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The Man in the Black Robe

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A white expanse. That is all I can understand now. White from every direction; east, west, south, north...but I digress. It's been... 20 years? Not that time is relevant anymore. It was in an enclosed space, that damnable cabinet. I should not have listened to the man in black.

A black robe, drooping down to his legs, sharp, piercing, yellow eyes, a malicious grin with crooked, pointed teeth. Yes, that was the man. The man who throw me into this maddening purgatory. The endless whiteness and silence won't claim my mind. Yes, I won't lose my mind.

July...Yes, July. July 4th 1976. I was 10 years old when I first saw the man. A family barbecue with the smell of grills and smoke prevalent in the air. He was standing under an old oak tree. I tugged on my father's apron as he was grilling and asked him "who is that man?" As I pointed at the old oak.

Like smoke he vanished. My father laughed and said "go play with the other kids." I argued and insisted that I saw this man and he continued to laugh about it. I decided to shuffle off from the grill and approach the oak.

Under the shade of the oak a chill reverberated throughout my body. One of unnatural cold and I saw a message carved into the chipping bark of the tree. "The monsters are inside you". I simply stared in interest and confusion to this statement before hurrying back to the barbecue.

Gah! The shrieking...that strange noise in this white expanse. It comes from not around me...but inside my head and travels out. It plays with my sanity. My senses. I cannot see because there is no light and no room for darkness. I cannot hear because even noise is consumed by the void

Consumed...I ate a hamburger and spare ribs for dinner as the crimson sunset began to descend on my home. I put them in the sink and ran up the steps on all fours to my room. A square shaped box with a bed in the corner opposite to a glass door with curtains leading unto a balcony. A television was mounted on the wall which I promptly switched on to watch cartoons.

Two hours? No three...well I suppose time doesn't matter in a stasis of infuriating immortality. Anyway I shut off the TV and all lights and headed to bed. I covered my chest with the blankets and turned over to the side facing the window where I saw a silhouette. The only feasibly noticeable feature was piercing yellow eyes.

I jumped back at immediate notice and was frozen in fear. He...no, IT didn't move at all so I gradually grew more comfortable and relaxed a bit and whispered, "Who are you?"

In a raspy voice he said "Who am I? Excellent question." I stared in impatience for a second and he smiled and continued. "Names are of sentiment, and sentiment are of humans. Life is true fear, and death is a lie." Before I could respond, the shadow faded away, and I turned on the light to see where he came from. It was a balcony, 30 feet off the ground.

In this place, you don't feed, because you have no hunger; no drink, because there is no thirst. You do not move, because there is no space to move and no body to control. This man. He was of this place. This place where weakness is not frowned upon, because weakness is a perception, and here, there is no sentiment.

His visits became more frequent. Daylight, nighttime. When I was alone, when I was not. Each visit, he did not grow any less cryptic.

"Humans are flawed, yet seek to be perfect. How can an imperfect creature ever attain something that is not in its nature?"

The summer was coming to a close now in late September, and the trees began to shed off their leaves. The ground was painted orange and yellow as the trees lay barren. One day, on my way to school I saw the familiar face as people walked by him passing no notice. I asked him, "What are you?"

"I am nonexistent, yet you perceive me to be. I appear to be alive, yet I never die."

His usual smile turned into the harshest of toothy grins and he said, "Do you really want to know?" Intimidated, I paused. Eventually, I simply said, "Yes." That was all I can remember before I blacked out.

Another shriek. What is that noise? I never found out in the time I've been here. Sometimes, I make out crying and...angry voices. That is all that is here. Misery and contemplation on your fate. First you feel panic, then anger, then sadness, then grief, then...nothing at all.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. Then years. No sign of the robed man. I was with my friends in my house at age 14, running around, just horse-playing. I've long since been seeing a therapist for schizophrenia, after I confided to my parents of my bizarre sightings. He seemed to take a deep interest in my tales, until one day, he refused to see me. I never found out why exactly.

I'm getting sidetracked. It seems to happen when you have no mind to process things anyway. So my friends grabbed my arms and threw me into a cabinet. They locked me in it, despite my screams. I only then had a knot in my stomach when I realized the cabinet was airtight. I screamed and banged, but they only laughed. I remember getting lightheaded and then passing out.

In this place, you have only your thoughts, and you cannot forget, because there is nowhere for it to travel. It congregates into a single entity. Me... Though I wouldn't quite classify myself as an entity. I'm not sure what to put myself as, because you can't hold titles in this place.

I remember waking up in a dark room, surrounded by fire, with...that man, looking over me. I asked him, "Am I dead?" He cackled to himself and replied, "So naive... You will understand very soon...or maybe not." I asked him one more time: "What are you?" He gave me a stare, wrought with malcontent.

"Death."

I've been here since. That bed melted, and the fire warped into the air. Since then, there has been white. Only white. That is my story of how I now belong to this place. How I am but a memory, floating perpetually. That sound...the shrieks...cries...it grows closer to me...

Wait...what is this...light? I can FEEL light. Sunlight? Well, around me is...dirt. There's footsteps above me and...a hole? I seem to float in a mesmerized sense towards the top of the hole, and I'm in a cemetery. There's so much surrounding me, it's...overwhelming. I see a funeral service in the distance, crying and screaming. So...annoying.

They don't understand. So weak...humans. Plagued by sentiment and desire, to the point they're blinded by themselves. Yet, now I see the world again, only it's different. It's all just used space and... margins for error. Perfection is...oblivion. Nothingness. I walk through the cemetery, unbothered for at least 20 minutes, until something catches my interest.

So now, I walk to a single tombstone, polished by wax, and I finally see myself. A black robe...and piercing yellow eyes. I then see a little boy staring at me from just 30 feet away. I smile and then realize the man's purpose towards me:

To make me perfect.

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