Grounded | Teen Ink


November 23, 2020
By allua314, Hampton, New Hampshire
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allua314, Hampton, New Hampshire
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Favorite Quote:
"I will pepper in the fact that I am gay" -John Mulaney

Author's note:

I was recommended to post this story by my eighth grade L.A teacher. I really enjoyed writing this story, and I hope it leads to more!

The author's comments:

Sorry It's short! The rest of the chapters are much longer!

Kate turned and stumbled at the sound of the gruff voice. “Mr. Jacks!?” she exclaimed in confusion, “how did you get out?”

“The same way you did Kate,” Mr. Jacks said, slightly amused as he held up the note and the mirror, “I asked you a question, Kate. Where do you think you're going?” Kate quickly remembered and processed the last day. She had used the mirror to escape the forcefield surrounding the airplane.

“To get help?” Kate responded questioningly. They had been trapped in the cramped airplane, stuck for a week surrounded by anxious and worried people, and it had heightened Kate’s need to escape and get answers, slowly driving her crazy. It could make anyone crazy. But this information didn’t seem as obvious to Mr. Jacks. For the next couple minutes, Kate ignored the man as he rambled on, though Kate didn’t pay attention to what he was rambling about. Instead, she looked around, assessing her surroundings. The airport was smaller than what you would expect for a Philadelphia airport and seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. It was engulfed by trees, except for the runway, and there was only one road going in and out. Though the forcefield was big, it failed to trap the airport parking lot, and Kate noted that there were still some cars parked, though all of them seemed abandoned. As she began formulating a plan to get help, she noticed that Mr. Jacks had stopped talking, and only then did she turn to face him. Her stomach lurched in terror as her eyes widely darted around, searching for the man. Mr. Jacks seemed to have disappeared.

As this slowly sank into her brain, Kate quickly accepted that she was going to have to search for help all by herself.  

As soon as she formed a plan, Kate walked down the road leading away from the airport. She decided she needed to find help and answers, and she couldn’t do that by staying at the airport. Earlier, she had tried to find an unlocked car in the parking lot but had no luck. She knew that the airport wasn’t far from the central city of Philadelphia and cursed herself for not grabbing her phone before escaping. Kate still wondered where Mr. Jacks disappeared off to but ignored it.

She walked for forty-five minutes before reaching the highway. She had expected the highway to be empty, or full of abandoned cars stretching for miles like in bad apocalypse movies she’d seen. Instead, she was surprised to see everyday traffic and wondered why there weren’t angry mobs parading the streets, demanding an explanation for the recent forcefields popping up around the world, entrapping thousands of people.

No one seemed to pay attention to her as she strolled down the highway, except for a few questioning glances. She got even fewer looks when she finally reached the city in another forty-five minutes. She had some change in her pocket and set to find a payphone. When she found one, she quickly put in the quarters and dialed her mother. In just three rings her mom picked up.

“Hello?” A familiar voice said.

“Mom?” Kate responded. She could hear a sigh of relief on the other line.

“Honey, where have you been?” Her mom asked on the other line, “Why did you run off? Please come home.” Her mother’s voice sounded strained, worried, and a little angry.

“What are you talking about Mom? I’m in Philadelphia. I finally escaped the forcefield!” Kate explained, confusion filling her voice. How had her mom forgotten what was going on? There was a pause as Kate’s mom took it all in.

“You’re in Philadel--” her mom’s voice cracked as she let out a sob, “Philadelphia!?!?! You need to tell me your EXACT ADDRESS!! Did you get hurt? Did you hit your head? Oh my god, what FORCEFIELDS?!?!?!” Her mother continued screeching into the phone hysterically for three minutes. Occasionally, Kate tried reassuring her mother that she was okay, only to be met by more outraged yelling. In five minutes, when she had finally calmed down enough, Kate looked up at the closest street sign and told her mother where she was.

“Stay where you are Kate, I’m calling the police.” Her mother said before abruptly hanging up. Kate slowly sat down in the phonebooth, waiting with knees pulled tightly to her chest, and her face resting in her hands. Kate was still perplexed by the conversation she just had. What was going on? Three days ago, she had called her mother before her phone died, discussing what was happening in the airplane. Her mom hadn’t been confused then, just worried about the forcefields plaguing the world. Kate slowly began drifting to sleep when suddenly she heard a knock on the phone booth. She looked up to see a police officer peering down at her.

“Are you Kate Hartley?” The officer asked. Kate nodded sleepily, as she gradually began to stand. She was led out of the phone booth and to a police car, where she was gently guided into the backseat. She heard the officer say something, but her head was too muddled to retain any words. As she laid her head against the window, she gave a final glance shortly before drifting to sleep once again. It could have been because she was exhausted from walking for over an hour, or because she was still puzzled by her current situation, but she could have sworn she saw Mr. Jacks staring at her from the sidewalk.


When Kate woke up, she found herself at a different airport. She started to panic until she remembered why she was there. The police car was in the drop-off line, and looking out the window, she saw they had a little way to go.

When they got to the front, she could see her mother and sister waiting nervously on the sidewalk. Her mother was mindlessly twiddling her fingers when she spotted the police car.

“Time to go kiddo.” The police officer said, opening Kate’s door. She hadn’t noticed the police officer get out; she was too focused on her family. She slowly got out of the car; her legs were sore from walking. Her mother ran up to her, tears streaming down her face, and clutched her daughter tightly.

“D-d-don’t ever s-scare me like that again!” her Mother sobbed in a shrill voice, “we d-d-didn’t know where you w-were! You could have been k-k-kidnapped! Or d-d-d-dead!” As she stuttered out the last word, she cried harder, hugging Kate even tighter. When she finally let go, she was met by another pair of arms. Her Sister rarely hugged her, only when she was scared. Kate was still confused by the whole situation. Her Mother already knew where Kate had been! She voiced this notion out loud.

“But Mom, you already knew where I was! I was trapped at that airport! By the forcefield!” Kate exclaimed like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Her Mom gave her a perplexed look before inspecting Kate’s head.

“Oh. honey, did you hurt yourself? What happened to you? I’m taking you to the doctors as soon as we get home.” Her Mom said before looking at the officer that escorted her. “Thank you for bringing her to us. I am forever thankful.”

“It’s no problem ma’am,” the officer responded, “I hope she’ll be okay.” The officer turned from them, getting in the car, and giving a final wave before driving away.

“Now let’s get you home.” Kate’s mother said, brushing her face before leading her into the airport by hand. She was squeezing so tightly, afraid that if she let go, Kate would vanish into thin air. As they entered the airport, Kate, again, could have sworn she saw Mr. Jacks reflection in the glass door.


Mom had thought about just paying for the ticket and having Kate fly home by herself, but she was scared and had to personally make sure she got home safe. As they entered the plane, Kate realized that maybe a plane wasn’t the best choice of transportation. She felt claustrophobic and was worried that she would yet again be trapped. When the plane took off that’s when she started to get anxious. She felt cramped and unsafe. When they were just five minutes into their flight, Kate’s breathing became quick and labored. Her hands were sweaty as she clutched onto the armrests. Her mind was foggy, and her vision began to blur. Her heart was beating furiously in her chest. She could feel someone shaking her, probably her mother, but everything was too fuzzy to make out the person. She could barely hear someone calling her name before she slipped into unconsciousness.

When she woke up, she found herself in a hospital bed. Her mother was beside her, sleeping in a chair. She must have been sleeping lightly because when Kate shifted, her eyes flew open. 

“You’re awake!” her mother said, running to the door and flagging down a nurse. “We need Dr. Hammond here. She’s awake!” Her Mother’s voice sounded worried and excited. They waited five minutes, Kate’s Mom’s leg bouncing anxiously as she sat back down in her chair. When the doctor opened the door, she came in and pulled up a chair on the opposite side of Kate’s bed. 

“How are you feeling Kate?” Dr. Hammond asked, shining light in Kate’s eyes. “Any dizziness or nausea?”

“No, Doctor,” Kate replied, “I feel fine. I’m simply confused. What’s going on?” 

“Well, you had a panic attack on the plane and passed out. For a whole eight hours! You must have been exhausted!” The doctor joked. 

“That’s not what I mean,” Kate said in an annoyed tone, “What I mean is, why is no one concerned about the forcefields? They’re everywhere! Did they disappear? Did everyone escape? What’s happening?” Kate began to feel panicked once again. She could hear the heart monitor picking up speed. Dr. Hammond gently put her hand on Kate’s arm. 

“I need you to calm down Kate. There are no forcefields. There never were any. Now can you tell me what you’ve been doing in the past two weeks? Any drug or alcohol use? Did someone hurt you?”

“I didn’t take any drugs! No one hurt me! Why is no one believing me?!?!?!” She said frustratingly, glancing over at her Mom, plead in her eyes. Tears were quietly streaming down her face. She looked desperately at her daughter, her eyes daring Kate to mention forcefields again.

“Oh baby, please just tell the doctor what happened. You won’t get in trouble! Just please, please, please tell her!” 

“But I did tell her! Please believe me! I was trapped in a forcefield at the airport! Mom, I called you! You were trapped in one too!” Kate hadn’t realized, but she had begun yelling. She was frantic for just one person to believe her. A crowd was starting to form outside her room, wondering what all the commotion was. Kate’s Mom was crying harder. She was in anguish from her daughter’s responses. Something was wrong. Something bad happened, and she just wanted to know what. Kate was still frantically yelling and was slamming her fists down onto the bed when she felt a sharp pain in her neck. A nurse was standing over her with a needle. Kate’s vision was cloudy, but she noted that the nurse resembled Mr. Jacks as her head hit her pillow. 


While she was out, the doctor did a brain scan on her. Everything was normal, there were no signs of brain damage, blunt force trauma, or anything else. They did drug tests, but they came back clean. They brought in social services to investigate Kate’s home life. All the tests, all digging, all the investigations came back fine, and Dr. Hammond was unsure of what to do. The only reasonable explanation that she could come up with is that the girl had a psychotic break and ran away from home. Or that she was making everything up for attention. Dr. Hammond didn’t believe the latter, as Kate seemed one hundred percent convinced in her story. 

When Kate woke up again, she could just barely see her Mother and Dr. Hammond talking. She was groggy, but she was able to make out a few words. Mental hospital… medication… therapist……. And then she fell asleep again. 


It had been a week since Kate was found, and she was adjusting to her life in the Psychiatric Ward. She slowly began to accept that maybe she was crazy, and she merely had a mental breakdown. She was able to have regular visits with her Mother and Sister, which brought her so much joy in the depressing place. Her days were boring but not terrible. She woke up, went down to the cafeteria for breakfast, took her pills, played games with the other patients, joined group therapy sessions, and had daily check-ins with her shrink. She was starting to forget about the forcefields and everything that happened. “If thing keeps going well” her therapist mentioned one day, “you might be getting out of here sooner than we thought!”

And everything was going well! Until they weren’t. 


It was a sunny Friday morning, and Kate was eager to see her Mother and Sister. Friday’s were visiting days, and she always looked forwards to them. Over the loudspeaker, a voice asked for Kate to “Please proceed to the visiting room!” Kate quickly dumped the remainder of her food into the trash and walked hurriedly to the room. When she opened the door the camera shattering smile on her face promptly fell and was replaced by a frown. Her Mother and Sister weren’t here, and instead, a man was sitting at the table, back turned to Kate. She turned to the nurse who kept watch in the room. 

“Where are my Mom and Sister?” Kate asked. “I thought they were visiting today?”

“They couldn’t come today!” The nurse replied cheerily. “Your Father came instead!” “My Fath--?” Kate said, turning to the man. She was cut off by his low, gruff voice. 

“Hello, Kate!” Said Mr. Jacks, his dog squeezed tightly in his arms.


Kate walked over and sat across from Mr. Jacks, her whole body shaking. 

“What are you doing here?” Kate whispered. 

“It’s time to wake up Kate.” He stated. 

“What are you talking about? I am awake! What’s going on? Are my Mother and Sister safe?”

“Yes, they're fine Kate. But It’s time to wake up. You will know when It’s happening. Don’t be scared. Everything will be all right.” And with that, he stood up swiftly and left. 


Kate got up and stumbled back to her room. It didn’t make sense. What did he mean by “wake up?” For a minute she sat in her room, not understanding. And then she did. She felt her senses heighten. She could hear the patient in the room next to hers flipping the pages of a book. She could hear pills being swallowed in the cafeteria. She could feel the air. It was thick and heavy, and it felt like being trapped in quicksand. She sat on her bed, clutching the soft blanket. Or at least it was supposed to be soft. She could feel every individual fiber and stitch, and it felt rough and sharp. She looked around the room and spotted an ant in the far corner. Her eyesight was amazing, and she could see the outline of its small body. Kate was sweating profusely, and more than ever she could smell the cleaning supplies, food, and stench of the other patients. It was awful. She was pulled from these observations as she looked out the window. She could see a wall of darkness rushing towards her. For a second, she thought she was passing out. But she didn’t. She felt more awake than ever. The blackness was closing in on her as it swallowed trees, animals, people, and buildings. Everything it took seemed to dissolve from existence like if you walked into it you would fall into nothing for centuries. 


Pulling herself out of the trance, Kate turned and rushed to the door, only to find it was locked. No, not locked, but blocked. She peered through the small window on the door and found herself staring at nothing. Again, it was just black. Everything was gone. It was just Kate now, trapped in this room, surrounded by the abyss. There was a loud sound, almost like thunder, and it shook the room. Kate fell on the floor and let out a sigh of relief as she saw the blackness receding. It was then replaced with a gasp of terror as the darkness slammed back against the window and outside the wall, separating her from the outside world. The window started to crack, and so did the wall as it was crashed into repeatedly. 

Kate didn’t know what was happening, hastily accepted that she was going to die here. She curled into a ball on the floor and pressed her eyes shut with her hands. She couldn’t see, but she could hear the window give away and could feel the void rush into her room. 

She had expected to feel pain, to panic, to be afraid, to wake up in heaven or hell, but what she wasn’t expecting was to feel a weird sense of calm as the darkness wrapped around, making her forget everything she’d experienced in the last month, and rip her conscience apart from her body, tugging her away from this reality like your brain pulling you away from a bad dream. She felt unnaturally safe. 

The author's comments:

This is the end of my story! Sorry if you're unsatisfied with the ending. I thought it would be less interesting if I hadn't ended the story on a cliffhanger. Didn't want to make the story to cheery! That would be to easy. 

As the days went by in the hospital, Kate slowly started to forget her dream. It was probably for the best. It had caused her stress, anger, and fear, and she was glad she could push that horrible false reality to the back of her mind.

The injuries she sustained during the crash had been relatively minor, except for her head. She had suffered a horrible concussion and would have mild brain damage, which would “affect her for about a year” Dr. Jacks had informed. It had already caused her some memory problems and confusion. Though she was still in the hospital being monitored, she was allowed to walk around. She usually just went to the cafeteria or bathroom, and occasionally outside, with company of course. Whenever she went for a walk, it sometimes caused a headache or slight nausea, but all-in-all it wasn’t too bad. She blamed the damage for forgetting her dream. She couldn’t imagine she would have forgotten it if she suffered no brain damage at all. She was glad it was over and couldn’t wait for things to go back to normal. She wondered if, after all this, she would remember her dream again. If she would remember the way she had created Dr. Jacks in her head without meeting him. If she remembered similarities in her dream and the real world, like how a small airport was being built in Philadelphia, with only one entrance and exit. Like how the world she was in now was slightly off, and how the doctors blamed it on the damage. Like how her father never died, or that she played soccer when she was so sure she played lacrosse. Like how the color of her family’s eyes had always been brown, but now were blue. Like how she would sometimes catch her family sitting rigidly in the living room, staring blankly forward until they sprung into normal, everyday actions when they noticed Kate had entered the room. Like how they apparently had always had a dog. An awfully familiar dog for that matter. Kate never remembered owning a pug.


Kate voiced these concerns to Dr. Jacks one day when he came in to check on Kate. He chalked it up to the brain damage. Kate sensed something was wrong, but then again, she had hit her head pretty hard. Dr. Jacks said that maybe the brain damage was worse than they thought. He excused himself to go “call Kates mother” and “discuss the next course of action”. But what he really did in his office was open up the secret safe behind a picture, put in the code, and take something out that resembled a phone. He didn’t dial a number but instead hit a button. He brought the phone to his mouth, his eyes clouding over black, like ink being spilled into water. When the other line picked up, he spoke slowly into the phone, with a voice deeper than usual.

“It didn’t work the way we hoped. Her memory isn’t as bad as we thought it would be. I think she knows.”

And with that, the world around Kate began to darken again, familiar darkness, and when she woke up, she was in a packed airplane, too tall for the seat. If she had trusted herself more, had known everything had been off from the very beginning, had paid more attention to everything that was wrong and different around her…

Then maybe she wouldn’t have been waking up in an airplane surrounded by a forcefield for the fifth time.

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