I found a post on Pinterest with short story writing prompts. This list is what I will be using to spark my weekly short stories. This week’s prompt: Write about a “Black Room” (note I decided against being creative with the title).
* * *
I woke up to a knock on the door. I’d been in and out of sleep, not dreaming yet not fully alert. That in-between space where you can start to see dreams forming, but you’re quickly pulled out of it at the twitch of your own fingers or the sound of a passing car. I wasn’t expecting anyone so I didn’t get up when I first heard the knocking. But the dummy kept rapping on my front door, regardless of my plans to sleep half the day away.
“I’m coming!” I yelled, letting my legs fall off the side of the bed until my feet hit the floor. I shuffled my way out to the front door, wiping the sleep from my eyes as I went along. As soon as I reached for the doorknob the knocking stopped. I looked through the peephole, but no one was there. The only thing I saw was a black envelope on the ground.
I opened the door and picked up the envelope. The envelope was matte black, about the size of a small “thank you” note, with glossy black lettering on the front with my name, Tara, and You’re invited to… I opened the envelope to find the rest of the sentence …The Black Room and an address written in the same glossy black script against the matte black paper. The back of the envelope revealed the date and time. Today. 8:00pm.
I had no intention of going to find out what “The Black Room” was, or going anywhere else for that matter. It was my day off, and I planned to enjoy it laying on the couch, eating Chinese take-out, and binge-watching all the TV dramas I’d recorded the week before. It was me “me day” and I didn’t want to be bothered. But I kept looking at that darn black envelope sitting on my kitchen island.
I had to admit I was curious. I’d never received something so mysterious. I’d only seen stuff like that on TV, and it didn’t often end well for the main character. Something in me felt like taking a little risk would be healthy. Shock me out of the mundanity of my routine, and give me something to tell my mother about later, or not depending how it went. The morbid part of me figured, if I died, at least I did so trying something knew rather than choking on an egg roll. So I shut off the TV and hopped in the shower. I had two hours to get to this room and, according to the maps app on my phone, it would take forty-five minutes to get there.
I must’ve stood in front of my closet for fifteen minutes trying to figure out what one wears to The Black Room. Should I wear all black, or would that come off as kitschy? Should I wear all white? That seemed a bit much, but wearing color didn’t feel right either. I settled on a flowy black tank with thick straps, dark jeggings, and my favorite dark purple sneakers. Hopefully I wasn’t too dressed—under or over.
I arrived at five minutes ’til eight. Parking was ample, though the building—if you could call it a building—was small. It looked more like a double-wide trailer that had been dropped in the middle of an abandoned lot. The Black Room was written on the door in dripping black paint. I wanted to touch it to see if it would stain my fingers or if the dripping was merely aesthetic, but decided against the idea of having to find something to clean my fingers with. I reached for the knob instead.
I stepped into The Black Room, and it was just that—a black room. Walls, ceiling, floor, all black. Chairs, black. Tables, black. Frames, black. Art, people…Black. In each of the black frames was a piece of art depicting Black life, most of it in shades of grey. And standing in front of that Black art were Black people…in shades of brown…from cream with a drop of coffee, to coffee with a drop of cream. And these Black people were wearing black shirts with variations of the word “black” printed in various styles and colors that glowed under the black light.
I stood frozen at the entrance of The Black Room, unsure of what to do, or who to speak to, or which piece of art I wanted to see up close first. I scanned the room for what seemed like an eternity until a man approached me with a T-shirt in hand. He wasn’t very tall—somewhere close to my 5’5—but his presence filled up all the free space around me. His skin was like milk chocolate—smooth and a little creamy—with a sprinkle of freckles at his temples, and he had a bright smile.
“Welcome to The Black Room Tara.” He handed me the shirt he was holding. It was black with the word “black” printed on the front in a script-like font that was a different shade of black that barely stood out against the black of the shirt. “You can keep this one whether you choose to participate or not, but you have to earn the colors.” His voice was even bigger than his presence. “They call me ‘H’.”
I took in a lot that night at The Black Room. H explained what The Black Room was, and what it was not; he told me its origin, its purpose, and its goal. The Black Room was an answer to a question I had only asked myself. It was what I’d been searching for—a place that would force me to examine myself in the form of my creativity and contributes to the community at large. H wouldn’t tell me how he’d found me or what made me worthy of the invitation to join, but I accepted it and him and everything that came after.