Follows Jake as he tries to get to terms with what is real and what is an illusion.
Jake was seemingly a boy like any other, albeit very talented. He had as many friends as he could care for and played for the first team of his local football, basketball and hockey team. More than that, he was performing excellently at school getting near perfect scores on any exam he took. He had already had a couple of girlfriends and to top it all off, he was a handsome boy with medium length blonde hair that stopped just above his eyes and fell around his ears. His eyes were a light green colour and adults often felt that when he looked into their eyes he was reading their minds. His fellow classmates and friends felt this as well, but they were not old, nor clever enough to realise why his gaze made them uncomfortable.
It seemed that Jake had it all, and in a way he did. But really the only exceptional thing about him was his imagination. He had always been able to think around corners, and now at the age of thirteen he had put into practice what he had discovered at the age of nine years old. Today was a normal day for him and he was scoring goals with his friends on the school play field. When they had finished he walked back to class ahead of the group, his friend Max for company.
‘Hell, Jake, what is it with you? Every time we play sports you always outshine anyone else on the field,’ Max complained, sweat dripping from his forehead as he looked at a girl classmate walking ahead and wondered why he was getting weird feelings for her. That would be something to ask Dad about later. ‘And you always get A’s, AND you’re going out with Michelle!’
Jake stopped and looked at Max for a moment, then glanced around as the other boys they had been playing with walked past, one clapping Jake on the back as he did so. After assessing that Max was not speaking out of jealousy, he was genuinely curious Jake cleared his throat.
‘Max, you’re my best friend, so I feel I can tell you this, but you have to promise not to scoff.’
‘Scoff? Of course I won’t!’ Max’s eyes were gleaming now; he felt that Jake really did have some secret that let him be so damn good at everything. He knew it sounded silly, but children have always been more susceptible to believing the unlikely, and elected to want to believe.
Jake paused for a moment, wondering how best to go about this. ‘I think you won’t believe me, but this is the way I see it. What you see around you, the blue sky and the hard gravel we’re standing on, that’s all real right?’
‘Well...yeah,’ Max replied, wondering where his friend was going with this.
‘Wrong Max,’ Jake looked into his eyes wondering if he was going to believe him or not. That is the one thing he had never been able to influence. People: their actions and beliefs. I don’t know how or why but I...well, I can think something to be true, and it will be.’
Well, that was that. This was the first time Jake had talked about it to anyone since he discovered what he could do, and he waited eagerly for his friend to respond, and tell him how cool and awesome it was that he had done this.
‘Jake...that’s crazy,’ Max started, but Jake cut across him quickly.
‘No. Watch’ He approached the nearest wall, with a basketball hoop attached to it higher up and closed his eyes. He pushed his hand forward toward the wall and it disappeared into it, just showing his wrist poking out. He opened his eyes and looked over at his friend who had gone white in the face.
‘You’re a freak, Jake!’ Max exclaimed, and hurried away as the bell for the last class of the day rang.
Jake stood by the wall, shocked at how his best friend had reacted to this, when he had absolute proof that it was true! He pulled his hand out the wall and started to feel anger replace his surprise and upset. Fine, if he was going to be an idiot about it then that was his problem, he thought resentfully as he stormed off toward Maths.
He was thinking this conversation over in his head with perfect clarity as he flew 20,000 feet in the air on his way to Las Vegas. He had never forgotten that day, not in nineteen years. He further recalled coming out too his parents about it, but had been to hurt and miserable to want to prove it to them when they had angrily told him to stop making up strange stories. For a long time he had not had faith in himself to perform his wonderful gift and had dropped out of the football and hockey teams and his grades had slipped.
However, when he turned sixteen and he had witnessed three bullies pushing around a new first year student at his secondary school he forgot his fear of ridicule and shame and had resolved to teach the cowards a lesson. He remembered this day as well, the headmaster’s office, his mothers disheveled face telling him that violence never solved anything, his father telling him he didn’t know how he did it, but he was proud of him for whatever he did. That was probably the happiest memory of his father who had always been a rock in his life, a great father and man but too rational to believe in magic. In the end there was no proof he had done anything to the bullies and it was put down to a freak accident. It did make him laugh though when he found out that new legislation had supposedly allowed for the incident and had increased safety measures to avoid breakage of fire hydrants.
Jake, or Jacob as he was now called, mulled all this over as he looked out the plane window and down into the sea. He had to admit that despite a troublesome childhood, he had a pretty good lifestyle. After he had won the lottery twice he lost interest in his business ventures that were making him rich and went into early retirement. He was thinking about settling down and having children, but the many women he had known over his life were not what he would describe as marriage material. He laughed harshly as he thought this, making an older woman sitting next to him look affronted and try to shift away.
He rolled over and slept for the remainder of the flight, and had an uneventful journey to his hotel where Max and a couple of other, slightly newer, friends were waiting.
11.58pm, Las Vegas
‘C’mon snake eyes!’ Max yelled jubilantly, as two perfectly square dice left his outstretched palm and bounced lightly off the green felt. It was intoxicating to Max. He loved to see that moment where it made contact, where it was just you and the casino, where if it were possible, the casino held its breath with you as the deceptive dice bounced off the edges and revealed their unpredictable nature.
Not this time though, for Max was partying with his buddy Jacob, Jacob who never lost when he came to Vegas. He might lose one or two to keep up appearances, but never in the long run. This was no exception, the two dots staring up at him triumphantly, victory for you now, they almost said, but know to quit when you’re ahead. Heed my warning.
Max laughed as the chips he had bet were pushed toward him and he hauled them up with both arms, some spilling over onto the floor and craps board.
‘You’re my lucky charm, Jacob!’ he grinned, turning around to show his appreciation, him but Jacob was not there.
‘I guess that was a lucky throw after all!’ he exclaimed nervously to no one in particular. He had bet his entire mortgage on Jacob being there and securing it for him! He went to cash his winnings and go to give him an earful, leaving the two beautiful women who were watching him play behind. Disappointment sat in their eyes, they had wasted good time. They had wanted a piece of those winnings as well.
Jacob was otherwise preoccupied, lying in his big roller, king size suite all paid for by the casino since he bet so much. They were waiting for him to lose but they would probably wait forever. He wasn’t alone either, and the gorgeous blonde above him was distracting to his thoughts of Max’s mortgage and its relevance at that point in time. He reached up and massaged her firm pink nipples while she moaned and rolled her hips back and forth on top of him. After about twenty minutes, he raised his shoulders and head, let out a barely audible sound of pleasure, then slumped down again on his pillow. The woman looked down, satisfied with a job well done.
‘You pay me now?’ She asked eventually, in a polish accent.
‘Yeah...yeah’ he said, interrupting his silent enjoyment of the feeling and heat sex produced for a short while afterwards. It’s in a bowl by the bed. She had in fact noticed this as soon as she had entered the luxury room but didn’t want to presume. She put her clothes on, picked up the $900 and left without a word.
Jacob watched her go with the most common thought he had recently coursing through his head, like a fly buzzing near his ear, but it was inside his head and wouldn’t go away. His mind was almost talking to as a separate entity, as his body screamed ‘no’ in defiance to its requests.
‘Why don’t you act? You know none of this is real, the people might be, but this is an untrue life, and you have the means to seek greater knowledge.’
‘No, I made this choice long ago, I am happy here; I have anything I could ever want!’ His other self retorted back.
‘Happy? Your life is a constant quest to discover new highs to occupy yourself so you don’t have to face the fact that this is not real!’
He opened his eyes, still lying down on his bed and a switch was thrown on inside him. Usually there is a catalyst for the big decisions in our life, but Jacob had been putting this through his mind for a long time and had finally come to a decision. He slowly sat up, and stood, walked to the balcony window looking out with certainty in his eyes. His parents had died in an unfortunate accident when he was twenty two, so there was really no one he cared to say goodbye to before he found out what he was letting himself in for. He had ended on good terms with them both, and wondered if he would see them again now.
Looking around the room he shut his eyes and put the familiar thought process through his head as he had done many times before, only this time he knew it would be the last.
‘None of this is real, I know this to be true, it is a figment of my imagination, or a reality created by someone else and I am trapped here. I accept this as the truth and want to leave.’
He opened his eyes and looked around. The hotel room was still there, but he was not going to give up that easily. He shut his eyes tight again and said, louder.
‘I KNOW this is false, I am leaving now, and when I open my eyes I want to find myself on a truer path, free of this illusion.’
Again, the hotel was still there. He started to get impatient but then a silky voice caught his attention. At first he thought it was coming from the walls, but then he realised it was coming from everywhere, all around him and a terrible feeling of complete claustrophobia overcame him at that moment.
‘You may not leave,’ The silky, male voice announced to him, the words lingered in the air, littering the atmosphere, he could feel it. It felt stagnant. ‘Only pain awaits you on the other side, a pain you do not need to experience.’
Jacob did not trust the voice. Not one bit. The warning may or may not be legitimate, but that was something he intended to find out for himself. Better a truer life than a richer life, he thought before closing his eyes a third time. This time with utter certainty that it would work and said simply:
‘I’m going now.’
He felt his body begin to grow lighter; it was a curious feeling, not painful. More like a sensation but there was nothing he could compare it to. He imagined it was like if gravity gave up and he simply went soaring into space. He kept his eyes shut as this happened, his last thoughts on this earth being of his old house when he was a child.
Jacob went missing that day, his clothes left in a heap on his hotel floor. There was a search, and Max forced the police to keep at it, but deep down Max thought he knew what had happened to his old school friend, but he had never had much imagination, and eventually blocked it out and moved on with his life.
Jacob still had his eyes shut as he heard waves lapping behind him, and felt bitty sand in his toes as he scrunched them up, groggily moving his head against the soft, caramel coloured ground. He realised he was naked but felt no shame. He raised his head upwards and looked up what he assumed was a beach, for his sight to be greeted with a brilliant white light, that seemed to be approaching him. This filled with an unmatched sense of calm and peace as he realised the light was not coming toward him, but simply moving back and forth, in sync with the waves behind him. He resolved to try his legs, stood up and observed that the light went up higher than he could see, and he presumed forever.
He turned back around to look at what he had thought was a sea, but now he looked properly he noticed that it was actually a deep purple. As he stared at it the water turned slowly blue, then green and then to yellow. It did not have the texture of the sea he remembered either, it reminded him of a mix between tar and sea water. The voice he had heard in his last moments of his old life returned now, but it had lost its silky quality. Now it sounded frustrated and desperate.
‘It isn’t too late you know, you can walk back into the sea behind you and return to your old life’ it drawled at him, but it did not have the effect it had had on him before. He did not feel surrounded and submerged by everything the voice was.
When Jacob only continued to watch the waves change colour, the voice pressed on ‘You are such a hypocrite’ it spat angrily at him, rising and falling in volume with the sickly waves. ‘Your senses tell you that the sky is blue and you don’t believe it because it is only your subjective interpretation, yet here you stand, goggling at this place as if you believe this is real! You might be caught in a vicious circle.’ The voice became craftier with every word it spoke, its confidence seeming to increase the longer Jacob had his back to the bright gate behind him.
Jacob thought about replying with a suitable retort to the voice, but what was the point? All he knew was he had two options, and he was not going backwards. He smiled to himself as he turned his back on the voice and the crashing multi-coloured waves and walked purposefully toward whatever awaited him on the other side, leaving all regret behind.