Authors: Christopher Skliros
The glass trees glistened ominously in the pale
moonlight. My breath rose up in puffs of barely
visible fog. My heart was racing and my body was
full of adrenaline. The escape I’d been searching for
was right here, I could see it, I could feel it, I had
found it - the end.
I was popping – as we called it – from tree branch
to tree branch, my feet barely touching their
uppermost tips. The entire sensation was surreal.
Looking up I couldn’t help but stare with wonder.
Even from so far away, the place that would set us all
free was awe-inspiring. It was literally like a living
rainbow, with the structure’s walls projecting a
thousand colours into the night sky.
The closer I got, the more I felt like I could never
pull away. Days, weeks, months, maybe even years of
living trapped in a world that wasn’t real… or was it?
Regardless, all we wanted was an escape and here
it was. I focused my eyes on the prize.
I felt myself being drawn in by the castle’s
mesmerizing lights, unable to resist, and my body
took over from there – irrationally driving me
forward, wanting only to get to the end.
It was all going so well, another few minutes and
I’d be there but suddenly, to my right, I heard a
scream. Looking down, I could make out a
silhouette, distorted by the glass trees. Without
thought I knew it was Stefanie. She had also been
trying to make it to the escape, but it looked like
some beast had cornered her.
I felt like I was being split in two. On the ground,
Stefanie seemed to be calling to me for help – she
had seen me – and yet, just a few hundred meters
away, the diamond-like portal beckoned. If I saved
her I’d give up my chance of escape, neither of us
would reach the castle first and so we’d be trapped
forever. If I didn’t save her, she’d be killed.
My mind was so occupied with making the
decision that I never saw it coming. The axe
whistled through the air and straight into my chest.
Shock. And then pain. My eyes searched out the
thrower. A pair of yellow eyes glinted as they
watched me fall. No longer flying, the ground was
fast approaching me. A wolfish chuckle filled the air.
Victor. I smacked into the ground.
Sweat. Tangled sheets. Cold air. I breathed in deeply and
opened my eyes, feeling like I’d just been plunged into ice
Thud. Thud. Thud.
My heart was racing. It took me a
moment to recognize my surroundings. “Oh,” I exhaled a
short breath of relief. Just a dream.
I pushed my covers away and stumbled somewhat blearily
over to the light-switch. The bedside clock read “7:00”.
I swore under my breath – I was running late.
“Xander?” a high, clear voice called. Someone was knocking
at my door. Hastily, I scrambled around my dorm room,
tossing unwashed clothes and empty pizza boxes out of sight
in a haphazard effort to clean up.
The knocking continued.
“Xander, it’s me, Stefanie. Are you in there?”
I swore again.
“Uh, here. I’m coming, just a second,” I called out, stalling.
Scanning my dorm, I resigned myself to the fact that I was
about to look very foolish.
I smoothed my creased shirt, attempting to look as casual
and comfortable as one who just changed out of duck
covered pajama bottoms could. Sauntering almost, I
attempted to look ‘cool’ as I opened the door…
INTERVIEWER: “Hold on. You’re going too quickly,” she
gestured to the cameraman to cut filming. The ON AIR sign
went out. “As terribly wonderful and captivating as I’m sure
this will be, they -” she pointed at the camera lens, “can’t
empathise with you from the word ‘go’. You obviously need
give them something to relate to, first.” I could’ve sworn I saw
her eyes roll.
She clearly wanted to be anywhere but here. Unfortunately,
she also understood the exclusivity and “career-making
quality” of this deal. So she continued to smile.
ME: “Mm… Sure,” I said, failing in my attempt to
reciprocate her persona. My mind was a world away, “Give
me a second.” I cleared my throat. The interviewer nodded
with mock excitement.
INTERVIEWER: “… Let’s begin from the beginning
then!” She flashed an unnaturally wide and bright grin,
glancing at the cue cards held up by the cameraman. “Tell us
Looking into the camera and squinting from the harsh
spotlights shining down onto the stage, I pushed myself to
“My full name is Alexander Scott,” I began, voice still hoarse
from the Release, “but my friends called me Xander.”
I paused and the interviewer gave me an encouraging look. I
“I’m sure you know all about my mother-”
“The celebrated actress, Celina Fordswood,” the reporter
interjected, I gave her a look. She fell silent.
“And perhaps my father,” I continued. The interviewer, Eva
Silvers was her name, itched to interject once more but she
did not, “Maxwell Scott,” my nose instinctively crinkled “and
at the age of six I was sent away to the famous boarding
school – Elitus Academy – which I’m also sure you now know
all about.” Eva gave a small nod and gestured for me to
continue. The cue card held up against the camera read
‘career’. What did I have to lose?
“Once upon a time, I wanted to be a writer,” funny how I
began that sentence, “but now, I’m reconsidering. I would
prefer to do something that doesn’t make Elitus look good.”
There was an evidently bitter tone in my voice. I watched as
Eva’s eyes widened expectantly. The elephant in the room –
my contempt for the school that claimed to make me who I
was – had come to topic. I tactfully avoided it, knowing full
well I’d be asked soon enough. “Elitus Academy always
taught me,” I continued, voice dripping with cynicism, “that
success is measured by results, profits and gains, not
becoming second best to pursue what makes you happy.” The
interviewer gave a short nod, partially satisfied. I wondered if
there was more food somewhere…
INTERVIEWER: “Tell us about the your,” Eva Silvers’
tongue hung delicately on the word, “morals, Xander.” The
atmosphere seemed to have changed. “Surely,” she began,
“even the best kids can sometimes be…” she paused, “bad.”
She met my now intense stare. The statement was
intentionally provocative, almost accusatory.
My body tensed up, anger coursing through my blood. If
she was in any way insinuating that I had anything to do
. I paused for a moment at the foreign
thoughts. I recognized the connection however, and
appreciated their relaxing tone. I slumped again.
“I’m realistic,” I started, almost lazily, “to survive, you cannot
be an optimist.” I sounded cynical once again. “Likewise, you
cannot be self-doubting.” It was my turn to pause. “If you
screw around with me or my best mate Jacob Clarke,” I
nodded to him as he stood in the corner of the room, a look of
concern on his face, “then you’ll see a whole lot more to my
personality.” I gazed darkly at Eva.
“Before,” my tone hollow with the echo of pleasant
memories “I used to hang out in the library. Life was good,
then. I don’t like closed in spaces anymore. I remember Jacob
over there,” I pointed at him, the camera swivelled for a
moment, “never used to speak, and I used to just sit and write
one or two lines about fictional places that existed only in my
mind. But this was Before, of course, now I’m a different
person.” Silence. “Jake’s still a good guy though.” He smiled.
The cue cards rolled for a few minutes more and I answered
the token questions about my friendship with Jake. “I could
not ask for someone better,” I finished with.
Eva nodded. “Thanks for that Alex,” she looked into the
camera, “this is your live interview of post-Release Alexander
Scott, don’t leave your seats, ladies and gentlemen, because
we’ll be right back.”
The ON AIR sign flickered off and I was left to sit in silence
for a moment. I disliked this, but I had to do it, somebody
needed to. All too soon the light came back on and the
interviewer asked me a few more questions, then politely
asked me to continue from where I left off. I forced a smile,
my facial muscles aching, and nodded curtly.
She gestured to the camera expectantly.
Stefanie’s face peered into the room behind me for a
moment, before her enquiry came to settle upon me.
“Xander,” she half breathed half smiled brightly, pressing her
I felt embarrassed about the state of my room but the best
looking girl in school was here now and nothing but her
mattered. I smiled a little and realised she was waiting for me
to greet her. Straight away my brain turned to mush.
A mess. An undeserving, shy and creepy mess was the only
way to describe me right now. Her silver-blonde hair
glittered in the dim light spilling from my room into the unlit
A confused expression crossed her face. “Sorry?” she asked.
Why did I put myself in these kinds of situations? I mentally
When I didn’t say anything, she just went on.
“We’re starting in fifteen minutes, I was just sent out on
wake-up duty, but turns out you’re already awake… So I
Feeling a little weak at the knees, I urged my brain to say
something. Anything at all. It didn’t have to be funny, just
something to keep her here for a little longer, and hopefully
give her the impression that I wasn’t going to try and swab
her DNA for my shrine to her or something…
My thoughts flickered briefly to her boyfriend = fittingly, the
biggest tosser in the school – Victor James. The last time I’d
spoken to Stefanie, he’d threatened to beat me up. I
“Ah, I only woke up five minutes ago or so,” I said. I smiled
a little lopsidedly – facial muscle control was a little difficult
right now. “I’m not really a morning person.” I was speaking a
little too fast, but at least I was making conversation.
She smiled again, a little more confidently this time, maybe
assured that I wasn’t crazy. Then her smile faltered and an
apologetic look crossed over her face. “You’re a good guy
Xander. Victor, he-”
“Don’t worry about it,” I interjected, “I understand
A smile flashed across her face, lighting up her features and
then she looked down at my knees or something, and said, “I
can tell.” Grinning cheekily, she left.
I stood puzzled for a second.
“Tell what?” I called after her. Either she meant she could
tell I wasn’t a morning person or she could tell that I’d just
woken up. Looking down I saw what she saw and died, just
a little, inside. That was the last time I answered the door,
not wearing pants, only minutes after I’d woken up. I
Whether it was, in fact, her silver blonde hair, or established
career as a child actress/soon-to-be model, or cheeky
personality, it was kind of love at first sight, at least for me…
Stefanie had started at Elitus when I was just seven and
from a crush to full-blown I-want-to-rip-your-clothes-off love (you’ll heal from that description eventually); I’ve always been
drawn to her. Unfortunately she’s kind of oblivious to me.
With Victor threatening to make my life misery if he ever
caught me talking to Stefanie again – the first time being
when I asking her to be my biology partner, which she
said yes to – our passive friendship had become
strained over the recent months.
If Victor hadn’t been the Academy’s golden child, and my
position here wasn’t so fragile, I would have punched him
square in between the eyes…
But average students like me couldn’t afford to cause
trouble, and he was the Academy’s golden child and life was
unfair like that.
I shut the door quietly behind me, still reeling from
embarrassment and dressed myself in peace. A wave of
nausea passed over me, with the thought of the coming
events pressing in my mind and I sat down on the end of my
I lifted the almost pristine envelope from the floor, where I
had tossed it out of frustration. The paper shimmered slightly
as I withdrew the enclosed letter. It was printed in shining
gold ink – difficult to read.
We are delighted to inform you that you have been selected
to join our trial process for Simulator. Congratulations on
your success thus far. Remember that you are now in the