The cameras focused in on Mayson and Arlynn as they walked home from school. The micro-cams zoomed in close as possible.
“Arlynn?” Mayson asked quietly. Arlynn looked over at him.
“Yes?” She asked, her eyes glinting.
This was the moment all the world had been waiting for. Mayson was about to ask Arlynn to prom. At least, thats what they all expected. This reality show was pretty extreme, so who knew what could happen. The director sent fluffy clouds across the pixelated sky to shade the two unsuspecting teens. They had no idea they were being filmed.
“Wait, I have to ask you something first.” Arlynn cut in.
“Sure.” Mayson sighed.
“Can you go fishing with Koben, Rian and I on Saturday?” Arlynn clasped her hands as if begging him.
Mayson laughed. “Yeah of course. Now I have something to ask you-” He inhaled and prepared to ask Arlynn the question he’d been nervous to ask for weeks.
“Could it possibly wait? I have to get home. My mom wanted me there early.” Arlynn shifted her backpack to her left shoulder. “Unless it’s really important, I can stay.”
Mayson blinked and shook his head. “No, you get home. It can wait.”
“Ok, see you tomorrow, bye!” Arlynn beamed him a smile and turned onto her street.
And the world sighed. He didn’t ask.
Mayson shook his head again and kicked the small pebbles on the sidewalk in front of him.
In houses across the globe people groaned, disappointed that Mayson didn’t pop the question. Teenage girls complained to each other on the phone. Parents discussed wether the show was cruel, or entertaining.
But Arlynn and Mayson? They continued their walk to their homes. Like normal students. In a normal world. Walking by normal lamp posts. But none of those things were really normal. Their teachers were actors. Being paid big bucks to star in the top-rated most exciting reality show of the year, ‘4 lives, action!’. The world was a gigantic dome with a pixelated sky and a lifelike town inside. 3.5 miles wide, it seemed real for Arlynn, Mayson, Koben and Rian. The lamp posts had hidden cameras inside them. Cameras were everywhere. Hidden in the kid’s houses. Under their school desks, in their ‘parents’ cars, at every single location in that artificial town, Ibenville, everywhere.
They knew nothing different. Everyone else who lived in Ibenville knew and devoted their lives to being actors in these kid’s lives. Director Seth Germaine had the idea to start a reality show in 2005, the year Koben, Mayson, Arlynn and Rian were born. Sure, their parents disagreed with letting their children live with random people for 20 years, but changed their minds when they were offered a certain sum of money. Twisted, isn’t it? The kids were going on year 17 with no idea whatsoever that they were being filmed, shown on live television, living in a fake world, and talking to actors instead of family members every day.
That Saturday the four teens met at a nearby lake. The only lake in Ibenville.
“Hey guys.” Koben called to the girls as they walked up together.
“Hey!” Rian called. “You wearing swim trunks? I didn’t know we were swimming!” Rian brushed back her wavy brown hair and pointed at Koben’s blue trunks.
“Of course we’re swimming. But your loss for not bringing a suit.” Mayson chuckled.
The sun shone on Arlynn’s freckled face as she put her hands on her hips. “Rian, we are swimming! I don’t care I didn’t bring a suit. I’ll swim in my clothes.”
Rian groaned. “Ugh, the lake is all algae-ish and stuff! It’ll be gross.” Rian looked towards the lake that was dirty only last week.
“It’s clear.” Koben exclaimed.
“What…?” Mayson scratched his head.
“Thats weird. Maybe city hall hired volunteers to come clean it?” Rian suggested.
Arlynn looked at the water with unbelief.
At the studio Mr. Germaine was biting his lip. He hoped that the teens wouldn’t question any further.
“Maybe.” Koben replied. He shrugged and tossed the fishing poles to the ground. “Ready? We should probably fish first then we can swim because we don’t want to scare the fish.”
Everyone nodded. The girls picked up their poles and walked out on the dock. Koben held Mayson back.
“Dude did you ask her?” He gripped Mayson’s shoulder.
Mayson looked at the sky and groaned. “No, I didn’t get a chance.”
“Take charge, Mas! Just do it.” Koben tried to encourage. He leaned over to Mayson’s ear. “Cause she’s not asking you.”
People across the world chuckled as Koben and Mayson’s conversation played on tv.
Mayson shoved Koben and laughed. “I know, I know. Maybe I’ll ask her when we’re fishing.”
The camera hidden under the picnic table by the lake focused in on Koben and Mayson. So did the one under the metal sheet roofing of the small shack next to the lake.
Koben gasped. “Yeah, man. You can put a note on your hook that says, ‘will you take the bait?’ on the front and ‘prom?’ on the back!” He looked at Mayson who was kicking a rock and running his fingers through his thick brown hair.
“I was just thinking of saying, ‘wanna go to prom?’” He wiped his face. “Oh, why does this have to be so hard!” He groaned.
Koben put a hand on Mayson’s shoulder. “Don’t disappoint me.”
Mayson rolled his eyes. “I’m more concerned about disappointing Arlynn?” Koben laughed and dragged him to the dock to join the girls, who were already fishing.
Off in a building just outside the Ibenville dome, the director Seth Germaine was celebrating. Although it was hard to have a script for a show like this, it was going his way.
“Ha! That was amazing. These kids are great, you know Lauren,” He called to his director’s assistant. “after prom, I bet Arlynn and Mayson will be together just like the fans wanted.” He clapped his hands.
“Yes sir.” The young assistant Lauren replied with her usual response, handing Mr. Germaine his coffee quickly. She knew how he got if he didn’t have his coffee.
“Incredible.” Seth talked aloud. “This was the best idea ever. It’s been a rocky road so far.” Lauren and the other production crew internally sighed. Mr. Germaine was starting another one of his ‘how ‘4 lives, action!’-almost-had-to-be-cancelled-so-many-times’ speeches.
“Barry, remember that guy that tried to sneak in from underground and tell Koben that his life was fake?” Seth asked the key grip.
Barry nodded, trying his best not to offend Mr. Germaine.
“And Felicia! That woman Karen, was it? That pretended to be an actor but really worked for CPS? So frustrating, she really almost revealed it to those kids. We cannot let anything like that happen again!”
Felicia nodded as Barry had. The crew knew not to disagree with Mr. Germaine. It was his dream to complete this series. The worst thing that could happen was if one of the teens found out the world was a dome full of actors and cameras. Seth felt no compassion for the 4 lives that were being lived in the artificial world. He just wanted the money.
The four teens met by being raised only streets apart from each other. Their ‘parents’ always planned playdates for them. Mr. Germaine made sure they’d be close friends. Thankfully for him, it worked out that way. Koben, Arlynn, Mayson and Rian were close.
Back in Ibenville, Mayson grabbed Koben and stopped him. “You’re right. I should do your idea. I’m gonna go get some paper.” Mayson took off running to his house that was just a couple roads over.
The girls looked up at Koben who smiled innocently. “Where’s Mayson going?” Rian asked, her brown eyes flashing in the mid-day sun.
Koben wrung his hands. “He’s going to his house.”
“Why?” Arlynn asked, setting her pole down.
Koben started sweating. “He- uh, bathroom?” He stuttered.
Rian and Arlynn looked at each other and nodded knowingly.
Across the world people chuckled.
Koben let out the breath he had been holding and yelled to the girls. “I’m gonna go help!” He ran off towards Mayson’s house.
Once he was gone the girls bust out laughing. “Yeah, he’s definitely planning on asking you to prom.” Rian put a hand on Arlynn’s shoulder. Arlynn shook her head and smiled.
Rian looked off into the clear lake water and spotted a fish.
“Look! Theres one.” She pointed to what looked like a perch. Arlynn scooted closer to Rian.
“Aw, a little perch.” She looked closer. A micro-cam that was attached to the fishes fin was visible.
“Ri, what is that thing on that fish?” She pointed to the little black square. As soon as Rian squinted to look closer the fish swam away.
“Oh, I missed it. What was it?” Rian asked.
“It looked like a little camera.” Arlynn scratched her head.
In the studio Mr. Germaine and his crew were anxious.
“They better not catch that one.” He growled.
Rian chuckled at her friend.
“Really! It did!” Arlynn set down her pole and peered back into the water.
“Okay, then. Maybe it was a tracker.” Rian shrugged.
“Dude, why would anyone in this town put a tracker on a perch? It was a camera I’m sure.” Arlynn shook her head. Thoughts were running through her head.
Seth was sitting at his desk, flipping switches and talking into his headset.
“We can’t let them catch it.” He mumbled.
“Rian, I feel like we’re being watched.” Arlynn whispered.
“Arlynn, stop being weird! We’re alone.” Said the girl with probably ten cameras pointed at her in that moment.
Arlynn’s voice rose as she spoke. “I keep finding cameras in weird places. Thats why I’m sure that that was a camera on that fish!”
Rian inhaled to respond, but the boys were back and running down the pier each carrying their fishing poles. Rian smiled sympathetically towards Arlynn and stood up to greet the boys. Arlynn stood up too. They smiled as the boys stomped down the pier.
The boys sat down, and pretended to bait their hooks. Mayson was baiting his with paper. He turned around and all the watchers held their breath. This was it. Year 17 and Mayson was making a move. Arlynn turned towards Mayson. Rian smirked. She knew what was coming. Koben fiddled with his reel and looked on.
“Arlynn?” Mayson asked.
“Yes?” She replied.
He held out his pole. The note swung in the air. The watchers held their breath.
Arlynn shot a confused look towards Mayson who was urging her to take the paper.
She grabbed it and read it aloud.
“Will you take the bait…” She flipped the paper over. “And let me take you to prom?”
Mayson beamed. He did it.
“Yes!” She pushed Mayson’s pole out of the way and gave him a hug.
Mayson held his hand behind his back and let Koben high five him as Arlynn was hugging him.
The 4 lives, action! fans cheered as the long awaited moment happened. But they didn’t expect what was coming next. Koben stepped back from the two and faced Rian.
“Wanna go to prom?” He asked, holding his hand out to Rian.
“You’re so cliche.” Rian laughed. “Of course I want to go with you.” She gave Koben a quick hug. He grinned.
The crowd was surprised. So was Mr. Germaine.
“Hallelujah! This is perfect.”
Seth went back to managing the rest of the team and watching his four star characters.
Rian and Arlynn looked at each other and internally squealed.
“I am so glad you said yes.” Mayson with relief. “I’ve been trying to ask you for a couple days. Remember when we were walking home from school?”
Arlynn remembered. “Oh, Mayson, I’m sorry!” Arlynn face palmed.
“No, no you’re good. Now was a better time anyway because Koben, my main man, asked Rian to prom at the same time. Good job, man. I knew you had it in you.”
Koben scoffed. “I should be telling you that!”
“Wanna swim now? I think we’ve fished enough.” Arlynn smiled at her friends. They agreed.
Mr. Germaine grinned.
“That was a close one, guys. They almost caught that fish.”
The team around him nodded.
“But we gotta watch that one, Arlynn. She’s onto us, I think.”
This scene was great across the big screen. The show aired about 12 hours a day, or turned on whenever either of the teens got up to start their day. It was an honest show. A real show. But only for the crowd. It was all a fake for the four.
That next weekend was prom.
“If those kids find out about the show before prom, I will fire all of you!” Mr. Germaine pointed across the room. This prom thing was a big deal to him and the franchise. It was a long awaited moment. He sank into his spinny directors chair and closed his eyes.
“Just make it to prom. Just make it to prom.” He thought to himself. That week, the teens were preoccupied with heavy schoolwork Mr. Germaine had the ‘teachers’ lay on them, and didn’t have time to notice anything out of the ordinary.
The day of prom Mr. Germaine marched into work with a smirk. His grey eyes shone.
“TODAY IS THE DAY!” He yelled as he entered. It was 5 am. The crew each uttered a sarcastic ‘yay!’ or ‘woo hoo!’ to please Seth. He sank down into his expensive, spinny directors chair and folded his hands. He waited for the teens to wake up.
Koben and Mayson stood awkwardly at the back of the school gym. Mayson paced with with his sorbet punch. Koben tapped his fingers on the back of a chair nearby. The girls weren’t there yet.
“Where are they?” Mayson grumbled.
“Calm down. It’s five minutes till it’s actually supposed to start. You know how long girls take on their dresses and makeup and glitter and stuff.” Koben fussed with his navy blue suit.
“I mean, if they don’t come, I’m ruined. I combed my hair for this!” Mayson hissed to Koben.
“Dude, they’re coming! Don’t worry-” Koben spotted the girls.
Arlynn and Rian stepped through the door of the high school gym. Arlynn was wearing an olive green high-low dress with a lace high-neck. Rian was wearing a shiny purple dress with long flowy sleeves. The boys looked up and stared.
Koben whistled as they walked up.
“Lookin good!” He held his hand out to Rian. “Dance time?” He asked.
“Hello to you too, Mr. Shnazzy. Yes, it’s dance time.” Rian dragged Koben out onto the dance floor.
Mayson was left with Arlynn.
“Hey.” She said with a smile. She admired his sharp grey suit.
“You look- great.” Mayson complemented.
The viewers around the world awed and scooted closer to their television screens.
Mr. Germaine and his crew had all left their desks and were watching their big screen intently. The micro-cams under the snack table, on the disco ball, and on one of the ‘students’ nearby’s hairpiece zoomed in close.
“Thanks, Mas.” Arlynn held out her hand. Mayson took it.
“Do you want to dance?” He asked.
Arlynn nodded and they walked out together. A slow song came on and they began to dance.
“Thanks for asking me, Mayson.” Arlynn said as she danced hand in hand with one of her best friends.
“Of course. I’ve always wanted to.” He replied. He looked at Arlynn as she danced with grace. Arlynn looked up at him. But her eyes soon diverted to a teen boy doing something odd. She noticed that as he danced with his partner, he held a medium sized camera, pointing right at herself and Mayson.
“Arlynn?” Mayson asked with concern. Arlynn looked up.
“I saw something weird. Some guy filming us.”
Mayson gave her a look of uncertainty. “Really?”
Arlynn pointed to him. The boy quickly hid the camera in his suit jacket. Mayson nodded.
“That’s kinda creepy.” He admitted.
Arlynn huffed. “Mayson I think people are filming us everywhere. I’ve been seeing cameras in odd places.” She peered around cautiously.
Mayson patted her shoulder. “We’ll figure it out. But after this dance. I’ve waited a while for this you know.” He smiled as Arlynn’s green eyes looked back at him.
Suddenly a yell rang out.
“Arlynn! You were right. We have to go.” Rian yelled.
Arlynn let go of Mayson and turned to Rian. “What do you mean?”
Rian grabbed Arlynn’s shoulder. “The cameras! Me and Koben went to go find a mop to clean up a spill and we walked into this room that looked like a cast’s lounge! There were cameramen and actors that looked like students. I heard them talking.” Rian rambled on and Arlynn saw her eyes tearing up in fear.
“Hey, it’s ok, it’s ok. Let’s get out of here. I want to say I can’t believe it, but I do. Koben, Mayson?”
The boys looked on in surprise.
“Yeah, I’m sorry. We’ll explain on the way out. So, are we a live show or something?” Arlynn asked Rian frantically.
“We’re called 4 lives, action!. All I know is we need to get out now. It’s not safe here.” Rian muttered quietly.
Abruptly a pair of suited men walked out from where Koben and Rian had ran from.
“Go, go, go!” Mayson cried.
The four teens ran to the door leading to the outside of the gym. They spotted the storage building for the school campus gardener.
“Let’s hide in there!” Koben said quickly. The four ran to the shed and opened the old door. It lead to a lighted staircase. They gasped. The teens exchanged glances. Koben placed a hand on Rian’s shoulder. She looked back at him reassuringly.
“This is it.” Arlynn whispered.
Mayson reached for Arlynn’s hand. “Let’s go.”