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 pips have rolled again. The conveying Minefield connects the Trap to a new world. Three enter, seeing only a shredded sky in the distance: Trevor the well-behaved child, Rargle the parody of rabies, and Flippers the lost and confused emperor penguin.
None of them were very well equipped to travel. Trevor was a boy of nine, but exceptionally well-behaved. His hands were always clasped behind his back, he never made a peep, and he probably would’ve died of embarrassment if there was ever any food smeared on his face. He also didn’t complain even though he was without shoes or a jacket. This part of the Minefield was quite chilly, and it was snowing.
Flippers the penguin should’ve been comfortable in such weather, but the constant pulling motion of the ground underneath disturbed her. She protested by squawking, but eventually had to drop to her stomach and slide rather than waddle. She always used to be able to sense the South Pole, but the Minefield short-circuited even the best sense of direction.
The two were followed by a strange bipedal creature covered in wild fur. Its mouth frothed and it talked to itself without end. He was Rargle, a parody of rabies brought to life, but not to be joked around with.
They were just the latest set cast out by their cruel laughing world. Rargle was the most disturbed, as he had been the most celebrated. His appearance was ridiculous, but he had that genuine ferocity, both of which worked so well for the nasty practical jokes of their home world. He had been dropped into people’s cars, stored in their closets, and even tossed into their beds.
He knew to perform by shedding blood whenever ordered, but these other two creatures didn’t want any of that from him. They barely acknowledged his existence. The beast stayed quiet, waiting for them to make grudges and then hire him to be the punchline of their assaulting jokes.
The snow dragged them all, despite their attempts to move out of the way, into the path of a massive snowball. It was rolling along, ignoring the pull of the Minefield, and showing no concern for the child and animals directly in its path.
Flippers and Rargle scrambled, but they couldn’t make it out of the way. Trevor merely accepted his fate by closing his eyes. The snowball didn’t kill them, at least not immediately. It turned out to be impossibly soft on impact. They were swallowed up by its powder and spun around in circles, losing track of each other and everything else.
Trevor passed a few other faces in the swirling snow. Most of them were skulls or ice mummies. If he was to be punished by death, that was fine, but it should’ve been done in a punctual manner. Rather than slowly freeze to death, he reached out one hand, toward what he guessed to be the center of the ball, and tried to find something to grab onto.
Eventually his fingers wrapped around a frigid metal pole and he was able to pull himself free of the outer snow. The boy was dropped in the middle of a hollow space, but it still spun at a speed that tossed him around. He bruised his sternum and shoulders on a second set of metal bars. The next toss wrapped a chain around his neck and pulled it taut.
His fingers couldn’t loosen it. His vision blurred. There hadn’t even been time to figure out what all that stuff at the center of the snowball was. Luckily, Rargle and Flippers were thrown into the central cavity just as the boy ran out of air.
Rargle growled and attached himself to the object bearing the chain. He heaved with all his might, ripping it free of the snow. Trevor slipped out and landed on the soft back of the large penguin.
The beast couldn’t have known, but disturbing that object disturbed the entire snowball. Its motion slowed rapidly and came to a stop, yet they still heard sounds like the exterior was spinning. It was just the cavity then. Trevor stumbled to his feet, rubbing his cheeks to return their color, and looked around.
It was some sort of strange playground, but curled up to fit inside the ball. Hi neck had been caught on a swing set chain, but there was also a slide, a set of monkey bars, an empty sandbox, and several other toys that seemed far more dangerous when they were moving at high speed. Flippers dove right into a plastic tunnel, looking for a way out, but she just slid out the other side.
(Chat-Determined) – 2
“What is this place?” Trevor asked, curious despite his near-death experience. He walked over to the slide and touched one of its steps: cold but otherwise normal.
“I dunno,” Rargle grumbled, scratching at the slide and picking the plastic curls out from under his claws.
“Oh, you can talk. I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
“Yeah well now you do,” the creature spat, icy droplets sticking in his whiskers. “What about you penguin? You talk?” Flippers merely squawked in response. She’d already waddled all the way around the enclosed space three times. She still seemed lost.
“Okay, penguin don’t talk,” Rargle growled. “What about you, playground?” None of the equipment responded. He dropped down onto all fours and stuck his nose in the empty sandbox, smelling for anything that might give him some information.
“Do you smell anything?” Trevor asked. He sat down and crossed his legs, playing with the pocket on the front of his shirt. He used to keep his pet gecko there, but the animal was left behind. Perhaps these two could be his new pets, but he would have to get to know them first and then ask very politely. That’s what his parents thought him to do before they were carted off to Goodness Gulch: the prison for those who thought they were better than everyone else.
“I smell… nervous sweat. Very specific kind. The sweat of being close to losing.”
“I don’t know. A life. A favorite hankie. Board game.” The words board game echoed around the space when nothing else did. “Board game,” the beast repeated louder. The equipment shook, rattling in its foundations.
“Oh, some of this stuff must be from the outside place,” Trevor noted. Rargle looked at him with a furry raised brow. “My parents always said there was stuff outside our world. You weren’t free from games there; the games were actually worse. Bigger. Maybe this playground is a piece of one. Don’t ask me how it got inside a snowball though.”
Rargle approached Trevor. It was a moment of weakness. The beast was scared, though none could tell by licking at his jagged buck teeth and wicked black claws, and wanted, for once in his miserable life, to be pet. Trevor didn’t seem like he would grab anything by the scruff.
The parody of rabies stepped closer, head and ears down, but before he could reach the boy something red passed between them and splatted against the snow. They looked up and saw a hole in the top. A strange fluid, half gold and half crimson, poured in, melting the exterior.
Before they could even react, the hole caused a split in the entire shell. The snowball collapsed, the playground unfolding back to a flat state. The red fluid turned into waves that quickly drowned the feet of the monkey bars.
The downpour stopped quickly, but it wasn’t absorbed into the snow-covered ground. It moved in reverse, flowing back up into something, taking all the equipment and those trapped inside the snowball with it. Trevor barely had time to look up and see a massive stone goblet reclaiming its red contents.
A moment later he was half-immersed in it, leaning up aginst the rock of its lip, sitting next to Flipper and Rargle as if they were all just enjoying a jacuzzi. Pieces of the playground bobbed up and down while tendrils of the fluid moved over them in waves, examining them. The boy felt something barely thicker than gelation probe up his sleeves and the back of his shirt.
(Chat-Determined) – 5 (Trevor saved)
The moment didn’t last. A congealed part of the slurry grabbed his ankle, whipped him upside down, and lifted him high into the air. Another tendril of it crawled down his throat and probed his stomach contents. He couldn’t breathe yet again. His little arms and legs flailed in the air. Rargle hadn’t gotten his pet yet, which offended him greatly. The beast splashed and thrashed as violently as he could. Flippers joined in, diving in and out of the living liquid.
The contents were disturbed enough that the lanky beast could lung for the one holding Trevor up. A swipe of his claws cut in half and sent him tumbling back. Rargle caught him, pumping his legs to keep them as far above the stuff as possible.
They were ready to fight, even Trevor had a few choice words for the invasive stuff, but that didn’t prove necessary. Their disruption of the analysis summoned the resting intelligence that controlled all of it. Codagula swelled out of the blood, distinguishable from the rest of it by the electricity flashing within him.
“You do not have the same origin as this equipment,” the A.I. said of the three.
“No,” Trevor answered. “We were just minding our own business when you shoved this stuff past my tongue and almost killed me. That was very rude of you. You could be from our world.”
“No, I couldn’t,” the bloody program countered. “I serve Murdurlur. I am merely collecting extraworld materials. Have you seen any more?”
“No, you’re ugly,” Rargle said. He tried to pounce, but the bulge just receded and rose a few feet over. The beast tried again with the same result.
“Then I have no use for you.” The stone goblet tipped in the air. They were about to be dropped back to the Minefield, but Codagula paused. “If any of you make it to the Trap, say hello to Mr. 32 for me.” Then the angle increased and they were dropped. The goblet kept the playground equipment and all its fluid. Nothing but Trevor, Rargle, and Flippers tumbled out. Luckily they weren’t far from the snow, and it was extremely thick and soft. Their bodies penetrated several feet, but they suffered no injuries.
Getting back tot he surface was a bit of a struggle, but they were helped out by another band of traveling nomads who had the brains to equip snowshoes before heading out into the Minefield. They were rather ordinary humans, so they took to Trevor’s polite thanks quite well. If not for his positive attitude, they wouldn’t have agreed to tolerate the two strange creatures that followed up behind him.
The one called Rargle seemed particularly unbalanced, but the boy insisted it had saved his life. The penguin was actually no less strange, as it kept stealing glances at their maps and compasses as if searching for something.
They walked with the natural flow of the Minefield until they reached a stone plateau that hung over the edge of the Trap: a calm place where they could gather their thoughts without risk of falling into crevice between worlds. There were plenty of other strange animals there, creatures half bird and half dog, that greeted them. Everything seemed to be getting pet, so Rargle took his chance and asked Trevor. The boy was happy to oblige.
The beast couldn’t contain his joy, or his wagging tail, when the boy asked if he would be his pet. The answer was yes, and it wasn’t a cruel joke. He was just allowed to have it. This new place might’ve been called the Trap, but it sure seemed like freedom.
Oddly, Flippers didn’t want to be a pet. Trevor couldn’t follow her on whatever journey she had planned.
(Chat-Determined) – 1
They arrived in the Trap as pet, owner, and friend, but they couldn’t stay together for long. The Trap, by its nature, required two incarcerated souls for every free one. Rargle offered to gnaw on the bars while Trevor ran free, but the boy turned him down. As his owner, he ordered Rargle to be the one breathing fresh air.
Flippers didn’t mind either. The thing she searched for would wait, would outlast any of this nonsense.
Minefield traversed! Rargle will join in the final story ahead.