Ahead on the path, the towering fern trees grew sparse, until only naked land was visible on either side of the deep canyon, and where the bottom was not visible. It wasn’t a spectacular view like Grand Canyon, in fact it was bleak, barren and truly uninspiring.
“This is what we came to see?” Melody asked. “There’s nothing here.”
Bruce checked the God State tourist brochure. A red dot illuminated on the page, and then the words “You are here,” spelled out, and as soon as he read it the words disappeared. “This is it,” he said, folding the brochure and putting it in his pocket. He stepped in circles, studying the tan-colored rocks, and high cliff. Better say something quick, or the others will think you don’t know anything, he thought the words echoing in his ear. “We’re definitely here,” he said.
This guy is full of shit, Melody thought of Bruce. We should be demanding to be taken to the shuttle. I know that George guy is hiding something from us. He’s holding back the truth.
I don’t understand any of this, Anna thought. She looked at the others and smiled. “Not very picturesque. This place is boring.”
“Nothing is boring, only boring people,” Brian said and thoughts suddenly filled his head, Can’t I ever be nice?
“And I suppose you consider yourself interesting,” Melody sniped. God, what a bitch I am. She snapped her head to the sound of the thoughts ringing in her ear.
Beatrice stepped to the edge and gazed over the precipice seeing nothing but darkness below. She felt a hollow in her heart and it hurt. Just don’t say anything. Everyone is so judgmental, and they’ll judge me, just like they judge the others. She glanced at Alexei. I wonder what he’s thinking. Is he attracted to me or not? Damn it, why can’t I stop thinking of him? What’s the matter with me?
Alexei smiled unsure at Beatrice. What’s her deal? She’s fucking Beatrice Suffolk, a famous journalist, and I’m just an anonymous troll, well, three, no four anonymous trolls. He reached for her arm and pulled her back from the edge. He wanted to say something, but the words didn’t come forth, only the thoughts of insecurity bouncing around in his mind.
Sandeep walked off by himself, feeling separated from the group, and he couldn’t understand why. I’m a nice guy, friendly. Why won’t any girl love me? Why is love so untrue? Pretty girls are always taken with men who treat them badly. He looked at Alexei and Brian who appeared to have secured attention from women. I treat woman nice, but they never like me. What’s wrong with me?
Anna clenched her heart. I miss my babies, my husband. Why did I take this stupid trip? She looked around. There’s got to be a door out of this studio. She traced her hands along the side of the cliff, feeling the dusty rock. “I bet there’s a trapped door in this cliff that leads to the studio parking lot.”
God that girl is dim. Don’t be a bitch, Mel. God, you’re always so mean. It’s your nastiness that got you in this mess. You made that poor girl kill herself and those dogs. Shit. God, Melody thought, covering her ears with her palms and falling to her knees.
“Melody, are you alright? What’s the matter?” Brian said, rushing to her side. What the fuck am I doing? I’m such dumb ass? Why would she want my help after I called her nasty names? I’m such an asshole. He sat down beside her, burying his face in his hands.
“What’s going on here? Why is everyone sitting down? I’m sure there’s a place out of here? It’s all a hoax,” Anna said, her voice straining with anxiety. Why doesn’t anyone ever listen to me? I’m smart. I really am. Sure I don’t have a fancy education like Beatrice, or Bruce. But I know things. I know when we’re being fooled. I miss my husband. He understands.
“Anna, sweetheart, this is no hoax. This isn’t a Hollywood studio,” Bruce said. Damn that girl is stupid. This is my fault. My pompous experiment at the expense of these poor kids. I killed these young people with my pride and my ego.
An aging Goddorah couple walked up to greet them. A long-haired, bearded man wearing an intarsia sweater, strolled along with the aid of a wooden cane in one hand and his wife’s hand in the other. “Good day,” he said to the group. “Enjoying Echo Canyon?”
“It’s lovely,” Beatrice lied.
“It’s a great place to get in touch with yourself,” the aged woman, in a red ski sweater said. She gave her husband a loving gaze. “And each other.”
The elder man saluted them as they passed. “Well enjoy, and don’t throw yourself into the canyon. We’ve had several people do so, but not in a long time.”
“What happens if you do?” Beatrice asked.
The older woman shook her head. “My dear, the echoes never die. They just get louder.”
“I see.” Beatrice replied. “I see. How long does it take?”
The aged man gave her a kind smile. “A lifetime.”
They all watched the elderly couple pass and stroll onward, disappearing around the corner of a large rock.
“Man, this is harsh,” Melody said rising to her feet. “I can’t stand my own thoughts.”
“You’re not alone,” Brian replied, standing alongside her.
“None of us are alone,” Bruce said. He opened his arms to gather his group and encourage him them to follow. “Let’s move on. The Water Walkway should be just up the path.”