Sensation fades away as I become enveloped in a soft, white light. The illumination seemed to wash through not just my eyes, but through my entire being. I felt as I were floating, disembodied and without connection to the material world.
I try to gather my thoughts, but they're sluggish. What happened? Where was I? My parents hadn't been home… In fact, I hadn't seen them in… I don't remember exactly. I'd made myself dinner. Or had I? I remember the hunger. Then there'd been … white?
I can't tell how long I've been here, drifting in this gentle light. Has it been ten days? Or ten minutes? It surrounds me, enveloping me like a warm blanket. It feels warm enough that I want to snuggle into it. Get cosy. But that's a little difficult without the capacity to move. I'm constricted here in my own little world.
Sound begins to swell like a wave in the distance. It rushes forward, and just as it washes over me, I hear a voice.
A personalised greeting! These are the kind of good manners that make a person feel warm inside, appreciated. At least I assume so, I'm not familiar with it so much.
[You have died.]
Dammit! I should have known!
What do you mean I died, mysterious disembodied voice? How are you speaking to me anyway? Come to think of it, how on Earth am I hearing you? Do I even have ears right now?! This situation is puzzling, puzzling I say!
So if I died, is this heaven? I mean, it's comfortable enough, but I'm not sure if I want to stay here forever, you know? Being bathed in white light is nice and all, but I'd hoped there'd be a pool, perhaps a buffet? I'm hungry. Or … I was hungry.
[Be calm, you will soon awaken, to experience life again in a new world.]
There's something about this voice that feels familiar, a deep and gruff intonation that sounds comforting, yet also full of wisdom? Is it that legendary bearded figure, dressed all in white? The one worshipped with devotion all over the Earth?
Is it you?
[You will be reborn on the world of Pangera.]
[Destiny and luck shall determine your fate.]
Hold on a moment there, Gandalf! This … This sounds kind of cool doesn't it? Reborn into another world? Adventure, peril and opportunity around each corner? Will there be magic? Elves? Girls?! Elf Girls?!
Whoa there … I need to take a moment. Be cool, focus, and listen to Lord Gandalf!
[You will be reborn with the following status:]
Here it comes!
So game like!
Oh ho! I sound strong! MP is zero though? Is it because my spirit is lacking? Why are you judging me like this, Gandalf?
[Skills: Digging level 1; Acid Shot Level 1; Grip Level 3; Bite Level 2]
Okay! Skills! This is exciting! Just … bite? Acid? Aren't these skills a little… strange? What about destruction magic or interdimensional spirit summoning?
[Species: Hatchling Ant Worker (Formica)]
What the heck was that Gandalf?! Ant? Not just an Ant, but "Hatchling worker ant"?! This isn't the glorious rebirth I had in mind! Was I lacking in virtue during my previous life? Was I too cruel to my friends? That can't be true, I didn't have any friends!
[You have one Skill point and one Biomass available.]
[Go forth and forge your own path.]
An ant path? Forge your mother, Gandalf!
At this moment, I sense a change in the light surrounding me. Gradually, it began to condense, shrinking and squeezing against me. Simultaneously, it began to take form. Slowly, the features and details of my new body are taking shape.
Sadly, those features aren't to my liking!
Six legs, two antennae, strong mandibles and three distinct body segments. One head, one thorax and one abdomen. This is definitely the body of an ant. After what felt like only a few minutes my shape is fully formed, my body, still white and somewhat translucent, had time to coalesce around my consciousness.
I was now a complete ant.
What the hell am I supposed to do now?! I may have kept ants as pets, but that doesn't mean I know what one is supposed to do?! Come to think of it, is that all it takes? Pet ants means ant rebirth? That's so tenuous!
No point having a whine about it, I suppose. Never got anywhere by mulling over my problems! No longer a human, now an ant. It's fine! Love the skin/carapace you're in! I can do this.
First, I suppose I'll try and get my bearings. The first thing I notice is that my vision is terrible. I appear to be somewhere quite dark, but a faint blue glow can be seen coming from a wall in front of me. The details are terribly blurry, every time I turn my head my vision seems to swim, as if the colours wash away before they settle again.
I've a sinking feeling in my… abdomen? Most ants have very poor vision, tracking motion usually the best they can do, some are even completely blind. At least I'm not that unlucky. I'll have to make use of the other senses I now possess to compensate for my crappy vision!
Of course I mean my antennae! I should, if I recall right, be able to use them to smell the air and detect air currents. I diligently start waving my feelers to see if I can sense anything.
Ooooo. This is a bit different.
I'm detecting a few smells I can't identify. The air here certainly seems a bit stale, which makes sense if I'm underground.
But wait. Something feels wrong. If I'm an ant, then where are all my ant brethren? My ant family! Ants usually communicate by pheromones and their sense of smell right? I should be surrounded by smells, and my fellow colony mates should be around here ready to welcome me, their new comrade! Why can't I find them? It might be nice to receive a warm welcome, not sure I ever have before.
Wait! I'm detecting a whiff of something nearby. I turn left and frantically wave my antennae in this new direction. Yes, I'm sure of it. Something that smells much like myself is nearby. If I try and make sense of what my eyes and 'nose' are telling me, I think I'm in a long, curving tunnel. On the tunnel surfaces, I can see a faint blue light that pulses gently every few seconds. I guess that explains how I can see anything at all here underground.
Very gradually, I begin to move towards the scent of my ally. I began to shift my six legs, hesitantly at first and then with growing confidence. I wasn't the most coordinated of humans, so walking with six legs is a touch intimidating, but I feel as though my ant body is pitching in a few instincts to help get the job done. Six legged walking has some serious swagger when I get the hang of it!
I'm starting to hear something as I approach a curve in the tunnel ahead. It’s a little hard to make out, my ears aren't much better than my eyes. Something like a crunching noise? What is my ant family up to around there?
Fear not, my fellow ant buddy! Whatever your task may be, I'm here to assist, for the glory of the colony!
I figure if I'm an ant now, I may as well as embrace it. Swarm life!
Antennae waving furiously, I follow the curve of the tunnel and poke my head around the corner.
I see movement. An ant is lying flat on its back, legs waving and jerking in the air. Mandibles open and bite weakly at nothing, but that’s not all I see.
Above my brethren, I see a long snout open wide, jagged, gleaming teeth revealed within. Two powerful hands grip the struggling ant, lift it towards those jaws, which close with a sickening crunch. The victim writhes in silent agony as the predator snaps its jaws a few more times, before lifting its head and throwing the food down its gullet.
No, no, no, no.
What the heck is this?!
Before me stands some sort of walking crocodile beast! At the end of its body I can see a massive tail swish across the ground, two strong looking hands are pinning down the body of its prey, a fellow ant, who is still twitching and trying to move but clearly has reached the end of its strength.
Fortunately, the monster has its back to me….
Don't look at me like that, ally!
What do you want me to do? Fight that giant Croca-beast?! I can tell it's easily four or five times my size!
This isn't the colony! There aren't any other ants here. No team, no support, no soldiers to protect us workers. What can I possibly do?
Clearly my best strategy in this situation is … to flee!
Before that horrific monster has finished eating and looks for another snack, I have to run!
Tripping and falling over my own legs I turn and scurry back down the tunnel in the direction I came. Run, run, run!
Wait! I dig in my six legs and screech to a halt.
What if I run into another of those creatures coming down the tunnel towards me?! That would be game over man, game over!
Think Anthony, think like an ant! Wait!
I stop too quickly and tangle my legs up, causing me to fall in a heap. I do have an option to ensure my safety. What would an ant do? Dig!
I use my feelers and front legs to scan the walls around me as quickly as I can. There! Aha! This section of wall is soft dirt, not rock!
Dig like your life depends on it Anthony! Because it does!
Raising my forelegs I start to scratch madly at the wall. My legs are still white coloured and faintly translucent, too soft to effectively dig! Hold on though, ants don't use their legs to dig anyway… I try opening my mandibles on the front of my face for the first time. In my vision I can see the thick jaws open and snap shut.
I have to dig with my face!
I push my head towards the wall and open my jaws as wide as I can before crunching them shut with all of my strength. The soil gives way before my assault and soft earth trickles down the wall as I dig two grooves into the formerly smooth surface. My mandibles are yet to fully harden, but they're still strong enough to rip into this dirt wall easily!
Frantically, I dig without pause, without rest, until I carve out a small tunnel in the wall large enough to fit myself in and then collapse the entrance, trapping myself in complete solitude.
If I'm found, I'm dead!
Shivering in my dark hidey hole, I begin to ponder my circumstances.
This situation is too strange! A new ant should be born inside the colony, surrounded by allies and protectors, why on … Pangera, was I born alone in a tunnel with such a fearsome beast! Judging by my poor fellow ant out there I'm not the only one dropped into these hopeless straights.
I can only think of one thing. A raid. Something attacked my home colony and escaped carrying a few unhatched young. A juicy, defenceless food supply to snack on back in their own home tunnels. That sort of thing was common enough on Earth, as I recall. Ant larvae are a tempting source of valuable protein, some ants even get most of their food by raiding other colonies and stealing the brood. It may not have even been that giant Croca-beast that conducted the raid, it may have intercepted the creatures that did the deed and stolen their prize.
As a result I was dropped, unseen, and managed to hatch successfully, leading to my current position of shaking in the dirt hoping I don't get found. Lucky me!
I can also dismiss the idea that I am a normal ant, a few millimetres long. That bi-pedal crocodile-headed beast certainly did not exist on Earth, and surely cannot evolve naturally. This evidence, combined with the game like system in this world leads me to believe that it was a monster I saw, and it logically follows that I am also a monster in some underground tunnel complex.
That's scary! Do I have some sort of monster core that explorers will come to farm? Do I drop money when I die?!
This is some ridiculous hard mode right here Gandalf!
A little help?
Wait. He did say something about a skill point and Biomass?