issue 23 :: June 2014

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by Sara Carter
The forces were exhilarating. Everything you did led you to one more exciting thing. Never was there a lull in the action. Always movement, always excitement. Every one would want to play The Game, except it was only known to a clever few who could find the way to it. The rules were simple, when you reached the playing area, you played. The Game was never to be spoken of, or it would be lost forever. The Game was different to everyone, yet for everyone it was what they wanted it to be. For most, it was a temporary release from worldly pressures, but to me it had become an addictive habit. For most, The Game lasted only a few minutes. I had begun to play it for days on end, leaving my job and friends behind in the real world. It was not that I did not appreciate my friends; they were great and I loved my job. Sometimes though, the loneliness took over and I felt that I just had to get away and be alone. I got tired of acting as though everything was just fine and I was bored with being happy and trying to make everyone else happy. When I played The Game I could be just who I wanted to be and nobody objected.
Once I played a shy, quiet person, one who had no conquering force, just a smile. I never spoke first, and then, I spoke very little. I was a great listener and people loved to tell me about themselves and how they felt about things. I had gotten very deep into The Game. The character I was playing became a great psychiatrist, and a very rich one at that! Many famous people came to me with their problems. One of my patients told me of a problem with one of his best friends who had no time for him any more and who disappeared for days, providing no explanation of where he had been. It was at that moment that I recognized the patient to be one of my best friends. I was shocked and tried to run and hide from my friend, but he grew twice as tall as me and began to chase me across a large, open field. There was nowhere to hide and I knew I would be dead in a few moments. Suddenly, I fell into a deep hole. I kept falling and falling. My first thought was relief, but as I gathered momentum, the fear of being smashed on the ground prevailed. It was then that I realized this game was mine and I could make anything happen as I wanted it to. In seconds, I landed softly on the ground; a parachute fell slowly around me.
Returning from The Game, I realized that my real life was having too much of an effect on my game. I felt that my subconscious must have made my game the nightmare that it was. I felt guilty for leaving my friends and my job. I decided then that The Game would have to be put on hold for a long time, until I could get my feelings straight. Before three days passed by, my need to participate in The Game was overwhelming. I was like a smoker kept from nicotine.
Before I could realize what I was doing, or even stop myself, I was again playing The Game. There was no relief to be playing again as the nightmares continued, increasing in intensity. This time I was a zookeeper in a quiet zoo, after hours, when I caught the eye of a tiger in a cage. His look was the same as that of my friend in my previous game. In that instant, the tiger turned into my friend. The bars on the cage melted away. Nervously jerking my head around, I was horrified to see all of the cages melting away, and I realized I was surrounded by an enormous number of starved animals. Without warning, the animals changed into my friends. I was paralyzed as they started advancing toward me. “What to do, what to do?” I thought to myself. I closed my eyes and took a running leap and miraculously, I made it over the malicious, blood-thirsty assembly. Off into the trees and bushes I ran, my heart beating wildly. I knew I had to get away from them, or lose my life.
I started telling myself this was just a game, nothing was real, yet every look over my shoulder confirmed my fears that this was really happening to me. I shot up a tall tree where I knew that they could not find me. However, I forgot that my friends were animals and their keen sense of smell lead then right under the tree where I was. When they started to climb the tree, my only option was to jump. So I did. My eyes were tightly shut at first, but when I realized I was soaring I opened my eyes to enjoy the scenery. I laughed as I saw my friends getting further and further away.
As I came closer to the ground I was disturbed to realize that at the speed I was going there was no way I could land on my feet. Still, I reasoned, it was better to crash land than to be eaten by those wild things. Yet I did not see the rocks and uneven earth quickly approaching under me. As I plunged to the ground, my only thought was “Don’t let me die!”
When I gained consciousness, I was aware of the passing of time, and also of the aching in my limbs. I tried to move, but every shift of my weight caused me great pain. As scared as I was, I was soon overcome with terror when I heard a monstrous thundering of feet as my “friends” arrived to where I was lying helplessly on the ground.
I stares wide-eyed at them, hoping I would see some sign of pity, telling me I was to be spared. On the contrary, my gaze was met with vicious snarls and great animosity. My look changed from hopeful to pleading, and when they did not jump on me, I relaxed, thinking they were going to spare me.
“You weren’t really thinking of killing me, were you?” I yelled. “After all I did not really do anything to you… Don’t tell me that you’re so upset because I left you behind in the real world?”
At that moment, they attacked me.
I thrashed and kicked, trying to keep them off. And suddenly I was on the playing area, alone, bruised, battered and still thrashing at unseen enemies.
It had been thirteen years since I had played The Game when an old friend came to visit me in the small cottage where I had retired. We talked of the past and of the things we had done together. He asked me the, where it was I had gone all those times I had disappeared.
“Well, you know how it goes. Sometimes you just have to get away from everyone, just to be alone.”
“Yes,” he replied, “I understand how that is.”
A certain sound in his voice caught my attention and I turned to look at him. I saw then a look in his eyes that reminded me of a look I had once seen in the eye of a tiger.
Sara Carter is ___________. This story was written in 1986 ________.
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