The Alone Experience

It’s been nearly a week since I was Absorbed, and I still don’t feel right (in a good way).

Over the past 4 months, I’ve allowed my body to move and be moved through The Alone Experience, a full-contact “haunt” that refers to itself as “An Existential Haunting.” This year, they explored four indices of light, the way it is perceived and interacts with space and matter — Diffusion, Refraction, Reflection, and Absorption — through their extended “Unweave the Rainbow” storyline.

As the name implies, you spend the majority of your time in The Alone Experience, well, alone. In the dark. With nothing but whatever happy thoughts you manage to bring into it. You’re left to your own intuition to find your way through their world, crawling through pitch black tunnels, walking down dimly lit, door lined hallways, and dropped into conversations with no clear beginning or end.

However, you’re not always alone — any given experience has you interacting with a handful of extremely dedicated actors, both seen and unseen, as they touch you, cling to you, dance with you, throw you around the room, and stare into your soul. And a few times, you’re interacting with others in the experience as well, in a some very well designed personal moments with complete strangers.

In Diffusion, the first Index of the year and my first interaction with The Alone Experience, I was brought on stage part way through a bizarre performance of The Crucible where I disappeared under a table, was trapped in a depilated bathroom, played piano, and went to a fog filled party. The moment I was guided back to the outside world, I knew I was hooked.

The second Index, Refraction, was a slightly shorter event at ScareLA, in which I was kidnapped by a giant black sphere in the middle of the conference floor, much to the confusion of other attendees, bound by the head to another person moving through the the experience, listened to an amazing overlapping story, and had one of my childhood nightmares reenacted through a brilliant use of light through a thin sheet and a slowly opening and closing door.

Reflection, the third Index, was a three hour, multi site event revolving around a music playlist and puzzle solving skills, was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. It turned into a very personal experience, more than the other two, and brought me to the brink of tears multiple times. Not through fear or sadness, but through emotions I never knew existed. I spent a lot of time in the dark. I was approached by seemingly random people on the street who, not until after an honest, innocent conversation, revealed that they were in on everything, watching me, guiding me through my experience before disappearing into the city.

I was immobilized, I was threatened, I was thrown across the room and had paint smeared across my face. I had an in depth conversation about if a fish knows it will die if it jumps out of its tank, and if it’s worth the risk for freedom. I had my palm read by a stranger in a white dress in a crowded bar, which led to a discussion about my earliest memories, my favorite memories, and my least favorite memories, and why I hold onto those. And then I had those memories altered, forever associated with this experience, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. After being in their world for an evening, and then suddenly released into the “real world,” I wasn’t even sure it ended when it did.

And last Friday, I was Absorbed. I’m still working through everything that happened. I think my current feeling, and my feeling for the past few days, has been that of waking up from a frighteningly realistic dream. In the days leading up to this fourth Index I was giddy with excitement, unable to keep my mind off of what could be waiting for me at Alone, Inc. — a permutation of Alone introduced in a mini-scavenger hunt experience a month prior. The night of my appointment, sitting in the lobby, my excitement turned to a nearly crippling anticipation as I sat fidgeting, waiting to move to the seat closer to the door.

With my first steps into the darkness, it was immediately apparent that I was in for something new. I was given many choices throughout the experience, the actors knew my name and seemed to know that I had gone through the previous experiences, though maybe I’m projecting the context of the previous indices onto Absorption. I was quickly introduced to the concept of this Index as I was spun and rolled through a pitch black room in an office chair, I sat in many theaters, both empty and occupied by mannequins watching the abstract yet somehow deeply personal show of lights and sounds. I had the most bizarre job interview of my life, I danced in the dark, I was subjected to experiments, and had was marked by many people in many different ways.

I always feel a sense of clarity on the other end of The Alone Experience. A slight buzzing in my extremities, a clear mind. Not adrenaline, not a flight or fight response. More like a trance, the feeling of deep meditation, of intense happiness, my mind completely clear, like I’ve just woken up from the best night’s sleep on a Sunday morning. And it stays that way for days after. To me, The Alone Experience is as much about the story it’s telling you as it is about the feelings you’re feeling, about pushing yourself down the next dark tunnel, opening the next door, staring into the eyes staring at you. It’s about surrendering yourself to the experience, being moved through their spaces, letting yourself slip into their world.

Though it may not be the official storyline, Diffusion, Refraction, and Reflection told me about falling asleep — being jarred awake repeatedly in Diffusion, a bedtime story followed by childhood fear brought to life in Refraction, the sleepless restlessness brought on by self evaluation and anxiety in Reflection. Absorption was the feeling of going under. Being lucid in someone else’s dream. Being absorbed by the darkness, embraced by shadow. Being a triangle.

I can not wait for the next one.

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