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SWC - A18 - Remember

Arisia'18 Student Writing Contest - 2nd Place Winner


By Lily Andrulat

Lily Andrulat



Bliss, confusion, denial, realization, panic. Waking up somewhere where you did not fall asleep truly does produce a rainbow of emotions. In the treehouse-like structure I found myself in, eyes only being able to spot the color of wood, that’s how it was. My black pixie cut, matching black tattered clothes, and tawny brown skin was, what I assumed, the only thing not twirled and light brown in the room. Until I spotted two other victims of circumstance. A lanky and undeniably handsome boy, and a wisp of a girl with bleach blonde hair leaned against the hardwood, their steady breathing out of sync. Panic set in, and I crawled in desperation to them.

        “Hello?” I tapped the boy’s shoulder, and when nothing happened, I grabbed the other one and begun shaking both. “Please wake up! Please.” and as if hearing my pleads, his eyes sprung open, gray and surprised. The girl followed not long after hearing my screams.

        When he saw the girl sprawled over him and gripping him, aka me, he pushed me off him. “I have a girlfriend!

        As if me hitting on him is priority number one after waking up somewhere I’ve never been before. “And I’m not interested.”

        “W-where’s my mom? And-and Jeff?” The girl looked from me, to the boy, to the wooden walls. “Where am I? Who are you people?” She grew increasingly afraid. “Please don’t hurt me. I need to go home, or they’ll worry.”

        “Hey, hey, calm down,” I said. “We didn’t put you here. I don’t even know who either of you are. I’m in the same position as you. My name is Gwen.”                

        “And I’m Josh,” he said, playing along with me to calm the girl. “What’s your name, sweetie?” I understood the sentiment of the childish nickname. She seemed to be the same age as Josh and I, but gave off the vibe of a 7 year old.

Her voice quivered, “Ellie.”

“Hi, Ellie. We’re going to get out of here, okay?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you two.”

The lanky guy now known as Josh drove us back on topic. “Do either of you know how we got here?” As he spoke, he rose from the ground and began running his arm across the wall. He ran his fist away from the wall, then punched it repeatedly.

I raised my voice and said, “Now that I think of it, I don’t remember much. My name is Gwen Ouroboros, and I’m a senior in high school. That’s it.” I’m also in love with my best friend, but that was a weird thing to remember, and irrelevant.

“All I remember is where I live, and my mother and stepfather,” Ellie said.

Josh finished his act of violence against the wall. I stood, staring as he examined his hand. He had created several blue bruises on his left hand, but I had just noticed that below his covered shoulders, his arms were covered in matching bruises, new and faded. “I-” he stood, panting, “-don’t remember anything, outside my name.”

“Great,” I said. I joined Josh in standing, and mimicked his punching at the walls. There were no windows in this room, and no doors. I raised my glance to the ceiling, where I spotted a few holes, most likely for breathing. They weren’t big enough to see anything about our location, though.

Interrupting my thoughts, Ellie let out a weak yelp. Me and Josh both jumped at its squeaky noise that filled the room. Josh seemed more scared than I was, probably because I was started to get more annoyed than scared at her constant anxiety. I let out something between a sigh and a moan. “Ellie, what the hell is it no-“

I twirled my body around then froze in place. What Ellie squealed in fear at and was now shaking in place because of was another person. A lean man stood across the room, goggles covering his eyes and a secret smile covering his mouth. He was writing something down on a clipboard.

All three of us were silent for a moment. I finally raised my voice, “Who….What are you?”

He didn’t speak, he just continued writing. The sound of pen hitting paper was the loudest thing in the room. I said, “Hello? You deaf? Answer us!” Josh cringed at the sudden increase of my voice. “Where are we? Why did you bring us here?”

Silence again. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I began pacing toward him. My voice got louder and louder as I moved across the room, “What are you writing? Tell us why the hell you brought us here!

“Gwen, please stop!” Ellie called. “We don’t know what this guy could do.”

I was inches before him by the time I finished, and was ready to pull the clipboard straight from his gloved fingers. But as I reached his body, he was gone. Ellie’s cries were silenced.

And I was alone, somewhere new. Somewhere dark.


When I first opened my eyes after Gwen chased after the man in the wood room, I was alone. And, as it seemed, I was now in a forest.

“Ellie? Gwen?” I called. I refused to raise my voice any higher than I had to, scared of what might find me. “....Allison?” My breathing was uneven, and I was cold beyond belief.

After I steadied myself, I moved one foot in front of the other and began moving. As much as fear could stop you, sometimes it keeps you moving. Every step I took created noise from the leaves crunching under my feet. I let out small gasps out of fear involuntary. I was a nervous wreck. I’d be so embarrassed if Allison saw me being this weak, but she doesn’t understand what kind of situation I’ve just been thrown into.

All that surrounded me was hundreds of oak trees, planted to close together that I didn’t have much room to move through them, scraping my bruised arms on them as I walked. I increased my speed in every step I walked, desperate to get home. Until I tripped over something, falling face first into the ingrown roots, my nose cracking with a quiet crunch. I abandoned my need to be quiet and let out a long string of curse words.  The pain was overwhelming, but the thing that bothered me most was that it felt like someone had pulled me down. I looked behind me.

        Slumped over against a tree, a woman sat. Her limbs were facing various directions, and her clothes had been ripped to shreds. She looked almost unrecognizable. I thought this until I noticed something about the way her hair looked. It was a deep brown, with dyed red streaks in it, matted down and covered in dirt but still visible. I’ve only known one person in my life, at least as I remembered, with hair that color.

        “Allison!” I yelled, in a tone that had held both relief, despair, and fear. I gently tapped her shoulders, trying to get her to wake up without being mad, but the way her arms lay with their tendons disconnected, I realized there wasn’t much her small hands could do to me. No matter how mad she got.

        “Allison, please wake up, love. We need to go home. I’m sorry-I’m sorry I got us here, but I promise I’ll get us back,” I sobbed as I spoke. I lied when I told those two girls I couldn’t remember anything. I remembered Allison, my girlfriend.

        I tried to move her peaceful body as I begged for her to wake up. It was futile. She wouldn’t wake up. She wasn’t dead, though, for I could feel her shallow breaths on my arms. I could only admit in the dark, dark part of my mind that I hoped she wouldn’t wake.

        “Why do you think such things? You pathetic coward.” The voice that seemed to had read my mind belonged to Allison’s sleeping body, eyes still closed, arms and legs still in their same contorted position. “Were you crying? I thought I told you to be brave. Why don’t you listen to me?”

        As much as I saw her mouth moved, the more she spoke, the less familiar her once scratchy voice sounded, turning lower and lower. I wanted to cry more than any moment I had before, but I put on that brave face I’ve perfected and rubbed my eyes against the sleeve of my shirt. “N-no, no I wasn’t, baby, I’m just-just so happy to see you…” Despite the circumstances and her rotting body, I went to place my hand on her cheek. My arm shook, covered in the art she put on it. I reached out for her.

        Allison opened her eyes, jolting me back in fear. “Liar!” She twisted her left arm back in place in a snapshot of a second, and grabbed my own. Then took my black and blue flesh into her mouth. I gaped, unable to form a sound. I kneeled in silence while she clenched her teeth around my arm. Finally, I did what I should’ve done months, years ago, and pushed her back. The flesh in her mouth peeled off my arm like warm butter as I pushed. I let out a scream, then ran. I ran and ran, but the further I ran, the more I saw the silhouette of her petite body standing in place of the trees that were once surrounding me. More and more trees disappeared, and more and more figures of my lover replaced them. Until the trees were completely gone, and the duplicates of Allison surrounded me. Then closed in, ripping at my skin, tossing insults loud enough to make my ears bleed.

        Then the day started again.

        I wish I could tell you for the three weeks I stayed, trapped in this forest, the same scenario happened every day, because at least then I would know how to avoid it. But that would be too easy. Every day, I woke up in that forest, all my physical injuries gone. Except the bruises she had given me prior, of course. And every goddamned day, all 21 of them, it was something new, all lead by Allison. One day I was a voodoo doll that she stuck a thousand needles into, one day she had possessed me entirely and made me do despicable things, one day she swallowed me up and chewed me as slow as the day went by. Every morning I woke up fine, except the mental fear I endured was worse than any physical pain she could give me.

        On that 21st day, when she planned to strap me into a machine that would stretch my body out to various lengths, I broke down. “Allison, I love you, I love you, please stop this!” I placed my face into my hands and collapsed to the ground, sobbing. I knew she was getting close to me, but trying to run or outsmart her never worked. “Please, please, stop-hic-stop…” I said. “Stop.”

        “Josh?” A small voice called. I looked up from my tear soaked palms. Ellie stood in front of me, back in the treehouse we first found ourselves in.


        I couldn’t tell you the joy I felt when I had saw Josh. Only actions could describe it, and that stood true when I wrapped my arms around this man, who I had barely knew, but a second after he flinched away from me, he wrapped himself around me too. After all, he was the only person I had seen in 21 days. “You have no idea how happy I am to see you right now,” I said into his shoulder.


        When we unwrapped ourselves, we spotted Gwen, sitting on the floor, eyes wide with the same darkness that we now had. It’s come to my attention that we’ve all gone through hell.

        And as we sat with Gwen now in our arms, I heard pencil hitting paper, and I knew. Hell might not be over yet.


        I balled my fists when I saw the man we first saw at the beginning of this nightmare. Gray goggles covered his eyes, and his scrunched up hair was gray to match. I spoke first. It meant to be something menacing, like a threat, but all that came out was “Please let us go.”

        “I’m afraid I can’t,” he said. It was the first thing he had said, his voice gravelly and confident.

        I walked towards him. Not in a threatening way, like Gwen had, but carefully.

        “Ellie, don’t,” Josh said. He couldn’t stop me. I wasn’t worried about what happened.

        I stopped a few inches from his face, and thought, I refused to be scared anymore. “What’s your name?”

        “Doctor Syth. You can call me James, if you’d like.” He spoke like he held no fear, nor emotion.

        “James Syth. James, why are we here?”

        He removed his goggles, and his eyes met with mine. His emerald green eyes meeting with my gray ones. They weren’t mad, they seemed almost kind. I smiled. He didn’t return it, but the look in his eyes spoke otherwise. “See for yourself.” He motioned with his head over to the wooden walls. Three windows were placed equal distance apart from each other, each with a name carved atop of it. Gwen was already walking towards hers by the time Syth had finished, but Josh stood frozen in place. Rightfully afraid.

        I cleared my throat. “We have to go, Josh. Don’t you want to remember who you are?” He didn’t answer.

        Just walked over to the window, and opened his eyes.


They name all the most chaotic things in life after sweet girls names. Storms, like Katrina and Sandy. Drugs, like Molly and Mary Jane. Mental disorders, Ana and Mia. My girlfriend, Allison.

        What a poetic thing to think, especially when you’re being beat to death. I almost sort of knew it was the end when Allison came home half tipsy that night, and as she struck me with the first blow, I was sad I’d never get to write anything poetic like that again. I didn’t fight her back. It was my fault for trying to pick an argument over nothing. And I’d do it again if I could. How messed up is that.

        It wasn’t like this in the beginning. She was one of the kindest people I’d ever met, and that’s who I fell for. I don’t know if it was her work or the alcohol, but something snapped at some point. Then it went down hill, and the bruises showed up. I never once blamed her for it, I just wanted her to be happy.

        “Josh, get me my slippers, please.”

        I said, “I’m kind of busy right now, love. You got legs of your own, don’t you?”

        “Josh. Get me my slippers.”

        Like an idiot, I said, “no.”

        “Why don’t you ever fucking listen to me?”

        Then arguing. Then screaming. Then clawing at my upper arms. Then punching me. So much pain.

        I heard her close the front door and leave right before I bled to death. It was my fault.



        “Hey Juls? Can we talk about something?” I said.

        Julia sat up from the grass to face me, but I didn’t look at her, I just fiddled with some strands of grass. I don’t think she got the hint I was being serious, because she responded with, “No, G, you aren’t allowed to talk to me.” Her sarcastic quips usually made my heart melt, but I was too filled with fear right now to feel anything else.

        “I’m being serious, Julia.”

        “You never use my full name. What’s up, weirdo?”

        I let my black hair fall into the grass and mix with it, like some sort of hybrid plant. “You’re my best friend, Juls, and that’s the only reason why I’m telling you this. It’d be unfair if I didn’t.”

        “Spit it out.”

        “I-” I took a deep breath. “I think I’m in love with you.” That was the first time I had ever said those words out loud, to her or to anyone. I’ve practiced out loud many a time ‘I like you’, and that’s what I was gonna say to her now, but it came out wrong. The truth came out.

        Silence. Then, “I know.”

        I looked to her. She was fiddling with that wooden cross she always worn around her neck, and her eyes were glued to the damp grass. Her voice wavered for a second, then she said, “But, you know, I’m- I’m a Christian.”

        My heart broke. “I know. I am too, y’know, and this doesn’t make me any less of one.”

        “But, it-” she stopped herself. “My heart just doesn’t work like that.”

        I couldn’t breath. “I’m sorry.”

        “Don’t be,” she said. “You’re still my best friend. This doesn’t change anything.”

        We didn’t speak much that night, or maybe we did and I just couldn’t hear anything over the static in my head.

        Then a week later she called me a stupid dyke in front of the whole class when we had gym and changed in front of each other.

        A week after that, she smacked me in the face for flirting with her after I said hi to her at her locker.

        A week after that, she told me she never wanted to see my queer face ever again in her lifetime.

        A day after that, blood dripped from 7 cuts from my wrist, and I never opened my eyes again.


        I was 7 years old when my mom left with Jeff. She whispered in my ear, “I’ll be back soon, baby,” then she took the hand of man who didn’t look or sound like my daddy, but mom wanted me to call him that anything. I didn’t know anything about him, really. Just that mommy loved him. So I did too.

        “We have to leave. I owe Jim way too much pot money, and he’s P.O.ed,” Jeff said.

        “We can’t leave, Jeffrey, we’re raising a kid. She can’t grow up in a family that has to move every few months because her step-dad’s knee-deep in debt with these kinds of people!” Mommy whisper-yelled.

        “Do you love me?”

        Mom whimpered, “You know I do. More than anything. But-”

        Jeff said, “Then come with me. We can leave her here.”

        “We can’t!”

        “We have to.”

        I didn’t know what any of this meant. I do now.

        They left soon after that. Mommy packed a bag, hugged me harder than she ever had before, then locked all the doors. I cried, so much. I didn’t know where mommy was going, and I was so scared that she wouldn’t come back. I wouldn’t let that happen.

        So I painted every day. All over the walls, the furniture, everything. Everything. It’d be so pretty she would have to come back. She’d hold me in her arms and tell me the house looks so beautiful. I know she would.

        But I still needed to eat.

        I’ve seen her use that huge oven that was plopped in the middle of the kitchen. It makes things warm. It can make food.

        I grabbed a can of the closest thing I could reach; beans. Gross, but it’s been so long, the house is pretty enough. I deserve a break. I fiddled with the handles on it, then placed the can of beans on top. Now I can take a nap.

        And when I wake, I’ll be greeted with hot orange flames and my blistering flesh burning off the bone.

James Syth

        I am not a bad person. You may think I am, but believe me, I’m just doing my job. I’m getting money, and for good reason too, but this isn’t my story.

        It’s theirs.

        When the three subjects had figured out everything shown to them in those windows, they stood quiet.

        “I understand what you are all going through, but-”

        “I’m…” Josh said.

        “Dead?” Ellie finished his statement.

        Gwen felt her wrists up and down. As I expected, she was ready to comment on the unscarred flesh on them. “How are we here then?”

        I said, “You aren’t. Not really. This is a simulation, and we’re all in it. And you aren’t dead.”


        “They are.”

        No one said anything for a moment, until Ellie did. “ ‘They’?”

        “Gwen Ouroboros, Josh Smith, and Ellie Fellows.”

        “Those are our names,” said ‘Josh’.

        “No, Allison, they aren’t.” I cracked my knuckles. As fucked up as it was, this part was my favorite. The big reveal. I pointed at ‘Gwen’, “You are Julia Simmons, the girl who drove Gwen to suicide. ‘Josh’: “Allison Bique, beat Josh to death.” ‘Ellie’: “And you two, our most experimental project, Kate Ball and Jeff Winsky. You left your daughter locked in a house that eventually burned to the ground with her in it.        

        “This is a new form of punishment set forth by the government,” I explained. “To ‘make you feel what they felt’, according to them. I’m just here to take notes. We take the memories from what’s left of the brains of the victims and insert them into your brain, after we temporarily remove your own memories, of course. You are going to stay in here for however long the court decides you to. Neat, huh?”

        They all looked at their own bodies in disgust. I couldn’t feel bad for them. I used to, but hey, they did this to themselves. They’ll learn remorse from this, hopefully. And besides, I’ve done this dozens of times before.


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