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
The minefield has been moved. It now connects the Trap to a new world, a new game. There is no destruction this time, nothing forcing them to flee. Only the brave, curious, and strange will take the journey. Who will step through the fog and face the myriad dangers of the field?
Three enter: Treackle the candy-thieving pixie, Floab the radically shy dragon, and Dawn the blind swimsuit model.
They left behind a world intact, but disapproving of their nature. It was a place of curved walls, gladiatorial games, and every-being-for-themselves attitudes. Those who had magic or disabilities were treated similarly: shoved aside or thrown into the paths of the merciless boulders rolling across the land.
Three such beings decided the minefield was a better choice. Perhaps the world on the other side was more forgiving. Dawn was the easiest to see, even though she could not. She tapped her way into the grass with a cane. Her two companions stayed hidden for the moment. Treackle, a tiny winged candy thief with sugar-coated orange and pink skin, was cozy in the underarm fold of Dawn’s one-piece swimming suit.
It wasn’t the most appropriate attire, but she had been at a fashion show just as the way into the minefield opened. The crowd had booed her, not because she was hideous, she was more beautiful than she could ever know, but because she dared to show up in dark glasses and holding a cane.
Besider her was a skateboard that seemed to roll forward on its own, but there was actually a tiny serpentine dragon under it, pushing the wheels with his hot breath. Floab always loved extreme sports, but as a magical creature he was never allowed into the parks to practice. He had to hide underneath his favorite toy and pretend it was simply an enchanted object moving on its own.
“I don’t smell any sugar on the wind,” Treackle noted. “This is a place of death… and wandering. Oh, don’t step there. I think there’s something under the grass. Go left Dawn.” The young woman obeyed. She’d lived in a city all her life. Sidewalks and busy streets were no problem for her, but all this bumpy grass made her confident model’s gait shudder.
“I’ll take us,” Floab squeaked from under the skateboard. “Just sit down.” Dawn slowly crouched as the dragon maneuvered the skateboard under her. She lifted her legs and took a seat. With her toes safe and comfortable on the end of the skateboard, the dragon breathed a tiny blue jet onto the custom fireproof wheels, pushing them forward, deeper into the minefield.
After an hour of travel, Floab was nearly out of breath. He was almost glad when Treackle ordered him to stop. A shadow passed overhead. He’d had his fair share of scares with hawks who saw him as nothing more than a snake, but this was different. The shadow was slow. Square.
“I can feel its wind,” Dawn said. “Tell me it looks as friendly as it feels.” She stood, to let the breeze move through her long hair. All of the wind moved in the same direction, toward whatever world was on the other side.
“Nothing’s as peaceful as it looks,” Treackle warned. “It kind of looks like a giant napkin, so… it could be way less peaceful than that and still be super peaceful.” She flew out from under Dawn’s arm and hailed the flying white square. “Hey! Napkin! Down here! Give us a lift. I hope You’re off to dinner; I’m mighty hungry!” She rubbed her stomach, a little sugary fairy dust falling to the grass.
The sky napkin responded sluggishly, but eventually it circled down towards them and made land. Though the bottom was white, the top was scrawled with messages in various inks and hand writings. As the trio examined it, Floab made note of the messages.
“I don’t suppose any are in braille?” Dawn asked hopefully. She rubbed her temple under her dark glasses.
“Nope,” Treackle answered. “Just a lot of mixed messages. ‘Hop on; it’s safe.’ ‘Follow this square to the other side.’
“Ahead is a prison, follow at your own risk,” Floab read off it as well. “Your life will be ruined, but it will be new.”
“That doesn’t sound promising,” Dawn thought out loud. “I can feel night coming though. How far do we have to go without this thing?”
“I can’t see the end,” Floab said, looking off into the horizon. “I’m almost out of fire for the day. Sorry. My bad.”
“Magic things don’t have to apologize,” Treackle said, “we just make things better. I say we get on.” Dawn seconded her suggestion, and Floab rolled the skateboard onto the giant flying napkin. It took off just as slowly as it had landed.
The napkin’s pace across the sky was lazy enough that Dawn never feared being blown off. She laid on her stomach with one hand over the side, as if feeling the flow of a lazy river. Treackle sat in the small of her back, picking at her last gumdrop, her last prize from the lint-filled pockets at the fashion show. She’d expected such pockets to be cleaner, what with those people dressed all fancy. Thanks to their filth, she had dust stuck to her underarms, making her look just like a human with nasty armpit hair.
“Hey, Floab, come on out here and talk to me,” Treackle encouraged. “Ahm bowd,” she grumbled through a mouthful of sour apple gumdrop. Floab poked his head out, but kept his body wrapped around the trucks of his skateboard. He was ready to listen, but he wanted to rest his throat. That was the excuse anyway. People normally hated it when he talked, and they hated it more when he accidentally sneezed and caught their shoelaces on fire.
(Chat-Determined) – 2
“Ooh… perk up everybody,” Treackle warned. She flew over to Dawn’s shoulder and pulled on her ear, urging her to sit up. “We’re about to hit a traffic jam.” Floab’s head disappeared into the trucks. He rolled the board over to Dawn, who stroked its top as if it was a cat.
Their napkin wasn’t the only one; it joined a flock. As far as the trio could tell, there was no way to control it, so they just watched and listened while it slid in with the others and got them surrounded. Some of them bore different patterns and scribbled messages, and only most were empty. Beings as strange as they, or stranger, sat on their own napkins and stared back with equal suspicion.
“I’m going to scout a little bit,” Treackle said over her growling stomach. “See if there’s any candy out there in the dead of night.” The pixie started to fly away. Dawn smelled her sugary hide as she passed by.
“I’d rather you stayed with us,” the model said, her voice quivering slightly. That high in the sky, her friends were the only stability she had.
“I totally care about your feelings,” Treackle said, “but I’m starving. I need some licorice or I’m going to dry out, puke up all my magic, and die horribly. So… bye!” The pixie left the borders of their napkin, buzzing about the heads of the other travelers and peeking in their pockets. Floab sacrificed his hiding place, slithering out and curling up in Dawn’s lap to keep her company until the bravest of them returned.
“Should we ask somebody if they know where we’re going?” Dawn whispered to the dragon. “Do any of them look friendly?”
“Uhhh… I guess I’ll check,” Floab muttered. He slowly lifted his head above her lap and examined their neighbors’ napkin, as it was the only one close enough to see in the dark. Two figures sat upon it with crossed legs. Though they looked physically fit, the bulges on the bottom of their napkin suggested they were extremely heavy. Both of them looked over simultaneously. Their faces were reptilian, with lips like saucy pasta electrocuted into spasms mimicking life. There was pure rage in their eyes: a fire that could not be extinguished even after the heat death of the universe. “No, they don’t look friendly.” Dawn felt Floab’s shivering.
“Well, you never know until you try,” Dawn said, biting her lip. Floab didn’t respond, but he did burrow deeper into her lap and put his head under her left thigh, which was coincidentally the thigh further from their pasta-faced neighbors. She turned to them. “Excuse me, folks, do you know where we’re going? Or what these silly napkins are?” She laughed a little, but they did not reciprocate.
She heard something like a voice. It started low and grew, but never became more than a whisper. Yet, that whisper seemed to be perched on the edge of her ear. If she didn’t know Treackle’s saccharine scent so well by that point, she would’ve guessed the pixie was next to her ear playing tricks on her.
They didn’t say anything with their simultaneous near-whispers, but they did communicate something. The napkins were built to do good, to get them across the dangerous ground of the minefield, but there was not consensus among those that enchanted them, hence the mixed writing across them all.
She thought it might push her luck to ask anything else, so Dawn thanked them and went quiet again. She tried not to fear what was ahead. It couldn’t possibly be worse than their own world, where you or your home could be crushed at any time by the immortal spherical boulders that cursed everything she knew.
Her mind was drawn away from the mocking and audible camera flashes of the fashion show once more when Treackle’s smell returned. She asked if the pixie found anything.
“Oh yeah, loads.” The pixie dropped a pile of colorful things on top of the skateboard: a candy necklace, a lollipop that spun hypnotically, and several jawbreakers that grew and shrunk constantly. Those last ones she had a hard time corralling. “Just don’t tell anybody I stole them.”
(Chat-Determined) – 1
“Was that a good idea?” Dawn hissed. She patted her sides, fully aware she had no extra fabric to throw over the pixie’s hoard.
“I’m magic; I don’t worry about good ideas versus bad. I cam magic them both equally. All the same, I can save a pinch of magic if you don’t tell nobody. Hope you don’t mind me using your board Floab.”
“Just don’t break it,” the dragon said, his voice muffled by Dawn’s thigh. His head emerged a moment later. He opened his mouth and produced a smell jet of blue fire, like a blowtorch. “I’m good to go again, in case we don’t want to fly anymore.”
“Uhh… nobody panic,” Treackle said, clearly panicking. “Just lean… just… oh shit.” Apparently, she didn’t have the best understanding of the candy she’d stolen. One of the jawbreakers was growing much faster than the others, and it wasn’t shrinking either.
“What’s happening?” Dawn asked. She reached out and felt the side of the hard candy as it swelled, already bigger than a basketball. Treackle told her to roll it off the side, but it was easily as dense as their strange neighbors. It kept growing. The napkin sloped under its weight, throwing all of them against its side. It was bigger than Dawn, nearly the size of one of the horrible boulders from their old world. Maybe the minefield was just as bad.
The napkin flagged. It started losing altitude. The flying paper seemed to have a survival instinct, as it slid the jawbreaker backward and off the end. It didn’t warn Dawn, who fell with it. Suddenly, her world was nothing but air rushing by. The corner of another napkin gave her a wicked paper cut across the cheek, but it was already gone before she could grab at it.
She screamed, called out for help, but her friends could do nothing. Treackle could fly, but she couldn’t carry a human. A human-sized piece of candy? Sure, but not the real thing. Floab was a wingless wyrm, but he could propel himself along with his fire breath. His instinct was to grab his board and jet over to the nearest napkin. Both of them made it safely.
Dawn felt the ground approaching as a nasty throb in her head. She screamed louder. Being crushed or squished had always been her fate, whether it be by this fall or one of the boulders of her world, but she still rejected it. Even without sight, she knew she was something to behold, and she wanted to be beholden still.
Beauty was still worth something in the minefield, at least to those who passed through it. Something wrapped around her ankle and stopped her fall like a bungee cord. Her breath spilled out of her, but she shouted a thanks up to whoever saved her as soon as she could.
The cord pulled her up and set her down on another napkin.
“That was close,” Treackle said, shaking the candy necklace in her ear. Dawn noted that the pixie had saved what was most important to her. Floab found her lap once more. She reached out to see who to thank, and found the shoulder of something that gave her goosebumps. She heard the strange non-whispers again, after hearing the giant jawbreaker collide with the ground and roll away.
“Oh, thank you,” Dawn said, trying to hide the chill across her skin and the revulsion swimming in her stomach. She automatically knew what the cord was. It had to be one of the strange noodle-projections around their mouths. “I… I hope the taste of my ankle wasn’t too foul. Hehehe…” They said nothing, but she could feel their heads turn. The conversation was over. They were allowed to ride along.
They flew along in silence for several hours, with the grumble of Dawn’s empty stomach being the loudest sound for miles. Eventually, as they approached a wall of fog in the distance, they were allowed to see the exact proportions of the flight of the napkins.
Every napkin that didn’t have a passenger drifted towards the center of the flock. They started stacking on top of each other with soft sounds, building a floating column to be stored away until their next voyage. It grew taller and taller before pulling ahead and taking the lead.
Treackle and Floab looked around, counting the other napkins and passengers. There were twenty-five beings in total, spread across seventeen napkins. They came from all walks of life and time periods of their world. Treackle would’ve liked to observe more, but she spotted the rainbow-haired witch she’d stolen the jawbreakers from, so she hid under Floab’s board alongside him.
“When we land, I’ve got a plan,” Treackle whispered to them from under the board. “Dawn, stay turned away from the lady with rainbow hair. We will walk in the opposite direction.”
“I don’t know where she is,” Dawn reminded. She remembered something and felt around the napkin, carefully to not touch the butts of her creepy saviors. That seemed like the sort of gesture that could instantly rot her hand off its wrist. She couldn’t find it. Her cane was gone, likely smashed by the jawbreaker. Now all she had to cling to was Floab’s board. She grabbed its edge to steady her mind.
The napkins started their descent just as the column touched down with a strange soft sound like the plush slippered foot of a giant. Slowly, they circled around the tower. The first ones set down and released their passengers, but Dawn, Treackle, and Floab, along with their polite but horrific neighbors, were the last in the procession.
(Chat-Determined) – 3
They were the last to know that the transition to the new world wasn’t entirely peaceful. As they stepped off, Dawn riding on the skateboard, they found the back of the crowd all gathered around something halfway in the fog, like an information kiosk.
A voice demanded they get in line, so they obeyed, putting themselves behind the noodle-faced reptile people. Floab watched their feet while Treackle, perched in Dawn’s hair, watched their heads. The line shrank. Sometimes a being was let through the fog, but others simply turned around, angry or depressed. Treackle pressed herself against Dawn’s scalp when the rainbow witch passed by, spewing colorful curses under her breath.
It came to be their turn, after their saviors walked through the fog to the right of the kiosk. They expected someone more stern, but they were greeted by a girl in a cheerleader’s uniform. She had a clipboard and a pen in place of pom-poms.
“I’m Cassandra,” the cheerleader said. “I’m doing intake today. I’ll try to be clear as possible. Worlds are at stake. Everything past our fog is danger and uncertainty, but we can only take one free soul from each group. The place beyond is called the Trap, and it needs a certain proportion of prisoners to free souls to remain intact. You have two choices. Send one through, with the other two going back or staying in the minefield. Or, you can come be our prisoners. We’ll treat you well, but we have to keep you in a box until all this world-breaking business blows over.”
“Prisoners?” Dawn asked.
“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” Cassandra said with a small hiss. “We can put you in an icebox robot and it’ll be like your dreaming. Everybody gets to come out if we win our little endeavor.”
The trio took their time discussing it, as there was nobody left in line behind them. They couldn’t take forever, as the nakin tower dispersed and flew off to fetch more defectors from their world. Trouble really only had one equal in their group. Treackle. Thievery would be useful in whatever battles lay ahead.
Dawn and Floab could wait together, either in a cozy box or frozen in dreams, for the time when they could reunite. Anything was better than going back. They all shook on it: hand, to tiny hand, to claw. They passed through the minefield and into the rebellious Trap.
Minefield traversed! Treackle will join in the stories ahead. Seven more must be recruited before the rebels of the Trap can make their move.