Everything Is Fake by Brandon Scott
For Amanda Ryan, who probably didn’t expect this story to go the way it did.
They were gathered around chatting, a normal family get together, the only thing she couldn’t understand was how no one else seemed to notice that none of this was real…nothing.
Charlie Busker continued to watch as her family ate the food that was not there and moved at a table that was not there. She dropped her gaze back to the device in her lap and read the words again, staring at those damning bits of knowledge.
“You do know, right?” she eventually said, unable to stand it any longer. Eating fake chicken, by itself, was revolting to her, but they were making a mockery of themselves.
Her brother Scott cast his bespectacled gaze over to her. “What was that, sis? Something gotten into your panties again?”
Her mother clucked her tongue. “Now, now, let’s not use that at the dinner table, eh? What is it, Charlie?”
“This is not real. We’re eating at a fake dinner table,” she said. Swinging her phone upward for all to see, she presented the small black text of their foolishness. “It says right here, in the section on philosophy, that this table and this meal is likely to not exist—”
“Now, now, honey,” her father chided in-between bites of roasted pork. “We told you: no reading at the dinner table.”
“But, brain in a jar?”
Scott chuckled. “Is that what you want to eat then? Is that the meal plan?”
“No,” Charlie said, “and, Dad, I told you, there is no dinner table. There is no anything, at all. So, I am not breaking your rules.”
“Well then,” her mother said and slurped down her Ramen in thought. “That is a bit of a paradoxical reestablishment of our previously established rules governing her behavior, isn’t it?”
“Indeed,” Scott said, drawing out the word into a long sound that lost meaning halfway through. He dabbed at his mouth with a napkin before working his way through his lobster tail and butter sauce.
“Still, it is a tad rude,” the father said. “Won’t you just talk to us, instead of trying to disprove the existence of something or other—it’s unbecoming.”
Charlie said nothing in her defense. Her hands went limp at her side and stayed there. A slow vibration spread through her head, and she wondered if she had gone insane.
Then, she said the crazy conclusion, but, also, the only sane one.
“You’re not real either, are you?”
She looked down at her phone, seeing if it had any answers. She did not have a phone; she was holding a banana.
“Crap,” she said and watched her family eat their food and smile.
“Nope,” her brother said. “Nor did we ever exist. Isn’t that funny?”
To emphasize his point, he laughed, and his face flickered into a series of interlocking polygons and chaining lines of blue and red code. The effect rippled to the table before the texture’s detail came back to the whole structure.
The facial animations on her mother’s countenance failed, and her mouth flapped in a wholly unconvincing way toward Charlie. Her eyes did not sit in her skull the right way. Her audio sounded fine though.
For the first moment.
“Now, don’t listen to him, we are all perfectly—perfect-prefer—perfect…perfectly…real. Why would you ever doubt us?”
Charlie, with a jolt, got out of her chair. Her father looked at her in alarm, and his eyes stayed glued on her as he floated, slowly, and then fast, through the ceiling. The soles of his shoes lingering, flush with the architecture for a moment, before he was gone.
“Oh, we will have to go on the roof, I guess,” Scott said, and took a bite out of a turkey leg the size of his head. No marks appeared on the meat, despite gravy-stained chunks being now in his open mouth.
Charlie glanced back, only daring to not view her fake family for a moment—in case something else happened. A flood of panic went right up her spine as she discovered the door behind her also did not exist.
Her mother, with a concerned expression, got up—but only the lower half of her. Her upper body remained in the chair, floating there. No blood nor gore to this—wholly clean. But, still, Charlie moved backward into the wall like the legs planned to eat her.
“Go away!” Charlie yelled, at a loss for anything else to say.
“What are you bugging about sister?” Scott said, and his head elongated into a pointed, spear-like structure, the tip of which stretched right past the confines of the room. Off to who knows where.
He stood like he also planned to harass her, but his frame, including the entire length of his elongated head, blitzed out of reality with little fanfare. Here and gone. Scott ceased to exist.
The legs, upon Charlie trying to kick them away, fell into a pile of loose noodles—not even bending anatomically correct in their motion.
“I did not think this would happen,” were the numb words she had on the matter. “I just wanted to seem smart.”
“Yeah, well, that’s what you get for thinking for yourself,” her mom’s upper half said before blinking out as the rest of the room did. Darkness ate at the edges, until she stood in a small circle, left alone.
“Wha—why did this happen?” Charlie said, somehow her emotions cooling rapidly. “What was the purpose of this?”
A voice, coming as not a surprise to her, answered the question. “Well, did it seem real? Was the whole endeavor realistic?”
“Not at all,” she said, “it broke like a fucking house of cards.”
“But, did you think you were real, at least?”
Charlie took her chin into her hand and considered this. “I guess so, yeah, in hindsight, now that I’m thinking clearly, I did.”
“Did you hear that?” came a farther away voice. “She said it seemed real—herself seemed real. That’s got to prove something!”
The first voice increased in volume. “Charlie, thank you for your services! You changed the world.”
“Umm, you’re welcome?” she said, still emotionless.
“Yeah, this is so cool. And now…well, we can’t have you getting on the internet, so…bye.”
Charlie jolted and opened her mouth to say something else. But she did not exist anymore.