Hell is Home by Hynnja Dietrich

Prompt: You are a broke college student who is in desperate need of money, you respond to an advertisement to test a new virtual reality technology at a local tech startup; they are paying well. The VR technician tells you that this new experience will be indistinguishable from reality. He seats you in a chair and injects you with a syringe in the base of your neck. Before you pass out, he tells you that the simulation will detect and subject you to your greatest fears.

Beep, beep, beep. I opened my eyes to the familiar surroundings of home and turned to shut my phone alarm off. It was already 6:37 in the evening. The television asked “are you still watching?” I must’ve accidentally fell asleep after eating lunch. I frantically stand up and begin straightening the living room before my parents come home. I call for Bean and Kiki, my sisters, to come help me clean. No response, of course, they’re probably too absorbed into their damn games to pay attention to me. I call for them, no response again. At this point I am a little agitated, I walk back to Kiki’s room to get them. 

“AHHHH! Keona, please no!” I shout to my eldest of my two younger sisters.

I walk into her room as she is stepping off a chair with a rope around her neck. There she is, just dangling from the beam in her room. I stood awestruck then quickly rushed to aid her. I couldn’t believe what I just witnessed, I heard a loud crack, but the chair appeared fine. That moment I knew it was her neck I heard. Quickly, I take her down from the rope and embrace her crying into her shoulder cradling her neck to keep it from swaying around like a dead snake.  I layed her lifeless body on the floor, her eyes still open, looking into her ocean blues I remember the millions of times staring at them. From the first memory of holding her as a baby, all the way to the countless tickle fights, those memories filling us with laughter. 

I bolt to my feet and start yelling for Sofia, Bean. I opened up my parent’s bedroom. There was no sign of Bean. I rush to the bathroom to see my youngest sister in a tub of blood coming from her serrated arms. It was just… oozing. I stood there aimlessly staring at what felt like a horror movie.

Beep, beep, beep. I jolt up, gasping for a breath of air. My heart was racing as if I had ran a marathon. I glance quickly at the clock, oddly it says 6:37. I hear the distinct chatter of my sisters from the back of the house. I set out to go look for them to ask what they wanted for dinner. Walking back to my sisters room something felt funny in my stomach, as if deja vu was occurring. I open the door to a strange figure standing behind my sisters. He is dressed in all black, but his face is blurry as if being censored in a movie. What is going on? This must be a dream. He slowly pulls out a gun and aims at Sofia’s head, I try to move forward and run towards her, but I cannot move. My body is paralyzed. I attempt to shout to warn her. I watch him get closer and closer to her head and try to shut my eyes because I could not bare to witness it, but my eyes wouldn’t close no matter how hard I tried. Bang! Keona gets up and runs, and just as she was passing me, bang! Right beside me… with nothing I could do but just watch.

I wake up, again, but this time in a chair with my arms and legs locked into place, I frantically look around the room to figure out what was going on. 

“Thank you for volunteering to help us make our VR gaming system better.”

Oh yea. My heart felt heavy from the experience, but relieved for all that to be over.

“Yea, you’re welcome.”

“May I ask you a few questions to improve future experiences.”

“Sure.” I said hesitating a little bit because in all honestly I just wanted to go back home.

“Okay, on a scale of one through ten what would you rate the visual quality of your experience?”

“Definitely, but at one point a person had a blurry face, absolutely no details at all.”

“Could you feel anything physically.”


“Okay, once again thank you for your time, you can pick up your money from the front desk on the way out.”

I grab my coat off the table and head to the front desk, they handed me an envelope with four hundred dollars. I wasn’t expecting to get this much money for testing a game, I need to start doing this more often. Walking out to my car, I keep thinking about how real everything seemed and how successful that gaming system will be. Bing. My phone sounds off a notification sound so I check it and my mom had texted me asking me to pick up my sisters from school today because she’d be working late. Usually I would be irritated and not want to, but this time I was happy. 

“How was y’alls day at school?”

“Good.” They both reply.

“So are you guys hungry?”

“YES!” They shout eagerly.

“Okay, where you guys wanna eat?”

“McDonald’s” Sofia replies.

“You okay with that Keona?”

“Sure, I’m just super hungry.”

We pull out of the pickup line and start our journey towards McDonald’s.

“I love you guys so…”

                                                                       . . .

“What do we have today, Deputy Dietrich?” 

“It appears to be a head on collision.”

“Any survivors?”

“The woman who hit the Jeep, Marissa, but the other three girls were DOA.”

“What was the cause of the accident?”

“Well Marissa admitted to speeding well over the limit, she claimed to be running late for work at that new gaming company.”

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