Tatum Tylke, Staff Writer


My name is Nataly, and I am 17 years old. I’m going to be a senior next school year, and I have my life planned already. Everything is perfect, but nothing ever really is. My life is far from it. I’m actually 14, and my name isn’t Nataly, it’s Tera. I am in a hospital about to die. “How in the world could all this have happened?” I’m sure you’re wondering, and honestly, I’m not quite sure myself. Let me explain.


Bright, white lights shine into my blurred eyes. I am lying down somewhere I don’t know. I hear mumbles of what I assume are voices. Hovering above me are dark blurs in the form of heads. I can’t move. I can’t talk. A thought pounds in my head: Where am I? 

I jerk awake. As my eyes come into focus, I look around the room. The sun is peeking through my curtains, welcoming me to another 5:00 am morning. “I can’t keep living like this. I’m supposed to enjoy my last summer as a kid,” I mumble to myself. I’ve had that dream over and over for about 2 months now. Every night I get closer to the truth. I saw figures; I heard voices. For some reason, that “dream” I keep connecting it to could very well be reality. Maybe the world I see isn’t real. Possibly everyone I’ve met isn’t real. My family? No, that can’t be right. I’m crazy. Yes, I’m just crazy. 

I slip out of my bed and look into my mirror. It reflects my horrifying appearance to me, teasing me. My hair is glued to my forehead with sweat, and I look like I haven’t slept in weeks. “You need a shower,” my mirror seems to be yelling at me. Which, I agree, I do need a shower. 

Ever since the dreams started, my morning routine has been waking up at 5:00, getting a thirty-minute shower, and going downstairs to watch TV. While my lucky family gets to sleep till 7:00.


I tiptoe into the bathroom; which connects my bedroom to my brother’s and silently close the door. “Nataly, you are a wreck. Just look at you,” as I grumble at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Just when you think your life is flawless, it doesn’t turn out to be quite so. I have my whole life planned out! I’ve already written my college essay! And now, I don’t know what’s real. These thoughts race through my mind as I slip out of my clothes and into the shower.

I change into clothes and tiptoe down the stairs. I enter my living room and look around. I do love my life; everything is spectacular. My parents and my brother love me, and I love them. But I can’t help but wonder, maybe it is too perfect. What if this isn’t real? What if my life is all a lie? I ponder at the TV. I can’t believe that. That can’t be true. I have a family. A family who loves me. I brush away these disturbing thoughts, plop on the couch, and connect my headphones to the TV. 


At some point, I doze off.


“Do you think she knows?” I hear a male voice, but I can’t see anything. He’s probably talking to other people, but where am I?


“I’m not sure. But, she does seem to be questioning the family we made for her,” another masculine voice pounds through my head. I try to move my limbs or open my eyes, or something


“How could she know, though? I thought this simulation was supposed to be and feel real to her,” a woman this time. Simulation? I need to get out of here. What is going on? 


I hear a familiar scream…my scream. I jolt up and look around to find I had fallen off the couch. “Lovely,” I mutter to myself in annoyance. I sit up, and notice a shadow hovering over me. 


“I heard you shower again this morning.” It’s my older brother, Ashton.


“Sorry to have woken you.” I look up and give him an annoyed look. “Do you know what time it is?”


“It’s 7:30.”




“Sure.” He shrugs and walks into the kitchen.

“Are mom and dad up yet?” I ask as I stand up, and join him in the kitchen. 


“No, which is surprising, cause your scream was loud.” He chuckles as he warms up a bagel. “What’s up with you, anyway?”


I think about his question for a moment. What is wrong with me? “I don’t know. Just keep on having the same dream.”


“Ahh, scared of a nightmare?” he smirks while he butters his bagel. 






“Fine. Maybe I am.”


“Well, what’s so scary about it?”


“I don’t know…It’s just that…I don’t know that I’m truly here.”


“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asks as he walks over to the table and sits down.


I walk over and sit across from him. “Well…I keep on having dreams that my bodily form is somewhere else, and I don’t know whether it’s true or if I’m really here.”


He stares at me as he chews on a bite of bagel. “You’re trying to mess with me, aren’t you?”


“No, I’m being serious.”


“It’s too early for this, Nat.” Ashton rubs his eyes.


“Don’t you ever feel that way, though?”

“What, that my life is a lie?”


“Umm…yeah, kinda.”


“I think you’re coo-coo.”


“No, I’m serious Ashton.”


He sets down his bagel and looks at me with concern. “Nat. If this is some joke, I suggest you stop now. I’m starting to worry about you.” 


I think for a moment. The number of what-ifs is many, so many, but I can see if my what-ifs are true. If not, if I’m just insane, then I can just play it off as a concerning joke.


“It’s not a joke. This is all some sort of simulation.”




“It’s not, actually. I wish you were real because you are an amazing brother to have.”


“Stop it.”


“No, Ashton.”


“Nat! Stop!”


“No. This! Isn’t! Real!”




Silence…pure silence. Either Ashton knocked me out, or I was right. Slowly, my eyes come into focus. White. Lots of white. I became conscious of my body. It aches. I can’t move. 

I hear a voice. Feminine, young, pretty. “She is awake. This isn’t good.” he is worried.

As my eyes fully focus, I realize that I’m in a hospital of sorts. The room is large with white lights and walls. It is filled with technology. I try to move just to find that I am strapped to a bed. My clothing consists of a pale blue gown.

I look around more. Next to my bed, there is a tablet displaying the vital signs of Tera Steele, age 14. On that tablet, there is a photo…of me. I’m Tera? Also, on the tablet, there is a large photo of a brain. . .with a tumor. 

I frantically look around and find the young woman who I had heard before. “What is going on? I have cancer? My name is Tera? Is this another dream?” I freak out. 

She looks at me with sad eyes. “I’m sorry. Yes, your name is Tera, and I’m your personal carer, Dr. Delta Shauw.” Delta sighs and walks towards me. “This is a hospital designed for kids with deadly cancer, and you are one of them.” 

“I’m going to die? How long have I been here? Why was I in a simulation?” I try to sit up, but the straps hold me back along with the pain I feel throughout my body. 

She looks at me with sorrow. “You and your family came here about a year ago after they discovered you have cancer. You came to this specific hospital because a group of scientists and doctors discovered a possible cure.” Delta takes a seat next to my bed and sets her left palm on my legs. “I’m sorry…this is so hard.”


She pauses for a long time and says, “The ‘simulation’ as you called it, is the cure. It puts a child with cancer into a complete rest, a dreaming state. While they are in a permanent sleep, doctors can assess the tumor and find a way to remove it. So, each child is put into another life, their dream life, with different identities, and ages. The only way for the child to leave the sleeping state is if a doctor removes them from it, or in your case, find their own way out.” Delta rubs her tired face with her hands and looks at me. “What lead you out of the simulation?”


“My dreams. In the simulation after a while, I had dreams of this…this reality.” I watch my hands fidget with the straps of the bed.

“That’s the flaw, then.” she pauses, then says, “Thank you Tera. But…because you have awaken…I…” Tears roll down her face. “Tera…I’m sorry.”


I look into her sad eyes, and slowly I realize that I’m going to die.