You wake up in your bed
but not in your room.
It is real familiar looking, though.
In fact, it looks like the same god damn place as last time. A dirty prison cell with a broken ceiling, filthy and almost viscous water pouring in rapidly.
You check under your pillow for the book that was there in your previous dream; it has returned, labeled INSIDE on the front cover, with every page only reading the number 79 over and over again. You check the bookshelf--these books are the same, as well, which means the puzzle itself shouldn't have changed. You still remember the code to the door, the same door, with the same lock: 91-60-14-44-79.
You check your pockets, noting that--again--you didn't go to sleep with these clothes on, or your glasses, but here they are.
Your ID card, housekey, money, and one potato are in your pockets.
You see no sign of the second potato you left in the box.
You head to the door of your cell and begin putting in the code, planning to make your exit while the water is still only at your ankles--but about halfway through cycling the numbers, you notice something has changed.
Through the bars, you can see someone else waiting on the other side of the door... just, standing idly in the hall, staring off into space.
It may be wrong to say that they're someone else.
You're not entirely sure what you're looking at here.
Anti-Plaire? Nega Plaire? ...RePlaire?
. . .
That's not true. You've played enough video games to be 90% sure exactly what this is. Some games have a mechanic where, when the player dies, all of their previous items and resources stay with the corpse. When the player respawns, they have to collect their things from wherever they died.
This later evolved into a different game mechanic--one where the player's own ghost or shadow would rise up wherever they died and attempt to kill them again. In theory, it incentivizes exploration--if one area kills you, it encourages you to try going somewhere else. In practice, it mostly just punishes the player for dying.
You glance to the left.
The torch you took last time is back in its place on the wall, which means Bizzaro Plaire doesn't have it. ...So it's not the former mechanic. This thing's almost definitely going to try and murder you.
You may be able to sneak by her toward the left if you want to head downstairs (or just go pick that shield back up).
You didn't get to hear how loud your cell door is last time, due to all the rushing water. Sneaking could be a gamble.
On the other hand: if you plan to head for the surface, the path there runs straight past the other you. You could loop all the way back around the other side of this floor to avoid her, but that's hoping the rest of this hellhole isn't worse.
You put your potato in it.
You have crafted a potato in a sock.
You finish putting in the code. The door clicks; Plaire 2 doesn't react.
You shove the door open. It creaks... loudly.
Blue Plaire spins around. She doesn't speak. She doesn't make a sound.
She just immediately runs, straight at you, hands balled up in fists.
You swing wide, slapping her across the face with your potato sock as hard as you can. The sound of impact is extremely satisfying, though you're pretty sure you just wrecked your potato. You cannot tell, for it is inside a sock.
Shadow Plaire stumbles and for a moment you think that might be it--but she recovers, using the wall to pull herself back upright.
She opens her mouth
and thin tendrils begin to emerge.
And then from her nose
and out from under her glasses.
Thin, blue fibers.
"What is it with you sick fuckers and tentacles?!," you yell.
She comes at you again--still aggressive, but now fully aware of your weaponry. She stays back, trying to bait you to swing; you swing awkwardly, trying to bait her into rushing in too early. You go back and forth for several moments, but she's very aggressive, you have no idea how to fight, and you have sadly not mastered the ancient art of the potato sock.
You eventually do manage to hit her again. ...Somewhat. Whatever remains in there of the potato slams into her face, but the blow is cushioned by her plethora of face limbs. There's even a little resistance on the way back, the tendrils trying to grab it from your hand. Not!Plaire seems to realize this as well as you do; she rushes you more boldly, no longer afraid of the repercussions.
You take the hint and bail, twisting around and running in the opposite direction. You hear her behind you, and you slow only to grab a torch with your free hand and to hazard a glance backward. The moment almost costs you, as she's right on your heels in a dead sprint.
However, the risk pays off
because you learned everything you need to know.
You weren't sure earlier, but seeing it a second time you can confirm it:
She runs like you.
You, Plaire Stevens, who were almost held back in the second grade for being uncoordinated. You remember your mom shouting at the principal about who gives a damn if she can skip or not.
You, who are aware that you must have ran at some point in your life, but you can't actually name a time when it occurred.
You, who get winded putting your clothes on in the morning.
This is not an apex predator you're dealing with, it's you with more hostile AI and you, physically, are an awkward goof.
You drop the potato sock, and listen to the sound of fumbling behind you. She either slipped on it or nearly ate the floor trying not to slip on it.
It buys you just enough time to pull the door to the knife cell open.
You rush in, reach out, and rip the long taped knife right out of the weird, bloated corpse it was buried in. Immediately, small bugs--like slugs, or maybe flatworms--with coarse, needle-like hairs begin pouring from the wound, like water out of a squeezed balloon.
You turn and try to put some distance between you and the body, but RePlaire is already here. She steps through the doorway, blocking you from your only exit--you're trapped between her and the needly worms.
However, you're not armed with a potato in a sock now.
You have a torch, and a pretty decently sized blade. Gripping it, you're pretty sure that's all it is; it doesn't feel like it has a handle at all, but more like someone wrapped police tape around a solid steel shard. It does have an edge, though, like the tip of a katana--and that makes a very substantial difference.
You don't really plan to stick around and see what their gimmick is, though.
You rush straight at your duplicate, torch forward and knife out.
Palette Swap Plaire rolls out of the way--
smoothly, almost comically so. It's the most elegant dodge roll you've ever personally witnessed outside of a video game. If dodge rolling were a competitive sport, Evil You would take home the gold.
It doesn't matter because you just wanted her out of your way, and she obliged. Gracefully, but you don't have time to unpack that. The second you bolt out the door you spin back around, just as Plaire Two is starting to follow; she can't see past the doorframe until she starts to step through it, which means she doesn't realize you didn't keep running and
you slam the burning end of your torch straight into her face.
She makes no sound whatsoever,
even as you press forward, gritting your teeth, absolutely ensuring that her head catches fire.
You back out into the hall, watching to see if it has any effect--and it certainly does. Reverse Plaire stumbles, flailing wildly... completely silent, but clearly burning to death. The corpse bugs ignore her, however, and continue inching toward the door. You get so wrapped up in watching them and The Other Plaire that you almost don't
hazard a quick glance to the side
just, y'know, a little peek for safety's sake
and spy the tubular monster beginning to dangle itself out of the ceiling, back toward your starting cell.
As soon as you lock your eyes on it, its demeanor shifts. No longer trying to sneak up on you, it begins to crawl... slither... twitch its way down the hall more eagerly.
"I have a right to know."
"And I have fucking fire," you respond. You cautiously start to back your way toward the corner room that houses the shield, away from both this thing and the continuing antics in the corpse room. You keep your torch out and your knife gripped tight, regularly throwing a look back to make sure you aren't getting trapped again. "Remember fire? You guys don't like fire. Fire bad."
"I have a right to know," it repeats precisely.
Some games have AI vs AI conflicts--that is, you can bait enemies into attacking other enemies. Most games don't, and a few that do break it down even further into particular alliances or hierarchy systems, where Monster A might fight Monster B but will always team up with Monster C while running from Monster D.
You feared, at first, that every single entity in this entire dungeon was going to function on the same page, that page being to kill you--but as the dangly, fiber tendriled meat creature begins to pass the door to the corpse room, you are forced to reconsider.
The needle haired worms exit the room with both haste and purpose, rapidly starting to scale the tube monster.
"I have a right to know."
Your back hits the door behind you.
You watch as the worms begin to work--their coarse hairs dripping acid that visibly did nothing to the stone floors or even the knife you're currently holding, but appears to absolutely destroy tissue. They burn out the creature's eyes, tear holes in its skin, begin to infest it. It twitches harder, jerks more profoundly, trying to shake them off, shake them out, but there's always more and they're already inside.
That whole thing is still sort of heading this direction, though, so you go ahead and take your leave to the small shield room, slamming the door shut firmly behind you.
You head toward the center of the room (and away from the walls) to take a closer look at the taped knife. You wipe the acid off the blade with your remaining sock first.
The tape that forms its grip feels identical, texture-wise, to police tape. The size of it feels off, though--like it's a little smaller, more narrow than you think that style of tape should be. You've not seen a lot of real police tape in your life, though, so you're not sure.
What is definitely different is the printing on it. Rather than the usual DO NOT CROSS, this tape reads DO NOT RESET.
There's also something crudely scrawled along the side of the blade:
REMEMBER THE FIRST LIE
While I have a right to know still sounds agonizingly familiar, both of these lines are total nonsense. You know a lot of dumb game things, but even in the depths of your most obscure console trivia you can't recall any time it's dangerous to reset. Remember whose first lie? Yours? You don't know, you were probably like... five, and lied about owning a dinosaur or something. You don't know. Fuck. Does this place realize how many times you've lied in your life, and it wants you to remember the first time?
Fuck off, dungeon.
You realize quickly that you have better things to do than grit your teeth at this knife.
...Like seeing if you can dodge roll. Plaire Azul did it, you should be able to do it.
You think about it. Hard. You ... kind of fake like you're going to do one, a couple of times, but it doesn't kick off. You lean down and ... start to manually roll yourself, almost, but you back out at the last second.
You have two theories.
Theory #1: It's one of those power of belief/conviction type maneuvers. You have to commit, really know that you're going to dodge roll and then go for it and it'll just work itself out. The problem with this this theory is that if it's wrong, you're going to hurt yourself slamming head or spine first into a very solid floor. You would feel real dumb tomorrow typing "died via botched dodge roll" into your dream journal.
Theory #2 seems less likely but much, much easier to test.
. . .
roughly ten feet straight up. You still can't reach the ceiling, though.
The jump itself isn't bad, but you almost scream coming back down. Your knees almost give from the landing, and you have to take another second to fight off an attack. A panic attack? A heart attack? You stare at the floor and process.
Last night you played Crush Souls before bed. Dopplaireganger is likely based on you from last night. Crush Souls has very prominent dodge roll mechanics (and exploitable parries and backstabs, but you haven't seen her whip any of those out yet).
Tonight you played Magic Mustachio, a game about a man who... uh... jumps.
He has power-ups, too, but you strongly suspect the dungeon will not humor you if you decide to stuff real mushrooms in your pocket before bed. ...You're really not sure what other powers Magic Mustachio would give you. You sure as hell didn't get a moustache out of it. He mostly just does a lot of fancy jumps...?
Your heart's still racing, but a pleasant sounding lady's voice chiming "I have a right to know" from down your original hall prompts you to take off. You holster your knife in the back belt loops of your jeans, you grab the prison b1 map (which has not changed from last night) and the small shield.
You head north, into a hallway that at least looks monster free. You walk briskly but carefully, peeking into the surrounding cells while also watching your back. A few of the cells have more of those bloated corpses in them.
These don't stay down, though.
As you pass, the bodies stir with dull, grotesque noise. They stumble toward the doors of their cells, thick bumps sliding in and out of existence just under the surface of their skin. You hear the thud as the tumorous bodies try to shove their way out, but they lack the physical strength to push a heavy door open. A few of the needly worms manage to squeeze out of their host and through the bars, starting to inch down the front of a couple cell doors, but they're moving slow and not in nearly the same numbers--scouts, maybe, if acid nightmare parasites have those.
You keep walking, regardless.
If this hallway works like the other one, then your destination should be the next to last door on the left--it'll look like another cell door, but it'll lead to a different prison block. There's an exit further north, as well, but it just leads to another corner room and wraps back around to where you started.
You almost make it there without incident.
The banging of bug-controlled bodies on doors begins to alert those further ahead--one of which still has its strength. It stumbles as it bursts out of its cell, emerging into the hall right between you and the door you're trying to reach.
It appears to uh, have a bigger worm.
Also, a mace.
The corpse rears back, coming overhead with a massive swing.
You almost overshoot jumping backward, but the Mustachio physics give you enough oomph to leap out of the path of the mace. It slams down on the floor with authority, cracking the surface with a sound like an explosion.
You immediately launch forward and upward, rocketing yourself over the monster entirely. The body can't react fast enough after such a big swing--
but the worm does.
It lashes out as you pass overhead, snagging your leg. It doesn't get a good grip, but it grabs hold enough to throw off your trajectory and drag one of its needles across your leg. You hit the floor awkwardly behind the monster, one of your knees bouncing off the stone floor. Before you can recover, the corpse itself twists around with a massive backhand.
Backhand might be underselling it.
It hits you with its enormous, tumored up club of a free arm. Your shield eats some of the impact, but it's still enough to send you hurdling into the adjacent wall. It forces all the air out of your lungs, and you briefly buckle, holding onto the same wall for support.
The monster tightens its grip on the mace, and brings it back around for a wider swing.
You barely have time to avoid this one, but you manage--you commit to a desperate dive, feeling the mace pass before it slams into the wall behind you. You skid across the floor, rolling painfully across your back and ribs before fumbling to something resembling footing. Can confirm, no good dodge rolls from Magic Mustachio.
The bad news is, you feel like a train just hit you.
The good news is, you somehow didn't drop anything, and you are now on the other side of the monster. North, you can see through the bars to another corner room. To the west, you can see through the bars to the narrow hallway you need to follow to reach the stairs--
and you notice something.
The connecting hall has a rather sizeable hole in its floor. Taking up most of the hallway, in fact. You imagine you can jump it, but the ceiling in the hall is also much lower--like the ceilings in the cells.
On the other hand, you don't want to gamble on how your altered physics handle fall damage, and whatever's down that hole is shrouded in total darkness. It might lead to the floor below--or it might lead five floors below. This pit could just go on forever, or lead to nothing but death (like you would expect from the sort of platformer you're currently borrowing jumps from).
One regular jump can't cross the pit, you're almost certain--
but does Magic Mustachio let you do wall jumps? Spin jumps? ...Long jumps?
Long jumps were easy to execute in the game--just get a good running start, hit Z to crouch, and immediately jump. You... obviously don't have a Z trigger to hit, but maybe--
your concentration is broken by the sound of a mace slamming into the door behind you. It looks like the worm-ridden corpse lacks the dexterity to just open the door, but another few swings of that mace will take it out entirely. Just one hit has already left damage visible from your side. You don't have a lot of time.
You glance down. There's one other factor involved: the pain in your leg. What little acid the worm managed to put on you has mostly cauterized the damage from the needle itself--or rather, that's your speculation. You're wounded, but you're not bleeding. "The acid cauterized the wound" just... sounds right. Like something you'd hear on TV. You start to worry about infection, but with this being a dream and all--
THUD. Splinters rain out from the door as the mace hits it a second time. You're either going to botch this jump and die, or die trying to fight the monster after it forces its way into the hall.
If you're going to die, though, you want to learn something from it.
You take off in an awkward sprint straight at the hole. Your calf burns with every step; the damaged muscle makes it impossible for you to keep an even pace, but you limp as fast as you can.
You near the edge. You hear the door burst open.
You duck low and then jump, realizing as soon as you do that you've leapt off the bad leg.
You still launch across the hallway, blasting straight over the vast majority of the pit. Any control you previously had is lost--you're a missile, flailing your arms and trying not to scream as pitch black abyss shoots by beneath you.
You have just enough awareness to realize, as you begin descending, that you're not going to make the jump.
You hurl your torch, bouncing it off the far wall. It doesn't matter, anyway--there's more than enough torches for you to find a replacement if necessary, but you need the free hand.
Your upper body slams onto the edge of the gap. You throw both arms out; one still bears the shield, but it's light and doesn't impede you much. You grip as hard as you can, struggling to throw your weight forward, to keep gravity from dragging you into the unknown depths below.
If you had hit it even an inch farther off, you don't think you'd have made it.
As it is, though, you have just enough of your weight firmly on the ground to tip the balance. You slowly, barely, drag yourself up onto solid floor. You just... lay there for a second, trying to catch your breath. You glance across the pit you just cleared, where the worm body still remains on the other side--staring, but unable to pursue.
You muster up enough energy to flip it the bird, then start pulling yourself to your feet. You pick your torch back up; somehow, the flame didn't go out. You're tired, and it still hurts to walk, but you're alive for a little while longer. You peek through the bars of the new door, into the next cell block.
No sign of life, at least not from this angle.
You open the door--
or rather, you try to.
The door is locked.
You flip the bar panel up like you did in your starting cell, but you find no puzzle--only a keyhole. An actual fucking keyhole.
"Are yOU SHITTING ME?!"
You kick the door firmly, but it does not give.