Karolinska Institutet has always been a place where different talents, passions and creativity are encouraged. People of different pursuits have found their niche for expression, whether it might be Spex, orchestras or book circles. To take it one step further, this issue of Medicor features a short fiction story – as a celebration of all the creative diversity our university boasts.
Written by: Anna Boytsova
Charlie woke up feeling the sweat drip down his forehead. “Heavens, what a strange dream!” he thought. “Pale figures, an old fortune teller and a fall through the darkness. It doesn’t make any sense.” He looked around his room. The moon spread its light through the jalousies, creating large stripes on the floor. Everything was so calm and still. Suddenly his stomach started to rumble and Charlie decided to pay the kitchen a visit.
He snuck down the steps quietly so that his housemates would not hear him. When he had almost reached the kitchen, he saw something that brought him to a halt. There was a door opposite the kitchen archway that he had never seen before. White, weathered, with a rusty knob. “I’m probably fast asleep”, Charlie thought. He pinched himself in the arm but the door was still there. His stomach rumbled again, this time even stronger, and Charlie looked towards the kitchen. Should he just make a sandwich and go back to bed? No, not this time. The curiosity trumped hunger and Charlie approached the door.
The handle felt unpleasantly cold in his sweaty hand. Charlie felt the raw, damp air gushing through a narrow crack. He hesitated. Was there really a reason to walk in here? Behind the door, he found a long, dark hall with a faintly shining lightbulb, hanging from the ceiling. Charlie took some tentative steps inside and let go of the knob. Grey doors, the same colour of the walls, were lined up along the room.
SLAM! Charlie turned around quickly and saw that the door he had just entered through was shut. He pulled the handle, but could not open it. Panic spread through his body like an explosion and his heart beat as if trying to break his ribcage. Feeling the cold sweat trickle down his spine, he began running around, trying to open other doors in the corridor, to no avail.
Finally, one of the doors gave way and the raw air of the hallway clashed with the much warmer one of the new room, which smelled strongly of thyme. Through a heavy wooden screen, small glimpses of light from the centre of the room cut through. The screen was pulled aside and a tall woman appeared behind it. “Oh, is it you?” she sighed and looked sorrowfully at Charlie. “Please come in. You must be hungry!”
Surprised at the fact that she knew him, Charlie walked in. There was a table in the middle of the room set for three with a pot of steaming mushroom soup. On the walls hung amulets and dreamcatchers. On top of the drawer opposite to the door stood a big glass jar occupied by a spider. The woman drew aside her silver hair from her lined face, poured some soup into one of the bowls and asked Charlie to sit down.
After Charlie had finished she took his bowl and looked at him. “Why do you waste your time and life coming back to this place? You gain naught by doing so. If you want to continue with your life, you must not be distracted, and stay focused. There is no other way around it.”
She saw he was confused and shook her head: “That’s enough for today. Go now, I’m having an old friend over for dinner.” Charlie thanked her for her hospitality and went back to the hall. Before he closed the door, he looked back at the woman. She laid some tarot cards on the table and mumbled a mantra in a foreign language.
With some hot food in the stomach, the corridor did not feel as frightening and cold as earlier. What did worry Charlie was that all doors except one had disappeared. “Well, then the choice is already made for me” he thought and smiled to himself. The sound of his bare feet on the floor was like light taps on a drum. He opened the door and walked through it.
This time he was on a balcony, probably sometime during autumn. The fresh air made him feel a little more at ease. At his left sat an old hunchbacked man laying a puzzle on a little table. “Would you like to help me?” he asked with a peculiar smile. Charlie sat beside him and began searching for fitting pieces. It proved difficult because every piece had the same grey colour. “You’ve got to pick them up to see if they fit together” said the old man as if he could read Charlie’s thoughts.
After some hours, the puzzle was finally complete. It looked like one of the doors in the hall Charlie had come from. “What a meaningless picture” Charlie thought. ”Isn’t it nice to have done something that you can appreciate later in your life?” the old man asked. “Thank you for your help, young man, but now I have to leave you. A very nice lady is waiting for me today.” Having said those words, the old man dissolved into the air together with the puzzle, to Charlie’s shock. A little feeble, Charlie had to breathe for some seconds before returning to the hall.
It was pitch-black in the corridor. He could hear heavy steps as the door closed behind him – or was it his heart beating again? Charlie stood with his back against the bare wall and waited for what would come next. Is this ever going to end? The light bulb was turned on again. Only Charlie and the door on the opposite end was in the hall. He walked rapidly to it, afraid that it would disappear like everything else in this place did. He gripped the metal knob and swung the door open. The darkness behind it made him feel vertiginous. He heard the steps again and looked behind him. In the gloomy light from the bulb he saw pale figures, suddenly filling up the hall and waving to him with white handkerchiefs. Did they say goodbye? Charlie shrugged, waved back at them and looked to the darkness in front of him again. It drew him in and soon he could not resist it anymore.
Charlie took a great step into the blackness and discovered there was no floor. He fell and fell and fell. It felt as if hours had passed, but he still had not reached the bottom. His heart was racing and he wondered if there perhaps was no bottom to reach.
Charlie woke up feeling the sweat dripping down his forehead. “Heavens, what a strange dream I had!” he thought to himself. “Pale figures, an old fortune teller and a fall through the darkness. It doesn’t make any sense.” He looked around his room. The moon spread its light through the jalousies, creating large stripes on the floor. Everything was so calm and still. Suddenly his stomach started to rumble and Charlie decided to pay the kitchen a visit.
He snuck down the steps quietly so that his housemates would not hear him. When he had almost reached the kitchen, he saw something that brought him to a halt. There was a door opposite the kitchen archway that he had never seen before. White, weathered, with a rusty knob. “I’m probably fast asleep”, Charlie thought. He pinched himself in the arm but the door was still there. His stomach rumbled again, this time even stronger, and Charlie looked towards the kitchen.