A narrow, winding pathway appeared in front of me, surrounded by charcoal matte black gates with spiky barbed wire above, their lethal sharp edges glinting dangerously. I looked up; all I could see was a blanket of dense darkness hovering in a silvery-grey sky. Curly swirls of mist and fog intertwined with the dismal, polluted air.
I began to stumble across the path, cautiously glaring at the sharp, stinging nettles as if they were about to pounce at me any minute. I glanced down and in a split second suddenly glared up, as I realised I needed to focus on the sight ahead. I wondered how I had managed to reach here, yet there was no explanation. A gleaming ray of light shined at the end of the path. I had to get there. I needed determination. It felt like the only way to hit reality again.
A pungent, revolting odour hit my nose; it was the foul stench of dead, rotted meat. A tray of thin, scrawny bones was at the isolated, distant corner of the path. Whatever callous, nefarious being lived here in this haunted, tense atmosphere had a massive appetite. I kept my distance from the vile smell wafting around by walking through the opposite side on the intimidating path. Suddenly, I stopped to scrape the ebony, piercing gate which surrounded me to see if I could break my way out but it just revealed the first chrome coating. I kept along the middle of the disconnected path, silently creeping and trying to make my appearance unknown.
Without any warning I felt an overwhelming impulse to collapse, my heavy head started to feel dizzy and the tears prickled into my eyes, stinging. I reluctantly staggered to the stony ground. A vague figure abruptly appeared before me, the silhouette wore a chocolate-brown hooded cape to conceal his identity. Seconds later I swooned and felt my legs weaken as I slipped into a coma of desolation and distress. I was out.
I rubbed my eyes to awaken in a cold cave where wet walls surrounded me and a raging fire settled in front of me. Pots and pans were scattered around the place, a comfortable mattress laid behind me and far in front was a shadowy figure with his back towards me.
I stayed down on the mattress for a minute trying to soak everything in, then got up and walked slowly towards the unidentifiable being.
My bones felt heavier as it took every step and my heart was thumping as loud as a drum. I walked until I was next to the creature and looked at it to see who it was but the hooded cape disguised the identity.
“Who are you?” I asked, “And why have you brought me here?”
He gave me no reply.
“I ASKED YOU A QUESTION!” I exclaimed in a tangle of desperation and anger.
Suddenly, the creature jerked his head towards me to expose his face. It was a man; a man whose eyes drooped like a wilted leaf, whose frown oozed dejection and whose skin had lost its colour.
No wonder he hid his face, I joked to myself.
“You are here because I saved you. I do not appreciate your ungratefulness and tone of voice.” He said.
His voice was deep and croaky yet calm.
Confused, I asked “You saved me? Saved me from what? You were the last person I saw before I fell unconscious, how do I know you didn’t do something to me?”
“If I intended to do you harm, you would no longer exist. I saved you by carrying you into my home. You were shut down, Annabelle” He said.
“Shut down? What do you mean shut down?” I said, speechless. “Where am I and how do you know my name?”
The man shook his head, “You are in the middle of a game. Many people get trapped in here. Before you ask too many questions, I shall explain what has happened to you. You have been confined in a virtual reality game in which your mind has been transported and you will only go back to your real home once you have conquered and eradicated all of your bad habits. The reason you arrived at this destination was because you were one of the thousand people who have been selected to trial this game out. The only way back to Earth is to play all of the different activities here which help purify your mental state. You are in control of yourself. However, if you over exhaust yourself, you shut down which is what happened to you. Being shut down means you fall unconscious right where you are and don’t wake up until you have recharged your mind completely.”
I gasped feeling like everything was a hazy dream, reality had not sunk in- well, I wasn’t actually in reality anyway apparently. I was in denial until I finally realised from the conviction in his eyes that this man was speaking the truth.
“If you know about how to escape from here, then why haven’t you? Also you said there are a lot of people here but I didn’t see a single soul until you, why was that?”
“I haven’t properly tried to depart, I’m more concerned about other people such as you because I have been designated to share my knowledge about the existence of this place and the meaning behind it to new players who haven’t heard from other people. Also, this virtual destination is massive. You were teleported to a deserted, bloodcurdling place where there are many beasts who have been created to inject fear into the testers. If they don’t escape, they will turn into the beasts’ slaves. I base myself here to help protect those vulnerable newbies from the beasts. Oh and by the way, my name is James, thanks for asking.” James said.
“Oh right…” I said, not knowing what to reply.
I looked around the cave to try fill the silence that was lingering in the atmosphere. I glanced back at James and saw he had a hologram projection in front of him which had a map on it.
“How did you get that?!” I asked, surprised.
“Okay let me teach you about this game. You swipe up with your right hand to get this hologram projection up. Now, as you can see, a map will show on the screen. The different destinations represent different games you have to play in order to return back to Earth. If you successfully complete a game, you will obtain a card in which you put in your card slot on the side of the hologram. Follow the trail which has been designed for you.” James told.
I sighed, feeling very unlucky in that moment. Why did I have to be picked to trial this?
“Okay, how do I get to these places?” I asked, unenthusiastically.
“You double tap on these places and you immediately teleport there. Also, one more thing you need to know is that some games you play individually and others as a team. If I were you I would start completing this now. Good luck.” He said.
I was about to open my mouth and ask him many other questions when he vanished into thin air. I groaned not wanting to be anything to do with this. Finally, I came to the conclusion that I’ll have to give this a try and work my way out of this place. I opened the hologram up and double tapped on the first destination. Suddenly my virtual body quickly evaporated from the current place and before I knew it, I was in another town. My body tingled as my feet was firmly pressed onto the ground. I was buzzing from having just teleported.
I scanned round the area, my eyes flicking across every detail. In bold letters I saw the sign “Level 1~Game 1” on top of a door in the far corner of the town.
Everything else seemed normal. There were restaurants, arcades and shops just like home, not to mention the crowd of people there were. Some laughing and making the most out of this unexpected event, others isolated and glum-faced. I headed towards the game area after eating some appetising food with the best attitude I could muster.
As I walked into the gates, I felt my heart beating fast as though a warning of what lied ahead. All I saw was a room full of people when suddenly a booming, male voice projected across the room from a speaker.
“I would like to personally welcome all of you to the first challenge in this new experience. The first task I would like you to do is get into groups of exactly 5.” the male said.
I proceeded to do as I was told and joined a group.
I proceeded to do as I was told and joined a group.
“The mission that has been set for you varies according to each of your group as each of the groups will have different paths- some easier and some a lot harder. The task is based around skiing. Each of you will now be teleported to a room in a ski lodge where you will have an hour and half to bond with the team and think of strategies. To complete this game, all of the members of your group have to get from the highest point of the mountain back down to the ground without falling over once and there will be many obstacles in your way. If you do fall over, your whole group will immediately go straight back to the starting point. The aim of this game is to allow you to work as a team and have each other’s backs at all times whilst also learning to never give up. You have to try again, if you fail. Now, let the game begin.”
I skimmed across the members of the team I will now be a part of and realised that now I wasn’t just fighting for myself; I was fighting for all of us and I couldn’t let them down. That wouldn’t be fair even though I don’t know anything about them. I knew now that I would have to try my best and not be lazy. I was going to complete this game and I would do whatever it takes to get free again and go back to see my friends and family back on Earth. This game would probably be the headlines of the news at the moment and I was determined to make it back as soon as possible.~To be continued.~