“I’m ready for a new game. Which one should I get?” Ron thought to himself.
Ron, in his early 20’s, was a slob. He lived in a cheap studio apartment and worked at a fast food restaurant. He made just enough to cover rent and utilities. In between work, Ron played videos games and browsed the Internet. Not much of a life, but sufficient for Ron.
Sitting on the couch, he had been mindlessly surfing the web for a few hours. He landed on an online Tarot reading site – all by chance rather than necessity. After studying the pages and asking his question, Ron clicked on a card. It flipped over and revealed the Three of Wands.
Being lazy, he scanned the paragraphs describing the card, and only got a few words – a sea, journey, expanse, reward for dedication.
“A sea? A journey? An expanse?” Ron said out loud. “That has nothing to do with the game or my question. Waste of time.”
Ron shut his laptop and grabbed the game control. He put on his headset and turned on the console and monitor.
Battle Blood Beast, Ron’s recent game purchase, was a MMORPG – or multiplayer game. With his online buddies, he was able to reach and beat level twelve fairly quick. The game wasn’t that hard it seems.
Now at the last level, he messaged his friends to join. But one by one, they said they couldn’t make it. So Ron decided to start the level alone.
He got through most of it and reached the scene called ‘Battle The Beast,’ located on a digital island with palm trees. From behind the trees came his opponent. Relentlessly attacked by the Beast, Ron’s avatar died over and over.
Frustrated and about to quit, another avatar appeared on the island. Named dmaster7, it spoke and said it would fight the Beast along with Ron. dmaster7’s avatar was tall and lanky, and carried various weapons. Its face was always hidden. The hat it wore permanently cast a shadow on its features. They joined forces and started attacking the Beast.
After an intense twenty minutes, dmaster7 and Ron killed the Beast and won the level.
“That was cool,” said Ron. “Finally, we killed it.”
dmaster7 replied: “Two players. That’s what is needed – typical for multi-player games. You must have at least two players to win. Otherwise, you always lose.”
“By the way,” dmaster7 continued. “Check out this expansion pack. It’s beta software and not available to just anybody. I think you’ll like it. Here’s the link.”
With that, the dmaster7 avatar vanished. Ron clicked on the link and downloaded the software, excited to give it a try. He started the game. On the monitor appeared a bright, cloudless blue sky. Beneath was the desert – an expansive, unending panorama of sand and dunes.
Then, a warning: More than one player needed to kill the Beast. Single or Multiplayer?
He messaged his friends to join, but no response. He then contacted dmaster7, who said: “I can’t right now. This game is just for you. Think of it as a reward for your dedication to the game.”
Ron selected ’Single.’
The game began. His avatar started running through the desert. After some time, he spotted a dark object in the distance. As he got closer, he recognized a lone palm tree. Reaching it, he walked and looked around but saw nothing. After hours of searching, scratching, swiping, and poking at things, nothing happened – no clues or secret entrances. Ron got bored and left the game.
“Damn, it’s morning already. I’ve got to get to work,” he thought.
Getting back home later that day, Ron sat on the couch and took a nap. He woke up in the desert by the lone tree. It was the game, but real. And Ron was in the game – not his avatar.
The ground began to rumble and the tree shook. Emerging from the sand was the Beast. It, too, was oddly real, larger than life, and disturbingly menacing. It was nearly twice the size of Ron.
With no weapons, Ron fled. The Beast easily chased after him. It drew a mace from its back, swung at Ron’s legs, and broke them. Ron fell, his legs searing and crushed from the blow.
The Beast continued with the mace and gave Ron additional smashes, but did not immediately kill him. The pain – the torture – was unbearable.
Finally satisfied, the Beast landed the mace onto Ron’s head.
Ron woke up from a deep sleep. Still on the couch, he looked at his body, stood up, and stretched. Everything seemed fine. He then shuddered at the memory of his dream – the ordeal at the desert. Its realism was frightening. Was it a dream?
He wanted to shake the feeling, so he went to the local bar. Getting back home, he sat on the couch and picked up the game control. After a pause, he decided not to play that night and headed for bed. He took a Benadryl and closed his eyes.
Once again, Ron awoke in the desert. The game re-started with the chase. His legs were smashed once more. This time, the Beast took a sword and chopped off Ron’s limbs. It took a leg and began to eat. In unimaginable pain, Ron’s vision dimmed along with his body’s loss of blood.
Again, Ron awoke after a painful death. He got up and messaged dmaster7. Reaching him, Ron asked, “How the fuck do I kill this Beast?”
“The only way,” said dmaster7, “is to have at least two players. If you start the game with just one, the game will repeat, or re-start, until you beat the Beast. The game you’re currently in doesn’t end until you win. Call me back when you’ve completed it and ready to start over.”
Ron threw his laptop across the room. In a rage, he kicked the game console and ripped the power and data cords from the devices.
Two days later, Ron went back to work. Looking beat and worn out, he told his boss that he hadn’t been sleeping, and that he doesn’t intend to.
This is Dante P Ramon, your host and author of The Dark Reading, scary stories inspired by Tarot cards. I invite you to listen to our podcast regularly, and visit us on the web at TheDarkReading.com. And please feel free to share The Dark Reading with your friends.
I just picked the Death card, so good night for now.
Season 1 Episode 17.
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