The man who had just shot Scott then had me follow them out of the store. I was terrified, but I followed. This was the first time I had exited the building. My adrenaline was rushing. I had no time, nor did I think to check out the outside surroundings of the building. The man ordered me into the passenger’s seat of a black pick-up truck. He quickly got into driver’s seat and sped off so fast that I remember having to grab onto the door.
My heart was racing. My mind was racing. My confusion and ill feelings were escalating at rapid speed. After several blocks down, I remember turning to the man who had apparently just kidnapped me and said, “Who are you and what the hell is going on?”
The man looked at me, then looked straight out the window ahead of him, took a deep breath, then looked back at me. “My name John. I don’t know much about myself. Probably just as much as you know about you. And I don’t know much about what is going on either, but I do know some things.”
We suddenly took a sharp turn and headed up a ramp onto a freeway. John continued, “This is The Loop. I call it that because it just keeps going in circles around this city. It doesn’t actually go anywhere. And what’s even crazier is that you can’t go beyond this loop. I’ve looked. There’s nothing. Below the freeway is a wall and up here is a drop off to nothingness.”
I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say. I just looked out the window around at the city and out towards the nothingness.
John went on. “During the day the nothingness is thick cloudy fog. At night, it’s just darkness.”
“What city is this?” I asked.
“It’s just The City. I’ve asked people and that’s what they say. Or at least that’s what the fillers say.” John stated.
“Fillers? What are fillers?” I asked as my confusion was moving well past frustration levels.
John explained: “That guy in that store I shot. He’s a filler. People like me and you are real people.”
“How do you know the difference?” I questioned.
He answered back: “The fillers think everything is perfectly fine. Meanwhile, us real people see how crazy this all is. Plus, everything seems to happen to us real people and center around us.”
I was becoming eager to understand. John seemed to have the answers, so I continued to ask. “What do you mean by center around us?”
“You keep getting killed, don’t you?” John asked.
I started to become nervous again. “I mean, I’ve been killed once.”
John smiled. “Oh, so you’re newbie. Yeah, that’s going to keep happening.”
“WHAT?!” I screamed in horror.
John went on, “Well at least until it’s time. Then they come and take you somewhere. Nobody knows where though.”
I sank into the seat and said nothing. I kept thinking to myself that this all couldn’t be happening. It had to be a bad dream. I started to scream in my head: “WAKE UP! WAKE UP!” I so badly wanted out of this nightmare.
John noticed me zoning out and smacked my shoulder with his hand. “Hey! It’s going to be alright. It takes some time getting used to. It ultimately is what it is. You just got to learn how to make the most of it.”
“How do you make the most of getting killed regularly?” I couldn’t believe I was asking someone that.
John chuckled. “Well, you can kind of prepare yourself for it so you can fight back and defend yourself. After some time, you can kind of get a sense that it’s about to happen. It’s like it’s all planned. Like someone is overseeing all of this.”
I stared wondering how I ended up in a place like this. What did I do to deserve this? My memory was wiped and what I did know was strangely selective.
John smacked my shoulder again as I was zoning out once more. “Hey! You never told me your name.”
“Oh, Aaron. My name is Aaron.” I said back.
“Nice to meet you, Aaron. Maybe we can be friends of sorts and help each other out through this.” John said with a slight smile.
I smiled back. “Ok. Sounds good.” For the first time, I had a friend and that gave me a slight sense of relief.
Not long after I told John my name, we exited The Loop. We drove down a couple blocks and turned down a back alley.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“My place. It’s safer here.” John replied without much concern.
Despite it being daylight, the alley was pretty dark. It was sketchy looking, and I felt more uncomfortable there then I did in the apartment and in the convenience store. We got out of the car and I followed John further back into the alley. The alley got darker, and I started to really feel scared.
“Is this where you live?” I asked John.
“Just up this way.” He quickly said back.
My anxiety started to spike, and I was starting to get a bad feeling about John. I don’t remember much else about our walk into the alley, but I definitely remember how it ended.
Suddenly, there were noises coming towards us. John stopped walking and so did I.
“It’s happening.” John said quietly.
I asked back: “What’s happening?”
I turned and looked towards the coming noise I could see several guys approaching with guns. My eyes felt like they bulged out my head. I was horrified and started to run back out of the alley. Before I could go far, John grabbed and placed me in front of him. He started run further back into the alley as the guys started to shoot. At first, I thought he was taking me to safety, but quickly realized that was not the case. He was holding me out like a human shield to protect himself. Shots came firing towards me. I could feel the bullets hit me and within seconds it was lights out. Then just like that, I was waking up alone in bed in that apartment again.