I open my eyes and slowly lift my head. I am in the white room, sitting with my back against a wall. My legs are drawn to my chest, arms holding them tightly. The walls are smooth and emit a blindingly bright light—not only the walls, but the ceiling and floor as well—yet no light fixture is visible.
I allow my sight to rest and focus upon the figure in the centre of the room. Sitting still on a simple metal chair is a man. His physical appearance is difficult to discern, such that if I hold him just outside of focus only then does he appear distinct. He appears perhaps 35 or 40 years of age. His dress—black shoes, dark jeans, and a white button-up shirt—fits to his well-kept body. His hands rest upon his knees, and he is leaning slightly forward. His face is unshaven and his chestnut hair threatens to fall into his eyes. His hazel eyes are watching me.
When my eyes first meet his, my stomach lurches. But I recover with a snort of laughter. Of course you’d look like that, I think, wryly. The man sits up and crosses his arms in front of his chest without taking his eyes off me. His posture challenges, Like what? I purse my lips, refusing to respond, but the thoughts form in my head regardless: Like someone I would want to trust and respect purely by look alone. I frown and glare at the man. “I’m not amused,” I say aloud, accusingly. The man neither blinks nor moves—no sign that he has listened to my silence.
I close my eyes, sighing, and let my head fall back against the wall behind me. I feel the man watching me still, and—worse—I feel him moving around slowly inside my mind. My irritation spikes, but I do not hold onto it. “I’m tired,” I say, without opening my eyes.
“I know,” he replies.
I open my eyes and shift my head just enough to glance at the wall above and behind me. There is no outline of a door and no doorknob. The room is completely sealed. I should have figured, I think. My man remains in my mind, silent but moving. I glance again at him—still watching me—sigh again, and re-close my eyes. I allow my mind to wander, knowing he will follow, and yet too drained to raise barriers.
I should have known that I would end up here. The Room. This time with no door—no entrance; no exit. And yet, I can leave at any time. This room is not built of physical walls, but rather a projection of my mind—firings of the neurons in my brain. I can leave—leave this dream world. Return to the world of sound waves and solid-state matter; of people discussing philosophy of mind and debating the ecological ethics involved in purchasing eggs from caged versus free-range hens. Return to the “real” world, the world that matters, the world that determines whether I will earn enough money to purchase meals for the rest of my life; the world of apologetics and theological debates and church-splits over doctrinal disputes; the world in which religions simultaneously delineate and obfuscate life and death. Some within that world—perhaps many within that world—would disapprove of this room. Disapprove of the man sitting in it with me. Disapprove of what I am doing here. With him. In my head.
“No wonder you’re tired,” I hear him say.
I open my eyes again and look directly into his. I am silent for many seconds, trying to prevent any thoughts from forming in my mind. Pointless.
“I don’t know if I should be talking to you,” I finally say.
He vanishes instantly.
I stare at the empty chair.
“But I thought it would be better than nothing.” It is only a whisper floating through the air.
I glance at the corner of my computer screen. 12:15 pm. I’ve been wasting my morning, I think, angrily to myself. It is nearly lunch time and I’ve done no work!