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Realms of Truth

Realms of Truth

***

For the past year, my name has been Sierra Mallory. I’m a single 23-year-old, of medium height, and not very remarkable in terms of looks. My lie began in the middle of last summer. I’d just gotten home from a long weekend with my family at the beach. I lived in a dorm on the Juniper Tech University campus (J.T.U.). After having left on November 22nd to celebrate Thanksgiving, I  finally pulled back into the campus parking lot on the evening of the 24th. Upon my return, everything was wrong…

Entering my dorm building, I noticed people were looking at me curiously. The inquisitive eyes of those milling about fell upon me with raised brows. I thought I probably looked haggard from the trip back. Rushing to get to my room, I hoped I could get cleaned up before I ran into any of my mates and died of embarrassment. Specifically, Todd. He is – or, was – my debate team captain. I’d had a huge crush on him ever since I started at J.T.U. last August. 

When I reached my door, I noticed my homemade ‘Welcome’ sign was missing. Irritated at the blatant theft, I reached into my pocket and took out my keycard and swiped it in the mechanism. The light was red – the door, smug in its security. I grew frustrated, puffing my cheeks and groaning as I swiped my card through the reader, plunging it forcibly into the thin slot. Thanks to my aggressive insertions, I bent my thumbnail backward, effectively breaking off the chipped-paint covered tip. Swearing violently at the door, I was mortified as someone chose this moment to come out of the room next to mine. I didn’t know her well, though I recalled her name was Dakota. We’d interacted a few times – mostly only when we happened to be using the laundry room at the same time.

Dakota locked her door and looked at me with a mystified tilt of her silky blonde head. “Hey! What are you doing?” Her accusatory tones were not lost. She clearly thought I’d been picking the lock on a stranger’s door, instead of my own damned dorm room! 

She had me immediately defensive, “I’m just trying to get into my room, but my stupid card won’t work.” I shrugged, holding up my card to prove my words. She seemed to relax a bit, but quite obviously still disbelieved me.

“Well, you must be confused. That’s Holly and Justine’s room.” Looking me over and wrinkling her nose, she seemed to come to a conclusion and gave a good-natured laugh. “Did you have a bit too much fun last night?” 

I let out a groan and smoothed my hair, trying to show much I’d resented her remark. ‘Who in the world is Holly? Justine is my roommate.’ my mind began to spin. ‘What the hell’s happening?’ I didn’t know how to respond. I felt insulted – yet, I’d probably assume the same, had I been in her position. Still, questions remained… why didn’t she recognize me? And, why couldn’t I get through my bloody door!? 

I tried staying calm. I meticulously smoothed out the wrinkles in my blouse and tucked my russet locks behind my ears. Fear and anxiety at the events unfolding fuelled my anger. “Listen, I just got back from a long weekend away. I’m tired. I need a shower. And, my fricking keycard’s not working! This is my room, Justine is my roommate. I’ve never heard of this ‘Holly’ character, and she’d better not be sleeping in my bed – I really need it!” I groaned through my teeth. “Now, where’s Justine?” 

Dakota pursed her lips. I could tell she didn’t believe me. She raised her thin brows and avoided meeting my eyes. “I’m not sure where she is, actually. She likes to party, so I haven’t talked to her in a few days.”

She was lying. I could tell. Besides, the Justine I knew was such a book nerd, she’d much rather stay in than go gallivanting around town. I tried to calm my anger and reached into my pocket for my phone. “It’s cool. I’ll just call her real quick.”

“Oh, okay then.” her flippant response was coated with relief. She flung a stylish handbag over her shoulder and strode away.

‘Bitch,’ I thought as I unlocked my phone and clicked open my contacts. Scrolling through the names, a cold wave began to wash over me. I stood in the hallway, trembling with fear as I searched faster and faster – Justine’s name and number were nowhere in my phone. All of our messages, including the last voicemail she’d sent me, and all the selfies we’d taken together – gone. It was like they were never there.

She was my roommate – my friend. We’d been very active in each other’s lives, on and off campus. She was supposed to have come with me and my family on our trip to the beach, but had family obligations of her own and couldn’t make it. She’d messaged me yesterday, letting me know she’d arrived back at our dorm safely. So, she was at least on campus, somewhere – wasn’t she?

I decided on a methodical search of her classes, her friends’ places, and our favourite hangouts. I finally found her in the cafe, talking with a few people from our debate team. Relieved, I rushed over and tapped her on the shoulder. Her back was to me. As she turned, her smile vanished, replaced by a baffled, annoyed look at being disturbed.  

“Can I help you?” 

I stuttered through my fear and trepidation, managing an awkward, mumbled query, “Justine, do you have your room key? Mine’s not working, and I need to get out of these clothes.”

She gave me the same confused look everyone had been giving me. “I mean… I have my room key. And, Holly has hers. But, I don’t see how that will help you, as you don’t share our room.” She paused, giving me a long, lingering once-over. “Who are you?”

My jaw dropped. I knew there was something weird going on – and, I hadn’t really known what to expect.

But… my name? She didn’t even remember who I was at all? I didn’t know how to respond. I tried to reply. My blood ran cold as I realized not even I could remember my name. Heart racing, I looked from Justine to the two people standing by her. I knew they were both on our debate team – Tara and Darrien, I think. They were looking at me without any sign of recognition, whatsoever. It was like I’d been erased from their memories – just as my name had been erased from my own. 

Overwhelmed and perplexed to the point of an oncoming migraine, I turned away without a word and rushed back outside. I had to calm myself. Drawing long, deep breaths, I tried to think, I had no idea how to proceed. Thoughts about calling my parents came and went. They were driving back to Louisiana – besides, what would I even tell them? I had no idea what was happening. I knew I couldn’t just stay on campus – not without access to my (Holly’s???) room. I had to at least figure out where I could find shelter and sleep for tonight. As if on cue, dark gray clouds rolled across the sky, casting a gloomy shadow over the tall brick-and-mortar buildings. Within moments, the pitter-patter of tiny raindrops began falling upon my shoulders.

I’d always enjoyed a refreshing summer rainshower. Right now, it was an inopportune time to be frolicking in the warm mist. Arranging my bulging backpack above my head, I hoped to stop the droplets running into my eyes. I went to the only place I could think of – the J.T.U. Housing Department.

I’d only been to the building once – when I first received my student ID card and room key. Running through the leafy rain-filled grounds, I came upon a large oak tree. Tripping over the bulbous roots, I fell into its shadow and crouched against the gnarled trunk with a resolute sigh. I don’t know how long I sat there, hugging my knees to my chest and trying to figure out what was happening. It was the band of protesters which brought me out of my bewildered stupor. Banging large bass drums, they were ferociously chanting “Lies, lies! Everything the government says is lies to steal our money!” Looking up, I realized the incredible and haunting truth.

I felt my adrenaline spike as I read the signs: ‘Impeach President Lester’ and ‘Lyin’ Lester – Not my President!’ 

I knew then, I was not going crazy. There was no such person as ‘President Lester’. It was the world around me which had changed – not myself. I knew, somehow, I had driven into some kind of mirrored dimension. 

I’ve been living this liar’s existence for over a year now. I even chose a new name, Sierra Mallory, thanks to the protester’s name-tags … I am so alone. Please, help me…


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