Phantasmagoria

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The Second Level - The Verbal Compendium

''Guess you are wondering who we are,'' the girl on the left of me says as she comes down to the ground on her hover board. I already know who you are. I just don't know what you're going to do with me in this level.

''My name is Marigold,'' the girl on the right says, startling me. She also comes down to the ground, making her hover board disappear.

''And I'm Marzipan,'' the one on the left speaks up almost instantly.

''Hello,'' I say back, not even bothering with my name since everybody knows what it is.

''Some of you like to get stuck into this game,'' Marzipan says quickly.

''Want to get the challenges over and done with,'' Marigold says straight afterwards, in the same speed.

''Would you like that too, Mr Williams?'' Marzipan asks me. Is that a trick question?

''I just like to go with the flow,'' I say without trying to take sides. I look around the amusement park, and see that some of the rides look disused and abandoned. I look up into the sky and it's a grey, dull colour. Not nice and welcoming as it was on Mathilde's level.

''The weather's always like this in England,'' Marigold says.

''Always grey and dull,'' Marzipan says. Yep. Took the words right out of my...head.

''May I ask, what is the challenge?'' I ask the girls.

''Follow us,'' Marigold says.

''And we'll show you,'' Marzipan ends her sister's sentence. They both smile at me, and then turn around slowly before walking off into the distance. OK, guess I have to do as they say and follow them. I catch up to them and follow closely behind as they walk through an obstacle course of rocks that I suddenly notice have come up. We climb and jump off some of them when they are too big.

''How old are you girls?'' I ask them, to make conversation.

''We're 7,'' Marzipan answers. Wow, they look like they're at least 11.

''I know, we look older,'' Marigold speaks. OK, all these girls are intuitive, I guess?

''I didn't know the game controllers would allow two girls as level keepers for a level,'' I say aloud, wanting to provoke a response.

''We are the game controllers,'' Marzipan says as she turns to look at me.

''And Diana is the master controller,'' Marigold remarks.

''OK. Do you girls have another duty? Like Mathilde is also the time keeper as well as the first level keeper,'' I say.

''Yes, we have another duty,'' Marigold replies.

''But you won't find out until later,'' Marzipan responds.

''Alright then,'' I say to myself. We carry on walking and climbing in silence for a while.

''I'm bored, Mari,'' Marzipan says.

''Me too, Marzi,'' Marigold says. These girls sound like they have totally forgotten I am here.

''Let's put on some music,'' Marzipan says.

''Yes, that will be nice,'' Marigold responds. Having their own private conversation. That's cute.

The girls suddenly stop, and I wait for something to happen. I mean, that's the norm for me in this game. Marzipan puts her right hand up in the air and clicks her finger. Her click is extremely loud, and it reverberates every where around me. The earth begins to shake, and I wonder if what they actually meant is something else altogether.

''Beethoven's 5th,'' Marigold says to her sister. Marzipan nods, and all of a sudden, Beethoven's 5th symphony blares out all around me.

Beethoven's 5th?

Really?

These girls are crazy.

The rocks begin to rise up from the ground and are trembling so fast I think they are going to explode.

''Aaah!'' I yell when they actually do explode. The pieces of rock fly in all directions and I get the full brunt of a large rock that had risen up in front of me. Well, I should have known that was going to happen. I'm an idiot for thinking otherwise.

''We're going forward now, Mr Williams,'' Marzipan says as she turns to look at me. Both of the girls are carrying wide black umbrellas in their hands as they are shielding their heads from the explosive rocks.

''First it was raining bullets, now it's raining rocks,'' I mumble to myself as I continue following the berserk blonde Barbies. I look at them managing to shield themselves from the rocks while I'm crying out every time I get hit. Why don't I just...

Come one, Nash!

Get with it! I'll just think of wearing an invisible forcefield to protect me.

''Nicely thought of, Mr Williams,'' Marigold quips.

''Very creative,'' Marzipan complements me. I hope. They might be being sarcastic, but I just smile at them any way for at least regarding me.

''What song do you want next, Mari?'' Marzipan asks her sister.

''Rossini's William Tell Overture,'' Marigold answers. Beethoven's 5th symphony ends abruptly, making that sound when a record suddenly cuts off from a record player. Rossini takes over my eardrums, and the scenery becomes active once more. I look around and the rocks have settled, but the rides in the abandoned amusement park behind me turn on and move as if someone has breathed new life into them. I turn to see the girls simultaneously pull down their umbrellas and put them down beside them, and I look ahead of them to see black musical notes dancing around in the sky. As I focus on the sky, I suddenly see flash up in it a red message. It reads 'Challenge Will Start in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1'.

''Have fun, Mr Williams,'' Marzipan says.

''Don't let the music get to you,'' Marigold says.

''The words are your friends,'' Marzipan says.

''The Verbal Compendium starts now,'' Marigold says as they both turn to look at me.

What on earth is the Verbal Compendium? I look up at the sky again and see the musical notes have been joined by words. I see lights flash up from below me, and I see the rock and gravel ground has been replaced by a giant cross word puzzle.

''4 down: Flood,'' Marzipan announces to me.

4 down? Oh I see it. I suppose I'm to put another word for flood in its place. I go over to where I see a box with four written on it. Every step I take lights up as if I'm Michael Jackson in his Billie Jean video.

''OK, 4 down has...six boxes,'' I say as I count around my feet. A six-lettered word for flood? I look over to the words coming towards me as I find a word. I scrutinize each word carefully, and I finally spot it coming behind Marzipan.

''Deluge!'' I shout as I acknowledge the answer.

''And you shall get it,'' Marigold shouts back as the words in the sky, together with the song notes, begin to stick to each other and form what looks like a huge tidal wave...

''Oh my...'' I manage to say as I behold the sight of the black tidal wave getting larger.

''Find your word!'' Marzipan exclaims.

''Avoid the music!'' Marigold shouts. I am trying to take into account what they have said as the deluge of words comes with extreme force towards me. I see some musical notes coming towards me, but the sheer force of the wave keeps me stunted in my place, and I close my eyes as I get hit by one.

''I told you to avoid it, you ninny!'' I hear Marzipan tell me off as I open my eyes. Why should I avoid it, anyway?

What happens when I touch it?

Oh...

I look down at myself, and see that I have been turned into a humanoid rhinoceros.

''What the?'' I say in disbelief as I look at my fat grey lumps for hands.

So this is why I have to avoid them.

Nothing better than a first hand experience to let me know I should learn from my mistakes. I get my mind focused back on the task at hand and try to look for the work. I run (more like charge) into the flood of words and leap into the pool to grab 'deluge'. As soon as I grab hold of it, the deluge of words disappears and the board is clear again. I also have turned back into a human, thankfully. I pick the word up from the ground and place it on 4 down, which lights up green as soon as it registers.

''Find heaven,'' Marigold announces to me. Another word? But for what number?

Oh. It's changed to a word search. I look down and the board has become a giant word search with letters filling up boxes all around me. The flood of words have disappeared, and now it's just musical notes, idly floating around us.

''Heaven, heaven, heaven,'' I mumble to myself as I look for the word. I run back and forth to see if I can find it, but I can't see it in the top half of the board. I run back down to the bottom half, and see it a few meters away from where I am.

''I found it!'' I yell to the girls, expecting it to light up or something. They look at me in an unimpressed way. OK, I guess I have to light it up myself.

What shall I do?

Ah, I know, let me try using a giant marker to highlight the word. People use them in the real world, so why not use it here?

''H-E-A-V-E-'' I say aloud as I begin marking along the board with my big blue pen. Unfortunately, I can't complete the word, due to me not noticing a musical note coming for me as I was concentrating.

''Oh no!'' I say as I realise I have turned into a bird and I begin flying away from the board.

I did say for someone to kill me, right?

''You should be used to this game now, Mr Williams!'' Marzipan shouts as I climb higher and higher. I know. I should be.

So I close my eyes.

And make myself human again.

''Very good, Mr Williams, very good,'' Marigold remarks as I float back down, making sure I avoid any more musical notes. Didn't know music could be so irritating. No wonder I hated it in school. When I am back on the ground, I go over to the word and finish off marking it.

''There. What's next?'' I ask the girls as the board disappears from underneath me. The girls give me a smile that makes me slightly cautious.

''The Verbal Compendium is complete,'' Marzipan announces.

''Thank you for taking part in the pseudo-challenge, Mr Williams,'' Marigold announces after her.

What?

Pseudo-challenge?

''You mean...this wasn't a real challenge?'' I say to them in disbelief.

''You are quite good with words,'' Marzipan says.

''But are you good with numbers?'' Marigold quips. I look at them warily. I flunked math in college. How do you think I will be with numbers?

''What song now, Mari?'' Marzipan asks her sister.

''My favourite,'' Marigold answers, before both girls giggle. Marzipan puts her hand up and clicks her finger. Ride of the Valkyries is my next song. I listen to it as I'm transported to an extremely large house, which looks like a manor.

''Welcome to Montague Manor,'' the girls say in chorus. Montague Manor, eh? Wait.

Did they just say...Montague?

Please.

Kill.

Me.

Now!


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