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A note from Crook

2060 Words.

Entering or exiting, I cannot tell. Passing through a simple wooden door that you would see on any suburban house, all I see on the other side is a grey craggly barren wasteland with only two buildings a few kilometres away from me. In the distance I see the top halves of a few mountains. The sky is also a slightly lighter darker grey.

The two hotels are unique, the only similarity being a small brick wall made of the same material as the ground that circles each one. One hotel, the one straight in front of me is made up of one giant sickly looking mushroom with a few offshoots. Multiple smaller but still giant mushrooms surround and connect to the main one.

The other hotel is made of blackstone tiles and glass. More uniform and neat but not symmetrical. The roof of the hotel should be easily viewable but even while staring at it I have no idea what it looks like. Like one of those ai generated images full of unrecognizable objects.

I entered the blackstone hotel.

The inside of the hotel is built with each floor being one giant room with whatever inside. I did not get to see the first floor but the second floor was a smiths workshop. There were two smiths who work in the workshop, one a giant 250 cm woman whose skin looked like it was made of plated rock and the other a small decent looking goblin both dressed the same in dark pants and a button up shirt. The goblin wore a dark red vest over the outfit and the giant wore a leather apron over hers.

The goblin used to be a super powerful adventurer and retired to this place. I am given his old weapon, a black warhammer of perfect size for me with gold accents. The warhammer is long, the head has a blunt face on one side and a spike on the other.

The weapon's head naturally superheats itself to insane degrees. A gradient of heat travels from red hot at the spike end to white hot in the middle and blue hot at the blunt end, the center of the face of the blunt end transitions back to the black and gold of the warhammers base.

The goblin says that the face is even hotter than blue hot and the heat is just so strong that I can't see it. There is no heat radiating off the weapon at all and even seems to be cooling down the area. The goblin warns me not to touch the head even if it seems safe.

I say my thanks and goodbyes and head further up the hotel. The levels of the hotel get progressively bigger each ascension and the number of levels seems to be much more than would be possible from how the hotel looked from the outside, breaking the laws of space.

I do not know how many levels I have gone through or how long I have been in the hotel but at some point I end up facing a group of other people in a free for all. The free for all has two main challenges. The first one is a domination style fight where we have to take control of certain points on the level marked by flags and fight off the others.

The fight only ends when every flag has been captured by someone for more than a few minutes. Meaning that everyone has to kill until there is a one to one ratio of flags and people. I manage to fend off and kill everyone who challenged me and take control of a point.

By the end there were only twelve people standing. The next challenge of this level is a one on one fight to the death. We are not allowed to leave our points until the end results. In pairs people are teleported away and after some time only one teleports back.

I am part of the third pair to be teleported. We are teleported to an hourglass shaped room with a high ceiling. Both of us on opposite ends facing each other. Neither of us want to be the one to attack first, to be the one to go through the choke point and get slaughtered.

My opponent has a bow and so is at an advantage. They fire at me and I block the arrow with the shaft of my weapon before moving off to the side and breaking linesight of the other end of the hourglass. No matter the angle it is impossible for them to shoot through the gap at me if I am standing against the side wall.

Hearing their steps slowly moving forward I take action. Jumping out into the middle of the room, and taking my opponent by surprise. They are still out of reach of me so I raise my weapon and bring it down hard against the floor like a golf swing sending a spray of burning rocks and melted stone their way.

They cover their face with their arms protecting it from the incoming debris and I use the opportunity to rush in. They do have enough time to bring their arms down before I bring my hammer down on them but they do not have enough time to dodge or knock another arrow so they try to block again, this time with the bow holding it up with their arms crossed over one another.

My warhammer easily burns and melts through the wooden bow retaining most of my momentum and smashing into their crossed guard. I hear a loud crack as my hit connects and they push their arms and redirect my swing into the ground.

Rock and stone explode out from the ground again but unfortunately for me this time in all directions. Luckily however I had future proofed myself from accidents and I swapped my normal pants with a pair of black fireman pants and runners for boots. The melted rock does set fire to me for a few seconds before burning itself out only leaving an invisible scorch mark on the black pants.

My opponent does not fare any better and desperately tries to pat out the flames and rock melting into their skin. I line up a shot and swing. Hard.

The very millisecond my hammer goes through their head and kills them I am teleported out. I am positioned in the same way I was teleported in which disorients me for a bit before I gain my bearings. I sit down and wait for the rest of the matches to finish.

In the end only six of us remain. We are allowed to leave the confines of our points and so we do. Gathering up in the centre to wait for the two people who started this whole challenge.

We don't have to wait long before we are greeted by two figures who are slightly taller than me. Both are dressed in pure white armour with golden accents covered by capes and adorned with crowns. Both have blond hair, blue eyes, and flawless skin. The one on the right is a man with a longsword, the one on the left is a woman with a shield. The woman is the one who always talks so we haven't even heard the voice of the man.

We were scored for how well we did in both challenges and gained rewards based on our performance. The woman gives me her crown, something I can use to slow down my perception of time and enter something similar to bullet time.

The other five also are gifted pieces of equipment off their bodies such as the boots or a cape. After receiving our rewards the armour of the man and woman regenerate the missing parts. A bonus of the pieces we earned is that they will regenerate any missing or broken equipment on our bodies.

The regeneration uses our bodies as a base and any broken off pieces will quickly turn to ash. The royal armour will also not grow any new equipment such as; if I had the boots they would not grow the royal cape or gauntlets.

They leave as quickly as they came. Left alone we agree as a group to ascend together and to watch each other's backs. Of course we don’t all completely trust each other instantly but we do have enough trust to not stab each other in the back. No one has anything to gain from such a thing as well.

In another reality I live in a small apartment complex. I was nervously watching everything go down in the hotel on my phone. At some point in time that I am not exactly sure when, my mind and body was duplicated, one staying as is and the other being transported into that odd reality.

The odd reality that alternate me was transported to is the world of a video game that is played by a small boy in the same complex as me. The game is no game that existed previously and had appeared on the small boys phone randomly with no apparent reason.

‘Play’ is just the word we use as when the boy opens the game he just sits and stares at the screen blankly until he is pulled out by one of us or he decides himself to take a break, whether it be to eat or just getting bored as he claims.

I had secretly connected my phone to his so I could stream his screen to mine and watch how things were progressing. All the other people ascending the hotel live in the complex with us as well. And meet up regularly to discuss how to continue moving forward.

The game versions of us and real us are directly connected to each other and if one dies so will the other. Classic if you die in the game you die in real life rules. The people who die do not just drop dead though, they completely disappear along with most physical records of their existence. Only our memory and anything they have relinquished ownership of being left behind. To take advantage of this we made a shared bank account between all of us and with how many people have died we have enough money to last the few of us that are left a lifetime twice over.

The young boy's parents were one of the first to die in the game so we take turns taking care of him, swapping responsibilities and chores every week. Only he can access and play the game and any outside influence we try to put on the game or his actions is stopped, like any influence we exert is straight up deleted and reverted to beforehand by the universe.

We can influence him to play it and anything along that line is actually almost encouraged by the universe. The more he plays the closer alternate us get to the end, which will hopefully be the stop to whatever is causing this.

The less he plays the more aggressive reality becomes in getting him to play. From more accidents around us to him being locked away hidden with the only thing keeping him company is his phone and the game.

In the beginning when we first tried to stop him from playing the game, his life got worse and worse until the game was his only escape from real life. As a result our lives also got worse and worse.

We devised a system to keep him playing. It is a cruel system but it is the only one that has been proven to consistently work well. We keep his outside life terrible and his home life comfortable. We spread rumours among his peers to isolate him, rig anything with chance against him, and sabotage things he wishes to use like undoing the screws in toys to overloading electrical appliances surrounding him.

We do the complete opposite when he is at home and make him believe the game is the only reason his home life is positive.

No one likes it but it's necessary. We all agree that the social life and beliefs of a single boy has less value than the lives of tens of people.

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Crook

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