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Location: Five Knife Island.

God sat cross-legged in a field of grass. He was dressed in a simple robe, and his hair was long and straggly. His thick white eyebrows were knitted and his lips were twisted in a scowl. Although his eyes were closed, it was clear that unhappiness radiated as a pulse through the Earth. Somewhere over oceans, hurricane conditions were brewing.

This was the first time Suez had seen God channeling his anger towards him.

“The elimination was not supposed to be part of the Tournament,” God stated. He looked at Suez plainly.

Suez had been appointed to execute the Tournament according to God’s instructions.

“On the contrary, I think this was useful,” Suez replied.

“You didn’t need them to kill one another,” God said. “Or unleash the monsters.”

“All I told them was to survive. Killing one another was their own doing,” Suez demurred. He knew what God was thinking. The unnecessary bloodshed could’ve been avoided. Deep down, God cared about the creatures he watched every day.

Suez continued his rant. “Isn’t that how humans are? You’ve been watching them for generations. They don’t think twice before choosing to kill. Humans exploit every chance they get for their own benefit. Fear of death brings out their innate violent nature… That’s exactly what we saw.”

“Besides, now you can assess each of them individually,” he added. Each fighter had shown their true colours when it came down to the wire.

Still annoyed, God raised his arm to the sky.

“You do not get to make those decisions. OLO, will you make sure of it?”

The small, mystical celestial named OLO appeared at God’s summon. OLO rose and levitated in the middle of the field, spinning. As it did, rōōh was absorbed and channeled into a thin, translucent cord that surrounded OLO. OLO descended upon Suez, shrinking as it did so. OLO—now as tiny as an ant—crawled into Suez’s shocked agape mouth. Inside, OLO spun the translucent cord around Suez’s tongue tightly, binding him to God’s will.

The field was left darkened. Each grass blade had wilted, as if singed by fire. Only the area around God’s seated position remained lush and green with grass.

Suez, now literally tongue-tied, bowed his head respectfully. “As you wish.” His eyes revealed his true emotions: contempt. He resented God’s control over him.

The invisible cords that prevented him from defying God’s will were already working.

***

On board The Challenger, Dart could not believe his luck. His eyes eagerly scanned the massive balcony stateroom, taking in the luxurious sight that was his new lodging. It was decked out in the finest drapes and linen that he had ever seen. The royal curtains trimmed with tasteful embroidery adorned a wide, floor length window that led out onto a balcony with a full view of the ocean. Overlooking the drawing room and its leather furnishings was a priceless art piece by a famous Celtian artist that he had once seen in the newspapers. On the massive queen-sized bed, numerous throw pillows were decked high. Crystal glassware sparkled from within the antique cabinets, reflected in Dart’s shining eyes.

“Woahhh! This is all for me?” Dart exclaimed. “Look at this! This looks incredible.”

The hospitality manager smiled appreciatively at Dart’s gratitude. “Yes, and all of your needs are sponsored by the Ministry of Media and Entertainment. Please feel free to order anything. We are at your service.”

Dart could barely contain his excitement, profusely thanking the hospitality manager. After checking that she had left the room, Dart dove onto the bed. “Whee!” He squealed as he jumped up and down in elation. After a few bounces, he allowed himself to relax on the soft sheets and surrounded himself with pillows.

Wow, what a day, he thought to himself as memories of the inauguration flooded back. Overwhelmed with emotion from the events of the day, he began to sob for his fallen comrades.

The door swung open, interrupting Dart’s thoughts.

Felix stuck his head into the room and furtively looked around. He was practically turning green with envy as he slammed the door shut behind him.

“What are you doing?” Dart called after Felix.

Seconds later, the door flew open. This time, Felix had his bags. He barged in and bellowed, “I’m staying here too!”

“Huh? Don’t you have your own room?” Dart exclaimed in surprise.

Felix was stewing in anger. The hospitality team had screwed him over. The room that he had been assigned was the size of a closet -- with a single, dingy mattress without sheets. The steward that had brought him there had haughtily told him that it was the only available room left. Felix was fairly certain that the servant’s quarters were better maintained than that.

“Don’t ask dumb questions.” Felix snarled. “By the way, I’m taking the bed! You get to sleep on the ground.”

“You can’t make me, this is my room!” Dart kicked and screamed as Felix roughly grabbed him and pushed him to the ground. Felix made himself comfortable amongst the pillows, kicked his feet up and put his hands satisfyingly behind his head. “Ahhh, much better.”

Dart lay on the ground, too exhausted from the fight and the day’s events to continue play-fighting with Felix. “Fuck. You.” He muttered bitterly. At least the carpet was soft.

Felix sat up and held the talisman around his neck up against the light of the chandelier.

“What do you think this does?” he asked curiously, squinting at it. It was glowing a royal purple colour, and seemed to be inthe shape of the Tournament’s emblem.

“I don’t know, I just got mine,” Dart replied. His talisman, strung around his neck, suddenly seemed a little heavier… and warmer. It was heating up!

Dart bolted up and ripped the talisman off his chest. It glowed hot in his hand like coal and he threw it onto the ground. The warmth was unbearable.

Immediately, the glow around the talisman expanded to cover an area in the floor. It looked like a spiral galaxy on the ground, a portal into another world.

“It’s like... it’s asking me to enter,” Dart stammered. What’s this feeling, this irresistible tug? It feels like someone is calling me… What’s happening?

“Then go check it out,” Felix said excitedly. He was staring at the portal on the ground, his eyes almost bugging out in bewilderment. Stranger things had happened today, and he wasn’t about to question his instinct.

“Why me?” Dart responded timidly.

“It’s your talisman,” Felix pointed out.

Dart didn’t have a ready excuse.

“Stop complaining!” Felix forcibly pushed Dart into the portal and jumped in along with him.

The portal swallowed them both whole.

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About the author

PlayingGamesOfDespair

Bio: YA fantasy book series created by Kabir Singh & Judy Goh
Sypnosis: Tournament of the century, ordained by God. Who will prevail?

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