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A note from C.R. Mcmahon

I started writing this book to and from my ride to work. Recently I have fallen in love with writing. I am putting a lot of work into improving. I would also like to give a very special thanks to Barret Hess. With their help, this book has become something more than what I could have accomplished alone.I hope you enjoy the chapter. There are very many more to come. Please comment on any questions or concerns you have about the story, and I will do my best to get back to you. Thank you so much. If you decide you like this please follow my story. I am so excited to be starting this journey.

*I want to stress that I am a new author, and this is a work in progress. The earlier chapters need a lot of work. If things seem out of place, or there is a continuance issue please point it out. As of right now, I am working through everything posted to replace first-person POV, the main character talking aloud to himself, and other errors.* 

*WARNING: The above message did not seem to be read by certain people. Please do not read if you are bothered by accidental POV changes or tense issues. I am doing my best to eliminate them. I am still new to writing so please consider that before starting.*


An alleyway acted as a divider between two hulking buildings. It lent an extra shade of dark to the moonlit night. Just like the rest of the city, this area was filled with garbage. A pain burned up Auron's leg. In the battle of the shinbone, versus a broken discarded air conditioner, the hunk of heavy metal and plastic had won. As he did not wish for a repeat impact, Auron moved even more slowly through the mess. 

He threw a thumbs up to the rows of windows above, along with a silent thanks to whoever was responsible. Auron turned to look back to where he entered and listened for footsteps. Though he hoped he lost the men who chased him, he knew it was not likely. With his attention back to his path, another sharp pain caused him to grab the bridge of his nose. This time it was unrelated to scattered debris. Auron knew this pain well. Temporarily disoriented, he dropped down to one knee.

Another one of his episodes was happening at the worst time. When he opened his eyes, his thought was confirmed. He found himself once again back in the red cocoon. The same vermilion prison that had haunted his dreams and waking life as far back as he could remember. The air was so hot it burnt his lungs slightly with every breath. A loud ripping sound surrounded him, and just as quickly as he was there, he was back in the alley.

The rotten smell of garbage and human waste made its way into his nose immediately. While the smell was horrendous, he was happy about it because it meant his episode was over. Looking back, he cursed softly as he saw a light and heard the sound of feet beating down on the pavement. 

"Auron, come on out of there before you make us drag you out!" His pursuers' shouts echoed along the brick walls. His hopes of evasion shattered. 

If he hadn't taken the extra job from Red, he could have been at his apartment playing video games. He refused to blame himself. If she had given the proper information for once, the job would have gone smoothly.

Ever since his mom passed away, he worked for Red. He was going to find a new job. This was the last time he would be thrown to the wolves.

Light shined near his position, causing him to freeze in place. As it drifted by, he heard one of the men curse as a loud smash rang out. Maybe his thanks for that discarded AC should have been legitimate.

This would be the last time he got into this kind of a mess. He would find a new line of work. Red was a good person deep down, but he had had enough of her tough love and terrible jobs.

A glint caught his eye from the low height he now rested at. A large square shape loomed off to Auron's right.

Salvation in the shape of a big green dumpster. Slowly moving around all obstacles, he reached the potential hiding place.

Auron was able to just squeeze behind the dumpster due to his lanky frame. As he slid down the rough wall, for the first time in his life, he was thankful that he never had any luck putting on weight. He shifted to get comfortable, in the process his hand pressed into something slimy, and wet. As Auron unconsciously wiped the discarded food on his worn-out Third Eye Blind t-shirt, the flashlight appeared on the wall next to the trash container. 

He grabbed his head as his vision changed. Once again, the headache that accompanied his episodes wrecked into his mind. If his random pain usually could be compared to a pin going into his temple, this time, it was a knife thrust into his eye, more potent than ever before. 

What he once thought were thin red walls, began to defy his concept of them as immobile. The burgundy barriers surrounding him began to move apart. 

As they separated, a great evil was what they seem to have been holding back; A crushing, terrifying, all-encompassing darkness. Reminded of his worst fear as a child, Auron began to thrash with a primal fear. 

He now knew he did not imagine it all. The darkness was here to take him once again. A voice whispered something, and although it felt familiar, he could not make out the words. 

Auron, now thrust back into the alleyway, found the stuffed area welcome. Anything was better than his nightmare. The feeling of being thrown in and out of his body in quick succession made him want to vomit. Feeling something dripping out of his eyes and nose, he wiped them. A metallic scent wafted from the fluid, indicating it was blood.

A deep voice ripped his attention back to the situation he was in. "We know where you are hiding, Just come out now before you make things worse for yourself!" 

Auron shifted and cupped his hand to throw his voice slightly away from his hiding place. "Yeah that sounds like a swell idea, let me just finish this spaghetti I found over here really quick first!"

Auron realized being a smart ass in this situation would only make things worse, but he needed to say something to feel like he was in control of the situation. Trying to still his shaking hands, he pinched his nose to stem the flow of blood. 

Moving to crawl out the opposite side of his smelly blockade, he decided to run to the other side of the alley. A bright light paired with another spike of pain temporarily blinded him.

Thinking the bright light was a flashlight and he was seconds from being grabbed, Auron ducked forward and tried to quickly orient himself.

His right foot sunk into something damp, and a splashing sound filled his ears, his sneakers, and socks were now filled with water. A loud whoosh sound nearly made him deaf as he shielded his eyes and ears from the onslaught. 

His feet did not reach the bottom until his legs were submerged up to his knees. This was no ordinary pothole. 

Auron considered a full submerge of his head to escape the heat. He noticed how the warm, humid air contrasted with the freezing water. Wading forward, he attempted to find the lip of the hole. Unable to find it right away, he began to panic. What sort of Narnia pothole did he just step into? 

His arms and legs ached for some reason, and all light from the moon earlier was gone. Fear that he had another episode, or the thugs chasing him knocked him over the head, he tried the opposite direction. 

As he reached backward, his hands skimmed across something that definitely would not be found in the city. Still too dark to make anything out, he felt the object with one hand while searching for the lip of the pothole with the other. 

The feel of rough and decaying bark greeted his hand, causing a wave of confusion, and paranoia to sweep over his mind. 

A voice whispered once again, interrupting Auron's thoughts. This time he undoubtedly recognized it as his mother's. "Stay safe, Auron. I love you." At the sound of the voice, Auron frantically searched around for the source, unintentionally ignoring the slight sizzling noise that came from his legs. 

"Mom?" Auron whispered desperately. 

Splashing forward in waist-deep water not possible for a pothole, he searched for his mother. His blind search led him to walk directly into a rotting tree stump twice his height. 

He tried to will away the words he heard whispered just now. His mom passed away two years ago, and he did not have time to unpack the psychological ramifications of hearing voices.

As he tried to focus on his newfound surroundings instead of the past, he heard a low creaking sound. The impact he had with the tree caused it to fall over slowly, most likely as it succumbed to internal decay plus the force of the collision. The bits of bark held it together seemed to yell in defiance as it tumbled down. 

As the tree took its noisy fall and the splash rippled out, Auron jumped back alarmed.

He splashed about as a burning smell began to tickle his nose, and his skin started to feel irritated from the water. "Where the hell am I? Did those guys really drop me off in the woods or something?" Fear crept into his voice. The darkness took a heavy emotional toll on him as it was a stark reminder of his frequent nightmares. 

His question thought and said aloud seemed to demand an answer because shortly after, he heard a noise. *Bing* The crisp alert tore through his head, and words seemingly appeared on a stone looking slate a few feet in front of his eyes. 

 

 You have entered Cheshire swamp. Poison debuff: -5 health per min. If given enough time, your health will drain to nothing. 

   

"WHAT THE SHIT!" Auron yelled out to no one in particular. Reaching out to touch this screen, his hand passed right through.

Auron wondered how the hell he was going to survive this Bear Grylls stranded situation. He remembered the nature show he used to watch with his mom, luckily he had okay survival skills, but nothing that would allow him to survive alone for long. 

Fortunately, or unfortunately, he was definitely not going to drink his own piss. His sarcastic thought failed to suppress the fear as it slowly ate away at his psyche. The irritated feeling in his legs swiftly changed from numbing cold water to sharp pins and needles. 

Here was that insanity he ordered on prime because now he had his own personal game screen, he was randomly teleported to Shrek's backyard, Oh, and of course the water was poison. His thoughts were a blur as he carefully pushed through the water. He now moved so that he did not splash any toward his face or hands.

Auron reached out, grasping the air around him, the pitch-black consuming everything in his sightline. He paused for a second as he realized he did not know who Shrek was, with a mental scan, he noted several alarming gaps in his memory. As he ran through the events of his day leading him to this moment, several parts were skipped over. It was as if his memories were a piece of paper, and some kid was holding a lighter under certain parts laughing as they burned away. 

Now that he failed to remember what he had run from in the alley moments ago, Auron balled his fists in frustration. The need to be distracted made him focus on the bold words still in front of his vision. He wondered what the negative health value really meant, and what would happen if his health reached zero. 

At the thought of the word health, a green bar appeared at the corner of his vision. His gaps in memory were forgotten as he continued to wade through the swamp; every other step, his feet would catch on submerged roots here and there.

Auron was not thrilled at the situation. Now he was inside a full-on in a video game. He hoped it was more Final Fantasy and less Dark souls. After he mentally cast his vote for turn-based combat, he continued to trudge through the water as the light pain became sharper by the second. His stomach was filled with ice as he realized the burning smell was coming from his own body. Apart from that pain, the skin on several parts of him began to glow softly as his screen appeared once again uncalled. 

 

   Age prerequisite met. By the terms of the Agreement: Carving sockets now. 25% of health points temporarily sacrificed as fuel.  

   

"What does that mean carv- Ahh crap that hurts!"
Auron winced as hexagon-shaped wounds began to be carved into his flesh. On the backs of his hands, on the front of his shoulders, knees, and feet, he could feel sharp pangs. The discomfort overtook the feeling of the poison water by leaps and bounds. Just as the pain began to ebb, more followed. Two new, more substantial rounded spots on his chest above his sternum and head, respectively, were scrapped away from him. After a few moments, he unclenched his fists and opened his eyes. In each spot where there was once flesh now had clear partially opaque indentations.

 

   Sockets granted. Place a gemstone over a socket to connect.

 

 A wonderful breeze broke the humid air and swept over him. He forgot about the Carving process's pain and the terrible poisonous water surrounding him for a moment, and he closed his eyes as he enjoyed the feeling. 

Little taps on his shoulder alerted him to something crawling on his shirt. He swatted at it fearfully. Barely he managed to suppress a high pitched scream.
A little green creature dodged his swat and acrobatically landed on the back of his left hand.

As the clouds parted from the moons, there was finally enough light to see it was a cute looking salamander.

"Sorry little guy, let me put you back on one of these trees," Auron said happily. He was a fan of small creatures that were not spiders. As he began to place him on the tree, his eyes shot back up to the sky. "Wait. Moons!? There should only be one moon." He shouted while he stared up, indignantly at the cloudy night sky.

Seemingly with a hint of humor in its oddly intelligent-looking emerald eyes, a purple tongue lashed up and then down before going back into the creature's mouth. Auron is once again thankful that the creature is not a spider.

He reached toward the closest grove cluster of dead trees. Looking for a spot for this tiny thing, Auron momentarily let go of the existence of an extra moon and focused on the creature. 

"Hi, little guy, you wouldn't happen to know where the hell we are, do you, or maybe why there is an extra space rock in the sky??" He said as he paused in his search for a safe place to set it down. He noted the breeze still flowed around him. The pain from the swamp seemed to have faded.

"I might as well go along with this fever dream; maybe animals will talk," he mused as he looked expectantly at the creature. 

As it jumped to Auron's other hand, the creature looked up into his eyes.

[Home]

The voice rang clear as a bell through his head, as Auron shook his hand fearfully, trying to rid himself of the psychic creature. "Begone, demon!" He shouted as he failed to free himself of the little being. 

[Home]

The voice once again transferred without any words or further movement from being resting securely on his knuckles. Auron shrieked and attempted to throw the creature off of his hand once more. 

The green being deftly spun through the air as if aided by a tiny whirlwind and landed softly on a nearby tree. Auron looked around now that he had enough light to see his surroundings. He could only see the same dead or dying trees sparsely spread out in the humid swamp in every direction. He swept his head in every direction. More of the same made him lose hope as he could not make out any sort of landmark or even any sign of civilization. A rolling haze floated over the water as he searched, which prevented his sightline any further through to the distance. 

As he considered the implications of a telepathically talking tetrapod and his skill in uselessly creating alliteration. A sharp pain ripped up his body as it flowed from his toes, running upward to form a feeling that could have been described as akin to a light scratch on the inside of one's eyes with a blowtorch. 

"Something is wrong." He said after a grunt and an attempt to stop himself from falling forward into the deadly water. "What is my health bar at?" 

At the word health, the bar returned to his vision. Now seen to be closer to 50% of its total amount and looking more of an orange color than green. This time he also noticed a small skull and crossbones blinking to the right of the bar.

Auron began to trudge away, hoping that he would eventually make it out of the poisonous water if he moved quickly in one direction. He felt weaker by the second, each step sent waves of pain through his muscles. 

As he moved away, the lizard jumped on his shoulder, as unsettled as he was by the creature, it has not seemed to want to harm him yet. Auron's unsettled feeling increased as the beast gave what looks like a slight nod. The breeze from earlier returning with it eased his worry slightly, but he would still be on guard. 

"I guess let's get out of here together, little guy," He spoke to the creature. His pain addled mind recognized when the beast was close, the swamp water seemed to have less of an effect for some reason. 

Another ripple of pain flowed up toward his brain and then quickly cascaded down though his body causing Auron to almost drop the salamander from the feeling of total agony.

His vision began to fade, and he drooped forward toward the purple and green speckled fluid. Auron's new traveling buddy started to emit a soft green glow. The creature's face crinkled with what could be construed as concentration. A light wind picked up, and a rush of euphoria hit Auron's skin the feeling penetrated each and every pore. The force of the wind stopped his tumble forward and restored his health bar incrementally and reduced the pain.

 

   Healing wind <step 1 (Concentration: Emerald)> activated by {------}. Health +1 per every 10 seconds. Healing in its most primitive and powerful form. Healing makes your health rise. Useful for adventurers dumb enough to walk through a poisonous swamp.  

 

 "Of course, the talking lizard has magic healing powers. Thank you, friend," he said cheerily to the Geico mascot.
"Looks like that just barely beats out the poison leaving me at +1 health per min if I can trust my math skills," He continued while counting on his fingers.
"I just hope it is enough to get us out of here," Auron whispered the last line more to himself than anything. 

The salamander nodded its little head, and a feeling of comfort flowed into Auron, helping to ease his worried mind. "I think I can get used to this telepathy thing," Auron said while he attempted to concentrate and send a message of thanks. 

It just cocked its head, but Auron believed the message went through.

"Wow, this healing is something else; the breeze reminds me of having a cold drink at the beach. The air fighting against the bite of the sun's rays," Auron's eyes were alight with wonder as he continued to walk through the swamp.

"If that is what magic is like, I hope I can learn how to use it. Might make surviving here easier," Auron's tone was positive, but his face dropped as he thought about his situation and realized his feet were numb.

 

He looked at his new companion. "This whole game type system is really confusing. A tutorial would be greatly appreciated. Any advice?" He stared at the creature.

Auron's shoulders slumped slightly when no answer was sent from the little being. "One problem at a time, I guess," Auron said, and with a sigh, he continued his endless march.

Taking another glance at his health bar, he noticed something alarming. After the initial boost from his green friend, the health bar was slowly moving up right under 70%. It seemed the healing was just barely overpowering the rate of poison, taking a look around... still no solid land in sight. He worried it was not rising fast enough. 

Not knowing anything about the creature or its magic also had him concerned. The little guy looked like it was concentrating fiercely to keep this up. Another *Bing* chimed out as if someone had dropped a skillet onto some pavement. 

 

Continued exposure to a source of poison increases its efficiency. -10 HP/min. Your body suffers as your skin absorbs more of the deadly fluid. All things in life build on each other to create or destroy. In this instance, the poison, compounding in your body to create a corpse. Leave the poisonous swamp or die from its effects.

 

"Shit!" He exclaimed after reading the slate. Auron reread the screen. The colorful language did nothing to improve the looming dread in his stomach. His body was now the scene of a losing battle. Even with the healing was left at a negative four health per min.

Auron realized he had no idea what his health value was. Being left in the dark about how much time he had until zero had a dreadful effect on his nerves. 

Moving through the murky knee-high water began to take a physical toll on Auron. His breathing became labored, and his weak muscles burned as he continued his march through what felt like an endless root-filled pool. The diminutive living hospital riding on him was not faring any better, its tiny rib-cage moved up and down rapidly as it held its glow. 

Auron decided to continue in the same direction and pray he would reach some sort of land in time. A feeling of agreement came from the creature using him as a ferry. This surprised Auron, but there were more important things to focus on. He continued to trudge through the thick black water, occasionally bumping into various logs, trees, and other debris. The moons had once again hidden behind a misty curtain of clouds. The rough and hard bark of the logs felt almost warm for some reason.

If this was all in his head, he had a very vivid imagination. 

The numbing pain of the water continued seeping into his skin. Auron was also not sure if he could trust the green creature. He was not used to receiving help without a cost attached. Since his mother's passing, he had become much more guarded. 

After another few minutes that feel like hours, a small mound that looks like an island can be seen. At the sight of salvation, Auron began leaping forward through the water. A sizzling splash on his cheek halted his frenzy ahead, but he reached the shore. Upon entering, both man, and his new tiny ally collapsed onto the clay-like dirt.

 

Poison status reduced. -6 Health per min. You might still die, but now that occurrence is less likely. Poison status will be lifted when the amount of time equaling that of exposure has occurred.  

   

Auron looked down to see all of his toes were exposed to the air, his shoes and socks partially eaten away. Kicking off his ruined sneakers' remains, he pushed himself away from them and covered all of the wet areas on him with the sand. A sizzling sound caused by the poison continued until the shoes were completely dissolved. Removal from his body seemed to increase the acidic property of the water. As he Brushed the dark clay-like sand from his body, he then pondered his situation. 

Auron's eyelids were heavy from all of the physical exertions he went through. As he fought to stay awake, his mind strayed to whatever higher power created this landmass, and he silently cursed them for dropping him into a swamp.

Thunder rolled in the far distance, the deep bass rumble almost could be interpreted as nature laughing. Auron ignored the implication of all of that and tried to calm his heaving breath. The contrasted feeling of his heart racing and his drooping exhaustion fought for domination inside of his body. 

His lungs captured all his attention as each breath he took burns. 

"Health!" he managed to wheeze out into the night, a racking cough followed the word out of his mouth. 

His health bar then reappeared as if summoned in the top left corner of his vision. Looking up and to the left, the entire screen moved with his head eyes. The effect was odd and disoriented him, but after a few moments, it felt somewhat natural. Though it did slightly block his vision. 

"Well, that isn't too convenient, but on the plus side, it worked!" He yipped. "Call me master chief." He choked out as he remembered the hud from those games.

Now that he was slightly distracted, his breathing finally began to slow. 

Auron noted that the skull was no longer next to his health bar, but the salamander still emitted a soft green glow. Not sure how he was doing it, Auron just closed his eyes and appreciated the soft breeze. 

After a moment, Auron looks over again at the creature. 

Honestly, I would have died if it wasn't for you being a lifesaving hitchhiker here." Auron softly smiled and laid back into the sand. "That thought should scare me, but I feel sort of thrilled." Auron chuckled. "I don't know if you even understand me, but oddly enough I feel free for the first time in a long time." He whispers these last words. 

Looking at the creature, he observed a strange determination in its eyes, almost defiant with its will to survive and make sure they both survive.

"This swamp must go on for miles," Auron said, lifting his head slightly, changing the subject. He did not want to focus on the expression of the creature. Guilt rose from inside of him from his earlier doubt of its intentions. 

Moving on from this train of thought, he performed a mental check on his body. His chest felt like he had run a marathon. All of his muscles dull and weighed down from exhaustion.

Be it luck or something else, his anxious thoughts could not overpower the exhaustion that pressed down on his mind. Auron fought to stay awake, but his eyes closed without his consent. A short and nightmare-filled sleep took him then, much like the dreams and visions that always apprehended Auron's mind. For the first time in his life, Auron felt like the dreams were something he was looking back on rather than thrown into.

 

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C.R. Mcmahon

Bio: Hi!
I am a new author with a world stuck inside my head. Feel free to follow my story as I try to bring it to life, and attempt to improve my write as I go. Happy reading!

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Comments(39)
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BO0KW0RM ago

"know if you understand(remove) even understand me,"

"I going to get out (of) this area.”

Is it acid or poison because it sounds more like acid but the system calls it poison. Who is Zander? Is it the gecko? Because you didn't name it but it sounds like it is supposed to be.

Aaannywho Reddit for the win! Aaannyways thanks for the chapter.

    C.R. Mcmahon ago

    Thank you for catching those mistakes! The acidic properties of poison will be explained in a later dungeon. In this world poison has caustic properties. Thanks a lot for reading!!

glompage ago

It's a brave thing to put your words out there for the world. Keep writing and moving forward. Best of luck.

Rampage52 ago

I think that this "I can trust my match skills." should be this "I can trust my math skills."

endoria ago

Poison does not eat away shoes, caustic or acidic liquids would. Which can also be poison for the human body.

Vexeris ago

Something about how the MC keeps saying every thought out loud is really frustrating for some reason.

Thanks for the chapter.

C.R. Mcmahon ago

Yes I agree! I have it in there for plot reasons, but as the story progresses it will happen less and less. Thank you for the input!

Ashish choudhary ago

a good start

hopefully, you will explain speaking out loud soon

Jon Wander ago

"conditoner makes Auron moved even more slowly"

Should be 'makes Auron move'.

HashBrown ago

  • and a broken air conditoner makes Auron move => conditioner?
  • If he hadn't taken the extra job from red he could be => Red
  • What he once thought were thin red walls begin to defy his thoughts of them as immoible... => immobile?

Thanks for the chapter!

Luca De Rosa ago

Nice one! There's still a few errors, but not even worth noting

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