The advertisement, loosely pasted on my town’s notice board, seemed simple enough. On the white paper, words were crudely scrawled on it, almost like it was written by some kid who had nothing to do.
‘SOCIETY NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU? DO YOU CRAVE PERFECTION? COME ON DOWN TO PINEWOOD DOCKS, WAREHOUSE FIVE, AND TAKE PART IN A SPECIAL EXPERIMENT BY PSYCHOLOGY EXPERT DR. AUSTIN RIDER! SPEND FIVE DAYS LIVING IN UTOPIA, AND IF YOU REGRET IT IN THE END, WE WILL GIVE YOU A MILLION DOLLARS, NO STRINGS ATTACHED!!!!!!!!!!’ The poster screamed in my face. Now, I wasn’t that interested in whatever experiment it was talking about. I mean, I just wasn’t keen to become some evil scientist’s guinea pig. But, what really interested me was the ‘million dollars’ at the end. Yeah, I’m a sucker for money, but what did you expect? I’m currently attending university right now, and those courses cost a ton! Plus, my parents aren’t keen on floating a few bucks my way, and I’m having difficulty making ends meet as a waiter/part-time blog writer, so I have to take any opportunities that are handed to me!
‘Ah well, maybe a few days off couldn’t hurt,’ I thought. It’s my vacation, and I don’t think the manager would hardly care if I just didn’t show up. He would just frown at me when I returned, and dock my pay, which wouldn’t matter, because I would be a millionaire by then!
Since I didn’t know about the experiment’s details, I decided to play it safe and take my wilderness backpack with me, filled with the usual energy bars, water bottles, pocket knife, and of course, my trusty journal. I will probably be writing down the events of the next five days, so that I can have something interesting to post on my blog, and hopefully get more followers then, I assumed.
After a few hours of walking, I finally chanced upon Warehouse Five. It was an ordinary warehouse, save for the fact that a large red banner was dangling loosely around the main doors. ‘Welcome to Utopia!’ the banner exclaimed. ‘Well, time to face whatever experimentations the evil scientists have prepared for me!’ I sarcastically said in my mind as I pushed open the doors. The room behind the doors had a small table with a chair, a computer, and a person that I assumed to be the registerer or whatever a person behind the registration counter is called. The registerer looked like those female secretaries you see in movies. You know, the usual bun hair, black-rimmed spectacles, and the look of disapproval that was as though she hated everyone in the world.
I walked up to the counter, and she looked up. I puffed up my chest, but before I had a chance to say anything, she just spoke, in a voice that had a monotonous tone. “Are you here for the experiment?” she said.
“Y-yes,” I replied, a bit unnerved by the tone. It was almost like she didn’t want to be here.
She quickly scribbled something down in her notepad, before looking up and speaking in the same monotonous tone. “You will be living with the Bakers, they live in the yellow apartment, 14 Pinewood Drive.” I paused. What kind of information was that? I tried to ask what the experiment was about, but she didn’t look up again. After a few minutes of me trying to get her attention and failing to do so, I sighed, and presuming the double doors behind her were where I needed to go, I stepped through the doors.
I was shocked at what I saw. The landscape around me, the setting, was strikingly identical to a normal neighbourhood. I was standing on a normal road, with normal houses on both sides of the road. Fire hydrants, lampposts, trash cans, and other normal stuff I would find around the neighbourhood I live in were also there. I was standing in an ordinary, suburban neighbourhood. However, something was wrong. The road I was standing on, it wasn’t the normal gravel or concrete road I would always step on when I went back home. It felt strangely…soft. Like foam. Or cotton. Every time I took another step, I could see the depression my shoe made on the road before it returned back to normal. In addition, the closer I analysed the neighbourhood, the more it looked…fake. Like the road, the entire neighbourhood, houses and all, looked soft and squishy. It was almost like I was in a large bouncy castle that was modelled after a neighbourhood. I was a bit unnerved at this, but I didn’t really care too much about it. ‘Maybe this is the experiment. Maybe I have to test out how similar this is to real life.’ I thought, as I tried to reason it out. After taking a few more steps, I could hear the doors I just passed through slam shut behind me. I looked around, and sure enough, the doors were locked. I had to admit, the doors were now so…different beside the fake walls that made up the room. ‘Well, time to spend 5 days in this weird place’ I thought to myself as I carried on walking.
Walking around the ‘neighbourhood’, I could see a notice board in what appeared to be the centre of the place. Like everything else, when I touched it, the notice board was also soft and foam-like. Words were imprinted on the ‘board’, and when I read it, it was something like:
RULES OF UTOPIA:
- NO KILLING IS ALLOWED IN UTOPIA
- NO CRIMES CAN BE COMMITTED IN UTOPIA
- NO DEATHS ARE ALLOWED IN UTOPIA
I chuckled at the last rule. ‘No deaths’? ‘The first two I could understand, but how is it possible to allow death, a natural part of life, to just stop? Well, this place is called ‘Utopia’ after all, so I would expect death to really damage this supposed 'paradise' I thought.
Still thinking about the last rule, I noticed that the ‘sun’ was setting. Like, the fake sun, in the fake sky, in the fake neighbourhood, the sun that shouldn’t be able to move at all, was SETTING. This unnerved me even more than the rules, and I began to wonder what the heck this place was, and what experiment I was exactly in right now. Pretty soon, the ‘sun’ set, but what was even more unnerving was that, even though there were lampposts, they weren’t lighting up, which left me in complete darkness after a while. Unnerved but not panicking, I quickly took out the torchlight in my wilderness bag and switched it on, filling the ‘neighbourhood’ with light. ‘Well, I guess I better follow that registerer’s instructions and find the Bakers’ I thought to myself, and I began to start searching for the yellow house.
Sure enough, I found it. I stepped on the foam stairs, pushed the foam door, and found myself in a foam living room. The interior of the house was also like the ‘neighbourhood’: it had the usual kitchen, dining room, bathroom, with the usual furniture, but they were also made of foam. I began to wander about the house, wondering out loud if the ‘electronics’ even worked in the ‘neighbourhood’. Eventually, I got tired wandering around the house, and not finding any apparent food, given that the foam fridge wouldn’t open, I ate my dinner, which consisted of snack bars and water.
Going to sleep on the couch now. Hopefully, the Bakers wouldn’t mind a stranger sleeping on their couch! Hoping this gets cleared up tomorrow.
Woke up to see a face staring at me. Needless to say, that scared the shit out of me, and almost made me jump out of the couch. After a few seconds, I realised that the face was human, and I was just looking at a person, making me feel a sense of relief. After noticing that I was awake and breathing rapidly, the person immediately stood up and extended his hand towards me. “Hi, my name is John Baker, what’s yours?” he said in a crisp, friendly voice.
Still reeling from the shock, and a bit weirded out by John’s sudden urge to introduce himself, I begrudgingly took hold of his hand. “My name is uhhh…Tom,” I muttered, warily.
“Hi Tom!” John exclaimed, “Quite frankly, I am so proud to be your friend!” Looking at John more closely, I noticed that his appearance looked unnaturally…perfect. He was handsome without a doubt, with slicked-back hair, a kindly smile, and with no blemishes whatsoever. It was almost like I was staring at a character from one of those soap operas they show on TV that old people like to watch all the time.
“Uh, am I your friend?” I said.
“Of course! Quite frankly, everyone who sleeps in our house will always be my friend!” John excitedly replied.
At that moment, I was going to leave the house, hopefully end the experiment so that I could get away from John, who was getting creepier by the minute. I was about to say goodbye and try to find my bag, (which had suddenly gone missing, even though I could swear it was right beside where I slept!) when the smell of freshly baked waffles wafted from the kitchen. Now, I’m not really a fan of waffles, but the smell was just so good! All thoughts of me leaving the experiment disappeared, and I found myself walking towards the dining room and sitting at the dining table.
A woman, which I presumed to be John’s mother, was sitting by the table, seemingly waiting for me and John, with waffles on her plate and two other plates. She had a motherly vibe to her, and she looked just like an ordinary housewife, with the long hair and warm smile on her face. “You’re Tom, right?” she said, “I’m Susan Baker. Thank you so much for staying at our home!”
“T-thank you,” I stammered, an unnatural wave of embarrassment washing over me.
“But of course!” John strolled in, loudly replying, “Quite frankly, you are always welcome in our household!” 'I swear to God, John was becoming creepier by the minute,' I thought, but as soon as I remembered the million dollars, (which took quite a while to come back to me, for some reason) I swallowed my pride.
“Come, sit down!” Susan gestured at the seat in front of me, and I slowly sat down on the chair. The waffles were in the plate right in front of me now, and I could feel myself drooling now from the smell and the anticipation. “Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s eat!” I didn’t need to think twice about that, and picking up the foam fork and knife, I tried to cut the waffles.
I say tried here, because I couldn’t cut the waffles. Not because it was too hard, but because it was made of foam.
The waffle-no, everything wasn't real.
I laid down my fork and knife, and looked around me. John had also sat down, but he was just…staring at his food. Susan was also doing the same thing. No one was eating the ‘waffles’. I was very unnerved at this point, and on top of that, I was very hungry. I only had snack bars for last night’s dinner, and I obviously wasn’t going to eat waffles that were fake. ‘Maybe I should ask Susan where my bag is. That way, I could at least have something to eat, or drink.’ I thought to myself.
“Excuse me, Mrs. Baker?”
“Yes?” Susan looked up from her plate and replied.
“Um, where is my bag? I think I put my stuff in there and…”
“Oh, that thing? I got rid of it. You shouldn’t be carrying around such DANGEROUS stuff in Utopia, should you, Tom?”
“No, I…guess not?” I replied, the truth suddenly hitting me in the face. If my bag’s gone, I don’t have anything to eat or drink! My phone was in the bag, so I can’t message anyone now! The only thing I have is my journal, which I put on the living room table, and which I’m still writing in right now with this foam pen!
While I was busy internally screaming, John, who was next to me, raised his head. “Quite frankly, Mom, you sure do know how to make some great waffles!” he exclaimed.
Without thinking, I stood up and shouted, “NO, SHE DOESN’T! THE WAFFLES ARE FAKE, YOU ARE FAKE, EVERYTHING IN THIS PLACE IS FAKE! THE ONLY THING THAT’S REAL IS ME, AND I’M GOING TO LEAVE RIGHT NOW!”
After hearing my outburst, both Susan and John’s smiles disappeared for a few seconds, but then, just as I thought they finally understood, both of their smiles reappeared with alarming speed, and Susan simply said, “Are you sick, Tom? Do we need to get you to a doctor?” That. Was. It. I stood up in a fit of rage and stormed out of the fake house. ‘Fuck this place! Fuck this experiment! I’m going to get out of this nightmare!’ I thought, as I moved towards the doors leading to the outside.
Only there were no doors. For some reason, in the same place that I first found myself in when I entered this nightmare, the doors were gone, replaced with that goddamn foam wall. I rushed to the wall, and kicked and punched it with all my might, but there were no doors there. Eventually, my kicking and screaming attracted the attention of the people around me, which I only just noticed. They were all coming towards me with the same smiles on their faces, and they kept saying things like, “Are you Ok?” “Are you sick?” “Are you alright?” Half-angry and weirded out by the people’s behaviour, I made up some lame excuse and just ran past them down the street. As I passed by the ‘neighbourhood’ notice board in a bid to escape the people who were still coming after me, I saw that something new had been imprinted in red on the board.
4. NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO QUESTION REALITY IN UTOPIA. WE ARE REAL. WE ARE PERFECT.
I’m sleeping in the park tonight. I can’t trust anyone in here. I might still be hungry, but I don’t have a choice. I must tolerate 5 days. 5 days, and I’ll finally be free from John, Susan, and the rest of this town!
Woke up hungrier and thirstier than ever before. But I must resist. I cannot go back to that nightmarish house. I MUST resist.
As I wrote this, something changed in the neighbourhood. People were walking around the park, not taking any notice of me, talking to other people, like what you normally see. In a normal park.
But this was not normal. And the people were not talking normally. Now, either there’s something wrong with my ears, or the people started talking louder and louder to other people. They were saying stuff like: “DID YOU GO TO EAT AT THAT PIZZA PLACE YESTERDAY? I HEAR THE FOOD NEVER RUNS OUT!” and “MUMMY, MUMMY! I GOT FULL MARKS FOR THE SCHOOL TEST AGAIN! ARE YOU PROUD OF ME, MUMMY?!” and “DO YOU WANT TO HEAR A JOKE? WHY DID THE BURGLER ROB THE BANK LAST NIGHT? HUH, HE DID? HAHAHAHAHAHAAH!”
While the people were talking, the loudspeaker, which I know FOR A FACT wasn’t there, suddenly switched on, and the neighbourhood was filled with a voice which I assume belonged to the ‘mayor’ of the ‘town’. “HELLO MY FELLOW MEN, WOMEN, CHILDREN, BABIES AND FOETUSES! IT IS A LOVELY MORNING, AND I’M HAPPY TO ANNOUNCE THAT, AS OF YESTERDAY, WE HAVE CONTINUED OUR STREAK OF NOT HAVING ANY ACCIDENTS, DEATHS OR PECULIAR INCIDENTS OF ANY KIND! THANK YOU EVERYONE, AND REMEMBER: IF YOU’RE NOT PERFECT, YOU’RE NOT REAL!” the loudspeaker boomed, forcing me to cover my ears and move away from the park, in an effort to get rid of the goddamned noise. I MUST RESIST.
Quite by chance, as I was walking away from the noises, I happened to stop near a school. For no reason, I decided to peek into the school from the gate. I was looking at what was supposedly the school field, and ‘kids’ were wearing what I assumed to be sports outfits, but they weren’t playing. They weren’t even moving. They just stood there, unblinking, staring at one another. Eventually, I heard a ‘bell’ ring somewhere in the distance, and the ‘teacher’ screamed, “ALL RIGHT, DID ANYONE GET HURT? NO ONE? PERFECT! NOW HURRY ON BACK TO CLASS! YOU WOULDN’T WANT TO BE LATE, BECAUSE IF YOU’RE LATE, YOU’RE NOT PERFECT, AND IF YOU’RE NOT PERFECT, YOU’RE NOT REAL!”
I just stood by the school gate, staring at the ‘children’ for no clear reason as they walked to their classes. I want to be like them. I want to be perfect. I want to be r-
I cannot let this place get to me. I have to get out of here.
I can see John amongst the children. He has been staring at me the whole time. Staring and continually smiling at me.
I can’t take this anymore.
I must stop what I’m seeing.
I have been starving and dehydrated for two days now.
The journal I’m writing in, it seems perfect.
The cover of the journal turned into that goddamn foam material.
Writing seems to be the only thing that could calm my nerves.
I’m not by the school gate anymore. I’m at the park again. Planning to sleep here again, even though I can barely sleep with this hunger and thirst.
Maybe the hunger can kill me before this neighbourhood does.
Woke up feeling better, not hungry, not thirsty. Crap. I’m not supposed to feel better for no reason! Unless the scientists behind this crazy experiment may have kept me alive…...
Just spent the entire morning screaming and cursing at the sky, so that those bastards could hear me. They were the ones that did this. It was all their-
It was my fault.
I was foolish to believe that I could become a millionaire in five days. Now, here I am, alone in a world of fucking perfectionists. I did this myself.
Maybe I can hold out the last two days. Not lose my mind to these ‘people’.
But it’s getting harder. I’m tired of resisting.
The ‘mayor’ is speaking again. So are the people. The voices are getting even louder now. They keep repeating the same thing, over and over again.
“WE ARE PERFECT, SO THAT WE’RE REAL! THE IMPERFECT ONES ARE AN ILLUSION! WE ARE PERFECT, SO THAT WE’RE REAL! THE IMPERFECT ONES ARE AN ILLUSION!”
I have to RESIST...
I cannot resist anymore. I’m trying to sleep now, desperately trying to drown out the noise.
One more day left...
I woke up in the park today. I, quite frankly, didn’t know why I was sleeping in the park. I was supposed to be sleeping in my bed, in the Bakers’ house. I just moved here four days ago, and I have been staying at the Bakers’. Quite frankly, I think they are quite kind and generous. I can’t imagine anyone who would want to abandon them!
Without hesitating, I grabbed my trusty notebook, and rushed back to the yellow house on 14 Pinewood Drive.
Sure enough, they stood in the front door, waiting for me. I rushed into Mrs. Baker’s open arms, and I apologised for abandoning them. “DON’T WORRY,” Mrs. Baker reassured me, “NOW THAT YOU ARE REAL, YOU WILL NEVER MAKE ANY MORE MISTAKES. EVER AGAIN. DO YOU KNOW WHY WE ARE REAL? BECAUSE WE ARE PERFECT. WE ARE SMART. WE KNEW THAT FOOD WAS RUNNING OUT, SO WE MADE IT PERMANENT. WE KNEW THAT OUR KIDS HAD TO GET GOOD JOBS, SO WE MADE THEM BECOME GENIUSES. WE KNEW THAT DEATH WAS POINTLESS, SO WE MADE IT FORBIDDEN. WE KNEW THAT SOCIETY REFUSED TO CHANGE, SO WE CREATED OUR OWN. WE BECAME PERFECT, SO THAT WE COULD BE REAL.”
I just cried after hearing her words, and I sunk deeper into her arms. “Come on,” Mrs. Baker said after a while, “We will be late for baking time, and we don’t want to be late, do we?”
“No, Mrs. Baker!” I said as I detached from her arms, and smiled. Together, we entered the house.
I am real, because I am perfect.
On August 11th 2015, authorities from the town of Pinewood received an anonymous tip regarding the location of the people who had disappeared over the past few weeks. While conducting a raid on Warehouse 5 in Pinewood Docks, they came across a horrifying sight. The missing people were trapped in cages, and most of them were severely malnourished and dehydrated. Dr. Austin Rider and several people were arrested, and they admitted to hooking the victims up with hallucinogens to make them believe that they were living in a ‘utopia’, where everything was ‘perfect’ for them. While some of the victims succumbed easily to the delusion, some tried to resist the hallucinations, only to later succumb to it.
Among the victims, one of them, Mr. Thomas Winter, my brother, kept a journal with him that detailed the ordeal he went through before he went insane. Now, I’m showing you the contents of this journal, because I knew, as his sister, that he wouldn’t want anyone else to share this same ordeal.
Now, as I’m typing this, sitting beside my brother’s bed, I can see him stirring awake, and gesturing at me right now. The ordeal has left him mute, so he now forms simple words and starts up conversations using my keyboard and notepad.
I am going to show you what he just did right now.
He sat up in his bed, grabbed my laptop,
And typed one word.