My eyelids felt heavy as I opened them. Shining light glistened into my room, revealing the specks of dust in the atmosphere. I sighed. It had been a week since my last challenge but my body was still aching. I resisted the temptation to relax in bed and sat upright. Swiping to see my hologram, I was hoping that the glitch in the system would have been fixed and Lilly would have recovered but that hope soon faded and turned into sadness when there were no new notifications. My eyes scanned across the bare room. This is such a lonely environment, I thought to myself feeling sad about the contrast between before this all happened and now.
After doing all the usual morning routines, I went out to the market to buy some food when an announcement rang out of the speakers. I know that all of you here are aware that there is a bug in this software which has caused many of the participants to be in a coma-like state. The only way to fix this is if a certain challenge is completed by one person. We have been told that many of you are not challenging yourself to do the activities involved but we hope that this will give you motivation. Also, just a reminder that if you do not challenge yourselves, you will regret it later on and you know why. Once one person has completed The “Mountain Trek” challenge, everyone will be restored healthily and the achiever will be given the choice to return to Earth. That is all.
Immediately, I swiped my map to see where the challenge was when I realised that The Mountain Trek was challenge number three and I still hadn’t completed challenge two. I was tired and annoyed but I knew I had to complete this game, help everyone recover and then return to Earth. I double tapped on destination number two and was instantly teleported. I gasped. Unlike most places in this world where everything looked like home, this place oozed danger. It felt like night time. Everything was dark with only some lamp posts. I looked around feeling trapped as if the brick walls around me were closing in on me. My head started to feel dizzy and I had a sense of déjà vu. This felt exactly like the time where I had first encountered this world. Suddenly, I felt a tap on my back. My heart pounded as I jerked forwards and turned around.
I let out a sigh of relief. “Zac, it’s just you. I got so scared. Are you doing challenge two too?”
“Yeah I am. Are you okay? You look very pale.”
“Yes, I-I’m fine. This place is just making me feel uncomfortable. Where’s the challenge area?”
“Annabelle…please tell me you didn’t just decide to come to do challenge two but you researched about it before hand?”
“Um no I didn’t research it. No one told me I had to…” I said.
Zac sighed. “Okay, listen to me. You see how there is nobody here apart from us two? Well, this challenge is a maze. Everyone taking part is separated into twos. We have to work our way towards the finish line but it is not as simple as it sounds. The beasts live here. They will be on many pathways and we will encounter them and have to defeat them. Along the way, there will be weapons on the ground which we have to collect in order to protect ourselves. If we aren’t able to defeat them, well you know what would happen. The beasts get harder to defeat the closer we are to the finish line. The reason there is no challenge area or a place where someone will tell us what to do is because the producers want you to think for yourself and take the initiative/risks as that is the whole point of this challenge.”
Thoughts were exploding into my mind as to how Zac knew all this information and why he knew he had to find out about the challenge even as it occurred to me how dangerous this challenge could be. If we were too weak, we could end up dead or turned into the beast’s slaves for eternity. A loud, booming gun sound interrupted my thoughts and I realised, the game had begun.
We walked slowly into the entrance which was hidden behind some vines in the wall. Zac seemed to have had everything planned out which made me feel embarrassed that all I had done was sleep and eat for the past week. Slowly, we started walking whilst taking in our surroundings. My senses had become even sharper and my ears and eyes were trying to memorise all the things we were experiencing.
We were surrounded by walls with many vines growing on it. Suddenly, the path split into two.
“Which way do we take?” I asked, hoping he knew the answer.
“I don’t know. We’ll have to guess.” He said.
I looked at him sharply to see whether it was his laid back attitude talking or if he was being serious. However, I was taken by surprise. I had never seen Zac look so focused ever before.
“Let’s take right.” I said.
We kept on walking and walking and guessing and guessing as went about collecting items. My feet were aching and all I could hear was the thudding of my feet against the gravel ground. I was starting to lose concentration and focus when suddenly a human appeared in front of us. She was on the ground crying and narrated us about how she had lost her partner. She seemed so distraught that I went to give her a hug when Zac stopped me.
“Zac, what are you doing? Can’t you see how upset she is?”
Zac kept quiet and took a stone from the ground and threw it at the girl.
“ZAC!” I shouted.
He had lost it, I had thought to myself. All of a sudden the girl shrieked and something I had never seen occurred in front of me. One by one, her body parts transformed into something bigger, hairier and scarier. She was a beast. It had furry big legs almost like a gorilla with arms like an octopus and it had no face, just a round circle at the top of its body.
“I knew it.” Zac muttered to himself.
“Well, well, well” the beast said in a roaring, husky voice. “You are lucky, young girl, that you have such a partner with you. Otherwise, you would’ve been in my arms.” It laughed wickedly.
My legs were shaking at the mere sight of the beast and its voice made all the nature in the maze droop and wilt. I was feeling petrified. I took a step back but tripped over my own shoelaces. My head hit the floor with a thud and my eyes were struggling to stay open. What was happening to me? This sensation was happening all day. I think I’m being shut down. Why now? What will happen to Zac?
My eyes slowly opened. A brick wall was in front of me, centimeters from my nose. Suddenly, I jumped to my feet remembering Zac. Where was he?
I turned around but bumped into a hard chest. I looked up praying it was Zac when I saw James. I was confused when suddenly all my thoughts from before came rushing into my brain. Oh yeah, he was the last person I saw.
“Where’s Zac? What happened to the game?”
“We carried you through the game. It has been completed.”
I saw him hesitate a little.
“He got caught.”
Before I even felt the shaking of my hands and legs or the goose bumps that traveled through my body, he quickly said “But don’t worry. I told him how to get out just in case beforehand and it’s fairly easy. He should be out of there soon.”
The guilt I felt was unreal. James must have sensed this as he said soothingly, “It’s not your fault. It was bound to happen and he knows what to do now. Why don’t you go home and take some rest before the next challenge.”
_________To Be Continued__________