Planetary Brawl

by

halowenjo

Welcome to Dos 002 - Countdown to Insanity

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Dustin awoke to something calling his name as he shot up in bed, almost hitting his head on the top bunk. The room simmered like he was in the sweltering heat, but he found himself under a light navy sheet in his air-conditioned bedroom.

Dustin pushed the sheet off his body and looked down, not spotting any sweat. He remembered the vivid dream he saw last night, and the woman crying above him.

When he sat upon the edge of the bed, he noticed some moisture touching his chest, four droplets soaking his shirt. The woman's face from his dream flashed through his head, accompanied by a dull drumming pain.  He dabbed his finger into one droplet and brought it up to his mouth.

He licked the droplet, his eyes widening. Salty, more than sweat, more akin to tears. A minute of silence passed as Dustin stared at his finger. A flood of memories he never lived filled his head like a train, the dull pain sharpening to a pin-point.

"Dustin!"

A voice called from downstairs, pulling him from the frozen state. The pain in his head dissipated, clearing some fuzziness away. His eyes wandered to the door as he whispered, "Display."

Nothing appeared, and the pain began anew, bringing back more memories. Older memories.

The pain returned and grew at an alarming rate as his mother called for him again, "You're going to be late!"

Dustin looked at the door with wide eyes, sensing something wet drip down his cheek. He lifted his finger up to it, wiping a tear away, her voice…

Dustin hadn't seen her in years, not since she died, torn apart by a crazed monster.

He shook his head, surprised at the tears that sprung forth. He saw his mother yesterday, but dark emotions bogged him down like wading through a swamp.

What the hell is wrong with me?

After refusing to answer her again she burst through the door, one hand wielding a flip flop and the other holding a cup of water.

She had meant to splash it on him and slap him awake but stopped at the door, surprised that he was not only awake but crying. He looked up at her with a pained expression and ran over to hug her, spilling some water.

"Is everything ok?" Jean asked, ignoring the water that had splashed onto her work pants. She dropped the footwear in her other hand and pat Dustin on the back.

He mumbled something about missing her as she calmed him down, waiting until he stopped crying.

"S-sorry. I don't know…"

Jean sighed and pulled away, looking at his face. He didn't seem injured or anything, but looked pained, like he was being attacked by an indescribable sadness. She used her thumb to wipe away the tears under his eyes and plucked a tissue from the nearby box.

"You sure you want to go today? You can stay at home, you haven't missed any classes yet."

Dustin shook his head and accepted the tissue, blowing his nose whilst trying to reign in the mixed emotions.

"No, it's ok. I'll go in." He said, turning to find clothes.

"You sure you're ok? Anything you want to talk about?"

Dustin flicked through his shirts, attempting to identify each of them. His eye twitched with each failure until he came to the end of the wardrobe. Jean watched as Dustin slapped himself on the cheeks and gave her a nervous glance.

He mumbled that he would be fine back to his mother and chose a random clean shirt, wondering why its lack of defence disappointed him.

He tried to convince himself that he was thinking of a video game, but past emotions overtook him whenever he tried to think of something else.

Dustin had been a top student during university, missing not a single class, and receiving top marks, earning him an expensive scholarship that his mother had been very proud of.

The sounds of a car turning on as he left his room gave him nostalgia like it had been decades since he had last seen or heard a car.

As his mother left for work, he peered out the window overlooking the driveway, watching as she pulled away in a little Audi. Whilst watching his mother leave, he scanned the surroundings, looking at the street to see what was approaching.

Memories filled his head with the perfect ambush locations, causing further stress.

He forced himself into the bathroom and splashed his face, looking up in the mirror. He pulled the short brown hair on his head taut and spat a small globule of blood into the sink accrued from chewing his lip. The crooked scars of fighting were missing, as was the sinister burn mark covering the right side of his neck.

His skin returned to matching the white linen hanging out on the clothesline, though speckled with scars of acne and stray hairs.

As a second-year university student studying Chemical Engineering, he was only twenty years old and seen as a genius by his parents, teachers, and friends. The sense of regret filled him from abandoning his course…

At never finishing the course…

Why wasn't he going to finish the course?

He splashed more water on his face, but the turmoil within his head still plagued him. Dustin hoped that something to eat would fix the problem and dashed down the stairs, throwing together a bowl of cereal, savouring each spoonful. He lived on hardtack for so long he forgot about other foods.

Dustin almost tasted the dry biscuits in his mouth and tried to shove more cereal in to counteract it.

His senses were chaotic from the information overload. Something was coming, gnawing at the edges of his mind. He remembered the vivid images of fighting, losing.

Dying.

The blade of the reaper's scythe seemed to rest on his shoulder, moving towards his neck an inch at a time.

Dustin packed his things together and got in the car. He realised upon entry he had forgotten which side was the brake and which was to speed up. Once he worked that out, he set off towards the university, a short fifteen-minute drive.

At least, it should have been. He checked every blind spot, afraid something would pop out and attack him. He ended up going 10 below the speed limit, jumping at the angry beeps other drivers gave him.

The university campus was busy as students arrived for morning classes, sending Dustin into a panic. He tried to keep track of everything moving around him, watching for anyone suspicious.

He almost crashed into a pole as he did not turn right, blushing as onlookers laughed, one of them yelling, asking him if he knew how to drive.

Dustin parked the car in the furthest spot from his class, where few other cars bothered to go. He took the paths least travelled towards the class, and sat down at the back so he could see everyone, with nobody behind him.

When the lecturer came in, she gave him a surprised look, finding the seat he usually sat in empty.

He ended up distracted all class, unable to focus on the board. When the teacher called his name, asking for the answer to an equation, he gave it without thinking.

It was not unusual for students to calculate the answer fast. It was Dustins muddled brain that confused him the most. The answer was correct, but he had done none of the calculations required.

This repeated several times, even drawing some attention from other students as he continued to give his answer before she could even finish asking him.

Mathematics was straightforward, find the formula, and apply it. Dustin knew the formula, but each time he answered, he wasn't calculating it himself. He somehow remembered what the answer was like he had already done the question before.

It wasn't impossible he had done them before, but very unlikely, as it occurred several times throughout the class, on questions the lecturer herself had made up. Whilst his speed impressed the class, his mind was only growing more doubtful of what was real and what was imaginary.

Deja Vu was a phenomenon where the mind tricks itself into thinking something happened already, a false memory. Dustin never heard of a case that extended past a single event and encapsulated the rest of one’s life.

The classes after his tutorial were lectures, and once again he sat at the back, keeping everyone else in front of him.

"Dustin, what are you doing back here?"

Someone called out to him as they stood in the aisle, a laptop under their arm. They slid through the seats to sit next to him and made a show of squinting to see the lecturer, teasing Dustin for having sit so far back.

Dustin tried to contain his emotions at reuniting with his friend who had died long ago, and the anger at himself for thinking such a thing was real.

His friend's name was Ben, another student at the university. He had died not from the monsters that came from the dungeons, but after he had bought something expensive from the Dos store, and other survivors murdered him for it.

Dustin pretended like he was focusing on setting up to take notes, avoiding looking at Ben. The lecture started, saving Dustin from hiding his face, and he wrote information from his memories into a notebook.

He circled important parts and added question marks to others. There was one name he penned over multiple times, making it bold. He circled it, hearing her voice at the back of his head.

Cynthia.

Ben had snuck a look at his notes and nudged Dustin in the ribs, "And who would this Cynthia be, hm?"

The memories brought love and happiness with them, but behind the flimsy wall they created, sadness burst through. Ben sat back as if he had stepped on a landmine, hazarding a guess what might have tipped Dustin off.

Dustin didn't bother to rectify the mistake and continued his writing, drawing occasional doodles of the monsters he had vivid memories of fighting.

The lecture went by with Dustin not having heard a single word the lecturer said, but he could remember the information he should have learned from it.

Ben invited him to grab some lunch, but Dustin declined, needing time alone to pull himself together.

He sat in his car, filling out notebooks in a flurry with a spread of information. He searched web pages on his phone, trying to see if there was some kind of game that related to any of it.

Dustin asked one of his gamer friends some vague questions about it, including the name Torian.

"Do you mean Tauren?"

Dustin put his phone down and exhaled, gazing at the green scenery that bordered the edge of the university.

It was all too real. Too many emotions attached to memories and the overwhelming accuracy of what would happen that day, Dustin could not deny it was a possible future.

He tried again to open the 'display' that littered his memories, but again, nothing popped up. Part of him knew, from the memories, that it was best if it never popped up.

It was only a short time until it descended upon them. He would go insane if he did nothing, waiting until the inevitable. He couldn't just quit university. No one would understand if he rambled on about doomsday. They’d throw him in hospital, which would make things even worse.

To help settle down, he wrote a list of goals his phone, making sure that each was achievable, and would not draw attention to him. If by the end of the year, his memories were a farce, then he would go get therapy, and continue his life as normal.

He sat in his car for two hours, missing his other lecture. Ben, who had attended the same lectures, was messaging him every ten minutes. He had never missed a single class before.

Sorry, Im not feeling well at the moment. Wont be around for a couple of days, will see you later, Dustin sent the text and got a reply seconds later.

Is it because of Cynthia?

Dustin kept looking at the text as he prepared to drive back home, hovering over the send button.

Yeah.

His mother echoed Bens concerns, but he gave the same reply and excused himself, leaping up two stairs at a time until he entered his room. His heartbeat slowed as the door closed behind him. Dustin slid down the door, resting his head in his arms. He focused on his breathing, exhaling in through his nose, and out his mouth.

When he felt the tightness in his chest dissipate he dragged himself into his desk chair. He booted up his computer and copied the notes he wrote in his book into a series of documents.

Without a display, Dustin was naked, missing a part of himself that offered reassurance. To calm his wavering confidence he wrote a 'status' screen into a spreadsheet and filled it with numbers, making it like something out of a game.

Intelligence - 14

Strength - 4

Agility - 5

Wisdom - 9

Charisma - 4

Constitution - 5

 

Dustin was thin, making his strength low. He also had bad flexibility, and low endurance, making his agility poor. His intelligence would be far above average, which was why teams groomed him into support and healer in the past.

His wisdom was acceptable as a sentient person. If he considered the ability to predict the 'future' then it was perhaps higher.

Charisma was low as Dustin abhorred public speaking, and crowds, making a small group of friends and sticking to them. His memories painted him as the leader to humanitys last stand, a terrifying concept.

Dustin knew he couldn't take a hit for shit, and he was likely to blow over in a strong wind, giving him a weak constitution.

To remedy these before the coming of the real status, were having a head start would make things easier, he turned his attention to the list he had made earlier.

To-Do List:

    1. Hit the gym.
    2. Study Historical Warfare, Geography, Botany.
    3. Find a source of income.
    4. Purchase a weapon
    5. Purchase armour
    6. Complete a monster compendium
    7. Prevent myself from going insane.
    8. Find Cynthia.

 

Dustins sudden change in heart surprised Jean. Her son had never been to a gym before, played any sports as a child, or showed any interest in staying fit. Whilst she had no proof, his episode the previous morning, and his wish to buff up, made her suspect some kind of rejection or bullying.

She tried asking him, but he was adamant he wasnt getting bullied, though she received mixed signals about the rejection.

Jean gave him a mental cheer and offered to hire a personal trainer. He refused, his cheeks turning red as she continued to hound him for information. Sensing she was pushing too far, she sighed and put her credit card for the gym membership.

The very next day he had come home, pale and hunched over from over-exerting himself. She scolded him, but deep down she was proud of her son. 

Anger built up within Dustin when he returned from his first gym visit. He couldnt even make it through a tenth of the warm-up he had memorised. If he wanted to keep fit, it was important to plan a workout and stick to it.

His main goal was increasing his own stamina and strength. Even as a mage, someone who sat at the back of the party, he needed to be in top condition. The situation could go awry in less than a second. Members of the party would not carry him if he could not keep up.

For survival, any edge over the opposition could increase the gap between dead, and alive.

His gym membership was only a part of the routine, he needed to make up a diet that would make him bulkier. He didnt need to be lifting boulders, just strong enough to beat an adult human.

The thought of taking a life did not phase Dustin. It was the lack of care that scared him more. His body had yet to kill another living creature, but the countless lives he had reaped filled his mind.

The horror of taking another creatures life would diminish. He would grow dull to the mental anguish that accompanied it. The alternative was death, but not just Dustins.

Everyone would die.

It wasnt a lie to say that the survival of humans weighed on his shoulders. If the shop came out, he would have to push himself harder than ever before. He needed to make up the time spent toiling that could have given humanity the edge they needed in defending earth.

Dustin sat his tired body at the dining table and opened a job-searching site on his phone, looking for listings that required limited or no experience.

Whilst he was intelligent, he hadnt held a job since he worked part-time at an ice cream parlour, and that was for a mere four months. He had put all of his efforts into his studies, he postponed finding a job, leaving him with few options to pursue.

He asked his mother for help, a blow to the pride of someone who used to lead the remains of humanity. Jean almost had another heart attack when he asked her, sitting down across the table to avoid falling over. She whipped out her own phone and dialled her friends, asking about open positions.

Dustin did not need to attend university anymore, as the information he would learn, he already knew. The exam questions were in his head, as were the essays and scientific reports he needed to write. A full-time job would earn him more money, but that wasnt the biggest concern.

When next semester rolled around, he planned on picking up additional subjects in history and other fields, soaking up any information before the world fell to chaos.

He didnt tell his mother of his plans beyond the gym and finding a part-time job, she already looked shocked at his sudden lifestyle change.

Whilst the job hunt went underway, Dustin returned to his room to look around the internet for weapons and armour.

Dustins choice of weapon was a staff first and bow second. Staves offered the most utility to mages, healers, and supports, whilst also serving as a well-balanced melee weapon when the enemy got too close. It would not crush skulls like a war hammer, or slice flesh like a sword, but it would protect him.

His other weapon of choice was a bow. When circumstances called for him to stop casting spells, such as low mana, or cooldowns, he carried a backup. The bow enabled him to continue dealing damage, rather than forcing him to enter melee or stand around doing nothing.

His university offered an archery club, and the nearby historical museum had a western martial arts academy that ran classes on fighting with various medieval weapons.

Dustin pushed away from his desk and stared at the ceiling. He expected the cheap plaster to crush him at any second.

He grasped the information in his head and filed it away to retrieve later, saving his sanity from the overload and worry.

What he couldnt work out was why he possessed it. If everything in his memories was true, and his destiny was to die at the hands of an oversized walking volcano, what had sent these memories back?

Dustin could remember up to the wave of embers washing over him, believing them to be harmless. He had inhaled one by accident, and it burnt anything it touched on the way down his throat. His last spell sacrificed health to cast, clearing all ailments afflicting party members. The health lost was enough to kill him, sending him crashing to the ground.

Everything that happened after was blank. He did not know whether the party succeeded following his death, or if he gave his life for nothing. Regardless of the outcome, life had given him a second chance, and he would not dare to squander it.

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About the author

halowenjo

  • Australia

Bio: Hello all! I'm halowenjo, a student paramedic by day (and night) and writer by whenever my creativity bursts in. I am currently working on one fiction but I start new projects all the time so I doubt it will be that was for long!

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