10. The Photographer's Apartment

The Photographer's apartment is in an old style mansion block, with a central well in the buildings, and barred windows, netted to prevent pigeons nesting. Only a single, small and heavily obscured window lights the rooms giving onto this space. The Photographer has blacked out even this small aperture with soundproofing material, and installed a complicated ventilation system to replace the window, so that once inside the room you could be anywhere or nowhere.

The room itself is not large - a box room, or bathroom perhaps. It would make a perfect darkroom, but the Photographer has long since adapted another of the rooms in the apartment for this purpose.

Inside the room there is no furniture. The walls, floor, and ceiling are padded with soft black rubber. Concealed in black rubber studs are tiny microphones, which pick up and amplify the slightest whisper, connected to a recording system in the Photographer's study that holds two three-hour tapes. When the room is occupied they are changed every six hours.

The only entrance is through a heavily soundproofed door, with a specially reinforced lock that secures the door to the frame on both the hinged and opening sides. From inside it's hard to find the door, as the back and the surrounding walls are padded in the same material. The Photographer keeps the key on a chain around his neck at all times, and the lock well oiled, so that it turns smoothly and silently. A hatch is built into the door, allowing food or water to be placed inside the doorway for the occupant of the room, but even this works through an ingenious airlock system, so that no light or sound is allowed to enter. The room could be a womb, or a sensory deprivation tank. The Photographer has himself spent some hours enclosed between its padded walls, but the total solitude, the silence, and the whispering of internal voices frightened him; he felt as though his soul was being eaten. Now he uses it solely for observation, sending others on the journeys that he himself is too terrified to make, recording the pleas and entreaties absorbed by the padded walls, the gradual loss of identity and the dissolution of language. Each time he attempts to piece together a deeper meaning from the babble on his tapes. But there is never quite enough to grasp a pattern, and frustration sends him out looking for fresh victims.

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