I had just gotten used to my new body. Well, I suppose I could call it that. It was something I would describe as being fairly polygonal, not very corporeal, but still having form when compared to the things around me. If I hit a wall with the side of my body, neither object would intersect, which left me with the assumption that I was, indeed, occupying a body with form. However, I didn’t have much of a reference to compare myself to. The place I existed in was desolate, a complex of military style buildings resting atop a mountain, overlooking stretch of plains obscured by a perpetual haze. I’d been there as long as I could remember, but I couldn’t remember much.
It was very hard to determine exactly when I “was”, or when I came to be, rather, but I had been there long enough to discover how small the space I existed in was. After a great deal of exploration, I discovered no real doors existed in this place, only doorways which one could easily walk through. I also found out there were some places you just couldn’t jump over, a wall of thick, glass-like material preventing me from doing so. One would think that I’d experience some amount of dread at the idea of being trapped in one spot forever, but the feeling never really crossed my mind. It’s not as if I was uncomfortable, the sun that shone overhead didn’t make me hot, I never hungered for anything, I was never thirsty. I didn’t quite understand what the concept of discomfort was, just that it entailed those conditions, and I met none of them by definition. Just about the only thing that made me less than content was the idea of loneliness, and just when I’d begun to settle into the state of comfortable solitude, I felt something.
It was incredibly hard to describe, really. I sensed another entity, not too far from me. Feeling in general is something I wasn’t really used to, so it was quite startling. It wasn’t long before the other entity stepped into my field of vision, and I took a moment to examine them. A figure about as tall as me and approximately as polygonal, clad in the same orange armor. I walked into them and discovered they were about as solid as I was! Right as I was becoming elated at the idea of a peer, an equal, somebody just like me, they produced a .357 Magnum revolver, something I had recognized from other areas of the complex as an object that I could pick up, and shot me point blank right between the eyes, leaving my body lifeless on the hard ground, a stain of blood marking the wall behind me. Death, I found, was painless. Thank goodness for that! Pain sounded awful, judging what I knew of it’s definition. Only the feeling of minor disappointment was instilled in me as I watched the other entity run into one of the buildings after the murder. In an instant, I found myself in that body once more, just as it was when I first came to be. I was relieved, as the feeling of remaining dead was certainly more unpleasant than the one of remaining alive.
I peered out of a window next to the place I’d appeared, I saw the other entity run across the rooftops of the other half of the complex. I admired how much differently they seemed to interact with the world around them, with a certain fiery tenacity and restlessness. It clashed with my own sensibilities of caution and reverence, but it was so endlessly entertaining just to watch them perform that it made me want to join. I picked up a crossbow located on the ground beside me and aimed it out the window at them, and after carefully centering the crosshairs, I fired, sending a bolt of steel flying into their chest with deadly precision. Their body slumped onto the roof and tumbled off with a distinct lack of grace.
“Nice,” a disembodied voice spoke in a stilted, robotic cadence.
It startled me slightly. After all, it’s the first time I’d ever heard anything, or anyone, make a noise that wasn’t a gunshot or footsteps. I’d never even spoken myself, simply out of there being no necessity. Nevertheless, I attempted.
“Thank you!” I responded, as politely as I could.
I received no response, but I didn’t take it personally. It must be difficult to speak while moving so quickly, I figured. I turned to walk into the center of the complex, hoping that I could continue correspondence with the entity, when they emptied the entire clip from an assault rifle into my chest, killing me instantly. Again, painless death, although in that intermediate state between being and not I thought that it might’ve been overkill, the whole clip. I was very well dead by 30 rounds, but better safe than sorry I suppose. I took the opportunity to praise their deftly executed… execution, just as they had mine.
“You got me there!” I quipped, making an effort to generate a more unique commendation.
A few moments passed, then a response. “Lmao, thanks dude,” the voice spoke again in that same artificial tone, spelling out the first word letter by letter. I wasn’t exactly sure what “ell-em-ay-oh” was supposed to mean, but I interpreted it as a gesture of goodwill when combined with the gratitude. It went on like this for a while, short exchanges shared in between violently slaughtering one another. I was having a great deal of fun doing this, as we both began to find far more powerful and odd forms of weaponry to decimate each other with. I was particularly fond of how clever the other entity became. The hallways of the inner complex, once safe havens for me to rest and heal wounds with the white and red boxes that littered the place, became masterfully built traps that usually ended in me getting blown into several tiny pieces. Each time, we commended one another, until they decided to continue the conversation on their own.
“So how are you doing?” they asked as they bounded off a rooftop and onto me, swinging a long metal pipe into my jaw, cracking it completely in half.
Despite the injury, I was still able to speak perfectly fine, yet the question perplexed me slightly. How was I doing? I was having a lot of fun, perhaps even the time of my very short life, but I didn’t know exactly how to phrase my answer. I took a shot at it.
“Pretty good! How about you?” I answered as I placed the slug of a shotgun shell into their leg, having missed slightly while pulling the trigger. They responded by firing another round from the .357 into my chest, finishing me off. As I re-appeared elsewhere, they continued.
“Can’t complain. Just chilling,” they said flatly, reloading their gun. I felt compelled to continue the conversation while we continued our routine.
“That sounds nice. How long have you been here?”
“Uhh, about 25 minutes I’d say? I mean, you’ve been here with me the whole time.”
“I think I mean how long have you been. In general.”
“Ohh, uhh, 18 years I guess? That’s a weird way of asking how old I am.”
I was astonished. No wonder they were so good at this, they’d been practicing for so long! A crossbow bolt flew through my ribs and pinned me to the concrete wall beside me, my corpse stiffly hanging from from it like a sad marionette.
“You’re very good at this,” I commented.
“Thanks. You are too.”
As this continued, my initial ecstasy faded as I became fairly used to the routine of kill, compliment, repeat. I pondered if there was something else we could do, some other way to pass the time as it were. Nothing came to mind, so I opted to ask the expert in my presence.
“Is there anything more to this? What we’re doing?” I asked as I set off a landmine underneath them, sending their body flying into the air.
“Can we do anything else besides kill each other?”
I saw that they’d acquired a rocket launcher.
“Then why do we do this?” I questioned as the miniature missile effortlessly tore both of my legs off. They paused.
“Because it’s fun,” they answered as I scorched their body to a cinder with rare find of mine, a laser gun.
“Do you ever stop having fun?”
I’m torn to shreds by an expertly placed turret.
They’re pushed from the highest point in the complex, the sickening crunch of breaking bones echoing over the horizon.
“What do you do when you stop having fun?”
I’m ripped atom from atom by a high power ray gun.
“I stop playing.”
They’re pumped full of lead from my 9mm Glock.
“Are you still having fun?”
I accidentally launch myself into a nearby wall with a rocket launcher, sending my shattered ribs into my lungs.
They walk into one of their own traps.
“Haha, did you see that?” they asked. “Lmao, I’m an idiot.”
I laughed, and took their words into account. I was still having fun. Having considered what the expert told me, I reasoned that if the only other alternative was doing nothing, which seemed downright boring at this point, I might as well enjoy what I have now. We continued massacring one another, each time finding a new way to outsmart or out-gun the other. I was very happy. I didn’t want it to end, but judging from how the expert spoke about this existence, the way we were, it had to. There was just no way around it. This fun, it seemed, was ephemeral. Eventually, my fears became reality.
“Shit. I gotta go. Been nice playing with you,” they said.
“Okay,” I said, hiding my sadness. “Been nice playing with you too.”
“Have a good night.”
I sensed they left, no longer occupying this place I existed in. I supposed they weren’t having fun anymore, they “stopped playing,” in their words. I wondered if, maybe, I did something to make them not have fun. It made me upset to think about, so upset that I wanted to stop playing too. However, they hadn’t explained the mechanism by which I would “stop playing”, nor if it was always something you had to do of your own volition. After a great deal of time spent walking the familiar halls of the complex, now riddled with scorch marks and bullet holes, I concluded that if I didn’t know how to “stop playing,” I probably wasn’t ready to. Maybe it was something that you learned after a long period of time, 18 years or so, and I just hadn’t been playing long enough. So I waited. I waited for another entity, perhaps even the same one, to return to my tiny little plane of existence. I whittled the time away discovering everything that I could discover. Every nook and cranny, every weapon and ability, every spot for traps. Then, one day-
I felt it again.
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