I think I knew about Cog 7 well before I went there. Growing up, I always had a sense of it, an intuition that there were realities beyond our own. I can’t remember exactly when I first felt the presence of the Rain Drop world…but I was young. I suffered from night terrors between the ages of six and seven and I think that’s when I began to sense something past the walls of our universe.
You see, when I had these nightmares, I could always see something…something past the dream. It was like an optical illusion hidden inside an elaborate painting. It’s hard to explain. I remember one nightmare where I was hiding in a tree, terrified, as a werewolf hunted the ground for my scent. I clutched the dark branches, tears running down my face, and looked at the full moon hovering in the empty sky.
And I could see something behind the moon…it was like this long stretch of black, like a hallway or ventilation shaft composed and crafted out of something darker than the night. It stretched away from the moon, sucked deep into the sky, like a metal vein. It reminded me of the image you get when you reflect two mirrors into one another. Now, initially, I just chalked it up as part of the nightmare. But as my night terrors persisted, I continued to see that strange tunnel of darkness. It wasn’t always in the sky. Sometimes I would see it behind a building, disappearing into the floor, or even extending out of someone’s head.
I didn’t know what to make of it. It was the only constant in my dreams. As I outgrew the nightmares, I began to see the black hallway in other places. I would see it in movies, posters, cloud formations, and even in the darkness of my home. At times it was so faint I thought I was imagining it. Other times it was so clear I felt my breath hitch in my chest, a sharp reminder of the fears I suffered as a child.
I thought about mentioning it to my doctor, convinced it was a fault in my vision, but deep down I knew that wasn’t the case. And yet, the strangeness of it continued to insist logical reason into my confused mind. Finally, I went and saw an eye doctor and was told what I already knew. I was fine. Nothing wrong with my eyes. Perfect vision.
And so I endured the strange blips. Sometimes the dark passages would last a couple of seconds, other times they would flash quickly into existence and then disappear, like a magician was tapping his wand against my mind.
I learned to live with it I suppose. Occasionally I’d dream about the weird hallway, that dark square that stretched on so far it disappeared into the horizon like an inky air vent. I mentioned it to my friends a time or two and they said I should get my head checked. I thanked them for their obvious input and continued to ignore the enigma as best I could.
But then it happened when I was driving.
And that’s what pushed me over the edge, right down the tar black throat of Cog 7.
I was on my way to work, just a normal Wednesday morning. I was half finished with my coffee, one hand on the wheel, the other groggily gripping my mug. The morning talk show I was listening to was discussing the benefits of AI and the potential perks it could provide if technology continued to progress.
I took a slow sip of coffee, my eyes trained over the lip of my mug on the car in front of me. That’s when it happened. The dark hallway exploded across my vision, filling the windshield, the sky, my entire world. It was like I was driving into the mouth of a dark tunnel, completely devoid of light, sound, everything.
I spun the wheel, spilling my coffee, a scream rising in my throat.