It’s the future. I’m in the future. It’s not a nice place. It’s fucking terrifying. Dark. The dream starts, and here I am, strapped to a chair, like that episode of LOST, being forced to watch The City’s propaganda videos. The video starts out with a narrator telling us all about the vicious mecha-dinosaurs. We created them. We made them, so we must stop them. Somehow they started growing, evolving. Turning on us. The ones who gave them life. They are even more aggressive and violent than the ancient dinosaurs that were cold-blooded and made of scales. These are a nightmare, and we were living it, every single day.
The projector flickers the title screen onto the concrete wall. The narrator tells me the story of the one hero. The Dinosaur Killer. Our role model. All of us, we are being trained to fight like this person. They are calling it trained, but my mind fights back. This isn’t training. This is fucking brainwashing. The footage shows two military-clad guys in a futuristic open-air Jeep riding around in a lush African Savanna. Shiny metallic raptors chased them.
The narrator says, “You will protect The City at all costs.” Mecha-Raptors catch up to the guys in the Jeep. One of them springs up and lands on the side of it while it’s rolling across the prairie. The tires pop. Raptors eyes light up a devilish red as they all screech in unison. They are smarter than us. They do not want to eat us. They have no need to eat us. They are fucking robots. What do they want?
They want us to kill each other. They are manipulative, sadistic, and just fucking mean. They’ve evolved so much over the years that they even have a mild form of mind-control, the narrator says informatively. The driver turns his head slowly to his partner. His eyes are blank and empty. The herd is still and quiet. They all stare at the passenger, silently. The driver raises his arm up. There is a giant rock clenched in his fist. He is being controlled by The Dinosaurs. The camera zooms in on his face. It is void of all emotion except there are tears pouring down his cheeks. The dinosaurs hiss but it almost sounds like cynical laughter. The one perched atop the Jeep screeches, cuing the driver to bash the fucking passenger’s head in with the rock.
I am forced to watch as he smashes the boulder into his partner’s head, over and over, until there’s nothing but slippery goo falling out of the back of the skull. But he doesn’t stop. He keeps smashing this pile of face… But he isn’t like the others. He is stronger. His mind is stronger. We must be more like The Hero.
He screams with blood going all in his mouth and after moments of tension, he tosses the rock at the raptor on the car. They all scatter. No one has defied them like this before. No one has had control over their own thoughts in 100 years.
He runs across the prairie, gasping and holding his head. “He is safe… for now.” The narrator adds coyly.
I’m standing in The City. Dinosaurs and people lived together… if you could call it living. The dinosaurs are tyrants. They’re filthy, savage creatures, and our fleshy human selves can do absolutely nothing to stop them. Humans are a minority. We live inside The City walls and are forced to live in Barracks. I step up to the table that is set up outside the inner City. The ground is worn down to hard, smooth dirt. I have no shoes. It’s so busy outside the barracks. I can hear humans bartering with each other for food. Children in rags are running around playing. Dinosaurs are bullying humans. They all try to keep to their own groups, but it was chaos.
The lady at the table hands me a drawstring bag. “Here are your items,” she says. I assume it’s filled with rations and bedding materials. “You’re in 8W.” She points me in the right direction.
8W. It echoes through my head. It sounds so familiar. 8W. 8W. Where have I heard that before? I turn around with my bag over my shoulder and start wading through the streets. People are everywhere, laying on blankets, sitting on stumps and stools, selling leather pieces and other shitty things. As they look up from their blankets, they stop what they are doing. The children stop running. Everyone watches me walk to 8W. They know something about 8W. I saw something about 8W in that video but my brain is so exhausted from The City films that I just can’t remember.
I reach the inner city, and walk down a small musty alleyway, looking for my barrack.
In the distance, I hear massive applause. I follow the sound of laughter and music until I reach the arena. It’s a wooden shack with a tin roof, but it’s huge. Wooden planks form a stage, and people are sitting in the rafters, cheering for The Hero. Fucking Jon Jafari. He recounts his tales of bravery, fighting off countless Mecha-Dinosaurs outside The City walls. He laughs, but it is empty. He makes jokes, but his eyes are fucking sad. He’s seen too much. It’s all a show for the people. The government is using him, no doubt. After he leaves the stage, he walks past me and says “Are you new? Where are you going?”
8W, I tell him. He stares blankly at me and blinks. He looks for the nearest door and shoves me inside it. It’s a one person bathroom with a rusted lock. It’s freezing in here.
Do you want to see something? He asks.
He lifts a tile up on the floor and brings up a dirty metal box. He opens it up and pulls out a deck of worn, weathers Cards Against Humanity cards. My eyes widen! I haven’t seen these in a long, long time. I thumb through them, they are so old they are falling apart. I thumb past one and he stops me “No! You have to read the extra stuff we wrote on it!” They had made them even more vulgar than the original cards. Despite this crazy as fuck dream, I find myself laughing. He puts an arm around me and starts humming along to a movie that is playing (In this shitty tiny dream bathroom) He says, “I know you’re trying to get skinny and all, but you looked great before, as a bigger girl.”
Does he remember me from somewhere? Or Is he reading my mind?
From inside the bathroom, I hear a hissing sound… But it’s not like the raptor’s hissing. It’s different.
“Smokers” Jon whispers. “We’ve been here too long.” He unlocks the door and holds it open for me. When I step outside, a pink mist engulfs us. I start coughing and everything gets hazy.
I wake up. I’m on the stage. I stand up. There are bright stage lights shining in my eyes. I step up to the microphone. “What’s going on?” There’s no cheering. There’s no clapping. There’s no sound at all, save for white noise feedback off the PA.
The music starts.
I am informed that, being in 8W, The Hero’s barrack, I am constantly subjected to humiliation and bullying. The first game being, I have to sing karaoke, or fucking kill another human.
I sing, no shit.
When I stop singing, everyone cheers so fucking loud, they are clapping so loud my ears hurt, and I see in the distance, a new girl approaching the stage, holding her drawstring bag, looking very, very lost.
She tugs at me when I walk by her “I’m looking for 8W.”
I just stare at her and blink. “The maestro is looking for me.” I state matter-of-factly, and head down the alleyway to 8W.
In order to restore equality with humans and Dinosaurs, we must keep fighting each other. We must keep hiding our rebellion. We must save our strength for an uprising.
The question is, how long can we survive?
I woke up.