My boyfriend Rick told me it would be good for us – a new start, a way to make it. But the second we moved into that pastel stucco complex, I knew something was wrong.
Everyone was unsettlingly thin, and there was something dead in their eyes. They spoke slowly, never more than two-syllables. They said they were “blessed”, but most were forced to serve expensive food to others while consuming nothing but juice on their own. And they wouldn’t stop talking about how I needed to “cleanse.”
I was told that if I wanted to “make it,” I would have to go through initiation rites: burning my skin on purpose, having all the hair on my body ripped out, having lethal toxins injected into my face – if I would just pay the fees, I could take part in all of it. When I expressed my discomfort with their rituals, people seemed shocked and confused. But no one was ever allowed to show any emotion beyond a bland contentment.
But the final turning point was when I discovered their strangest ritual: Every morning, I’d be forced to drive through a labyrinthine system of roads for hours, exposed to blinding light and choking on carbon monoxide. “Is this necessary?” I asked Rick. “It doesn’t seem safe.” But he said it was the “only way,” and I would have to comply if I wanted to “get anywhere.”
I knew I had to get out, with or without Rick. He wasn’t even the same person anymore. The last time I saw him, his skin was burnt beyond recognition, and he wore glasses so dark I couldn’t see his eyes, though I knew they were as dead as everyone else’s.
There was nothing more I could do, I thought, except leave this place and try to warn people about it. That was years ago, and every day I’m glad I’m free.
I do miss the tacos, though. That’s how they reel you in.