Kirit Minhas ’20

Everything was black. But he could hear the doctor… How?

“I’m so sorry ma’am. He’s gone. We did everything we could.…”

It’s the moment that nobody knows about. It’s the moment that every single person is curious about.

What is happening? Where am I going? A million questions floated in Charlie’s mind. Is this real? All of a sudden, there was a huge booming voice.

“Welcome! You have completed THE GAME.”

What the heck? thought Charlie. What game? Am I dead? WHAT IS GOING ON?!

Everything was still black. He couldn’t see anything. All he had heard was the deep, monotonous voice delivering a very confusing message. He tried to ponder what it could be, but he could feel himself slowly drowning in a sea of darkness.

*    *    *    *    *

After what felt like hours, he could hear traces of a conversation, but he couldn’t see a thing. It was like someone had poured ink into both his retinas- there was just total blackness. He tried to blink, but he couldn’t feel his face, let alone his eyelids.

“Charlie League, dead at 19 from a severe brain injury retained from a car crash,” said a feminine voice.

Another voice, deeper, and a bit more monotone, replied. “Poor little guy… probably has no idea what’s goin’ on.”

And then there was a pause. Charlie thought he heard the two whispering, but he wasn’t completely sure. Suddenly, he heard the huge booming voice again: “Welcome! You have completed THE GAME”. And then he heard footsteps coming closer and closer until a feminine voice leaned towards his ear and said, “It’s okay, Charlie, you can get up now. No more eavesdropping.”

Everything rushed in. His eyelids fluttered like a butterfly trying to land on a plant on a windy day. He winced at all the light bombarding him and obviously made a very amusing face because the woman who woke him up couldn’t stop laughing.

“Wh-who are you?” stuttered Charlie. “And what the hell is going on here?” When he was finally able to keep his eyes open, he got a good look at this woman who was standing next to him, dying of laughter. She wore a grey sweater with a crisp white polo under it, almost as bright as the lamp right next to her. Her long brunette locks were tied up in a neat bun at the back of her head and she sported a pair of rich chocolate-brown pants. Charlie looked at her face and was frazzled. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He couldn’t stop staring at her, but she didn’t notice because she continued to laugh, not being able to get a hold of herself.

“This is not funny, okay! First, you tell me everything is okay and then when I try to ask you some questions and I get confused, and I imagine everyone who comes here must be very confused, you proceed to laugh and use my hysteria for your amusement!” cried Charlie, “what kind of a place is this after all?!”

The woman composed herself and proceeded to tell him, “Okay, okay, I need you to try to calm down, alright? My name is Kristina and you will know everything you need to know when the time is right. I know that sounds cliché and it feels like you are living every single sci-fi movie you’ve ever seen right at this moment but I promise you.” Kristina paused to place her hand in his hand and squeezed it tightly. “You are going to be fine. Can you tell yourself that? Try to tell yourself you’re fine.” Charlie didn’t respond. Kristina waited a few minutes and then repeated herself and continued this pattern until Charlie finally gave in and muttered something unintelligible under his breath. That was good enough for her.

“Alright, Charlie, time for you to learn a little more about your situation. You can get up now; I think the SEDAXATION drug must have worn off by now,” continued Kristina. Charlie loved hearing her speak. She must have vocal cords of gold and a voice box of ruby, her voice is so beautiful, he thought. But soon after, the words she had just spoken settled in and he returned to his mode of panic, making sure not to show it to Kristina. What drug had they given him? What the hell was SEDAXATION? He had no choice but to trust Kristina and hope that he would eventually know everything “when the time was right”. Those words kept ringing in his mind. He had, like she said, seen and heard them a million times before in sci-fi novels and movies, but now it was different. There was something off about Kristina, but he couldn’t quite figure it out. He decided that although he had to keep following her, he would make sure to keep his guard up. Just in case.

*    *    *    *    *

“…and that’s where all the food is, if you’re ever hungry, which you probably won’t really need to be… So anyways, that’s my tour of the Activity Pavilion!” continued Kristina.

Charlie nodded his head in response, but really his mind was somewhere else. He still didn’t understand what was happening and Kristina’s stupid little cutie-patootie tour of the Activity Pavilion wasn’t helping him at all. He knew that all she was doing was a little fluff piece so that he wouldn’t think about where he really was, an answer she had promised him earlier. Kristina continued to talk about various activities that he could enjoy every day and had just wrapped up a long speech on a balloon animal class.

“…so I really think that that would be something you enjoy, given your creative personality,” commented Kristina. She was about to go on to talk about a very enjoyable bamboo cultivation group (she was going in alphabetical order) when Charlie was suddenly snapped out of his daze.

“H-Hold on, Kristina…” stuttered Charlie in disbelief, “I’ve been here for maybe 3 hours..? How could you possibly know that I’m a creative type? How could you possibly know about my personality besides that I am easily frazzled and not good in high-stress situations?!” He let go all the emotions he had been holding back and all the questions he had been bottling up. “Kristina, stop it with all this activity shit! I want real, solid facts about where I am and what the hell is going on!” screamed Charlie. Kristina was obviously taken aback at this sudden outburst but didn’t let it affect her composure.

“Charlie…” she muttered as politely as she possibly could be, “please calm yourself. You’re upsetting all the people around you. We don’t like to create scenes here.”

“WHERE?! You don’t like to create scenes where? Because I’m looking around and all I see is a bunch of ghost-looking, depressed, completely lifeless people and I have no idea where the hell I am!” wailed Charlie, bordering on hysteria. “You promised me answers and I’m demanding them now! Am I dead? Is my life over? Because it sure as hell feels like it is? What the HELL is the effing Game that I finished?! Whatever it was, I’m not done playing it, so if you could lead me to the nearest exit, then that would be pretty damn great!” he panted, trying to regain his breath. Kristina just stood there with her same polite little face, wiping the spit from her cheek.

“I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, that you would at least be able to remain composed while I was showing you the normal parts of Heathen, but I guess I’ll have to show you the real stuff now,” muttered Kristina indignantly. “Follow me.” Her cheery disposition seemed like it had almost literally disappeared into thin air. Charlie actually noticed a little pink cloud rising into the air and it seemed to be coming directly from Kristina’s head. Between all the incredibly strange things she had said, there was one thing that really caught Charlie’s attention and curiosity.

Charlie couldn’t help but ask Kristina,“you do mean Heaven, right?”

Kristina sighed and looked back to face Charlie with a puzzled look. “Heaven?” She said the word as if she had never spoken it before–as if it were foreign. “Why, that’s not even a word! I think the SEDAXATION really got to your head! There is no such thing as Heaven…at least I’ve never heard of it. I have, believe-it-or-not, heard of this incredibly awkward word. It gives me shivers to this day.” Charlie raised his eyebrows inquisitively. “Hell.”

Charlie almost shivered himself. The way she said it shocked him to his core. All I’ve ever known is Heaven and Hell! I never believed anything else. I don’t even know what this “Heathen” is! thought Charlie. Everything he had ever believed was a lie and now he didn’t know what to think. He didn’t want to think. All he wanted to do was…

“Okay, Charlie. You wanted answers? Here they are,” Kristina announced as they both arrived in front of a clear, convex object. On one side, thousands of gases just like the rosy-pink one Charlie had seen rising from Kristina’s head earlier were rushing into the weird-shaped object and coming out in the form of a mono-color gas. No matter what color the original gas was, it came out of the other side a purplish-navy color. “This is how SEDAXATION is made,” revealed Kristina. “As I’m sure you’ve already figured out, you’re dead. After your death, you were sent here to this haven for the dead known as Heathen. There is, in fact, no game in reality. That statement is only sent out to mess with your mind so we can monitor how it affects your mental state as you are entering Heathen. This allows us to determine which sector you will be put into when we are done observing you.

“You were put into the Hysteria sector, for obvious reasons. When I was observing you, I found that you were rather creative because I was able to read through your life history while scanning your mental state. In each sector, everybody shares a common emotion that has primary control over their actions. In your sector, obviously, hysteria and inability to control your emotions controls most of your life decisions. That’s why you died from a car crash after your girlfriend of three years broke up with you. You release a gas with a navy bluish hue whenever you are feeling hysterical,” she continued on. Charlie could not believe his ears, but he kept listening to refrain from missing a single detail.

“I am from the Furia sector, where our anger primarily affects our actions. I know I seem a very polite woman, but on the inside, there is always something brewing inside of me. I release a light pink gas whenever I begin to feel angry. These are only a couple of examples. There are hundreds of sectors with different gases that they each release. These gases travel here to SNEL, our emotion machine. It takes in all of these emotions, processes them, and uses them to create a gas serum that can dilute all of these emotions when the time is right.” She said it! When the time is right… Maybe the time is now? thought Charlie. He went through the plan he had been creating this whole time and decided that, yes, this was the perfect time to put it into action.

“Okay, so let me get this straight. You take our emotions and use them to try to suppress those same emotions? And this is supposed to be some kind of a haven? What the hell? Why? Why would you do this to these innocent people?” cried Charlie.

“I’m sorry, but I do not have an answer to those questions,” replied Kristina. Of course, she doesn’t, thought Charlie. “But I do have one piece of advice I think you should keep with you,” she continued, “Nobody is innocent. Now, I hope you understand that all of this information comes with a price. Curiosity itself, of course, comes with a price. That’s why the Curiosity sector was banished years and years ago. I felt sorry for you, so I put you in the Hysteria sector and decided to try to explain things to you before your second demise. Now then,” Kristina grinned evilly like an Evil Queen about to crush the Princess’ heart in her hands. She pulled out an abnormally large graduated cylinder filled with a liquid similar in color to the gas that came out of the SNEL. Charlie knew she was going to kill him but was curious to know how. Wasn’t he already dead? No way his plan would work now…

With a malicious snicker, Kristina splashed the foul liquid on his face and he disappeared. He could still hear her. She was screaming something… It was faint at first but then he heard it louder and louder and louder: “Charlie! Get up! Charlie! Get up!” All of a sudden, he felt someone shaking the shoulders he thought he no longer had. “Charlie! We need to get going! You cannot be sick today! It’s too important. Here, have something to drink.” He opened the eyes that he thought disappeared into thin air. He was in his old room. He looked up. There she was. The love of his life. His girlfriend of the past three years- Kristina. And in her hands, she held a glass of liquid with a navy bluish hue.