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: Kafkan the heat-fearing cockroach, Acornelia the treant gardener, and Winking June the bankrupted grade schooler.
Acornelia had planned on escorting the child into the Minefield, she couldn’t be left alone, but she hadn’t planned on the second hitchhiker riding on her shoulder. She only noticed the tiny creature after they were a good ways into the grassy fields under the goldenrod clouds.
It was a cockroach with dark lustrous wing casings and little white marks like scattered grains of rice. Acornelia released the child’s injured hand and swatted at the bug wildly, howling in panic. The roach held tight, trying to reason with her. His name was Kafkan, he wasn’t that bad, and he, more than anything, needed to stay off the ground.
“I’ll hold him,” the child offered. Acornelia shuffled over to her and tilted her whole body like a teapot. Kafkan gently stepped off her jacket and into the little girl’s hands. Her right hand had a strange shriveled injury, like her nails tried to burrow back into her fingers but just ended up turning the flesh purple. She was also dressed strangely for an eight year old. The colors were lively, but the style could only be described as business casual. Her dark little face was confident, like she was welcoming her more mature companions into a power brunch with a whiteboard and free yogurt.
She winked at the insect to put him at ease, a trick that had never failed her with her many employees back in her home world. It earned her the nickname Winking June. Her adorable face and determination had gotten her to the top rung of the corporate ladder, and it wasn’t even a brightly-colored plastic kiddie ladder. Yet, here she was, nothing more than a lost child when Acornelia found her in the treant gardens.
“Whatever you do, just don’t drop me,” the cockroach told her as they resumed their walk towards the far end of the Minefield. “You can call me disgusting all you want, I don’t care at all, just let me stay up here. Can I… can I get your word on that?”
“I’d have to check with my lawyer,” the eight-year-old said. “I don’t sign anything until he reads it. Of course, I can’t really afford him anymore.”
“I have this thing about heat,” the roach said, scratching at his eyes as if they were suddenly red hot. “I have this recurring dream about burning to death and becoming a black desiccated husk. The ground here. It’s very hot. Like lava! I can tell. I sense it!” His antennae twitched madly as he hunkered down closer to June’s palm.
“The ground here is fine,” Acornelia said, tapping her foot as proof. “It’s not hot at all.” She spoke up mostly to make sure the child knew she still existed. She always got plenty of attention from the sleepy treants of the garden, as she was their gardener, but humans had a nasty habit of ignoring her even though she always wore her favorite flamboyant tunic: white with copious pine needle frills all over the sleeves, collar, and waist.
“You’re a filthy liar!” Kafkan spat, scurrying into June’s sleeve and sticking only his antennae out. “You’re trying to trick me. You’re an agent of the lava!”
“I know an agent when I see one,” June said, winking at the gardener. “She’s not the type.” Acornelia had no idea how to take such a statement. She was the adult, but June was the one brimming with confidence.
“So how did you get lost in my gardens?” Acornelia asked, trying to frame the child as just that. “You might’ve been stepped on by old Crabtree if I hadn’t come along.”
“I had to do some… reprioritizing,” June said, looking down at her expensive little shoes. “Lots of hard thinking about how I got where I am. I was betrayed by my closest associate. Denny, the little gold digger. He stole my fortune out from under me, and left me with this.” She held up her injured hand, causing Kafkan to fall down her sleeve and onto the girl’s stomach. The roach yelped, scurried out around her waistband, and hurried to her shoulder. He gasped like a creature that actually had lungs.
(Chat-Determined) Mine! (All Characters Die)
They were about to call him ridiculous once more when all his worst fears were realized. Acornelia took a fateful step onto an ordinary patch of grass, not knowing that there was a chaos mine directly underneath. It responded by exploding, but not the way it was intended to.
The mines were meant to manipulate odds and oddness. They created danger in any number of ways, and the fact that it exploded meant it wasn’t working quite right. Somebody had likely tampered with it. Regardless, its fire and shrapnel ate the ground and all three travelers. Their stories were snuffed out in an instant, to become nothing but fertilizer for the various interworld forces of the Minefield.
They also fertilized the fears of the next trio to walk by, and they were already shaken up by their encounter with several ghosts warning them against entering the Minefield, including one that claimed to be a masochist that just couldn’t handle the horrors ahead.
The new group consisted of Boag the toy-testing slime atop his creaking old pogo stick, Treen the stealthy acupuncturist, and Pam: an ordinary-looking teenage girl except for her very dark dress and the mysterious bag of black building blocks she carried over one shoulder. They found the chaos crater and said a few prayers for the humans that recently died there. They didn’t even find a cinder of the equally unfortunate roach. They were extra careful moving forward, but it didn’t take long to find a way to avoid the mines.
5 – Boag Saved
They ran into a strange craft: a giant flying napkin of sorts. It came down at their call for help and silently offered them a ride. All three boarded and they took off. It was relaxing in the first moments, but Boag made the mistake of stepping down from his pogo stick. His gelatinous body did not agree with the napkin’s structure.
He collapsed immediately and started getting absorbed into the body of the napkin, turning it green and heavy. He begged the others for help, but they were human and could only guess at strategies. They didn’t even know if getting absorbed would actually kill him. Still, they tried.
Treen brought out her acupuncture needles and placed them at what she guessed to be key points in the napkin’s papery canvas. It was a rough guess, calculated by mentally stretching the skin of a person onto a square frame, but it proved effective. She contained the spread of the green stain to the middle of the napkin. Boag was trapped within, but he could still speak, and he was now in direct control of the napkin’s flight.
“Oh, the instructions here say you shouldn’t ride these if you have a liquid body,” Pam noted, reading a blue stamp of information on the napkin’s corner.
“Now you tell me,” the slime bubbled through his new body. “Oh well. That pogo stick was always squeaking anyway. Kind of driving me mad.”
“Why were you even on it?” Treen asked, fiddling with her needle placement to see if she could stabilize Boag’s relationship with the napkin. She had to be careful that none of the needles hidden in her green dress accidentally struck their craft.
“I always have to keep a toy around,” Boag burbled. “I’m an artificial life form designed to test toys and see if they’re too dangerous for widdle babies. The pogo stick was the last one I had, and I feel weird without one. This napkin’s kind of a blast though. Weeh!” He performed a loop-de-loop and nearly threw his humans off, but they protested until he calmed down.
Pam was especially aggravated, as she needed a stable surface in order to break out her blocks and built with them properly. Once Boag agreed to stay flat, she dumped out the transparent bag of shiny black blocks in various sizes and shapes. She muttered something about a nice cathedral.
“Is now really the time to be playing with your blocks?” Treen asked. She polished her needles herself, but they actually mattered. She could relax someone into a coma with them, or into death. What could this plain girl do with her little play set?
“I’m not playing any more than you are,” Pam said matter-of-factly. She wasn’t angry. People always scoffed until they walked a few miles and saw what they’d seen in onyx miniature just minutes before. “I have a chance of building the future with these blocks. If Boag stays perfectly still,” the napkin went a little more rigid, “and I get this cathedral exactly right, we’ll find it up ahead. It’ll be full of supplies and a safe atmosphere.”
(Chat-Determined) – 1
“You’re telling me you can build the future?” Treen asked skeptically, but part of her wanted it to be true. If her needles could affect a giant flying napkin and an artificial life form, why not a projection of a building? She could make her own changes to this cathedral with a few needles in the right seams.
“It’s based on probability,” Pam said uncomfortably as Treen scooched closer and watched. She didn’t work quite as well with people staring that hard. “These blocks are inspiration projected in front of them…” She stared into the horizon, as if she saw a family member retreating away. Treen guessed there were some things the blocks couldn’t build. “The inspiration ignores time, so we might come across a building that I inspired right here and right now.” She finished a tower at the front, gently pushing a black cone into place with a fingertip.
“May I?” Treen asked, drawing out a needle so long and flexible that it looked like it belonged on some kind of silly novelty metronome. She wiggled it back and forth near the tower, teasing Pam with the chance of toppling it.
“You may not,” the girl answer, holding her arms in a circle around her unfinished creation.
“You know with one poke I could make both your arms go limp,” Treen informed. “I’m a creative type too. Why isn’t my input good enough? I can make the cathedral less stuffy, make the stone groan less when we’re trying to sleep in it.”
“Just don’t. You might ruin them. I didn’t make these things; I kind of stole them. Not from a person either. They were in the halls of the home of Death himself, tucked away in a nursery for his child: Illness.” This information seemed to frighten Boag some, as the bubbling patch at the center of the napkin increased in intensity, and the whole thing shivered. Pam grabbed the cathedral to keep it steady.
Treen waited for the perfect moment, when Pam just started to relax her grip on the blocks. Then she struck, with all the speed and precision of the assassin she always wanted to be. The needle separated two blocks in the side wall, but didn’t seriously damage the structural integrity.
This didn’t stop Pam from panicking and grabbing at the needle. The women shouted at each other, pushing, shoving, and grabbing while Boag struggled to keep them balanced from underneath. He begged them to stop, but Treen’s powers of distraction were too well honed and her will too much like iron. Every time Pam secured a bouncing block, Treen grabbed at another to antagonize her.
One of them pressed on the nose of the napkin, forcing Boag into a dive. The humans barely had time to grab his sides as he powered through a stained glass window. The cathedral. Here already. The napkin crashed and smashed into several rows of wooden pews, rolling the humans away and wadding up poor Boag. The last sound was his pogo stick, bouncing and squeaking on its own for a short distance before falling over.
Both the humans had been knocked unconscious, but Boag, after crawling to them like a soaked inchworm, had found a pulse in each of their necks. It had long been his job to protect children, and these two had toys of their own, so he felt compelled to stay with them.
He tried to separate from the napkin, but he couldn’t get a single glob out of it. He did reclaim his pogo stick by swirling around it and using some of the napkin’s flight energy, creating something like a hopping squeaking giant cotton swab. From there he investigated the various rooms of the cathedral, seeking medical aid for his companions.
There was only one soul in the rest of the building, and the napkin shreds hanging in its jowls marked it as more foe than friend. It was some sort of cross between an owl and a dachshund. It was fast asleep; Boag wondered if the cathedral had been built around it without it ever waking.
The slime didn’t dare hop any closer, especially with how loud the pogo stick was. He instead returned to the main hall and found the humans awake and shouting at each other.
“Quiet, I beg you!” Boag hissed at them, propping himself up against a stone column. “There’s some kind of monster in the rectory.”
(Chat-Determined) – 4
“I didn’t put a monster in it!” Pam shouted, though her anger was better directed at Treen. She threw her hands over her mouth a moment later when a growl echoed through the cathedral. There came a scrambling scraping sound of small claws on stone.
The owl-dachshund came sliding around a corner, mouth open, tongue lolling. Its bark struck right into their hearts and convinced them of its danger despite its diminutive size. It would be upon them in moments, and then they would be nothing more than shreds, like most of the napkins littering the ground outside.
Treen grabbed the flapping edge of Boag and pulled, spinning him free of the pogo stick. Pam grabbed the stick and tossed it on a hunch. The dachshund became distracted, fetching it. In the few moments they had they flattened Boag under their feet, stomped the creases away, and begged him to take off. He whined and pulled, eventually hovering away from the cold stone. The women encouraged him, but had to resort to shouting when the dachshund jumped after them and flapped its little wings in pursuit.
Boag barely cleared the broken stained glass window, having to crest like a wave in order to do so. The dog tore only one corner before falling back into the church. It couldn’t fly it seemed, only improve its jumps with its wild flapping. They didn’t know it, but they’d successfully caged the monster that had terrorized the Minefield for weeks. They, and now all other refugees, could cross into the Trap without fear.
(Chat-Determined) – Pam
They crossed through the shredded fog uneventfully, but were met with bad news in a world of cages. The Trap was a place that required two prisoners to every free soul. Those who lived there offered comfortable accommodations within the iron bars, but it was still prison. Only one of them could join in freedom and responsibility.
After much deliberation, and a few guilt trips, Pam was chosen. Treen argued hard, but the others of the Trap were far more interested in Pam’s strange toys and their ability to build a future. In a way,that was what they sought, what could eventually open all the cages. She promised to do her best, and make that future as stable as possible.
Minefield traversed! Pam will join in the stories ahead. One more must be recruited before the rebels of the Trap can make their move.