Author’s Note: This was written live on stream, with the tone being determined by the numbers under minesweeper tiles. The audience could bid tokens earned in stream to reveal random tiles. A mine hit results in the death of all characters, unless they are temporarily saved by a lump sum of tokens. If characters make it to the end of the stream, they survive to be seen another day. Join us at twitch.tv/blainearcade if you wish to participate.
1-peace 2-alert 3-escalation 4-action 5-tragedy 6-world-changing
A world lies in ruin, its debris drifting on a bottomless sea. Its remaining people, from all places and periods, have one chance of survival. One world will take them, but they must make the journey on their own. Between the two lies the minefield: a vast varied expanse of debris both magical and scientific. Salvation is on the other side.
Three figures emerge from the fog of their sputtering world: Rudas the useless satyr, Mr. 32 the moralistic fridge, and Blurry the sketched fat cat. They see the minefield before them, knowing little, and walk forward.
The minefield had been around long enough that those creatures that had set root in its edges had a few expectations when it came to survivors and refugees. The dying world was populated mostly by humanity and its efforts, so each group usually came with at least one ordinary person, somewhat swallowed up in the stress of it all.
Not this time however. Out of the fog came three of the strangest figures possible. They all seemed rather content with themselves, as if they’d always known this would happen. One of them was a rectangular prism of a robot with large wheels and enough space on top to carry the other two as they yawned and napped.
The beings at the edge, who watched with invisible or disguised eyes, always saw bickering at the start of the minefield, but not these three. They didn’t even share a word until they were more than a day into their journey.
“It’s hot out here,” Rudas declared. He was lucky that, for a satyr, his fur was trimmed rather short. The real reason he said what he did was to get a response out of Blurry: the strange animal curled up in his lap. He resembled a cat, but his appearance and texture were too… artistic. He looked like a pencil sketch brought to life.
The cat simply rolled over. The heat seemed to have no effect. The robot giving them a ride wasn’t bothered either, but perhaps that was because he focused on a distant signal, something calling out to him and offering refuge. He was Mr. 32; his model was the moralistic glacier #45600. Within his frigid confines he held four human criminals, mass murders all, frozen in suspended animation, serving their infinite sentences.
He wondered if he should inform his passengers about his deadly cargo, but they didn’t seem to care about anything at all. Between the two of them they’d already logged seven different naps.
The other members of the party, one organic and one artistic, couldn’t sense the signal. There was no point in worrying them when it was impossible to predict what they would run into. Mr. 32 kept it to himself, especially now that they found some entertainment. Apparently, Rudas had some magic to him.
The satyr held his black-clawed hands out and blew softly into his palms. Bubbles formed, in a variety of pastel colors. They amused Blurry greatly; the cat batted at them. Whenever one popped its hue spread across the feline’s body, changing his appearance to more of a watercolor than a charcoal sketch.
“You are magical?” Mr. 32 asked Rudas in a voice like an air conditioner imitating a noir detective. The bubbles popped and the cat grumbled. He swatted at a blinking light on Mr. 32’s side to voice his displeasure.
“Yes,” Rudas snickered, “but utterly useless at it. Bubbles. Sound-throwing. Magic not even good enough for party tricks, though I don’t see any parties around here.” He shifted position and heard a hollow sound when one of his hooves hit the top of Mr. 32. “Are you empty?”
(Audience-Chosen) Mine! (Mr. 32 and Blurry saved)
Before Mr. 32 could respond, could warn, Rudas hopped down in front of the wheeled robot and examined the latch. It was locked, guarded by a hundred mechanisms and programs, but Rudas was magic. He cast a feathery spell with one long finger and swirled it around inside the lock.
The cryo cell depressurized and jettisoned its contents. Four frozen prisoners, in various poses of agony, landed all about them. If they were allowed to thaw naturally they would perish from ice crystals in the veins, so their uniforms, with built-in revitalization technology, rapidly returned them to life. Moments later they were on their feet, wild eyes moving in all directions, dripping the last of their prison off the ends of their sleeves, noses, and hair.
Mr. 32 was mortified. He wasn’t particularly concerned about the others’ fate, just that he had failed in his duties. Their sentences were supposed to go uninterrupted for another two centuries. He wheeled backward, self-preservation kicking in. He dimmed his lights and sat there, pretending to be nothing more than an abandoned fridge.
The killers were not squirrels waking from hibernation. They were monsters, who only remembered being shoved and shocked into cold cages. As such, they immediately attacked each other. There were two men and two women, but no weapons between them. It came down to muscles and teeth.
A man was torn apart because he had no teeth to fight back with. One of the women was choked by the other, until her face was bluer than it was in the freezer. The two that remained set their sights on Rudas. It was true; he was terrible at magic. None of the tiny, thin, colorful things he conjured dissuaded the killers. They bashed his head into a stone until his hooves went still.
Blurry had escaped by squeezing into the remaining woman’s pant leg. He wasn’t just a sketch or a nice watercolor; he could be a tattoo as well. There he hid while the woman finished off the last of her competition. She shoved the man’s head into Mr. 32’s open maw and closed the lid on his ears with such force that it produced a small geyser of blood.
Only when nothing else moved did she settle down, did she become approachable by Mr. 32. Luckily, she didn’t blame the robot for her predicament. In truth, he had saved her from dying with nearly everyone else back in the old world.
She was Trish. Her face suggested she liked to ride motorcycles and eat the bugs that flew by. Her gnarled hands suggested she could fix a car by slapping the stubbornness out of it. That was good. Mr. 32 might need a mechanic if the terrain got rougher. They still needed to reach the other side.
His fears came true. Not long after the bloodbath the grass thinned. There were more trees, but they were all stripped and dead, as if loggers had come through and taken only the branches and leaves. Trish only noticed her new living tattoo, currently curled up on her thigh, when Blurry got a bad feeling, hissed, and went bristly against her skin.
Mr. 32 told them they could ride inside him rather on top, but Trish called him out on the tactic. He would not be refreezing her as long as she had use of those hands of hers. She stayed on top, drumming one of her favorite songs into Mr. 32’s flat head. Darkness came in waves, not like night approaching, but like clouds sneaking through the forest as wolves.
Eventually Trish tried to coax Blurry off of her body. She might’ve contributed to the deaths of more than 300 people in the great road rage spike of 1973, but she wasn’t without a softer side, especially for animals. She had three cats back before her arrest and none of them cared that she’d driven a tire iron through a man’s ear and out the other.
“Come on,” she cooed. Blurry’s head peeked out from her collarbone, just curious cat eyes and a fat fluffy chin on the softest spot of her throat. “Come on you fat little fuck. Who’s a good fat little fuck.” One paw extended out of her uniform. She let it touch her fingertip.
“I’m heading towards a signal,” Mr. 32 admitted. Blurry’s paw retracted into her shirt, the bulge of the chunky cat going flat once again against her ribs. She groaned.
“You scared Chubbo,” she chastised. “He was almost off me.”
“His name is Blurry,” Mr. 32 said.
“How do you know that?”
“The signal I’m telling you about is feeding me information. Much of it I already know, but it includes that arttistic aberration’s name.”
“Stop,” Trish ordered, all the sweetness she’d used on the cat gone from her voice. Mr. 32’s wheels slowed and then stilled. There was no sound, as if the wind was afraid of cutting itself on the jagged trees. She dismounted the robot and walked in circles around him. There was no fear to see; his face was simply four green lights arranged in a diamond. “Who’s sending that signal? What’s it for?”
“I don’t know,” the fridge admitted. “It simply promises sanctuary on the other end of this madness. Then, it feeds me the random information, almost like a whisper.”
“We’re not going toward it anymore,” Trish declared. She looked off in the distance, to where she assumed it originated from, based on the angle of the fridge’s wheels. “This reeks of a honey trap, and I hate honey. More of a molasses girl. We’re changing course.”
“I do not object,” Mr. 32 said. What he wanted more than anything was an opportunity to get her back on ice. The more they wandered around the minefield, separate from whatever civilization was on the other side, the more chances he would have.
(Audience-Chosen) Mine! (Everyone Saved)
It was in that moment, when Trish was about to kick Mr. 32, just to see how much he could take before snapping at her, that the robot’s power supply died. His battery should’ve lasted for close to a century, but he hadn’t accounted for the strange flow of time that sometimes passed through the minefield.
A breeze of it proved braver than the actual wind, and sucked the energy out of him over the course of a few hours. Trish opened him up, but was careful not to lean too far in. She was already wary of one trap. Blurry leaned out of her collar once more, but the angle proved worse than he anticipated, and the fat feline figure flopped out and landed in the freezer.
The cat immediately hissed and jumped for its life, scratching at Trish’s uniform. She helped pull him out, but didn’t allow him back onto the safe spaces of her thigh or midriff. The cat huffed and wandered away, taking delicate steps. Apparently the cold had really burned his feet. He might’ve been art, but perhaps the artist was extremely sensitive.
Trish pushed the inactive Mr. 32 through the forest, off in a new direction. Eventually they would have to resume, but hopefully the signal’s source wasn’t the entire side of the minefield. He proved even heavier than he looked, and within two hours she was sweating up a storm.
Even if Blurry had wanted to return to her skin, the perspiration could’ve drowned him. The cat walked gingerly behind them, occasionally meowing at nothing. It was still very dark when Trish was forced to take a rest. She dropped to her bottom and leaned against the fridge, huffing and puffing. Her burning lungs hung low in her chest, seeming to scald the top of her empty stomach.
“Food,” she said out loud. It was suddenly the only thing on her mind. Blurry rounded Mr. 32’s corner and sat on his haunches. He said the same thing with his eyes. “Really? Do you even have to eat? You shouldn’t… because you’re… you know… a lardsplosion.” She couldn’t even find the energy to insult him anymore. She refocused. She wasn’t there at the beginning of the minefield, so she knew less about it than the other two, but the damn scribble cat couldn’t talk.
She needed the fridge back. He had a computer brain, and she knew for a fact he wanted her alive. He also wanted her frozen, thinking about all the awful things she did with that kerosene and those jumper cables, but she needed to eat to be in that state. He would help her find food.
Finally, she remembered the patch on her suit that had warmed her back to life. Surely it had a power source. After a quick examination she found it, separated it with her teeth, and popped it into one of Mr. 32’s openings. When she found the right connection the fridge’s various fans came back to life.
“I understand,” the fridge said after she explained their current predicament. “We will have to hunt. I can modify a few of my sensors to seek out heartbeats.” Without waiting to hear her agree, Mr. 32 spun in place for a full minute and found something promising. He rolled off in its direction.
Trish followed. They had no weapons, but that wouldn’t be a problem. She still possessed her rage; they couldn’t freeze it out of her. Ever since that traffic jam, in that unholy heat, she’d been able to access it, to rampage like a demon of gluttony across an all-you-can-eat buffet of innocence and hot oil. She would be able to kill whatever they found.
It wasn’t even fair. A turtle. They found a damn turtle that was somehow making its way across the minefield. Blurry batted at its shell like he had no idea what it was. It seemed no other animals had been kept in his sketchbook.
“How does a thing like that get this far?” she asked, almost angry it wasn’t dead already.
“The shell has always been effective protection,” Mr. 32 mused. “A shell you could have if you resumed your sentence. I promise to keep you safe.” Trish was an inch from smashing a thousand dents into the robot, using the turtle’s shell, but she had to keep him intact. He had found food after all. She quickly dispatched the turtle by splitting its shell with her bare hands and crushing its head. Then she used the patch still hanging out of the robot to heat the meat.
She let Blurry have his strips of turtle flesh raw. She was shocked when the bloated sketch of a pet scarfed down his first piece. He turned blood red, like a crimson pencil fresh from the box, and purred contentedly, which sounded like an old grinding sharpener.
He looked good in red. Maybe good enough to be an actual tattoo; she’d never gotten around to getting one. The red looked natural. Why did the artist have to draw him so fat? They clearly buried his killer instinct. If he spent a few weeks on Trish’s body he’d probably slim down.
Before she knew it they had stripped the turtle clean. It turns out it wasn’t entirely normal. She found runes etched on the inside of its shell. Maybe they’d just eaten a sentient druid. It didn’t bother her though; it was his fault for picking such a sluggish slow-brained form. Blurry wasn’t bothered either. That settled it. It was time for a partner.
She wiped her greasy hands on the side of Mr. 32, who did not complain, and then grabbed the thigh of her uniform. She ripped it wide open, displaying her leg like a canvas. Blurry eyed her cautiously.
“I know I wasn’t too keen on it,” she told the cat. “I think you’ve got the stuff now though. I’d be proud to have a predator like you watching my back… or my… lower back, but not a tramp stamp though. Only rule.”
Blurry approached cautiously, sniffing at the spot. His whiskers were single pencil strokes, catching the light of a new day as it crept through the stripped forest. He touched one paw to her thigh. A moment later he was nestled there as a tattoo. He looked a little more regal this time, with the crimson coloration and the licking of his lips. Trish stood and got a feel for it once again. If Mr. 32 was heavier than he looked, Blurry was the opposite. She barely felt it whenever he moved.
Now that their stomachs were full they resumed their attempt to dodge the signal. Mr. 32 could at least discern that it wasn’t moving; it wouldn’t be trying to catch them. Still, Trish wanted them to come up with a plan, and naturally it was a plan of attack. Mr. 32 had numerous strategies in mind, but they were too technical for her liking.
All they needed was a good surprise, and they had one in the form of her lively tattoo. They just needed a way to convince Blurry to attack, if the situation called for it. She imagined how painful and unpleasant it would be to have his claws in you, like getting stabbed with pencils and having their dust circulate in your bloodstream.
“Our keyword will be chubbo,” she told her tattoo, leaning at an awkward angle while she walked, in order to speak eye to eye with him while he was on her thigh. “I say ‘chubbo’ and you strike, got it blubber-biscuit?” The cat didn’t nod, but it did stare back. Did he look a little thinner already? Was he reaping the benefits of her exercise as she marched alongside Mr. 32?
The stripped trees were regaining their foliage. Everywhere they spotted pale green buds and smooth new branches. For once Trish allowed herself to feel a little hope. Maybe the trees were growing again because they sensed a new home nearby. All the branches did seem to be going in the same direction, odd since there was no sun to follow. They looked like brooms that had spent too long with their straws holding them up.
They got their answer in the form of a fog wall that appeared on the horizon. A crowd appeared as well, but not of people. It was mostly made up of abandoned riding animals, milling about and chewing what little grass was left at the edge of the minefield. They were polite enough, moving out of the way for Mr. 32 and Trish. It was like they’d seen plenty of others passing through, heading into the fog. Trish and the robot both wondered why the animals hadn’t followed their owners. Trish had already decided she would do whatever she could to sneak Blurry by any sort of official guarding the way. He wasn’t even a a pet after all; he was a tattoo, at worst a bad decision on a drunken night.
(Audience-Chosen) Mine! (Everyone Saved)
In the end their passage through the fog was not particularly eventful, but what they found on the other side shocked them. Cages. Ten thousand cages of all sizes and constructions. Guards on zip lines using climbing gear to scale the towers of prisoners. This was quite the holding pen for any suspicious refugees.
Even Mr. 32 was unsettled, as he saw several units of his own model rolling about, no doubt holding prisoners they had brought just as he had. What had changed? All of a sudden he didn’t want to turn Trish in, and he could have easily with a strategic alarm when a guard was near.
Instead he followed her into the depths of the holding yard, where the overhang on the cages created plenty of shade. In that shade they formed a new pact. Mr. 32 was a jailor in the old world, but he simply knew that justice here was different, that it wasn’t justice at all. He would work to change it until his cold cell was worthy of mankind’s worst once again.
Trish felt the anger bubbling insider her. The rage wouldn’t be gone here; it would be worse. Blurry felt it too, hot on her skin like volcanic steam. There was going to be a fight and they were all going to be part of it, possibly the sharpest fiercest part of all.
Minefield traversed! Trish, Mr. 32, and Blurry are saved! They will return someday, at some point, in a grand scheme of grand things. There are more who must cross, more stories to tell, more stories to destroy in a bitter conflagration.