This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Joan clicked on the video and waited for it to load in the editing program as she took a sip of her Cheerwine. God, she loved that stuff. Whoever had though to add cherry flavoring to cola was a god! On screen an image popped up of Joan and a red haired, freckle faced boy sitting in front of their home computer. She pressed play and watched the video.
“Hi guys! I’m Joan…” Her voice echoed through the speakers.
“And I’m Jasper!” Said the boy sitting next to her on screen. “and we are….”
“The Let’s Play twins!” They both chorused and finished with an intricate high five that ended with a funny noise and fluttered their fingers together.
The real Joan smiled to herself. She and her brother could be such dorks. But hey, that’s why people on the internet liked to watch them.
“Alright everyone, today’s game is called ‘Monster Inside’ by a new company called Realplay, and Joan and I will actually be Beta testing it today!” Jasper said into his mike.
“That’s right,” Joan confirmed “We’re some of the first people who are able to play the game. So that’s cool. A little fishy how we got it though….”
“Yeah, it totally just showed up on our front door. But, I mean, free game! I’m not complaining!”
Real life Joan enlarged the footage of their gameplay and minimized the footage that showed their faces so that it only took up a small corner at the bottom of the screen. That way the game took center stage, but people could still glance down and see their reactions if they chose.
A black background stood in stark contrast with blood red Loading in a scratchy font with dots that looked like drops of blood trailing after it.
“Great. Another horror game.” Joan muttered to her mike sarcastically. “They’re my favorite. This better not have any jump scares!” She was a little scared, but liked to play it up. With these creepy games, her jumping out of her seat was 90% of the attraction for their viewers. Jasper took hold of the controls first, and rolled his eyes at her.
“Relax, I think we get to be the monster in first person. It’s not like in Slender when the thing is coming after you….Oh look! I was right!” He exclaimed as the loading screen faded and a very realistic looking brick wall appeared in front of them. Jasper manipulated the controls and their field of vision rotated revealing they were standing in an ally.
“Whoa! These graphics are awesome!” Joan exclaimed, completely blown away by the realistic looking scenery. “That frame rate is amazing!”
“Yeah! Look at this!” Jasper exclaimed with excitement. He steered them out of the ally and on to the side walk of a familiar looking street.
“Oh my god! It’s Asheville!” He cried, recognizing his surroundings as the very city they were in. “Look, we’re on Market Street! The plaza should be just up ahead!”
He led them down the side walk toward the end of the block, but before they got there a man came around the corner and started walking toward them. He had his phone to his ear and was listening intently to it, nodding unconsciously to whatever he was listening to.
“Oh, click on him. See if we can interact.” Joan suggested, and Jasper quickly obliged. When he clicked on the man a whole host of options popped up in front of them. Jasper scrolled through them.
“Wow, that’s a lot of stuff!” He muttered “Let’s see, we can ask him for the time. We can ignore him. We can trip him. We can shove him against the wall. We can stab him. We can break his neck. We can rip out his heart. Jeez!” His eyebrows raised dramatically as the actions got more are more violent.
“Trip him.” Joan prompted.
“Yeah? You want to?”
“Yeah! Quickly, he’s walking away!”
Jasper selected the ‘Trip’ option and the list of possibilities vanished. They watched as the man’s foot seemed to snag on thin air and he was sent sprawling ungracefully to the ground. The phone in his hand skidded across the sidewalk and out into the street while his face smashed into the pavement hard. They watched as he sat up with a groan and a curse, blood trickling out of his nose. Both twins laughed as he got to his feet bewildered.
“That was awesome!” Joan grinned “It was so life-like!”
“I know, right?” Jasper agreed, a similar smile on his own face. “This game is brilliant! The motion capture must have cost a fortune.”
Their victim looked around for the thing that tripped him, but apparently couldn’t see the culprit even though they were standing about three feet away from him.
“I think we’re invisible.” Jasper hypothesized.
“Excellent.” Joan said in an evil voice, rubbing her hands together like a cartoon villain. “Go toward all those people.”
Jasper obliged and walked down his original trajectory into a nice open square with lots of people. Some were gathered around a shaggy bearded man, listening to him sing and play the guitar while others were just walking down the street minding their own business. Cars zoomed by. On the far corner, a local news reporter held a microphone and addressed a man holding a camera. All in all, it was a prefect copy of any day in the small city.
“Can we interact with a car?” Joan asked, and Jasper obligingly clicked on one.
Again a wide variety of possible actions appeared, some benign and some horrible.
“Puncture tires, shatter windows, flip-over? Who thinks up this stuff?” Jasper read.
“Oh, try flip-over!” Joan ordered “I bet the animation for that is wicked.”
Jasper clicked on an approaching red mini-van and selected ‘flip-over’. It was like an invisible wind swept through the street, only effecting the van. Its front two tires were thrust into the air and the vehicle was slammed down on its hood violently. The sounds of people screaming and glass shattering echoed through the computer speakers. The car that was driving behind the mini-van slammed on its breaks, but it wasn’t quick enough. It smashed into the front of the van and both hoods crumpled like squished cardboard. The twins could see the driver of the second vehicle, an older woman with silver hair, collide with the steering wheel, then get flung back as the air-bag exploded.
“Whoa.” Was all Joan could say. Both twins stared at the aftermath of their choice with wide eyes, flabbergasted at the realistic physics at play. Even the other AI’s within the game were reacting realistically to the crash, running around and some getting out their phones to call for help. This game was more life-like than anything they had ever seen before. It was like grand theft auto on steroids. When it hit the market, it would make billions!
An annoying sound penetrated their amazement and the twins realized that one of the pedestrians who had witnessed the crash was screaming hysterically.
“Shut her up, would you?” Joan asked with annoyance.
“Gladly.” Jasper replied, clicking on the woman (Who was still screaming) and selecting ‘break neck’.
The woman’s’ head suddenly jerked sharply to the side and her screams were cut off with a strangled gurgle. Her eyes unfocused and she collapsed to the ground like a marionette whose strings had been cut.
“Ah, thank you. That’s better.” Joan said. “Hey, give me a turn on the controls.”
“Ok.” Jasper obliged and the two switched places.
The now in control Joan took a few moments to aquatint herself with the buttons, and then started wandering around the chaos they had created. People were trying to help those who had been in the mini-van, and a second group congregated around the woman with the broken neck. In the center of it all was the camera woman, still talking to the man with the camera (although now much more urgently).
“Oh hey! That lady looks like the one from channel 13! We should totally take her out.” Jasper said.
“Ok.” Joan agreed without hesitation. They walked right up to the news reporter, who had no knowledge of their presence or her inmate demise. Joan selected the ‘stab’ option.
The news lady squeaked a strange half cry and suddenly tensed up. Her hand flew to her ribs protectively, then came away covered in sticky red blood. She stared at it, shocked, and the man with the camera gasped and took a step back. They thought that was the end of it, but then the reporter flinched again, this time her hand flying to her chest. She screamed as an invisible knife seemed to stab her over and over again until she fell to the ground and curled into the fetal position.
The real life Joan re-watching the video frowned. This was pretty violent, and a lot of the people who subscribed to the twin’s YouTube channel were pretty young. Maybe this was one video they shouldn’t release? Especially with how bad the end was.
The woman’s shriek echoed through the room and for a moment Joan thought she had pressed the rewind button by accident. But double checking that she hadn’t, she looked around for the source of the sound and her eyes stopped on the TV. Joan froze in horror, not comprehending what she was seeing.
There, on her family’s TV, tuned in to the local news channel, was the woman from the game. Joan watched from the point of view of the camera man as the reporter crumpled to the ground and tried to fend off the invisible knife that was slicing and stabbing at her.
No. It wasn’t possible. The TV was showing a live report. They’d played the game days ago. It wasn’t possible. It wasn’t…..it couldn’t be…..real?
“Oh, look at that guy!” Jaspers voice called out on the computer, snatching Joan’s attention back to the video of their let’s play. “He looks like me!”
On screen, a character that looked a lot like Jasper ran into the frame and looked around with revulsion.
No. Oh god no. Joan thought. Anything but this…..Please, not this….
She dived for her phone and tried to dial her brother.
“What should we do?” the Joan controlling the game asked.
“Try the last option, I bet that’s a cool graphic.” Jasper replied.
In game Joan selected ‘rip out heart’, while real-life Joan screamed.
She watched the expressions on her brother’s face as Jasper seemed to understand what was happening. He remembered what he had said, remember seeing this from the distance of a video game, so he knew exactly what would happen to him.
It was quick and brutal. An unknown force ripped his heart from his chest, drawing it out like a magnet and breaking ribs and skin and lungs in the process. The bright red organ floated in the air and dripped blood onto the sidewalk as Jasper went white as a sheet and fell. Joan covered her mouth with her hand in an attempt to stifle her anguished cries.
“Well, I’m kind of bord with this game now.” Jaspers voice echoed hauntingly from the video.
“Yeah,” In game Joan agreed. “Let’s go play Minecraft instead.”
The horrors of that day were never fully explained, but only conspiracy theorist ever wasted any time trying to find an answer. Joan tried to tell people, but was eventually committed to an intensive Mental Health facility, where she spent the rest of her life too doped up to think and occasionally talking to her dead brother. After Jaspers funeral, their mother cleaned out his stuff. She donated a bunch of his old games to the local thrift store, including the Beta test disk for ‘Monster inside’.
The company Realplay does not exist.
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