Ravi’s eyes flew open and they sat up swiftly in a panic. Their gaze swept back and forth looking for the truck-kun that had been running the red light and about to t-bone their little car. They didn’t see anything though. No traffic, no broken glass, no street. They were on a glossy black floor with only a starlit night sky above and around them stretching off in eternity.
They stood slowly looking at the unfamiliar constellations and spoke softly to theirself, “Whelp, looks like I died. This isn’t quite what I was expecting but at least it’s not endless fire and suffering.” They crossed their arms over their flat chest in a subconscious motion to comfort theirself then asked into the emptiness, “Hello? Is there some sort of god or guide or… something to let me know… well, anything?”
They almost fell backwards as shining gold lettering appeared before them, floating in the air, while a deep alien voice spoke the message aloud, seeming to come from all around them at once.
“Welcome to Hypnos.”
The letters vanished to be replaced as the voice continued speaking.
“Choose your next horizon.”
There was a soft rumbling sound as small pillars raised up from the smooth floor to form a circle around them. There were ten and above each one was more glowing letters forming the words of different concepts that Ravi recognized. They went to the one directly to their right and began walking clockwise, reading all the options aloud to theirself, “Science, Perfection, Deception, Legacy, Destruction, Creation, Survival, Secrets, Inspiration, and Magic?”
They stared at the last word for a moment then asked the omnipresent voice, “When you say my next horizon… Do you mean reincarnation?”
Only silence answered them and Ravi gave a sigh in return. “Well, let's assume it’s reincarnation of some sort; and if that’s the case I’m definitely going with this one.” They reached out to touch the letters forming the word ‘Magic’ which vanished along with the pillars into mist and the same soft rumbling sound resumed as new pillars rose up in another circle with Ravi back in its center and a new message in front of them.
“Choose the form of your heritage.”
This time each of the pillars had a statue resting on it. As Ravi moved closer to one, they realized it was a scale model of a sinewy elf. They moved to the next pillar and found a stout dwarf and Ravi gave a small grin, “Nice, race selection time.”
There were 20 pillars with a variety of races that Ravi couldn’t even give a name to but some they definitely recognized from games and books. After moving back and forth between some of their favorites they decided on the model that sported angel wings and was slightly taller than the human model but a bit slimmer. Again the pillars disappeared to be replaced with new ones.
“Choose the source of your power.”
Another 20 options were given but this time they weren’t in a single evenly spaced circle. They seemed to form a weird diagram around them, evenly spaced between each other but at different distances from the center. Floating above each pillar were little balls of elemental energies and engraved in the top of the pillar was a placard giving the element a name.
Ravi walked between the closest four reading aloud though it seemed quite obvious what they were, “Air, Earth, Fire, and Water”.
The next selection a bit further away were also pretty easy to guess without the labels, “Ice, Lightning, Metal, and Wood.” Okay, they probably wouldn’t have guessed “wood” specifically since it looked like a wriggling ball of vines and leaves but it was the same general idea.
Their gaze lingered on the mesmerizing swirl of white flakes that danced around a glassy orb of solid ice before they forced theirself to move to the next ring of pillars. The brightly glowing ball and the impenetrable orb of shadows were pretty apparent that they represented “Light” and “Dark” respectively. The giant walnut looking seed turned out to be “Life” and the creepy half-decayed skull was obviously “Death” and Ravi gave an involuntary shiver as they continued further on.
Ravi was grateful for the labels now. The slick glob of deep red liquid confirmed that it was “Blood” and the swirling spectacle of sparkling fireworks indicated “Illusion”. The tangled ball of rings and chains apparently symbolized “Covenant” whatever that actually entailed. The last one in this circle almost looked like it should have been labeled as metal since it looked like a ball of gold. However, as Ravi got closer and heard the soft music coming from it, they realized that little holes of differing sizes in the surface of the ball, that was apparently hollow, were making the melody and tied it to its label of “Song”.
The final ring of pillars was the most confusing of all as each one contained a similar looking glass orb. The first one they came to had what appeared to be a smaller glass orb moving around it like a little moon and was labeled “Gravity”. The second one seemed to have a pale purple mist filled inside of it and Ravi could swear they heard voices coming from it but couldn’t make out the words being said. This one was labeled “Spirit” and started giving Ravi the same creepiness vibes they got from the death skull. The third seemed to have an hourglass shape within it and sand poured down into the lower half. This one was labeled “Time” and Ravi couldn’t help but wait the minute to watch it finish emptying the top portion and flipping itself over in a strangely satisfying manner. The very last pillar looked similar to the dark one in that it appeared to be a pitch black void. It actually reminded Ravi of the glossy flooring they currently stood upon until they got closer. Inside the void was actually a sparkling galaxy that slowly spiraled around itself. The label read “Spacial” and Ravi couldn’t stop the compulsion to reach forward and grab the small universe.
As their fingers brushed against the smooth surface of the glass orb it vanished along with the rest of the setup, dispersing into mist once more.
“Choose the instrument of your will.”
“The what?” Ravi asked in surprise before looking around at the new selection of pillars returning to the equal circle formation it had originally.
Atop each one rested an item. No engraved plaques or floaty letters this time but Ravi didn’t need them to recognize each item. A sword, shield, bow, wand, staff, dagger, axe, hammer, wrench, vial, paint brush, writing quill, telescope, rope, bag, scroll, seed, bell, gem, and hourglass were on display. Ravi spoke up again, slightly annoyed, “Explain instrument of my will! Is this how I pick a class or something?” They grumbled at the silence and paced between the items contemplating. This was all really strange to them. One minute they were driving to get some groceries and the next they’re in some weird afterlife video game? Making choices they had no context for. Perhaps that was the point though? Was this all some sort of psych test? Perhaps this was actually some sort of legendary item they would get to take to their new world. With that in mind Ravi almost went to grab the sword but paused and contemplated the message again.
What was their will? Was it what they wanted to happen? What did they want to happen? Their whole life, all twenty years of it, hadn’t necessarily been bad but it hadn’t been great either. They had a normal job, a normal family despite them being the black sheep, no real lasting relationships but the short ones hadn’t been terrible. Their biggest struggle had been around getting people to use the right pronouns for them but they couldn’t think of what their biggest triumph would have been. They had a fairly mediocre life that relied heavily on escapism into games and books to not go insane from the banality of it all or fall into endless depression.
Ravi knew what they wanted. They wanted to live, truly live. They wanted to explore a world full of magic and wonder and to prove to theirself that they could triumph over challenges and make a positive difference in the lives of others. They wanted to have an endless adventure.
So what did they need to accomplish that? They looked around at the items again before finally settling on what every real adventurer would need no matter what class they were and picked up the leather bag. It dissolved into the now familiar mist and another message arrived.
“Choose the symbol of your desire.”
“Well, damn,” Ravi replied, perhaps they had missed the mark with that last one. They looked around at the new pillars and each one had a slightly glowing symbol floating in the air above them. No labels were given again but none of the symbols were extremely complex. There was a dark empty cloak. A crystal ball filled with stars that wouldn’t be out of place in a fortune telling booth. A gavel that you would see in an American TV courtroom. A simple tent. An ornate looking cross. A whip that was lashing out. A pair of iron manacles. A few stacks of gold coins. An ancient looking Nautical Star. An almost cartoonish rendition of a bomb, as though Harley Quinn had been the artist. An open book with runes lighting up the pages. A plain love heart. A pair of six-sided dice with one displaying six little dots and the other showing a single one. A round vial with a lotus on the front. A queen chess piece. A skull that was fairly reminiscent of the one that had been representing the “Death” element earlier only this one seemed to have poison or bile leaking from the mouth. An intricately detailed silver key. A Magpie on top of a pile of treasures. A bottle and filled wine glass with grapes nestled between the two bases. Last was a sword and wand crossed behind a shield.
They didn’t take as long to contemplate this time. There was only one symbol that really screamed “Adventure” at them from all the books they had read and games they had played. As they lightly touched the symbol of the sword, wand and shield, the pillars disintegrated again and only eleven took their place, each with a glowing orb shining a different color.
“Choose the color of your soul.”
Ravi glanced around a bit confused, “Only 11?” There was black, white, grey, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, magenta, and brown. They crossed their arms, not moving from their spot in the center of the circle. “You’ve got a hot pink but no teal? And what happened to indigo? Why is that only a color we ever learn about in school just to make a memorable acronym?” Ravi was once again met with silence and they felt their annoyance rise, “Listen weird disembodied voice that I’m not entirely sure I’m not imagining, I can’t pick just a single color here. I’ve never been able to pick a favorite color no matter how many people use that as their go-to get-to-know-you question. So you might as well stop this random questionnaire now cause I pick all of them.”
Silence fell once more and Ravi gave a small huff and brushed their hair back in frustration and was about to try wandering off out of the ring of pillars when the voice spoke with finality.
Then Ravi was falling.