We know we are being watched.
Our backs are pressed up hard against the dark wall, the only safe place we know. My body is paralyzed with fear. My heart is pounding in my ears with terror. My feet are frozen to the ground.
I know that once I take the first step forward, there is no turning back.
I’ve never been this terrified. But I know we need to face our fate in order to survive – sooner or later. I take a deep, shaky breath. I take the step forward.
I open what appears to be a door. I realize I am in my own living room. I know what I say next is crucial, but I can only think of one word. Mom? I say. No response. Mom? Mom? I call over and over, panic quickly rising in my throat. My mother should be here. Where is she? Everyone averts their gaze, as if they have bad news they are afraid to deliver.
Or maybe it’s me that they are afraid of.
Don’t panic, I tell myself. As soon as they smell your fear, it’s over. I decide to make a pot of tea, a go-to that usually calms me and helps me think. I take a few steps forward, looking out into the void, focusing on the weight of the kettle in my hands, trying not to shake.
And then – finally - I hear soft footsteps approach from behind. Mom! I say, spinning around, filled with relief. There you are, I decide to add.
She freezes. I’m not your mother, she whispers, her wide and unfocused eyes filled with fear.
I audibly gasp, I cannot help it. And yet as soon as those words leave her mouth, I know she’s right. She’s not my mother. My heart drops. I feel the room spinning.
Then who are you? I ask, trying to keep my voice from trembling. As soon as I ask the question, I know I’ve made a grave mistake.
You know who I am, she says.
She’s right. We know each other. Think, I tell myself. But sheer terror is stopping me from realizing who she is, even though I know I must for both of us to survive. We both stand there, face to face, paralyzed with fear of saying anything. The silence is real. It feels like an eternity.
We know we are being watched.
Suddenly, her eyes snap into focus, as if she has just realized something. She raises both hands and starts backing away from me.
Don’t shoot, she says.
Yes. I am holding a gun, I realize, numb with shock. Has this been in my hand this entire time? Is this why I’m here?
I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what to feel. I don’t know what to believe anymore.
Please Janice, put the gun down, she says, surprisingly calmly.
I suddenly feel a blinding rage that’s directed right at her. The rage takes me by surprise, it’s so real. It’s been there this whole time. IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT? THIS? I scream in my head – or out loud? I don’t know.
But finally, I know how I feel. And only one of us will survive.
I, Janice, hold up the gun. A .38 caliber revolver, to be specific. The revolver that I’ve always had in my hand. I aim it at her, the woman I’ve always wanted to kill. My hand wavers, but then is dead still. I can’t believe what I’m about to do. Am I making the right choice?
Commit, I tell myself. This is who you are. Accept it.
My finger presses the trigger. She stares at me for a second, stunned, as if she is trying to decide whether she got shot or not. Then, she crumples to the ground.
Looking down at her body, I finally know who we are to each other. We’re sisters. But I know it’s too late to do anything with that information now.
“Edit,” Shannon O’Neill says amidst the deafening silence, as my UCB Lloyd team audition comes to an end.
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