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The Way Out

by Kyriaki 4 months ago in fact or fiction · updated 2 months ago

A battle with resistance.

The effects hit me hard - probably because the last handful had prematurely capped off the one before it. Of all nights, tonight would be the night to fall back into the old, medicating habits. Jackson’s news - even as cynically numb as I had become to his unpredictability - did shock me. I knew he was depressed, and after three years of codependency, I should have been happy for his most recent need to move to India in order to “understand life.”

My body began to sink into the couch while my eyes surrendered to their weight. I’d just begun to accept thoughtlessness before an intense spasm in my chest forced my eyes open. The view flared so brightly that I could only get a glimpse before retreating back to darkness. I slowly opened them again, letting light gently reach me this time. I pushed my head up and saw a pole of green light beaming so vividly that each wall was now radiating shades of neon green.

It stood a few feet away from me but, in some way, it stuck to me; encompassed me, like a hug. A feeling of ultimate fear had turned to an odd sense of protection in only a moment, but before I could let either emotion sink in, my body flew to the light, and abruptly shoved me into a dark space. I gradually fell for what seemed like an hour - to the point where that rollercoaster, butterfly feeling had left - and I could only think of Alice and her rabbit hole. Even more than the correlation between my certain.. predicament and her famous fall, but the thought of inevitable fear that had to accompany what could possible come; and even more frightfully what if the end never comes. The story of XX couldn't possibly end in an infinite fall. Just as the idea had become too comfortably real in my own head, my hair started to reach my neck and I realized the fall was coming to an end.

I slammed into the floor - like a bulldozer with knees. A fleeting fear of pain passed by before I noticed my skin ..everywhere. I nervously covered my body and looked up to a stern woman staring down at me. Her long, serious face reminded me of someone I read about in a wizardry novel. She stood like a statue, dressed from head to toe in white, with her hair pulled back into an exceptionally tight bun to top off her strict appearance. She must have made anyone in her presence uncomfortable, but especially a delusional, and now naked, woman.

Finally, I mustered the courage to speak, “Where am I?”

“Don’t worry yourself with where you are. The focus is on what you’ve done to get here,” her response was instant - giving me no time to formulate any of my one-hundred other questions.

“I don’t understand. Why did I fall? And.. am I alone here?” I recognized a tinge of pride in my current ability to put words together.

“No,” she replied, “Michael here will help you get dressed and you’ll soon join the rest of your class.”

Michael more or less floated over with my white - like everything - shirt, and pants. The shirt was so stiff that I intuitively recognized the nerves of a middle schooler minutes before an annual talent show. I felt my nerves, but I’d noticed that the immense terror had slowly diminished, and without having to confirm with my inner voice, I knew it was because of the light.

I followed Michael, who had a specific coldness to him, as if he had a secret that he wasn’t going to tell - which was sufficiently unfortunate for me. It was a circular room with marble floors that created an uneasy clacking as we walked from one end to the other. It felt like a science lab but a completely empty science lab, with nothing adding to it other than five unlabeled doors. I never saw a circular room with doors placed like this; and in all of this, the doors scared me the most. What was behind each door; and why was I walking towards this one specifically?

“Michael,” I squeaked, “why am I going into this door?”

"Your goal is that door.” He pointed to the only one that looked slightly different from the others, lined with a thin gold light that I hadn’t initially noticed.

“When will I get there,” I asked.

“You’ll see,” he said in a smug tone before turning his back and walking away.

He opened the door, gestured for me to enter, and patiently waited for my body to move. Feeling trapped, I took a deep breath, thought of the feeling before the fall, and forced one foot in front of me. The room was much larger than I imagined, and I couldn’t understand how it physically fit inside of that small room with the golden door. Every “student” stood in front of a contraption that reminded me of a cross between the bubble boy and a flight simulator at ‘Dave N Busters,’ only without the decorations, and - I had a feeling - more terrifying. The stern woman from my entrance stood in front of the room selectively staring at the 20 people frozen in front of her.

Finally, she spoke, “Hello class my name is professor Aliss. Welcome to your intro. Each of you stands before your individual pods. These pods will act as portals throughout your specific experiences. The first and most critical concept to understand is that your time in the pod may seem to last years, but in our reality will only run on for a few moments. Each of you will have different experiences, and the outcomes will depend on you and your ability to decode your way through what’s thrown at you. Your subconscious, your state of current purpose, will lead to the reality of your pod. Before you begin, I will leave you with a piece of advice: if your subconscious decided the life you entered, it will also create your time there.” She cleared her throat and finished with, “Okay, please sit. Buckle up. Time starts now.”

20 pods opened for 20 students engulfed in nothing but white and terror. My mind was screaming. I had so many unanswered questions - like most importantly, does my real life still exist after the fall? After whatever’s about to happen? Why didn’t I ask sooner? Before I could speak, my buckle tightened, and the dome’s ceiling popped off in one swift motion - oddly reminding me of a toupee on a weatherman, which made me kind of happy because I never pegged myself for a shock comedy type of person.

Annis yelled over the rumbling, “Good luck, and remember my advice.”

Right as the word “advice” left her mouth, my pod released, shooting me into whatever was the black above me. It was a rollercoaster, but I didn’t know why or where I belonged on this ride. The moments in the air lasted longer than the fall, but these moments were even slower, or calmer. Magical thoughts flooded my mind; it was a similar feeling to the light, but the comfort came from within. The thoughts seemed transcendent, yet it still felt like me, like a more certain, and accepting version of me. My mind began to understand so many elements of life that I hadn’t seen. Memories of rejection, betrayal, and even death had passed me with love. Pain, without my control, had become an easy experience; as if the instances that created those feelings were all accepted, and even appreciated. I never felt a love for those hardships before.

She knew both my mistakes and my pain, but had no negative emotions attached to either of them. Instead, they were viewed with beauty, and gratitude for the opportunities they guided towards. The idea of ‘leveling up’ had never felt so easy to me - these weren’t the feelings associated with Dr. Payne or Jillian Michaels; these were feelings of true support, without expectations or disappointments. I realized that was the link that I had been missing. In here, opportunities were joined with an understanding for possible failure. I thought of last year when I applied for a new job. Two days after my interview, I had redefined the term for road rage. I understood now that I couldn’t have a more stressful job if I couldn’t handle my current state.

She was telling me to prove myself. Not in resentment, but because she wouldn’t give me something that I couldn't handle - and that’s where the warmth surrounding my pain was stemming from. Instead of focusing on not getting the job, the true focus should have been on my growth, on my thoughts, and reactions to everything external.

The new understanding towards my struggles made me question if I’d ever celebrated love as hard as I relished in rejection. I hated to think that I hadn’t. That I’d been obsessed with becoming happy while secretly loving my misery. I had to stop thinking. It was somehow diminishing it. So I closed my eyes with trust, in unfamiliar space, and fell asleep.

My eyes were heavy but once I pushed them open I saw a familiar room and felt an alarmingly familiar feeling in my chest. Panicked, I shot up. No. It can’t be gone. My mind raced. Left. Abandoned. I looked around my room hoping to see Aliss, or even Michael. They had to be here. I ran through the house searching every room with no idea what I was even looking for. I was trying so hard to use the lessons from my pod. Stay calm, understand it was all for my greater good, but how could I have that much strength in a moment of devastation? Where was the light? Tears flooded my eyes sending streams of salt water into my mouth and down my chin. I crouched into a ball on the couch, trying to comfort myself as I held my head and sobbed. All the care, support, and worst of all, the green light, had left.

How could I get back? I remembered thinking she was explaining something similar to a code. Do I have to decode it in order to get back? As Michael said, the golden door was up to me. But the feelings were now so far away and while I reached through the fogginess, I feared that it would only become harder in the future. I rushed through the living room to the drawer of paper scraps and hopefully, at least one working pen. I focused on how the pod’s lessons were given through feeling. I needed to grasp the part where feelings helped me change my thoughts. That’s where I became conscious of control.

The words couldn’t touch the paper fast enough. I wrote the correlations between feelings and their related thoughts for every topic that ran through my pod. I quickly found an overall theme within my bullet points - summarized in a quick note-to-self paragraph that read something like:

Accept the challenges! Welcome them so you can see what it’s showing you about your current state of self.. next opportunity .. only as big as you became from last challenge.

I underlined my theme and scribbled golden door on the top left corner of the page. I still worry that I won’t see Annis, or feel the pod again, but I quickly force my thoughts to gratitude, bringing a smile to the memory of acceptance. With practice, I learned to give myself the feelings of the pod - giving grace and understanding to my never ending growth. A thought that used to exhaust me had transformed into the fun of existing.

Life had become compassionate because I could hear every lesson it wanted for me, not only that day, but every day after. I learned to trust the unknown with ease because I understood the map, and it would guide my way out.

fact or fiction


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