Emmanuel squared off against the hooligans. He raised his hand and beckoned them forward.
“Okay, buddy. Let’s freaking do this, man!” the hooligan said.
-Struggle the World-
“We’re gonna show you what happens when you mess with the best!” the hooligans said in unison.
“Hiyaa!” Emmanuel replied.
Miranda checked out the forums on town activity that she frequented, a good local resource. There were several threads about game related questions like “Which is better, Tales of Divinity or Tales of Centuria?” and “Need help with Fatale Finite 10, Octopus Boss???!?” But nothing that seemed immediately relevant. She pressed her hands on the sides of her head.
“Think, girl. Think! What’s changed in town recently? What’s different?”
An ad banner popped up across her screen, blocking her view.
Fun in the Sun with all your friends and family is waiting at the End of Spring Festival! (Sponsored by Semanto)
“Not now, ads. I’m busy trying to figure out the mystery of these video game hallucinations,” Miranda said to herself.
She checked out more forum posts, but nothing came up. Some new environmental initiatives, a local store closing, End of Spring Festival preparations, Summer Project proposals and, of course, local gossip.
“Mmm, so much hot goss, but nothing about this video game reality. What am I missing?” Miranda wondered.
Feel the flavor. Feel the life. Drink Fizzy Pop Soda! (Carbo Drink Inc. is a subsidiary of Semanto)
“Ugh, I hate these things!” Miranda said, furiously closing the ad.
She checked local news. Local social media posts. Local everything. There were a lot of articles and posts about the weird things happening in town, but no panic or alarm. A lot of videos of kids jumping off the roof of their house and stomping on giant boxes or other household items and watching as coins and food spilled out of them, especially in the past two days. Why wasn’t anyone freaking out about this?
Cheesy goodness is within reach. Eat Cheddar Crumbles! (Cow Fluid Inc. is a subsidiary of Semanto)
“Argh! Dang it, Semanto, why are you freaking every… wait a minute.”
She typed Semanto+Commencement into the search bar. Her eyes grew wide at the cascade of search results that appeared.
<Emmanuel used Comet Punch. Critical blow!>
“Ow! That hurt!” one of the hooligans said.
“Heh,” Emmanuel replied.
“Eat smoke bomb, homey!” the hooligan cried.
<Hooligan used smoke bomb. Absolute Effect!>
<Hooligans are concealed!>
“Wah? Oh,” Emmanuel sighed.
<Hooligan attacks Emmanuel. Solid Hit!>
“Hey! Grrr!” Emmanuel growled.
<Emmanuel attacks Hooligan. Miss!>
“Ha! Where you aiming, nerd?”
<Hooligan attacks Emmanuel. Solid Hit!>
Emmanuel fell back. He wasn’t feeling too good. He wracked his brain. How was he supposed to get rid of this smoke cloud? And why wasn’t the sprinkler system going off? And where were Miranda and Dartanian?
Dartantian looked through the chained up reference books. It took some effort, since they were super heavy.
“This stuff is interesting, but it’s not helping me with our problem. I should check on Miranda and holy moly what is going on over there!”
The librarian rose from the ground. Dartanian only had a moment to look over his shoulder before her wrinkled hands grabbed him and dragged him into the darkness.
Emmanuel charged forward through the smoke, fists swinging.
<Emmanuel used Foolhardy Assault. It missed!>
“What is this spaz doing?” one hooligan asked the other.
“I dunno, but it’s funny.”
<Hooligans attack simultaneously. Solid Hit!>
Emmanuel fell. His body hurt. His face hurt. He felt like he was seconds from being a goner. He couldn’t do this by himself. He needed the others. But how was he supposed to…
“Hey, where’d he go?” one hooligan asked another.
Emmanuel retreated to the main lobby. He caught his breath, but the aches and pains didn’t go away. He wondered if there was another way to get to the glowing books in the psychology section.
“Oh, didya lose too?” Dartanian asked. Emmanuel looked down at his feet. The erstwhile wizard was leaning up against a bookcase looking very much worse for wear.
“Huh? Oh. Nuh uh,” Emmanuel replied, shaking his head.
“Well, I hope Miranda’s having more luck than we are.”
“Hmm,” Emmanuel nodded.
“Say, I was wondering something,” Dartanian said, sitting up.
“You two are, like, friends right?”
“But, just friends?”
“I… well… I kind of… li… I li…. Oh gosh why is this so hard to say?” Dartanian asked, blushing.
“Look, Miranda is really cool, okay?”
“Mmm hmm,” Emmanuel agreed.
“And I want to… get to know her… better. Yeah. Because I… oh jeez.”
Emmanuel knelt down to Dartanian’s level, put a hand on his shoulder and smiled. He pointed to Dartanian, then pointed to his heart and gave him a thumbs up.
“Does that mean…?”
“Eh eh,” Emmanuel put a hand up, interrupting him. He pointed to his heart again and crossed an X over it. Then he pointed to Dartanian and slid his index finger over his own throat, with a menacing glare.
“Ulp,” was Dartanian’s reply.
Emmanuel got to his feet again. His body still ached but he needed to get to those books. He tapped Dartanian’s shoulder and pointed to the glowing books.
“Sheh? Ha?” Emmanuel asked.
“You want me to help? I don’t think I can. I lost the mini-game. That’s how I ended up here.”
Emmanuel took out his phone.
Continue? he texted.
“Huh. I guess I can try again. Unless doing so would make me lose another life. What if I only have a few lives let to give and I’m wasting them all? What happens if I get a game over? Oh no. So many things I haven’t considered. So many! What do I do? What do I do?”
“Aren’t you worried? Have you lost any lives yet?”
“Meh,” Emmanuel replied, shrugging again.
Miranda appeared with a handful of printouts.
“Guys, I figured it out! I know what’s gonna-“
Blazingly Hot with a High of 1050 F.
Town Energy: Apocalyptic
Chance of wild fire: The end is here.
“You’ll never get away with this, Claudio. Valeria loves me despite my lowly status as a knight.”
“Oh dear foolish Juan. Valeria has already signed the betrothal agreement. She pledged herself to me last night.”
“No! It can’t be! She told me last night that…”
“You’re both fools!”
“While you two were vying for my affections, the ruggedly handsome Julio gave me a better offer. To be his Queen!”
“Yes. It is true. Valeria’s heart belongs to me now. Forever!”
Sycamore Knights will continue after these messages
Emmanuel poked his head above his covers. He was in his bed. Sycamore Knights was playing on the TV. He yawned. He must have been pretty tired last night because he didn’t remember going to bed. That was weird. How had he gotten here?
He went downstairs. His dad’s radio was on the fritz so he would be eating to the sound of silence today. No cereal in the pantry. Emmanuel’s stomach growled. Maybe he would nibble on some toast until he got to school. It was the best he could do until his parents got paid again.
“Ah!” he heard someone scream. He recognized that voice. That someone was Miranda. Was she in trouble?
“Eh?” Emmanuel grunted as he stuck his head out a window.
“Manny! I figured it out!” Miranda yelled as she ran down the street in her pajamas.
“Wah? Hey!” Emmanuel waved.
Miranda barged into his home, panting and wide eyed.
“It’s them! It’s been them all along. We have to tell the mayor or the city council or someone that… what’s wrong?”
“Um. Mmm?” Emmanuel said, gesturing around them.
“I know, I’m sorry I’m barging in here like this but-“
“Eh? No! Surrewa! Hiya!” Emmanuel made a book opening motion and pointed at her.
“You talking about the library? Yeah, we were there yesterday. We… hey. Wait. When did we… How did… huh?” Miranda scratched her head, clearly distressed. Emmanuel shrugged.
“I don’t know what’s happening. How did yesterday end so soon? Was it because I found the answers I was looking for? Or did I beat the mini-game and that led me… no. No! It can’t be like… We’re not in a videogame world! We’re not! Manny, you know that’s crazy, right? It’s not just me?”
Emmanuel crossed his arms and frowned. He didn’t have any answers.
But you know the answers. Accept the Truth. Start your journey. At the end of your path lies what you seek. You already know what you have to do. Just step forward and seize it.
A siren began to wail in the distance. Neither Emmanuel nor Miranda had ever heard it before. The siren was so loud they had to cover their ears.
“What’s happening? What is that?”
“Manny, I’m scared. I don’t know what to do,” Miranda said, shaking, tearing up.
You know what to do.
^ Let’s head toward the siren and figure out what’s going on ourselves!
# Turn on the news so we can find out what’s going on.
+ Talk to our neighbors. Someone has to know what’s happening.
* Find our families. We’ll be safe with them.
(What should Emmanuel do? Leave a comment and let us know.)