‘Our fantasies can be more powerful than our reality.’

(My response to a prompt from a Whose Reality Year 12 English Exam prompt – Hope you enjoy!)

Four friends managed to escape the fallout of nuclear warfare on an international scale. Radioactivity levels have spiked across the country, and as fast as they were to retreat to their underground research lab turned makeshift bunker, some radiation has seeped through the walls. Soon, the bunker will be completely irradiated, and so the four hurry on to the experimental simulated reality pods, their only chance to survive if not in body but in mind….   

“…Only three?  

“There’s no time! Just get in! Soon, this lab will be irradiated to lethal levels, and I’m the only one who can operate them from the control panel.”  

“Do they even work though?! And, what about you?  

“I made these pods for a reason. All three of you are the most important people to me that are still living. The last thing I can do for each of you is ensure that you live on.”  

“But wha-”  

“Just GO! Leave it to me! And think happy thoughts, or it won’t work!”  

…  

INITIATING REALITY SEQUENCE – POD A. COMMENCING…  

Felix jerked awake, gasping for air. The electrodes attached to his head slipped off, clattering against the metal of the reality pod. After trying to fix them on, the circuits sparked, and fizzled out.   

ERROR IN REALITY SEQUENCE. PLEASE COMPLETE REPAIRS IN CIRCUIT BOARDS 2A and 4C…  

The pod’s lid lifted up. Felix unstrapped himself from his chair, and looked around. Jamie’s and Vanessa’s pods seemed intact, with the two already unconscious. Where was Mitchell?  

Above on the operating platform, Mitchell was frantic.   

“Mitchell!” Felix called. “What happened?  

“There’s not enough power! The bombs from before must have upset the lab’s electric power systems, so there’s only enough power for Vanessa’s and Jamie’s pods.”  

Felix grimaced. “So, does that mean…”  

Mitchell looked at Felix, nodding his head. “I’m afraid so. Looks like we’ll both be leaving this world together. Our last adventure, eh, Chief?”  

“Chief?” Felix mused, as he stepped over to Mitchell by the panel. “I guess when you’ve got moments left to live, you think of all the things you’ve done in your life, right? I mean, you’re thinking of the old days in college, when we did that viking club battle, right?”  

Mitchell laughed. “Yup.” He agreed. “Remember when we had to raid the soccer club, pretending it was a fort?”  

“How could I forget? When the chief of the other team snuck up from behind, you leapt to my side as my shield-brother. Even though I was Chief, I was the one who needed saving.”  

“You were worth saving, Chief. It’s the shield-brother’s job to keep you alive.”  

Anger formed Felix’s face into a frown. “But I’m the Chief! I was supposed to make sure all my men were safe from the start. Yet once again, I’m having to lose the people I care about just to save myself.” Felix gestured to the pods.   

Mitchell went quiet at that.   

…  

After several awkward moments of silence, Felix sighed, resting his back against the lab wall, sliding down to a sit. Mitchell came and sat down beside him.  

“The girls,” Felix questioned. “They’ll be alright?”  

Mitchell nodded. “Don’t you worry about them. Jamie and Ness will be alright. They’re probably having their own dreams right now, of a world not destroyed by nuclear radiation.”  

“Wouldn’t that be nice?” Felix mused. “Despite all our technological advances in the 22nd century, we end up destroying the world as we know it, over some petty political dispute.”  

Mitchell laughed. “At least the Chief and his shield-brother will go down together.”  

WARNING. RADIATION LEAK FROM EXTERNAL SOURCES. PERSONNEL MUST EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY. LAB WILL BE COMPLETELY IRRADIATED IN 3 MINUTES.  

…  

“It’s been an honour, chief.”  

“You’ve been my best friend since high school, Mitchell. I hope we can see each other again….”  

…  

“What the?” Mitchell murmered. “Pod A’s offline? Felix? Ack, can’t focus on that now. The other pods MUST work!”  

…  

INITIATING REALITY SEQUENCE – POD B. COMMENCING…  

Jamie stirred. Vision blurred, she kneaded her eyes, rubbing them to restore her sight. Upon closer examination, the lab’s lights are dimmed, and a red light is flashing around the room. The pod’s lid is unattached, lying on the floor. Looking around, Felix’s and Vanessa’s pods appear intact. Where is Mitchell…  

“Ja…Jamie…”  

Mitchell!  

There! By the control panel. And blood…  

“Mitchell! What happened?!”  

“The power…it needed too much that it overloaded…and the panel exploded…Felix’s and Ness’s…should be okay…”  

“Damn it, Mitchell. I never trusted you and your damned technology.”  

“Then…why did you join us?”  

Jamie was staggered. Why was she in this lab, instead of an irradiated freak above ground?   

“I…I…” Jamie stuttered.  

Mitchell chuckled weakly. “I asked…you to come…because of what we had. Because of…Ryan…”  

Jamie looked away, tears forming in her eyes. “He would have made it, if you had been there to give me strength.”  

Mitchell grasped Jamie’s ankle. As she looked down, she saw tears in Mitchell’s eyes as well.  

“Not a day goes by…that I don’t think about the son…we almost had. That’s why…I wanted to give you…a chance…I’m sorry that I…couldn’t even give you that…”  

 At that, Jamie relented. With a sigh, she held Mitchell by the arms, carrying him to the lab wall and propped him up, wiping some of the blood with her cardigan.   

“…How much longer do we have left?”  

“No more…than 5 minutes…”  

With that, Jamie embraced Mitchell.   

“Wha – why?”  

“Because despite all that happened our past, you still came for me. Despite your faults, your heart was and still is in the right place.”  

They held each other in silence for several moments.   

WARNING. RADIATION LEAK FROM EXTERNAL SOURCES. PERSONNEL MUST EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY.   

“I’m glad…that you’re here…with me in the end.”  

“Perhaps in whatever afterlife there is, we can be together once more, and try again to be a family…”  

…  

“No!” Mitchell shouted. “Pod B as well?! JAMIE!”  

…  

INITIATING REALITY SEQUENCE – POD C. COMMENCING…  

“Ugh…,” Vanessa groaned. “Even with all the guinea-pig work I did for him, this whole simulated reality thing is still uncomfortable as hell…huh?”  

She was still in the lab. The same metal flooring. The same pair of electrodes that were too damn tight upon her head. Yet, on her pod’s screen, ‘ERROR’ was all that could be seen.   

“Mitchell? Is there something wrong with Pod C?” 

Mitchell started at her voice, before looking away guiltily. “…No, your pod is fully operational.” 

A frown creased across Vanessa’s features as she strode to Mitchell besides the control panel.  

“Then why am I hear about to question you as to why the pod isn’t working?” 

Mitchell turned away, unwilling to respond.  

“ANSWER ME, LITTLE BROTHER!” 

“BECAUSE I’D BE ALL ALONE!” 

Vanessa staggered backwards, caught off balance by her brother’s unexpected reaction.  

Mitchell sighed, slumping his shoulders. “This experiment…we worked on it together, just like everything else in our lives. I don’t want to die alone. I don’t want to be without you….does that make me selfish, Sis?” 

Vanessa smiled, placing her hand on Mitchell’s shoulder. “Of course not, Mitchell. You’re right. We’ve been a team since we came into this world, even with the 121 seconds that make me older than you. In a way, I suppose it’s kinda funny yet sorta logical that we die together as well.” Vanessa laughed. “It also means more spare power for Felix and Jamie too.” 

… 

WARNING. RADIATION LEAK FROM EXTERNAL SOURCES. PERSONNEL MUST EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY. LAB WILL BE COMPLETELY IRRADIATED IN 3 MINUTES.  

“Thanks, Sis.” 

“Don’t worry about it, Mitch. In a way, I was kind of hoping that something would happen that would keep us together, even if for another 3 minutes or so. And in whatever afterlife that exists, I’ll still look out for my kid brother!” 

… 

“Sis…” Mitchell cried. “No…not you too…” 

Mitchell slumped forward onto the control panel, with three bright red ERROR lights blinking up at him.  

What could have gone wrong? The equipment had been checked, and made ready for use a day ago. What could it have been? 

Mitchell started. Of course! The instructions are at fault! ‘Think happy thoughts, or it won’t work!’, that’s what went wrong! 

Mitchell chuckled to himself. Of course, it would be too much to ask three people faced with imminent death to think of a more ideal place to be to live within.  

 

WARNING. RADIATION LEAK FROM EXTERNAL SOURCES. PERSONNEL MUST EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY. LAB WILL BE COMPLETELY IRRADIATED IN 3 MINUTES.  

Mitchell walked past each pod, staring at the faces of a best friend, a once happy marriage partner, and a twin sister.  

 WARNING. RADIATION LEAK FROM EXTERNAL SOURCES. PERSONNEL MUST EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY. LAB WILL BE COMPLETELY IRRADIATED IN 1 MINUTE.  

Mitchell stared up at the lab’s ceiling.  

“I wonder, what they all were thinking, in the end?” 

  

  

 

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