Game Over, Man
The night dragged on, but Nick was used to it by now. What once started as a vehement and bitter animosity blossomed into something intimate, a true understanding of each other’s wants and desires and needs. Nick and night were like lovers, intertwined on the bed under the blankets, hot and sweaty and sticky after their third round of fornication, wondering when the other was going to pull the blanket over their head and release a ripe good one. Truly, the closest, most pure of loves... It, also, helped that he slept this night. Hauling well over twenty tons will make anyone tired, even someone who has limitless energy.
His body still didn’t fully recover come morning, but the wicked didn’t know rest. Which was why Lon was wide awake and shaking him fervently, demanding him to get up. Why do the good suffer, the pure get treated like sheep to the slaughter? Oh, woe is him... He was already tired of his pity party, and he didn’t want to be late. This was what he was waiting for all this time, after all. The days where he could finally go into the m-
“What!” Nick shrieked at the kitchen table. The mound was silenced by his outburst, all eyes on him. He shook in his seat, his hands aching and shaking on the table, the wood under them cracked under the bruising edge that ran with his pinkies. “No... no no no... I refuse!”
“I don’t understand,” Lour Ralan said, the man sitting across. He had a bit of string running between both horns, pulled taut enough so that the middle could rest on his forehead, where a single, purple gem was tied. “We thought you would be honored by this. We mean no offense-”
“I know! I know... I appreciate what you thought of doing, but I CANNOT accept that.”
“Why? After yesterday, you have done so much for us. You must still be tired; Lon even told us that, though you do not normally sleep, you gave quite a fight to be woken today.”
“I did, I am, but I cannot simply stop. I can’t afford to.”
“If this is your worry for the rest of the town, you have no reason to. We will be fine with you and Lon resting a day. You have most certainly earned it.”
“That may be so, but I do not want to rest. I need to keep working.”
“Lour, I think I understand,” another spoke up, this one a woman. Nothing to write home about her aside a puce tunic and its low-cut front, showing off that she had two-toned skin. Around where her neck met her shoulders, her normally dark red skin changed to almost peach, only marred by the bumps of her breasts, their sides just seen thanks to that low cut. She cooed as she rounded the table, resting her arms on Nick’s shoulders. “Do you believe that if you work hard enough you’ll find a way to return home? Or is it to keep your mind off home? Mayhaps you are missing someone... dear there?”
“Vaer Losh,” Lour said. It was more a growl, a warning, a herald of the ire that burned in his eyes which only was quenched when she left the mound entirely, setting off towards THE MINES G- “You will forgive Vaer, Nick. She is coming up on her Qarat and never really seemed to have eyes for any of the men in the area.”
“In other words, she is thirsty,” Nick grumbled, his tone understandable though bitter that he could. “Funny, too, that this was brought up so soon, given last night’s talk with you, Lon.”
“Not interested.” She repeated, firmly.
“I know, but still. Ironic.”
“I am not sure how being thirsty is related to wanting to find a mate, but why was it a topic between you two?” Lour said.
“I wanted to know why she hadn’t settled with anyone, she explained she was sin bait, wondered if I would ever date a Reylon; even started dropping names of those that were interested-”
“Oh? Any interest?”
“... Because I know you all are listening: are you all really okay with the idea of me being with one of your kind? Really?”
The listeners mumbled, a drone of indistinct sound that all became as one, an understanding that passed to him almost subconsciously: They didn’t really care so long as he treated them with mutual respect... It really was a hippie’s greatest, wettest dream. Nick groaned, slapping his palms into the table this time as he stood, shaking his head.
“Lon, won’t you show me to the mines?” Nick said.
“As you wish,” she said, and lead him away from those prying eyes and buzzing voices filled with questions and wonder and imaginative intrigue down to under the world where he could bash the world as much as he pleased. All that talk above really put him in the mood to hit things, hard, over and over and over again.
The mine, itself, was structured very much like the one in Leyshun. Lit the same way, as well; it appeared that these mushrooms were the true rulers of the realm, the underlord to the entire planet. Glory be to the mycelium masterminds and their contributions to the Rosetta Stone(d). Though their reign wouldn’t be for much longer if Nick had his way. The fact it was so similar to Leyshun, with only the most minor of differences in how the paths were laid out, made him wonder if he was in a real world at all or this was some sick joke. It could have been one of those virtual realities, his brain stuffed into a jar- which, in truth, made too much sense. This whole ordeal could be a Matrix phenomena for all he knew, but, because he considered it, it couldn’t have been. The whole point was to remain ignorant to that fact and any dissension thereof would be taken care of.
No. This was all very much real. He was living in the stone age of a freshly budding species that found their cradles of life and only started to flourish. As a species, how they made their homes only made sense, though none of this did anything to explain the giant panels of glass, uniform between each one. Such a thing would have to be fitted perfectly, and they don’t have the skill nor means for that, so how did they exi- AND THEN THERE’S THIS THIRSTY BEASTIE.
“Dammit!” Nick cried out, silenced by the cracking of his handle. He tossed what was left of it onto the ground with four others before traipsing around the latest additional aggravation to retrieve another. There were only three left outside of the tunnel he was assigned to, which was meant for only him. Nobody else was supposed to be in there with him. Not Lon, and especially not-
“Are you okay?” Vaer Losh asked, reaching for his hands. Her ribbon-tufts were fully red, twitching and reaching out for him, as well, but he managed to slip through her grasp back into his tunnel.
“I’m fine,” he said, and struck the stone. The same, black, almost obsidian stone as back in Leyshun, with only stone-turned-cobble as far as the eye could see... Admittedly, it was only his first day in the mine. He didn’t expect to strike gold (figuratively speaking, of course) within the hour of starting, but the fact it didn’t, with how long he waited, with how many nuisances he had to deal with- and there goes number five. And she was still there. He groaned, grabbing a replacement (which didn’t come with a snowcone), and sighed, heaving into the rock again before addressing her. “Don’t you have a tunnel to report to?”
“I do, but I had questions for you. Questions about you. About humans.”
“Go on, then. If you don’t mind, I’m going to answer while being a bit-farmer for a Chinese person Okay. Definitely not a digital world; given current trends back home, that would have given me a permaban–well, current as in before I left. Probably didn’t get much better so... I know! There’s another way to test. NI-”
“I’m sorry. I can’t understand you.”
“That’s because I started speaking my people’s tongue: English. Rather, bastardized English.”
“Closer than what people back home are probably talking like right now... What are your wondering about?”
“I was curious about your species’ mating habits.”
Pick seven! Can he go all. The. Way! In this case, he really didn’t want to.
“What about it?”
“I was curious on how your kind attract other mates, what sort of things you do to get attention from the one you are wanting? How does it normally go?”
“Beats me. I never had to attract anyone. They sort of... plopped into my lap?”
“It’s a saying back home. Basically, they came easy and willing.”
“So you have had mates before.”
“I wouldn’t really call them mates. More like... potential mates that failed to make the final step.”
“Ah! So what did they do to interest you?”
“Nothing. They did nothing that really interested me.”
“Then... how did you know they could be potential mates?”
“They made their intentions known.”
“Well, n... yeah. That’s it.”
“So... all one would need to say is they would like to be your mate, your soul tender, and that’s all it took? It would make sense; Lon told me humans only lived to 100, so a fast, straightforward invitation to mate would only follow.”
“Yeah, we’ll go with that-”
“In that case, I shall honor your people’s custom. I’ve known you for several weeks, become knowledgeable of you and your kind- oh my. You okay.”
“Yes. Just a sneeze.” It wasn’t a sneeze, but he found it quite the impossible task to hold his laughter and swing into the rock at the same time. The pick slid off it instead and he made a horrid noise, so it was quite the spectacular failure all-around. “To sum up what you are asking: you want to be my mate?”
“Thought so... and no.”
Al color drained from her tufts, but they still whipped and jerked, matching the new emotion laced onto her face and into her voice.
“Because I know how the whole mating thing works with your people, and I don’t plan to stay here for another yarro.”
“You don’t? Then what are you doing here now? Why haven’t you left already?”
“Give me a week and I’ll give you an answer to those last two- dammit!” Now he was certain it wasn’t a digital landscape. By now, after so many pickaxes broken, he would have received an ad or a special NPC would have ran up and offered him a “premium” pick for a month at the low, low, value-cost of $24.99. Since no such scumbaggery was to be had, this was very much the real world. At least, as real as it could be. “Fuck it. I’m taking Sur’s offer. I’m too fried to do any meaningful work today.”
He huffed one last time and passed the lovelorn lass, which meant he just made his first enemy in this tribe. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, after all, and it didn’t matter which species that was meant for. To put it another way, done by modern philosophers: Bitches be cray. But she wouldn’t do anything now. No, she would need time to plan, which meant her brain would be dedicated to that and not noticing what he said or him leaving.
Lon noticed him leaving, though, and followed after. It was about noon by this planet’s standard, with an overcast shielding the red sun. The clouds tried it with the white one, but even the monsoon couldn’t snuff out its light. What chance did a meager layer have? Nick heaved another, wearier sigh, transitioned into a yawn- but felt wide awake as a terrible stream of thoughts, of questions ripped through his mind.
What if he could actually get tired? What if all this energy was what he had to use... What if this was all he had? What would happen when he ran out? Was he truly on a time limit? Why? For what purpose?
He might not be in a game, but the idea of his body, his life being a literal time trial -moreso than normal- was not something that sat well with him. He never liked time limits; he preferred to be patient, after all, so this would be the final straw, the final piece that something out there truly despised him enough to do this. It would then make sense why he didn’t have a heartbeat- but then, maybe his life could be like that one person who had an artificial heart but had to keep it boosted to stay alive. He couldn’t quite remember the name of it, only that it had a scene of the main character, played by a bald man (like every other American action film at the time), having sex on a racetrack. It was Her favorite movie to watch after they made love, so after a while he tuned it out and had forgotten most of it save for that specific scene... He even remembered teasing Her with the idea of finding a racetrack and acting that out.
“Let me look it up,” he remembered Her answering, every single time, and they would laugh... Damn. Looked like he was wrong about the weather. It was raining again... What was wrong with him? Why did he hold onto that so strongly, even now?
He shook his head, sneering and wiping away the rain from his face- and
he realized there was a gathering at the top of the mound. Around a specific person.