“Okay, laptops open,” Wesley Coleman commands to the other three people in the room — Me, Carlos Mendoza, and Max Reed. “Detention lasts an hour. We have an hour to do what we came here to do. We picked the story that would most likely to affect the targets more than ourselves, but you know the risks. We crunched the variables as best as we could from what we know, but this is not an exact science. It’s for all intents and purposes magic.”
Max chimes in, “To quote Arthur C. Clarke, ‘Magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet.’”
“And we don’t understand this,” Carlos adds. “So, closer to magic than science for us.”
“If,” I say, “If it’s all not just a big prank. And that’s a pretty big if, if you ask me.”
“All available data backs up that this is not just some random site or some urban myth prank type thing,” Wesley chirps back, not enjoying being challenged, least of all by me. “Worst case scenario, we spend some time reading and choosing the paths of these stories and nothing happens beyond simple entertainment. However, we’re on the clock in case of other more interesting things and the clock keeps on ticking as we continue to rehash this conversation.”
It’s Wesley’s research.
It’s his plan.
We’ve talked it through before, but here we are on the verge of actually doing something with it.
As the smallest, and by his own admission the nerdiest, member of our little quartet, he’s taken the brunt of their nastiness. He’s endured the most swirlies. He’s been mocked more than anyone else and more publicly at that.
I know he’s not completely keen on my involvement because my assigned target — my “story companion” — just so happens to be my ex-boyfriend Damian. Apparently, the boys in my new group had issues with “taking on” a dude and chose partners based on keeping the pairings opposite sex pairings. I defected away from Damian, Cora, Brianna and Faith, having no desire to continue being friends with a group of bullies or the girlfriend one particular bully. It just seemed like an outdated way of thinking and generally unpleasant and unkind. I’d always been the “go along with the group” type of person, not really caring that I’d fallen in with a potentially bad group. I evolved beyond that sometime during the summer between junior and senior years, breaking up with Damian and befriending this trio in the hopes of not only evening the numbers, but in some small way attempting to make amends. They’ve generally accepted me, though sometimes I think that’s just because they like counting a pretty girl amongst their ranks. They’ve introduced me to all kinds of cool things — movies, tv shows, comic books, and anime.
As the only girl in the group, I often feel a bit like Smurfette. The other three maintain a hands-off truce to keep the group’s equilibrium safe from jealousy. That doesn’t stop them from looking at me in “that” way whenever they think I won’t notice. I never tell them that, despite being great friends, none of them are my type so the truce isn’t necessary. I guess all boys have an elevated self-opinion, nerds and jocks alike. I mean, Damian was with Cora before me and hooked up with Brianna when I left him. It’s honestly only a matter of time before he goes after Faith, the last girl in his quartet and only remaining one he hasn’t hooked up with.
I’ve admitted changed a lot since switching teams. I’m even wearing a Sailor Moon t-shirt, something that I wasn’t aware of less than a year ago and would definitely not have in my wardrobe. The nice thing about my new friends is the serious lack of judgment. I don’t have to have perfect hair and makeup and wardrobe for their approval. I just have to show up and be friendly. It’s a lot less work and a lot less stress. My grades have even improved and I’m now on course for my pick of universities with a good chance at scholarships.
And now, as payment for their ongoing friendship, I’m taking part in this revenge plan I barely understand as an act of faith.
I have to open some sort of Choose Your Own Adventure story site.
I have to select the story “The Cult of You” and then, when prompted, bring Damian Long into the tale.
I do just that, shivering like someone’s walking over my grave when the story finally appears on my screen and, with that unexpected feeling, wonder what exactly I’ve signed on for.
Your lead acolyte Damian approaches you reverently. “Are you excited? It’s not every day you start a new religion.”
“People need something to believe in. It’s time something was created that could endure with a more positive impact for once,” you say with purposeful conviction.
“So I take it, you’ve decided then? You’ve decided what is to be the central tenet of this new religion?”
Aurora, do you —
Found it with love as the basis
Found it with fear as the basis
Found it with discipline as the basis
Found it with intellect as the basis
My first crossroad. My first choice. Fear seems dangerous, but so does love. If there’s something my sloppy-ass ex needs, though, it’s discipline.
I select — Found it with discipline as the basis.
I take in a deep breath and assess myself.
Do I feel different?
I’ve always been an assertive type, so it makes total sense that I would want to have as much control as possible over how other people behave. And I’m sure Damian is in the next room over, slouching and debating whether he should stick with Brianna or finally make the leap over to Faith. Leap of Faith. That’s funny. Of course, I’d love to catch him mid-leap and take him down, to beat and berate him and establish dominance.
I squeeze my legs together tightly.
Whenever my thoughts go to dominance, I always get a little squishy down there.
Time to focus back on this story…
Acolyte Damian kneels in submission at your feet, as is customary for all of your followers, as small a number as that may currently be. But you have plans to expand, to lure new members under your benevolent wings.
Aurora, do you —
Lure them in with promises of sex
Lure them in with promises of clarity
Lure them in with promises of transcendence
Lure them in with promises of order
I don’t want to link sex and Damian together, regardless of whether this story actually impacts the real world or not, so that’s entirely off the table. Transcendence sounds like we’re all going to drink poison together — a little too cult-y for my tastes. I’m down to order and clarity. Order is easily achieved, so I don’t know that anyone is going to be lured by that.
I select — Lure them in with promises of clarity.
I’m thinking about that line from Pulp Fiction. “I had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity.”
I always wondered what that meant and what that felt like, but now I know.
And knowing is a lot more than half the battle.
I’m keenly aware that this site, all of the content on this site — the stories, the songs, the quizzes, the fill-in-the-blanks — all of it has the ability to truly change people. With this instilled clarity, I can see how I’ve been changed already. Selecting discipline created within me a need to dominate and control. The power of that need is so strong, that even though I know it’s been artificially instilled in me, I don’t want to fight it. I want to embrace it. It is now fundamentally me, baked into my DNA. I want to close my laptop and walk away, but I also know that I can’t. The stories have to be read. The stories have to be finished.
Acolyte Damian leans in and whispers, “Clarity is always the best option. It leads to more informed decision-making.”
“Are you just trying to placate me, Damian?” You ask coyly.
“As your first and most devoted follower I will always tell you the truth unless told to do otherwise,” he says, head bowed. “Look, I will follow you to the ends of the earth, because that’s my lot, but you have to be certain in your own mind just why you want followers.”
Aurora, do you —
Want to be worshipped
Want to lead
Want sexual satisfaction
Want to change the world
Knowing what path lays down each choice somewhat makes the choice clear. I don’t need to be worshipped and stuck with a god complex. I don’t need an increased libido from a need for sexual satisfaction. And, while changing the world is nice, the concept of misplaced benevolence. A little more ego doesn’t sound like that bad of a thing compared to the rest of them.
I select—Want to lead.
I feel the zing of my enhanced ego. I know that it’s making me feel like the world revolves around yours truly and, coupled with my need to control, I’m feeling more than a little power mad. I wonder how the other three are doing. Half of me wants to warn them, to tell them these stories are a trap and that no one comes out unscathed, but the other half hopes they’re not benefitting as much as I am. Also, I know this tidbit of information and I’m not sure I’ve benefitted.
The only way out is through.
“A leader without followers is just a person taking a walk.” Damian says with a smile, then continues, indicating through a two-way mirror a mixed set of people. “I’ve gathered a group of potential followers. Do you want to judge them?”
Aurora, do you —
Accept only the young
Accept only the attractive
Accept only the wealthy
When someone asks if you want to become youth biased, beauty biased, wealth biased, or truly benevolent, you say —
I select — Accept all.
The world is a wonderful place and the people on it have the potential for such greatness that I’m actually in awe of everyone. While I will always stand above them, and know what’s best for them, I will always also take care of each and every one of them. Benevolence feels good. I feel like it’s the most true to the “me” that started this story, though maybe a bit more refined and perfected.
Damian returns from a discussion with the people on the other side. All of them look pleased to have been accepted. He also looks content with the additions, but asks one final question of you. “Some of your potential followers are asking… Are you a god?”
Aurora, do you say —
I’m benevolent. I like control. What could possibly be wrong with me accepting the powers of a god?
I select — Yes.
The room feels different.
The world feels different.
Everything is different now.
The story is over, but mine has just begun and I will have much more control over its crafting.
I am a perfect person and, as such, I take the time to remove any imperfections from my face and body. I cast a light glow around myself so that everyone who approaches know exactly who they approach — a goddess walking the Earth, a goddess always willing to lend them a helping hand, especially when they don’t know what’s best for them. I’ll know and I have the power to lead them to a better state of being.
I see the laptops of my three compatriots also close in sync with mine and while I feel this new, uncertain power flowing through me, I don’t have omniscience to know how each of them fared with their choices, but I’m excited to wait for our prey to remove themselves from the room next door.