Excerpt from The Game: Beta Testing
Seth stepped into the light and fell forward, his boots lodged in the thick, ankle-deep sludge. Wet and muddied, he glared up at the skeletons, who burst out laughing.
If his castmates had been demons, he’d be dead. Seth felt himself flush. He had damaged his reputation as a skilled fighter with just a few bumbling actions.
He pulled himself to his feet, but as he tried to move, he fell forward once again, the mud holding its grip on him. The skeletons exchanged confused looks before approaching the hero. “What’s going on, man?” A boney hand wrapped around his leather boots and gave his leg a tug. “He’s stuck!”
“This isn’t supposed to happen,” another commented. Seth glared at him. The last thing the director told his actors at rehearsal was “when in doubt, remain in character”. Seth took this to mean that they should never acknowledge that something had gone off script. He unfastened his boots and pulled his legs free, but he still couldn’t wrench his footwear from the mud. They were frozen in position. There was no give, no sense of suction.
The digital environment didn’t feel right, as though faulty code was creating odd glitches. The catacombs flickered as thunder rolled overhead. “I think your boots are gone,” one skeleton said, pointing to the shoes as they disappeared beneath the muddy surface. “Seriously, I didn’t think mud did that.”
With sludge squeezing between his toes, Seth sloshed his way toward the skeletal group. He sank a little with each step and was suddenly afraid of what would happen if someone hadn’t thought to program a bottom to the catacomb passage.
The skeletons grabbed onto his arms and lifted him from the mud, buying him a few more precious moments. “I think we’ll need to escort Mr. Hero,” one skeleton said to the others, who nodded in agreement.
Though it was off script, Seth was grateful for the help. He’d never make it to his next scene with the production working against him. “Don’t worry, we can have our big fight scene on solid ground ahead,” another skeleton volunteered.
The muddied water gurgled and bubbled behind them. Rising from the mud, a new horde of skeletons emerged. “Who are these guys? Hey, BUDDY! We got this!” His skeletal support remained oblivious to the threat. Unless the costume designers had improved their talents since the start of the production, these creations were not actors. Seth wondered if the code was built using remnants of a different program.
Pieces of rotting flesh hung from their bones, barely stringing together the anatomy needed for cohesive functionality. Dislocated jaws, teeth missing, many of them had lost the odd arm. They clung to rusted, menacing weapons: axes, swords, maces.
This prequel kept me endlessly on my toes, trying desperately to distinguish reality from some other force in play. The character of Seth is heroic without being too brash or overt, seeming to be forced into that role, rather than actively seeking it. Already there is a love interest in position, instantly put under pressure by Nicole’s valiant attempts to claim Seth.
The fantasy element of the ‘play’ that the students are doing is genius, taking part with real people in a digital world. I struggled to know what was play and what was real and I believe that was the intention of the author. I loved the honesty of the characters, especially Astral, whose innocence and underdog casting I was immediately drawn to. William on the other hand is a complete liability and produces the overwhelming urge in the reader, to shake him. There was clever humour there, which I appreciated, but underneath there was an invoking of fear because I couldn’t see where the author was leading me. I will definitely look forward to the next book.
Wonderful short fantasy!
This is a short fantasy build around a VR podcast. The main character was full of personality and heroic characteristics. He pulls you into the story. The storyline itself is creative, chalked full of action, surprising twists and unexpected obstacles that keep you interested In until the very end. Being a hero can take many forms, I enjoyed this take on what a hero truly is. This story is creative, unique and well crafted. I was pleasantly surprised at just how much I liked it.
It was amazing!
This was a fun read!! I was so confused at first by towards the.middle, my mind said it was a game lol. Now I understood and had fun reading it. As a gamer myself, there were times I wished I was IN the game. This book had its funny parts. Also had parts where your emotions were in turmoil. It was well written and would like to see more books with a gaming story.