Fiction On Odyssey: The OutBound

Fiction On Odyssey: The OutBound

“I don’t sleep. My mind has the scary capability of being dark and demented.” “You’re afraid of your dreams?” “Yes.”

"I don't sleep. My mind has the scary capability of being dark and demented."

If we were anywhere else, my instant response would be, "Same!" followed by some sort of half-joke about the severity of my workload. As it is, I just do the curious-head-cock thing and say,

"You're afraid of your dreams?"


Her quiet, haunted voice fills the cozy library nook that I've claimed for my sessions. She sounds so… tired. Her tone is a careful deadpan, but she still manages to exude a world-weary fatigue.

Not to mention her appearance; the gaunt face caked in grime and smudges, the scabbed over cut streaking across her cheekbone, the faded and stained hoodie that she's shoved her hands into, and the alarmingly thin frame all make it obvious that she's not in desirable circumstances. She's probably an OutBound, which means I could get arrested just for talking to her. I don't care.

Despite her rank odor, I've never wanted to hug anyone more than I have Ally Orwell.

Yet, after doing these little peer counseling sessions for so long, I'm at least halfway decent at reading people. Ally seems like the last thing she wants is pity.

"You know something, Ally?" I say. I relax in my chair and opt to go the laid-back route. It feels kinda weird, to be saying my name and not be referring to myself, but Ally is a pretty common nickname.

(Though, I'm sorely tempted to ask her if she's related to my favorite author. If I could have any last name, it'd definitely be Orwell.)


I paraphrase a WebMD fact. "The thing about scary dreams is that they're just that: dreams. You know?"

"Right," she says. "Because no matter how scary a nightmare is, it's not real and most likely won't happen to you in real life."

Woah. That's kinda weird. It's almost like she took the words right out of my head, verbatim. Coincidence, I guess. Even though WebMD is borderline outdated, it's still a reliable source of information, especially for those like me who can't afford those fancy MediKnow things. Ally probably uses it just like I do. Though, her voice is... odd, when she says it. Almost cynical-sounding.

She tucks her hair behind clunky black glasses reminiscent of the pair I keep as backup if I lose my contacts. I do the same thing whenever I feel nervous, which probably means I just made her uncomfortable by taking too long to answer. Great job, Ally. Some psychologist-in-training you're turning put to be.

I open my mouth to respond, but—

"What's your happiest memory?"

I blink, surprised. Her eyes expression is really intense. It's kind of creepy, to be honest.

"Who's counseling who here?" I try to joke.

She doesn't bite, instead staring at me expectantly through the familiar-looking glasses. I sigh. I guess some of the students I talk to are bound to be a bit on the weirder side.

Then again, I guess "weird" is just another way of coping in this messed up world. It's not like anyone can put trust in the government anymore, not after the whole "sacrifice for the greater good" stunt they tried to pull on the OutBound. Just because you've been marked as a potential carrier of a population-destroying disease doesn't mean you're any less of a person.

Ally's totally living proof of that! She's probably marked, but I don't see a deadly killer. I see a scared girl, just a couple years older than me, who wants nothing more than —

"You gonna say anything?"

Oh. Right. The conversation I was in the middle of before spacing out. Whoops. I tend to do that a lot.

"Sorry. If I had to pick, I guess I'd say my fourteenth birthday party."

Just the thought of it made me smile. As far as birthday parties go, it wasn't "perfect" in any sense of the word. Regardless, it was my favorite. I guess because it was the last major event where my family was all together and happy. My dad died in a hovercycle crash a week later.

"Mom accidentally ordered the wrong cake. I guess that didn't really matter because Dad ended up setting it on fire while he was trying to light the candles. My best friend Roland got me a copy of 1984, which has been my favorite book ever since, and my older brother gave me his lucky jacket. It… kinda looked just like the one you're wearing, actually."

I stare. The faded and dirty blue hoodie she's wearing looks really similar to the old hoodie Davie gave me before he went back to college. Davie's, though, had a little white patch on the right sleeve from the one time that Mom spilled bleach on it...

Something draws my eyes to the right sleeve of Ally's hoodie. There's the familiar, lopsided spatter.

I feel Ally's gaze on me. I look up into watery green eyes identical to mine.

"I'm sorry," she whispers, jaw clenched and hands fisted. The tears making tracks in the grime on her face and revealing freckles that I've had since childhood.

But that's impossible. Right? This is too weird.

Ally's crying, though, and my stomach sinks.


"None of us should have had to deal with this," she says with a strange, resigned anger. She stands up and starts to leave.

"Ally? Wait, wait, you can't just leave-"

The intercom crackles to life. I recognize Principal Fields's breathless voice calling some sort of code, one that I'd never heard or read about before. What's going on?!

"Do me a favor?" Her voice is raised over the intercom. She continues before I can muster a response. "Try not to wait so long before telling Roland you like him."

I bound after her, but she slips out of the library. I try to follow her, but the hallway outside is complete chaos. People are panicked, running around, and I can hear screaming and crying and... growling? As I lose sight of my brother's hoodie, I realize that my last patient wasn't coming to me for help.

She was coming to me to say goodbye, to get one last look at the girl she was before everything went horribly, irrevocably wrong.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Cover Image Credit: ClaudiaRae

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The Realness And The Rubbish

What reality TV offers its audience

I watch a lot of reality TV.

Most people’s immediate mental image when reality TV is brought up is mind-numbing Kardashian Jersey Bachelor Teenage Pregnancy cultural slime that is dumbing America down one “unscripted” episode at a time. I share this same disdain towards a lot of the shows that dominate Bravo, MTV, and ABC (especially the white hetero-pile of toxic sludge that is “The Bachelor”) but with a lot of these shows I find myself unapologetically, sometimes regretfully sucked in.

Our modern concept of “reality television” didn’t really exist in America until 1992 when people stopped being polite and started getting real on “The Real World” where seven strangers were picked to live in a loft in New York City: today, 25 years later, it is inescapable. In my twenty years of experience consuming media I have learned that reality TV is one of the easiest ways to connect with people. In the fifth grade I remember discussing “American Idol” with my science teacher and my classmates like it was a religion. In junior high “The Glee Project” capitalized off of adolescents’ obsession with Finn Hudson and high school glee clubs. Today, on “Bachelor” nights groups of girls congregate in dorm common spaces with TVs across my university’s campus. In my own world “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is practically the fabric of mine and other fanatics’ lives. The day after a queen is eliminated I am either in mourning or praying for my favorite’s numbered days in the competition. I remember when I was young there was a cartoon called “Total Drama Island” that was a faux-reality parody of shows like “Survivor” that my friends and I were absolutely obsessed with. I’m still traumatized by the memory of my parents telling me I couldn’t watch anymore because it was too mature for my age.

These reality shows (one merely a parody of reality) have quietly (or not so quietly) influenced me and Americans for years and I’m trying to work through the thoughts surrounding this controversial subject. Many agree that reality TV is frivolous, fluff, lacking any real substance. It’s where the thin, the white, and the heterosexual go to drink, debauch, and embarrass themselves with each ridiculous fight. Most of the TV shows we know have been proven to be fake, unreal, tearing down the edifice that reality TV has built up.

But I love it.

I can’t get enough of it.

Most of the TV I watch and actually keep up with is reality, past and current. The more I watch of it, I realize that a lot of it is filth. So unimportant, so uninspiring, so unartistic, but I can’t stop watching. I’ve realized, though, that it’s because reality TV isn’t a sprint, but a marathon. There’s so much of it that you have to sift through to find the gems worth your attention. In a normal TV show there’s only so much room for boring air time, footage without purpose; everything is deliberate, while reality isn’t supposed to be. Real life isn’t exciting 24/7: it can get messy, it can often seem pointless. But you need to sit through most of it to get to the good stuff, just like with reality TV.

How many episodes of “The Hills” did I have to sit through to get to that single, mascaraed tear that falls down Lauren Conrad’s cheek (“You know why I’m mad at you, you know what you did!”)? Countless seasons of “The Real World” were watched to see that guy slap Irene in Seattle after she outted him. Kim K losing her diamond earring in the ocean and crying has reached peak memedom (“Kim, there’s people that are dying.”) The night Taylor Hicks snatched the crown off of American sweetheart Katharine McPhee’s precious head on “American Idol” would go down in history as The Day the Music Died. And then there’s that guy from “Survivor” who lied about his freaking grandmother dying just to not get voted off the island.

So, I’d like to validate the hours I spend watching twenty somethings get into yet another drunken fight or the parents with way too many children or a Hilton sister milk a cow with the thought that I am waiting. Waiting for that culturally defining moment that I’ll have seen first hand and not after being recycled into a tweet or a meme.

I also hold out hope that these shows are actually real, or at least hold onto some thin shred of reality. I’d like to think that in the finale of “The Hills” when the camera pans away from Brody Jenner to reveal a soundstage, implying that none of the past six seasons were actually real, that this was just an artistic choice, not telling of the actual scriptedness of the show. We’ll never know for sure whether “Laguna Beach” was the real Orange County or just the fake one, so for now all I can do is hope.

Cover Image Credit: unspalsh

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6 Comments You're Sick Of Hearing If You Wear Glasses

Yes I can count the number of fingers you're holding up

I've been wearing glasses for as long as I can remember. In fact, I still have my first pair of little purple glasses sitting in the top drawer of my dresser back home. Being as visually impaired as I am, you can bet I've heard all of the jokes and have been asked all of the questions. These are a few of the comments that people who wear glasses and contacts are sick of hearing.

1. "How many fingers am I holding up?"

Without my glasses, your fingers might be a bit blurry, but that doesn't mean I've lost the ability to count. I can still make out the outlines of the two fingers you're holding.

2. "How bad are your eyes?"

Bad enough that I have to have corrective lenses! My prescription doesn't even make sense to me, how is it going to make sense to you?

3. "Are those glasses real?"

Yeah they're real! I don't go to Claire's and buy frames for fashion or steal the 3D glasses from the movies and pop the lens out of them. I need these for sight, Karen!

4. "Do your contacts hurt to put in/take out/wear?"

They don't hurt once they're in my eye and if they do, that means they're scratched or old and I should probably throw them away. For the most part, they're great until a speck of dust or eyelash gets in my eye. Then, and only then, do my eyes feel like they're legitimately on fire.

5. "Why do your glasses fog up so much?"

This is why I never wear glasses in the winter. The lenses fog when you go from a really cold place into a heated building and water condenses. The result is me looking like Chandler up there: confused and blind.

6. "Are you near or far sighted?"

I honestly couldn't tell you. All I know is my eyes are messed up beyond repair and I need glasses for the rest of my life.

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