I wedge my palms over my eyes, trying to block out the glare. The room has no comforting shadows, no dark corners. Nothing but coruscating white. Makes me think of that nightmare where I’m in a spotlight, but I don’t know my lines and can’t see the audience.
How in hell did I get here? More to the point, how do I get out?
I move my hands and look at them. My skin looks almost dusty in this light, like chocolate that’s been left in the fridge too long. Not that I see that often.
I don’t know my name, but I know I eat too much chocolate?
There’s nothing on my hands or – I touch my face – my head. But I have a feeling that there should be. Or… there was.
I try to think, but the music makes it difficult.
It’s the one feature in this blank space, and it’s a jarring one. Synthetic and repetitive. And there’s something wrong with the tune. Every so often there’s a gap. My irritated brain desperately tries fill the space. Two beats, I think. I’ve never had an ear for music – I literally don’t know ti from tea.
“Everyone knows girls are useless at games, anyway.”
“Don’t be stupid.”
“I need the computer. Go and do some cooking or something.”
“Shut up, I’m finishing this level.”
“You’ll never beat my score.”
“Already did. Why don’t you do your piano practice? Mum’ll only nag you.”
Da-ding, da-ding ………………………….. ding, da-ding da-da-ding
I recognise the tune, now. It’s from an old computer game.
I walk around, trailing my fingers along the walls. The room isn’t square. It’s sort of oblong, with a narrower section at one end – a corridor that doesn’t go anywhere.
“You need the key to get past this level.”
“Stop distracting me! What key?”
“Very helpful. Go away, Aaron.”
My idiot brother. I drop to the floor, cross-legged. Key. It has lots of meanings. Keyboard keys, door keys, piano keys, answer keys, even – if you’re not bothered about spelling – dockside quays.
My shoulders shake as I start to laugh.
“Aaron, you asshole!” I say out loud. “Piano key? You know I never got past two-finger chopsticks.”
There’s no response that I can hear, but deep in my belly I can feel him laughing.
I stand and walk back to the widest part of the room. Then I wait.
Da-da-ding, da-ding, da-ding… goes the music and right there, I jump, landing feet flat on the floor, as hard as I can. The floor lurches and I’m rewarded with a dooong. Without pausing I do it again. There’s another sound and then the tinny music continues.
Did I fit the two notes into the gap?
The answer comes as the wall at the end of the narrowest part of the room slowly disintegrates until there’s nothing but blackness. It’s inviting after all this glaring white.
“Press any key to continue,” I chuckle, as I walk onto the next level.
This story was written in response to a challenge to write a story in which the main character wakes up in a featureless, white room (in 500 words). Writers are often advised to avoid the cliché of starting a story with a character waking up in unfamiliar surroundings, so this was always going to be tricky to pull off with any finesse. Does it make any sense? I’m not entirely sure! This story definitely has its issues, not helped by the short word count, but I’ve left it in its original form.