She’s a perfectly ordinary girl, however you define that.
How can she fit everyone’s individual definition of ordinary, you ask? First off, you should perhaps confront the obvious strangeness and pointlessness of you, a disembodied placeholder entity asking me, a disembodied narrator, such a cliché question. Second off, you should consider why anyone would bother to ask this unnecessary and odd question in the first place.
With those questions in mind, we shall now move on to more relevant concerns. Please try to stay focused.
She’s a perfectly ordinary girl, however you define that. She is preparing to enter a very strange place. It’s completely safe, of course, just quite strange. It is an exploration of the senses – not her senses in the specific, but the senses, in the abstract. They’re very different things and exhibits on these two separate topics would be quite different experiences.
She, of course, does not know what to expect on her journey. She merely saw a sign that piqued her curiosity, a sign featuring the image of laughter. Not the image of a person laughing, mind you – the image of the sound waves produced by laughter. This image intrigued her, and so she followed its instructions and made her way over to this exhibit.
She walks down the stairs carefully, her flats creating a clacking sound that most would be more inclined to associate with heels. Setting this odd contradiction aside, for presumably she no longer noticed this mismatch, she proceeds down into the darkness.
Dimness is a slightly more applicable term in this context. It is very dark at the bottom of the stairs, but hints of light bled through from just around the corner. Being a human, it is in her nature to follow this light, and she thus promptly acted on her instinct and skittishly fled from the darkness.
I shall pause now and forewarn you, dear fellow disembodied presence, that we are, to say the least, entering an odd environment. In may indeed be so odd that words will not suffice to describe it. I shall thus only give the description a token effort, including enough information to orient you but not so much as to bury you. I do believe that you will appreciate this, especially as the space and effort I save in making that decision will allow us to spend more time on our primary subject.
Said subject is now following the path and wandering cautiously into the exhibit. The exhibit is a veritable cornucopia of stimuli, with fabric draped across the walls, strings zig-zagged across the room at eye level, a massive silken archway slung across the center of the space, and the eerie white glow of a projector against a distant wall. The visuals are accompanied by a soft music lazily drifting through the air, intercut with snatches of audio from what seems to be a person speaking. Tucked into a shadowy corner sits a small man, staring straight at the entrance and blinking slowly, typing methodically away on a remarkably loud keyboard.
Her reaction, unsurprisingly, is one of confusion and curiosity. The display is not so impressive as to elicit a truly awed response from her, but it certainly captures her interest from the very beginning. She looks around the room slowly and carefully, eyes sparkling, reflecting shreds of light from the weak sources in the exhibit.
Courteous and dedicated student of art that she is, she stands still, running through this examination process while rooted to the spot for several minutes. When she finally begins to move again, she does so quietly and carefully, showing appropriate deference to the piece.
The solitary nature of her visit likely contributes to her cautious movement as well; other than the small man sitting eerily in the corner, she is alone here. And with the almost-taboo aura emanating from that man, it appears that communicating with him in any way will be unlikely for her. Thus, she undertakes this journey alone.
To answer your obvious and immediate question – yes, of course we are here with her as well. But as this story should have made clear by now, the girl is not particularly aware of our presence. We are merely “along for the ride,” so to speak, floating along behind her and observing for our own purposes. Well, my own purposes, at any rate. I don’t know what you’re seeking here.
Regardless of your goals, however, you should make a better effort to respect this process and focus your attention on the subject’s reactions to the exhibit. At a bare minimum, if you insist on asking questions, please ask better ones than those you have thus far offered.
Now, in my efforts to address your curiosity, the subject has moved deeper into the room. She has taken a lengthy piece of string proffered by a nearby bowl and is weaving it through scattered hooks as she moves through the space, adding a small component of her own to the larger exhibit. In the process, she is pausing every so often to examine particular bits in greater depth. She lingers over a piece of fabric, hesitating for a moment before reaching out to run her hand along it. She absentmindedly loops her string multiple times around a single hook as she squints through the archway, trying to see past the shadows cast by the stark light of the projector.
Unsurprisingly, she waits only another moment before creeping forward through the archway, pausing only to slip the string across another hook. The man in the corner continues to clack away at his keyboard, but after a few nervous glances from the subject earlier (glances that we missed), she has resolved to ignore his presence. Further, the cloth archway muffles his clacking once she passes through it, rendering the question moot in the first place.
There is more to see beyond the archway – a recordplayer lurking in the lower folds of the curtains, mannequin heads dyed a half dozen colors mounted on the left wall – but she barely seems to notice these things.
No, the real attraction of this space is the buzzing projector that drew her attention in the first place. The bright white light glares harshly against the wall, cut through only by the small black text zipping across the display at lightning pace.
She steps forward, just as curious as you, trying to get a better look at what the text says, squinting now not for sight but because of the pain caused by the burning light. She pauses for a moment to take in the words and is greeted only by her own actions.
It would be more appropriate to call it an accounting of her actions in the exhibit thus far, an accounting that is being updated in real time. Every motion the subject has made since turning the corner into the space has been recorded, and even the slightest twitches are now being blasted onto the wall for anyone to read.
In some ways, that sounds less frightening than it actually was. And perhaps for you, such a thing was always going to be less frightening – you are not the subject of this text, after all. But she is. And as I mentioned earlier, she has no idea that she is not alone in here. As far as she knows, she is completely isolated. Utterly alone except for the man in the corner, clacking away, noting her movements and projecting each one onto this screen in some sort of warped show for her eyes only.
It is, to say the least, a disturbing, creepy trick. Shrouding the reveal of this element behind the silk archway just amps up the level of creepiness, creating a moment in which the subject’s stomach sinks as her brain puts the pieces together. The space twists on that moment, the added layer seemingly darkening the whole room. Her isolation in this room only enhances the effect, forming a brief window in which it seems that she is trapped in here with the observer.
For a moment, that window persists and we are able to observe a range of emotions struggle across her face as she processes the nature of the experiment.
But it is shattered by the sound of footsteps padding slowly down the stairs. Given our position closer to the door, we of course notice it before she does, but she’s not too far behind. She jerks in surprise and twists around, instinctively withdrawing deeper into the shade of the archway even as she cranes to see the source of the footsteps.
I see that you want this to further amp the pressure in the room, a new element brought into the exhibit at this exact moment to make the environment even stranger and creepier. The acoustics of the room promote your goals too – the footsteps seem heavy and dragging as the sound echoes through the room, distorting itself as it bounces across surfaces. It gives off the impression that something threatening is approaching.
Tragically for you, but fortunately for the rest of us, no such thing is occurring; the room is merely designed to take advantage of opportunities such as that. Had we been downstairs before our subject came down, you would have heard how the acoustics warped the clacking of her shoes, creating a sharper sound that would have caused many to jump.
In truth, it’s just another group entering the exhibit. It is a public installation, after all. No need for any of the subjects to be isolated and alone in there. Why, it would be the height of foolishness to enter such an eerie space all by oneself. In a space designed to make people uneasy, there’s no need to make that task simpler.
Getting back to the subject…
Once she sees the other group turn the corner and look around in wonder themselves, our first subject visibly relaxes. It seems that the brief spell she was under has broken. She looks around sheepishly at her crouched, hidden position, and gingerly extricates herself, turning her back on the projection on the wall and stepped out from under the archway. Once freed from the archway, the tension continues to spill out of her. The sight of the observer continuing to clack away, his attention now clearly flickering between her and the new group, gives her pause, but she shakes it off quickly. It’s just an installation.
The other group glances at her curiously as she strides out of the room, but she doesn’t bother to acknowledge them. She has clearly had her fill and is ready to leave.