Semblance of a Discombobulated Life

Inside a Social Experiment

Semblance of a Discombobulated Life - Ran Kime
Original Photo Credit By Keslyn Kime

I woke with my cheek stuck to a damp pillow, the fabric clammy against my skin. My head throbbed, each pulse echoing a brutal hangover. As I lifted my head, my eyes struggled to focus. The tent I was in looked foreign, unsettling. Where the hell was I? My hand reached out, searching for Sharon. She was there, passed out, breathing steadily.

I crawled to the tent flap and unzipped it, stepping out into what looked like a conference room stripped of its usual furniture. Whiteboards lined the walls, and a projector hung ominously from the ceiling. I pushed open the door and peered into the hallway. The sound of laughter and clinking glasses echoed from a grand room at the end of the hall. People in gala attire mingled, completely oblivious to our presence.

I quietly shut the door and went back to check on Sharon. “Sharon, wake up,” I said, shaking her gently. She stirred, her eyes fluttering open. She smiled at me, that sweet, comforting smile, before confusion clouded her face.

“What happened—where are we?” she asked, sitting up and looking around.

“I don’t know. We’re in some kind of hotel or event space. There’s a gala going on down the hall.”

“What? How did we end up in a tent inside a hotel?” she asked, her voice rising with panic.

“I don’t know, Sharon. Last thing I remember, we were at Donovan’s watching the Bruins game.”

We sat in silence, almost forgetting our immediate confusion. Sharon’s hand trembled as she touched her hair, pulling out leaves stuck in it.

“Did we get roofied?” Sharon asked. Her mouth slapped from the dehydration.

“I don’t know,” I said, checking my pockets. My wallet and phone were missing. “Do you have your purse?”

Sharon riffled through her purse. “Everything’s here except my keys and phone.”

“This is all too fucked up, Shane! I’m freaking out.”

“Let’s not freak out until we get some info on this.”

“Oh god, Shane, do you think we were raped?”

“Why, do you feel you were?”

“No, but my head is pounding.”

“Mine too.”

“Come on, let’s see where we are and get the fuck out of here. Then we’ll piece this together,” I said, trying to stay calm. Someone tightly zipped and jammed Sharon’s sleeping bag. I ripped it apart, blowing the zipper out.

“I don’t like this, Shane.”

“I know. Calm down and let me think. Come on.” I reached for her inside the tent and helped her out.

Holding her head and adjusting her hair out of her face, she mumbled, “A fucking conference room, what the—”

I opened the door, glanced down the hall again. The crowd’s chatter grew louder, but no one seemed to notice us as we crept down the hallway. We attempted to open several doors, but each one was locked. The rooms seemed to change with every attempt to navigate, adding to our disorientation.

“We have to go into the crowd,” I said. Sharon pulled on me to stop so she could adjust her sandal that was coming off.

We hugged the wall, walking into the ballroom, an enormous room with a forty-foot decorative ceiling. The crowd mingled and didn’t seem to notice us. We walked along the room’s perimeter in search of an exit door, but the crowd appeared to gather gradually towards the double doors we were heading for. Were they preventing us from leaving? A premeditated path emerged through the crowd, as if guiding to a hallway across the room. I pulled Sharon in that direction. No one acknowledged us, despite our discombobulated casual attire.

The hallway extended twenty yards before dividing into two separate rooms. The right hall was dark and secured by double French doors. Turning left, we entered another large room, this one filled with elegantly dressed waitstaff bustling around. They didn’t acknowledge us either, their eyes sliding away as if we didn’t exist. We moved through the room, hoping to find an exit, but the staff subtly shifted to block our path, as if scripted.

“I’m scared, Shane,” Sharon said, her voice trembling.

“I know, hun. Stay close,” I whispered, pulling her towards an open door.

“I am so thankful I am with you. If I were alone, I would be freaking the fuck out worse than I am now,” she said.

I swung open the door and pushed Sharon through. I glanced at the butlers and waitstaff, who quickly and simultaneously averted their eyes.

The room, shaped like an atrium or greenhouse, served as overflow storage for stacked tables and chairs. There were no other doors, only transom windows twenty feet up. We returned through the waitstaff and into the split foyer leading back to the main ballroom. Only the ballroom was no longer there. Another windowless room with no exits. It smelled dank with years of inactivity and poor ventilation.

“I thought -“, she hesitated with confusion, “we were just in the main room with all the people.”

“Yeah, I thought so too.”

Frustration surfaced. I didn’t try the knob first. I lunged into the door and with my boot, one kick in the center crack of the double doors, popped them open. They slammed into the backing walls and the glass shattered. Motion detection activated the room lights. Fifty to sixty couples slow danced to no music. I pushed a path through them and came to an exit. Two bouncers with earpieces guarded the door behind a velvet rope.

“Get the fuck out of the way,” I said, unclipping the rope, disregarding their presence. A slap stick slammed on my hand, feeling like a bee sting. The bouncer slowly shook his head from side to side, signaling no. He re-clipped the rope and pointed us back in the direction we came. “No fucking way, dude,” I said. “We were roofied last night and just woke up in a tent in a back conference room and we are leaving right now.” He showed no expression. It did sound preposterous, even to me, now saying it out loud. A barricade of people quickly, but smoothly, filled in and blocked the entrance to the outside corridor.

I let go of Sharon’s hand and threw a lightning-fast punch to his face, which he caught midair before I could make contact, as if I moved in slow motion. He slowly moved my arm down to my side and again pointed behind us to go back in that direction.

I tried another tactic and calmed my voice. “Look, I apologize for attempting to strike you, but we are frustrated and she is scared because we have no idea what is going on. What is this place? What is happening here? Is there someone I can speak with who is in charge?” Once more, he gestured for us to return to the direction we came.

The bouncer was the only person to acknowledge or engage with us thus far, apart from the waitstaff, who monitored us until I made eye contact and then glanced away. It felt as if they were all here for Sharon and me.

“This is not cool, Shane,” she said. “I’m scared. Is this really happening?” Sharon asked, tears streaming down her face. “I just want to go home.”

“We will, Sharon,” I promised, even though I wasn’t sure how. The ground vibrated beneath us, and a low, thick hum filled the air. “These rooms are moving,” I realized aloud. “We need to figure out what’s happening before-, it’s too late. We need to keep moving.”

We ducked into an alcove. I held her head in my hands, looked her in the eyes. Her banged-up face matched how I felt. Her eyes were puffy, blotted, and bloodshot. She was still gorgeous. She buried her head into my chest and said, “I don’t get it, I don’t know what is going on. This makes no sense.”

A woman in a black vest, matching the waitstaff attire, with a name tag that read ‘Advertia – Event Handler’ approached us.

“Ya need to keep moving, ya can’t stay here,” she said.

I started in with all my questions. Sharon’s questions jumped over mine and mine over hers. The woman, unfazed by our barrage of questions, repeated herself for us to move along.

“We-don’t-know-where-we-are!” I said in a long, slow tone to try to get through to her.

“Sir, that is absurd,” she replied. She tugged on my shirt sleeve to suggest I move now.

“Don’t fucking touch me!” I yelled, pulling my shirt from her fingers. Sharon pulled me to lead me out of the alcove. The handler moved on with her business. We backtracked the best we could, but all the rooms and doors and hallways were different. We couldn’t find our way back and became completely lost.

“Maybe this place is a prison for rich people and we did something last night to get us in here,” Sharon said.

“We are not rich, Sharon, plus we know all the prisons in the area with your dad being the DA for thirty years,” I replied. Her dad was a prominent figure in the community as a district attorney for decades. He built up clout in town but also accumulated enemies. Maybe we’re here because of knowing him. “This definitely does not feel like a prison.”

“Shane!” she yelled. I looked back at her. “Where are you going?” she asked. “I’m tired and we need to regroup our minds, I’m just so fucked up right now.”

“I’m just gonna check this door again.” I said.

“It’s fucking locked Shane you just tried it, christ ya just tried to kick it down.” She said, getting to her wit’s end and now lashing out.

“Don’t fucking yell at me!”

“Well, we wouldn’t be in this fucking mess if ya didn’t force me to go to Donovans and watch the Bruins game. Ya know, ya could have just told me ya wanted to drink and watch the game as opposed to ‘taking me out to dinner’ (she used air quotes). I mean, what man takes his wife to a fucking sleaze-ball bar for a ‘dinner date’?” (She used air quotes again).

“Oh, so now Donovans is a sleaze-ball place? We fucking met there Sharon! We met there!”

“Oh fuck off Shane.” She said, half aloud and half under her breath.

“Look, don’t fucking ridicu—”, We heard a click that sounded like an automatic mechanism snapping something in or out of place. I pushed the lever down, opening the door. Sharon jumped up with excitement. “Wait this was just locked.” She said. We returned to the massive ballroom, but now at the three o’clock spot of where I initially viewed it from the conference room hallway. Now empty and dark, the party vanished in mere minutes. Pockets of various perfumes lingered as we walked through, checking each doorway. 

“These rooms are definitely shifting somehow.” I said. The original hallway door of the conference room was locked. I kicked at it, ran into it with my shoulder, but could not budge it. Another low rumble vibration started from the other side. We both instinctively ran towards the sound, anticipating the door would be unlocked and sure enough, after the low end sound stopped, the click happened and the door unlocked. 

We were exhausted and dehydrated and needed to rest. I was decent at navigation, always aware of my location, and able to remember my way through twists and turns. Even as a kid, I could always find my way back to where I started, no matter how lost I was. But this place had me beat. There was no way to get back. No bread crumbs, no distinct landmarks.

We sat on the floor against the wall. Sharon pulled her knees to her chest and buried her face. I kept watch. The low hum sounded in the distance and the rumble shock the floor. A woman from the gala walked into the room in a long gown, holding a drink and humming softly. She glanced at us and moved about in the round room and walked back for the door she came.

We watched in disbelief. “Hey!” I called out. “Hey! Do you know how we get out of here?” I ran to the door she was exiting, but was not fast enough. Just before she shut the door, she glanced back, her eyes glassy and unfocused, and replied, “Oh, you don’t leave,” she said with a dreamy smile. “You stay. Everyone stays.”

The low hum and vibrations continued intermittently, casting an eerie backdrop to our unfolding drama. Running around to these alternating rooms was getting us nowhere.

Soft, muffled footsteps echoed across the room from the other side of the hall doors. As if on cue, the door clicked, then unlocked. I opened it, and we looked up to see a janitor with a limp and a glass eye approaching us, pushing a mop and bucket. His keys jangled, clipped to his belt loop. His presence was unsettling, and he seemed to know more than he let on with his crooked smirk.

“You two look like you could use some help,” the janitor said, grinning.

“Who are you? Do you know what’s going on here?” I asked.

“I’m just a janitor, but I’ve seen people like you before. You’re in for a test of your love and commitment to each other,” the janitor replied cryptically.

“What kind of test? How do we get out of here?” Sharon asked, desperation in her voice.

“The answers are in the rooms. Pay attention to what you find, and maybe you’ll make it out,” he said mysteriously.

“Make it out?” I replied.

The janitor limped away, leaving us more confused than ever. We followed him, hoping he would lead us to an exit. I could surely overpower him and get through the door he was exiting through. Hell, I’d hurt or even kill him if I had to. This was getting out of control, and I was switching subconsciously into survival mode. The tension was palpable, with whoever watched our every move, manipulating the environment to play on our deepest fears and insecurities. The stakes for our survival were higher than ever.

The janitor seemed to vanish.

We approached the door he exited, but it remained locked. I leaned my head against the door and sighed.

“I’m so thirsty,” Sharon said, her mouth still smacking from the dryness.

“I know, me too.”

“What do you think this place is?” she whispered, clutching my arm. “Are we being watched? Is this some kind of twisted game? It feels like we are being watched.”

“I don’t know,” I said, my voice tight with frustration. “It’s some kind of maze or game or something.”

“Maybe it’s like that movie, ya know the one—”

I cut her off, “Sharon, let’s not, please, OK?”

“Maybe it is some psycho getting his kicks off watching us. Are there any cameras?”

“I’ve been looking, but haven’t seen any. That’s not to say there aren’t any.”

Sharon laid her head on my shoulder and asked, “Do you remember any weirdos at Donovan’s?”

I spun and looked at her with a confused expression, then realized her question.

“Oh, i’ve been going back in my mind on that same question,” I said. “I got up a few times to piss. Did you get up from the table when I was in the bathroom?”

“No, did you when I went to pee?”

I thought about it, “Nope.”

“Oh wait, I did get up to put a song on the music thingy.”

“Ya mean the jukebox,” I said.

“Yeah, my phone wasn’t connecting to it, and I wanted to hear our song, so I got up to put it on. I was only away from the table for no more than a minute.”

“Ok, so, did you see anyone up around our table when you were at the jukebox? Did anyone walk by or go near our table? I assume both our drinks were on the table when you got up—yeah?”

“Yeah, I didn’t bring my beer with me.”

Behind the door, a soft hum and grinding sound started. I put my hand on the door lever, anticipating it unlocking.

“That had to have been the time someone slipped something into our drinks,” I said. “Did you get up any other times when I was pissing?”

She shook her head and let out a long slow, no, inside an exhale.

“Well, we’re ready to face the unknown. Our love and determination is stronger than ever, right?” Sharon asked me.

CLICK—The door unlocked.

The rooms grew darker as we moved forward; the environments shifting ominously around us.

One room resembled a little girl’s bedroom with a canopy bed, stuffed animals, a rocking horse, and a toy box. Sharon found my wallet lying on the bureau.

“Oh my god, Shane, is this your wallet?” She asked with excitement. She picked it up to examine it. A slightly protruding photograph caught her eye. She pulled it out. The photo was of Tammy, the woman Sharon has always been jealous of and accused me of sleeping with. The torn picture hid Tammy’s companion.

“What the hell is this?” Sharon’s voice was accusatory.

“I don’t know. This picture isn’t mine. Someone’s trying to mess with us,” I replied, confused.

“Or maybe it’s just the truth coming out,” Sharon said bitterly.

“That’s really not mine, Sharon. You have to believe me. I don’t understand why you don’t trust me. I have done nothing to make you not trust me.”

I reached for my wallet to see if my things were still in it, but she quickly pulled it back.

“Well, it’s obvious that you tore yourself out of this photo to make it less incriminating,” she said, shaking the picture at me.

“For Christ’s sake, Sharon. That is obviously planted to trigger us to fight like the janitor said. Plus, we have bigger shit to get through right now than your insecure imaginary scenarios”.

We moved to the next room, Sharon reluctant to stand as close to me as she had been. We stumbled over a small book lying conspicuously on the floor. Sharon picked it up and read, her face paling as she read and her voice tailing off when she realized it was her diary outlining her feelings for other men, including her boss and some of my old friends.

“What the fuck, Sharon? Oh, ha, it looks like you’ve been holding out on me too, huh?”

“It’s not what it looks like. It’s just thoughts, not actions,” Sharon said defensively. “At least I can admit that this is mine and I wrote it, unlike you and your whore picture.”

The tension between us amplified. We questioned each other’s intentions and actions, wondering if one of us had something to do with our current situation.

“Did you set this up? Are you trying to test me or something?” My anger turning to rage.

“Are you insane? Why would I do this? Maybe it’s you trying to drive me crazy,” Sharon responded, frustration in her voice.

The surrounding environment seemed to respond to our emotions. Flashbacks of infidelity, whether true or fictitious, created hallucinations that made us both doubt each other’s reality.

“This place is messing with our minds. We need to stay focused,” I said, grabbing my head and weaving my fingers together on the back of my neck.

We found a small sanctuary—a cozy room with soft lighting and a comfortable couch. A much different vibe than all the previous rooms. It was a brief respite from the madness.

“I’m so scared, Shane. I just want to go home,” Sharon sobbed.

“I know, will you please stop saying that! I know Sharon. We’ll get out of here. We just have to stick together”.

We rested and subconsciously tried to reconnect emotionally, reaffirming our determination to escape together, even though this place was trying to destroy or test our relationship.

As we prepared to leave the sanctuary room, we heard the low hum and vibrations again. We knew it was time to face whatever challenges awaited us next.

“We have got to get out of here, Sharon,” I said, determined.

“Together,” Sharon nodded.

“Are we really fighting to find a way out of here?” Sharon asked, her tone defeated. I shrugged. I had no good answer. “I just want to go home—and mittens hasn’t been fed. Shit, Shane. Mittens will be hungry, she is probably out of water too. Ohh, Shane.”

“It’s a fucking cat Shar.” scanning the room for something, anything.

“You’re always so callus.”

“Just stop, alright—stop!” I pleaded.

Sharon glared at me and started in again. 

“We wouldnt be in this mess if you hadn’t dragged me to the bar to watch the game. If ya wanted to drink and check out girls asses, you could have just left me home.” Sharon blurted out.

“Ha, more like you ridiculing me and trying again for me to confess that I cheated on you with Tammy when I did not. That is the last I remember of being at Donovans.”

“Why do you always have to bring past shit up?”

“Me? Me? Really, Sharon! All you ever do is throw under-your-breath comments about how I supposedly fucked Tammy at the game’s after-party.”

“Well, did you?” she asked, her voice tinged with anger.

“No, Sharon, for the love of God, no! I never did. It has been two years and all you do is accuse me. This is why we don’t ever get along anymore. It’s as if you want me to admit to something I didn’t do just so we can move on, but I will not do that because I have always been faithful to you and I am hurt that you don’t think so. And—I even went as far as agreeing to go to that fucking damn couples therapy thing you so desperately wanted to go. It didn’t help a fucking thing, ‘cause all you do is come at me with this shit.” I felt the exasperation clear in my voice.

“I’m sure you poisoned Redford too. Huh Shane, or ya brought him out to the woods and shot him.” 

“Are you fucking serious? Who the fuck are you? I thought I knew you. We’ve been married for five years and the last few years has been you questioning and doubting me for no reason. I have been nothing but faithful, loyal and respectful to you. I don’t deserve this shit!”

I punched the wall in frustration. Sharon looked away, tears forming in her eyes. We both sat in silence. The tension grew by the minute.

The mazes of rooms that constantly rotated and changed became relentless as we moved from one disorienting room to the next. Each step felt heavier, the air thick with an unspoken tension that was beginning to tear us apart. As we stumbled into what appeared to be an old bar, the musty smell of stale beer and the sight of dusty cobwebs everywhere made the space feel like a tomb.

The moment we entered, a TV behind the bar flickered to life, casting an eerie glow around the room. The sound of Sharon moaning filled the air, unmistakable and jarring. I turned to see the screen showing her bent over a desk, her boss thrusting into her from behind. The sound was loud and invasive, looping in an endless, torturous cycle.

Sharon’s face went pale, her eyes wide with horror. “Shane, I can explain—”

“Explain what, Sharon? That you’ve been projecting this whole time? Accusing me of cheating with Tammy to make yourself feel better about fucking your boss?”

Tears streamed down her face. “It’s not what you think. It wasn’t supposed to be like this—”

“Save it!” I shouted, cutting her off. “I’ve been defending myself against your accusations for years, and all this time, you’ve been the one lying.”

We stood there, the volume of her affair growing louder in the room, more insistent. I felt my grip on reality slipping, the room spinning around me. Sharon reached out to touch my arm, but I pulled away.

“Don’t,” I said coldly. “Just don’t.”

We moved through the bar, no longer holding hands, the silence between us thick and suffocating. Another TV flickered on back corner of the bar, this time showing CCTV footage. Sharon was walking out of an abortion clinic, handing her boss a receipt and some change. The date on the screen was unmistakable, recent enough to make my stomach churn.

“What the fuck is this, Sharon?” I asked, my voice barely above a whisper.

She couldn’t meet my eyes. “I—I didn’t want to tell you. I thought it would destroy you.”

“You were right,” I said, my voice breaking. “It does destroy me.”

The video switched to static, then flickered to another clip of the same clinic. This time, Sharon exited and returned change and a receipt to my former friend.

I was at a loss for words. The realization hit me like a punch to the gut. She’d been with him too. Rage and betrayal coursed through me, and I felt like I was going to be sick. I was now in auto-pilot and now working outside of myself.

We moved on in silence, each step more difficult than the last. Approaching another room, papers stuck to a door. Hotel logs and phone records were scattered on the floor, positioned perfectly as to not miss them, detailing Sharon’s rendezvous with another of my old high school friends. Over 100 times at the same hotel. 2000 calls and texts a month on our cell phone bill.

“How long, Sharon?” I asked, my voice hollow. “How long has all of this been going on?”

She couldn’t answer, her face a mask of guilt and fear. The room seemed to close in around us, the weight of her betrayal almost too much to bear.

The tension reached a breaking point. Sharon, weak from dehydration and fear, fainted. I watched her fall, thinking it was just another act, another way to avoid facing her actions.

I sat at the bar with my head in my hands, tears streaming down my face. Sharon regained consciousness and tried to console me, but I pushed her away, sending her sprawling to the floor.

The TV flickered on again, this time playing an audio recording without video. It was her boss’s voice, laughing and boasting to his friends at a restaurant about sleeping with three women at work on the same day. The background noise of chatter and silverware clinking made it all too real.

“Oh yeah man, check this out, the other day, I fucked Lori, Bethany and Sharon all within hours of each other.” The others at the table laughed uncontrollably. Sounds of cheered glass clanks reverberated throughout the bar room. “I fucked Lori in the breakroom before anyone is in the office, then—” A voice interrupted him. “Which one is Lori again?” a guy asked. “She is the chubby brunette that works as Bobby’s assistant, the one that always wears the see through summer dresses.” He continues, “Anyhow, just before lunch, I fucked Bethany in the ass in our private quote, unquote, meeting room. Then in the afternoon here comes whore Sharon, and get this, she sucks my dick clean without a word or worry.” The table laughs. Her boss continues, “Yeah she has no idea I fucked both girls earlier and here she is cleaning their dried pussy and ass juices off my cock.”

Sharon looked up at the audio in shock and threw up on her chest, the empty stomach bile oozing through her knotted hair. I stood up, my anger and disgust boiling over.

“How does it feel, Sharon?” I asked, my voice dripping with venom.

The environment seemed to pulse with our emotions, the low hum and vibrations intensifying. We knew we had to keep moving, even though the weight of betrayal hung heavy between us.

“I have to find a way out”, my voice barely above a whisper. They were watching and listening. “Together or not, we need to get out of this place.”

Sharon nodded silently, pushed herself up off the floor and followed me, the unresolved tension between us a constant reminder of the truth that had been unveiled.

The moving rooms persisted, a constant reminder of the nightmare we couldn’t escape. It became monotonous but barably compared to the new weight on my mind. Each room revealed more horrors, more betrayals. I stepped into a new room, a strange, unsettling feeling washed over me. The room was dimly lit; the shadows dancing eerily across the walls. In the center was a bed that bore an uncanny resemblance to our bed, or should I say, the one she tainted with infidelity.

I noticed something on the pillow—my bank statements and transcripts of conversations that looked to be between Sharon and her father. I picked them up, my hands shaking, and read them. Sharon stood still, her hair matted in her face, lost in a mentally zoned out state. The statements revealed that someone had withdrawn my entire life’s savings of over one million dollars. I felt an icy wave of realization wash over me.

“What the fuck is this, Sharon?” I demanded, my voice barely controlled.

Her eyes widened in shock. “Shane, I can explain.”

“Explain what? How you and your dad took my money and plotted to have me kidnapped and extorted? Or, whatever this thing is here you are doing to me. I get it now, this place here was all part of your plan?”

Tears streamed down her face as she shook her head. “I didn’t know it would come to this. I thought it was just a way to buy time.”

I clenched the statements in my hands, the paper crumpling under my grip. “You thought you could manipulate me, use me? Take my money fuck my friends and ridicule me for your actions to make yourself feel better. How could you?”

The weight of her betrayal was crushing. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think straight. In a blind rage, I lunged at her. My hands wrapped around her throat, the bank statements and transcripts still in my grip, pressed into her neck. Her eyes widened in terror, her hands clawing at mine, but I couldn’t stop. The room closed in around me, the air thick with the scent of betrayal and fear.

The clicking of the door was frantic and sporadic, but I barely noticed. When it finally burst open, a rush of people stormed in. They tried to pull me off her, but it was too late. Her lifeless body fell to the floor, eyes staring vacantly at the ceiling.

“Shane, stop!” someone shouted, but their words were drowned out by the roaring in my ears.

They tried to revive her, but she was gone. One of them turned to me, their face pale with shock. “This was supposed to be a therapeutic experiment. What have you done?”

My mind spinning.

“We never meant for this to happen.” a man with a lanyard on said.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“It was an experimental therapy trial,” the man explained. “We used artificial intelligence to create scenarios based on your real-life experiences to help you work through your relationship issues. But we didn’t realize the AI would take things this far.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, my voice hollow.

“You and your wife signed up for this in couples therapy years before knowing it was a beta social experiment. You didn’t know when the experiment would take place and we waited a few years to implement it so you would forget about ever signing up. Our AI program was programmed to analyze all available data—cameras, digital assets, personal records—and create scenarios for you two to reflect on and work out together and to help rebuild your connection. But it unfortunately wasn’t programmed to understand emotional boundaries. It found everything Sharon did and revealed it all, thinking it would help you both confront and move past your issues, not knowing the emotional trauma it was setting up.”

I stared at Sharon’s lifeless body, the weight of their words sinking in. The AI had exposed all her affairs, all her schemes. It had laid bare every dark secret, with no consideration for the emotional fallout.

“Good, And now she’s dead because of it,” I mumbled.

The room was silent, the hum and vibrations a distant memory. I felt a strange sense of calm wash over me. The rage, the betrayal, the hurt—it all seemed to fade away.

I looked at Sharon one last time wanting to spit on her or fuck her dead body in honor of her whoreness, then turned to the people who had rushed in. “How the fuck do I get out of here?” I needed to figure out what to do next. I needed to get my money back from her dad.

Their faces, masks of guilt and regret. As they escorted me out, I felt a strange sense of peace. Sharon was gone, and with her, the constant accusations, the betrayals, the lies.

Standing outside the building, looking back at a seventeenth century stone church facade that just played as a maze, now a tomb, I took a deep breath. The night was cool, the air fresh and clean. For the first time in a long time, I felt free.

I knew I had a long road ahead. Sharon’s dad was a conniving, slimy prick, and getting my money back wouldn’t be easy. But I was determined. I would make him pay for what he’d done in addition to losing his daughter, for the part he played in this twisted scheme.

As I walked away, sirens creeped in behind me. I couldn’t help but feel a strange sense of closure. I had finally found my peace. The nightmares might still haunt me, but I was free from the web of lies and deceit that had ensnared me for so long.

Now, it was time to rebuild, to find my way back to some semblance of a normal life. And as for Sharon’s dad, he would get what was coming to him. One way or another, I would get my money back. And maybe, just maybe, I’d find a way to move on from all of this.

But for now, I was content with the silence, knowing that I was finally free from the chains that had bound me. And that, for the first time in years, I could finally breathe.