It was a typical Saturday afternoon for the three friends Charlie, Monique, and Sam. They were on their way to the local game store, Gameland, to see what new titles had found their way into the used sections.
“I hope there’s something with a lot of fighting!” Charlie was fired up as she picked up a stick and started swinging it around at pretend foes. Her baggy sweatpants and unzipped jacket only seemed to make her swings look even more over the top as they flowed around her.
Sam rolled his eyes at Charlie’s display. “We always get violent games, how about something with animals? Or romance?” The second request came out more as a whisper.
Monique grabbed both of her friends’ hands, startling Charlie into dropping the stick as she was ushered into Gameland.
Gameland was huge on the inside with new games just inside the door nearest the windows. However once you made it past them there was an entire back wall filled with used games and two towers that were stacked high. The owner, Gary, said that having the two towers was a tribute to some movie or tv show he grew up watching.
Monique led the group over towards the used game sections and began the search for the perfect game.
“Remember we are getting a game all of us will enjoy today.” Monique stared directly at Charlie who was already inching towards a section of shooters.
Charlie sighed. “Fine.” She did a salute before walking over to a different section and started surveying the potentials.
The three of them talked little while individually picking a few options out. After what must have been an hour they gathered back up and each presented their findings.
“How about this one?” Monique grabbed one of the games Charlie had found. “Play through an adventure filled with daring combat, clever puzzles, and if you’re lucky maybe a romance or two.” As she read it aloud all three of them felt sure that this was the game for them.
As they took it up to the counter for purchase they were greeted by Gary smiling at his best costumers. “Well what are we getting this week my young explorers?”
He held up the game and read the title, “Pandora, The Box Unraveling”. He frowned a bit, the trio knew that this was his thinking face. “I don’t think I’ve ever played this one or even heard of it. Well you’ll let me know if it’s any good right!?”
The three friends all smiled and nodded. A game that even Gary didn’t know, now that was a surprise.
They ran all the way back to Monique’s house giggling and shouting the whole way.
“Even Gary doesn’t know!” Charlie was over the moon with excitement.
“We will be the first adventurers.” Sam gave an awkward twirl as they bounded along.
“We won’t be the first, it was in the used section.” Monique was smiling to herself at their juvenile display.
“Don’t be such a party pooper Nique.” Sam and Charlie smiled back at their friend.
They all fell into their respective bean bag chairs in front of the basement TV. Charlie grabbed the controller as Sam put in the game. Monique handed everyone a soda and put a bowl of apple slices between them.
The TV went black with white writing blinking in the center of the screen.
Pandora, the Box Unraveling
Are you sure you want to play?
Yes or No
“Are we ready?” Charlie looked around a huge smile on her face. Monique and Sam both nodded. As she clicked Yes they all felt it, a sudden tug.
They were all spinning and falling. Wind rushed past them all around. They could see the ground approaching faster and faster. A building started to appear rising up to meet them.
They were all three laying in a pile on the floor of whatever building they just crashed into.
“What happened!?” Monique was the first one standing and looking around at their surroundings.
It was a dark lit room filled with chairs and tables. There were a few brooms in the corner and a mop bucket. She could hear music coming from behind the door on the far wall along with the sound of people talking.
“Ouch!” Charlie got up with Sam’s help. She was standing holding her right arm. “I think I sprained my wrist” she looked up at the rest of the room, “How did we get here!?”
Sam took a deep breath while looking around. “It looks like a storage closet for like a community hall.”
All three of them looked as the door to this room opened and light flooded in. They were taken aback upon seeing what appeared to be a hummingbird with human hands and feet.
“Hello? How did you three end up in here?” The hummingbird reached up and removed it’s long slender beak revealing a human face.
It was an audible sigh of relief as all three children realized it was just a costume. All three started talking at once as the man just patiently listened.
“So now that that’s out of your system, I caught none of that. You there, tall with black hair.” He pointed at Monique. “Can you sum up the events that led you here?”
Monique took a breath and composed herself. “This is going to sound crazy but we were playing a game and suddenly we were falling out of the sky before we ended up here!”
The man’s face softened, his eyes looked at them the same way one would look at a lost puppy. “My poor children, welcome to Pandora’s Box.”
“Let go where we can sit down and I’ll get you something to drink.” He led them out of the closet into a room filled with all kinds of strangely dressed people wearing masks. “It’s carnival night.” The man offered as the three children looked around with amazement/horror.
He led them to a booth where a woman dressed as a porcupine approached to take their order. “A scotch for me and with the night these three are having let’s make it three Shirley Temples.”
“My name is Cypher. I am a NPC, because of a glitch in the code for the game my memory doesn’t reset when a new person loads the game. Though I’ve never seen three people come in at a time before. You are trapped inside until you beat the game.”
“How do we do that?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. No one has ever done it. See this bar? Originally there were only three of us here. The waitress, the bartender, and me the regular. All those other people are players who gave up and let their memories be reprogrammed as a part of the game.”
“But I can show you where to start.”
Cypher led the three of them over to a large door with a sign above it. Displayed on the sign “Level 1.” “Here is where it all begins, I can’t help you past this point but some of the people here did tell me about this level. It involves a murdered sister and “The Wallpaper holds the key.” At least that’s what Dan used to say before he gave up and became an NPC like me.”
Cypher left the three friends standing there looking up at the door.
“This is crazy right? We all just went insane together and this isn’t happening.” Charlie was staring up at the door.
Sam frowned as he looked at Charlie and then Monique. “I don’t like this at all and if what Cypher said is true then there’s a murderer on the other side of this door.”
“We wanted an adventure. This is not what I had in mind but the only way out I can see is straight ahead. Monique reached out her hand and opened the door.
Yes or No
All three reached out and touched “Yes”.