Friday, 28 August 2015

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

I stared at my empty cup of coffee. I could feel the eyes of the people who surrounded me on my back and my sharp ears could catch the words they were whispering. The tears were starting to well up in my lifeless eyes and I was too drained to even care. I was done. I was done with the people who thought they knew my lifestyle, the people who thought they knew what I was going through and the people who were too quick to judge. But most of all, I was done with him. In my nights he was a monster and in my days he was the same. There were times where I could not distinguish the fiction from the reality of my nightmares.

I would wake up every day hoping and praying that the familiar dreams would fade away along with my sadness, pain and tears. However, that flame of hope that I was relying on inside of me slowly flickered away until there was none left and there was nobody but me to blame for that. I smiled to myself pathetically. All the times he said he would change and I believed him. I believed everything- the insincere apologies, the false promises, and the fake tears. I guess I had experienced first-hand the meaning of the expression ‘blinded by love’. In that moment I felt weaker than I could have ever imagined someone could feel, and that makes a big statement considering the depth of one’s imagination. I felt stupid. How was I so oblivious? I shook my head. No, this was not my fault. It was not my fault that he didn’t choose to indulge himself and cherish the relationship. No. Power and malice were the drugs of his choice and looking back now I should have been able to notice the way they lit up inside of him with a sickly glow that shone in those languid eyes.

With nonchalant ease he crushed every ounce of self-worth I managed to gather. The abusive words that came out of his mouth cut like a knife but seeing how mentally distraught I was didn’t satisfy him enough. No, he felt the need to prove his authority by destroying me even further. He never succeeded to disguise the delight he felt after dealing one of his favourite blows. My lips quivered at the reminder. You may ask me ‘Why were you with such a guy? Why was it so hard to walk away?’ And I myself do not have a distinct answer to those questions but what I will say is that it is a lot easier for a person looking into a situation to have clear, strong thoughts about what they would do if they were put into that scenario but being actually involved in it entails a whole different perspective. When every decision you make could impact your life dramatically or even end your life, you start to rethink everything you ever set your mind to doing no matter how stubborn you used to be. When you’re foolishly in love, the rare moments of affection he shows for you makes your mind dismiss the bad things automatically. You crave for that feeling again. Therefore, no matter the judgement from outsiders, it is highly unlikely that your sanity will still be intact whilst going through such an experience that I did.

There were many days and many nights that my scarred body prevented me from ever forgetting those instances of abuse. I tugged at the collar of my jumper looking down at the freshest bruise. The lining of my neck had now been stained with a purple hue. I stroked it gently, wincing at the pain and the flashbacks it brought me. You want to know the story of this one? I’ll share it with you. It was the night of his twenty first birthday and I had arranged a surprise house party to celebrate the occasion. However, he had different ideologies on how a 21st birthday should be remembered. And obviously that entailed hitting the clubs and returning home at 3am completely drunk. That was something I never wanted to experience again after last year. Letting him get drunk until the early hours would be like wishing the hospital life upon myself and I could not let myself go through the same violent night again. So how did I get this bruise, even after being so on guard? Well, this is the story…

I awoke that morning to soft sheets, and the morning light trickled in through the gaps in the curtains. I shed myself of the remaining glimpses of that dream and let myself soak in the warmth of the duvet before opening my eyes to face the day. I tilted my head to see him buried under the sheets in a deep slumber. At least one of us can sleep that well, I thought to myself. I gently got out of bed making sure I didn’t wake him up and then did the usual morning routines. After, I carefully wrapped the new shoes I had bought for him until it looked perfect. I could not afford to mess this day up. I cautiously cooked the eggs and bacon until its scent wafted all around the house. And to cut a long story short, I served him breakfast in bed, gave him his present and then allowed him to go out with his friends whilst I prepared the house for the evening.

Soon, more and more guests started to arrive until the whole house was practically filled with people. I dreaded the thought of all the mess I would have to clear up. I looked at my watch. It was time his friends had him home. I heard the slam of car doors and a key slowly turned the lock to open the front door. “SURPRISE!” we all shouted in sync. I could register the shock in his face before he could hide it. The expression then turned into a smirk as the turnout boosted his self-confidence due to his popularity.
 That was when the party began. Well, for everyone else. I was on duty to make sure nothing in the house was touched. Nothing could end up being broken otherwise that would just give him an excuse to get angry.  More and more people started to leave as the night progressed into the early hours of the next morning. Finally, there was nobody else left but the two of us.

I went towards him, about to embrace him in a hug which would hopefully take away my exhaustion.  Today was a success. Suddenly, he grabbed my wrist with a grip which was extremely firm as though he wanted to cut off my blood circulation. My knees were now weak and I could have collapsed just out of fear in that moment. His other hand snatched at my collar and pushed me until my back was against the wall. His breathing turned from quiet to regular to a panting gasp as though he had been bottling up anger that could last a lifetime. He sucked at the air like it had suddenly become thick and was now almost too difficult to draw in. He became deaf to the soothing words that I uttered in attempt to get him to calm down. My heart was beating faster and faster and I could feel the rush of blood zoom through my body. Do I fight back or would that make things worse? Would I be able to escape or would I face a punishment even worse than the initial? I knew that the next stage of his tantrum would be to smash whatever he could lay his hands on and I only had seconds to react. What had I done? He pressed his body onto mine and whispered in my ear with a voice that was unrecognisable- as though he had been possessed. “You didn’t even celebrate my birthday. What were you doing? Babysitting the people? This was my big night and you didn’t even care. Well, I’ll make you regret that. I’ll make you regret that…”

In my head I was screaming, crying for help. I was begging that the next door neighbours would hear and protect me. But in reality, my body stood paralysed. My mouth wouldn’t move. I no longer had control. Before I knew it his fist was attacking my body and I was not able to defend myself. The pain it brought to me was indescribable. The agony I felt was flowing out of every pore and a cry so raw escaped from my mouth. It was as if every sound I made was set to the frequency that could shatter a heart to pieces. But not his. He ignored my cries of pain, he ignored the blood, he ignored my vulnerability yet he focused on the power of his punches. At this point, I had given up. The punches now felt like a normal occurrence to me and I was ready to give everything up. From the corner of my half closed eyes, I saw an arm swinging towards my neck and I felt my legs weaken and my mind go blank as the punch connected.

My eyes felt heavy as they flickered open. The first image I saw was the wooden floor. What had happened to me? Suddenly, my eyes widened and became alert as the memories poured through my head. I could see through the window that his car was gone and that meant it was time to escape. I tried to move to get up but my body was aching and stopped me from doing further damage. Moving without pain was just one thing I used to take for granted. Today, my muscles feel as though they have been replaced by aging rubber bands- thick and twisted. Slowly, I got up with the image of me getting away from this place as my focal point…

And that’s how I ended up here- at this coffee area just outside the courtroom. I sit here eyeing my backpack filled with the tiny amount of belongings I have, waiting for the closure that will allow me to go somewhere far away from this place, something that would allow me to start afresh. I was not going to allow myself to be defeated by what I thought was a shred of sympathy within me. I would not allow myself to go back to what was wrong, what destroyed me. I would not allow myself ever to go back to what I thought was love, what I had thought was normal as I knew no different. However, in some ways, I have to thank you. Because now I’m better, now I know what I deserve, now I know what to expect in such a big world. And most of all because now I know my heart is made of armour.  I saw the door open and our eyes connected. I looked away and let him walk straight pass me as he was being escorted to prison. 5 years is a long time. And in prison, it’s more than enough time to change a person’s morals completely… 

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Eyes Wide Shut- The Final Challenge

I teleported back to my room. The cold that seemed mild at first, now numbed my face and extremities. Any residual heat I had absorbed in the moment was now gone and with each breath came small puffs of white vapour which slowly dissipated into the surroundings. I climbed into my bed, wrapping myself with a blanket and praying that this would keep me safe. Safe from what, you ask? From the night. And everything that comes with it. Many people can’t wait until they are tucked into their blankets with closed eyes, waiting to be surrounded in a world of dreams. It’s supposedly the only time where you are able to relax in a complex life. I know that sleep is unavoidable, as is the coming of the night. I know it must come but right now I fight it with everything I have. Those defenceless hours when your curious mind decides to explore the ideas of natural disasters or the ‘what if’ situations are enough to replace the blood running through my veins with the flow of extreme anxiety. In this case my worries of what could have happened with Zac ran in my head over and over again. I was extremely worked up thinking over it until I could not fight it anymore and the sleep took over even as it was unwelcome…

My eyelids batter open after what felt like an eternity. I swipe up to see my hologram, 6:12 am. I saw the Sun start to rise from my windows. The morning was just as unstoppable as the night. I needed a few more hours of blackness to prepare myself for the challenge that inevitably awaited me. However, I could already distinguish the items in my bare room from the faint rays and I knew that the colour in this virtual city would soon be restored and I was not ready. It’s funny, isn’t it? The way I get so quickly attached to the absence of light after dreading the moments when I’m immersed in the dark. I swipe up the hologram. After the last challenge I knew I had to do my research. I search frantically for the ‘Chrome’ app yet I can’t find it. Everything I had learnt during my time at school on finding information was utterly  redundant and with no wifi or internet, I couldn’t just google the answers.

I sighed. How did Zac manage to find out all that information on the previous challenge? It should’ve been me to be captured by the beasts. It should’ve been me in his place. Small droplets brimmed at the edge of my eyes until it eventually evolved into a waterfall of negative emotions. My eyes started to swell and turn red and the world around me became a blur of colour. I’ve seen the movies and the shows. The actors never truly cried. Never like me. All the feelings of isolation, regret, sorrow, pain and misery poured from my internal environment to my external one. I had lost Lily, Zac and soon I would probably lose my state of mind too. What sort of a game was this? I recall James telling me it was aimed to “purify my mental state”. I scoffed in a mixture of sarcasm and sadness. I get attached to things and people way too easily and I missed home way too much.

Out of nowhere, I decided I really did not care anymore. My thoughts, feelings and attitudes were easily swayed and I realised that I really could not be in a worse state than I was right now. Without any second thoughts I hit the ‘Mountain Trek Challenge’ on my hologram and was instantly teleported. I could feel the layers of clothes that were simultaneously put on me. The view in front of me was absolutely stunning. The mountains were pristine and white. They soared up like they wished to challenge the sky itself, dominating the horizon in every which way I looked except behind. I wish that the path behind me allowed me to retreat, to run far away and eventually make it back to Earth but I knew that was impossible. The challenge looked so physically daunting that at the time I even preferred the little comfort I had in my isolated room back in the virtual town. I wish I had thought things through more carefully. After all, this was the final challenge. 

Displaying himalayas.jpgThe dark green of pines were coated in crystalline snow and the silence hung so thickly in the frigid air. It was almost soothing- the absence of noise. Each step I took created a soft crunch due to the snow and it interrupted the silence and sounded better than music to my ears. I looked across the mountain I seemed to be designated to and saw a path. I stood paralysed in fear even though I knew I needed to keep moving in order to stay warm. My mind started to explode with thoughts as I saw some snow crumble off the mountain. What if I fell? Would I die? This is a game though, you can’t die in a game. Right?

I shoved the thoughts away to the back of my mind. You’ll never know if you don’t try I guess. I walked slowly towards the start of the path. It was basically a very dangerous, extreme version of rock climbing except you were climbing up snow and ice. In other words, you would probably die if you attempted this in the real world. I started moving up, my legs shaking in fear. The land at my feet was becoming even rockier with every step. The incline was getting more burdensome ever so slowly. I decided to rest for a while in order to gain my energy back. I looked up, down, behind and beside. Each view had one thing in common; you could not see any land. The only thing that kept me motivated was the fact that if I completed this, I could return to Earth and restore Lily’s health. The only thing that did give me a bit of trouble was the fact that I just had to trust James’ word that Zac would be alright and trust was something which was very hard for me to do. After all, to trust someone means to recognise the fact that they will always have good intentions when it concerns you which most of the time has led to disappointment from my point of view.

At that present time, the only thing I should really be focused on trusting was myself. I could get to the top and I would get to the top, no matter how many tries it took- preferably only the first one though. When I realised I was giving myself my own pep-talk I knew it was time for me to go back to Earth. However, as soon as my attitude towards this whole experience had completely changed, an incident which I had not expected occurred. I looked up to see a pile of snow crumbling down at high speed. In another moment, the weight of the snow was on my back and I could no longer control the direction I was headed towards. I tumbled over and over, crushed from all sides. Time travelled in slow motion yet also in a flash. Finally, I was still. The snow could be any colour and I wouldn’t know the difference. I’m cold, colder than I’ve ever been. I lay still, stiller than I’ve ever experienced. I closed my eyes, my mind blank. All of my worries were erased from my memory and all I thought about was making the pain stop. I felt a hand on my shoulder but I was too drained to open my eyes. I just hoped they were there to help me through. Before I knew it, I had drifted into a daze in which I had no conscious thought.

My heavy eyelids lifted open and I was first aware of the coolness of the air and its fresh fragrance. The ground was lumpy as if I was sleeping on a bed of rocks and I looked around only to realise I actually was. My clothes felt as damp as a flower in the dew of the dawn. There were no paths around me and no sign of another person. Suddenly, all the memories start flooding back into my head and I feel my body, anticipating wounds and cuts. However, I felt nothing; no pain, no cuts, no wounds. I was awake, perhaps more fully awake than I had ever been. My heart was beating as fast as it possibly could. How could I have been perfectly fine when I had suffered all of that? Why was I not hurt? Who was the last person who came to my rescue, did he or she help me in some way? So many questions were bombarding my mind and I didn’t have the slightest idea on how to answer them.

I looked around to see if I could just continue climbing the mountain and return home, leaving my worries behind, yet I could not find any path. I had no idea where I was. I got up and saw a small sign which I had missed before when scanning the area. I walked towards fearing what it might say. Maybe it would tell me there was no way down or up and I was stranded with no way of ever experiencing another person’s company. I really didn’t know what it would say and I was panicking. “Congratulations!” That’s what it read. I touched the edge of the sign, flicking off the snow that had settled on it. Before I was able to express my confusion as to why this sign was congratulating me, a loud bang shattered the lingering silence in the air. Confetti filled the area and a voice boomed from an unknown speaker. “Annabelle Smith. You are officially the 49th person to complete this challenge. We hope you have had a great time experiencing this game and you are now able to return to Earth. We shall restore Lily’s health and may all of your worries and burdens be left behind before you return home.” I did not know what was going on. My head was spinning. I could not possibly have completed the challenge- I was passed out most of the time. Who was it that helped me get to the top? Would I ever know? Without any warning, my body disappeared into crystals and my identity was wiped away from the virtual world.

My eyes jerked open. I felt the familiar soft cotton sheets underneath me. I was home. And no matter what had happened that allowed me to return, I was not complaining.


Sunday, 30 November 2014

Eyes Wide Shut Part III

My eyelids felt heavy as I opened them.  Shining light glistened into my room, revealing the specks of dust in the atmosphere. I sighed. It had been a week since my last challenge but my body was still aching. I resisted the temptation to relax in bed and sat upright. Swiping to see my hologram, I was hoping that the glitch in the system would have been fixed and Lilly would have recovered but that hope soon faded and turned into sadness when there were no new notifications.  My eyes scanned across the bare room. This is such a lonely environment, I thought to myself feeling sad about the contrast between before this all happened and now.

After doing all the usual morning routines, I went out to the market to buy some food when an announcement rang out of the speakers. I know that all of you here are aware that there is a bug in this software which has caused many of the participants to be in a coma-like state. The only way to fix this is if a certain challenge is completed by one person. We have been told that many of you are not challenging yourself to do the activities involved but we hope that this will give you motivation. Also, just a reminder that if you do not challenge yourselves, you will regret it later on and you know why. Once one person has completed The “Mountain Trek” challenge, everyone will be restored healthily and the achiever will be given the choice to return to Earth. That is all.

Immediately, I swiped my map to see where the challenge was when I realised that The Mountain Trek was challenge number three and I still hadn’t completed challenge two.  I was tired and annoyed but I knew I had to complete this game, help everyone recover and then return to Earth. I double tapped on destination number two and was instantly teleported.  I gasped. Unlike most places in this world where everything looked like home, this place oozed danger. It felt like night time. Everything was dark with only some lamp posts. I looked around feeling trapped as if the brick walls around me were closing in on me. My head started to feel dizzy and I had a sense of déjà vu. This felt exactly like the time where I had first encountered this world. Suddenly, I felt a tap on my back. My heart pounded as I jerked forwards and turned around.

I let out a sigh of relief. “Zac, it’s just you. I got so scared. Are you doing challenge two too?”
“Yeah I am. Are you okay? You look very pale.”
“Yes, I-I’m fine. This place is just making me feel uncomfortable. Where’s the challenge area?”
“Annabelle…please tell me you didn’t just decide to come to do challenge two but you researched about it before hand?”
“Um no I didn’t research it. No one told me I had to…” I said.
Zac sighed. “Okay, listen to me. You see how there is nobody here apart from us two? Well, this challenge is a maze. Everyone taking part is separated into twos. We have to work our way towards the finish line but it is not as simple as it sounds. The beasts live here. They will be on many pathways and we will encounter them and have to defeat them. Along the way, there will be weapons on the ground which we have to collect in order to protect ourselves. If we aren’t able to defeat them, well you know what would happen. The beasts get harder to defeat the closer we are to the finish line. The reason there is no challenge area or a place where someone will tell us what to do is because the producers want you to think for yourself and take the initiative/risks as that is the whole point of this challenge.”

Thoughts were exploding into my mind as to how Zac knew all this information and why he knew he had to find out about the challenge even as it occurred to me how dangerous this challenge could be. If we were too weak, we could end up dead or turned into the beast’s slaves for eternity. A loud, booming gun sound interrupted my thoughts and I realised, the game had begun.

We walked slowly into the entrance which was hidden behind some vines in the wall. Zac seemed to have had everything planned out which made me feel embarrassed that all I had done was sleep and eat for the past week.  Slowly, we started walking whilst taking in our surroundings. My senses had become even sharper and my ears and eyes were trying to memorise all the things we were experiencing.  

We were surrounded by walls with many vines growing on it. Suddenly, the path split into two.

“Which way do we take?” I asked, hoping he knew the answer.
“I don’t know. We’ll have to guess.” He said.
I looked at him sharply to see whether it was his laid back attitude talking or if he was being serious. However, I was taken by surprise. I had never seen Zac look so focused ever before.
“Let’s take right.” I said.

We kept on walking and walking and guessing and guessing as went about collecting items. My feet were aching and all I could hear was the thudding of my feet against the gravel ground. I was starting to lose concentration and focus when suddenly a human appeared in front of us.  She was on the ground crying and narrated us about how she had lost her partner. She seemed so distraught that I went to give her a hug when Zac stopped me.

“Zac, what are you doing? Can’t you see how upset she is?”
 Zac kept quiet and took a stone from the ground and threw it at the girl.

“ZAC!” I shouted.
He had lost it, I had thought to myself. All of a sudden the girl shrieked and something I had never seen occurred in front of me. One by one, her body parts transformed into something bigger, hairier and scarier. She was a beast. It had furry big legs almost like a gorilla with arms like an octopus and it had no face, just a round circle at the top of its body.

“I knew it.” Zac muttered to himself.
“Well, well, well” the beast said in a roaring, husky voice. “You are lucky, young girl, that you have such a partner with you. Otherwise, you would’ve been in my arms.” It laughed wickedly.
My legs were shaking at the mere sight of the beast and its voice made all the nature in the maze droop and wilt. I was feeling petrified. I took a step back but tripped over my own shoelaces. My head hit the floor with a thud and my eyes were struggling to stay open. What was happening to me? This sensation was happening all day. I think I’m being shut down. Why now? What will happen to Zac?
I felt my eyes closing but the last image I saw was a vague figure wearing a chocolate-brown hooded cape…

­­­­­ My eyes slowly opened. A brick wall was in front of me, centimeters from my nose. Suddenly, I jumped to my feet remembering Zac. Where was he?
I turned around but bumped into a hard chest. I looked up praying it was Zac when I saw James. I was confused when suddenly all my thoughts from before came rushing into my brain. Oh yeah, he was the last person I saw.
“Where’s Zac? What happened to the game?”
“We carried you through the game. It has been completed.”
“Okay…Where’s Zac?”
I saw him hesitate a little.
“He got caught.”
Before I even felt the shaking of my hands and legs or the goose bumps that traveled through my body, he quickly said “But don’t worry. I told him how to get out just in case beforehand and it’s fairly easy. He should be out of there soon.”
The guilt I felt was unreal. James must have sensed this as he said soothingly, “It’s not your fault. It was bound to happen and he knows what to do now. Why don’t you go home and take some rest before the next challenge.”

_________To Be Continued__________

Monday, 25 August 2014

Eyes Wide Shut Part II- The Slippery Slope

Suddenly, we were teleported to a room. I looked around letting my expectations of this room vanish as disappointment washed over me. Everything about this place felt haunted; The floorboards creaked with each step, the bed sheet had rips everywhere and the windows moved on its own accord. We sat down on the bed and I felt the soft edge of cobwebs touch my bare skin. My mind was flooding with negative thoughts when suddenly I was interrupted by a voice. 

“So guys, since we’re in this together, might as well get to know each other. I’m Amy!” she said, trying to lighten up the dull aura leaking across the room.

After a while of talking to each other, we realised that we actually got along.  My group consisted of Amy- an outgoing, attractive girl with long brunette hair and hazel eyes, Jack- an annoyingly optimistic guy with blond hair and blue eyes, Zac- an arrogant boy with dark brown hair and brown eyes and finally Lilly- a shy, quiet girl with chocolate brown skin and dark brown hair.

I opened my hologram to see it was only fifteen minutes until it was game time.

“We need a plan.” I said in a serious tone.

“Chill, Annabelle. Just follow my lead and we’ll be fine.” said Zac with a smirk.

I glared at him and was about to say something rude about his laidback attitude when Lilly hesitantly interrupted as if sensing the outburst that was about to take place.

“Zac, Annabelle’s right. We do need a plan…”

In the end, we discussed a formation where the average skier, Zac, would take lead, then the not so capable skiers (Lilly and Amy) in the middle and then Jack and I at the back so we could catch them if needed. Not bragging or anything but skiing was my forte.

 Finally the alarm bell rang and we put our ski gear on and teleported to the highest point of the mountains.

A gust of wind and snow hit me as shivers zoomed through my body simultaneously. The view was beautiful. The top of the mountain gave us a breath-taking image of the sun shining down the other mountains. The horn then sounded telling us the first game had begun.  

After 30 minutes since the game had started, we had to restart about 7 times due to someone (usually Lilly) falling. At that point, I felt frustrated and annoyed. How can someone even be that bad at skiing? One fault of mine was that I was very short-tempered and impatient. I wanted to shout at her. My toes and fingers had gone numb due to the harsh weather and we weren’t progressing at all.

“I’m sorry guys. I’m letting everyone down…”Lilly said, her eyes brimming with tears.

My anger quickly subsided as I realised everyone was probably irritated yet kept trying their best. Anyways, how could I stay mad at such a sweet girl?

“Don’t worry! We’re all in this together. We’ll overcome this, Lilly.” Jack said, smiling.
 So we kept trying then failing until it became a regular cycle. The jumps were just too hard for Lilly and Amy and the route was very bumpy. I ended up falling over   trying to keep the others from falling. The plan just wasn’t working.

“I can’t do this! I’m actually going to die if I carry on!” Amy exclaimed as we got teleported back to start which we had seen for what felt like the 100th time.

“I-I’m t-too tired.” Lilly panted before sitting on the snow and clutching her head.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Zac asked her, his usual smirk wiped with a flash of concern.

Before Lilly could reply, her body immediately shattered into crystals which floated in the air before vanishing.

“LILLY!” we all shouted instantaneously.

What just happened?! Did she get shut down because she was too exhausted? But I thought that if you get shut down you just sleep in the position and place you are. That’s what happened to me, right?
Thoughts and questions were exploding into my head too quick for me to even finish my questions let alone think of reasonable answers. As if sensing the confusion and worry in the air, a voice boomed out of the speakers.

“Everyone calm down. I know many of you have witnessed your team mate vanish and right now the producers of this game are going to fix the glitch that has occurred in the system. I would like to assure all of you that this will definitely be altered and your team mate will come back into game fit and healthy. Right now, they are in a coma state in the hospital in this virtual reality world having the best treatment until the system gets adjusted. I would like you all to remember that you are all testers to this game which means errors can happen and we want all of them to be fixed before this can be sold out in the real world. Thank you, and keep working to finish the challenge you are on then proceed to complete the game. Best of luck.”

Okay, so my friend’s in a coma and there asking us to continue the game and calm down? I thought to myself. Well, that’s messed up.

Amy let out a sigh. “I guess worrying isn’t going to change anything and I honestly really want to finish this challenge before I can’t feel any more of my body. Then we can also go visit Lilly in the hospital sooner.”

“Yeah same.” I said, “Wait I have an idea! Why don’t you leave your skis, ski boots and pole at the top of the mountain.”

“Umm are you feeling okay? How am I supposed to ski then?” Amy asked, looking confused.

“Jack or Zac can carry you on his back and ski down. I think Jack’s the better skier, no offence Zac, you wouldn’t mind right Jack?” I said.

Before Jack could reply, Amy exclaimed, “No! No way! I’m too heavy and if Jack falls and I fall on him, he could break something.”

“Nah, don’t worry you're light and we’ll never know until we try.” Jack said.

After trying to persuade Amy and pestering her, she finally gave in.

“Fine, but don’t blame me if you guys get hurt.”

And that’s how we managed the clear the first challenge-by taking a risk. I could lie and say it was a breeze and my idea was successfully carried out but that would be lying. It took us many tries to finish the path as it felt harder the further you went and even on our last try, there were many near falls but we persevered and accomplished.

“Thank God that’s over!” Zac said.

“I thought all we had to do was follow your lead, Zac. Why are you relieved?” I said playfully.

“Well I didn’t want the rest of the team to feel too tired because they couldn’t keep up at my pace, you see. I wouldn’t want to show off.” He replied.

I shook my head and smiled.

“Well your pace is quite slow considering it took us 3 hours to make it to the finish line!” Amy said. “Now I’m hungry so let’s go eat and then visit Lilly.”

We all agreed and that’s how the rest of the day went.

I decided to take on the next challenge in a couple of days when I’ve fully rested and give it my all.


Sunday, 27 July 2014


A narrow, winding pathway appeared in front of me, surrounded by charcoal matte black gates with spiky barbed wire above, their lethal sharp edges glinting dangerously. I looked up; all I could see was a blanket of dense darkness hovering in a silvery-grey sky. Curly swirls of mist and fog intertwined with the dismal, polluted air.

I began to stumble across the path, cautiously glaring at the sharp, stinging nettles as if they were about to pounce at me any minute. I glanced down and in a split second suddenly glared up, as I realised I needed to focus on the sight ahead. I wondered how I had managed to reach here, yet there was no explanation. A gleaming ray of light shined at the end of the path.  I had to get there. I needed determination. It felt like the only way to hit reality again.
A pungent, revolting odour hit my nose; it was the foul stench of dead, rotted meat. A tray of thin, scrawny bones was at the isolated, distant corner of the path. Whatever callous, nefarious being lived here in this haunted, tense atmosphere had a massive appetite. I kept my distance from the vile smell wafting around by walking through the opposite side on the intimidating path. Suddenly, I stopped to scrape the ebony, piercing gate which surrounded me to see if I could break my way out but it just revealed the first chrome coating. I kept along the middle of the disconnected path, silently creeping and trying to make my appearance unknown.
Without any warning I felt an overwhelming impulse to collapse, my heavy head started to feel dizzy and the tears prickled into my eyes, stinging. I reluctantly staggered to the stony ground. A vague figure abruptly appeared before me, the silhouette wore a chocolate-brown hooded cape to conceal his identity. Seconds later I swooned and felt my legs weaken as I slipped into a coma of desolation and distress. I was out. rubbed my eyes to awaken in a cold cave where wet walls surrounded me and a raging fire settled in front of me. Pots and pans were scattered around the place, a comfortable mattress laid behind me and far in front was a shadowy figure with his back towards me. 
I stayed down on the mattress for a minute trying to soak everything in, then got up and walked slowly towards the unidentifiable being.

My bones felt heavier as it took every step and my heart was thumping as loud as a drum. I walked until I was next to the creature and looked at it to see who it was but the hooded cape disguised the identity.
“Who are you?” I asked, “And why have you brought me here?”
He gave me no reply.
“I ASKED YOU A QUESTION!” I exclaimed in a tangle of desperation and anger.
Suddenly, the creature jerked his head towards me to expose his face. It was a man; a man whose eyes drooped like a wilted leaf, whose frown oozed dejection and whose skin had lost its colour.
No wonder he hid his face, I joked to myself.
“You are here because I saved you. I do not appreciate your ungratefulness and tone of voice.” He said.
His voice was deep and croaky yet calm.
Confused, I asked “You saved me? Saved me from what? You were the last person I saw before I fell unconscious, how do I know you didn’t do something to me?”
“If I intended to do you harm, you would no longer exist. I saved you by carrying you into my home. You were shut down, Annabelle” He said.
“Shut down? What do you mean shut down?” I said, speechless. “Where am I and how do you know my name?”
The man shook his head, “You are in the middle of a game. Many people get trapped in here. Before you ask too many questions, I shall explain what has happened to you. You have been confined in a virtual reality game in which your mind has been transported and you will only go back to your real home once you have conquered and eradicated all of your bad habits. The reason you arrived at this destination was because you were one of the thousand people who have been selected to trial this game out. The only way back to Earth is to play all of the different activities here which help purify your mental state. You are in control of yourself. However, if you over exhaust yourself, you shut down which is what happened to you. Being shut down means you fall unconscious right where you are and don’t wake up until you have recharged your mind completely.”
I gasped feeling like everything was a hazy dream, reality had not sunk in- well, I wasn’t actually in reality anyway apparently. I was in denial until I finally realised from the conviction in his eyes that this man was speaking the truth.
“If you know about how to escape from here, then why haven’t you? Also you said there are a lot of people here but I didn’t see a single soul until you, why was that?”
“I haven’t properly tried to depart, I’m more concerned about other people such as you because I have been designated to share my knowledge about the existence of this place and the meaning behind it to new players who haven’t heard from other people. Also, this virtual destination is massive. You were teleported to a deserted, bloodcurdling place where there are many beasts who have been created to inject fear into the testers. If they don’t escape, they will turn into the beasts’ slaves. I base myself here to help protect those vulnerable newbies from the beasts. Oh and by the way, my name is James, thanks for asking.” James said.
“Oh right…” I said, not knowing what to reply.
I looked around the cave to try fill the silence that was lingering in the atmosphere. I glanced back at James and saw he had a hologram projection in front of him which had a map on it.
“How did you get that?!” I asked, surprised.
“Okay let me teach you about this game. You swipe up with your right hand to get this hologram projection up. Now, as you can see, a map will show on the screen. The different destinations represent different games you have to play in order to return back to Earth. If you successfully complete a game, you will obtain a card in which you put in your card slot on the side of the hologram. Follow the trail which has been designed for you.” James told.
I sighed, feeling very unlucky in that moment. Why did I have to be picked to trial this?
“Okay, how do I get to these places?” I asked, unenthusiastically.
“You double tap on these places and you immediately teleport there. Also, one more thing you need to know is that some games you play individually and others as a team. If I were you I would start completing this now. Good luck.” He said.
I was about to open my mouth and ask him many other questions when he vanished into thin air. I groaned not wanting to be anything to do with this. Finally, I came to the conclusion that I’ll have to give this a try and work my way out of this place. I opened the hologram up and double tapped on the first destination. Suddenly my virtual body quickly evaporated from the current place and before I knew it, I was in another town. My body tingled as my feet was firmly pressed onto the ground. I was buzzing from having just teleported. scanned round the area, my eyes flicking across every detail. In bold letters I saw the sign “Level 1~Game 1” on top of a door in the far corner of the town.
Everything else seemed normal. There were restaurants, arcades and shops just like home, not to mention the crowd of people there were. Some laughing and making the most out of this unexpected event, others isolated and glum-faced. I headed towards the game area after eating some appetising food with the best attitude I could muster.
As I walked into the gates, I felt my heart beating fast as though a warning of what lied ahead. All I saw was a room full of people when suddenly a booming, male voice projected across the room from a speaker.
“I would like to personally welcome all of you to the first challenge in this new experience. The first task I would like you to do is get into groups of exactly 5.” the male said.

I proceeded to do as I was told and joined a group.
“The mission that has been set for you varies according to each of your group as each of the groups will have different paths- some easier and some a lot harder. The task is based around skiing. Each of you will now be teleported to a room in a ski lodge where you will have an hour and half to bond with the team and think of strategies. To complete this game, all of the members of your group have to get from the highest point of the mountain back down to the ground without falling over once and there will be many obstacles in your way. If you do fall over, your whole group will immediately go straight back to the starting point. The aim of this game is to allow you to work as a team and have each other’s backs at all times whilst also learning to never give up. You have to try again, if you fail. Now, let the game begin.”
I skimmed across the members of the team I will now be a part of and realised that now I wasn’t just fighting for myself; I was fighting for all of us and I couldn’t let them down. That wouldn’t be fair even though I don’t know anything about them. I knew now that I would have to try my best and not be lazy. I was going to complete this game and I would do whatever it takes to get free again and go back to see my friends and family back on Earth. This game would probably be the headlines of the news at the moment and I was determined to make it back as soon as possible.
~To be continued.~

Sunday, 8 April 2012


- I wrote this when I was 11 years old -

It was a dull Autumn’s day and light clouds covered the sky. Tall, dark trees surrounded me making a ‘swoosh’ sound in the gentle breeze. I looked around as fear gripped me. I had searched everywhere for her. I knew playing Hide and Seek in the woods was a bad idea! Ailish wouldn’t listen to me. She won’t listen to anyone, not even her mum or dad. Feeling a sudden wave of isolation, tears pricked into my eyes. I was about to cry when a voice shouted in my ear.

“BOO!” shouted Ailish, pushing me forwards.  I screamed as the familiar feeling of panic zoomed through my body. I never felt at ease with Ailish. She always cajoled me into doing something I knew was patently wrong. Last week she made me steal my classmates’ USB stick just so that there would be drama in the class!

“I knew that would scare you!” she exclaimed wickedly, “You’re such a ‘scaredy-cat’ Melissa!”

“Ailish! I’ve been looking for you everywhere! Why did you run off like that! You know we were only allowed to hide within this area! Oh! You scared me so much!” I cried, my voice trembling.  

“Now, now. Don’t wail, come on. Let’s go home.” said Ailish nonchalantly.
There were so many questions rushing through my mind that I would have liked to ask her but it had to wait for another time. It pained to me note as to why did she not see I was worried sick? Were best friends meant to treat each other like that, showing no concern?

Instead, I just nodded and followed her like a lost puppy.  Thoughts exploded into my head as I sneaked in through the back door of my house. Catching a quick glance at the clock, anxiety spread through me. I had gone for four hours! I was meant to be back two hours ago!

yelled my six-year old sister with excitement seeing me after a while adding to my worry of getting an earful from my Mum. Lily came hopping down the stairs and I gave her a hug almost muffling her voice in the process.

My attempts to keep her quiet failed as she was jumping with joy having found me to play with her.  I hung my head in shame even as my Mum gave me a big scolding about how I should manage my time and how irresponsible I was. I gave a meek, quiet ‘sorry’ before going into my room. The door shut behind me as I jumped on to my bed and thought of how Ailish was having a negative effect on me. I recalled how I became her bosom friend.

It was the first day of high school when I met her.  She marched into the classroom two hours late, with her head held high.  Ailish decided to sit next to me and before we knew we had developed a kind of bond.  Soon enough she sent me a friend request on Facebook and declared that we were ‘Best Friends Forever’.  Little did I realise then what influence she would have on my life.

Now after many incidents where Ailish had got me into hot waters, I began reflecting on our relationship.  The more I thought about it, the more it dawned on me that we were not destined to be BFF’s.  I had now to face up to it and take a stance.  I hadn’t the heart to tell her she was a bad influence on me, somehow the fun I had with her held me back.

Telling her now didn’t seem like a wise move, as she is not a person who would forgive someone easily. Though I felt, if I never tell her the truth, it wouldn’t seem like a proper friendship.  She would never have a chance to change herself.  Life is just so hard at times.
I mustered enough courage and opened the screen of my laptop and went on send her a private message on Facebook.  After much thought, I began

Dear Ailish,
I know we have been close friends for a while and had some great, fun times together.  I cherish those good times.

But something has been nagging me for a while and I have to get it out. In the interest of our friendship, we need to be honest about our feelings. So here I am, about to tell you a few things that’s been bothering me for some time.
Some of the pranks we have been up to are catching up on me.  This is beginning to have bad influence on me. You are definitely changing my attitude to many things. The other day, you dragged me to some wild senior party and became so hyper we went home sooo late! I failed my geometry test because of that and can’t afford that kind of mishap. 

I am sorry if this hurts your feelings but we need to tone down our adventures. So, from now on we need to limit our social time. It has taken me a lot of courage to write this. I hope we can still be good friends, I really do! I really think you are amazing but please tone it down?
Love Mel xxx

I pressed send and as soon as I did I regretted it. Why would I do that? She was the first ‘cool’ person to be my friend! Almost instantly there was a reply.

Well whatever, I don’t really need you in my life. It’s so typical of your types to blame someone else.  Never talk to me again Melissa Jones. NEVER! And you know what…I think I am going to spill the beans on that big secret about you. Go away and get a life.

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I read her reply.  I was shocked at the spite with which she had responded.  Not even a moment of thought for the great times we had together. She didn’t even remember the number of occasions I had sacrificed my breaks of studying just to be with her, how many times she had persuaded me into carrying out catty pranks.  Does she not see her flaws at all?

On reflection, it came out starkly that Ailish thinks she is the leader in our friendship and that I have to do exactly what she says.  She treats me like an obedient, helpful dog there to do her dirty work for her.  I felt used by an uncaring and an unworthy person.  The tears wouldn’t stop as I had never gotten into a big argument with someone before and I wasn’t sure what to do. I grabbed my pillow and dug my face into it to drown out the loud sobs escaping.

The wood creaked, my sister was in the room.
“I heard crying…” she looked at me, “What’s wrong Mel Mel?”
“Doesn’t matter.” I whispered, struggling to get the words out. She stared at me and wouldn’t budge. “Fine I’ll tell you. Ailish, that horrible, mean, spiteful girl is going to tell everybody about how I got the Maths teacher fired because he wasn’t teaching us well.  Mr. Links just sat there listening to music all day and letting us chat!”

“Melie, it doesn’t seem like you did anything wrong. I love Maths, our teacher makes it so fun! The fact is we need to learn and you did the right thing, ok?” Lily said.
“B-b-but everyone will hate me for it!” I whimpered.
“Look, I may be six but I am clever enough to know that true friends will stick by you through everything and you will find that person. If anything Ailish is doing you a big favour!”
“Thanks Lily, you’re a great sister. I don’t know what I could have done without you.” I said, hugging her tight.

I gathered up some courage to send Ailish a reply.

I thought you were my friend. I thought you cared for me and we would work this all out. Honesty is one of the most important things in a friendship and that seems to be lacking in our relationship.

You know what, you can go and tell everybody about Mr. Links. I couldn’t care less.  If you think that it will bring me down, think again.  It may just boomerang on you.

I shut the screen and went downstairs for dinner. Tomorrow was the beginning of a new week and the start of the new me.

I opened the classroom door. As I walked into the room, almost all faces were glaring at me showing a disdainful look as if they were ready to pounce on me. I gulped but put on brave face and walked lazily to my desk. I took out my books that were needed and strolled to my locker.  A fluttering piece of paper danced in the air and gently landed on the floor. Bending down I carefully opened it with a look of scorn on my face. It was from her. My eyes flickered over the words in disbelief and glee. This is what it said:

I am moving  back to Australia next week. I am glad that I was such an amazing friend and you benefited from my company.  It’s purely you’re fault that we split up.

You are such a whiner!  I shall unfriend you on Facebook and delete you off my BBM. I don't wish to keep in touch! This is the last time you shall hear from me!

A wide smile slowly spread across my face. I would never have to see her again! Quickly whipping around after hearing a small cough behind me, I saw two of my friends who I ditched because of Ailish. I was going to tell them about how sorry I was. I opened my mouth to talk.

“I’m so –“
“We know you’re sorry.  Be who you are. Don’t let Ailish or anyone change you or force you into doing bad things. ‘Cause girl you’re amazing just the way you are!” Miranda smiled while Katy nodded.

“I know. Thanks guys. I want to ask you if we can carry on being Best Friends Forever. I remember how we used to have a great time together and have a good laugh. Please?”

They pulled out a necklace that was sticking out of their shirts and smiled.  A silver, friendship necklace was in front of me.  Miranda handed me one and the atmosphere changed to a light, hearty feeling.  Bubbles of laughter exploded around the room and everything was back to normal. I took a seat next to my best friends and giggled.

I had forgotten the feeling of happiness because of Ailish but now, I have remembered. I shall never give in to peer pressure ever again and I shall be who I am from now on.