A shudder shimmies across my spine as the winds outside roar. I push myself away from the desk, and away from the glow of my computer screen. I yawn. Midnight was approaching, and the new moon solstice night stood black and eerie. The distant glow of Christmas lights dangling off the edge of roofs were the only source of illumination as thick and heavy clouds cluttered out the stars.
began to fall; tap-dancing across the terracotta shingles. I watched
the passage of one day into the next — one season into the next,
and welcome it with another yawn. I slide my tongue between the spot
where my front tooth had once been and sigh as I slide the window
shut. I catch a glimpse of myself in the second before the red
curtains close. A glimpse that burrows into my memory. My brown hair
was as thin as mist, revealing the pale scalp underneath, and my neck
bulged from fat. Dark circles wrapped around my light blue eyes that
my glasses sat awkwardly over. My head snapped to the side as I sigh
and curse as I push my tongue through the gap where my front tooth
Still, the shudder remains. As if a pair of invisible eyes were locked at me from somewhere. I glance around the dark room. Shadow — the stray black cat that occasionally came in when it was cold or when it was raining, looks up at me with her bright agate gaze from her spot atop my pillow. My dog, Clio, rustled beneath the comforter laid over the mattress and box-spring combo laid on the floor in the corner by the window. I chase the foolish notion of spirits lurking in the shadow or curious gods in their etheric realms. This was an age of science and reason. The blaring light of the Enlightenment had cleansed the spirit haunted world, after all.
I pulled off my glasses and placed them back on the top of the bookshelf, and turned back to my computer. On the screen; over the document I had just been typing in, was a popup. I sigh. I was careful with the sites that I visited, and I never browsed without at least two adblockers. How did I get a virus? I take the few steps across the darkened, tile room, roll my chair toward me and sit.
“If you had the choice would you fight for the safety of your world?” Black text on a bright white background reads. The choices, “yes,” and, “no,” were highlighted beneath them.
I roll my eyes and sit on the rolling computer chair; the suspension squeals in protest as I push myself to my desk. At the very least, seeing where this thing leads would, for a time, quiet the anxiety screaming at me to continue working. The words were flowing like molasses anyways.
I move the mouse and click, “yes.”
My screen goes black for a moment, yet my reflection doesn’t catch on the screen. I blink and shake my head. By the time I open my eyes, I am greeted with another prompt.
Bold white letters in a calligraphic style scrawled across the top of the screen read:
“Would you fight with magic, weapon, or with your wits?”
I move the mouse again. As the cursor moves, the screen ripples as if it were moving over the surface of water. The ripples spread beneath the words, and they bob up and down like string over water. I click magic. I always play a magic class.
Once again, the screen goes dark, and white letters once again write themselves out on my screen. The shiver returns.
“Roki, the War God of Efra has laid his eyes upon your world. He is mustering his forces for an invasion. In 24 hours, that invasion will begin.” It reads.
I roll my eyes. Lore didn’t really interest me. I look for an option to skip, but there is nothing. I sigh and lean back in my chair and wait for it to end.
“We, the gods of Earth have found potential within you, Lawrence Abel.”
I sit up straight. How did this website know my name? Cookies? Keyloggers? I press the windows button to try to exit this program.
I sigh and lean back in the chair.
“It’ll be dangerous, and you could die. Knowing this would you still fight?”
The words, ‘yes,’ and, ‘no,’ flash on the screen once again. I move my mouse. It is harder to move as if my body had been submerged in water. I click yes.
The words flash off the screen. In its place, another block of text begins to write itself out.
“In order to help you start your fight, we would like to offer you the ability to choose three skills in your chosen field. We have outlined it in a format we believe you will be most familiar with.”
Beneath this, a table began to draw itself out; like those skill trees that one might see in old-school RPGs. Countless ‘schools,’ of magic were written out over the top; anything that one might think of as magical was listed there; the classical elements of fire, water, earth, air and ether, hexes and curses, necromancy, conjuring, herbal, alchemy; anything and everything one could think of as magic.
I go to healing. I enjoy having some level of self-sustainability in games. The only one that I could click was, ‘heal.’
A short description of the spell popped out as I hovered over it.
“Through the power of Jehova, heal wounds and cuts.” Besides that in the smaller text was the fraction 1/999. Was this one of those games where using a skill slowly increases its efficacy? I enjoy those types of games. The grind was usually pretty meditative. I click it. The, ‘3,’ at the top of the screen turns into, ‘2.’
Next, I look for a damaging ability. I scroll until I see the elemental section again. The only fire skill I could unlock was a skill called, ‘ember.’ I hover over it, and the description reads as such.
“Even the Giants of Muspelheim begin their lives as humble ember. 1/999”
I look to the water section. I hover over the skill at the top of the page; “Splash.” A certain Pokémon comes to mind as I scroll past it right to the air section, where the spell, ‘gust,’ was the only one that I could unlock.
“The Sylphs beat their wings through you. 1/999.”
What good would a gust of wind do? I go to the ‘earth,’ section. ‘Ensnare,’ was the name of the spell that I was able to choose.
“At a command, the servants of Gob, the king of the gnomes, reach out and trap your enemies. 1/999.”
A snare would be a good thing to have. I drum my fingers across the top of my desk. The dull drum of the wood stops as I click on the skill. The, ‘2,’ become a, ‘1.’ I go back to Fire and click on ember. There. My initial three spells were chosen. Something to be able to heal myself with, something to keep the enemies at bay, and something to do damage to the enemies.
“Are you satisfied with these three skills?”
I click, ‘yes.’
The screen goes black again before words write themselves once more.
“As thanks, we, the gods of the world, would like to grant you the opportunity for a small miracle. If there was one thing about yourself you would change, what would it be?”
“PLEASE NOTE: by accepting our offer of a miracle, you are agreeing to fight in this war.”
I skim the text as I push my tongue through the gaps where my teeth had rotted out from years of neglecting a serious gum disease.
“A new set of indestructible teeth,” I say out loud jokingly as I finish with the top part. I barely have time to read the, ‘please note,’ section before the text vanishes.
“If that is what you wish.”
The words flash again on the screen.
The heaviness that had been covering me suddenly increases, as if I had just been thrown into the ocean. Suddenly I feel if my jaw was being crushed. I nearly vomit as I fall off my chair and to the floor. Clio gets up and rushes to me whining.
My gums rip apart, as one by one, my teeth begin to fall and rattle against the tile. I nearly swallow some of the back ones and was forced to spit them up. Sticky blood oozes from my torn gums and pools in a puddle. I want to pass out. I want to die. What did I do to deserve this pain? Answer a question on a stupid online game? I fall. Clio barks and Shadow scratches at the window and meows to try to escape. The whole process took ten minutes, and I move. Was it over? My tongue rolls over my still sore gums; feeling the small bumps where my teeth had been. The taste of copper rolls down my throat.
More importantly, was this all real? Had I just agreed to take place in a cosmic war?
The pain starts up again.
"Fuck!” I scream and slam my head against the bloody floor.
It starts from the top back right bridge of my mouth, and works its way to the back left, and then back again through the lower bridges. Brand-new teeth grow out of my torn gums. At some point during this process, the world turns black, as my head smacks against the tile.
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