A glowing green panel hovered in the air in front of my face once I regained consciousness. I closed my eyes and rolled to my side. At some point I had crawled onto the stairs. My bag had saved me from the worst of the fall. My back hurt, but the migraine had already faded away. The taste of warm asphalt lingered on my dry tongue. I sat up.

 The green panel was still there when I opened my eyes. I blinked. Still there. It was about the same size as a piece of printer paper, except it was transparent and floating in the air. I focused on the panel and a button formed in the center.   There was a single word on it.


 I raised my hand and the panel shifted to a comfortable distance. My fingers went through the display, but they started to tingle when I made contact. The button felt different than the panel. It was thicker, like moving from water to oil. Both the button and the panel held its shape when my hand moved through them.


  A ripple of cold shot up along my arm, up my neck, and began to swirl around my head. Tiny sparks clouded my vision. Somehow, I stayed upright. The chill faded began to form the green panel once more.

[Mason Yannick]

[Level 0. Ordinary]

  The panel disappeared and took the soft glow with it. I slipped my bag off of my shoulders. The weight felt good, real, but I needed my cellphone more than a safety blanket. A smaller green panel slid into view. It came from the seam where the zipper had been, now it was simply a strip of gray. The display on the readout had a three-by-five grid to the left, and an information section to the right. Four of the spots had icons. Two books, a phone, and a key.

[Backpack- 11/15 Available]
[Skill Book: Charisma +1]
[Basic Tablet]
[Yannick Household Key]
[Codex 000: A New World]

  The tablet must have meant my phone. I tapped the icon. A stone slate the size of my smartphone appeared in my hand. It didn't have a screen or charger port. Even the power button was missing. I raised it to eye level and a stack of text appeared.


  I tapped contacts only for the tablet to go blank. Even emergency numbers were missing. It returned to the initial menu after a moment. I selected the settings option.

[Activate HUD]
[Activate Mini-Map]
[Update Codex]
[Update Map]

  This didn't make any sense. I had played enough video games to recognize menu screens, but this was ridiculous. The text started to pulse and fade with each beat. It popped back to life once I focused on the words. I needed answers. Right now, I didn't even know what questions I needed to ask.

[Activate HUD]
[Simplified. Yes/No.]

  Three bars stretched out along the bottom of my vision. A red one rested in the center with a blue and yellow to each side. I focused on the bars.

[Red- Health 5/5] [Blue- Mana 5/5] [Yellow- Energy 5/5]

  "Why do I only have five health?" I said.

  The display didn't reply.

  "Fine," I grunted.

  Mana usually dealt with magical things. Energy could mean anything from simple stamina to some sort of electrical stuff to power my tablet.

[Activate Mini-Map. Yes/No.]

  A silver dollar sized circle appeared in the lower right hand of my vision. The top down map currently showed my icon, a green triangle, part of the hall before me, and the stairs I had come down. Everything else was blocked by the fog of war. It was better than everything being blocked out. Not by much, but still.

[Update Codex. Invalid command. Add codex to queue.]
[Update Map. Invalid command. Not enough information.]

  That narrowed things down a bit. I backed out to the main menu and moved on to status.

[Mason Yannick. Level 0. Ordinary. 0/100 Experience to Level 1.]
[Skills: NA]
[Attributes: Locked]
[Active Quests: NA]
[Completed Quests: NA]
[Allies: NA]
[Adversaries: Pending]

  "Pending?" I whispered. "What does that even mean?"

  The door at the top of the stairs popped as it opened. A soft chuckle drifted through the darkness. The door swung open to reveal a familiar lanky silhouette. It was just different enough to send a shiver down my spine. The guy was hunched and had his shoulders tilted farther than they should have gone.

  My luck today wasn't swinging toward him being flexible.

  I turned back toward the darkened hallway and ran. The mini-map revealed the passage by a single five-foot orb at a time. A whisper of a chuckle climbed to a hysterical pitch as I ran. It stopped just long enough for the light switch to echo after me. The thing that had been the prankster let out a cheerful hoot before falling into another stretch of laughter.

  There wasn't time to second guess my new world. My health bar with a total of five points told me to run. I needed to escape. Something clambered down the stairs. I looked over my shoulder in time to see the guy roll back up to his feet.

  "Shouldn't have done that," I muttered as I pushed myself faster.

  He wasn't some prankster. He was a clown, or at least he was becoming one. The roots of his blond hair had turned bright blue. Misshapen white dots spread like a pox over his red polo shirt and khaki pants. He reached out with a long, pale finger to the wall beside him. The click of the light switch echoed down hall.

  My mini-map got a burst of detail once the lights came on. The passage looked like it went on for a while longer and running was a great plan. It was temporary. One dead end would end this run before I even began. I needed to find a way back to the surface and the only way I knew for sure was blocked by a crazed clown.

  I needed to fight back. This sucked. I liked clowns.

  "Brain," I said as tossed an empty trash bin behind me. "Focus. This isn't survival horror, it's action-adventure."

  Talking to myself wasn't healthy, I knew that, but hearing the words helped. Any idea was perfect inside my head. The mechanics of transferring the thought to voice and listening to the sound made it real.

  I needed a weapon.

  My eyes darted along the passage as I kept running. It looked to be a storage area and janitors closet that had once been classrooms. Stacks of cardboard boxes were labeled with dates sat on shelves next to empty bottles of cleaning solutions. All I needed now was a paperclip, some chewing gum, and a mullet.

  A push broom was propped against the wall ahead of me. I snatched it from its spot and spun back toward the clown. The dusty broom wasn't exactly intimidating, but it was the best I could do.

  The creep bounded toward me in wide leaping strides. He launched himself at me. I planted my foot on the end of the handle with the wide broom facing front. It wasn't a spear, and he wasn't on a horse, but the thought was the same.


  I hoped.

  He crashed down onto the broom. I felt the handle push against my foot. It held, but the other ended didn't. He dropped to the ground with a line of grit on his pox covered shirt. The broom tumbled onto the ground with him and left me holding the remaining part of the handle.

  The clown let out a little giggle as it bounced back to its feet. I pulled the stick up, spun it in my hands to grip it like a bat, and swung. The impact sent a painful jolt up to my shoulders. He bounced head-first off the wall and wobbled back to his feet. His glowing yellow eyes locked lazily on mine. A toothy smile began to spread across his face. I pulled back for another swing. His eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed into a heap.

  I kept the broomstick between us as I shimmied along the wall. He didn't move. I broke into a sprint back toward the stairs. Text began to scroll along the left side of my vision.

[300 XP]
[Level Up!]
[Class Unlocked]
[Attributes Activated]
[Quests Unlocked]
[Allies Unlocked]
[Skills Unlocked]
[Adversaries: Clown Zero]

[Mason Yannick. Level 1. Quick. Total Experience: 300. Level 2: 1000 XP required.]
[Health 25/25] [Mana 5/5] [Energy 5/25.]
[Simple Weapons] [Improvised Weapons]

  I looked back as I made it to the top of the stairs. The broken parts of the broom marked where the clown had been, but the creep was gone. I slammed the door shut and put my back against it. The adrenaline that had kept me going bottomed out. My legs shook as they valiantly struggled to hold my weight. I slumped against the door and slid down to the cold stone floor. I didn't have a plan now. Staying here and freaking out wasn't option. No matter how much I wanted it to be. I needed to do something more than pass out in the middle of the hall.


  My hand rubbed the floor beside where I sat. It had been carpeted before.

  The hall had been replaced with a wide expanse of a stone passage with gently burning lights along the ceiling. Before all of this it hadn't taken long to get from the front doors to the one now against my back. I couldn't see the limits of this new space.

  Today was off to a great start.

A note from ScottM


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About the author


  • The Melting North
  • Action Monkey

Bio: It all started a long time ago in a distant land by the name of Washington. A little boy sat enthralled before a TV screen watching pixels dance. Plumbers defeated dragons, a young adventurer ventured into unknown lands, and ducks were shot from the sky.

After that other stuff happened.

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