(Picture of Dr. Zimbardo courtesy of fabbs.org)
Here's Virginia's Story:
The sun broke through the clouds, beaming directly into James’ skull. He groaned, attempting to roll over, only to find that he was buried to the waist in sand on the edge of some body of water or another. He managed to throw a hand over his face to block out the evil light, and craned his head about with the infinitesimal slowness that comes with a hangover. His efforts were rewarded with spotting his friend Tommy facedown, his normally light brown hair hanging in dark, damp hanks around his shoulders.
Squeezing his eyes shut, James braced himself against the sand and tried to kick his legs free. The sand was nearly dry on the outside, but the middle of that piled around him was an altogether different story. After what felt like hours, he managed to wiggle free.
“Do you have to be quite so loud, Jim?” Tommy whined into the sand; he had apparently burrowed in deeper as if to avoid the noise and the light.
“Sorry. Next time I get buried, I’ll make sure to muzzle myself first.” He shot a dirty look at his friend, and then winced. “Moving hurts… what happened? And where are we?” He tried to raise his head, but decided against it for the moment.
Tommy mumbled something, before laboriously levering himself out of the sand. “There was… were… um.” His brow furrowed, and he blinked, “There wasn’t a beach. Pretty sure we weren’t anywhere near a beach.” He managed to get his legs under him enough to be sitting on himself, and bracing himself against the ground, Tommy lifted his head higher. “I definitely don’t remember any smoky mountain things…” He trailed off, as if trying to process what he had said.
“Smo… what?” James flopped from back to front, and then attempted to emulate his friend’s position. His eyes followed the line of Tommy’s finger. His light brown eyes bulged slightly as they moved upward to take in the aforementioned smoke. And the sudden but slight shaking of the earth threw him back onto his face as the entire world seemed to growl quietly.
They looked at each other, faces painted with pain and concern as they scrambled to their feet. A stray ray of light seemed to obliterate everything in their view for a moment before the world resolved itself back to ‘normal’. “Science party…” Tommy muttered, rubbing his head?
“Science party?” James eyed his friend quizzically before remembrance struck, “OH… um… yes. It was that mixer with the Science department at the university. We were…”
“We were talking to those girls,” Tommy supplied.
“Yes, those pretty girls from… um… somewhere in the Science department. They kept giving us drinks and calling us their little lab rats.” James bit his lip, “I wonder what they meant by that.” He shook his head, and suddenly was thrown against his friend as the earth shook a bit harder. “Where do you think…”
He cut off as the amount of smoke coming out of the mountain suddenly increased, followed by another tremor that sent him and Tommy dancing and staggering together. A gentle breeze drifted down from the direction of the mountain, carrying a whiff of sulphur and flakes of ash. Two pairs of saucer-sized eyes turned to each other, and they clinged on tighter to each other for a second before gathering themselves. After a moment, James spoke, “I… I’m pretty sure there aren’t any volcanoes near the uni.. or the state of Arizona. Sure, there’s sand and rocks, but not…”
A sudden rustling caused the men to cling onto each other even tighter, before pretending they had been doing no such thing as the source of the rustling became apparent. A short, shapely and very naked young woman stood up, yawning widely and stretching. “Morning boys!” she said cheerfully, peering around, “Any chance you’ve seen my clothing?”
“Who… wha… where…” James started, staring and blushing.
Tommy’s response was even less fitting – he leaned over and vomited, groaning loudly.
The woman rolled her eyes, pale arms flashing into the air as they fished something out of a tree above. She tugged a pair of pants free, falling over as another rumble in the earth sent more ash into the sky, obscuring the sun. A delighted cry rose up as a shirt was located and put on, and momentarily, the woman returned clothed. “You break a girl’s heart, not remembering her.” She made a moue, raking fingers through shoulder-length chestnut hair. “I guess if you two are so rude as to forget a girl’s name, then perhaps it’s a good thing you were too drunk to put out last night.” Her expression changed to one of pure wickedness, brown eyes twinkling above a leering smile.
“We’re terribly sorry, um… ah… what’s your name, anyways?” James ventured, scratching his head through short blonde thatch.
“It’s Dawn, my boys, it’s Dawn. Now, let’s get your poor babies something for your heads.” Dawn patted them both on the bottom, nudging them inland.
“But there’s a fucking volcano over there!” Tommy cried, legs not making with the forward motion, “I don’t want to get fried alive! If anything, shouldn’t we be going into the water where we’re less likely to die?!”
Dawn rolled her eyes as a loud explosive noise issued above them. What looked like small fragments of rock were blown off the peak, appearing to drift downwards. She smiled faintly as the first fingers of red started to creep down the summit, cutting a bright path through an otherwise gray and confusing environment. “This isn’t real,” she said, fiddling with the hemline of her shirt before sticking her hands in her pockets, “None of this really exists.”
“This might not be the best time for getting philosophical,” James muttered, taking a step back, never mind the mountain… volcano… was probably a few miles off.
Dawn rolled her eyes, and pulled something out of her pocket. It looked like a mobile phone, and tuning the boys out, she started to fiddle with it.
“Yes, call for help, call 911, get us the hell out of here!” Tommy yelled, mincing back and forth, “We’re gonna die, we’re gonna die, we’re gonna… huh?” His feet slowed as he peered around what appeared to be a large metal box.
“I told you boys – it wasn’t real.” Dawn snorted, finding and opening a door in the metal frame. She held it open in a mockery of chivalry, waiting for the young men to pass through. “We camped out in the VR simulator… you two were so drunk you forgot that? Eesh, you English department folk sure are dull.” She took both of them by the arm as they sputtered and tried to speak over each other, and dragged them out into the hallway. “Come back when you can hold your liquor kids, and maybe we’ll have some real fun. Until then, stick to your side of the campus.” She rolled her eyes again, and slammed the door shut behind her.
James eyed the door before eying his friend. Tommy shrugged, trying to not look as shaken as he had been acting only a moment before. “Waffle House?” he queried, starting up the stairs to find the way out.
Tommy followed, “Sure, why not.” He shuffled along, patting himself down to see if his sunglasses had chosen to materialize on his person; they had not. “Remind me not to drink that much again, okay?”
“Sure thing, friend.”