Sharon tried to scream as the warp in dimensional space sent her flying through infinity. Her entire body felt both stunted and elongated at the same time. Despite the speed she knew she must be travelling at, she felt completely stationary; if anything, she felt immovable, as though her being was fixated in an abstract point. The world bent around her, distorting and blending before she finally seized. There was no warning; one moment she was progressing, the second she was not. Or was it one moment she was fixed, the next she was not? Perhaps there was no difference between either scenarios.
As her environment finally settled, she analyzed her surroundings in fear and desperation, wondering what horrors awaited her in this new dimension. She was seated on a soft, immensely comfortable couch, in front of what she perceived was a television screen. It appeared to be playing some sort of comedy show, with a strange focus to slapstick. It was all so weirdly normal, considering she had just been transported through space-time.
In fact, there was nothing overtly unusual about her surroundings at all. She was simply at someone's apartment, seated on the couch, watching television. There appeared to be no one else but her around, which made the silence slightly eerie, but nothing particularly unsettling other than that. She might have felt right at home if she hadn't just experienced some form of dimensional travel.
Eventually, she found the courage to move from her seat. She checked around the house, looking for any other signs of life, but there were none. Under the bed, in the other rooms; she truly was alone in here. She opened the fridge and discovered that it was chock full with food. The sink in the kitchen was perfectly functional, and the water that spilled forward felt real enough. She even drank a little, and there were no immediate averse effects.
She looked out the window and the world was out there, albeit strangely quiet and empty. Though there were cars in the parking lot, there was no one around; no random stranger going about their business, no child playing around in their spare time. Perhaps she had arrived in a world that had died.
No matter. She would just have to leave this house and find out more about it. Perhaps it would give some clue as to how she could return to her own time and place.
She left the kitchen and strode past the couch where she'd first found herself. The front door was nearby, and she reached for its handle.
YOU WILL DIE.
The voice rang like a gong in her head, reverberating through her skull and making her clutch at her temples in pain. She was sent to her knees with tears forming in her tightly closed eyes. When vision returned and the pain was reduced to a dull aching, she opened her eyes and searched for the source of her terror. But there was nothing around her. A particularly comic scene played on the screen, where a man did a back flip after being slapped in the face.
"Who's there?" she said, cowering against the door.
I AM THE MASTER OF THIS SPACE, the voice rang inside her skull again. This time, it did not cause any pain, though it did make her knees tremble.
"What do you want?"
TO LIVE. IF YOU TOUCH THAT DOOR HANDLE, YOU WILL DIE.
She shook her head, pulling herself to her feet, "Why? Why will I die?"
THERE IS NO REASON. TO LIVE, YOU MUST NOT TOUCH THAT DOOR.
She recoiled from the object of death immediately. She looked around the room, trying to find other ways to leave. If she could not leave by the door, perhaps there were other means. The window, she thought, and moved toward it. She reached for the latch that unlocked the glass panes, smiling slightly.
TOUCH THAT LATCH AND YOU WILL DIE.
Again, the voice forced her to her knees. The tiles felt cool to her fingers, but it did nothing to soothe the pain that rocked her mind. She retched as she knelt there, trying to think through the pain. Why would she die? Why couldn't she touch these objects? Who was the master of this world? As the pain receded, she found enough courage to stand. She was a trained professional: she could sit on this couch, analyse the problem, and solve it. She didn't believe in any gods. Omniscience was impossible.
The TV played before her, but it might as well have been a blank wall. She'd entered a mode her colleagues had mockingly called 'the praying mantis'. She was wholly committed to picking apart the problem and finding solutions to it.
The answer came within seconds. She'd examined the words, found a flaw, and constructed a plan. All it needed was a little bit of string, and a weight: perhaps a spoon. She found both sitting together in a kitchen drawer and smiled. Perhaps luck was on her side. She tied the string around the neck of the spoon and made a large loop at the string’s other end. She then approached the doorway and with extreme care, looped the string around the handle. Her fingers had not touched the handle. She grinned, and used the spoon to pull it downward. The door opened.
YOU ARE A REBELLIOUS ONE. LEAVE THROUGH THAT DOORWAY AND YOU WILL DIE.There was no excruciating pain this time, but she backed away from the door regardless. She almost cried. Freedom was right through that entrance, tantalising beyond belief. But she could not leave, and she did not want to die.
However, methods to escape were not exhaustive. There was still the kitchen window, and the other rooms had windows and escape routes too. She would persevere through this until she could find another way back to her own world. Omniscience was impossible. Any problem had a solution.
She would find an alternate route.
YOU CANNOT TOUCH THAT PIPE. YOU WILL DIE.
YOU CANNOT MOVE THAT STOOL. YOU WILL DIE.
YOU CANNOT ENTER THAT ROOM. YOU WILL DIE.
YOU CANNOT CROSS THAT THRESHOLD. YOU WILL DIE.
She worked as long and as hard as she could. She picked at multiple different solutions, explored every angle, tried every possible combination: different tools, different items. She did not tire, she did not break, but every moment seemed to be sending her backtracking instead of forward. There was no way out of the house.
Soon, she sat on the couch, angry and exhausted. The audience on the TV screen laughed uproariously at an obviously unfunny joke. She was tempted to throw something at the screen, to smash it to a million different shards and crush those shards between those fingers... but she did not. She had been forbidden to touch the TV, or she would die. She did not want to die.
She sat on the couch for a long time, not watching the program or even contemplating the situation. Her body slowly sank deeper and deeper into the cushions.
HM. THIS IS THE WAY THIS REALITY SHOULD BE. NO HUNGER, NO THIRST. SIT THERE. WATCH TV.
I F Y O U L E A V E T H A T C O U C H , Y O U W I L L D I E .
Sharon didn't know how long she'd been there. She'd curled up in a fetal position, staring blankly at the screen as it played the comedy show. There was always new content, but all of it was exaggerated and ridiculous. True to the Being's word, she did not hunger or thirst. She could sit on that couch and live forever, or she could move from it and die. She did not want to die.
So she continued, an eternity spent in nothingness, with no progress or productivity. No next step, no moving forward- nothing.
But at least she was alive.