01 Feb My grandparents had a room where the walls used to cry.
Luck did not welcome me into this world as I involuntarily entered it. My Dad didn’t even bother to stick around until my birth, and my mother suffered from a myriad of different psychiatric illnesses keeping her locked up in various mental health institutions for most of the time. As such, the task of raising me fell to my grandparents. For all intents and purposes, they were my parents, and I’d never trade them out for anything in the world. So despite my chaotic entry into life, my childhood was relatively normal. They guided me through all my firsts. They kept me fed, and taught me valuable life lessons that I carry with me to this day. Their house was typically what you’d expect from any grandparent: an old house they’d owned for generations; full on with wallpaper that should have been changed in the late seventies, and despite how often they cleaned, there was always this smell in the air you wouldn’t ever find in a new house. Still, that was all I’d ever known, and I loved each moment of it. But despite the joy they gave me, there was an oddity it took me many years to finally question. A room on the ground floor with a heavy metal door they always kept locked. “What’s behind that door Grandma?” I asked my Grandmother after hearing strange sounds on the other side. I was only four and had just about learned to form coherent sentences, and even to my young mind the place emitted a strange aura that didn’t sit right with me. “You’ll understand when you get older,” she’d say in response. I always let it go, but every now and then I’d see my grandparents enter the room and lock it behind them. Sometimes they’d cry, other times they’d just talk. Whatever the case, the sounds were always muffled behind the thick walls and ancient, metal door. It was only on the occasion that I awoke from muffled cries on the other side that I took to questioning my grandparents. Each time it would be the same answer. “You’ll understand it when you get older.” That day came shortly after I turned fifteen. My first girlfriend had just broken up with me over some trivial teenage bullshit that at the time seemed like a massive deal. In hindsight, we were both just young and stupid, and our shortlived relationship barely made a dent in either of our developments as human beings. Still, I was heartbroken. Of course, my grandparents came to my aid with reassurances that I’d find true love, and that first relationships never last. Their words, as true as they might have been, didn’t have much of an effect on my hormone ravaged body. So, after a week of me sitting around and sobbing as I listened to depressing music, they decided it was time to share the secret of the locked room. My grandma held my hand and led me towards the rusty metal door that had covered up a mystery since decades before I was even born. I stood before it with trembling knees waiting in anticipation to finally figure out what lay on the other side. She took a key out of her pocket and handed it to me. “Why don’t you go inside?” she half asked, half ordered. “What’s in there?” “That’s more that I could possibly explain with simple words. It’s something that has to be experienced first hand. Trust me, one minute inside and you’ll understand what I mean.” I hesitated, but curiosity was my main driving force. I reached out my hand to unlock the door with a shaky hand. As I went to pull the handle, my Grandmother left me with these parting words: “Stay inside until you understand, but do not linger. Unfortunate things happen to those driven by greed.” With that warning, she ushered me inside with a smile on her face. Her sinister warning, paired with such an innocent voice and friendly smile put me in a strange place between fear and comfort. Throughout my life I’d always felt safe by her side, and despite the room being an unknown, eerie mystery, I didn’t straight out feel afraid. She closed the door behind me, leaving me in the dark. I fumbled around on the nearby wall, feeling the moist wallpaper brush against my hand. Despite the discomfort, I quickly found a lightswitch that I flipped on. A dim light filled the room, originating from a singular, ancient bulb hanging from a chain attached to the ceiling. The walls around were all covered in the same, pale wallpaper filled with red stripes and repeating patterns. The floor was covered in red carpet that appeared clean in spite of its wet touch. It was an ugly place, that much was certain, but the thing that truly put me at a sense of discomfort was the emptiness. The room was rid of any furniture, just a square space with little more than its carpet and wallpaper. I just stood in the center and tried to figure out what I was supposed to do. The pain and sadness from the breakup still lingered in the back of my mind, but as I entered the room it seemed less present, faded. As odd as it might sound, I could feel the depression that had built up inside me over the past couple of weeks just drain from my soul. It was as if the room itself was eating up my sadness, and as the seconds ticked by, I felt more at ease. That’s when I noticed that the wallpaper started to seem even wetter. I stood up to check what was going on, when droplets of water started trickling down the walls. From within them, I heard muffled moans, akin to someone crying. Hundreds of voices mashed together in a symphony of tears, and as horrifying as it appeared at the time, it somehow took away my pain. It quickly dawned on me that the leaked water was tears, salt filled water that formed a small pool in the center of the room. I stood there, letting my own emotions fade as the room ate them up. Mere minutes passed, after which I felt fine. The world breaking emotions I’d felt subsequent to my breakup became unimportant. Once I’d calmed down, I let my grandmother’s warning ring through my mind once more. “Stay inside until you understand, but do not linger. Unfortunate things happen to those driven by greed.” I knew then that time had come to exit the room, so I did, diligently following orders as I’d been taught. Outside, I found my grandmother waiting for me with a smile on her face. “Do you understand?” I nodded, though I didn’t fathom the mechanism behind the room, I definitely understood its purpose. The room was a place where emotions were taken, a place to regain a sense of inner peace after tragic incidents. “How does it work?” I asked. “I don’t know. The room has been there since the time of my great, great grandfather who built this place. I never got the chance to ask him myself, and no one else in my family ever truly understood.” I had so many more questions, yet I couldn’t figure out where to start. “Devon, it’s very important that you only use this room when you feel sad,” she said. “What do you mean?” “Sadness is an emotion that doesn’t take from the people you feel sad about, and it will not hurt you. But anger, jealousy, fear, those are emotions the room should never take from you.” “What will happen if I go inside?” “People will get hurt, and you’ll have to live with that fact.” She didn’t explain it in much deeper detail, and to be honest she didn’t have to. My grandfather didn’t say much either, but then again he wasn’t the one to usually enter the room. He would warn me from time to time not to stay in there for too long, but I had a happy life and didn’t use it more than a couple of times a year. Apart from the room, my life was relatively eventful. As my grandparents promised, I found true love a few years later. She was only my second girlfriend, and though I was skeptical about the adventure of love, I gave her a chance. A few years passed and through thick and thin I just knew she was the one. I proposed to Lisa when we were both twenty-three after a thorough interrogation from my grandparents. They loved her as much as myself, which just solidified the feelings I had for her. We planned to get married in the summer the following year, by which time we’d already moved in together. It wouldn’t be a big wedding as neither of us had much family to speak of. I had my grandparents, and she had her parents plus an uncle and a couple of siblings. Other than that, it would be an event for our closest friends, a celebration on the beach regardless of the weather. But as the date approached, I got a sinking feeling in my gut. I didn’t even know whether or not it was related to my fiancée, but something was wrong. Then I got a call from my grandfather. His voice sounded meek and broken, it was clear he was in shock. “She’s gone Devon…” He struggled to get any more words out than that. My grandpa had always been a man of few words, but that was something else entirely. My Grandmother had been an old woman, but her death was all but natural. She’d been hit by a drunk driver, a hit and run with the guy getting away. That day, a little piece of me died, as I lost one of the two people who’d always been there for me. The wedding was postponed until further notice. I moved back in with my Grandpa so we could support each other throughout the ordeal. The next few weeks went by in a haze. My Grandpa wandered aimlessly around the house, trying to keep things together in the wake of his true love’s death. I kept waiting for him to enter the crying room, but he never did. He’d stand in front of the door and stare at it, but each time he’d turn around and keep himself preoccupied doing other things. “Why don’t you go inside the room?” I asked. “Because I need to feel this. I need to keep a part of her by my side, even if it hurts.” I learned an important lesson that day; that sadness doesn’t have to be unhealthy, or even a bad emotion. Grief is a natural process of life, one appearing when things or people that mattered vanish from our lives. I started using the room less after that, only going in during depressive episodes and particularly shit days. Three months later, they finally caught the son of a bitch that killed my Grandma. A tip had led to his arrest, with the trial pending. When they actually did start, the court proceedings were pretty short. He’d been caught on a local camera, and though they’d gotten both a license plate number and his face, he wasn’t the actual owner of the vehicle, hence the delayed arrest. Never in my life had I felt such utter hatred and burning anger towards another person. His casual demeanor never changed throughout the session, he kept maintaining his lack of guilt. I could even see him chuckling to his lawyer as they mumbled about something. He felt no remorse, and when he was finally deemed guilty, he got angry instead of apologizing for the life he took. When I got home, not a single part of me felt that justice had been dealt. My Grandfather didn’t seem happy, but he wasn’t as distraught as myself. Once nightfall came and he went to sleep, I decided I couldn’t deal with all these emotions. It was time to visit the crying room once again, but not to remove sadness. No, I needed to get rid of my anger. I unlocked the door, and pulled it open. The same poorly decorated, empty room greeted me. I stepped inside ready to let my emotions vanish. For a moment, I just stood there in the middle of the room waiting for anything to happen. But, my anger remained. Even as the walls and floor started to feel moist, my hatred didn’t budge an inch. That’s when I noticed the odd coloration of the tears. At first it was barely noticeable with weird trails left behind the tears, but before long the strong crimson color became an undeniable fact. The walls weren’t crying, they were bleeding. The sight didn’t scare me, nor did it make me want to flee. Instead, I was filled with a confusing mixture of burning rage and mind blowing ecstasy. I felt justified in my anger, I felt gleeful that pain was spreading, though I didn’t know exactly where it was going. The walls groaned in agony, a sound it had never produced before as a hundred voices cried in pain. Whether a minute passed or an hour, I couldn’t know, but before I knew what was going on, my grandfather came barging into the room. “What have you done?” he asked in shock. I just turned and looked at his horrified expression as he realized the room was filled with blood. As he snapped away from terror back to reality, he grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the room. Once the door was locked once again, I finally came to my senses. The emotions, the blood, it turned from twisted joy to overwhelming shame. “I… I… “ “We told you never to go into the room when you’re angry! People get hurt, why did you do it?” my grandfather yelled, angrier than I’d ever seen him. “I just wanted it to go away.” “You don’t understand what you’ve done, there will be consequences neither of us can understand.” But I realized then that he wasn’t really angry, he was just disappointed. He understood why I’d done my actions, but he had thought I was a better man than that. “Your grandmother wouldn’t ever have wanted this…” he said as he left me alone in the dark. Neither of us used the room after that. I couldn’t bear the shame, so from that day onward, I learned to suppress my feelings, pushing them to the furthest corners of my mind. In the following months, things slowly returned to normal. We honored my grandmother the way she wanted, by living happy lives. A week after the incident, a rumor started to spread through our community. The man who’d hit my Grandma was found dead in his cell. Though the cause of death wasn’t officially announced, his blood had apparently started boiling, destroying him from inside. He was found with an agonized expression on his face. I knew it was my doing by going angry into the room, but I didn’t feel the least bit guilty. There was an odd, dark energy in the house following the driver’s death. One I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but it wasn’t enough to overshadow the upcoming events in my life. Our wedding plans were back on, and in the summer of the next year, I finally got married to the love of my life. Around the same time, my grandfather started feeling sick. He’d lost a bunch of weight and struggled to eat. It wasn’t long before he was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. While the news hit me hard, he really didn’t seem to mind. He’d had a long and amazing life, and despite the sudden onset, he was ready to go. “I’m happy to have raised you like a son. Please don’t stop living because I’m gone. Be happy, get the family you ever wanted,” he’d say. Since we had time to prepare ourselves, his passing wasn’t filled with shock. I cried, but I didn’t break down like last time. I didn’t even consider using the crying room to deal with my emotions. It had become little more than a memory of former times. I inherited my grandparents house, and since we didn’t have better options, my wife and I moved in there together, ready to raise a family of our own. She went on to redecorate the place, a task heavily needed to bring it into modern times. While I liked my grandparents’ style, it was a tad old fashioned. She asked me about the room, a place I hadn’t even thought to explain to her. I knew it would be an inevitability, but I knew she’d think I was crazy. Still, I tried my best to recount my experiences to her as insane as they sounded. At first she thought I was joking, but she quickly noticed my serious expression. “Can I have a look inside?” I couldn’t let her. I couldn’t let anyone inside the room, so I’d put up additional locks. Against all odds, she believed me. Though she didn’t understand what would happen if she went inside, she trusted me enough to keep her promise. We live together in happiness, and before even a year had passed, Lisa fell pregnant. We were both over the moon with joy. For months we baby proofed our home and fixed up the guest room to turn it into a nursery. Then, at the fifth month of pregnancy, Lisa started experiencing severe cramps. We immediately took her to the emergency room to discover she was giving birth prematurely. Despite the doctors’ best efforts, the baby didn’t survive. The two of us fell into deep depression, and for the first time in over a year, I thought about using the room. But my grandfather’s words kept ringing in the back of my mind; that I needed to feel the pain, that it mattered too much to just erase. So kept trying to remain strong, supporting my wife in every way that I could. But it was a downhill battle, one we were both losing… One night I awoke in the middle of the night drenched in sweat from a recurring nightmare. I felt guilty for our dead, unborn child, as if my actions had somehow caused his death. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, but on that night I didn’t find my wife sleeping beside me. In the distance, I could hear muffled cries, hundreds of them hidden behind a locked door. I knew exactly what had happened: my wife had gone into the crying room. I ventured downstairs, disappointed and confused as to how she’d gotten inside. She’d found the keys I hidden, and for the couple of missing padlocks, she’d simply torn them off with a crowbar. I rushed inside to find the room filled with tears, the entire floor covered in a deep pool of water tall enough to leak into our living room. But the walls had long since stopped crying by the time I got down. The muffled sounds I had heard weren’t sobs at all, but laughter. Lisa sat in the middle of the pool with an empty expression on her face. “Lisa, what are you doing?” I asked. She didn’t respond, she didn’t even look at me. She was absolutely catatonic, to the point where I had to carry her out of the room and lock it behind. She was alive, that much I knew, but she’d been hollowed out. She’d stayed inside the room so long that every single emotion she’d ever felt, and could ever feel had been erased from her personality. The woman I loved was just gone. I called an ambulance, what else could I have done? But as I already knew, there was nothing left to do. She was checked into a psychiatric facility with little hope of recovery, leaving all alone in the world. I try to visit her weekly, but it doesn’t look like she even recognizes me. I’m so empty, I keep thinking about going back into the crying room. It’s just too tempting not to feel anything anymore.