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Friday, May 1, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge - X Meets Y

A little piece of flash fiction taken from Terrible Minds.  The challenge was X meets Y.  Care to guess which two stories I've mashed up?  Enjoy!    

The One

The sound of sword fall surrounded him—the chink of metal hitting metal, and worse, metal hitting flesh.  The almost too soft sound of slicing was lost quickly to the cry of death.  This was the battlefield.  None of those cries were quiet.  Each man’s last bellow was a strangled sound of an animal fighting to hold onto the world, angry it had to leave.  

Nick looked down at the black blood covering his sword as the body before him fell. These creatures didn’t cry like his comrades—they didn’t care if they died.  

“Myron!” Nick screamed to his friend and fellow fighter as a monster descended on him, “behind you!”

His friend turned as the sharp blade of a broad axe crashed towards him.  Nick couldn’t look away as the sword ripped through his friend’s body.  Myron dropped down; his last breath something of a snarl and maybe a laugh.  The beast may have gotten him, but Myron’s steel protruded from his killer’s side.  Nick couldn’t help but smile a bit as the brute quickly fell.

His smile was short lived, however.  As he surveyed the hillside, he could see he and his allies were losing.  Most of his men lay lifeless on the ground, and only a few of his comrades still stood in battle, but they were outnumbered, and badly.

“Should we retreat?” He called to Deckard, one of the few men left fighting.

“Never!” Deckard roared as his blade ripped through another beast and he marched forward.  “Not after we’ve come this far!  We won’t abandon our quest!”

“Alright,” Nick sighed as he looked his friend in the eye.  He was almost certain this meant death, but who was he to argue?

Nick charged towards his enemy, blade carried high, frantically striking and madly slicing at his foes.  He gripped his controller tightly, fingers blazing as he punched in commands and watched another beast fall on the screen before him. 

“Take that!” He said gleefully as fought forward.  His newly upgraded blade was serving him well.  “How are you doing, Deck?” 

“I’m out of healing potions, but unwounded so far.”  His friend told him. 

“Kastel?  Rorly?  Galen?”  Nick asked to the only other two men from his crew. 

“I don’t think I’m going to make it, man,” Kastel said.  “I’m about to die.  I’ll have to catch you guys on the next run.” 

“Damn it,” Deckard swore, “We’ll need at least three to make it into the lair.”

“And I’ve got to sign off soon,” Galen said. 

Deckard and Nick both swore like he’d said something obscene. 

“My wife’s going to kill me if I play for too much longer.” 

“But we need you, man!” Deckard screamed. “We’re going to die without you!”   

“Sorry guys, I gotta go.” 

“Damn!  Rorly?”

They only heard faint static in their headsets.  As Nick and Deckard looked around for their friend, they watched Kastel crumble to the ground near Rorly’s.

“I guess it’s just us,” Nick said, adrenaline pumping through his veins and he continued slashing through his enemies. 

“Nah, dude, it’s just you.  I’m hit.” 

Nick’s eyes quickly darted up to check his friend’s vitals displayed in the top corner of the screen.  They were all falling, and fast. 

“I’ll have to catch you on the next run.  You think you can make it to the lair and get the treasure?”

“By myself?” Nick asked incredulously.     

“You’re our best fighter, man.”

“I don’t know,” Nick said shakily as he kept fending off the monsters that were falling on him. 

“If you don’t make it, we’ll have to do this whole round again,” Deckard almost blamed him. 

Nick felt the responsibility weigh on his shoulders.  He stared at the screen before him with a warrior’s gaze.  “Alright, man, I’ll do my best,” he told his friend and captain. 

“You make it, man, I know it,” Deckard rallied him.  “All you have to do it—”

But Nick never got to hear what he had to do.  He didn’t see his friend fall, but his icon blinked off the screen.  Nick was suddenly alone. 

He fought madly through the beast that attacked him.  He was his team’s best fighter, and he had a good amount of healing potion left.  He was pretty sure he could stay alive, but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to penetrate the hoard’s defenses. 

Nick tried to stay strong and regrouped his focus as Deckard’s words echoed through him: You’re our best fighter…You can make it…I know…

As the words rang in Nick’s ears, doubt clenched his heart, but he kept fighting.  He felled another monster, and then watched another fall, and then another. 

Wait, Nick thought, he was almost certain he hadn’t hit that one.  Then he knew he hadn’t struck the one that fell next.  And next.  Suddenly, the beasts were dropping like fliers.  Nick looked down at one of their bodies.  A slender, sliver arrow protruded from the creature’s head.  He widened his view and looked around. 

At the corner of the screen, Nick saw a white rider approached, releasing arrows with elf-like ease.  The beasts around him kept dropping.   

Where had this person come from?  He wondered.  Whoever they were, they were extremely skilled with a bow.  In fact, Nick had never seen someone so talented.  He was able to clean up the last few monsters when the rider arrived and in a quick, fluid motion hopped off the horse.   

Nick swung his sword and held it at the ready—he didn’t know if this person was a friend or foe.  Despite the help the archer’d just given him, he might be here to finish Nick and try to steal the prize he and his team had fought so valiantly for. 

“No hold on a second,” Nick said, trying to sound brave and commanding.  “What do you want here?” 

The rider’s head cocked curiously as they pulled off their helmet and a long cascade of blonde hair tumbled down. 

Nick couldn’t believe it.  The archer was a girl.  And not just any girl, but the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen.  And not just in the game world, but the real one too. 

“These Darklings have been terrorizing my woods for ages now,” she said as she pulled her arrows out of their bodies.  Nick had never seen anyone do that before, “They killed my family a year ago.  Now, I kill as many as I can.  God, they smell awful,” she said, wiping her arrows off on her pants.   

Nick wasn’t quite sure what to make of her.  He knew some players created elaborate character backstories, but she spoke about all this as if it were real.  When she looked up at him, he could almost see the sorrow in her eyes.  

“What’s your name?”  He asked, genuinely interested in this strange girl he’d met.


“I’m Nick.”

“It’s very nice to meet you.  What brings you here, Nick?” 

Nick had to stop himself from laughing.  The same thing that brings everyone here, he wanted to say, the Dragonslair Quest.  But for some reason, as he looked at her, he couldn’t bring himself to say that.  She was acting as if this world were so real.  He knew some players did that, and suddenly, he felt as if acknowledging this were a game would ruin it.  Before he’d met Lilah, he’d thought players like that were stupid and annoying.  He was just here because he liked to kill things. But Lilah made it seem magical. 

“I was traveling with several fellow warriors,” he said trying to sound like characters he’d seen in fantasy movies, “we looking for a dragon’s treasure.”   

“Oh, the dragon.  Men come for that often,” she said, almost indifferently.    

Of course, Nick thought, that’s the only reason to be in this part of the game.  But again, he couldn’t bring himself to say it.  Lilah acted as if this place really was her home.       

The two began talking as Lilah showed him the area.  Nick couldn’t believe how much she knew it and how deep her story for it went.  She told him about things she’d done with her family, hard winters when they’d had nothing to eat but bark and beets, swimming in rivers in the summer sun.           

“Nichols Jeffery!” His mom’s voice shattered.  Nick had almost forgotten about the real world.  “If you’re still up playing that damned game…”   Her threat held ominous in the air.  Nick quickly told Lilah that he had to go. 

“You have to go?  Go where?”  She asked like she didn’t understand.  He couldn’t help himself, but he found that amusing.  He chuckled softly and asked if he could see her again. 

“Of course,” she said, looking away.  Nick knew he’d been awake too long because he was almost certain he saw her blushing.  Avatar’s don’t blush, he told himself rubbing his eyes. 

“Do you ever play any quests?” 

“What?” She asked. 

“Nicholas!” His mother screamed again.  He could hear her marching up the stairs outside his room. 

He got quickly to the point, “where can I see you again?” 

“Here,” she said, “I’m always here.”  

“Okay.  Bye.”  Nick said, slamming his laptop shut and diving into bed.   

* * *

Over the next few weeks, Nick spent more time online in the game than ever before.  And he’d spent most of that time with Lilah just talking to her.  She was the most fascinating person he’d ever encountered. 

“Dude,” Myron said as they tried to take a pirate ship, “you spent almost 50 hours online last week.” 

Nick winced slightly.  He’d forgotten his friends could see his stats. 

“Yeah,” he said offhandedly as he swung onto the ship. 

“Doing what?  You haven’t completed any raids, gotten any treasure, made any trades…”

“I was with some other friends,” Nick said. 

“You leaving us, bro?” Rorly asked. 

“No, of course not.” 

“You better not,” Deckard said as he ripped someone’s head off. 

“Nice move,” another player congratulated. “Nick, to your left, you’re about to get hit!”

Nick turned and watched a sword get him.  His avatar slumped to the ground. 

“Where’s your game tonight, Nick?  You’re playing awful,” Deckard accused. 

“Sorry, guys, I guess my head’s just not in it.”  Nick couldn’t focus.  Killing creatures and completing quests just wasn’t the relaxation it was too him before.  All he could think about was spending more time with Lilah.  Talking with her was more comforting than killing these creatures now. 

“You coming back in, Nick?” 

Nick waffled for a moment, considering if he should reenter there fray.  “Sorry guys, I think I’m done tonight.”    
“You better not log back in at Dragonslair,” Myron said.  “What are you doing over there, anyhow?” 

“I told you guys,” Nick defended, “I’m with another friend.” 

“Does this friend have boobs?” Myron jabbed, “you know, she’s probably really a dude, right?  There are lots of guys on here that do that—”

Nick logged out.  He couldn’t take any more of Myron’s nagging.  He couldn’t take any more of his mother’s nagging either, or his shitty boss’s.  He needed to get away from it all, and the only way he could do that was with Lilah. 

Nick did sign back in and go to Dragonslair.  He found Lilah gathering berries in the forest. 

“Hey,” he said as he approached her. 

“Hi,” she said, turning and smiling brightly, “do you want some berries?  They’re wonderfully ripe right now.” 

Nick didn’t even know picking berries was an option in the game, or eating them, but he couldn’t say no to Lilah as she held a fistful of blackberries out for him. 

“These aren’t poisonous, are they?” he joked as he punched in the command to take the berries.  He watched his avatar on the screen ingest them. 

“Aren’t they delicious?” Lilah asked as she ate some herself.   

“Yeah,” Nick said before he could even think about it.  And he suddenly realized he could taste the berries.  He shook his head and rubbed his eyes.  He had to start getting more sleep.  But every time he laid in bed, all he could think about was Lilah.  He knew he was going to have to do something about that.  

“Hey,” he asked as they walked along the river.  “Where are you from?”

“What do you mean?” she asked as she sat down on a wide rock in the sun.  Nick followed suit. 

“In the real world, where are you from?  The U.S.? Europe?” 

“The real world?” she said with a laugh, her voice almost tinkled.    

“Come on, Lilah, can you break character for a moment, please?” 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Nick,” she said, a shadow of worry crossing her face.  “I’m from here.  I’ve lived here my whole life.” 

“Lilah, this world isn’t’ real.” 

“What do you mean it isn’t real?” 

“Lilah, it’s a game.” 

“A game?”  She suddenly sounded hurt.  “What do you mean this is a game?” 

“Lilah,” he said, reaching out to her, but she jumped up and moved away. “Hey, I didn’t mean to hurt your feeling.” 

“How did you expect me to feel when you told me we were a game!  I thought you were really my friend, Nick!  I thought this meant something!” 

“I didn’t say we were a game, I said this is a game.  It’s because we mean something that I brought it up.” 

She calmed down a bit, but stared at him fiercely. 

“Lilah, please, you mean more to me than anyone…that’s why…look, I know people don’t usually do this, but, I wanted to talk to you in the real world.” 

“I don’t know what you mean by real, Nick, this is real.” 

Nick bit his lip and took a frustrated breath.  Her attitude was making him reconsider his whole move. 

“Whatever, Lilah, fine, just forget I said anything.  If you want to pretend that this world is real—”

“What do you mean pretend, Nick?”  She stepped towards him looking concerned.  “Can’t you hear the running water?”

Nick huffed again, really not in the mood for this, “Of course I can hear the water,” he grumbled.  But as he said it, he realized it’d never sounded quite like it did now. 

“Can’t you feel the sun on your skin?  Can’t you smell the moist earth?” 

Nick was about to tell Lilah he didn’t know what she was talking about, when he suddenly felt like he could feel the sun, he could smell that earth.  I really need to start getting more sleep, he told himself. 

“Can’t you feel this?” she said, reaching out to him.  As he watched her reach out to him on the screen, he could swear he felt her hand rest on his arm.    

Nick wanted to say no, but he couldn’t.  He did feel her touching him.  He nodded yes.    

“Then how can you tell me this isn’t real?” She asked, stepping up to kiss him. 

And suddenly, Nick didn’t care if it were real or not. 
* * *    

Any idea what two stories I had?  It was The Princess Bride and The Matrix.  I hope I did them justice and would love to know what you all think. 

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