Chapter 15 – Mind Eating Fog
Roland was once again caught in a death spiral. As he lay against the hot sand of a desert, with spines from a dozen huge echidna-like creatures digging deeply through his flesh, he started to wonder when the last time he took a break was. Thinking about it was hard. It wasn’t just that the pain through his body was truly overbearing, but if felt like a fog filled his mind when he tried to think about it.
The fog didn’t just make remembering it hard, he could also feel it sap his curiosity and after a few moments he became apathetic towards knowing. ‘Strange. That was strange, right?’ he thought to himself, ‘I don’t remember ever feeling like that before… before when? Ah, that’s right, before coming to this world. World? No, that’s not right. It’s a game, not a world. How did I get that mixed up?’
For some reason, he felt like there were problems with his memories, but they were at best vague doubts. Roland also found it strange that he had forgotten that he was in a game. That should be the most obvious part. He would be more worried about his impending death if he wasn’t. Yet, looking around with his one still intact eye, he couldn’t help but feel some doubt that the world was fiction. He had played other virtual games, but none of them could come close to the feeling this one gave. It might just be the pain talking, but the world was just too real to be fake. “Ah, I called it a world again.” Those words leaked out his pierced throat as his vision faded once again to black and death embraced him once again.
As the menu appeared once again before his eyes and his hand moved, almost on instinct to the re-spawn option, a flash of sudden realisation struck him. There was no option to log out. That was weird. He was sure there had been one before. Considering the number of times he had died, why hadn’t he noticed it before? It was way too strange that he hadn’t noticed it gone before. For that matter, he couldn’t remember the last time he had seen it. Free from his body, the fog didn’t fill his mind and once again he tried to remember the last time he had logged out.
He realised it then. He hadn’t. Not once since he started playing had he logged out. That seemed impossible. He had been playing for at least a couple months. The best time dilation factor ever recorded was one hour to one day, and doing so resulted in heavy trauma to the brain. If he had been in there for two months, say fifty-six days, then two and a third days would have passed in the real world. There was no way that no-one would have hit the emergency disengage by then. He lived with two flatmates who understood game safety. There was no way they wouldn’t have noticed a problem.
It was also strange since he had seen people log out. When he was still leading the expansion army he often gave other people time off to log out. He would leave trails and markings for them to follow when they logged back in. They were physical trails, so he wasn’t just misremembering. What if he was the only one that was stuck? What if his flatmates had forgotten or gone on a trip and his body was left there, slowly dying? How much time did he have left? He had no way of knowing.
As he started to panic, he could feel a faint, brutish, laughter in the back of his mind. It felt like he was being mocked by something very close to him, like his body or instincts were criticising him. The familiar feeling then seemed to form words, but not words. It was like he was remembering words that he had yet to hear. They didn’t resonate from outside his body and he didn’t know which words, exactly, were felt. It was more like the intentions behind the words were simply appearing in the back of his mind. He felt it say, ‘Stop thinking too hard, my chosen warrior, just keep fighting till your soul can’t take anymore or there is nothing left to kill.’
A moment later, he had re-spawned and was standing once again at the natural shrine in the middle of a desert. The monsters that had killed him several times still surrounded him. He knew that he hadn’t selected the option, but he had once again forgotten why he hesitated. The fog had once again filled his mind and his doubts and fears were gone. All that was left was the pain and bloodlust.
With newfound confidence and vigour, he leapt forward and lashed at a spiked creature’s head. The creature died from the unexpected attack, but still managed to place its spines in the path of Roland’s momentum. He didn’t hesitate or avoid. He turned in the air and let the spines pierce his back. With holes covering his back and fracturing his bones, he fought on. After continuing on like that for several more deaths, he was eventually alone on the sand.
Truthfully, he hated natural shines. They were death traps that he always seemed to get caught in. He would have smashed it then and there, but he knew that the angels that saved him had cleaned one. He felt that if he kept finding them, one-day he could find them again. He knew that they weren’t in the forest anymore; he had teams of players search every inch for a week with no leads.
His only clue was the god-forsaken natural shrine. It was his driving force, what he got up for each day. Long ago the drive to simply protect his friends stopped being enough for him. His goal now was much nobler to him. He would find the angels and make them his. The feelings of the divine creatures meant nothing to him. He would possess them. For that reason he stood in front of the standing stone he hated more than anything. He even had a witch doctor friend of his make him a special item; a special type of jar that could capture a soul. Soul capturing jars were a common item for a witch doctor, but his friend managed to make one that could be used by anyone. It was far, far more expensive to make then a normal one, but Roland didn’t mind the cost for what he had in mind.
When he found his angels, he would kill them, as painlessly as possible, and seal their souls. Once he had their souls he would wait for them to revive and use the souls for force them to obey him. He wouldn’t give them a choice; they would serve him in every way. They would accept his love and they would never leave him.