Phantasmagoria

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In To The Depths Of Decimation

''Yes, I am doing this,'' I hear Dimple Pradesh say as I find myself back inside the gemstone tunnel, and in the ploughing roller-coaster.

''Huh?'' I say, wondering why she is saying this.

''You asked me if I was the one making the soil into gemstones, before the game paused,'' Dimple says, making me recall the question I asked her just before we paused.

''Oh, yeah, I did. It's very pretty,'' I respond as I remember. I wonder how long it is going to be before we get to the next level.

''It shouldn't be too long now,'' Dimple says.

OK.

I can't do this any more.

You know what, I'm just going to resign myself to the fact that these girls can read my mind until I'm proven otherwise.

''So, can you tell me anything about the next level keeper?'' I ask Dimple.

''Well, again, I am not obliged to tell you much, but I do know that she is by far the worst level keeper,'' Dimple answers. The worst? I thought I was just subjected to the worst already.

''Don't tell me I have to deal with another pair of twins,'' I exasperate. Dimple giggles.

''No, you won't have to endure twins any more,'' she says. Oh, good. But I can't rest on my laurels just yet, for all I know the next level keeper might turn into twins, like the twins turned into one person in the last level.

''How is this one the worst?'' I ask Dimple.

''She has proven time and again to decimate the number of participants in her level, even reducing the number of participants to zero on some occasions,'' Dimple says with a smile.

What?

The number of participants can go from 8 to 0 in one level?

That's crazy! Who is this girl?

''Can she reward every one a low score?'' I ask.

''Yes, she can, but that's not the reason why a lot of participants go out of the game. It's because her level is the first level where 'deaths' can begin,'' Dimple explains.

Deaths?

''She can't kill us directly though, right?'' I ask, still unsure if the level keepers' no kill policy is in effect.

''No, but she sure can make you do it yourself. She's quite ruthless like that,'' Dimple says with a smile. You're only smiling because you aren't taking part yourself.

''So, on the previous levels, we were given second chances if we died?'' I ask, curious to know why I was given reprieves when I technically should be dead from the falls I took. Well, the last 'fall' was on purpose, as I actually committed suicide whilst bringing the Nevers down with me.

''In Mathilde's level, she made you fall, so she had to save you. That is why she gave you your life back, and why she gave you the second lowest score,'' Dimple explains.

''But in the rules, any one who 'dies' or gets the lowest score needs to restart the level. Is that what happened to the participant who got it?'' I ask.

''Yes, but unfortunately he failed the second time round and had to be ejected from the game,'' Dimple states.

''So in Marzipan and Marigold's level, I'm the one who caused myself to be killed. What happened there?'' I inquire further.

''Marzipan and Marigold loved your challenge and the way you executed it, and they liked how you kept the 'tempo', as they called it. So they saved you and awarded you the highest score,'' Dimple answers. I sit back as I ponder on how Vaughan Davenport must have gotten the highest in Mathilde's level.

''I wonder how Vaughan got 1000 points in Mathilde's level,'' I say aloud what I'm thinking.

''I am not allowed to impart any information relating to other participants until you meet with them,'' Dimple tells me.

''When will I get to meet them?'' I ask her.

''It's up to the level keeper. But, as I know the next level keeper, I believe you should meet them very soon,'' Dimple responds.

''Oh, really? She will allow us to meet each other?'' I ask another question.

''It's the reason why many of the participants go out in her level,'' Dimple say with a smile.

What...does she mean by that...

What...on earth...is...this girl?

''I don't think I want to go to the next level any more,'' I say aloud. I'm dreading the moment this plough-coaster will stop. I'm imagining all different types of girls now. A sour-faced Russian child keeps creeping up in my mind. She is giving me a stern look and is ordering me to do really hard challenges that require me to avoid bloodthirsty crocodiles in rivers or to reach the centre of an incredibly large labyrinth.

''Are you scared, Mr Williams?'' I hear Dimple ask, making me snap out of my reverie.

''Not scared, more...OK, yeah, I'm scared. I'm terrified. How old is she?'' I say to her.

''She's 13, but she looks much older,'' Dimple answers. I'm not sure if learning that she's 13 is bringing me relief or grief.

''Great. I have to contend with a rampaging pubescent girl who wants nothing more than my obliteration,'' I say to Dimple as she begins to giggle.

''Just focus on surviving for your family, Mr Williams,'' Dimple tells me with a suddenly serious tone. I look at her, and she is looking straight into my eyes. She sounds like an adult all of a sudden. It's like she's added 10 years to herself. These girls are definitely...something else.

''I will,'' I tell her. I will definitely focus on my family. They're the reason I'm in this game. I won't give up that easily. No matter what this girl throws at me, I will make sure I will survive. I need to survive.

''It's nearly time. See you at the end of the next level,'' Dimple says as she proceeds to lift up the metal bar that was holding us down and stands up.

''Thank you, Dimple,'' I say to her as I extend my hand.

''No problem, Mr Williams,'' she says as she shakes it and smiles.

''If she's having a bad day, I may not see you at all,'' I say to Dimple as she begins climbing into the cars behind.

''I believe you will do fine, Mr Williams. Just don't die,'' Dimple says before she carries on until I can see her no more. I don't remember the roller-coaster being so long...

Ah, she must have made it longer. Dimple always does things that I don't notice. I wouldn't mind if she were a level keeper. She seems nice.

''But looks can be deceiving,'' I say to myself as I brace myself for the next level keeper. The roller-coaster seems to be slowing down now, and I wait for the time when I am transported to the third level. The roller-coaster slows to a halt, and I wait in anticipation about what is going to happen next. I wait for what seems forever in silence before I-

Yep.

I'm falling once again.

The roller-coaster has begun to dig downwards and I'm struggling to keep myself in the car. I can't see a thing with all this soil and gravel and dirt around me. This feels like the time when I saw the first Superman movie and Lois Lane became trapped in her car when the earthquakes begin to cause the earth to open up and swallow her car.

When she begins to feel...

claustro...

phobic...

When...

she..began to...

feel...the dirt...

engulf...her...

into...

the...

depths...

of...

Decimation...


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