It looked exactly as it did on the page. Tyler’s eyes jumped between the book and the creature before him: lithe, faceless, and with countless ribs visible through its tight pale skin. Should he be surprised that it looked so similar? The creature was a mimic after all. That’s what the bestiary entry said.
Class three monster
Possible drops: skin cloak, perfect mask +2, and shattering claws
The mimic charged at the young man. Tyler didn’t know why, but he felt like he couldn’t drop the book. He raised his sword in his other hand, thinking its foam would do no good against his first live monster. It shrieked, growing a mouth identical to his in order to do so, and pounced on him.
The foam sword cut through it like steel. Hissing steam, the mimic’s version of blood, erupted everywhere. The monster scurried away, squeezing under some gymnasium rubble like a cockoach. Tyler was lost in confusion, out of breath after just ten minutes in this new worlds’ eruption, but he had to get his bearings.
He climbed to the top of a wall, or what was left of a wall. Their school’s basketball hoop stuck out from it, the netting snagging his leg as he climbed. He violently shook it loose, thinking it a grasping tentacle, and separated a piece of his cardboard armor. He let the net have it.
He knew before he saw it, the same way he knew to keep the book, that everything was gone. The whole school had toppled. The trees surrounding it were fine, intact in fact, growing in fact, but everything modern had rumbled and collapsed. There were plenty of people in the gym at the time; Tyler was meeting them for their larping club. It was always the highlight of their week: a little live action role play.
All their friends were there, yet none had perished when the ceiling gave way. The chunks seemed to avoid them by magic. No, it was magic. Shelly, who always played a mage, had made them miss. She was one now, in this fresh ruined world.
John was a bard. Doug was a knight. They all felt it. Tyler had abandoned them because he needed to find their last member. It was alright. Tyler was a rogue; he could handle being by himself. So while the others wandered off to do epic brave things and save their confused families from their new lives of thatched huts and alchemy, Tyler searched.
It was getting more real by the moment. His foam sword actually was steel now. He had to be careful with the toy crossbow. He’d always told everyone the bolts were poison-tipped. A real rogue’s hood, crimson, rose over his head and shadowed his eyes. It kept out the harsh light of the fantastic new sun. The trees did their part as well, growing incredible amounts of shade: a sudden lake of shade. He was in a dark forest, and the last pieces of the gym were disappearing under the moss and giant blue centipedes.
Class one monster
possible drops: azure venom
The book was still in his hand, and it was still right about everything he saw. The world was being broken down and remade: apocalypse and genesis in one larp session. Yet the new world was familiar. It was Danalan: the same world as their monster manual. Tyler flipped a page in the manual. He saw a stone shrine. Next to him, an identical one grew out of the ground. The face on it stared at him blankly, asserting it had already been there for hundreds of years.
Daniel couldn’t be far. Tyler knew this was his doing. He always had a powerful imagination. They’d been together two years, closeted from their families, but not from the friends they quested with every week. Nobody cared who you loved in Danalan. Daniel always used to say that it sounded like ‘Daniel’s land.’ Then he would smirk and get lost in that mind of his, submerged in the fantasy.
Tyler would kiss him to get him to come up for breath, but it didn’t always work. Sometimes Daniel would call people by their character names in class. That would trigger the laughing. Tyler tried to tell him it didn’t matter and he would always answer, after the same few seconds adrift in thought, ‘it doesn’t matter in Danalan.’
There was only one place he would go. The abandoned temple of obsidian sight. Tyler trekked there, slaying any monsters that dared cross his path. All their weaknesses were written down for him, right there in the manual. Only the dire raccoons were smart enough to stay out of his way. Nothing would keep him from Daniel. They had built this world, in that gym with their friends, and they were gods within it. He just needed to get Daniel out, to drag him back into real air and make him gasp.
It took him nearly two days to reach the temple. On the intervening night he’d merely stared at his crackling campfire until dawn. He wanted to store its light in his eyes, because the temple would be dark. Perhaps that was possible now, or maybe it was just tears keeping his eyes from drying as he stared at the fire’s heart and wished for the same power.
“I knew you’d come,” Daniel’s voice said out of the shadows deep inside the temple. “I’m not finished yet. There’s still some of Earth left.”
“You need to stop Daniel,” Tyler said, voice already quivering. “These are other peoples’ lives. We can’t force them into our world.”
“My world. Daniel’s land,” he answered. “Yes I can. Here we are. You know my power. You saw it. I made that flower for you, the week we met. No flower like it on Earth, and you saw it grow in my hand.”
“And it was gone a day later,” Tyler shouted. “What happens if Danalan goes away with us inside it?”
“I’m making it permanent.”
“I’m not doing this with you. I’m not going. I love you. I’m sorry the gym was too small for you, but you need to take this somewhere else. You need to let everybody else have their lives too.”
“I… can’t. Where can I go? What will I do without you?” the darkness sobbed.
“Here,” Tyler offered. He threw the manual upon the stone steps and it opened to a blank page at the back. “You can fit anything on a blank page.”
Daniel understood. Tyler was the only one in the world he ever would’ve listened to. He had hoped adventuring to the temple would change his love’s mind, but of course he was a determined rogue who could not be swayed or bribed with god-like powers.
He emerged from the shadows he had spent so much false time in. Yes. The book could be the new temple. He wouldn’t have to steal everyone’s lives to have his own. Tyler and Daniel embraced, shared a last kiss, and savored the textures of their genuine armor and cloaks. They crossed swords and made an oath to always watch out for each other.
Then Daniel descended, as if by staircase, into the monster manual. He took with him all of the fresh Danalan, an entire world drained in mere moments. Tyler was left with cardboard armor, a foam sword, a fleeting reality on his lips, and a new piece of artwork on the last page. He picked up the manual. The gym had likely been restored. With luck, they would see each other again in a week.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by TheDukeOf_Donuts during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop bytwitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!