Phantasmagoria

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The Embers Of Amber

''You're going to love dis, Mr Williams,'' Amber says as she smiles. She looks extremely happy as she looks forward to what is going to happen soon.

''What does the 'Embers of Amber' challenge entail? Is it to do with you?'' I ask her.

''Yep. You get to use me as your pawn,'' she answers.

Wait a minute...use her as a pawn?

''A pawn against what?'' I ask her. What does she mean?

''I will be fightin' against Wraith,'' Amber says with a great sigh.

What?

She's going to be...fighting for me?

''The timer's still ticking, we've gotta 'urry,'' she says.

''But...wait. Why are you doing this? Why can't I fight him?'' I ask her. It's not because I've just become chivalrous; it's because...she's literally completing this level for me. On all the other levels, I've had to complete my own challenges. OK, maybe I had a little help with some of them...

Wait...

Is she...helping me?

On the other levels, I always saved just in the nick of time. Am I the only participant that is being shown this amount favour?

Are these level keepers...helping me to win?

No, they can't be, Nash. Look at what happened in the first level. Mathilde practically used psychological warfare to try and get rid of me. And she gave me the second lowest score. So that can't be it.

It can't be...

''Are you ready?'' Amber asks me. Thank goodness she brought me back to reality. I was getting really lost in my thoughts there.

''Yeah, I suppose. What's the rules?'' I ask her.

''You can use me any way you like to defeat Wraith. You can give me weapons, make me a weapon or whatever you feel like doin','' Amber explains. Well, that will be helpful. But I don't know what he's going to do.

''Does Wraith...have any weaknesses?'' I ask another question. If she can give me a heads up, maybe I can defeat him in no time.

''Haha, you wish. Trust me, he isn't going to mek it very easy for you. It's nearly impossible to defeat him fully, but if you can incapacitate 'im when the timer runs out, then you will win,'' Amber responds. OK, so no weaknesses, but there is a way to incapacitate him. I just have to do it long enough so that when the timer runs out, it will be my victory.

''Oh, one final question,'' I say to Amber, before I produce clothes on my body. I look down at myself, but then I change my mind. I should be ready for a battle, so I change into a comfortable suit of armour I can move about in. I look like a knight, but a cool looking one. Well, according to me.

''Sure, what is it?'' Amber says.

''Why is it called 'Embers of Amber'?'' I ask as I stroll forward on the ledge, getting closer to Wraith, as Amber stays behind me, still aloft in the air.

''You'll see,'' she answers me. Well that wasn't very straight forward. I wonder what she means by 'you'll see'...

Oh...

I think I know...

The waters around me begin to bubble up vehemently, and I see a deep red hue blaze brightly in the bottom of the water. I observe the glow for a few moments as the red hue gets brighter and bigger.

SPUUUUUUHHHHH!

All of a sudden, the red hue bursts out of the water, revealing itself as a pillar of lava. It shoots upwards into the sky, surprising the life out of me. I jump out of the way just in time, but I fly a bit more further away, as I don't want to be burnt by the lava, nor do I want to get caught in anything it might throw at me unexpectedly. I watch as the lava touches all the paint that was spewing out of the paint pots in the sky and turn it all into fiery lava falls. The result of this turns the rest of the landscape into a deep red furnace, but I don't feel heat from it. It's one of the perks of being in an imaginary game, I guess.

The lava pillar suddenly goes back into the water after doing its job, and I see the whole area around us glow bright red with flames.

''I tol' you you will see what I mean,'' Amber says with a smug smile as she hovers next to me.

''Yeah, but I think 'Embers' is little bit of an understatement,'' I muse with her. We both laugh before we realise we have a huge task at hand.

''Think you can destroy 'im in less than 6 minutes?'' Amber says.

What!

I have 6 minutes left?

''I'm going to have to, aren't I?'' I say as I prepare myself. I turn to look at Wraith-

Huh?

Where...has he gone?

''Above!'' Amber manages to warn me in time before a pile of Geists land on top of me. I dodge them, and then go for the attack.

''You're using me, remember, not yourself!'' Amber says before she leaps in front of me to protect me.

Oh yes, I totally forgot!

''Sorry, force of habit,'' I say to her. I was in the army, remember?

''Have you thought of sumtin'? Because I don't tink you're gonna win if we stay 'ere like dis,'' Amber says to me. She's right. I need to stop wasting time. I've got...5 and a half minutes now. 5 and a half minutes that will go very quickly. And we all know how time flies.

''I'll give you the same armor as me,'' I say before I imagine Amber wearing a female version of the armor I'm wearing.

''And what else?'' She asks. I know, I know, she needs a weapon.

Or...

She can be a weapon!

What shall I do to her? What shall I make her? I look around the landscape to see if it can give me an idea.

Think fast, Nash, fast!

Think...

Think...!

Think!

THINK!

Red...burning...floating...

''I know what to make you,'' I tell Amber.

''It better be good,'' she says with her back still turned to me. While we had been talking, she had been protecting me by zapping the Geists with lava coming out of her hands. I can't remember thinking of that...

Any way, I begin transforming Amber into a weapon. And boy, will she look awesome.

''WOAH!'' Amber says as she begins to rise up higher into the air and begins transforming into a...

''Phoenix,'' I whisper as I imagine Amber as a beautiful crimson and bright orange phoenix with incredible wings and fierce black eyes. Her golden beak looks strong and her claws look quite powerful. After she has morphed into this enigmatic creature, she turns to me and nods, then charges after the Geists. I watch in awe as she flaps her wings and produces fire from them, burning the Geists into ash.

''Whoa,'' I mumble to myself as it literally takes her seconds to get rid of the enemy. But Wraith...is still no where to be found.

Where did he go? I search the landscape thoroughly with my eyes.

''AAARGHH!'' I hear Amber in phoenix form shriek loudly before I see her with a sword in her back...and Wraith holding onto it firmly. Amber begins to spin out of control, flapping her wings madly, and setting everything on fire.

''What are you going to do now, you failure?'' I hear Wraith's voice pierce my mind. I watch helplessly as Amber falls from the sky and slams into a giant soft white pillow I instantaneously conjure up so that she has a safe landing. I fly over to her as Wraith jumps off from her back.

''It's going to be alright,'' I reassure her, but even I know it looks grave. He seems to have plunged the sword deep into her spine.

What an evil man.

''That was a pathetic effort,'' Wraith says in my head. I look at him, and we both square off to each other. I...really want him gone.

Now.

And the only way to do it...

''If I can't beat you, I'll join you,'' I say to Wraith. He looks slightly surprised at that. Good. Because you're going to get the surprise of your life.

''YOU WILL NOT BEAT ME! YOU WILL LOSE! NOT ME!'' I begin to bombard his mind with angry messages.

Yep, that's right.

Now I'm telepathic.

Well, I can do just about anything in this game, right?

''Get out! I will not lose, you will!'' I hear him fight back. If ever Professor X got into a battle with Jean Grey telepathically, this is what I imagine it would be like.

''YOUR EVILNESS WILL NOT SUCCEED! YOU WILL NOT PREVAIL! I WILL WIN! I WILL WIN!'' I scream into his mind. His eyes begin to change. Like they've gone darker. Like life is...going out of them. And now his nose is bleeding?

Does that mean I'm...winning?

I'm...beating him? It's working? I see him stumble a bit, but his eyes are still transfixed on me. I think I've incapacitated him...but now I think I'm starting to...lose it...

Oh...no...

My eyes...I can't focus...

My head hurts a lot...

But this pain...Isn't real...

Is it?

RAFHHHHHHHHHHH!

I drop to the floor just before I see Amber use the last of her strength...to burn Wraith...into cinders. I sit back on...a soft pillow. Must be from when I...conjured up one for Amber.

''Amber...are you...alright?'' I ask Amber. I'm struggling...to get words out now. My thinking...is so slow now. Amber...rises up slowly from the ground...and begins to fizzle out. Amber's body...turns back to normal...and then settles back down to the ground. Or pillow...whatever...

''Congratulations, Mr Williams,'' Amber says...to me. Congra...tulations? I beat him? Yeah, I did...

''Thanks...'' I manage to...say to her.

''No, thank you, Mr Williams. I 'ad fun today,'' Amber says...as she smiles happily...at me.

''Can I go...now?'' I say to her.

''Of course. The challenge is complete. You passed with flying colours,'' Amber says. Flying colours....

I fall backwards and stare at the sky above me. There really...are flying colours...

Pink...

Red...

Blue...

Green...

Cara...

Cara?

Cara...Flynn?

''Oh, you can't be going to sleep just yet, Mr Williams, I've got to take you to the next level,'' I hear Cara say...as she floats down...towards me.

Oh...I'm too exhausted to carry on.

''It's all in your imagination,'' Cara says...before she giggles.

All in my imagination?

But why does it feel...so real?


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