The Red Room
Without warning, everything turned from white to red. Unlike the white room, however, this room was full of decorations. Red paintings, red ceramics, red furniture, all lined the red walls and carpet. Flynn took a moment to capture his bearings. It was hard to make anything out with all the fixtures being only slightly different shades.
“The usual?” a dark-skinned man in a red suit asked.
Flynn spun his head to get a better look at the new visitor. He was holding two glasses of dark amber liquid that stood out starkly against everything else in the room.
“I told your friend already, I am past that point in my life,” Flynn replied.
The dark man nodded, “I am aware. I will leave it here in case you change your mind.” He placed the two cups side by side on a table. He did not further press the offering. Instead, he stood there blankly looking at the wall.
Flynn did not move either. The smaller man in the white room expressed there would be challenges forthcoming. Flynn wondered what the red room would bring him.
“Remember the time Piper got so drunk he hit on the Innkeepers wife and almost took her home?”
Flynn whirled around to the dark-skinned man again. He wore a smile on his face, but his body was so stoic it was off-putting.
Flynn decided not to entertain the man’s comment.
“Do you remember how Piper stumbled around? How you were always taking care of him? You were always the responsible one, never a chance to cut loose. What kind of friend was Piper anyhow?” The dark-skinned man talked to Flynn, but he looked at the red wall beyond him.
Flynn tried to ignore him again. What did he honestly know about Piper or him? It was not important. He came here to pass the tests given and get back what was taken from him.
“Did you take it from me?” Flynn asked the man.
“One night, I bet you don’t remember, with Piper was a night you finally let yourself go. You convinced yourself it was only a one-night thing. How long did one night last? Ten years? How long did Piper take care of your wife once he sobered up?” The dark-skinned man was relentless.
Flynn’s skin prickled at the mention of Piper and his wife. It had always sat stagnantly in the back of his mind. It sat in the back of many people’s minds across the town.
“Where is it?” Flynn put a little fire into his words.
“Did you ever get over the fact your daughter may have not even been yours? Piper always did have such a distinct nose. Couldn’t you always see his nose in her face?”
Flynn was across the room before he realized what happened. The dark-skinned man did not flinch as Flynn grabbed his collar.
“Shut the banter,” Flynn spat.
The dark man’s eyes did not shift to Flynn. They continued to stare only at the red wall beyond.
“Remember how you used to forget about it? Remember how the drink used to coddle you into a gentle slumber. You slept so well in those days. You didn’t think about the pain in your mind or your aging body. Even Piper was a great friend again when you let yourself go. All the way until that fateful night you were happy, weren’t you?”
Flynn squeezed tighter, “let it go.”
“Where does this story end? Did your wife choose you or was she trapped by you? You quit your drinking and she was forced to still take care of you like a child. Piper grew out of his ways and you stumbled into bed every night, even after you stopped swilling the booze.”
Flynn’s heart hammered in his chest. He always suspected Piper and his wife were something more, but he pressed it down. He pressed it so deep he convinced himself it wasn’t true. Now, he saw the image repeatedly of Piper’s eyes looking into those of his wife. They always pitied her for having to deal with Flynn. Flynn, who had once been the responsible man, but had let himself go after the war.
“You know nothing about me,” Flynn said, tears stinging his eyes. He tried to convince himself as much as the man he held.
“I know what helped you forget, Flynn.” The man’s eyes did shift for a moment to the amber liquid on the table beside them.
Flynn let his own eyes wander to the whiskey. It had always been his drink of choice. It was strong and to the point, like he was. Flynn perceived it in his mouth. It had been so long since he let the stuff pass his lips, but even now, after all the time passed, he still savored it. His mouth watered. His grip loosened.
“Let yourself go. There is no one here to hold you at fault. The house takes everyone, and they know this. They will never fault you for giving in. Matter of fact, won’t they all be happier? Piper and your wife can be together, finally. You can let go of all your pain and sorrow. There will be no more flashbacks to the horrible things you saw and did. There will be no more images of your sweet daughter’s face with Piper’s nose. It will all be gone, and you can live out the rest of your days in complete and utter peace.”
The words echoed around in Flynn’s mind. They were words of truth. Flynn needed one drink and it would relax him. He may even still be able to complete what he came for. Hadn’t the stuff always helped him through the times when he was most scared? When the flashes of death and destruction took over his mind, hadn’t the whiskey always chased them away? When he was drunk, he never thought of the bloody corpses or the dead children lining the streets. The loud bangs outside his window never bothered him when he was in a stupor. The dark-skinned man was right, the whiskey was an agent of good. It had always helped him.
Why had he even stopped anyhow? He had been so much happier with it as a companion. Flynn let the man go. The man made no reaction, as if he were never threatened in the slightest.
Flynn hands shook as he bent down. Sweat covered his face. The room had been turned into a fire. Flynn hovered over the whiskey, sniffing the aroma. He never wanted to stop. The choice had been made for him. He was selfishly taken away from the thing that helped him the most. How had that even been fair?
Flynn reached out touching the cool glass. The whiskey inside would be just as cool, and it would relieve his parching throat. Flynn let his fingers grasp it and readied his arm to pull it in to his mouth. Everything about him wanted nothing more than to take that first drink. After that, he would be better. He would beat this house after that. Flynn lifted the glass, and the liquid swirled around smoothly. It was calling to him with each wave. There it was, his salvation and only a few inches from his mouth.
He closed his eyes, imagining what the first sip would taste like. How much better would his body feel? His mind would rest easier. He would think clearer than he had in so long. This house would not stand a chance against him afterward. Flynn opened his eyes and took in a deep breath. The cup was a mere inch from his lips. Every sense in his body was on fire with the desire to throw his head back and take it all in. It would be so easy to let go and give in.
Piper’s condescending voice popped into his ear. “Always was destined to fail. I told her. You would fail her, and I would be there to pick her back up.”
Flynn paused with the glass upon his bottom lip. Why had he come here? What had been the purpose? It had not been to forget or to give up. He came looking for what was taken from him. His hand shook so bad it threatened to drop the glass to the floor. He reopened his eyes and scanned the room.
It was all red. Everything was the same all around him. It had not changed, and he had not changed. He was still the same man who entered and if he put down the glass, he remained.
“Finish it,” the man said.
Flynn looked down at the whiskey over his nose. It was almost complete. He could end it all. Instead, he opened his fingers and let the glass fall to the floor. It made no noise at all when it hit the red carpet. The liquid did not spill from the glass, even as it lay on its side. Flynn stared at it and then stood.
The dark man clapped his hands together. “Well, congratulations, Flynn,” he said, pointing toward a new door.
“You have managed to make it to the orange room.”