Seeing is Deceiving

Submitted into Contest #102 in response to: Start your story with a metaphor about human nature.... view prompt

2 comments

Drama Fantasy Fiction

Human nature is the ocean. 

It does as it pleases, no instructions needed.

The difference between the two however, is that the ocean knows when it’s gone too far.

It had been 107 days.

My hair had grown past my shoulders and was now just above my waist. It was matted and tangled and filthy, but I still kept it braided on either side.

Gabriel’s hair had grown too, quicker than mine. He now kept it in a small bun atop his head, but I loved when he let it down at night before we fell asleep, the thick blonde waves falling to frame his face just right.

“We should head out for food soon, before it gets dark,” he said as he sharpened his knife.

“There’s not much left at the corner store. We barely got anything the last time we were there.”

“Well there’s not much here either, Cass.” He continued to sharpen his knife.

I pushed myself up from the ground slowly, being careful not to bother the fresh wound on my leg. It was less than a week old and had barely started healing. I couldn’t afford to make it any worse.

I limped to the pantry, a small box we kept in the corner, and immediately knew Gabe was right. There were only two cans left, beans and pineapple chunks. It would last us maybe a day or two, but that was stretching it, even for us.

“They got you pretty bad, huh?” He glanced up from his sharpening to look at me.

“It’s not so bad,” I replied as I slid down the wall to rest again. The pain in my leg was throbbing.

It was one of the worst injuries I had ever had, but I didn’t want to stress Gabe with it. He was already stressed enough with planning our next move. The clock was ticking and he still didn’t have the details all figured out, a rare occurrence for him.

“Have to take a look around the store to see if there’s any medical supplies left for grabs.” He returned to his sharpening again, his eyes fixed on the knife.

“I doubt it, but I'll check.” 

There hadn’t been any medical supplies in the last 4 stores we had scavenged.

I had ripped up an XL t-shirt that said “fun sized” on the front and tied it around my leg to stop the bleeding. That was 5 days ago, and after changing the makeshift bandage multiple times, I was now down to the last few shreds of fabric.

The light was faintly shining in through the window and I knew it would get dark soon.

‘Let's go now,” I said as I peeled myself from the floor again, balancing on my strong leg for support.

“Are you sure? Your leg looks pretty bad. We can rest for a little while longer if you need to.”

“I’m fine and I'm sure. We don’t know how far everyone else has gotten and we can’t risk being behind. We’ve sacrificed too much at this point to just give up.”

I grabbed my backpack off the counter and slung it over my shoulder.

The end was close, I could feel it.

“So what’s the plan? Did you come up with a strategy yet?” I rested against the door as I waited for Gabe to get his bag in order for the scavenge.

“Stick together and lay low so the others don’t see us.” He tightened the straps on his own backpack and slid his knife into his pants pocket.

“Wow. You really thought long and hard about that one, huh?”

“I don’t see you offering any ideas.” He reached for the door handle as I moved out of his way.

It was darker than I thought it would be but I could still make out Gabe in the distance. I sped up my pace, my wounded leg on fire with pain.

“Stick together, eh?” I whispered as I caught up to him.

‘Shh. Did you hear that?” he had thrown his hand up to his face, his index finger now pushed against his lips and signaling me to shut up.

A rustle came from a bush nearby.

I tried to breathe slowly to calm my pounding heart.

Gabe had pulled his knife from his pocket and was holding it above his head, ready to stab at the first chance he got. 

My knife was deep in my backpack, absolutely no use to me.

“Thought you were going to make it, didn’t you?” a voice came from the dark.

No face appeared.

Fight or flight? 

Fight or flight?

Fight or flight?

My brain kept repeating the words over and over but I couldn't remember why.

“Fight, Cass!” Gabe yelled as he brought his knife down into the arm of one of the other team members.

I whipped my head around in time to see my own opponent charging at me.

I ducked down and shielded my head with my arms, waiting for the worst.

An alarm started to go off, but it didn’t sound like an emergency, it sounded like a slot machine in Vegas.

The lights were brought up, cameramen and medics came rushing into the scene. 

Gabe stumbled back from the body now lying on the ground, a knife protruding from its neck.

The room was spinning around me. 

Was that Emma? 

Did Gabe stab Emma in the neck?

That couldn’t be right. Gabe wouldn’t do that. 

The host was grabbing my hand in his right and Gabe’s hand in his left.

“Gabe and Cassandra! Your winners, ladies and gentlemen!” he said as he thrust our arms into the air.

Winners? What had we won?

“I’m your host, Tristan Wells. We’ll see you next week for the Fight or Flight special where we’ll learn Gabe and Cassandra’s secret to smashing the competition.”

I could barely hear a thing as the feeling started to drain from my body and ringing filled my ears.

My legs gave out and the only thing keeping me up was the host who had managed to catch me when I started to pull him down.

“Medic!” yelled Gabe who had rushed to my side. “Hey, babe. It’s gonna be alright. Everything's gonna be okay.”

The bright lights went black.

I woke up in a hospital bed a few hours later, an IV in my left arm.

Gabe sitting in the chair close by jumped up the moment he saw my eyes open.

“Hey, baby,” he kissed into my hair. “How are you feeling?”

“I feel fine. Is Emma okay?”

The image of her lying on the ground with Gabe’s knife in her neck was flashing in my brain.

“Emma’s fine, babe.”

“She didn’t die?” 

“Are you sure you’re feeling okay? You’re acting weird, Cass.” He tapped the back of his hand to my head feeling for my temperature.

I swatted it away.

“You stabbed her in the neck, Gabe. What the hell were you thinking?”

“I should call a doctor. You’re clearly not feeling well,” he replied as he made his way towards the door and slipped into the hallway.

I reached under the covers and down to my thigh to feel the damage, but there was nothing there.

No shredded t-shirt, no bandages, just bare, smooth skin.

I quickly pulled my hand from under the covers as Gabe walked back in. A man in a white lab coat had accompanied him.

“Hello, Cassandra. Nice to see you again. It seems your reacclimation was not as successful as we had hoped. I just need to run a few tests to see what we can do to get you feeling like yourself again.”

He began poking random buttons on a large screen next to my bed.

“Ah yes. It seems you are in a state of shock. I’ll just give you another dose of the reacclimation medicine and you should be a-ok in a few more hours. I’ll be right back.” He patted my shoulder and then he was gone. 

“Reacclimated? What is going on here?” My hands were balled into fists at my sides.

“None of it was real, Cass. It was a hyper reality tv show meant to stimulate your fight or flight response. We were competing against other teams for half a million dollars and we won, babe.”

“But we were out there for 107 days,” I choked out. “And my leg, I know it was wounded. I could feel it burning.”

“Cass, we weren’t actually there. You were only in the simulation for 12 hours. The technology manipulated your brain to think it was 107 days.”

The doctor was back with a shot of what I assumed was the reacclimation medicine.

“Alright, let’s get you back to normal.” He stuck the needle in my IV and released the clear fluid.

107 days gone and I didn’t even live them. 

They were all fake, a made up world that my brain believed was reality. 

“But how was it all so real?” I asked.

“It’s human nature for us to believe our eyes even if they deceive us.”

July 17, 2021 02:47

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2 comments

Giovanni Profeta
13:23 Jul 21, 2021

Haunting story, I like it. Good job Lauren.

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Lauren Rice
16:42 Aug 07, 2021

Thank you for reading!

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