Below is a Recollection–this is not a review, but rather a full spoiler walkthrough of the author’s experience in SEPOLTO, an extreme haunt by Heretic. As this experience will not be remounted, it is safe to read this, and not be concerned with spoilers.
A young girl with beady black eyes blinds me from the darkness on the other side of the gate. She’s fragile, her bones deteriorating, an emotionless expression eating away at her porcelain face, almost ghost-like.
“She’s waiting for you inside.”
Grabbing me by the hand, she leads me into a small warehouse. The only thing I can see is a beautiful juxtaposition between light and dark, my shadow casting a desperate aura upon opening the door. I step inside, my hands shivering, a sixth sense of knowing something’s wrong. A strobe light causes my eyes to lose touch with the reality outside the front door. A fire extinguisher lies on the cold floor beneath my feet. Through the alternating flashes between light and darkness, all I can see is a man with a gas mask, reminiscent of an apocalyptic creature sitting still, no movement. I assume he’s a mannequin, maybe a statue. There’s a cold mist inside this warehouse, most likely from the fog permeating throughout the insides, trapped within the confines of an unknown world.
The young girl instructs me sit down in the corner. “Wait here” she says, before leaving through the front door and sealing it – the only door, the only way out. There is no escape.
My eyes dart around the environment, adjusting to the black air, exploring what dangers lurk around the corner. A man sits in a chair, hands tied behind his back. His flesh singed, his face blistering, his identity unrecognizable. His third-degree burns make it a sight almost unbearable to witness. Is this my future? Am I the next victim?
Then, I see her.
She stands, slipping her feet into high heels that don’t seem to completely fit. She utters something while I wait on the ground. For a while, she doesn’t seem to notice my presence. Instead she walks around the poor victim, her victim.
“I’ve killed you in every incarnation, but you keep coming back. This time, I’ll make sure it hurts.”
She circles the man, and I fall in her line of sight. Before I can move, she grabs my arm and lurches me forwards, instructing me to sit on the chair resting to the side of the badly burnt man. There is something, or someone, behind me—maybe another creature from this dystopian playground. It wraps tape around my arms, securing me into place, making sure I have no means of escape.
The woman continues to talk. “This was my first victim. One of many.”
While she speaks, the creature behind me inserts something into my mouth. My gag reflexes attempt to spit it out, yet there is no such thing as success when faced with a tormentor. Once I manage to loosen the gag, the woman shoves it right back down my throat. Spit drips from my lips, my tongue is wet, vomit emerging from my stomach. The creature presses my nose as a reminder that he won’t let go until I stop resisting the gag inside my mouth. I stop resisting, and a hood is thrown over my head. My breathing quickens, each gasp for air becomes more difficult than the last. Seconds seem like minutes and minutes seem like hours. I’m left waiting, the only comfort being that of a man on the verge of death.
I hear something. It sounds like a whisper, only visceral and intimidating. My hood is removed. Her eyes penetrate me. A blowtorch in her hand hovering mere inches away from her victim’s face. She presses the blowtorch against his shirt, fire erupts. This is her first kill, isn’t it? The beginning of a legacy, one dominated by pure insanity and unfulfilled relentlessness. She bathes the man in flames.
The gas-masked figure, not in fact a mannequin but another tormentor, extinguishes the smoke, liquid carbon dioxide making for a spectacle when contrasted with the darkness surrounding me.
When the smoke has dissipated, there is something new in the woman’s hand: a metal blade with a jagged edge.
Such a famous idea in the Heretic mythos, such a mortifying object when you find out it’s real.
She brings the knife close to my face, gesturing at slicing my throat. But I’m not her intended victim. She turns and slowly brings the knife closer to his stomach, caressing it against what remains of his flesh. He shakes, wrestles against the shackles keeping him in place, knowing this is the day where it’ll all be over. As the hood descends back over my head, I catch a glimpse of the woman violently thrusting the knife into the man’s abdomen.
Blood spurts from his wounds. I can feel it squirting against my pants. The creature removes the hood. The vision of neon blood dripping through the seams of my jeans strikes me as beautiful. The man dead, his head resting against the floor, his form both angelical and diabolical.
She forces me to stand up. She brings me towards a wall, a window in front of me dividing the warmth of reality with the cold, abusive environment I’m currently a part of. She brushes her mouth against my ear, whispering the words:
“I am you and you are me. Repeat it back to me.”
“I am you and you are me”
“Repeat it again”
“I am you and you are me”
“I AM YOU AND YOU ARE ME”
She instructs me to wait, disappearing into the darkness behind me.
I wait. I wait. And I wait.
Until a noise permeates that space, so loud that it shakes the foundation—the sound of the door being kicked open. Footsteps rush towards me. Pounding, violent, crass. The tape is ripped from my hands.
“Put your hands on the back of your head and take three steps back.”
The voice is gruff and male. One of authority. I raise my hands slowly, placing one over the other on the nape of my neck. I step back. One. Two. Three.
“Kneel on the floor. Forehead to the ground.”
I drop to my knees; bending my torso until my forehead rests on the cold, hard concrete.
“Put your hands above your head.”
The final instruction. Immediately after I comply, a knee presses into my neck. My face contorts as it is forcibly pressed into the ground; my nose twisted, my vision distorted. The pain is excruciating. My hands are grabbed, and the cold metal of handcuffs are placed over my wrists. I wrestle to slip my hands out, but escape isn’t a construct within the confines of this lucid dream. He tells me to look at him, a towering figure blinding my vision. He holds me by my throat. I see his badge. A police officer and his partner.
“Do you want to tell me what happened?”
“There was a woman… She killed that man.”
“Do you want to tell me what actually happened here?”
“A girl told me that a woman was waiting inside, so she brought me here. She shackled me to the chair and burned some guy while I watched and told me I was her.”
“Do you really expect me to believe that a woman managed to tie you to a chair without any help?”
“Yes and she left. She’s not here anymore.”
“Listen up you fucking shithead, we have been waiting outside the whole time. We have been tracking you for a while you fucking twisted little shit. There’s only one door that leads in and out of this place.”
“Officer, I swear there was a woman here and now she’s gone. I had my hands wrapped, I couldn’t have killed the man.”
His already limited patience seems to be wearing thin. He lunges me towards the floor and chokes me until I cough.
“We know who you are. We know you murdered a child. What kind of sadistic fuck kills a little girl? Now, I’m only going to ask you this once. Where did you bury her?”
“What are you talking about? The only thing the woman killed was a man by lighting his face up with a blowtorch and then stabbing him with a knife”.
“I don’t fucking believe you for a second. Again, there is only one door. Nobody else came into this room. We watched you through that window, we saw what you did. Now tell me where the fuck did you bury the child?”
I deny being a murderer once again. He forces me to kneel and drags me along the floor; a burning sensation in my knees, a feeling of needles piercing through my skin. The man looks at his partner:
“I say we fucking kill him right here right now.”
“But that’s against the rules. We can’t kill him!”
“It’s the same story every single time. Spoiled rich kids manage to get a corrupt lawyer and since it’s a corrupt system, he won’t even have to spend time in jail.”
“I say we end it right fucking now. You don’t deserve to walk away from this one…”
Then it hits me.
I am you and you are me.
We are the same person. We have always been the same person.
I am a child killer, I murdered a man in cold blood. I stop resisting; surrendering to my fate. The officer has made up his mind and there’s nothing I can do to change it. I’m on my knees. He throws me against the ground and makes me sit. He wraps his arms around my throat, pressing against my trachea. My vision becomes hazy as my pupils roll up. This is it. There is no going back. As my eyes whiten, he releases his grip. I cough until I’m out of breath.
“Listen, I’ll give you one more chance to tell me where you buried the body and then you just might leave here alive if you’re lucky.”
“I don’t know where the body is, Officer, I really don’t know.”
“My wife and child were murdered by a man just like you. It’s time low life scum stop infesting this planet.”
He pulls a handgun with a silencer from his holster, holding the cold steel to my forehead as his partner shakes, knowing the consequences of killing a suspect. The officer makes a last-minute decision to throw a body bag on top of me. Maybe I’m not deserving of a bullet, a death too quick for somebody so monstrous.
He picks me up, body bag and all, as if I was some sort of useless toy and carries me outside. I feel nothing. He throws my body against the ground. Dirt starts pouring into the bag. The weight of the earth compresses my chest.
I listen to their footsteps as they grow fainter—and then I am left with only the sound of my own muffled breathing.
I wrestle against the bag, but I cannot move. I’m unable to escape. I accept my fate as a killer and close my eyes.
I breathe, I breathe, I breathe.
I breathe until there is no more air.
Someone scoops up dirt with a shovel, allowing me space to move around. A familiar voice instructs me to stand still and remove the bag from my body. Then I recognize her. I killed her. I murdered her in cold blood.
The girl with beady black eyes stands in front of me, the child of two parents suffering through screams of pain, the endless agony of knowing that yellow school bus won’t ever drop her off, coming to terms with a door bell that will no longer ring. They’ll wait for an eternity and it will always be my fault. I tell her I’m sorry. She doesn’t say anything.
What have I done?