My name is Indigo Solas, my brothers and I like to play Monster Hunter.
When I was a kid, my parents bought me these child-friendly encyclopedia books called Childcraft. My favourite book was the one on animals, but there was always a page I dreaded to flip to. Right after the dolphins was a 2-page spread dedicated to whales. The way the sperm whale was illustrated really gives you a feel of its gigantic size, and for some reason it always broke me into a cold sweat. Even when I knew that it was mostly harmless to people, the sight of such a gigantic sea creature---a “monster”, always terrified 5 year old me.
I’m not scared of whales anymore, but the sight of creatures that big still sends shivers down my spine. That feeling of helplessness in front of something so massive is hard to shake off, as if you were an ant facing a human child.
But then I found a game that lets me fight back. Sure, there are plenty of video games that let you fight against ginormous creatures, but there was something about the Monster Hunter games that make me feel like an actual human being just trying his best to take down an apex predator and trying to stay on top of the food chain.
But I digress; this story isn’t about my childhood, or my love for a video game franchise. This story is about me, my family, and the shit show that we’ve found ourselves in.
The real world was already full of all kinds of monsters, so imagine everyone’s surprise when monsters from a video game showed up out of nowhere.
My name is Indigo Solas, my brothers and I are Monster Hunters.
[Indigo, Feb. 20, 2017, 11:00AM]
The mall was unnecessarily crowded that day, which was weird since it was what I considered a 'dead day' or basically those times in weekdays where people are less likely to go the mall. There was no occasion nor is it a weekend whatsoever, and yet the amount of people loitering around is simply sickening.
I knew I should have just stayed at home and enjoy the peace and quiet of a simple life.
"But wasn't this your idea?" My sister, Frank, asked, walking beside me with the most furious looking crease on her forehead. Her eyebrows were so close to each other, I should've known that she'd hate this situation more than I did. It's not that she's enochlophobic, she simply hates crowds.
True, it was kind of my idea. My cousins and I have been avid fans of the Monster Hunter videogames, especially when the slightly more user-friendly games were released on the 3DS. Even with the Nintendo Switch so close to releasing, we decided to keep playing Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on the 3DS for multiple reasons. For one, we consider MH4U as the superior Monster Hunter game on the 3DS and will only buy Generations should it release on the Switch. Secondly, and most importantly, we don’t have the budget to buy the Switch as soon as it releases.
Regardless of what we felt about upcoming consoles and video games, right now was a day we scheduled to hang out, do some window shopping, and hunt monsters together while eating at the mall’s foodcourt.
While we could just use the online features of the game, unfortunately our country has the kind of internet that offers high ping and random disconnections.
So what was our compromise? We decided to occasionally meet and do local co-op more often.
Today was one of those days. My sister and I had planned to meet with my 2 cousins who also play MH. Char Alberts and Xavier Ignacius. Char lived closer to us but Xavier is at least a 2 hour drive away, so we usually meet up in a mall at a central area where we could all drive or commute to easily.
Had I known that the mall was an introvert’s nightmare right now, I'd have chosen a different meeting place.
"Can we get something to eat?" Char asked. We've been waiting for Xavier for a while and I have a tendency to arrive at least a whole hour before the scheduled meeting time. Since both Char and my sister decided to commute with me, they had no choice but to be early as well.
"Why, are you gonna pay for it?" I replied with a grin. In my mind I was already strategizing whether a burger or a burrito would be a better choice, and then I'll probably accompany either with a milk tea.
"What?!" He snapped with a raised eyebrow. "You're the one with a salary."
Right. Being the eldest at 22, I was the only one who was working out of the three of us. Char, 16, was still in highschool. Xavier's a freshman and I think he's around 13 or something. My sister, Frank(short for Franky but she prefers Frank), was just a year older than Char and currently an art major at a nearby university.
With a sigh, I led them to the closest fast food, opting for a cheeseburger and ice tea instead. Even though I was paying, Char still chose the cheapest option while Frank just ordered the same thing I did.
"Xavier just texted," Char spoke up after finishing his mini burger. Before he can continue I already saw what looked like our youngest cousin from afar. Slightly small for his age, you'd think an eight year old was making his way to us. His outfit though, with his red long sleeved shirt (it has an arc reactor design printed at the chest), jeans, and a gray jacket tied at his waist was more or less balanced by his tidyand short black hair. "He says he'll just meet us here."
"There he is," I replied, taking note of Char's outfit as well. He was the most basic out of all of us, wearing a simple black shirt with 'Unite' written in red on the front and black denim pants. All of us also had black hair, with Char’s having a simple barber’s cut that’s grown long enough to give him bangs
"'Bout time," Frank smirked. She was wearing a white muscle shirt with a negative image of Liberty Leading The People, and denim shorts that reached past her knees (short pants or long shorts?). Her shoulder-length hair was styled in a way that reminded me of a 90s office lady for some reason.
"So, where do you wanna chill?" I asked. Slightly proud of my outfit, I took notice of my custom collared shirt; It was basically all gray, but a patch of the Disney character Stitch was…well, stitched on the breastpocket. My cargo pants were the kind with plenty of both real and fake pockets, strategically selected in order to confuse any potential pickpockets. My hair was almost a barber’s cut similar to Char’s, but I had it recently cut and restyled to an undercut hairstyle.
Frank and Char didn’t want to start ‘chilling’ just yet, they wanted to roam around and actually enjoy the fact that they were in a mall. Xavier hadn’t eaten yet so we got him a take-out burger before walking around.
Our first stop was a toy store. Us three boys were all into Gundam plastic models, or GunPla for short, and buying a new kit was always a temptation we’ve had to fight. Frank just looks at us with a sigh as she follows us into the store. We browsed through different 'toys', and Char and Xavier were clearly tempted to buy a few of them.
Frank and I managed to pull Char and Xavier off the model kits, saving them from a costly purchase. We continued lurking around and passed by the video games and consoles section. I found myself, along with Char and Xavier, staring at a case of MH Generations for the 3DS.
“You know, we’re gonna have to play it someday,” I mused, feeling a bit of temptation. As much as we know MH4U was a better experience, an MH game is an MH game and we didn’t want to feel left out.
“It’s a little too expensive for me right now,” Char lied, knowing full well that he was willing to buy the gunpla kit that was more expensive than this.
“I heard it doesn’t even have G rank,” Xavier says as he walks away, “I don’t want a casual Monster Hunter experience.”
“I’m still happy with Rune Factory 4,” Frank says with a grin as we left the toy store. “Monster Hunter’s too stressful and grindy for me.”
I stopped as soon as we exited the toy store, then turned to face Char, “Wait a minute, it’s almost the twins’ birthday, isn’t it? Are you not gonna get them anything?”
Char had twin younger brothers, both turning 6 in less than a month.
“I’ll try to get them something educational like a bunch of books,” Char shrugged with a slight grin, “You’re the one who likes pampering them, so you buy the toys.”
“Who knows,” I reply, “Maybe I’ll just buy them some Overwatch lootboxes, surely two 6 year old boys won’t find a new online game that could do a better job of holding their attention.”
That was of course a lie, as I had been scouring different online stores looking for the perfect gifts for my younger cousins. Let’s just say I have a soft spot for kids.
While we had been chatting, Frank points out that we were walking past the mall’s skating rink. The four of us stand outside rink and gawk at the numerous amount of people ice-skating.
“Ah, I miss ice-skating,” Frank mused as she and I watch a bunch of kids fall on their asses and slip across the ice.
“We could totally squeeze it in today,” Xavier suggests while looking at me with a challenging glare. Was he expecting me to pay?
“That’s not what we came here for today,” I answer, “Plus, there’s way too many people in the rink.”
“You just don’t wanna ice-skate ‘cause you can’t balance yourself at all,” Frank comments, reminding me of the first time we tried ice-skating. It was for my birthday and I absolutely did not have fun constantly falling down unable to stabilize my feet. I gave up and walked out on them and I have never ice-skated ever since.
“I prefer solid, stable ground, thank you,” Was all I said before forcing everyone to keep moving.
We eventually found an ideal café placed right next to a bookstore, allowing my sister to do some window-shopping while the three of us play together. After ordering some drinks, we found ourselves a table far enough from the entrance so we could play in peace. The café itself was unpopular, for better or worse. There were barely any people inside but there was still considerable foot traffic of those buying their beverages to-go.
We took out our portable gaming devices and I took note of our different kinds of gamer gear. I had a standard black New 3DS, covered with a translucent casing with an orange Solgaelio silhouette on the front cover. Char had a red ‘old’ 3DS XL, with what looks like a homemade metallic Triforce sticker on its back. Xavier’s blue 2DS was a hand-me-down from me, but upgraded with a thick armor casing that makes it look sturdier than Char or mine’s.
“Why don’t we do a warm-up hunt first?” Char says before taking a sip from his drink, “Something simple like a Khezu or a Zamtrios.”
“Eitherway,” I finalized as we joined Char’s gathering hall, “We should stick to monsters that can be hunted without taking too long. We’re not exactly in the comfort of our own homes here.”
Everyone agrees, and after finally loading in I decided to take note of our characters and stats.
Name: Relena (Female)
Weapon: Charge Blade (Rathflame Ubernova)
Armor Set: Rathian X
Name : Saber (Male)
Weapon: Dual Blades (The Wrackful Gemini)
Armor Set: Regios X
Name: Dirge (Male)
Weapon: Hunting Horn (Hunter Master)
Armor Set: Tigrex Z
“You guys ready?,” I asked, but before either of my cousins could answer the screens of our DS began flickering on and off.
The three of us look at each other to confirm what was happening, when the lights of the café began flickering as well. In less than a minute the lights flickered for the last time before staying turned off. People shouted in surprise and panic as I feel the air around us get more humid, and the noisy hum of all nearby electronics and appliances go quiet.
“The aircon’s turned off,” I observed loudly, “And so is everything else.”
The interior of the mall was bathed in darkness, with only a little sunlight to illuminate the area. It seemed like an EMP wave at first glance, since even cellular phones and our DS are all blacked-out. Part of me hoped that there were no old people nearby relying on pacemakers.
“Franky!” I exclaimed and stood up, telling the other two that I need to check on my sister while they stay put. I felt my way through and hoped I don't hit any other person as I stumbled through the barely-lit area around me.
I made my way to the bookstore, trying my best to avoid other panicked and confused mall-goers as I struggled through a crowded labyrinth constantly saying sorry to other people whose feet I stepped on.
"Franky?!" I called out, worried she had left the bookstore without telling me. With our phones dead, there was no other way of communicating.
"I told you, I prefer Frank, Indie." I heard a shaky voice beside me. It seems she had the same idea of checking on me when all the electronics went out. Her rebuttal was well received, as I also hated being called Indie. “God it’s so dark, I can’t see anything. My phone’s not working and I think I bumped some books off their shelves.”
I could hear Frank’s breathing getting faster as her grip tightens around my arm.
“Hey, it’s just some kind of blackout,” I try to calm her, “We’ll get back to Char and Xavier and just hang back while waiting for the power.”
“My phone’s not working,” She continues panicking, “Something’s not right.”
Before we could even make it back to the café, the lights all went back on. Sighs of relief from me, Frank, and other people were heard alongside the comforting hum of electronics and other machinery coming back to life. I check my phone and 3DS and they both seemed fine, as I can only hope that all our data were safe and no long-term damage was dealt to our gadgets.
The only weird thing I noticed was with my 3DS. The green ‘streetpass’ LED was blinking unreasonably fast.
“Could be a side-effect of the EMP,” I muttered, as we went back to the café to Char and Xavier. Both of them had the confused look on their faces and the streetpass light highspeed blinking on their consoles.
“Maybe it’s detecting all 3DS users nearby all at once?” Char wondered aloud, although we knew full well that streetpass encounters simply turn on the green LED before slowly fading when you ‘wake’ your 3DS.
“The sudden shutdown is already weird enough,” I noted as we all sat back down to play. Frank sat with us doublechecking her phone for potential issues. “Could’ve been an EMP of some sort, but this would be my very first experience with one in real life so I can’t say for certain.”
“As long as this ain’t a War of the Worlds scenario I’ll be fine,” Char joked.
We laugh nervously at his joke, trying to get back to the previous groove we were in. Frank sat down with us instead of going back to the bookstore, quietly sipping her drink while scrolling through her phone.
“So we had a quick scare, big fucking deal,” Xavier grinned, “Nothing a good hunting party can’t fix.”
“Aye,” Char agreed as he re-opens the gathering hall for us to meet up in.
Finding that I couldn’t get fully comfortable in my seat, I forced myself to calm down as we got ready to take on a quest.
And then the screams began.