Darkness hung heavy in the room as Sarah awoke, disoriented and shivering. She blinked her eyes rapidly, trying to adjust to the pitch-black surroundings. Panic set in as she realized she couldn’t remember how she ended up here.

“Hello?” she called out, her voice echoing through the empty space. No response. The air felt suffocating, as if the room was closing in on her. Sarah stumbled forward, her hands reaching out for something to guide her, but all she found was smooth, cold walls.

Her heart pounded in her chest, and a knot formed in her stomach. She couldn’t recall anything leading up to this moment—the events leading to her entrapment were a blank canvas. Fear washed over her, and she began to hyperventilate.

With trembling hands, Sarah felt around the walls for any sign of a door or a window. But there was nothing. No cracks, no openings—just the solid, unyielding surface. She was trapped.

As minutes turned into hours, Sarah’s mind played cruel tricks on her. She could have sworn she heard whispers in the darkness, distant voices taunting her. Shadows danced along the edges of her vision, unsettling her further. The room became her personal prison, her mind the captor.

Days blurred together as Sarah’s sanity slipped away. She scribbled nonsensical messages on the walls, desperately seeking some connection to reality. But the words bled together, becoming an indecipherable mess.

Her body weakened from lack of sustenance, her spirit drained from the isolation. Sleep became elusive, as nightmares melded with reality. Sarah’s mind became a twisted labyrinth, each turn leading to a dead end.

But then, one day, a glimmer of hope appeared—a faint sound coming from above. Sarah strained her ears, trying to make sense of the distant noise. Footsteps. Someone was approaching. Adrenaline surged through her veins, giving her a renewed strength.

“Help! I’m trapped!” she screamed, her voice hoarse and desperate.

The footsteps grew louder, and the door to the room swung open. Sarah shielded her eyes, the sudden burst of light blinding her. Slowly, her vision adjusted, and she saw a figure standing in the doorway. It was a man, wearing a lab coat.

“Congratulations, Sarah,” the man said, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. “You’ve made it.”

Confusion clouded Sarah’s mind. “What do you mean? Made it where?”

The man’s smile widened. “You’ve successfully completed the isolation experiment. Twenty-one days without human contact. You’re the first.”

Sarah’s mind reeled as reality shattered around her. The room, the voices, the shadows—it had all been a meticulously crafted illusion. She had willingly participated in an experiment she couldn’t even remember signing up for.

As the truth sank in, a new darkness took hold of Sarah—the realization that her mind could be manipulated, that her perception of reality was fragile. The locked room had been the physical manifestation of her own vulnerability.

And with that knowledge, the man’s words echoed through her mind. “You’ve made it.”

But at what cost?