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XXI. The Game

The tension remained in the room as the secretary returned quickly with two VR helmets for the men. Undoing the sleeves of his shirt and rolling them up, the man looked at the detective.

“Mr. McCain, I believe you have the wrong impression of me, and perhaps of my company. We are developing a game set in a fantasy world with a civilization of chinchilla-like beings that live in Aztec inspired cities.”

McCain looked down at the floor. Despite all of that sounding a bit ridiculous, it did make sense with the information he had at hand. He did have a few more questions that this did not satisfy, but he could at least hear the executive out.

The man handed him a VR set and the detective put it on. A game began to load on his screen.

Seamlessly, his visual existence transferred from the upper floor of the business office, to a lush jungle environment. The experience felt so real McCain felt a bit of panic rising in his chest.

“Amazing isn't it?” The man asked the detective, seeming genuine for the first time.

“This has become my happy place.” He added and twirled about in the small opening in the jungle.

McCain was at a loss for words. It had been a long time since he had played a VR game, but this was so much more than he thought was possible. He was truly impressed.

“I can see where your office theme comes from now.” He said, chuckling to himself.

“Yes, yes. Come on, let me show you the city.” The man said and headed off into the thick foliage.

The detective silently began to follow the man through the thick jungle terrain. After several minutes the video game developer stopped at a large stone and motioned to a black void beside it.

“This is a shortcut.” He said and jumped into the void. McCain felt a little uncomfortable at the void before him, but decided it was only a game and stepped forward into the black.

The next thing he saw was a giant city scape that covered the entire horizon before him. All the buildings were made of black stone and the entire city seemed to be encased in a cave? Or maybe an asteroid? Either way it was extremely impressive.

McCain saw the gaming executive and approached him.

“I can see what inspired the desk.” The detective said and laughed, “wow, your team created this?” The man nodded.

“It's my new life.” He began walking towards the giant city and once again the detective began to follow.

“I've spent most of the last few months here learning everything I can about this amazing world.”

The two men stopped at the edge of the massive black stoned city and Detective McCain got his first glimpse at a full sized chinchilla... person... thing.

“Sweet tap dancing Christ!” The veteran officer exclaimed, and his tour guide laughed as he watched his hand fumble for the pistol that should be on his side.

“Sorry.” The man said and nodded towards his hip.

“No guns here, just a little magic,” and with a puff of smoke, he produced an exact look alike for the officer's Glock 13. The man gave it a little twirl and handed it to the detective.

“If it'll make you feel better.” He said and stepped on to the busy thoroughfare.

McCain decided he did feel better with the familiar weight of the 40 caliber handgun on his hip. He did not have a holster so he simply stuck it between the waistband of his pants. He even checked it for ammo and found it fully loaded.

The walk through the city was a very strange one, looking at all the strange scurrying creatures. He observed some sort of zombie working class, and a host of other creatures he did not even begin to have a name for.

“So what is the purpose of this game?” The detective asked in a near shout to be heard over the general roar of the moving crowd.

“It's an RPG!” The man shouted back.

Brant roughly knew what that was. He had played some of the older games back when he was a kid.

“Great!” The developer said, seeming to get a bit more excited and started to explain some of the story behind the game.

“The player is given a choice at the beginning, you can either be the user, or the used. You can even try to play both for a while if you want. I did.” he said and looked down at the ground for a moment.

“But once you choose to come around to the dark-side, if you will. You really open up the mechanics of the game. It's a little like you said earlier, stuff dealing with sacrifice, dark gods, the whole Lovecraft-ian spiel. But after that you get access to the good stuff. Magic.”

The detective mulled that over and continued to follow him through the streets. He kept asking questions here and there, trying to get more general information on the culture of the world. He was feeling kind of excited actually. The two eventually came to the foot of one of the great pyramids.

“Want to see it from the top?”

McCain nodded and just as he was about to begin the climb, the executive snapped his fingers and the pair were slowly raised up from the bottom of the pyramid all the way to the very top.

The view of the city from up there was amazing.

“I might have to buy a rig and play this game myself.” McCain said laughing.

“Why thank you detective. I appreciate your vote of confidence”

With another snap they returned to the world of gravity and stood on the large platform at the top of the great work of stone. The detective began to look around and saw all the blood. And a peculiar writing he had seen a couple of other times before. A chill ran up the back of his neck and he felt again for the assuring weight of the glock at his waist.

“This writing is unique.” the detective said, keeping his voice light and inquisitive.

“Yes.” The man said, keeping his eyes locked with the detectives.

“It's their own script. We occasionally translate some of it, but mostly we leave it how it is. The words don't translate well into human speech. It offends their God.”

“Their God?” McCain asked.

“Yes. The only one that matters.”

McCain felt like the winds had just shifted for some reason and he had yet to place his finger on why. He kept his hand on the sidearm and looked up to see the other man's eyes glowing a strange and hypnotic red.

“You know I assumed my last soul would be a nobody” The red eyed man said and began to walk in a slow lazy circle around the Atlanta homicide detective.

“I wasn't sure how many more I needed. That's one thing you have to give our city, no lack of people to go missing without much of a fuss. The one last night? That old homeless guy? I doubt anyone even knew his name.”

“Wait… what did.. what did you do?”

“I eviscerated him for my dark goddess of course.” The man said casually.

“I took some of his blood for my own strength, but most of it goes straight to her.” He said, pointing to a malformed statue of a horrible creature that was at least part chinchilla.

“What's that thing’s name?” The detective asked, still fingering his pistol.

“HER name is Cheeksasquattle, dark goddess of th-”

McCain yelped with laughter. That was just utterly ridiculous.

“You had me going for a second man!” the detective barked in between belts of laughter. “But Cheeksasquattle? That’s too much!” He said with with tears in his eyes

Looking up he could see that the other man was not laughing and his eyes were completely red now. He looked around to see that they were no longer alone either. He was completely surrounded by dark robed figures.

Brant McCain never left the jungle.

As the detective's pooling blood was guzzled by the thirsty black stones of the altar, a feeling of completion came over the once homeless man.

The detective had been the last piece in a puzzle commanded from on high, and now he was truly one of them. But what did it mean?

His mind flashed back to the gored and brutalized, sometimes even cannibalized, corpses left in his wake. Has he always been a participant? An active one anyway? He honestly didn't know anymore. Mary walked up and stood beside him, placing her gnarled claws on his shoulder.

“You have done well.” Mary chittered in the odd dialect of her people, “the dark one is pleased.”

At first he said nothing, and just watched the blood of the only other human in the city seep down the staircase.

“What is it that she wants with me, Mary? Why my double life back in my world? Why can't I just stay here now and never go back?”

Mary looked around nervously before she answered. Even though she was allowed to tell him more, commanded by the high priestess herself, one must always be careful with direct orders from Karen; she was known to be unreasonable.

“We have procured something of great value from this world.” She said and pointed to the world above.

“A magic that… we will not lose again. To secure it, I was sent to Earth. However, we found that we cannot take our proper form there, but that's when I found you.”

The man nodded, remembering his pitiful life before.

“Your world is wonderful with corruption and rot, but we fear it's too unstable. That's when we discovered the project; Disco Solaris.”

The newly minted necromancer looked up at this. “The eccentric Mr. Blue’s experiment? What would that…” It all started to make sense to him. His improved looks, the clothes, a successful job, successful neighbors. All of it was to make him appear like someone they would want to take along.

Mary watched as the realization dawned on his face. She pulled from the pog skin satchel at her side one page of a very old and very powerful grimoire. As he read the offered page, he understood exactly what he was protecting, and nodded his consent.

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