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: Barton the frighteningly regular guy, Glint the polished talkative labradorite chunk, and the chaotic Man of Lines.
Most who entered the minefield were brave, but not the latest trio. They had been kicked out for disturbing the peace in various ways. Barton, in his plain collared shirt and business slacks, had such a thing coming for years. His life followed too pure of a course: decent grades, a fair number of friends, a steady girlfriend, and an even steadier job. He never had any personal tragedies, his parents looked like they would live to be three hundred, and he never needed anyone’s sympathy.
They kicked him out, with the pretense being that he needed some chaos in his life. In reality, most were either just jealous or unsettled by the calm in his eyes. His companion, on the other hand, was practically chaos incarnate. He was a thin being, too thin to hold a name, barely visible from the front. He referred to himself only as ‘Man of Lines’.
They entered the minefield together, but Barton immediately tripped on something that had been thrown in there just three hours earlier. It was a polished chunk of labradorite, beautiful in its iridescence. When a face was reflected in it, the reflection would speak. The stone told them his name was Glint.
“Hang on, let me test something first,” Man of Lines said. He threw out a hand too thin to see, so Barton ran right into it. “This place is a jumble. My disaster senses are tingling. Let me handle this.” The line moved forward, barely disturbing the grass.
“What’s there to handle? I don’t see anything other than those goldenrod clouds,” Glint said, using the reflection of Barton’s mouth.
“All this!” Man of Lines shot into the ground like a bolt of lightning. He bounced in and out repeatedly, throwing dirt clods with each strike. With each hole came a series of shrieks and squeaks. All sorts of rodents began to pop out of invisible burrows and scurry around: moles, voles, mice, and rats. Some of them seeemed eager to bite, but Man of Lines swung in like a baseball bat and knocked them all away from Barton and Glint.
Some of the rats had bandoliers, by which they dragged strange firearms. It took three or four of them to aim the guns properly, enough time for Man of Lines to slice through the weapons before a single shot could go off. Once they were disarmed, the rodents bowed to the travelers and begged for mercy.
“Please!” one of the rats squeaked, holding out its tiny pink hands in a sort of desperate prayer. “We were just going to defend our new home if you attacked. That’s all! You did… sort of attack.”
“I did sort of attack,” Man of Lines pondered aloud, but the thought didn’t seem to worry him.
“New home? Where did you come from?” Barton asked. If the rats fled the other side of the minefield, perhaps it wasn’t the kind of place he wanted to go.
“We were kicked out of the Trap,” the rat hissed, its praying hands separating and twitching, as if ready to strangle something. “Humans and other weirdos run it now. They’re going to wreck the whole place, get it smashed straight through with a fist from above.” The rodents all looked up, as if they expected that fist in the next three seconds.
“Walk me forward,” Glint told Barton. The man held the stone in his palm and did as he was told. The chunk of rock flashed its borrowed smile. “Clearly, we are more powerful than you. I’m sure we can negotiate some kind of compensation for us, for your attempt on our lives. I’m sure you can offer…”
Glint couldn’t finish, as Barton had taken one step too many. The ground rumbled and collapsed under them, and they fell into the catacombs of the rodents, a space much larger than anticipated. Man of Lines, too insubstantial to be weighed down by gravity, nevertheless followed them into the darkness like a plunging spear. Barton and Glint were the only things left of his home world; he might want to keep them as souvenirs.
“Pocket me!” Glint screamed. “Protect me with your meaty body! Pocket me, pocket me, pocket me!” Barton did so. The stone’s voice was silenced the moment it couldn’t reflect the man’s face. Barton was silent as well, even though he fell towards nearly certain doom. He had faith his regularity would be sustained even in the Minefield. His own world was fraught with dangerous sentient boulders, yet they always rolled around him.
As long as he didn’t panic, Man of Lines saw no reason to grab him. He was curious as well. So they fell, for all of forty seconds. Dirt and stone blew by in layers, as well as the giant compound eye of some buried mostly-dead barely-rotted thing.
They plunged into a great open cavern, echoing with the sounds of more rodents. Barton struck a pool of black fluid, too thick to swim in. He would’ve drowned if Man of Lines hadn’t turned on his side and provided something of a kick-board. The regular man slowly made his way to the shore and pulled himself out. He looked up. Something hovered there, metallic and spiny, dripping the black material into the pool.
“What is that?” Barton asked, his mild curiosity peaked. Man of Lines flew up to the hovering object, nearly the size of a house, and circled it a few times. He returned slowly, as if something was dawning on him.
“This is actually what I sensed,” Man of Lines explained. “Not those rats. They were just in the way. These… are the mines. This place is called the Minefield after all. These are the source of all the troubles up there.” Man of Lines pointed with his body, first up, and then out. Barton surveyed the cave as his eyes adjusted to its dim light. There were more mines, some in clusters and some spread out. They went as far as the eye could see.
(Chat-Determined) – 3
“Mines?” Barton questioned. “Are they duds? None of them look like they’ve exploded.”
“They don’t explode,” Man of Lines said, puzzling it out as he spoke. “They’re chaos generators. Their source may be similar to my own. I’d love to slide under one of those panels, but I think I’d set it off. If anything happens to you up there, anything violent, horrific, or emotionally disturbing, it’s because you walked over one of these bad boys.”
“So, if we walk under them, we’re totally safe then?” Barton asked. “That would figure. I always find a way to stay safe.”
“I’m not so sure,” Man of Lines answered. “If that’s true, your presence might just piss them off. I’d love to see what that looks like.”
“Give it a try if you want; I’m not worried.” Barton shook off as much of the black gunk as he could, probably some kind of machine oil, and walked towards the chains that kep the hovering chaos mines from drifting away.
They moved under the first one, its chain clinking slightly as it dipped a few inches. Barton wondered if it was reaching for him, salivating over such pristine normalcy, something that would explode so viscerally, so satisfyingly, if only it could get closer.
Each and every mine they walked under did the same thing. None had the power to actually reach him, so he quickly lost interest. His attention turned to their destination. There was a light source. It had the same goldenrod color as the clouds above ground, but he couldn’t see it from under the ridge it was situated atop. They still had quite a ways to go before they could even start the climb towards it.
Half an hour into their walk, Barton remembered Glint was in his pocket. The poor stone couldn’t speak up from in there, so he pulled it out. The light level was low, so the reflection of his mouth was barely visible, and Glint’s voice a hoarse whisper.
“Finally! It was torture in there! You have this one piece of lint stuck on an old rootbeer sucker. I thought it was going to be my only companion for all time! Seriously, I’m probably three quarters insane now, so thank you for that Barton. Anyway, what are we doing? Where are we going? What time is it? Are you guys hungry? This mouth feels hungry.”
“I don’t get hungry,” Man of Lines said, bobbing alongside Barton. “Just bored. Could you maybe walk faster?”
“I don’t want to get a cramp,” Barton said plainly. “We’ll get there. I am hungry though. Don’t know if I’ve ever been this hungry. It almost hurts. Wouldn’t that be something?”
“Well, I don’t want to wait anymore,” Man of Lines declared. “The stone’s droning is worse than your silence. I’m just going to fly up there and see what that golden thing is. I’ll come back.” The line shot off into the distance, faster than an arrow, whistling through the mines even as they stretched their chains to try and collide.
“I don’t drone,” Glint scoffed. “Everything I have to say is just as important as the mouth I use to say it. If what i’m saying is boring, it just means you are Barton.”
“Fair enough,” the man answered. He was utterly immune to insults. If he was any of the negative things said about him, then surely there would’ve been some strife in his life at some point, strife like whatever suddenly gripped Man of Lines. He returned with a sound like a sonic boom and enough force to push all the mines away. The line was panting, noticeable by both its sound and the ballooning bulge in what Barton guessed was the line’s chest.
“What was it?” Glint asked.
“It’s… its’… I’ve never seen anything like it,” Man of Lines managed to say. He dropped to the ground, his base actually touching soil. “There’s a substrate, something beyond any normal world. Attached to it, bonded to it, is a fluid of the same nature. Gold…”
“Why does it disturb you so?” Barton asked. “You seemed like the sort who’d seen everything, like you were one of the lines on an old pirate ship, and on a tank during a great campaign.”
“I have been those things,” Man of Lines asserted, lifting back into the air. “This is different. I can’t even touch it. I would like you to hurry, so you can try. Your attempt feels… important.”
“I guess I can pick up the pace a little bit,” Barton conceded. He went from 2.6 miles per hour to 2.8. There were stairs cut into the stone up ahead, steep things leading straight to this mysterious golden fluid.
(Chat-Determined) – 1
Barton would’ve happily walked the stairs, but Man of Lines grew more impatient by the minute. He insisted the man simply hold onto him like an umbrella, so he could lift him straight up past the ridge. He relented. Glint grew giddier as they approached the light, his ability to speak improving all the way. Speak he did.
“I’m really glad to be a part of this,” the stone babbled. “I mean, who wouldn’t be. We’re traversing worlds here. Things are changing. That means things could change for me. Maybe I’ll get a body, some big fancy golem thing, stomping around the Minefield like a monster…”
“Please shut up,” Man of Lines interrupted. “Your reaction isn’t important. I already know you can’t touch it. Barton’s a different story because he’s so… blah. No offense.”
They arrived. Man of Lines set Barton down as gently as he could. Barton had to set Glint down so that he could approach the goldenrod fluid with both hands at the ready. Glint’s voice faded with every step he took, until his reflection was gone from the rock’s surface. Everything was bathed in gold now.
“Touch it,” Man of Lines encouraged. Barton moved closer. The ‘substrate’ Man of Lines had referred to looked like a shard of curved plastic, free of color. The goldenrod fluid existed as a series of bubbles, moving as if in a lava lamp, shifting through each other endlessly. There was a sound to it, like the clouds of heaven being carbonated.
“It’s just… fancy soda,” Barton whispered. “No big deal… nothing’s ever been a big deal.” He plunged both hands into it. The fluid responded immediately, swirling wildly, pulling him in and forming a cyclone around his body. He was lifted off the ground, the plastic tagging along. The blob zoomed away, back out over the mines, examining them as Man of Lines had. Barton saw the cavern through a lens of bubbling gold.
The fluid stopped just over a mine, allowing Barton to look down at its top. There was a flat panel, with an iridescent surface not unlike Glint’s. It must have been a sensor, tracking any movement above it. It struck him; he was above it now! The mine activated, shuddering and groaning.
It exploded, but in the strangest of ways. All its fire seemed contained to within an inch of its surface. It produced a thousand different conflicting sounds: screams, tearing metal, the crackling of a sun, the mournful wail of something suicidal… It was the sound of chaos.
The fluid expanded downward, into a shape like an umbrella. It contained the wrath of the mine, brought it close to Barton. The explosion made contact with his skin, and he felt something like he’d never felt before.
There was a sharp violent clarity to it. Barton saw the nature of both the mines and the fluid. They were both parts of the Minefield, utterly inextricable from it, but very different. The Minefield came from a destroyed world, a game flipped by an angry player, and that player had placed the mines in an effort to cheat. The flip was a distraction, better than getting caught.
The fluid had entered the Minefield accidentally, just part of the destruction caused by the rage of the flip. It was a soda, a mere beverage, but to a being far beyond his comprehension. A simple spill to those above the sky, but enough to make all the clouds in the Minefield. The piece of plastic must’ve been the reason this fluid was down below the crust. It was the equivalent of a droplet clinging to a piece of the cup.
It needed Barton to act, but it could’ve used anyone. A drink was supposed to be held, couldn’t move otherwise, but in the Minefield the drink could imbibe the person. His very body gave it the power to counteract the mines, just as a spilled soda could ruin any normal board game piece.
The fluid started to drip, and it took the mine with it. The dangerous structure slowly melted, dissolving into the goldenrod color, and losing all its energies. When it was done, when the mine was utterly gone, the fluid flew back to the ridge and set Barton down, released him. He stepped out and took the deepest breath of his life, smelling a world beyond worlds in it.
(Chat-Determined) – 1
Having sated its desires with the destruction of a mine, the fluid shrank down to the edge of the plastic, became one drop about the size of a dinner plate. Barton picked it up. He explained his revelations to Man of Lines, who was slanted at a forty-five degree angle to listen intently. When he was done he realized he’d forgotten Glint again, nearly tripping on him a second time. He picked up the stone in his free hand.
“Holy shit that was amazing!” Glint exclaimed. “Did you see that? The mine just melted! Like blooaoabaoaooa… gone! We’re in this. We’re totally in this. Now, explain everything to me because it made no sense.” Barton repeated his revelations. “Ohhhh, so we really are in it. We need to get that stuff to the other side. We’ll be real important if we show up with that.” Barton’s smile bobbed up and down across the rock’s surface as Glint snickered.
“For once I agree with the pebble,” Man of Lines said. “Congratulations on becoming extra-ordinary Barton. Will you let me fly you to the end now? We just had about five journeys in one.” Barton agreed. He had no free hands left, so he straddled Man of Lines like a witch on a broom. When he was ready, they zoomed about at incredible speed, looking for their original hole in the ground.
They shot out, back into the light, making all the rodents scatter once more. Man of Lines pulled them across the sky, across the goldenrod clouds, all the way to the other end of the Minefield. They were careful not to pass through any of the clouds, lest they lose the precious fluid to a gaseous state.
They arrived at the base of a foggy wall, in front of something like an information kiosk. It was manned by a talkative flighty woman: a newer resident of the Trap. She said her name was Macawl, and that she was responsible for intake that day. Barton explained the situation. He showed her the fluid, and her eyes went as wide as they’d hoped.
“Yes, that’s amazing!” she practically squawked, but her enthusiasm quickly diminished. “But, no matter how important your treasure, we can only accept one as a free citizen. Two must go back, or agree to be well-treated prisoners. It is the nature of the Trap; I’m so sorry.”
Man of Lines, upon bouncing off the fog several times, confirmed what she said. Together they had to make a choice. Only one to escort their treasure. They discussed.
Barton. The fluid accepted him as a medium, so he might be key to its use. Man of Lines didn’t mind cages; he could slip through most bars anyway. Glint would be fine to wait, in a pocket somewhere, for all the action to be over. He would surely come back out, declaring how ‘in it’ he was. For now, Macawl welcomed only one new survivor of the Minefield. Barton. He passed through the fog, holding the goldenrod fluid, valuing it more than he’d ever valued anything.
Minefield traversed! Barton will join in the stories ahead. Six more must be recruited before the rebels of the Trap can make their move.