It's so different out there

By Gabriel Ricard

This is sort of a fantasy effort I suppose…it forces you to carry a high suspension of disbelief. Enjoy.

Jessica sighed, pushing aside the strands of straight, red hair which seemed to constantly drift towards her eyes. She realized it wasn't going to be worth it telling Lloyd not to bother. They had been together for close to forty years. Their time in the cage was longer than anyone else. Inside, people died without notice, and at any age. She and Lloyd had been unlucky enough to make it to the age they were. No one aged really, a long time ago, the older ones that she and Lloyd had been around, would grow wrinkled in the skin, walk more slowly and breath as if they would go at any moment. Then one day, that simply stopped. Now people died without notice, some would grow to the point of a young adult and stop there. Most never made it that far.

Lloyd waved his hand at Jessica, dismissing her even though Jessica had kept her silence. "I'm telling you, when I open that cage door today. I'm going out there."

"Out there? Out there is nothing. Eternal darkness and you know that." Jessica folded her arms. Half watching a small child turn over in sleep above her.

"How do you know? Because of the signs?" he pointed to one of them. A small piece of wood which simply stated: WARNING DO NOT LEAVE four times in a single vertical row.

"Well, that and the fact we're surrounded by nothing but a black void."

"No one has ever opened the door and I did it." Lloyd knew the argument, tame as it always would be, was

"Sure, now you just have to build up the courage to step out. How long has it been?"

"Four years," Lloyd seemed to be on the verge of adding something but fell silent. Never knowing what to say to her, he hated that.

"Why don't you just tell everyone else? maybe someone else will wanna do it." Jessica had suggested this dozens of times in the past. It was all she could see to do with helping.

"I can't, you know how these kids are. They'll either all panic or try to run out the door at the same time."

Jessica nodded, the answer had been used as much as the suggestion. Between the time Lloyd had first unlocked the door and now, 'the kids' had almost changed roster completely.

"Shall we get to it?" Jessica said at last.

"Sure, while everyone is still asleep up above." Lloyd pointed to the thick, black ceiling . Trying to look through it was obscured by the dozen and then some bodies which lay on their backs, sides and stomachs.

They walked to the door, Lloyd stuck his hand through the cage so that it could touch the door from the outside. Jessica had known several to attempt this approach, and Lloyd had been the only one to have success with it. Jessica watched the strain on Lloyds face, struggling to free the door from it's lock. Five minutes passes, it usually took this long. Sometimes longer.

He unlocked it a minute later, pulling his arm back into the cage. For some reason, he wished immensely that he would someday find out why he could do it. He held it the arm at the shoulder with his other hand. Grimacing slightly and trying to slow the heavy breathing.

"You unlocked it?" Jessica asked, her tone and question rhetorical.

"Yeah." Lloyd answered her, his hand releasing the arm, eyes drifting towards the door, now carrying the possibility of being opened without effort to explore what was beyond it.

Jessica began to watch the door as well. She had never given much though to the idea of going through the door herself. It occurred to her suddenly, as it did on occasion, to ask Lloyd. She never had dared to, mostly from the fear she was so vocal about. She heard herself ask for the first time, her mouth seemingly operating without the use of her mind. Immediately, she tried to pretend she hadn't said anything, seeing the look of shock on Lloyds face. She apologized and looked down.

Lloyd smiled, walking over to her and putting a hand on her shoulder. He knew she shared his dream of leaving, of doing something more than simply unlocking it. "You want to? Really?"

She had expected him to refuse, to talk her out of it. She never imagined he would react so calmly. She wanted to change her mind, but gaining control, stopped herself. Jessica knew she did want to go through the door herself. She couldn't bare these moments of wondering anymore. She nodded, "Yes…I do…" she laughed in a single awkward breath. "It's funny…how I always told you not to bother unlocking it…I was scared…and I still am…but, I want to see for myself. I don't want to be here anymore."

"Neither do I, you know that." He squeezed her shoulder blade. Above him, the light hanging from the cages ceiling went out. Neither of them spoke for the brief time they were surrounded in darkness within. The light came back on with a dull shudder, flickering like a nervous twitch before settling on the weak glow.

"Of course I do, but all we've ever known is this cage. Waiting to die, or disappear. Whatever happens to us. I know it'll happen to us sooner or later, but if there's somewhere else where that can happen, then I want to see it. To be there, I don't care if it turns out to be nothing."

Lloyd didn't answer at first, still clutching her shoulder, tightly. He finally replied, "Okay." He let go of her, only for a moment before taking her hand. He brought her to the door, looking around. Confident that everyone was still sleeping, he reached across and opened the door. They watched the infinite blackness, nothing had changed yet. He turned to her and she to him. Their eyes met at the same time. "Are you ready?"

"I am," if she didn't step out now, she would lose this blinding courage and never think about it seriously again. She let go of Lloyds hand and took two hesitant steps forward. The next one found nothing to support it, she was startled, falling forward. Trying to scream only for something to stop her.

Lloyd had planned to wait longer for Jessica to return on her own, before unlocking the door himself. After a day had passed, during which he kept to his thoughts only and avoided the others, he couldn't stand it any longer. The day following, with everyone asleep, he went to the door. Taking longer to unlock as he was more frantic in the task than ever before. After several attempts, he unlocked it. Ignoring the dull throbbing throughout his left arm, he flung the cage door open quietly.

He was tempted to put his hand through, but refrained. He closed his eyes, opening them with a start as something crashed into him. He scrambled back, it was her. Jessica's eyes whirled from one side to another, bewilderment running through her. She saw Lloyds face and calmed slightly.

Lloyd couldn't help himself but to smile, "You're back."

"I…how did I get back here?" her hands shook. She looked down, then back again to Lloyd.

"I unlocked the door and you came through." Neither of them said anything after that. Lloyd saw Jessica visibly calming down. "So, what was it like? And what happened to your body?"

"Oh," Jessica rose, "These are called clothes…people wear them over their skin. It's really important to them"

"People? Like us you mean?" Lloyd reached for the door, for a brief second, he was tempted to jump through himself without another thought. The door closed, locking itself softly.

"Yeah!" Jessica's voice grew higher, more excited, she wanted to tell him everything at once. "There's…I can't even begin to count. They're everywhere, and they don't live in cages. They live in these big shapes called buildings. It's like the cage except it has a sort of, thick skin."

"What else?" Lloyd could feel his ears, face growing hot.

"Well there's a huge light in the sky like the one we have in here. It goes out and comes back on, but not until much later. And there's these things called 'cars'"


"They're pieces of metal that people get into and then they take you wherever you want to go. I got into one that was yellow."


"Never mind that, I got into one that was yellow. There was a man sitting in it, and I told him to take me anywhere, so he took me to the park. That's a place with trees, grass…it was amazing."

Lloyd didn't bother to ask what a park, tree or grass was. Instead he smiled again, "That's wonderful."

"Oh there's one more thing I have to tell you about, before everyone wakes up."

"What's that?"

Jessica stepped forward, trying to remember to do this exactly as she had seen it. She placed her hand on the back of Lloyds head and pulled him forward, bringing her lips towards Lloyds, and pushing forward when they made contact.

Lloyd thrust his hands past Jessica's head, but as she continued to do this to him, his hands fell, landing at Jessica's side and holding her.

She let go of him at last, "That's called a kiss."

"I just can't," Lloyd tried to avert Jessica's pleading gaze. Before, Lloyd would have merely felt bad at refusing Jessica. After that 'kiss' he felt far worse. He had seen Jessica leave the cage, and return. He could answer yes, the idea seemed so easy. He felt stupid for even questioning it. But no matter how many times he mentally prepared himself, he couldn't say it.

Jessica knew he was unable to go along with her. She was tempted to say that she wouldn't go without him, and she wouldn't if it mattered that much to him. Jessica knew that he wouldn't believe her. She took his hand.

He spoke first, "Go ahead. I'll bring you back one day from now." He pointed to the clock, a large object, uncomfortable looking next to the ramp leading to the next level. "At least, that's how I think it will work."

All Jessica was able to do was kiss him again.

He hadn't expected it this time either but believed he handled it well. "I don't think I'll ever get used to that," he felt his face grow hot, wondering what that was.

"You don't have to, I won't." she let go of his hand, opening the door she turned to him, "I love you."


"I'm not sure what it means exactly either, but I heard people say it to each other after the kissing thing and I had forgot about until now."

"Be sure to find out what it means?"

"I promise," she took a single step forward and was gone.

Lloyd stood at the door as he opened it. Today, he had been particularly paranoid that someone would see him. Because of this, he went to the door and hour earlier than he had promised and even then, did not pick the lock for a full ninety minutes. At last, he went to it and now, stood, arms open, better prepared to catch her when she came through the darkness.

She came through with a blur, Lloyd almost didn't see her coming. He caught her though, suddenly becoming terrified that they would fall and wake everyone up. Stumbling back a bit, but not falling, he held her in an embrace and finally let her go. He saw the face that looked up at him, a panic struck through him and captured him entirely. The wrong person had just come through.

A second later, he took that thought back. Seeing her eyes, weak and growing worse. He recognized their owner. "Jessica?" his voice was scarcely audible.

Jessica closed her eyes, and opened them a moment later, "I'm tired."

He didn't say anything else, taking her hand. The two walked close together, up the ramp. Lloyd watched the others beginning to get up. Looking closely at the confusion turning to horror on their faces. He was struck with a feeling he never had before. But it was so clear to him. He wanted to hurt them. Anything to make them stop looking at Jessica the way they were.

Throughout the day, Lloyd had been able to keep everyone from "wandering" towards Jessica's bed. He tried to sympathize with their inability to understand this. A little while ago, he would have been no better. He couldn't bring himself to understand them.

Jessica had been in an out of sleep all day, she tried to remember at what point she had made the sudden change in age and appearance but couldn't find it. She sighed and Lloyd was back to looking at her.

"How are you feeling?"

"Like James did before he disappeared. Remember him?"

He did, James had been the last person in the cage to ever grow old. It had been so long ago.

"I guess this is God's way of punishing me for leaving the place I belong."

"Should I ask what God is?" Lloyd tried to smile, failing.

"He's this…great person…who created everything and watches over everyone. People out there have all kinds of different ideas about him. Some don't even think he exists, but I have to think he does. It only makes sense to me that he's the one who put us here, and I think I hate him for it. He put us in here, for

what? Giving us things like time, and the need to eat and sleep. But keeping us from love, growing old properly, crying. I don't understand it. It's as if we're some sort of experiment."

Lloyd found himself unable to reply. He squeezed her hand.

"I did happen to find out what love is though."

"Oh yeah?"

"Just let me rest a little more, I'm not going anywhere yet. I just need to rest a little."

"Okay." Lloyd stayed where he was. Hours passed and he remained patient. The thought that she was gone appeared, only to be pushed aside constantly. Even when the others suspected she would soon disappear and took him away so that it could happen properly. The water stung his eyes and he understood what Jessica had been doing earlier.

The door would lock as soon as he closed it. Lloyd allowed the part of himself that decided it was time to go, take over. He planned to find out for himself who God was. Even entertaining the idea of confronting him. He had dozens of questions in mind.

First he would try all of the things Jessica had told him about and then some. He imagined there was more out there than she had been able to see. He tried not to think about not being able to tell her. As far as he knew, there was nothing to be done about it.

Leaping forward, Lloyd had no intention of coming back to tell the others what they would undoubtedly be missing.


I know, I know…it doesn't make a lick of sense…and for that end I'm sorry…but I like this story…which is rare for me. I like the idea and I like what I did with it.