Rick stood in shock over the body of a man that had been in his life for the past fifteen years. By all accounts, he was the closest thing Rick had to a father and the only one that ever got away calling him Richard. But right now that man’s blood was dripping from his hands and Rick didn’t remember anything.
He stood waiting for things to fall into place, for it to all make sense but nothing happened. Rick just felt cold and numb. He stood frozen thinking that the blood must’ve been from trying to help his friend…because he didn’t think he could accept the alternative.
Suddenly and inexplicably he found the urge to bend down to the lifeless body and pick up a custom weapon that he remembered his friend having made years before. What was he doing? This wasn’t normal and it definitely wasn’t okay. He should be grieving the loss of his friend not robbing a dead man of his prized possession.
All Rick wanted to know was how they got to this? What circumstances led them to this bloody end? As he rifled through the dead man’s pockets he found $37, a rare and powerful grenade, but then his eyes widened. He had spotted the hilt of a knife, which would be perfectly innocent, except as he wiped the blood of the blade he realised it was his. Rick’s own knife had been the murder weapon.
He placed all the items he had effectively pillaged off his surrogate father into his backpack and stood silent. Rick just stared at his bloodied knife in the palm of one hand and his friend’s custom shotgun in the other before clicking his flashlight on and off as a coping mechanism.
The silence was broken by manic laughter, endless and torturous cackling that echoed in the distance but all around. Why was someone so happy about this? But the thought was quickly halted when he found himself running. Fight or flight he supposed, number one rule is to survive. But that didn’t justify the urgency to which his body moved.
Door after door he sprinted through with his new gun cocked and ready to fire. Rick entered an industrial kitchen, and before he had even seen the glisten of the guns that were readying to shoot at him, he was instinctually crouching behind cover. Without hesitating, he returned fire, sprinting between anything for protection while killing these apparent enemies with bullets to the head.
He ran out of shotgun shells but was grabbing the last gunmen by the head and in one swift motion he snapped his neck. Rick was quick to run to all the corpses and grab any ammo he could find because instead of laughter echoing the halls, there was ominous music that accompanied his pounding heart.
Rick was literally seeing red because he had been wounded in the gunfight. He took his backpack off and found an herbal ointment which he applied with haste. Within minutes his adrenalin was spiking, his body felt strong and he vision cleared.
After climbing up a ladder and through a vent, Rick found himself in a control room that overlooked a large silo with a reactor at the heart. Alarms sounded and he felt as though he was suddenly detached from his body as the reactor started to gain energy and his eyes tracked a group of gun-wielding bandits guarding the manual override.
Again feeling an urge he couldn’t fight, he typed a code into one of the computers that he wasn’t sure how he knew. He heard the large bunkered doors unlock and could suddenly see numbers in his mind counting down from two minutes.
Without wasting anymore time, Rick sprinted down a flight of stairs and onto a platform hundreds of metres high. As he ran he aimed his gun and threw grenades at the people in his way. But suddenly he lost his footing and fell down the silo in slow motion. He was dead.
But then a found himself in the control room again with the alarms sounding. This time, instead of running blindly into enemy territory, Rick grabbed a sniper rifle that was lying behind him. Looking in the viewfinder while standing at the top of the stairs he picked off some of the gunmen.
With fewer people alive to fire at him and with an internal clock ticking away, he again sprinted towards the manual override lever. At close range he shot two more, but it was no use, because when he saw the red laser on his chest it was too late to duck for cover and he dropped to the ground as a sniper round pierced his heart. He was dead.
For the third time, he found himself standing in the control room. Moving quickly and with purpose, Rick grabbed the sniper rifle. He watched for the beam of red light, and once spotted, Rick scanned for the sniper hidden above him. He patiently waited until the sniper’s head bobbed out from behind cover and shot him in the head.
Rick knew he had wasted a decent amount of time waiting for the sniper so he quickly fired six rounds, taking down six enemies. With four left he fired his shotgun aimlessly to gain their attention. When they reached the edge of a metal bridge he threw a grenade and watched their limbs fly in every direction.
With only ten seconds left Rick pushed his body as hard as he could, and as he ran he heard dramatic screaming in his head. He reached the box with two seconds to spare and pulled the override lever. Sweat was dripping down his bloodied face and he looked up at the reactor as it whirred to a stop and the brief silence was replaced by the same laughing as before.
Rick stood unable to move, he sighed a breath of relief and closed his eyes only to open them a millisecond later to the sight of stars and a magnificent space station. The world dimmed, and Rick’s entirety froze completely.
He could suddenly hear a male voice with full clarity, “Dude, I think that’s it, I can’t be bothered playing the next stage.”
Stage? Rick’s mind felt like it had just been hit by a truck. This is life and death, he was real, he knew he was. The pain he felt was real, his dead friend lying on the ground felt real.
“Come on, man. They said the next one is the best one!” Another voice replied.
Rick repeated the word ‘no’ over and over again. It wasn’t possible. He remembered being drafted for the war, he remembered getting married and watching his wife get killed in the purge. He had a life…memories.
The first voice laughed and Rick recognised it as the one he heard earlier, “Nah, I’m bored. Let’s watch something on TV, these shooter games are all the same.”
And then everything went black.
By Naomi Eleanor