Chastity wasn't really interested in anything on TV, but watching
infomercials was better than facing her mom and sister. She yawned, and
when she opened her eyes again, the image had been replaced by static.
"Come on," she said, standing and trying to adjust the antennae. She
couldn't fix anything, though, and gave up just as the doorbell rang.
Somehow, she knew this would have something to do with her, and left her
bedroom to see who was at the door.
She discovered a police officer, Faith, and her mother looking very grim.
"What's going on?" Chastity asked.
The police officer inclined his head in an odd way, and her mom shooed
Faith out of the room. Once her sister was safely out of hearing range,
the police officer stepped into Chastity's house and asked, "Do know a
young woman about your own age named Marie Le'Salle?"
As soon as the police officer said the name, Chastity realized that Marie
hadn't been in school that day. She hadn't even noticed; probably because
she was too caught up in all the changes that had happened. Now, however,
she feared what the answer might be when she said, "Yes, I know her. She's
a friend of mine from school. What happened?"
"She was found murdered today in her home," the officer said, not even
attempting to soften the blow. Chastity cursed under her breath. Would
the person controlling her life really kill someone to hurt her? Things
were getting out of hand; maybe it would be better if she agreed to stop
trying to learn the truth.
There was more. The officer sighed, then said, "There was considerable
evidence found in her home to suggest that you might be a suspect."
Chastity heard her mom gasp. "Now, I'm not trying to accuse you of
anything here, ma'am, but if you could just answer a few questions for me,
maybe we can clear all of this up. Did the two of you have a fight or
"No," Chastity answered. Everything in the world seemed to have slowed
down, each breath she took seemed to last an eternity. Was this the
woman's way of torturing her, or was she in shock from the news? Why
hadn't she reacted this way when she'd heard of her father's death?
The policeman was making a face; he didn't believe Chastity. Of course he
wouldn't. He looked down and shuffled his feet uncomfortably, then asked,
"Has your friend been acting strangely lately? Maybe she was having
problems with another friend, or her family? Maybe she and her boyfriend
were having some issues?"
"She didn't have a boyfriend. Would you excuse me? I think I need to sit
down." Chastity numbly walked into the kitchen to take a seat at the
table. She felt slightly sick to her stomach, and a little dizzy. She put
her arms on top of her head to help her breathing, and wondered where she'd
learned that little trick. It didn't matter.
In the other room, she heard her mom speak to the officer. "I'm sorry
about all this, officer," she was explaining. "Chastity can be a little
wild and disrespectful sometimes, but I never thought she was capable of
murdering someone. Of course, lately, she has been acting very strange,
and it has become more and more difficult for me to control her. When I
told her that her father had died, she barely even reacted." Chastity
cursed again, quietly.
The next hour consisted of questions- some of them simple, others, more
difficult. Chastity was quizzed over everything she'd done over the past
several days, and many of the questions, she couldn't answer without
sounding crazy. She couldn't tell him that her life had once been perfect,
or that some sort of magical woman was controlling all that she did. She
couldn't tell him about the man in a golden suit, or that the rules had
changed, and that she only got in trouble because someone had changed the
world on her.
It wasn't worth lying about, anyway. If Chastity continued on her current
path, would more people die? Maybe it was better she gave up. The police
officer asked another question. Chastity wasn't listening, but she knew
how to answer, anyway. "I give up," she said. "You win, you can do what
you want, and I know it's pointless for me to keep trying. Do what you
"Excuse me?" the officer asked. Chastity looked up at him, and he repeated
his question. "Did anyone seem to act strangely when they realized that
Marie Le'Salle was not in class today?" It hadn't worked. Her surrender
hadn't been accepted, and now Chastity would be punished for her rebellion.
It wasn't fair.
She took a deep breath and attempted to answer the question. Why did it
matter what she said, anyway? She knew she would be charged with the
murder no matter what she did or said. "I . . . don't know," she answered.
"I never really noticed she was gone. We must have all assumed she was
sick or something."
Her mother left the room. Was she disgusted, or pleased with the trouble
Chastity was now in? The officer looked very uncomfortable, but said,
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to place you under arrest. There's no need
to be nervous- if you have nothing to hide, you won't get in too deep of
Why was he being so nice? Chastity nodded numbly, and he pulled a pair of
handcuffs off his belt. He recited her Miranda Rights while handcuffing
her hands behind her back. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything
you do or say can or will be used against you in the court of law. You
have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, the state
will provide one for you."
The ride to the station was dreary. The rain had stopped while Chastity
had been at home, but now, it began again. The officer didn't talk to her,
and Chastity wasn't sure what he would think or do if she tried to start a
conversation with him. She glanced out the window, and observed that the
cloudy, gray sky reflected her dark mood.
At the station, her photo and fingerprints were taken. She was lead to a
jail cell, and left alone there with her thoughts. Chastity leaned back on
her lone bench, and stared at the dirty ceiling. A lot of graffiti had
been written all over her cell; mostly curse words. For maybe the first
time in her life, Chastity had an urge to destroy something- maybe scratch
a little graffiti of her own into the bench or wall.
"You should be careful of what you say," a familiar voice said. Chastity
didn't look up; she only turned her head to see the man in her cell with
her. She couldn't bring herself to be excited at the sight of her friend,
or to even get up off the bench. "You know, it almost sounded like you
were giving up when you gave that little speech to the officer," the man
said, leaning against the bars of the cage.
"I was giving up," Chastity said. Her voice sounded tired. The man,
looking very worried, took a step forward, and Chastity looked up again.
Maybe she should at least give him an explanation. "Marie is dead," she
said. "She died because the woman wanted to show me how bad she could make
my life. Now, I'm being accused of murdering my friend. I don't care
about that, though. What I care about is Marie. She's dead- and I might
as well have murdered her, because she wouldn't be dead if not for me. I
don't want anyone else to die, and that's why I give up."
"Is that what you think?" the man asked. He knelt beside Chastity's bench.
"Marie's not dead," he said. This news was enough to shock Chastity out
of her self-pity, and she whipped her head around to face him. He laughed
at her reaction, and Chastity sat up a little straighter.
"Marie's not real!" he declared. "I mean, yes, she is real, but not here.
That's the thing. The woman can't create people for a real world- this is
all based on the things in your head. She can control the way your friends
act, but their names, faces, their relationship to you- that's all from
your mind. That's why she couldn't create a dad for you. In your mind,
he's dead and gone, and she can't change that."
Chastity wasn't sure whether to be comforted or concerned. After all, if
Marie was dead here, in this world, what had happened to the real Marie?
"I have a friend named Marie outside of this place?" she asked, and the man
nodded. "She's not dead?" Chastity asked hesitantly.
"No, she's not dead!" the man declared. "What happens here has no bearing
on what happens in the real world. The only way the woman could kill one
of your friends is by physically finding that friend, then killing him or
her. Frankly, she'd have nothing to gain from doing that, though. If she
were to do that, we would invariably find her and imprison her, and since
she can control your mind in this world, she doesn't need to things like
that in the real world."
"Why wait until she kills someone?" Chastity couldn't help but ask. "It
sounds like she's threatened you, and people probably aren't too happy
about what she's doing to me here in this world. Whoever you are, it
sounds like you have some control of the criminal justice system. Why not
arrest her now before she does something serious that can't be fixed?"
"We don't know where she is," the man said. "She's in hiding now. We're
hoping to find her soon, but until then, I need to make sure you don't give
her too much information. Remember, she's looking for something called a
PAK, and you are the only person who knows where that is. At this point, I
think the reason she's not letting you give up is because we're getting
close to finding her, and she's starting to panic. She's going to want to
find the PAK, and she's going to want to find it soon. It is very
important that you don't tell her where it is."
"As long as I keep it a secret, she can't hurt anyone, right?" Chastity
asked. She understood what was happening well enough, but it never hurt to
make sure, especially when lives were at stake. "I should just trust you
when you tell me that nobody is dead? You wouldn't lie to me- would you?"
"I wouldn't lie to you," the man agreed. "I know you want to trust me- and
you should listen to your instincts. They are your connection to the real
world." It was true. Chastity knew it was true, and she'd known that her
gut feelings were important even before he'd told her. This was just a
"Do you remember what you dreamt about last night?" the man asked, and
Chastity replied that she couldn't remember any dreams she'd ever had.
"That's because you don't dream. When you sleep here, you wake up in the
real world, and when you sleep there, you wake up here. That's how you can
tell that the woman isn't controlling your instincts. They renew
themselves every morning."
Chastity felt truly comforted by what the man said, when the woman's voice
reached her ears. "Do you really believe what he's saying?" she asked, and
Chastity looked up to see a police officer standing outside the bars of her
cell. Her eyes were red, as Chastity had expected. The woman unlocked the
door, then stepped inside.
"Don't tell me you believe his lies," the woman said. "It sounds nice,
doesn't it? All you need to do is go to sleep, and everything will be all
better and your friend will still be alive? That's even more difficult to
believe than the idea that your life could have been perfect. I know you
want to believe him, but lets face the truth; Marie is dead, and it's all
Chastity glanced at the man, and he nodded, letting her know that she could
confront the woman if she wanted. Chastity had known she'd do it anyway,
but it was nice to know she had the man's support. She rose from her seat,
then walked forward until she stood eye to eye with the woman. "You're a
liar," she said. "I know you're a liar even without the man, and now, it's
even more clear to me."
The woman didn't even bat an eye at the accusation. "I can make things
better again," she said. "Marie is dead; I can't bring her back, but with
a little help from me, you can forget she ever existed. Would you like to
be perfect again? I can do it, but the rules will change. Not only must
you forget all the nonsense this man has told you, but you must tell me
where I can find the PAK. Why do you care about it anyway? You don't even
know what it is, and it's not really worth getting into all this trouble
for, is it?"
"What sort of person do you think I am?" Chastity asked, feeling herself
grow more confident with every word. She smiled. "Am I going to back down
when faced with a little adversity? I don't really believe anything you
say anyway, so maybe it's only fitting that I should refuse your offer of
perfection. Who would want to be perfect anyway? You could never make a
The woman looked furious. She lifted Chastity off the ground by the collar
of her shirt and began to shake her. Chastity was amazed at the woman's
strength, but then she stopped thinking altogether as her head shook about.
The woman was screaming at her, but Chastity couldn't hear what was said.
Suddenly, she felt herself fly through the air; the woman had thrown her.
With a loud CRACK! her head smacked into the wall, and she slumped to the
ground. Her neck felt wet. Were her ears bleeding? The world was hazy,
but it looked like someone was coming toward her. Chastity closed her