World’s away, in an alternate universe, a school of juveniles gathered in a gymnasium built for athletes. Beaming lights over their heads bamboozled their perceptions, discombobulated their awareness. They did not know where they were or how they got there. They simply knew they were in for a rude awakening. The ceiling counted down the minutes to zero. No one gave instructions or set certain guidelines. There were no objectives or missions. The rules were simple, stay alive.
Our heroes had little time to formulate a plan as the clock counted down. The walls began to shake. The ground trembled with excitement. They all looked around, searching for some clue as to what they were meant to do but they couldn’t see a thing. The beams over their heads were too blinding. The clock kept ticking. Our team of young warriors prepared themselves for a sprint among a gauntlet of confusion. Once the clock reached zero, the lights leveled. All was revealed.
Weapons lay on the floor. Forts stood far but within reach. Walls kept them close and the ceiling watched their every move. A loud buzzer ordered them to begin whatever it is they think they should do. Some ran towards the weapons scattered around, others took to the forts; all were the wrong decisions. Those who armed themselves with weapons were engulfed into flames. The forts toppled down as soon as anyone stepped inside, killing them instantly. The remaining few learned they needed nothing to continue on to the next phase of the game.
The ground shook them to their knees as the tiles spread apart. They levitated into the air, revealing a pit of endless light. Few screamed to their deaths as they disappeared into the white abyss. Others slipped and hung in midair, desperate to remain in the game. Some stood their ground, determined to stay alive. “Look out noob.” One commented. “The masters are on to you.” The tiles rearranged themselves into steps. Those who could not hold on slipped and fell. The rest got to their feet and climbed to the top.
“What’s going on?” Ion asked as he ran beside his opponent.
“Don’t bother pretending like you don’t know the game.” Victor answered. “Those who try to be slick are the first to get cut off.” They were mid way to the next phase when the tiles began to fall back to the ground, leaving room for only a selected few at the top.
“What game are you speaking of?” The fight for survival was dealt at the top, were Ions question was answered. Ion and Victor reached the next phase as the last tile fell into the white abyss. They stood and watched as the strong threw the weak off the elevated level. Ion looked down and saw nothing but white light. Only the toughest remained while the weakest dwindled. “Why must we kill each other off? Who are we doing this for?” Ion asked Victor as the rest fought to their deaths. Ion fell to the ground while Victor defended him from the others. It’s almost as if he knew what to do.
“Those who ask are axed.” Victor, the master of masters, replied.
“You?” Ion answered. “You’re behind all of this, aren’t you.” Ion was cornered, he had nowhere to go but down. “That’s how you know about the masters, about this game.” Victor remained silent while he calculated Ions odds. “What’s the end game, Victor? When does it end?”
Those who remained at the top were killed off as they triggered hidden mines, the next phase. “No,” Victor answered, “I’m not the master. I’ve just played long enough to know how to play the game.” Others kept fighting to their deaths, exposing more hidden triggers left by the architects. “You see,” Victor continued, “There are no teams. We are all game to those who watch. We don’t ever die. We simply come back with a blank slate. That’s what makes this game fair.” More triggers exploded in the background.
“We come back to a whole new game in a whole new stage.” Victor looked down into the white abyss, “I learned that the hard way. I lost count after a few revivals but after that I realized why count the days when I can make the days count.”
“Who’s doing this?” Ion asked. “When life’s a game, you always get played. What kind of life is that?”
“That’s just it.” Victor replied. “Why live a dull life when you can make life worth living. Is that not why we ended up here? Is that not why we keep coming back? Why ask questions when you can just boss up?” They were soon the only ones left as the others died off. “If you don’t believe me, just wait until the next batch of kids reach our level. You’ll see. Some might be the same as the last match, some might not. The rules varies from time to time.”
Victor was right. As the next phase began, the same kids from before emerged from the white abyss with different challenges at their disposal. They were allowed weapons this time, with abilities Ion and Victor were not accustomed to. “Looks like the Gods found out about my understanding of their game.” Victor proclaimed. “They're trying to kill me off, I know too much.” Victor and Ion were dodging fatal blows to their heads from the approaching challengers. “Thanks a lot noob.”
The new kids were armed and lethal. They were given abilities found only in fictional stories. Some flew, others morphed. They emitted fire from their palms, ice from their breaths. Water in the air multiplied into tsunamis. The ground tore to pieces by the will of their minds. Victor was spot on. The Gods wanted him dead just so he could come back and die again. Victor knew more than he should but he persevered. He counted their moves, foresaw their train of thought.
Unfortunately, the new kids had just enough power to get the job done. One kid struck a bolt of lightning to Ion knowing Victor would step in. “Damn it Ion, they’re on to us too.” Victor pushed Ion to the edge, nearly missing their deaths. “They’re after us, we’re outnumbered. I can’t save you anymore, noob.” Victor distanced himself from Ion. “I gave you all the information I know about the game. Now it’s up to you to do whatever it is you think you should do. You’re on your own.” Victor ran across the board, dodging fire balls and mystic forces.
Ion turned to face his opponents alone. The new kids teamed up against Ion as they threw their magical powers at him. Tidal waves and force fields. Blazing flames to subzero ice crystals. All aimed at one target, Ion. Like a cat, Ion missed every shot thrown at him. He ducked, spun, and rolled through his trials and tribulations. A spear landed before him, the Gods, it seemed, were impressed and wanted to see more. Ion managed to get close enough to kill the one who kept throwing ice crystals at his chest. The rest weren’t as easy.
At the corner of his eye, Ion noticed Victor wasn’t struggling as much as he was. Victors challengers were dropping like flies. One by one, they fell to the white abyss. Soon, Victor joined Ion as they fought off the remaining super heroes. “Damn,” Victor commented, “No wonder you’re struggling. You got the toughest ones.” With Ions spear, Victor defeated the flame thrower. All the was left was the psychic mystic. “That’s not fair.” Victor continued, “You have an invisible force field, how are we to compete with that?”
“You don’t.” She replied, arrogantly. “That’s the point.”
“Then joins us.” Victor suggested. “Let’s turn the game on them. Let’s make our own rules.”
“Nice try,” she laughed. “We both know there can only be one winner.”
“It’s not about winning!” Ion answered. “It’s about staying alive, without having to go through all this killing.” Ion reasoned with her, “We don’t have play their game, that is what gets us killed. We don’t have to fight to stay alive, we can just live.”
“But what’s the fun in that?” The psychic asked. “You never grow in comfort. It’s the trials and tribulations that make us better. Struggle makes us tougher, powerful. If you don’t want to play the game, then don’t. Let these fool put you out of your misery. Better yet, why don’t I do it for you.”
“Don’t you get it?!” Victor proclaimed. “If you kill us both, others will take our place, if we don’t end up coming back ourselves. You’ll just keep killing and killing until someone stronger comes along and kills you. That’s what this game is all about. You’re just entertaining the watchers, that is the grand prize. There are no winners, just game.” They stood for a moment, analyzing their odds. “We are all just pawns that never made it across the board.”
The next phase of the game came unexpected. Giants stomped about, breaking the ground in half. The tiles gave and fell. Victor, Ion and the psychic plummeted deep into the white abyss not knowing of their fate. They split and disappeared into the white fog never to see each other again. The air blowing through them as they fell was cold and pure. Ion looked around to find nothing but clouds surrounding his every sight. Feeling his end approaching, Ion closed his eyes and waited for the endless pit to reach an end.
Soft, prickling grass tickled Ions face as he opened his eyes. He got to his feet and noticed he wasn’t in a gymnasium anymore. No walls kept him imprisoned. No ceilings counted down the minutes to start an endless bloodbath. Ion was in some world birth in nature. Distant animals called into the wild. Fresh wind rejuvenated his breath. Ion felt new again, whole. He didn’t know how he ended up in this new land nor did it matter. He was alone, he thought, in some real world away from pointless battles or fictitious rules.
Just as Ion dropped his guard, a stampede of approaching juveniles loomed in the distance. They held sticks and stones. Their faces painted in blood. Ion was on the run, not knowing where to go but knew only one thing for certain; stay alive. The game never ended. Like before, the challengers came back with clean slates ready to fight another day for as long as they can. Their lives were never at risk for they would simply return, alive and new. But in a world where nothing ends, who’s next?