The platform starts moving under my feet as I rise to face the screaming, bloodthirsty crowd. A man in a tacky suit that I can only hope looks better on camera emerges from the side of the stage. He crosses to meet me and my friends —nine trembling girls, on display for all to see.
“Welcome to BLOCK OR BE BLOCKED! I’m your host Lot Terry, and these are your contestants who will be vying for the ultimate prize: social acceptance.”
The onlookers go wild.
“The good news is the majority of you will go home winners, but the bad news is one of you will go home... alone!”
I flinch. I would rather get quadded than be doomed to social pariahdom, the ninth choice in this group of eight.
“Let’s jump right into our first challenge.” Our host, dressed like a bedazzled grave digger, implores, “Contestant No. 1, what’s in your fridge?”
“Umm … RedBull, ketchup, and … leftover Red’s Best Catch?” The floor instantly lights up red.
The host vigorously shakes his head. “Rookie mistake, Contestant No. 1.”
We move on.
“Contestant No. 2, it’s Friday night, what are you doing?”
“My pset.” The floor lights up again as the host winces.
“Hopefully, we’ll have better luck with Contestant No. 3.” His expression darkens as he turns toward me.
“Contestant No. 3, name the birthdays of all the other eight contestants.”
I gaze down the line, my distress visible.
“March 29, December 17, June…” I stare the fourth contestant in the face. In that instant, I know I’m doomed. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know.”
“I can’t believe you forgot! I’m right on the Gemini-Cancer cusp,” No. 4 whines in my ear.
I stare at the floor. Looking at the stage is better than looking at the people I’ve disappointed.
Frustrated, our host switches tactics, “Since you girls don’t seem to understand that you’re supposed to get the questions right, we will be moving on to the skills portion.”
Lot Terry explains to us that we will be divided into two teams with Contestants No. 4 and 5 as the captains.
“Contestant No. 4, choose your first team member.”
Something about this doesn’t sit right with me. Aren’t there an odd number of us? This isn’t going to work out. Still, I watch as Contestants No. 2, 8, and 9 file into 4’s team. Contestants No. 6 and 7 join Contestant No. 5. A heavy silence settles over the crowd as they realize what I already have — there is one spot left on Contestant No. 5’s team, and it’s between Contestant No. 1 and me.
Contestant No. 5’s eyes dart back and forth between us as she tries to make her final decision. “The last person I would like to join my team is…”
The anticipation makes me sick to my stomach. Why won’t she just spit it out already?
“Actually, neither of them. They’re both kind of annoying. Can we just disqualify both?”
I swear, my jaw hit the floor. The Securitas guards enter and escort us both to the shuttle. As we are whisked away to our exile, I think: at least Contestant No. 1’s company will be a consolation.
I look my remaining companion in the face and softly say, “You better not microwave any of that fish in our room.”
— Magazine writer Jem K. Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.