by Ken Gagne

The blade easily slipped from the corpse's abdomen. It dripped with fresh blood, although the fatal wound no longer gushed as it had not so long ago. He watched as the flickering candlelight cast dead shadows into his victim's equally dead eyes. A voice called to him, but he ignored it. He cleaned the knife of the blood; it fell on his tongue warm. With a thought and unfurrowed brow, the weapon changed from an extension of his limb, reverting back to the shape of his hand. He flexed it experimentally.

Stepping away from the pool at his feet, he scanned his surroundings, letting his eyes pick up the minute details others would not notice. He could sense the lack of life in this place; there were no others of the kind he had just eliminated, but that did more to heighten his alertness than to calm him. The room had no apparent exits. He approached the wall, but for him it was not there. He passed into the hallway.

The sun was not about to rise, giving him plenty of time. He heard the voice again, echoing from no distinct direction, but he did not listen. He held out his hand, allowing a pistol to appear. His bare soles padded down the hall toward the stairs. He climbed to the next floor, never quite touching the floor. The grandfather clock at the top was not ticking.

There. In the bathroom. Someone, or something, was waiting for him. He let his mind drift there, but came upon only a dull grayness. His body would have to take him to his inevitable destination.

With a click, the doorknob turned. The voice tried to make him stop, but he couldn't. A draft sent chills down his spine, spinning him toward the open window. A bullet lazily floated from his gun, leaving a hole in the fluttering curtain, but nothing more. In the corner of his eye, he caught his own movement in the mirror. He knew what he would see there; he didn't allow it to occupy anymore of his thoughts.

His world exploded in a searing light. His hands, arms, body, all faded to nothingness. He couldn't make a grab for anything, although he desperately wanted to embrace the danger he knew he was being pulled from. A piercing scream shattered his ears; it was hours, or seconds, before he recognized his own voice. It has been so long since he'd last used it.

His headset fell to the floor with a clatter. Holding his temples, he blinked several times before his eyes adjusted to his new realm. The games had become much to realistic. Somewhere, he heard his mother calling him to dinner.

This article is copyright (c) 1996, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Gamebits, 01-Nov-96