As Aleron stepped into the somnoscopic chamber, he made to glace back at his classmates, but professor Godwin caught him by the chin and turned his head forward.
"Show no fear, Aleron, lest your fear find you in the dark" the professor said ominously.
That did nothing to help the boy feel better, but Aleron refused to let the solemn older man get under his skin. With all the internal strength he could muster, he made his way to the stool in the middle of the chamber and sat down. An instant later, the door to the chamber closed, plunging Aleron into the deepest darkness he had ever known.
Sealed off completely from any source of light, and lacking one itself, the chamber was entirely devoid of illumination, which Aleron thought rather odd considering the mirrors that lined the inside wall. While being perfectly circular on the outside, the mirrors on the inside were seamlessly connected, forming a many-sided polygon, if one were to look down upon it from above.
The chamber was completely soundproof as well, so the only things that Aleron could immediately sense were the cold of the metal stool on which he sat and the scratch of the fabric of his uniform. Soon however, he became aware of the sound of his breathing and a while later the beating of his heart. He took pride in the fact that his breathing and heart beat had remained steady and the anxiety he had felt before entering the chamber had nearly faded away completely. In fact, he felt rather relaxed, and soon began to yawn. Some time later, Aleron found himself looking at his reflection in the mirror. Drowsily, he smiled to himself, amused by how stiff he looked therein. His reflection didn't smile back.
Startled by the irregularity and the newly-remembered fact that the chamber he was in had no source of light, Aleron stumbled backward off the stool. His reflection did not move, save for the eyes following his movement. Unable to comprehend how he could be seeing his reflection in the pitch black of the room, Aleron continued to back away in a rising panic. Just before backing against the opposite mirror, he chanced to look back over his shoulder and became even more alarmed at what he saw.
In the mirror there, he could see a cluster of his classmates, standing over him and looking down through empty eye-sockets. The closest of them hand her hands outstretched toward him, a terrible look upon her eyeless face. Aleron couldn't tell whether or not her hands were actually coming through the mirror, but he didn't care to chance it and scrambled back toward the stool. Sitting himself on it once again, he attempted to collect his thoughts, but quickly noticed the other mirrors.
The one to the left of his eyeless classmates contained his mother, head aflame and clawing at her face. Stupefied by the horrific sight, Aleron numbly turned his head to look in the next mirror where he saw his father strangling himself to death, eyes bulging. Turning again, he saw his older brother standing serenely with a steady flow of blood coming from his mouth. Next to him, Aleron's younger sister stood holding her head in her hands before her. The mirrors after them showed his professors, then his close friends, then strangers he vaguely remembered seeing, all injured or afflicted in some surreal and grisly way. Aleron suddenly realized he had stopped turning to look at the next mirror and that the mirrors were spinning around him.
"This isn't real. This isn't real. It's not real!" he said shutting his eyes.
As soon as they were closed, a cacophony of screaming, moaning, and whispering assaulted his ears. In an attempt to drown out the hellish noises, he continued to repeat to himself, "this isn't real, this isn't real." Before he knew it, his throat was raw from shouting the mantra at the top of his lungs. With a roar of fear and anger, he opened his eyes again.
Silence and empty mirrors greeted him, the only thing distinguishing them from the darkness; a circle of light on the floor within each. Taking deep breathes to calm himself, Aleron stared straight ahead, not allowing his eyes to close again. A noise behind him however, made him jerk his head around to see what caused it, and there he found himself looking at his reflection once again, only now his entire form was black as night.
Before Aleron could react to this new anomaly, the dark figure rose to its feet from its seat upon the stool within the mirror. It then proceeded to walk to Aleron's right, appearing again in the mirror over. Continuing to walk, the figure began to speak in a strange, warbling voice.
"Show no fear, lest your fear find you in the dark" it said, almost in a mocking tone.
"This isn't real" Aleron said in answer, voice hoarse.
"It is real for you" the figure replied.
"Only in my head. This is just a dream"
"The eyes are in the head, but dreams are not seen. Dreams are outside the senses, yet within."
"You are trying to confuse me. This is of my own imagination."
"Am I? Who then am I? Am I of your imagination? Why then would I confuse you?"
"The mind play tricks."
"Tricks with itself? Why would it trick itself?"
"Because it can misinterpret."
"Misinterpret what, itself? If this is all within your brain, then what is being misinterpreted?"
"This is a past experience?"
"No. But the mind can rework it's memories."
"Why would it do that?"
"Information! All the information learned throughout the day."
"That would make me part of the process. Why then do I question your reasoning? Seems counter-productive."
"It's a trick of the mind."
"Why the tricks?"
"It's part of the process!"
"The process of what?"
"The process of-- of..."
"The process of destroying itself?"
Aleron had no idea what to say to that. Seeing his inability to respond, the figure stopped and walked toward him, out of the mirror. Aleron stiffened, not knowing what to do.
"This is darkness. This, which you claim to be all in your head, it is a deep darkness. Product of a dark mind, or a dark world?" the figure asked, stopping just in front of the boy.
"I... I do not know."
"You know now" it said, and with that, the figure stepped into Aleron like one would step into a pool, plunging him again into total darkness upon reaching his eyes.
Aleron felt as if he sat the there in the dark for quite some time before shaking himself into action. He made his way to the wall of the chamber, and pushed on it. How he knew that part of the wall to be the door and that he need only push on it for it to open it, Aleron never could quite understand afterward. He did however, understand something few ever do, and upon seeing his classmates and his professor, he simply scanned their faces then favored his solemn professor with a knowing smile. And Godwin in turn, gave him a nod of respect.