Chapter 7

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Chapter seven

[Derrek’s POV]

I sat down on the bench as I watched Val make her way down to the box. I was concentrating on her retreating back that I thought I saw Coach Shulk with two shadows in the corner of my eye, but when I looked properly there was only one. There must have been another light shining her way or something.

I was intrigued to see what they would throw Val’s way. She’d gone through a lot and always pulled through so I knew she’d do well in ‘the real world’ as Coach Shulk put it, even if she somehow did manage to fail the test. She walked into the box and waited. I remembered when I went in and how surprised I was when I couldn’t see anything outside.

The simulation had been so real. I swear I could remember the feel of hypothermia setting in within seconds! I had no feeling in my extremities and something like standing up had been practically impossible. The bite of the blizzard wind was harsh and I thought I could feel frostbite everywhere. However, when Coach Shulk stopped the simulation all the coldness and pain I’d felt were gone. It was as though it never happened.

Even when the other students ended up drowning or their hair was set alight on fire and the simulation stopped, they ended up dry again or back with their full set of hair. The feeling of the simulation was real... but in the end it nothing more than virtual reality.

The box lit up again with its blinding light and when it faded away I saw Val stuck in a burning room. Even though the box was huge, the room she was set in was so tiny the single bed took up almost half the space. I watched as she choked on the thick smoke and dropped down to the ground to avoid breathing in too much.

“What in the hell?! This wasn’t the simulation I set!” I heard Coach Shulk’s loud voice boom.

My eyes darted from Val over to Coach Shulk and saw she was looking over the control panel with a panicked expression. She tried pressing several buttons and turning dials and I began to worry because she’d never had to do that with any of the other students. Helena and I swapped worried looks and in no time we were running down over to the coach to see what was going on.

“Coach Shulk what’s happening?” I demanded immediately.

“Something wrong” she muttered distractedly. “I was supposed to set her test in a drought but this came up. The setting has been changed and it’s no longer the same as a simulation. The flames and smoke may be the same as before with other simulations... but the effect it has on her will be very real”

“WHAT!” Helena and I cried together. I looked over to Val and saw her crouched low and her clothes had begun to catch fire. Her screams pierced through my heart and I shot my hand out to try to extinguish the fire.

It was no use.

In the back of my mind I knew it was of no use. I knew I couldn’t stop the fire from burning at her delicate skin and eating away at her hair. I couldn’t stop the fire from spreading everywhere and eating everything in its path. I felt useless and helpless and couldn’t do anything with my ability to help save Val.

I snapped my head over to Coach Shulk and fire blazed in my eyes. I could feel heat waves emanating off my skin and holes began to burn in my shirt as small bursts of flames began to spout from my anger.

“What are you doing?!” I shouted at the coach, “She’s being burned alive! Turn the simulation off damnit! She could die!!!”

Coach Shulk was still frantically pushing everything in sight and for once she didn’t look like the menacing bulky teacher who acted like a man, she looked like a helpless frightened woman. “I’m trying!” she cried back. “It won’t shut down until she’s unconscious or finishes the test!”

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