Phantasmagoria

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The Wrath Of Wraith

''What in God's name are you doing 'ere?'' I hear Amber question the mysterious man. Yes.

What is he doing here?

And how does she know him?

''Amber, who is that?'' I ask her. I've just noticed I've come back to full size again. My arms and legs feel heavier, and I struggle to swim for a moment as I get used to my body again. My transformation back to my body must be because the female Never was taken away. If she's gone, the effects of her power goes too, I surmise.

'''Ave you seen him before?'' Amber asks me back.

''Yes...well, sort of. I think it was him who I saw briefly in Saya's level,'' I respond.

''I see,'' Amber says, while she looks at the strange man. I can see him a bit more clearly now, but I still want to get a closer look, so I imagine a rocky ledge has come up from beneath the water and I swim over to it to climb on to it.

''Has the challenge been suspended?'' I ask her. I haven't seen the timer move from 10 minutes and 17 seconds since I've come up from the water.

''Until this is sorted out,'' Amber says as she floats closer to the man.

''He can enter different levels. I'm guessing he isn't a hacker,'' I say.

''No, 'e isn't,'' Amber agrees with me.

''Is he some sort of rogue gate keeper then?'' I ask her.

''No, more like a rogue duppy,'' Amber replies. Duppy. I know that term. It's a Jamaican one. Hannah says it means ghost.

''His name is Wraith,'' Amber says. Wraith. That also means ghost...

And so does...Geist.

They all mean the same thing...

''He's a...ghost?'' I ask her hesitantly. I don't believe that he and the Geists are actual ghosts. Ghosts aren't real.

''No, ghosts aren't real. 'Owever, 'e is sort of da 'ghost' of da game. 'E's not an actual person. But it also means that we can't get rid of him. 'E's sort of...grown his own conscience. Became an entity that is always in the game. We can't do nuttin' about it. We just haf fi deal wit im,'' Amber explains.

So he's not a real person. But he's someone that I can't just 'imagine' away. While I'm on this ledge, I get a better look of Wraith. He has long, flowing white hair that reaches around his arms, and he kinda reminds me of Sephiroth from the Final Fantasy games. He's wearing a brown, tattered looking waist coat, the sort that men wore in 14th century England in movies I used to watch. He's also wearing worn out dark brown leather pants, a white shirt and brown boots. In fact, his whole get-up makes him look as if he's dressed up as Robin Hood. He looks as though he's dressed to go to a Renaissance Fair.

However, his facial expression looks detached from his attire. His face looks...morose and distant. I don't think he's happy.

He looks like he's looking straight through me.

''Why do those things appear? The Geists?'' I ask Amber.

''Because 'e controls dem,'' Amber answers. Wraith controls them? Ah, I see the connection. Me seeing him appear on Saya's level behind the horde of Geists, and then appearing now after Geists took the Never away.

''Are the Geists like the Nevers?'' I ask Amber.

''You have to ask the Information keeper for dat, I can tell you no more I'm afraid,'' Amber says to me as she looks at me. Great. So to know more, I need to make sure I complete this level so that I can get to level 5, where the infamous Information keeper resides.

Knowing that she is the Speech keeper makes me remember something I need to ask her.

''Why was I not allowed to hear in the last level?'' I ask her.

''Because I can do whatever I want. I wanted to 'ave a likkle fun wit you, da's all,'' Amber replies. Fun. So toying with me is just fun, I see.

''So, what happens now?'' I ask Amber. My challenge has been suspended. But I'm not sure what is going to happen now that we've met the 'Geist keeper'.

''Well, it would be 'arsh of me to make you fight 'im, but I need for you to compete in a challenge. I'm betting dat 'e's gonna mek you battle with dem Geists, but 'e's pretty unpredictable,'' Amber replies. I'm at the mercy of Wraith now.

''Are all the other participants experiencing this interruption too?'' I ask.

''Yep. Wraith will decide what to do wid dem as well,'' Amber responds. Wraith decides this, Wraith controls that. It seems like Wraith has taken over Amber's job as level keeper. I watch Wraith intently as I prepare for what he is going to do next. Is he going to set the Geists on me?

''Argh! You stupid girl! What on eart' are you doin'?!'' I hear Amber suddenly scream. I turn to look at her and her face is angrily looking down at the water. Why is she upset with the water...

''The time is still counting down?'' I ask in disbelief as I join Amber in staring at the water, seeing the countdown timer ticking away underneath the surface of the water.

''Dat Mathilde has continued counting de time. You bes' 'urry and finish dis level, oderwise you will lose,'' Amber says to me. Finish this level? But how? I haven't got a challenge to complete any more, and I'm waiting for a depressed-looking Robin Hood to come and-

''AAAAAARGGHHH!'' I scream, as I'm unexpectedly dragged down by the water.

What is happening?!

I frantically try to use my arms to get back up to the surface of the water, but I'm being dragged further and further to the bottom. I see Amber getting farther away in the distance before my vision becomes eclipsed by the blueness of the deep blue water. I know who's doing this.

Wraith.

I try to look for him in the water, seeing as it must be him who is pulling me.

Huh?

There's...no one pulling me?

I'm being dragged to the depths of this 'cascade continuum' by something invisible?

Then how do I get out of it?

How do I get back to the top? I think my mind is becoming tired, as I'm starting to feel quite exhausted. I can't think straight, and now that this Wraith guy has shown up, I'm not sure if I can...win any more.

I'm tired of these levels, tired of the challenges, tired of the surprises. I don't think I can keep up any longer. Maybe I should resign myself to the fact that...I might lose. I can't do this any more. I close my eyes, not wanting to wake up in this world any more.

I just...

Can't.

Enough.

No more.

Please, I just want to leave.

I just want...to go...

I'm sorry Hannah. Sorry, Jayden. Daddy tried his best.

Sorry...

''You're best is you're worst,'' I hear a voice say to me in my mind. It's a man's voice...but I don't know whose it is. I open back up my eyes instantly and see...

Wraith. He's right in front of me in the water, staring at me with his dead silvery irises.

Wraith is talking to me.

To me.

To me. But why would he-

''You're pathetic,'' he speaks again, but without his mouth moving. Oh, it seems he's telepathic. Just like the girls.

''You will lose,'' he tells me in a bitter, deep tone. He sounds absolutely evil. His eyes narrow in on me, as if he is trying to choke me with his thoughts. I believe I'm staring Death right in the eyes.

''You are a failure. Failure costs you your friends and family,'' Wraith says to me.

What...

How dare he...

How can he say that?!

He's saying...Jayden's death...was my fault?

He's blaming me...for Hannah having a miscarriage?

He doesn't even know me. How does he know so much about-

''GRRUGGGH!'' I let out as soon as I feel the tense grip of Wraith's hand around my neck. He berates me, and now he's trying to kill me? I hold on to his arm and try to pry his hand off, but he's got a stone-like hold on me. I kick off from him so that I can dislodge his arm, but he doesn't budge. I struggle madly under his vice-like grasp, using every muscle in my body to escape from his morbid clutch. All of a sudden, he brings me up close to his face, so that we're practically nose to nose.

''You. Will. Lose,'' he speaks into my mind with such malice that I believe I’ve wet my pants. Good thing I'm in water.

His words burn into my brain as the sound of his vile voice makes my head hurt. He raises his free hand, and I know what will happen next.

The death blow.

The end of my life here in the game.

I close my eyes and brace for it. He's right. I don't deserve to win. I don't deserve to even compete. I've been so stupid. I've been so-

RASHSSHSSHHSHSHSPLASHHSHH!

I feel my body being lifted from the depths of the water with such speed that I'm not able to move.

What's happening?

I can't open my eyes yet, but I can't feel...Wraith's hand around my neck any more. Has he...gone?

SPLASHHHH!

I feel myself enter the open air. My arms feel lighter. In fact, my whole body feels lighter. But I feel my arms being pulled up by something. Or some one. I can feel...hands gripped tightly around my wrists. I open my eyes and find Amber hoisting me up from the water. She puts me down on the ledge where I had been sitting before, allowing me to recover. I cough quite a bit, since the heaviness from the water resistance made my chest feel like it had weights on them, and also from Wraith's killer grip clamped on my trachea.

''I'm sorry about dat, 'e can be so rude sometimes,'' Amber says. It's actually a relief to hear her voice now. I was getting worried that I might...miss it. Wow, I actually feel happy. Happy to be back up.

No.

Happy to still be here.

Happy to carry on in this game.

Happy to have my mind back.

''New challenge, Mr Williams,'' Amber says to me before I can stand up.

''I thought I was already in one,'' I say. I thought Wraith's menace was the challenge. And if my performance was anything to go by, I absolutely sucked.

''You survived the wrath of Wraith. No it's time to play the 'Embers of Amber','' Amber says as she looks forward. I turn to see that she's looking at...

Wraith. His eyes are still transfixed on me, but I don't hear him talk to me in my mind. Thank God. Because I really despise him now.

''Can't wait to get started,'' I say to Amber while I keep my gaze firmly fixed on him. He must have heard what I said, because a slight smirk begins to develop across his face.

I hope you're hearing this loud and clear, chump, because I can't wait to get rid of you.


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