The Maze Game, Part 4
The following story contains: Violence, violent imagery, some profane/crude language
When he received a break from the onslaught, he lifted the body of Joanne Cross, placed it on her bed, closed those beautiful, green lenses floating in red. He continued to play, slashing legions of bloody Skinless to hunks of flesh, half of his motivation from vengeance, the other half from her last thoughts lingering in his head. It becomes more real when the game’s off, Tavon! An important detail he forgot.
What if I was lucky? What if they didn’t get me, because the last time I slept, my PC had yet to encounter them? A slither of doubt kept him playing, until 143 hours of game time passed.
He reawakened to the present. Six hours ago, he passed the detour leading to the piss-yellow portal Joanne mistakenly took. From that point, six hours later, he found himself in no better position than before. His eyelids were lead, his back and shoulders an arch of ache, his finger tips numb to the bone, the digits themselves rusty rods in desperate need of oil. His head itched like mad, his entire body felt, smelled, like a cesspool of germs and discomfort. One hour, and the world ended, and he would leave a corpse with all the appeal of a sewer rat. He grinned with teeth that tasted of filth while he mindlessly hammered the controller. He thought he was truly going insane if he cared more for how his dead body would look than in dying itself.
But, he thought with a baking brain, A little insanity can sometimes be a good thing. If sanity meant he should bend to the Maze Game, and play until his mind snapped, fingers bled, grimy, alone, then he’d rather go insane, just like Joanne. Before one of those ugly bastards could touch him again, he sprang forward, and pressed the power button on the system. The entire room sat quiet, motionless, at peace. It was as if the world ended, yet he found himself in a realm of tranquility. Then all hell broke loose. A hurricane of fart swept over him, patches of dead grass and black dirt replaced sections of beige carpet, and the endless moaning of the Skinless resonated from everywhere.
He heard, but kept his eyes glued to the floor. They were real now, as real as the C-shaped collection of plastic, switches, and circuits he used to slaughter thousands of them. He would have stayed on the floor, his mind wrapped in a box of fear, if not for Joanne. Them desecrating her body further with their teeth and claws, the image consumed him with rage. He stood, and there they stood, red muscle and veins revealed, dog-dicks loose, skinless breasts exposed, all staring without eyelids, drool flooding from exposed teeth lacking lips. Some snarled at Joanne Cross, hunched over her with gaping jaws.
“Get away from her!” They stopped; actually stopped, and gave him their undivided attention. Add another to the list of things he regretted recently. The Skinless parted like the Red Sea, A sea of flesh, and pointed crimson phalanges at the controller.
The one closest spoke with the base expected of an ungodly horror: “Play.”
“To hell with all of you, and the code you rode in on!”
“Then, DIE!” That “die” lasted forever, blasted from the vocals of every creature. So loud, it sounded like wandering into a parking lot full of pimp-mobiles, all of them blasting their favorite songs until the speakers busted. Tavon Hale fell to his knees, holding his ears in a half-vain attempt to stop the noise. The windows exploded, the LCD screens fell, papers flew everywhere. Spontaneous combustion, self-induced bruises… brain exploding from excess noise. That’s a new one. The noise stopped. Tavon expected to be eaten alive, slashed to death, or torn limb from limb, or all the above, at any second. One second turned to two, and two turned to sixty. He released his ears, opened his eyes. Crickets chirped, the carpet regained its uniform beige, glass littered everything, and the Skinless were gone. The Mario-themed alarm clock on the floor, by Joanne’s bedside, read 12:00. It was over. He lived, never felt so happy to see a clock all his life. Tavon Hale then cried. He turned his entire body from the bed, fell over, and sobbed in his knuckles.
“God, why? Why did it end like this? Joanne. Joanne!” Hammer fists on the door startled him while banging nails in his throbbing head.
“Open up! It’s the police.” He managed to lift his body, stand to his legs, but that’s it. Words stayed caught in his throat, legs stayed rooted in the carpet. After fighting for his life against a supernatural video game, shock set in now?
Why? He stood dumb, like the survivor of a suicide bombing. The door flew open with force. Two officers, guns raised, entered. They saw the eighteen-year old boy, the chaos of the dorm room, and the girl lying on the bed, bandaged, bruised, and scarred.
“Get on the ground, now!” demanded the officer. Tavon would have loved to comply; a tackle to the floor made him. One secured him with handcuffs, another checked Joanne’s body. He checked her pulse, then shook her with little force, ignorant to the extent of her injuries.
“Miss, are you all right? Miss? Miss?” He talked into his radio. “She’s alive but unresponsive, bandaged, and covered in bruises. We need an EMS team in here. We’ve also secured the suspect.” The officer who secured Tavon lifted him as one handling a cat with rabies.
“Let’s go, pretty boy.” She’s alive? She’s alive! His mind wanted to scream those words to express his praise, yet his body only gave him guttural sounds.
Three police cars, and now an ambulance, flashed arrays of blue, red, and white outside the dorm complex. A stretcher carried Joanne Cross to the ambulance, a white blanket draping her from the neck down like silk over a sleeping saint. Tavon Hale sat in the back of a police Charger. A man in a white lab coat with black slacks, and a hook-shaped scar from the top of his nose to his right cheek, smoked a Black & Mild, leaned across the Charger. He stood before a sheriff grimacing over a sheet of paper. Two other men, wearing black suits, both over six-feet tall with the build of football linebackers, stood behind the man in the white coat.
“So, the boy’s in shock and the girl’s in a coma,” said the man in the lab coat. “That’s a shame. We would have loved to question them concerning their experiences. When introduced to variable C, no one else reached the conclusion they made. Well, the boy anyway.”
The sheriff scoffed. “No matter what you say, it doesn’t make any sense to me. The girl has to be taken to the hospital, and the boy must be identified, parents notified. Who’d you say you were again?”
“Dr. Alfred K. Bola, a small representative of our nation’s great efforts to lambaste those who greet your civil liberties with belligerent purposes.”
“You’re involved in weapon’s research or somethin’?” Dr. Bola grinned, revealing a set of the most yellow, crooked teeth the sheriff had ever seen, even among druggies. And who’s to say this overpaid loon wasn’t one? He handed the paper back. “Tell your boss to chew me out personally then. I’ve never heard of your organization, and this is still our case.” Besides, Joanne’s father’s an old friend, and I’d rather eat dirt than not know what happened to her. One of the burly men in black stepped forward. A hand from the doctor halted the human tank.
“I’m afraid you don’t understand how little of a sheriff you are…” The vibrating of Dr. Bola’s cell stole his attention. He snatched it from one of his lab pockets. “Yeah?” He listened for around two minutes, before he flashed that grotesque set of teeth again. “Understood.” He flicked the phone off, then walked away.
“Been called back to the kennel, good doctor?”
“It seems we’ve been given another opportunity to gather some test data. If you’re looking for answers, you’ll definitely find them soon enough. Ta, ta!” He still had no idea what he was talking about; he was just glad he left.
The young man’s eyelids floated between half and closed. His brains swam. How much longer would he stay awake? Even the pain of the handcuffs biting his wrists, and the ache of his bandaged arm, failed to fight the approaching darkness. An officer entered the driver’s side, started the engine, spoke without looking back.
“I just don’t understand you kids these days. You’re in college, doing great things, then you pull something like this.”
“But it wasn’t me!” Did I just speak? “It was the game!” He was outside himself, a spectator in his own body. Everything just floated; he floated.
“Going for insanity, huh? It only works in the movies, kid.”
“I see. You don’t truly see.”
“What did you say?”
“You’ll need to gather the video game system in her dorm as evidence.”
The officer turned around to face the perp. “Is that an admission of guilt?”
“I will show you all the truth, then we’ll finally be free!”