This is the mostly true story… 

Part of you wonders whether or not you made it all up or if it really happened. You hope that it was all just a figment of your imagination, but that would mean that you’re crazy. So you just play along and answer their questions.

They want to know what you remember, so you start with the small details. Where you were before that first day, the sounds, the smells, every little thing that would make your story – this version of your story- palatable.

Of seven strangers… 

Marcus was your favorite, the person that kept you sane, but you don’t tell them that. You just say that when you woke up, there were six others with you. No one knew why or how they were there, but you all helped each other out of your restraints and went to explore.

You realize that the ropes used on everyone were already loose, like whoever put you there didn’t want you bound forever. You don’t tell them this.

There was Tina, Eric, Xander, Rachel, Clyde, and Marcus. And of course yourself. The group was a mix of  ethnicities, religions, political opinions, sexual orientations, socioeconomic classes, and hometowns of origin. You all found this out over several weeks, spending time between escape attempts talking.

It was one of the only ways to pass the time.

Kidnapped and forced to live in a house… 

Xander was the first one to discover an exterior wall. He came from a family of contractors and had been helping his dad on sites since he was a teenager, so everyone trusted him. He helped map the layout, adding new rooms until there was a complete floor plan. 

They ask more questions about Xander, about how it felt to have his bloodied intestines in your hand, but you move on to when Clyde and Eric fought over something stupid you couldn’t recall. This was three weeks in and not the first time the two of them butted heads, but it was the first time blood was drawn. By the end Clyde was dead and Eric disappeared deeper into the house.

You try to take a peek at their notes, but your vision is still too blurry and they are sitting too far away, so you continue with more anecdotes. They eventually ask personal questions about your relationships with each person. You only give one sentence answers.

They have to work together to survive… 

The next story you offer up gets their attention. This time it’s about the second escape attempt when Tina and Rachel pried open a window but instead got sprayed with some sort of acid.

They don’t seem surprised to hear about this and just ask more questions about reaction time, the smell of the burning flesh, and the psychological effects the incident had on the two women. It was especially hard on Tina, who had small town cheerleader looks and personality. You tell them how she turned sad and bitter, eventually taking supplies and finding another part of the house to live in. You heard her crying for a few days and then nothing.

You tell them about the dwindling food supply and how each escape became more and more desperate. They ask you to describe them, but you ask to stop. You need a break, a drink or maybe some food before you continue. They threaten to stop all medical treatment unless you continue.

After you talk about the fourth time, the most successful time you all almost made it out, a kind looking production assistant hands you an unopened bottle of water. She knows you won’t drink anything else, that you don’t trust these people enough yet.

And have their every moment recorded… 

You’re surprised they haven’t asked about the cameras yet. A few days into your time in the house, you noticed them. Inside of wall art, in bowls of fruit, on top of tall furniture, tucked into the corners of the high ceilings; they were there watching. Every room, even the bathroom, had them. And the blinking red light told you that someone was recording.

You and Clyde and Marcus wrote signs, pleas for help, but you knew it was useless. Whoever was recording wasn’t going to help. Rachel and Tina went around yelling ‘fuck you’ and ‘psycho’ at the cameras while Xander and Eric destroyed as many as they could get their hands on.

By the next morning, all the broken ones  were replaced, this time surrounded by plexiglass boxes. Soon after, all the cameras were protected or moved out of reach.

You go on and on about being filmed, but get no reaction out of them, only more note taking. You figure out that they’re the ones who put the cameras there, in the house.

To find out what happens… 

They ask you to talk about the final incident, but you refuse. They ask nicely, offering you money or a TV deal, but you refuse. They threaten you, threaten your family, threaten the nice production assistant. Still, you refuse to talk.

You tell them that they have the recordings of what happened, they can piece together a story. They say all of that is useless without confessionals.

When captives stop being polite… 

You scream at them, but they are stone faced and cold hearted. They ask again about Xander and holding him as he died, about bloodthirsty Rachel being the first to cannibalize his body, about Marcus killing her so the two of you could have enough food. About Marcus sacrificing himself so you could survive.

You have tears in your eyes as you tell them the details you can stomach to recount. The smells, the sounds, but not the taste. Never the taste.

They ask you how you feel to be the winner. They ask you how it feels to know the entire world has your names on their lips and in their minds. You just smile, holding back the bile churning in your stomach 

And start getting real.

Charlotte Leinbach is a writer, playwright, and actor based in Brooklyn, NY. She has her BA in Theater Performance and her MA in Shakespearean Literature and Theater. Her short plays and readings have been produced through Piccolo Spoleto USA, The College of Charleston, and The Shakespeare Institute. She mostly writes about the intersection of grief, death, mythology, and magic and is currently working on her first novel. You can find her on Instagram @char_leinbach.

Real is a winner of the Apparition Literary Magazine December Flash Fiction Challenge.

Photo by Micha Frank on Unsplash

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