Arc 1 : Chapter 5-1

It was six o’clock on a autumn’s evening. Thin, dingy rain spat and drizzled past the lighted street lamps. The pavements shone long and yellow. In squeaking galoshes, with mackintosh collars up and bowlers and trilbies weeping, youngish men from the offices bundled home against the thistly wind—

“Night, Mr Macey”. Theodore wheezed in a pained breath.

He was ignored. That was weird. He postponed the thought for later. He had to get home, before another wave of pain overwhelmed him. He felt scared, his ten years old body carrying him slowly through the alleys.

Older men, clinging on to the big, black circular birds of their umbrellas, were wafted back, up the gas-lit hills, to safe, hot, slippered, weatherproof hearths, and wives called Mother, and old, fold fleabag dogs, and the wireless babbling.

The little kid wondered, was he sick? He felt something being ripped inside of him. He doubled over, almost vomiting, and yet, his stomach was empty. He had already vomited all he had earlier. He felt it, some string being cut inside of him, something at the core of his very existence breaking.

Tears spilled out of his eyes. An eager voice whispered:

‘It has finally started’

He ignored it, the pain not letting the boy simply lose consciousness. It hadn’t affected his body or mind. It was affecting something even deeper, something he had never felt inside of him.

He turned his eyes. Familiar faces, his neighbors and parents of his friends, they were all ignoring him. He needed help.

A man approached him. Mr Swan, the father of Emily, the little girl he would often play with. He was going to help him, definitively. The man frowned as he started:

“Little kid, are you fine? Is your home somewhere around here?”

Mr Swan already took out his phone, ready to call the hospital. His other hand massaged his temple, as though he had a severe headache. Theodore’s mind went blank though. Mr Swan always gave him and Emily candies when together. He didn’t understand how he didn’t recognize him now.

The pain subsided suddenly, and Theodore having a bad premonition, ran with all his strenght ignoring the frowning man. He saw several people on the way clutching their heads, suffering from headaches.

He ran faster through forking alleys, until he finally reached it.

Where his home was supposed to be.

Theodore woke up abruptly. He was breathing erratically, and his panicking gaze swept up the room.

Sweat rolled off his face. It was only seconds later that he noticed it was only a dream. It was his oldest nightmare.

He let his body fall back on the bed. His back was drenched in cold sweat, and his shirt was already soaking wet.

He had never forgotten his past. His real past, not the fabricated one. He was always reminded of it in every moment he lived. Nevertheless, he hadn’t had nightmares of it for years.

His emotions flickered constantly as he rewound the events in his mind’s eye. It had been a long night, with many twists and changes.

They would say he was mentally sick, that he had dreamed about his whole past and believed it to be true. But Theodore knew he wasn’t. Eduard was proof enough for that.

His anger flared for a moment, unrestrained, directed toward everything. Toward anything that didn’t recognize his identity. That didn’t recognize his past. His teeth clenched tightly, he got up from his bed. And then he remembered the words those voices had said, that it had finally started. He didn’t remember such a thing happening before. Was he too busy trying to deal with the suffering that he forgot about it?

And the voices. Realization hit him. These were the same voices that started chattering in his head lately. He couldn’t believe that it had started since then. He shook his head. This whole thing was crazy. Could his life get any weirder?

Memories of yesterday flooded his mind, and he froze. He couldn’t help but blurt:

“My life damn sucks”

He had to check it again. He sighed. After a good shower that is. He had to calm down and redirect his thoughts toward something else.

Holidays were just starting, and he had to look for work. He didn’t really need money right now, but by experience he knew he would have a need for it in the next school year. He had made it a habit to work part-time in each of his holidays.

He took a quick shower to wash away the remnants of his grogginess. A quick peek at the mirror showed him unkempt grey hair like usual. He decided to leave it that way. It always bothered him to have it organized and tidy.

The situation wasn’t that alarming. He was just making a big deal out of nothing. He merely had his world transformed into a game, some voices chattering inside his mind since his childhood, and a past that somehow got erased from people’s memories and records.

“Yeah nothing big, especially when you are carrying an inventory full of weapons that will get you into jail”

A crooked nervous smile appeared on his face. He made his inventory appear again. As he gazed at it, all his thoughts agreed on one thing: he was fucked.

He went to the kitchen and looked at the corner of the table. It was still broken. He ran his finger through the smooth surface, and then probed the ragged broken part. This was real. Everything was real. He had really taken out a sword of his inventory yesterday and broke a part of the table.

He started scrolling again his inventory, looking with a weary gaze at the endless number of weapons. He wondered how his predecessor had collected this many weapons. Or crafted them, he corrected, remembering the skill he got about smithing.

A black spear caught his attention. His mind rumbled, and mesmerized, he couldn’t control his hand as his index finger touched the panel it was in.

He had expected the spear to shimmer into existence, instead a sharp bolt of what almost felt like electricity ran though his body. He felt an insane amount of pain for an instant, and then lost control over himself. He couldn’t even scream. He lost awareness of some parts of his body, and then fell limp on the ground. Phantom pains were assaulting him everywhere. He felt his consciousness dimming very fast. Snakes ran through his veins, ripping everything inside. He realized he was dying.

The smell of burned flesh wafted into his nose, but he couldn’t make sure of the state of his body, as his sight was already lost. He knew this smell. He had smelled in many realistic games. It was the smell of burned corpses. His mind was too weak to even feel panic. A soft whimper went out of his lips, before he lost consciousness.

Theodore opened his eyes, and then sat up abruptly. Sweat rolled off his face and body, his mind and soul still shaken. He had just died. He felt some eerie pain, as if his body had rotted.

He looked around, his mind still blank. He was still in the kitchen. He must have been dreaming. He looked down at his own body, and gasped. His upper body was pristine like the skin of a baby, and yet his clothes were burned, and patches of burned flesh and skin had fallen on the ground around him.

The greatest shock came from his lower body. His legs were burned into a charred mess, black burned bones appearing in some places. The eerie pain was then fully registered by his mind. He almost screamed, but he choked it down, biting his lips deeply until they bled out, the metallic scent filling his noise.

He strove to push the pain aside, succeeding partially. He tried to shift his body to reach his pad and call an ambulance, his mind a panicking mess, but at the slightest movement made the pain in his legs so unbearable he felt his consciousness slipping. He had big chunks of his thigh burned to ashes. He wondered how he was even still conscious.

He stopped moving, and looked at his lower body with wide eyes.

“Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck!”

He was freaking out, and then he saw it, his bones slowly regaining their original color in some places. His muscles knitted together, slowly and carefully, shedding the burnt part, and regaining their red luster. He looked up, at the bars hovering at the corner of his sight. A red and a grey one. The red one had been reduced noticeably, but now it was going slowly going back to it’s previous state. Veins formed, blue at the beginning, until his warm blood started flooding through them. He felt the pain subside, and a faint complex sensation took hold of his mind. For a moment, he could feel all his lower organs, up to the smallest of them. He reveled in the feeling for some minutes, before snapping back into reality.

He now felt numb to all this shock. His whole world had been turned upside down in a few hours, and now he had no more faith in all his old beliefs and knowledge about reality. What was happening at the moment was fucked, but he was seeing it with his own eyes. He had to adapt.

His mind sobered at these thoughts. He had to stay sharp and cautious, and not waste time lamenting his fate.

He glimpsed at his side a game window he hadn’t paid attention to earlier because of his panic. It was unusually blood red in color.

Warning
Wielding this weapon at your current skill level may deal irreparable damage to your body. Are you sure you want to proceed forward?
Yes                                                                            No

He instantly tapped the No button.

The irreparable damage part felt ominous. He released a crisp clear laugh. He got enough damage just from touching its panel. He didn’t dare imagine what he would get from actually wielding the weapon.

The inventory window appeared again. Black sparks were being emitted from the panel holding the black spear. Theodore didn’t dare touch it again or even get close to it. He had just been on the brink of death, real death. It felt a bit surreal, as he had faced death for the first time this closely.

He had learned one thing from this experience : He didn’t have sufficient knowledge about this whole thing, and any mistake could cost him dearly. He had miraculously healed this once, but he didn’t know whether it would happen again.

He had to be more than cautious. He lifted his hand again and started scrolling his inventory cautiously. Some weapons gave off similar feels to the black spear, sometimes an even stronger feeling, but he kept ignoring it. He was ready for it this time.

After a cursory scan, he found that the majority of weapons were spears. Good, he had some experience with that. A thought struck his mind, and he checked his skills. His regeneration must be a skill.

A window appeared, and a small grin appeared on his face. It had been the passive skill Soul Mirror. He was now completely sure, as it’s progress had leaped from 0% to 0.2%. A very small leap, as it’s level hadn’t even changed, but it was a start. One skill down, three to go.

Now he had to think about his next step. He could go back to the game, get some information or maybe pursue his class quest. He shook his head. It was dangerous currently. He was probably risking his real life now. He didn’t have delusions about respawning after death.

He could ask Eduard about details about the game. No, not now, he shook his head again, going through possibilities at a fast pace. His friend would be playing currently, and he wasn’t sure he could get the informations he needed from him.

He first needed as much information as he could about the world inside the game. That was the easy part though. The hard part was to know the extent of his powers in reality. In this world, he corrected. The earlier mishap had struck fear and apprehension inside of him.

He stood up, looking at his body. It was pristine without a trace of imperfection. It was creepy. His health bar was completely full now.

He wanted to check on Arason, but he feared he may trigger something dangerous. That company was the source of this trouble, and as long as he didn’t know the reasons of creating Origin and giving him these powers, he didn’t want to attract it’s attention on him. Maybe he wasn’t alone though, maybe a few others got unique class too. That was very likely.

His pad made a ringing tone. His body stiffened. He knew that tone. He had set it to ring whenever that event happened somewhere again. He rushed to his pad, opening the notification.

A video appeared, and he watched with rapt attention. It was the eighteenth great incendiary that had struck the world, great enough to wipe cities and beyond. The seventh one had struck this city, the very hour he had lost his family and past.

He wasn’t going to forget it, especially the two figures burning inside. Nobody besides him ever saw them. He had always considered he had mental problems, and only kept following the incendiaries around the world because of his skepticism, but after today’s and yesterday’s event, the laws of reality have been turned upside down for him. He didn’t believe anything was impossible anymore. These two figures may as well really exist. The voices in his head may as well be something real.

As the video started, he saw a big fire seen from the sky. It wasn’t the normal kind of incendiaries. It was a blazing inferno, swallowing and destroying everything on it’s way. Theodore’s blood went cold. It had happened now in Brazil, luckily in a rural area. He was speechless again at the size of it, swirling flames reaching a height of a hundred meter, covering a range of dozens of kilometers, if not hundreds. He remembered it very well. He had seen it when he was ten years old, still shocked at his loss, the fire destroying half the city, as it had luckily struck it’s edge.

The fire would rage for dozens of minutes before slowly dying out. A woman’s voice was heard narrating the event’s in Portuguese. After the global Freezing that had hit the world, earth’s weather had never gotten back to normal, often having sudden extreme changes in some places. Earthquakes and tornadoes hit many places of the world. And these incendiaries were also the result of these shifts of weather.

People were adapting though. Cites had become tougher, and weather forecasts became more skilled as they delved into the deep changes the world had lived.

And yet, as Theodore looked at the video, he saw them again, two figures, one laying down while the other towered over it. They were always in the same position in each fire. He had always been the only one that had been able to see them in the middle of the scorching inferno. Others could only see endless fires.

This time, Theodore focused as much as he could, now sure that he had never hallucinated. Slowly more details became apparent. The towering figure had long hair fluttering freely in the middle of the fire, miraculously untouched by it. The more Theodore looked, the more a deep fear arose inside him. His eyes became even more drawn into the figure, feeling something rage inside him. He could feel it for a moment, a towering rage drowning his consciousness, pushing him toward the cliff.

A screech of voices filled his mind, almost bursting it:

“Stop looking!”

He woke up abruptly, his mind reeling from what happened. He immediately shut the video, almost throwing the pad. He breathed in and out, panic still overwhelming him. This had never happened before. He took some wobbly steps, leaning on the wall next to him.

This had brought many new questions, and many new truths. Everything was interlinked, the voices in his head, his family and past disappearance, these fires and the figures inside. He felt even Origin and these powers were interlinked too. This was big, and now he had more reasons to understand this situation besides to avoid danger. He had many questions about his past that needed answers, and now he finally had a lead.

Arason. It must hold all the answers. He couldn’t go face it directly though.

An idea crossed his mind. He could befriend a worker there, and see how much information he could get out of him.

He got back to his pad and made a simple research. A list of names and pictures appeared in front of him. Those were responsables in the company. He committed their names slowly in his memory, until he got into a name he recognized.

Jeff Belfry.

He didn’t know him personally, but he was the father of his classmate Anna Belfry, which was a close friend of Mia Standford, who had invited him to join them somewhere. A grin appeared on his face.

Now he had something to start with.

 


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