room, of a wood that may have once been brown but is now stained a sticky black.
You cover your mouth and nose as you step in and run a hand along the desk. Your fingers come away red: blood.
“This is my writing room,” the being says. “Do you understand?”
Your body shakes. “I do.”
This is why you are here. This is why you are always here.
“Words.” The being picks up a pen, so sharp it could have been a scalpel. “Didn’t you know? Everything is made up words, even people.”
Sweat courses down your skin and you flinch a step backwards, but the door is no longer there. Panic burns through your veins. Your back presses against nothing but cold plaster.
You can feel the words writhing in your flesh and the ink coursing through your blood. It feels like nothing. It feels like everything.
“I wonder.” The being licks its lips. “What story lives inside you?”