I was not ready for this

A story

The test runs were always easy. The courses were “docile,” sparse with mild pits and traps. The clinicians were genial. They wore masks of smiles and gave me gentle tugs whenever I needed help. I was told that I “exceeded their expectations” and that they saw potential in me. I beamed with a smile and they beamed back at me, revealing their pristine white teeth.

Life was pleasant. My nonchalant lifestyle was comprised of menial tests, meals, rest, and boundless leisure time. It was pleasant, but it was not good enough. My foolish heart ached for more. I wanted the challenge: to run the gauntlet. The time soon came. I had fit the “eligible” criteria to survive the trial. I decided to apply to become a candidate for the challenge. Once they had accepted me, they briskly led me to an intimidating gray hall. They sat me down and vaguely went over a few precautionary dangers. I dismissed them; I aced the test runs anyway, what could possibly trample me at this point? They glossed over the course: a few bumps here, some rough spacing here, and some time constraints, but that was it. I would effortlessly reach my prize in no time.

They told me my goal was to simply reach the light at the other end of the tunnel. How quaint. They conditioned me to count on the future through tales of the “other side,” which was a paradise, a utopia. They soothed me with lullabies of endless food, no responsibilities, and heaven. I was mesmerized by promises of independence, adrenaline, and freedom. You’ll love it there, they assured me. Those who pass receive a magnificent award. With a bit of luck and willpower, it would be no challenge at all. When they offered me the appealing platinum award, I impulsively agreed. It comes with a few repercussions, they said. Slowly, the room grew shades darker. Under the shadows, they proceeded to equip a heavy chain ball to my left ankle. Little did I know my beautifully pampered feet were to end up transforming into callous hoofs over time. Things spiraled downwards. There was no turning back. Once the iron doors swayed open, I had a glimpse of my impending doom. I was not ready for this. The push that threw me into the arena was a sudden shove from a bulky man. Maybe from God himself. I fell face first. I heard the piercing screeches of the iron doors closing in behind me. The room was filled with a jet-black void. The oxygen levels were low. My brain began to slowly deteriorate. I had little time before the blackout.

The terrain felt like a gigantic sphere. There was no flat, equal footing for me to properly stand on, like a hamster wheel. I was never comfortable. They told me to never idle. Instinctively, I dragged myself around aimlessly with raised arms, desperately attempting to feel something. Anything. I was not ready for this.

As my feet were dragged across the rough ground, the soles of my feet began to blister. Soon the bubbles of warm, yellow pus popped, rendering my feet numb. The smell of blood parched my throat. I needed nourishment. Like the test runs, I was expecting the sound of the bells ringing, signaling the snack breaks when the clinicians would roll out cartons of treats. There were no recesses. This was hell.

In the dark, each hour blurred into the next. I lost track of time. I could have been in here for hours, days, or weeks. Eventually, my reaction time and thought processes slowed down. As the oxygen depleted, a thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide hugged me. There was no light source. No windows, no doors, and no cracks. I collapsed. My legs could support me no longer. My mouth began to froth. I was a desperate animal, lacking judgment. As a futile attempt, I clawed my way through the wheel, dragging the chain ball along with me, only to sharply fall on my back.

As my eyes followed their way up, I saw a tiny glint of light directly above me. There was a tiny opening of a pure, white glow. I scrambled onto my knees and tried to climb up. I scraped my fingers through the rough surface, followed by dark traces of blood. But the force of gravity dragged me back down to the rough floor. I was not ready for this. They lied to me. I was disillusioned.

I tried to drag myself up. Gravity pulled me back down. I saw light above me. I was not ready for this. I dragged myself up. Gravity pulled me down. Lies and disillusion. I was not ready for this.