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The day was dreary and desolate, gray clouds hanging heavily in the sky and an icy breeze whipping through the trees, chilling anyone in its path. It swirled and ran through the day, finding Kathryn’s long brown hair and lifting it in its fingers, sending a shiver down her spine. Pulling up her hood she continued through the near-deserted campus, wondering why on earth she was out on this miserable day.
It was Thanksgiving break, and while most students had headed home Kathryn had remained at school. She had no desire whatsoever to see her family, or anyone else for that matter, and at the time the privacy that an empty campus would ensure had been tempting.
Now she wasn’t so sure if it was a good idea.
Lately, Kathryn had been feeling….strange. An odd sense of repetition, of unoriginality seemed to loom over her, dominating her every step. Each morning she’d wake up to find it sunny, rainy, or this dreary in-between weather. No variations, nothing out of the ordinary. Ever. It was starting to get to her.
She forced herself out of the reverie. It’s just me stressing over exams, she thought to herself. These strange thoughts were nothing but the imaginings of an overworked college mind. In an in attempt to distract herself she decided to get a newspaper from a nearby newsstand. While in her life things were so strangely normal, maybe someone, somewhere, was doing something a little more interesting.
Kathryn walked through the campus with a new determination, fixed on her goal. All she had needed was a distraction, something to do. As she walked she passed a fountain, her face flashing briefly in the grey water. She stopped and turned to look, noticing the expression of worry that was etched into her face, her muscles tight with tension. Her blue eyes looked black in the water, and her oval face seemed oddly distorted. The image had a disturbing edge to it, and Kathryn shuddered as she turned.
She continued walking, her pace quickening. Finally reaching the stand she took out two quarters, depositing them and grabbing the paper impatiently.
She scanned the headlines eagerly, looking for something exciting and bizarre, something to prove that interesting things were happening in the world. Yet most of the headlines were typical day to day news “President Makes Speech” and “Rock Band Earns Millions.” Completely ordinary, nothing peculiar in the least. Throwing the paper down in disgust, she turned and walked away.
What had she been expecting anyway? It was the same every day, the world in an endless rut, winding in circles again and again. It felt somehow preset, and the thought made the hairs on her neck prickle. Trying to shake it off, she looked up at the sky.
As she gazed at the clouds, something completely unexpected happened.. The clouds seemed to become squares of grey, blurring out of focus like faces of unknown people. Kathryn blinked, and it was gone, the clouds their same shape as before, no different than any other time. Yet she was sure she hadn’t imagined it.
This was weird. She began walking faster, not knowing where she was heading. The papers, the clouds, that feeling, it all had that same unnatural edge to it. Her strides lengthened, the streets passing by her in a blur, and she concentrated only on moving ahead. It was if she was driven by an unknown force, and with a sudden twinge of fear Kathryn realized she couldn’t stop. Try as she might she hastened onward, her body seeming completely beyond her will. Faster and faster she went, until she was practically running, her breath coming in ragged gasps. She tried in desperation to stop, to give herself a moment to relax, but to no avail.
Then, suddenly, she did stop. But it didn’t bring with it the sense of relief Kathryn had been expecting. Now it was if she couldn’t move, was paralyzed in place, held by some unknown force. She felt a strange vibration at her feet, and looking down saw that they rested on an old wooden plank stretched across rusting metal.
The vibrations became more distinct, and in the distance Kathryn saw a huge metal train barreling towards her. This was not good. She was overwhelmed by panic. Run, she urged herself, Move! But despite every attempt she couldn’t move.
The huge gray body of the train raced forward, looming closer every moment. Above the sky darkened, the shadows becoming more sinister. The entire world seemed to hold its breath, the wind not moving and everything deathly still. Kathryn sat in her inescapable prison, immobile, her eyes clenched tight in concentration. Adrenaline coursed through her, her entire body alert, yet she could not move from her place. The train was closer now, its roar deafening in her ears. Squeezing her eyes tightly shut she waited for impact.
“Dang it, another one! And I’d had her for twenty years, too.” Two creatures were sitting on the metallic floor of their home each with remote in their hands staring at the huge screen towering over them.
“I know. Mine did that the other day. This is an older version, and after a while the program seems to deteriorate. It’s almost like they begin to figure out what’s going on.” The second creature spoke, her voice high and windy, looking sadly at the screen.
The first creature stood up. “Come on, let’s upload another game. This one is getting old.” They scampered away, grabbing a small metal disk as they left.
On the screen Kathryn lay as if sleeping, the background black as the words “Game Over” hung suspended above her face.