View: two feet behind his head, angled slightly down and out in a wide cone of vision. A morning star occupies one hand, a shield in the other. Chainmail glistens white sparks of reflected torch light into the darkness as he breaths; shoulders rise and fall. He looks down the long dungeon hall; torches on both sides and alternating — arch, torches, arch, doors, and so on like that. He swats his morning star into the open air making swooshing sounds. Other noises come randomly: distant drinking songs, the noise of a far off scuffle, and closer by, rats, dripping, a cobweb sizzling in a torch, the creek of a door opening and the thud of it closing.
He takes a few tentative and awkward steps forward. The view moves with him, stiffly. He turns in a circle, checking all sides and verifying that, yes indeed, he was at a crossroads, that the dungeon had given him four choices but no memory of how he got there or indication of where to go. He turned, again, in a circle. He stops. He squats down and puts his shield on the ground. He picks it back up. He turns a circle, sets his morning star on the dirt floor, stands, squats, sets the shield down, stands, turns in a circle once more, then checks his pockets.
A howling sound takes hold of him as he pulls something out of his pocket. The howl is only that of the wind but the wind wraps around him and chills him. He shivers. The view shifts up as he looks up trying to find the source of the air. Overhead, a deep vertical shaft with only its bottommost edge illuminating its presence. From there to the surface was blackness only. Then, above the blackness, the moon. An instinct seizes him and he takes the object from his pocket and holds it to the moonlight.
The moonbeams penetrate the bright translucent green pyramid held like a prism between his eye and the heavenly orb. It shines so intensely that numbers appear in white on each side — one through four — and the light comes through and hits his eye. He drops it and it rolls past his shield and weapon down the path to his left, revealing a number two at the top. He and the view turn. He steps forward and from the glowing green die a light runs like water down the dungeon hall to a distance that is almost invisible before turning left.
He reaches down and picks up the die. The view shifts down then up. The green line remains and the die glows dimly in his pocket. The takes up his shield and weapon and begins to run following the path the die has provided. He runs until, breathless, nearing physical depletion he makes the left turn where he is met by a blue floating orb with a table under it.
At the table sits an old woman who smiles menacingly. He turns around to look for options. Nothing above. Move of the same behind. The green line running right under her. He stands breathing and armor glinting. “Well,” she says in a wretchedly high yet croaking voice, “don’t you want to roll the die? Hmm?” She coughs as she pushes a wide flat bowl toward him, “I haven’t got all day. Take the die from your pocket and roll.” He steps toward her, the view bobbing along two feet behind, and as he approaches she removes two cloths on either side of the table. The objects underneath include a handsome dagger shining blue in the orb’s light, a bottle labeled “poison,” another labeled “health,” and another die with fours on every side that matched the blue light above.
He rolls the die in her bowl. View: top down centered on the die. A four. “Well,” she says, “aren’t you lucky or a condemned man!” Then cackles. “You may take everything on my table.” When he picks up the dagger a “+2” appears in the air in red smoke before fading. When he picks up the “health” bottle, the words “fully restored” appear between him and the old woman just as the “+2” had. Similarly the word “equipped” appears for the last two objects.
He begins to walk past the woman but hits an invisible wall of darkness. He sides to one side then the other; the view back to two feet behind and slightly above. The woman laughs: “You must feel very lucky if you’re going there without saving.” More cackling as he turns toward her and sees that the word “save” has appeared on the blue orb. “Your kind is always so over confident!” He touches the orb and it, the woman, and her table disappear in smoke as a “loading” bar appears and the formerly dark hallway is revealed as a giant dome-shaped room. The moon shines in through a glass ceiling miles above his head, torches line the wall, and the view zooms into the center of the room.
A ten foot tall snake woman appears at center, the view circling her revealing her form in intense detail: her underbelly is clear showing all her organs and veins, but her scales are gold and silver feathers that behind her arms become wings; her eyes are two open mouths with black lizard tongues whipping between fangs; her mouth holds two ruby eyes in the grips of her tight purple lips; and her hair is made of waving spit-covered tongues — thick, moist, coated in halitosis film. Swirling beneath the transparent skin of one breast is an ice storm trapped in a glass cyst; likewise, the other holds a volcano.
Quickly the view pulls back two feet behind his head and he charges her with his new weapon. However, upon reaching her, she whips her tail around, grabs his neck and snaps it. View shifts above him as the scene fades to back and she eats his corpse.
View: from his eyes he sees the virtual reality headset in his hands, which are themselves, in virtual reality gloves. His eyes look at his own heaving chest and sees that his whole body is in a suit wired with green lines that are not unlike those that came from the die. He still feels her bite marks on his torso and now a crick is forming in his neck. He pulls one glove off carefully, then the other. Then…
Darkness and a voice: “your kind is always so confident,” he hears in a crackling nasal voice. Then giggling. Then the darkness drops as a young woman loosens her hand and falls over the back of the couch so that her head lands in his lap. She looks up at him. Laughs more as she covers her mouth with her hand and kicks her bare feet up and down off the end of the couch. “How do you play this cheesey stuff?” He does not answer but instead looks around at the bright white apartment. “I could barely keep myself from yelling out when you charged that snake lady! So dumb. You could play something nice, ya’know.”
A bar appears in the top left corner: anxiety. It’s green is slowly shifting red. “Why don’t you say something? Gah!” Two options appear at the bottom: 1) say, “I’m sorry baby. It was a rough day at the office.” 2) say, “how did I get here.” Two is selected. He says this. The girl’s face contorts as she begins to yell: “why do you always do this!? What’s wrong with you?! Don’t I mean anything to you?! Do you even know what today is?!” She stands and takes a photo of him. She gasps and sticks it in his face: “see?”
The photo appears like evidence. He’s seen with a red aura around him on the white couch. The words, “anxious” and “liar” and “cheater” appear across his face. At the bottom it says, “forgot anniversary” and “doesn’t love you.” View returns to his eyes. Her ranting repeats on loop as he looks around. The anxiety bar becomes more and more red. Objects begin to glow in his field of vision: the phone in her hand, the VR headset, a remote on the table. He grabs the glowing remote and throws it at her head. She drops the phone and staggers backwards. He feels his world vibrate — buzz buzz. A count down clock appears in the top right corner and the phone glows bright red. Buzz buzz. Anxiety bar rises. Time disappears. The woman is beginning to get up. Buzz buzz.
He reaches out and grabs the phone. The screen is still on. View through his eyes looking at the screen. The young woman on the floor appears through the phones camera to be the snake woman, the room a construct. He heads for the door but it won’t open with his hand. He looks at it through the phone and there is only an empty doorframe that he can just walk through.
He runs down the apartment building stairs which appear as an ancient stone stair case looking through the phone. He opens the door outside and the brightness of the world comes into his view like the blindness of looking into the face of God. However, the phone has gone black, showing only the white words “loading” and a spinning wheel. He taps the screen and the message changes to “no map available.” He looks before him: a busy highway. Behind him he hears the woman’s voice thundering as she calls out retracing his steps. “I smell you.” Then, “I still taste you.” She laughs. Then she knocks down the door, reaches up to the top of her head, and peels the human part away revealing the monster beneath. Venom shoots from her eyes and cuts across him like a saw. The view from his eyes up to her fades to black as she devours him.
View: top down. Bottom most visible section reveals a block shaped version of him. On either side pixelated snakes squiggle toward him. Before him, blocky cars moving in alternating directions at varying speeds. The anxiety bar is still hanging in the top corner, and as the snakes approach it nears maximum red, yet in block form he shows no sign of fear when he leaps in the gap between the blue block car and the red block car, then between green block car and the yellow block car, then, and then, and then, until the purple car hits him blackness swallows everything like the hands of a clock.
View: top down, black and white. He is now a dot. There are no counters. No measurements in view. He cannot show emotion. He cannot shimmer. He has no shoulders to suggest breathing. He cannot spin in circles. He can only move: up, down, left, or right. There are no walls here, just the open plane of two dimensional emptiness. However, seeing in all directions, he sees the long white snake snaking towards him in a string of blocks, eating blocks and making itself longer — longer becomes closer. The white dot runs and runs. He runs off the right side and appears on the left. The snake does the same matching it’s movements to his. Time is unmarked and moves forward consuming and growing like the serpent that fills most of the view. He moves between the untouching folds of the snake, revealing wit unlike any pixel before him. Dodging and darting, he makes the snake into a dragon to burn its tail with its own breath; the head pixel touches a tail pixel and the whole body freezes then fades in a staggered gradient. Text appears: “achievement unlocked!”
View: bedroom with natural light illuminating heavy wood furniture. Pan across windows to his face, seen now for the first time, on a white pillow. His alarm goes off on his phone which is resting on the night stand. He ignores it. Zoom in on his eyes and then another man’s hand, his lover, groping towards the sound and finding only eyes and nose. “Baby, get your phone.” He slurred out in sleepy breaths, “turn off your alarm.”
The view follows his hand to the phone as “snooze” is hit. Then cut to his feet, bare, hitting the carpet. View follows his feet to the bathroom door and stops as his naked backside blurs as he steps into a glass-walled shower leaving his phone on the sink. The view lingers as he turns in circles in the shower washing. Arpeggio of 8 bit sounds play, once, twice, and then a third time. His lover calls out, “your notifications are annoying!”
He yells back, “I’ll get it in a minute!” The shower runs and the view shifts: top down on the phone. Notification: “You rolled a one. Do you want to use the blue die?” Notification: “Map now available.” Notification: “Level 2 now loading.”