Survival

Abstract Apr 01, 2020

Present:

“You cannot die, you understand me? Stay with me, Charles”, said Beth. Charles’ eyes were droopy, he couldn’t keep them open anymore. Beth kept nudging him awake. He could hear sirens in the distance. Maybe an ambulance?

A Month Ago:

“Alex, Beth, Charles, and David, the only four survivors of the AirPacific flight AY6723 which crashed on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands this Saturday, have been rescued from that island and are now being brought back to Kansas, where the flight was originally supposed to land”, the reporter on NewsUSA reported while showing the live coverage of the four of them hugging each other goodbye.

Alex was a programmer by profession and he had recently written a book. Beth was a single mother of two children, worked in the Human Resources department of her firm. Charles was a professor of Economics. David was the marketing head of the company he worked at.

2 Days Ago:

Beth:

“Mommy, Alex Uncle is calling.” Jack hands me the phone and I answer it. “Hey, what’s up?” I ask him. “Are you going to give your son a sandwich for lunch?”, he asks me. “Yeah but- ”, but before I can complete, he cuts in and says, “Okay, don’t freak out but I have to tell you, Charles and David something urgently. Hold on, let me call them up too and we can have a conference call.” I don’t have any idea how he knew what I was going to give Jack for lunch. I have a meeting to attend in 30 minutes, my toddler, Nick is crying, he needs to be dropped to the daycare center, Jack needs to be dropped to school, and Alex is in the mood for playing suspense games? Anyway, the call reconnects, everyone is on the line and Alex says, “Guys, I think someone made a game based on us.”

“What is wrong with you, Alex?” “You called me up to tell me this, oh man” all of us start shouting at Alex through the phone. When we survived that plane crash, we all knew that there would be some spotlight on us and we weren’t surprised or amazed that there would be a small video game based on us. “How did you know though?” I ask him. “Know what?” asked Charles and David. “Exactly my point! Thank you, Beth. So, guys, this game isn’t about our past, it’s about our present and future.” “What do you mean?”, asks Charles. Alex replies, “I don’t know exactly yet, but I think we are being watched.”

David:

“Watched? Is this one of your sick pranks, Alex? Maybe you were born with a photographic memory and have to design programs from home and you get paid a lot, but some of us have lives and we go to work!” I shout through the phone. How can he be so annoying and immature! “No, check out this channel on YouTube called ‘The Revenger’ and check the one where he’s live streaming. He’s playing the game that he made, it’s called ‘Survival’. The game is a little ahead of our time so it’s like he is predicting the future. Our future.” There’s a long pause and then he continues, “Oh, and by the way Beth, Jack can’t find his school bag in the game so…” “Yeah, right, I’ll go check up on him, catch up with you all later, Bye!” And just like that, Beth disconnects the call.

A while later, I decide to watch this live stream. When I start it, I see that it is one of those adventure games, it shows a guy, dressed in a grey blazer, working on his laptop in his cubicle when another guy comes there, pulls out a gun and kills the guy in the blazer. I laugh to myself because it seems like a stupid game. Alex calls me up, “Hey, David…” “Yeah, yeah I watched, it’s a stupid game, Alex, just go do something productive and don’t worry about it okay?” I hang up.

After lunch, as I resume work, I see one of the office cleaning guys walking towards me. He stops near me, and he slowly pulls something out of his pocket. I look down at what I’ve worn but before I can realize what's going to happen, I-

1 Day Ago:

Charles:

I was interrupted in the middle of my lecture. I usually don’t pick up calls when I’m in class but it was Alex and I have to admit, he seems a little anxious since yesterday, so I answer it. “He’s dead! It happened. His wife is crying in the hospital and I’m rushing to go there.” “Alex, who’s dead? Calm down, don’t give me only half the knowledge” “Charles, it’s David, he’s dead.”

I had watched the live stream yesterday but I didn’t remember a murder on it? Maybe I saw the part after it because it showed a hospital and lots of people around someone in a hospital bed and then it moved on to the next day. It then showed a car accident. The driver tried too hard to avoid a hole that had been dug up for construction work but he couldn’t. The guy looked a little like me…

As a precaution, I don’t take my car to the hospital. I hire a taxi and sit on it and arrive at the hospital. I reach the hospital and I see that the game was right, there are a lot of people here. I spot Alex and I go to talk to him. His first question is if I drove here and I say that I didn’t. he heaves a sigh of relief. He’s panic-stricken and talks about finding a way to stop all of this. He says something about breaking a cycle and talks about tracking down ‘The Revenger’ and I try to tell him that the cycle is already broken because I didn’t drive here. He isn’t convinced.

Present:

Charles:

I have been watching the live stream. And I couldn’t sleep all night. I saw the lady in the game somehow managing to the house with her two kids. And then there’s a fire in her building. Everyone but her survives with minor or zero injuries. I have been tossing and turning all night. I need to inform Beth. I try to call her up but her phone is unreachable. I pace around and look at the clock, it’s 7 am. I put on my coat and take my car keys. I need to reach Beth’s house as soon as possible. I’m driving towards her place but the sun is giving me a hard time and I can’t find my sunglasses by just feeling in the glove box compartment so I look down just for a second. The next thing I see is a Stop sign along with a diversion sign. There was a hole that had been dug up for some construction and repairing work that happened overnight. I panic and lose control of my car. I try to hit the brakes but it’s already too late.

Beth:

I leave for work, I’m already late. When I get out of my house, I see a huge crowd that has gathered near the main road. There has been an accident. I push my way through the crowd and gasp in horror. It’s Charles, he’s hurt. I bend down to be able to talk to him, I notice that there’s a big glass shard piercing through his chest. I call the ambulance and try to talk to him. “You cannot die, you understand me? Stay with me, Charles”, I say. Charles’ eyes were droopy, he couldn’t keep them open anymore. I kept nudging him awake, but he was confused and annoyed. He tries to whisper in my ears, he says the words like ‘fire’ and ‘children’ but he seems delirious and I think I have heard the words wrongly. The ambulance catches my eye for a second and when I look back at Charles to give him the good news, his eyes are shut. He’s… Dead.

Alex is here.  Charles had no family but a few of his students are here and they’re crying. I can’t take it anymore; I tell Alex the truth. “Alex, I didn’t listen. I was scared and I couldn’t watch it so please tell me if I’m going to die next. I need to prepare myself and my kids. It can’t be escaped, we saw that. We weren’t supposed to survive the plane crash and all this is happening because we defied nature. So please tell me if I am going to die next. Please.” I know that according to the rules of the game, there is only one survivor at the end of the game and maybe that’s why I am sobbing so much.

I look at Alex expectantly but instead of answering my question all he says is that he’s figured out a way to stop all of this. I’m stumped and lost but I just nod my head and pretend to understand it. Then, he just hugs me suddenly and runs away without telling me where he’s going. I try to call him up but he has left his cell phone here. I am extremely anxious now. I somehow finish the formalities at the hospital and rush to pick up Nick from the daycare center and Jack from the school. After I’ve done that, I head homewards. There is a stampede near my building. What is going on? And then the dancing flame catches my eye. It’s my house that is on fire! Jack tugs at my top and says, “Mommy look, there’s a man in our house. He’s standing near the window.” I can’t see clearly but I do manage to see the silhouette. He seems determined, as if on a mission because he does not even flinch when the fire is about to engulf him. I then see him waving at someone. I look around to find out if someone is waving back at him, but no one else is even looking at the window, they’re all running for their lives. Then the possibility dawns upon me. It’s Alex!

Shikha Punjabi

DJLIT Editorial Co-committee member

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