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Jun 26, 2020

General

Welcome to Survivor 3: Guts or Glory.

A robotic woman’s voice says through the worn helmet you found at the local Million a Minute bus station earlier this year. It was a miracle you found this game at your usual thrift store, and though you’re not one for horror games, you’ll try anything you can just to be somewhere that’s not here. You plug in your 2030 version of the PlayStation VR system, beating the box a couple of times with your palm just to hear it power up with a chime, letting you know it’s still kicking. You plug it into your helmet and lay down flat on your bed. You watch as the games title sequence flashes and then fades from your vision 

Please select your first weapon.

Boxes pop up on the forefront each containing a flashier weapon than the next, from elegant swords to spiked maces. You gesture left and the options shift to new rows of choices. Something in the corner catches your eyes. A small handheld ax that is just beginning to rust at the bottom of the staff. It looks somehow more humble, like the holy grail among chalices. You grab it and the other weapons fade. 

Please select your first location.

You’re presented with the options of a misty bog, an abandoned saloon, or a haunted graveyard, all cliches at their finest. You reach out to the graveyard and the options disappear in the blink of an eye. You’re encompassed in darkness now.

Good luck.

You feel whatever you were standing on give way and you begin to fall in the darkness. Before you can register what to do you feel something cold rush up at you from below and see gentle wisps of white move away as the dark sky begins to pixalize and you fall through more clouds. The ground creeps up on you and you finally hit the wet grass with a thud. The system you have doesn’t regulate pain, that’s only in newer systems and usually only used in sex simulations for the kinky and shameless few. 

You stand up and look at your surroundings. Your standing on a dirt path leading up to a large building. The sign reads “Schmitts Crematorium and Funeral Home”. There are headstones on both sides with a short black iron gate standing guard pitifully. A fog begins to roll in concealing the graveyards and you begin to feel rain tap at your skin. You look up but the clouds in the sky have vanished. 

“Figures,” you mutter out loud. Older games sometimes have consistency problems, glitches in the surroundings happen the more times you play. Yes, it’s still immersive enough to make you forget you’re at home, on your bed, and by yourself, but it’s a reminder that the real world waits hungrily for you to take off your helmet and let it embrace you in its cold labors. 

Welcome to the haunted graveyard. One rule to win the game: Survive. If you dare.

A cheesy evil laugh begins to play as you see an hour countdown timer appear in the upper left-hand corner and a menu with a pause and power button in the right. 

You grip the ax in your hand tighter and begin to advance cautiously toward the graveyard on the right. The closer you get the more you can see through the fog but the further in you are trapped by it. It closes around you as you reach the front gate only allowing you to see a yard in each direction. 

As you’re walking there’s the clash of something large being knocked over in the distance. You swivel your head around but see nothing but fog. You freeze, listening to your surroundings. At first, there’s only the hush of wind and the slow chirp of crickets but faintly you can hear someone moaning out in front of you. No, it’s not someone but something. No again its somethings. You hear them approaching and unsure whether to fight or flee you’re caught with one foot forward and one foot back. 

Just when you think you’re going to turn around you smell it. A nauseating slap in the face of rotten meat mixed with fresh earth. Backing up, you trip over a flat headstone and watch as a scarred green hand grabs your ankle. A head barely hinged to its neck comes out of the fog as the hand uses you to drag itself forward. You feel a scream rise as more zombies start to loom over you. The head at your feet has white chunks of hair sprouting out and smiles a gummy grin. Its eyes are glossed over and yellow. They roll around in their skull, like marbles in a glass bottle.

You breathe in short hysterical breaths and swing down on the hand with your ax. You hack wildly at it until it finally breaks off its arm with a crunch. You flee in the opposite direction, just trying to get out of the fog which can not physically choke you, but it damn sure feels like it is. 

You burst out the other side flipping over the gate and onto your back. You land with an “oof” and pant as the moaning continues at a distance. You drag yourself onto your knees and then your feet and jog towards the front steps of the crematorium.

You glance at the top of the countdown timer. Thirty-nine minutes to go.

“Come on” You spit out, putting your hands on your knees and still panting. You feel something tickle your calf and notice that the knarled hand is still hanging on for dear life. You squawk and shake your foot desperately. You reach down and pry the fingers loose and then kick it away from you. You start up the stairs approaching the door.  You twist the knob and push open the two large doors, whining and creaking as they swing-out. You hurry in and close them behind you.

You walk in almost at a tiptoe and take in the scene in front of you of empty pews and a black shiny coffin covered in dead flowers. There’s a hallway with rooms jutting out and a white steep staircase at the end of it. You turn your head and see another hallway with a black staircase leading down into what you assume is the crematorium. You shudder at the thought of being pushed into a fire.

You walk towards the pews and down the center of the aisle. The room feels chill and eerily still. You inch toward the coffin, the most obvious thing in the room. You feel a bead of sweat roll down the back of your neck. You start to move away from it in search of something, anything else, but you notice the lid is cracked and you see the stiff dead man lying in the coffin.

Your eyes scan what you can see of his face. He looks peaceful. You crack the lid an inch higher and see his eyes snap open, glossy, and yellow. They snap towards you and he pushes the lid completely open. You panic trying to get away but watch him crawl out of the coffin, like a spider. He moves on all fours, knuckles wrapping on the floor beneath you. He climbs up the wall to your left and you watch with wide eyes as he sticks to it. He turns his head upside down over his back and hisses spitting halfway across the room. 

You look around wildly for a solution. You see a bible sitting on the pew adjacent to you and dive for it to throw at the predator. You try to pick up the book and a beep chastises you for it. You pull at the cemented object again and something beeps at you. You grip it and pull with all your might.

Action not recognized.

You give up and look at the dead man. He jumps down and begins toward you. You look around again and then feeling the weight of your ax in your hand and you throw it at his head. It lands in his skull knocking him back and spraying blood all over you. You run out of the room as he lies in the pool of blood now beginning to form. 

You run down the hall tipping over tables with vases and pulling down portraits, leaving a crumb trail of glass and wood. You run up the white steps at the end of the hallway and the further you run the less you can see, soon only able to see one step at a time. You reach the top of the steps and can see in front of yourself once again. It’s another dimly lit hallway, this time with a small office and a bedroom at the end.

You go towards the bedroom, which is painted pink and decorated like a little girl’s room. A white bed sits in the middle and white furniture is placed throughout the room. There’s an old-fashioned doll that sits on the bed in a black dress complete with a black hat and veil. You look around the room for signs of danger but there are only dolls that sit on shelves. You look at the doll and it blinks. You do a double-take.

The doll giggles, “Get out of my room.” You freeze in place staring at her face.

“Get out of my room!” a deep satanic voice booms and she jumps up and the other dolls start moving too. You hear a scratch at the window and see the same scarred hand from before. The dolls begin to hop off the shelves and you hear a scrape come from outside the room. The same dead man stands hissing and smiling leaning on the wall with your ax sticking out of his head. 

You back up, surrounded on all sides. You begin to reach for the menu button in the corner to shut off the game when you feel yourself back into a dresser with a handle.

“Survive the night. That’s it” you whisper looking at the timer. There are only five minutes left. You feel for the handle and swing open the dresser door watching the dolls pick themselves off the floor, the zombies outside climb over one another banging on the window and cracking the glass, and the ax man limps into the room. You swing the dresser open and hop inside slamming it shut. 

It’s silent. You listen for the threats outside but only hear yourself breathe and your heartbeat race. You wait for a few minutes in the darkness when you notice the two upper corners are blank. “I must have won,” you think to yourself. You smile with pride, but another minute passes and nothing happens. You reach for the top corner where the menu was and nothing happens. Confusion sets in as you stand in the darkness. You can still feel the dresser walls at your side. You reach forward and push against the doors. It beeps at you.

You push again and there’s a beep.

You kick the door but feel no budge.

Action not recognized.

Panic bubbles at the back of your throat. You claw at the wall in front of you feeling for some sort of handle. You push again.

Action not recognized.

You scream into nothing. You use your full weight and shove wheezing and grunting at what was supposed to be the doors.

Action not reco-

Action not reco-

Action not recognized.

You begin to cry running your hands through your hair. You put your hands on the walls and lean your head against it pleading for it to let you out. 

Action not recognized. 

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6 comments

A O
17:32 Jul 02, 2020

Hi Olivia. I was referred to you by the critique circle organizer. I hope you'll find the time to also give my work the once over. This is wonderfully creepy. Great concept. I'm more a neuroscience nerd than a gamer though, so I was constantly wondering how the PS 2030 VR system works. It seems to be very realistic with smell and the feeling of an ax in the hand. I'd have liked some clues scattered through as to how it works. Does it manipulate neurotransmitters for instance? I also felt you could streamline the detail a tad more.

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Olivia Charlson
08:32 Jul 03, 2020

Thanks for the advice. To answer your question, I did intend it to be linked to neurotransmitters but I wanted the world to be set maybe five or ten years after 2030 so the game felt old compared to newer technology.

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A O
17:33 Jul 03, 2020

Okay, cool. Of course, it's your story so you can set in in whatever time period you want to make it however you like. Good luck with your writing. :-)

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Laura Clark
19:30 Jun 30, 2020

This is going to haunt my dreams. I’m not joking. Good grief! Excellently written, I was immersed in it from beginning to end. You write horror exceptionally well - I’ve read lots on here that have occasional scary bit but this had my skin crawling for almost the whole thing! Great writing!

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Olivia Charlson
08:33 Jul 03, 2020

This is so nice to read, especially after being nervous about a first submission. Thank you!

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Laura Clark
08:40 Jul 03, 2020

I’ve thought about this a fair bit since reading it! I also did a 20 minute writing challenge with my writing group yesterday and I tried (mostly failed) to do a horror piece. As I was writing, I kept thinking back to the techniques you’d used and tried to incorporate some. I think this is excellent (my short piece was not. I got far too caught up in a description of a puppy but that’s not your fault).

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