Illusion

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Her nightgown floated at her sides as she made a dash for the trees, running across the open, grassy field in her bare feet. She made it, without being seen. She hid behind a tree, panting.

“Chara!” she heard a voice calling from a distance. It was Jak. It must be. As quietly as she could, she threaded her way through the pathless forest, following the voice.

“Chara!” it called again.

I knew he’d come for me. I’m saved. Thank god.

“Chara!”

The rabbit hole of her dream faded into reality as she opened her eyes. She was on the floor, still in the white nightgown. She looked up. Alexei was staring at her from overtop a newspaper he’d been reading with his feet up on the bed.

“You have nightmare.” This, again, wasn’t a question.

“No, it wasn’t a nightmare. I dreamt that Jak was coming to save me. Because he is. You can expect him any minute now,” Chara insisted defiantly. She went to rub her eyes but realized her hands were tied behind her back again.

Her cheek ached from where he’d hit her yesterday, and she felt it acutely when she spoke.

“I think you do something crazy when I sleep. So I tie you up again,” he explained, clearly seeing her distress.

Her stomach felt as if it were turning itself inside out with hunger. There was a bowl on the floor--the same one from yesterday--and another with water. Her animal instincts kicked in, and she crawled to it. She was too hungry to care that she had to eat like a horse.

Alexei, who had gone back to reading the paper, glanced at her occasionally as she inhaled the stewy soup. She was too hungry to care that it was tasteless and had an odd, goopy texture.

She licked the bowl clean, and her entire body felt better, more energized, less achy. She gulped the water down to quench her intense thirst.

Panting, she leaned against the bed and stared at the door.

“Please, Alexei,” she begged for what must have been the 20th time. “Please, can you tell me where I am now?”

He folded up the newspaper and placed it beside him on the bed, tilted his head and stared at her, as if studying her to try to figure her out. “You really not remember?” he asked finally.

“No.”

He sighed loudly. “You shoot someone, Chara.”

She gulped. What??

“It was at party before Full Moon Party. I think you take some weird drug or something. You go crazy. You put your hands around this guy neck. You keep screaming “Mike! Mike!” and then you have gun. You take gun, and you shoot man in head. A lot of blood. I see everything. I see you go crazy. I see you not know how to use gun. You not mean to shoot him. So I save you from police. I pick you up and take you to jungle. Police look for you everywhere. But I make sure they don’t find. If they find you, you go jail, you never come out. Maybe they kill you in there. I don’t know. Better you stay here now.”

Chara blinked and shook her head. “...What!? No. I’m sorry, no.”

“You really not remember anything?” he sat up, leaning towards her. His green eyes bore into hers.

“I---” she sighed. “No. The last thing I remember was being in Jak’s condo.” This makes no sense. I wouldn’t go and party without Jak and Anna. They would have been there. Where were they?

He shook his head. “Now police look everywhere on this island, Samui, mainland. They say they not stop until they find you. But I know Thailand. Maybe one, two year. They stop.”

“One or two years!” Chara cried. “I’m not staying here for one or two years!”

He raised his eyebrows and blinked at her, finally shaking his head. “You can say ‘thank you’. I save your life.”

Chara stared up at him in disbelief. “Thank you? I’m sorry, but your story makes no sense. Where was Jak? Where was Anna? They would have been the ones who saved me! And why don’t I remember anything?”

“I think you take too much drug, or you have uhhh, how you say? Psycho…”

“Psychotic episode?”

He snapped his fingers and pointed at her. “You keep saying these Jak and Anna. But darling, you have some pretty bad psychotic episode. I know everyone on island. I run my business here for 20 year…”

“And the people you speak of not exist.”

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