“Are you willing to accept spiritual warfare?”
“And finally, death?”
…I hesitated. The ground below me parted like Moses and the Red Sea. Beneath, void of light, a swarm of 1’s and 0’s circled in a menacing pattern, wormhole-like. I closed my eyes, but my eyelids were gone. And with great suction, my eyes were taken as well. Within a half-filled incubator, oval-shaped, water escaped from my chest down. Steam enshrouding my glass egg. A thin, odd ‘M’ pattern impressed itself on the outer regions of my shell. I deduced it to be the middle of a human palm. Small window of which to observe me, manifested from soft rubbing of the mortal hand. The Creator’s voice spoke gently in a female’s tone dressed in guile.
“Subject 0-929…Alex. Would you like to try again?”
I consented telepathically. Fresh eyes were given, translucent orbs at first. Slowly the white leaked in deeply. A milky Rorschach shaping winged pupils. Without hesitation I blinked. In my vision, an eldritch corridor of undulating black and red hexagon walls, edged with a colorless vanishing point. My left hand raised for inspection, green line patterns across motherboard chips, screwed tightly, soldered to resemble fingers. Blood orange wires traversing the space between the joints. Smooth acrylic glass within the parameters of my palm. A deep blue light pushes out, serving as the holographic floor, atop is a white manifestation of a raven-haired woman. Glitchy image, with blocks going in and out the graphic of her face. This is what The Creator looks like to me.
“Trial 3.574-A. Commence. Welcome to The Gauntlet.”
Verdant synthetic scaled skin washed over my exoskeleton, creating a gladiator’s form. Magnetic boots shifted into place at my feet, mechanical locks clicking in loudly. I re-inspect my left hand and marvel at the sleek feeling, rubbing my thumb across fingertips. A small cyclone of azure 1’s and 0’s appear inside my palm.
“Initiating weapon process. Please wait.”
A brilliant silver hilt took shape inside my grip, with a long transparent sword made of molded lavender blue lightning.
“Deathtouch sword activated. Proceed to battle.”
Grand humming of electronics swarmed around me, lights flickering about as the floor became a conveyor belt. I am the pawn inside the engine. Unable to move my legs due to the magnetized boots, the moving walkway pushed me forward into the colorless vanishing point.
The blinding light was soaked in by my winged pupils, transitioning from the lack of hues to a near sensory overload. Inside, a kaleidoscope of rainbow colors was sprawled over advertisements placed at the sides of the battle arena. A familiar face drooped into my peripheral, it took a moment to focus on his details. His shape was like mine, athletic and slender, however the color of his skin was atomic tangerine.
“Alex! Run! You will not live, go, you are the Xeno--”
A twelve foot long arrow crafted out of indestructible steel pierced so far through the back of his head that the tip kissed my nose.
His impaled figure exploded into a rain shower of 1’s and 0’s. In-between the spaces of his theoretical body, another arrow was coming my way. I lifted my surprisingly light magnetic boot, stepped on the arrowhead, and vaulted my way into the air. Coming down, the edge of my Deathtouch pierced through the enemy’s body from head to toe. I shish-kabobed him and waved the body as a flag. During the display I took in a panoramic view of the battle arena. It provided me with the details needed for survival. Cocooned in monolithic walls of solid sand that stretched heavenward, half circle shaped, nothing but archrivals occupying every corner. All shaped like me with different weapons, different color skin, itching for my defeat. The most insufferable of all was now equipped with mechanical honeycombed shaped wings on his back, adorned in a Minotaur’s helmet that glowed an abysmal maroon. He ascended into the sky, shaking the ground below, and extended his index finger towards me.
“Subject 0-929, prepare for your demise.”
I didn’t dignify him with a response, as the first victim to taste my blade burst into a fireworks display of 1’s and 0’s. My stance readied, drawing a literal line in the sand, when suddenly all-time stopped.
Godlike, from some withdrawn nebula of the universe, echoing through us all. A voice even more powerful than The Creator. Perhaps it was the rumored Omnipresence. The Creator’s creator, in The Gauntlet we are all his children. He has finally decided to visit us. Teach us the ways of non-violence. Powerless, unable to move, I prepared my soul for his divine wisdom. I am his vessel…
“I told you, I took the garbage out yesterday! Geez, mom. You’re interrupting my game!”
“It’s full again you know! That’s what happens to garbage cans, they get full every day, and you take them out every day.”
“What kind of sense does that make, mom? What am I, a garbage man now? Greg the garbage man, here to fight the garbage crime? Take it out yourself woman.”
“Yes, excuse yourself, you’re bothering the hell outta me. I’m only here one weekend a month.”
“You can’t speak to me like that, Greg, we talked about this.”
“And you aint Dad.”
Shocking, in a moment of uncertainty, handicapped by being frozen in time, all the players of The Gauntlet forced their eyes to zig zag across the battle arena. Pondering the same perplexing question, pushing the boundaries of all complex thought: Who dares argue with the Omnipresence?
“Keep it up, mister. You ain’t gonna like what happens. And you can tell your damn father I said that.”
The Creator’s voice traversed through my ears, and movement re-engaged my body.
“Reinstating Trial 3.574-A…The Gauntlet. Please wait…Complete… FIGHT.”
The winged terror turned his pointed finger into a fist. Looming overhead, circling me like a vulture, as missile tips filled in every hexagon within his wings. In preparation for his special move he puffed out his chest.
“There is no escape!”
A rapid succession of missiles rained down upon me. While dodging the attack, members from his own team were hit instead. Bursting into prismatic explosions, 1’s and 0’s dancing within the beautiful display. I cartwheeled my way into a corner. The infinite barrage never let up. I sliced one missile vertically in half, using my other hand to shield the prismatic explosion. Green motherboard chips exposed on my entire left side, it wasn’t enough to protect me. My synthetic scaled skin tattered on the sand of the battle arena.
The atomic tangerine ally from earlier leapt onto the winged terror’s back.
He palmed the back of my flying archrival’s head. A thin glass tube jutted from his palm and burrowed into the enemy’s head. Small nanomites swarmed through like locusts, and metastasized inside him.
“You’ve been infected!”
As my ally jumped off his back, the small nanomites were already breaching his skin from within. Crawling all over him forming an entirely new organism akin to an onyx mass of fire ants.
“We will meet again…Subject 0-”
The winged terror exploded into a supernova, dazzling lights, and colors yet to be discovered escaped, encompassing one third of the entire battle arena. Everyone witnessed his departure as the destruction bloomed into a mini sun.
Time stopped again…
“Oh my god, ok, I’m sorry. I’ll take it out, mom. Just let me finish this map. It’s the beta version, and I can’t save yet. I’m not at a checkpoint.”
“I don’t want to hear it, Gregory. Enough is enough.”
“What, get out! Oh my geez! Mom, ok stop, don’t…”
The entire battle arena began shaking, and lifted from the ground, being carried by some invisible massive force. The Omnipresence spoke once more, but the words were too garbled to comprehend. My ally and I slammed into the closed portcullis as the arena tilted to the left, shifting the entire axis.
“No, not the pool!”
Suddenly the battle arena crashed back down, and circles of a strange metallic liquid began seeping in from the sand on the ground. I opened my palm and requested The Creator. Sparks flew from my hand, and a watery hologram shot out. The Creator’s raven-haired face fizzled in and out.
An explosion shattered the acrylic glass in my palm, all communication with The Creator was lost.
Derrick Lafayette has been writing since he had the strength to lift a pencil. Currently he works in the IT Field in Midtown Manhattan, but writing will always be his first love.