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Is This Real Life?

Is This Real Life?

11 mins 25.5K 11 mins 25.5K

Jessica Wainwright stared out into the distance and sighed. Her best friend Alma waved her hands across her face. "Earth to Jess." She flicked the hands away and sighed again. "Jess, don't tell me you've got all mopey again." Alma grumbled. "You're dating the hottest guy in college, your grades are amazing and everybody loves you. Face it Jessica, your life is perfect." Jessica faced Alma, pouting. "Maybe you're right." She said, but her mind was still daydreaming. Alma rolled her eyes and said she was going to class. Jessica waved her goodbye and then sat for a while, lost in her thoughts.

 It was true, she had nothing to complain about and yet, something wasn't quite right. Something was missing. She didn't feel like going back to class. " Maybe I should go see my boyfriend", she thought. " That ought to distract me ". So she texted Tony, asking if he wanted to hang out.  "Sorry babe. I have a test." He replied. She sighed again, then found herself walking out of the building. She didn't know where she was going, she just kept walking down the  unfamiliar street thinking she would go to the nicest looking place for a night of fun to take her mind off things. A board outside of an Internet cafe caught her eye. 

"Psychology Experiment. All adults welcome." 

It did not give much away, but something drew her to it and she found herself opening the door to the Internet cafe and sitting down on a stool among a room full of people. There was a speaker at the centre of the room, who cleared his throat loudly, causing all the people sitting around him to stop murmuring and look at him. "Good evening lovely people." He said. "I am Dr Aaron Spells, a professor of psychology. I used to work at Cytris College in Bloomberg but now I work for a company that conducts psychological experiments that test the limitations and bounds of human emotion, especially that of attachment. This particular experiment, if successful, will change everything we know about love and attachment. It is very simple, all you have to do is log onto a website that pairs you up with a random person from anywhere in the world and begin chatting with them. But here's the catch, neither of you can reveal details such your gender, age, name, race, etc. You can only learn about their personality. Any personal details, if volunteered, will be blocked out by the moderators. At the end of the month, you have to write an essay about the person, and if you write a good one, the details will be revealed.  Remember, this experiment is being conducted internationally. Also, if you tell any one else about your involvement in this experiment, you will be disqualified immediately." Jessica listened earnestly and when the professor said those who wanted to participate should stay, she stayed and put on the hard, uncomfortable stool. She signed up for the website and chose the user name "manicpixie92". She was paired up with user "summerloving93". 

"Hey." She typed, hesitatingly. Almost instantly, she got a reply. "Hey." They user said. "Do you like grease?" She looked at the username and smiled. "Watching grease is such a blast, and I was sad it got over so fast." Once again, an instant response. "LOL. A person after my own heart." It said. Jessica was thinking of something to say when her phone rang. It was Tony "Jess, are you free to hang? A couple of my buddies are going to the bowling alley, so I thought I would tag along and spend time with you." She considered and then accepted the invitation, then got back to the anonymous chat. "What are you doing?" She typed. "I'm going to a party." The user replied. "Ooh, sounds fun" . " I'm going bowling with my boyfriend." She wrote back. "I'd take bowling over a party anyday." Jessica thought she would, too. "I'm not gonna be bowling though. My boyfriend hates it." She sighed. 

She loved bowling and eating at fast food chains and shopping at thrift stores. But everything Tony hated, he didn't let her do. But who was she to complain? Most girls at college would kill to give up those things if they could have Tony. Sweet, dependable Tony. Her phone flashed. "That sucks. How can he hate bowling? It's so much fun." Jessica felt the same, but she didn't want to think about that at the moment, so she decided to change the topic. "Have you ever been to ?" She typed, then stared at the screen. "That's funny. They changed the name of the bowling alley to location. I guess they really meant what they said about moderators." She waited for ten minutes, but got no answer. Finally, she put her phone away and walked back to college. Her phone vibrated while she was walking and as she checked it, she was hoping it was the anonymous user. It was. "These people mean business, trust me." It said. "So have you ever.." She began typing and that set the scene for asking each other all sorts of questions. She found out that summerloving93's favourite movie was It's a Wonderful Life, favourite song was Tonight by FM Static, favourite book was The Book Thief and favourite poem was Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep. That's funny, she said to herself. Those are all my favourites too. She went to the bowling alley and hugged Tony. Then before saying anything, she joined one of the bowling teams. Tony frowned but said nothing and joined the other team rather reluctantly. A woman standing behind her asked if she and Tony were thinking about marriage. Jessica didn't know. She loved Tony, she knew that, but with him she didn't feel whole. As usual, something was missing. Her team was beating Tony's 3-2 when they stopped to have a drink or so. Jessica asked for marble soda. Tony frowned at her, trying to tell her to order diet without telling it across the table. She didn't take notice. "Jessica, order diet." He said, firmly and loud enough for everyone to hear. Tears stung her eyes. Who was he to tell her what to do in public like this? She threw the soda can across the room and it hit his head, then ran out of the alley. Tony chased after her. "Jess. Jess I'm sorry." She didn't stop running. "You humiliated me in there." She said, sobbing. "How dare you?" He shook his head impatiently. "Jess you're being dramatic, it wasn't that bad." But she ignored him and kept running until she found a deserted bench where she sat down and pulled out her phone. And she began chatting again. She learnt that summerloving93's parents had died in a car crash, he or she lived alone in a small house haunted by memories, worked at a grocery store and was going to be a parent soon. She found herself mesmerised by this stranger, hanging on to every word and awaiting replies with baited breath. And she couldn't help thinking that summerloving93 would not have embarrassed her in the bowling alley. Stop, she chided herself. You know know who this is, it could be an 80 year old man for all you know. But her heart knew it wasn't some creepy old man talking to her. Time passed and it was the last day of the month. Jessica and the stranger had been talking everyday and connecting in a way she had never connected with a person before. On the morning of the last day, she checked her phone and found a poem. "Roses are red, violets are blue. I know we met in a strange way but I think I like you. I'm writing the best essay to win, and I hope you do too. Because I really want to buy a one way ticket and come stay with you." She didn't know what to say. She was dating Tony, but she had never connected with him the way she had summerloving93. Still, she had absolutely no idea who this person was. She stared at the screen blankly and then put her phone away. She took out an old notepad and a pen and began writing her essay. She wrote about everything she has learnt and every thing they had in common and ended it saying she hoped they would speak again. Satisfied, she ran with her essay to the Internet cafe where Dr Aaron Spells was waiting for her. He smiled, but said nothing as she handed him her essay and left. When she checked her phone, she noticed she had been logged out of the website and was unable to access it. She found herself wishing she had replied to the poem and desperately hoping one of them won. She went to college, but no class or teacher could hold her attention that day. Finally, she got a phone call from an unknown number. "Hello Jessica. This is Aaron Spells. You have won the competition. Come to the cafe to meet your pair up."Jessica couldn't believe it. She was finally going to meet the one who stole her heart. She ran to the cafe where Mr Spells was waiting for her. He was holding a  laptop in his hands and he gestured towards it. She saw a form open on the laptop. "Name: Sarah Michelle Connor." It read. "User: summerloving93. Age: 20. Sex: Female. Race: Caucasian." And so on and it ended with - "Location: New Zealand." When she was done reading, he pressed a key and it opened a Skype call and staring back at her was Sarah Michelle Connor, summerloving93. And at once the confusion she had felt in the morning disappeared. She knew at that moment that she loved Sarah Michelle Connor. She waved to the screen. "I have something to ask you. Will you marry me?" The girl at the other end beamed excitedly and said. "Yes. I would like nothing more." Mr. Spells rubbed his hands together in glee. "Fantastic. This experiment was more successful than I ever imagined." Jessica ran home to tell her parents that she had found the one. She told them the whole story and when she was done, her parents gave each other uneasy looks. Finally her mother spoke. "Jess dear, how can you marry someone you met online a month ago? And what about Tony?" Her father nodded in agreement. Jessica sighed. "You don't get it mom and dad. This girl is my soulmate." Her mother paused then spoke. "Alright, we are gonna need to talk to this professor." Jessica led them to the cafe, which was surprisingly closed. "When did this place shut down?" She asked a nearby hot dog vendor. "Ten years ago." He replied. Jessica blinked in astonishment. "What do you mean? It was open an hour ago. That man was hosting the psychology experiment here." The man stared at her with a pitiful expression. "Honey, this place has been shut since ten years. I come here everyday and it hasn't been open since 2004." Jessica didn't know what to say. She knew this was the cafe, next to the hot dog stand and jewellery store. She went and asked the owner of the jewellery store  who said the same thing to her. Her parents looked even more uneasy. Jessica pulled out her phone and typed the site address but it said no site found. There's gotta be something wrong, she thought. Her parents were staring at her with a mix of confusion and worry. They went home and spoke to someone on the phone while she was made to stay upstairs. When she was finally called down, her father looked at her gravely while her mother started to cry. "What's going on?" She asked, cautiously. "We spoke to the doctor Jess. He says you have schizophrenia. You need to go to Belgium for treatment." Jessica was shocked. "Mom, I'm not crazy." Her mother broke down crying and hugged her. "Time to go." A familiar voice said and when she turned around who should she see but Dr Aaron Spells. "You!" She said. "Mom this is Aaron Spells, the man behind that experiment. Tell them I'm not crazy, Mr Spells. Tell them you've met me." The man shook his head sadly. "I'm Dr Gavin Blake. Poor girl is worse than I thought. Come on, I'll help you get better." Jessica looked at her parents, anguished. "Mom, dad, you have to believe me. I'm not crazy. Don't send me away." Her parents just looked at her sadly and shook their heads, while the man dragged her out and put her in the car. She banged on the windows and cried as he drove off, her mother sobbing and her father tearing up. Her mother put away the dishes, sighing and hoping her daughter would get better soon. 

She went to bed but couldn't sleep, tossing and turning and worrying about Jessica. The next morning, there was a knock on the door. A blonde girl with a baby was standing outside when she opened it. "Is this Jessica Wainwright's house?" Asked the girl. "Who is this?" She asked, thinking it was probably some college friend. "I'm Sarah Michelle Connor." The girl said. "Jessica's online friend." 


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