In my dream on October 13th, 2014 I was a newly created character being dropped into and RPG game world. I/my character fell a short distance to the ground, a washed-out AAA landscape of browns and grays. I/my character was a stocky, somewhat heavy blond woman, in dull grey plate armor.
I/my character strafed experimentally, getting used to my new and shaky legs, as I/my character waited for the grey-brown world to render its furthest distances. Mountains built themselves into existence before my/my character’s eyes, and eventually houses sprang up around me/my character as the village and its inhabitants spawned.
I/my character didn’t look at the new-to-life villager NPCs, and instead ran forward, past the rotting wood houses to a decrepit subway tunnel mouth gaping out of a hillside. Inside the structure, all grey and flickering light and fallen beams, I/my character searched about, a flashlight spawning in my/my character’s hands, timid light showing me/my character just enough to be frustrated at the limitation.
Eventually I/my character fled the oppressive insides, the door locking shut behind me forever. I somehow realized I/my character had missed a key I/my character needed inside, and unable to open the door again, I restarted the game. In the seconds between the blackness and falling to the earth again, my/my character’s heart stopped, and started again, shuddering. I wouldn’t be able to restart again and survive.
This time, I/my character went the opposite direction of the tunnel, and out into the woods. The villager NPCs murmured, quite, desperate whispers about Things out in the woods, an encroaching Danger, missing loved ones.
Outside the village, my character’s line of sight shrunk to only a few feet in front of themselves, the edges of their vision blurry. My own line of sight was somehow above them; I had dropped out to third-person view, and could see their slim cone of vision cutting through the damp fog of war.
Ahead of my character there rose up a burned-out shell of a building, the wood beams burned black and showing the leftover frame of perhaps a tavern. I dropped back into my character and balked, hearing whispers from within the frame, mixed with the roaring of flames long-died out. I/my character turned away, fleeing deeper into the woods. I realized I had no weapon, only my/my character’s bulky, noisy armor.
There were shapes, darker and more solid, shifting about in the blurry stop of my/my character’s line of sight. I/my character turned away from them, winding deeper and deeper into the forest, beginning to cycle through stat screens as a breaker from how scared I/my character was. I could find no sword tucked away in a hidden inventory screen.
I/my character had come upon a cliff, high above a winding river and the steep drop of a waterfall. Brush and dead branches were piled high along the edge, bundles tied together with tan rope. Behind me/my character I could hear the things I/my character had run from slithering up behind me. Still, I/my character would not, could not fight them, so I/my character ran further up the cliff, nearer the waterfall.
“Hello,” yelled a voice, cheerful as it was dead and hollow. A second knight, helmet glitching visible then invisible around their head. They were dead, I/my character could tell it in the empty of their yawning eye-sockets.
They came close to me/my character, and we let them. They apologized for the noise and began to whisper. We, both myself/my character and they were too weak to stand and fight but the cliff ended up ahead, and enemy knights were breaching through the brambles. They, the dead knight, asked for me/my character’s help.
We agreed and the enemy was upon us, all cracked and rusted armor, a creeping decay. Their skin was an eely blue-grey, walking corpses.
At this point it had stopped being a videogame, myself sunk so deeply into my character that there was no / division.
My companion had a mace, a blue-glowing shard, and with it they killed one of the shambles knights. I/my character strafed about the other, trying to draw them closer to the cliff edge. We kept getting stuck on the sharpness of the brush and branch bundles.
My companion came to my rescue, their mace swinging down against the shambling knight’s arm. It separated from their shoulder, but as it fell to the ground, it split into three parts, at the elbow and the wrist, two parts arm and a hand. Three more knights grew from these broken parts. One of them had a black bird with a red belly growing from their head, the feet still sunk into the knight’s skull. Its beak dipped dangerously close to the knight’s eyes.
My companions glowing blue shard, a gift from the stars, had shattered with the last blow. We turned to run from the four. We were, both of us, faster than them. We could hear them groaning in the thin trees, staggering after us.
At last, we came upon a path, one that led back to the spawning village. Tired and beaten we made to follow it home, but a terrible groaning flowed along it like a river, and met our ears.
My companion pulled at my arm and we turned back towards the cliffs, ducking into the bramble bundles, squeezing our bodies into the thorns and dirt, praying we would not be seen.
Up the cliff came the mouths that had been moaning, belonging to the villagers I had passed at the start. They were dead and rotting, all wearing tattered funeral clothes. From their mouths bubbled the awful sound, their gums stained with dirt that was likewise pouring forth from their stomachs. Their steps looked laborious, but we dared not spring from our hiding places.
The howling crowd drew closer to us; they would stomp their way through the brambles and find us soon. My companion placed their hand upon my shoulder, and looked at me with their strange hollow eyes. The hollowness looked sad.
Then they ran from my side, drawing the mourning dead villagers away from me. I knew but didn’t see that they had tumbled over the cliff as dead hands reached out for them.
The cliffs behind me were less steep, and I climbed down, truing to see where they had landed, hoping they had not fallen into the river, their body carried far from me.
The ground was gone, blank space with only the rushing river coursing through it. The hungry mourners above me knew where I was now, and began to shamble towards the cliff edge.
There was a hollow space in the red rocks, like the hollow of my friend’s eye sockets, and I pressed my body into it. Heather, green vines and small purple flowers grew down across the opening, hiding me from hungry view. My back was pressed to the cool red behind me, and I felt my bones become heather as well, growing up from cracks in my stone-turned skin.