“I have opened the Door!” she said. “I have set her free!”
She thought his face changed at her words, but she could not see very clearly. She had begun to slip down and down, faster and ever faster into a fathomless abyss of darkness from which there was no deliverance. And as she went she heard his voice above her, brief, distinct, merciless: “And you will pay the price.” ... The darkness closed over her head....
That darkness was to Olga but the beginning of a long, long night of suffering—such suffering as her short life had never before compassed—such suffering as she had never imagined the world could hold.
It went in a slow and dreadful circle, this suffering, like the turning of a monstrous wheel. Sometimes it was so acute that she screamed with the red-hot agony of it. At other times it would draw away from her for a space, so that she was vaguely conscious that the world held other things, possibly even other forms of torture. Such intervals were generally succeeded by intense cold, racking, penetrating cold that nothing could ever alleviate, cold that was as Death itself, freezing her limbs to stiffness, congealing the blood in her veins, till even her heart grew slower and slower, and at last stood still.
Then, when it seemed the end of all things had come, some unknown power would jerk it on again like a run-down watch in which the key had suddenly been inserted, and she would feel the key grinding round and round and round in a winding-up process that was even more dreadful than the running-down. Then would come agonies of heat and thirst, a sense of being strung to breaking-point, and her heart would race and race till, appalled, she clasped it with her fevered hands and held it back, feeling herself on the verge of destruction.
And through all this dreadful nightmare she never slept. She was hedged about by a fiery ring of sleeplessness that scorched her eyeballs whichever way she turned, giving her no rest. Sometimes indeed dreams came to her, but they were waking dreams of such vivid horror as almost to dwarf her reality of pain. She moved continually through a furnace that only abated when the exhausted faculties began to run down and the deathly chill took her into fresh torments.
Once, lying very near to death, she opened her sleepless eyes upon Max’s face. He was stooping over her, holding her nerveless hand very tightly in his own while he pressed a needle-point into her arm. That, she knew, was the preliminary to the winding-up process. It had happened to her before—many times she fancied.
She made a feeble—a piteously feeble—effort to resist him. On the instant his eyes were upon her face. She saw the green glint of them and quivered at the sight. His face was as carved granite in the weird light that danced so fantastically to her reeling brain.