Phantasmagoria

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The Revenant Mind

After comforting Hannah, I feel like celebrating now. But I've got that silly game to complete. Do I still have to go?

I feel like...quitting.

I don't even care about the game.

I want to be free from it.

No more...levels.

No more crazy girls controlling my mind.

No more mind games.

I don't want to deal with it any more.

''Nash, Nash!'' I hear Hannah call out to me from downstairs, snapping me out of my reverie. I head out of the room and go to her.

''Yeah, what's up, babe?'' I ask her as I come in to the kitchen where she is making herself a cup of coffee.

''Reuben's on the phone for you,'' she says as she nods to the phone which is off the hook.

''Oh, thanks,'' I say as I quickly give her a kiss on the cheek and head over to the phone. I pick it up and answer Reuben.

''Hey, Red, what's up?'' I greet my brother.

''Ah, nothing much. Oh, good thing you're out the game now, I wanna grab a quick bite to eat. Want to come join?'' Reuben says. This guy can't do nothing without his big brother.

''Uh, wait a sec, let me just check if it's OK with the wife,'' I say as I turn to Hannah. Hannah nods, giving her approval.

''Yep, she says it's cool. Where do you want to meet?'' I ask Reuben.

''Actually, I'm outside yours right now, so we can find a place together,'' Reuben answers.

''Oh, alright then, I'll meet you out front in a sec. See you soon,'' I say to him before I hang up.

''Yeah, see ya,'' I hear him say. I put the phone back in its place and turn to Hannah.

''Hey, is it alright if I tell him?'' I ask her.

''Yeah, sure, go ahead,'' Hannah says as she smiles.

''Ah, thanks sweetie. You're the best,'' I say as we kiss.

''He's gonna be happy he's going to be an uncle again,'' Hannah says.

''Yeah, I know. He makes a great one,'' I say to her.

''Say 'hi' for me,'' Hannah says as I leave to go.

''Yeah, I will,'' I respond before I open up the door and go outside. I see Reuben standing on the bottom of the stairs, his hands in his jacket pockets as usual. He's wearing a grey jacket, a burgundy top, denim jeans and burgundy sneakers. He always likes to match, this guy.

''Hey, Nash,'' he greets me.

''Hey to you too,'' I say back to him.

''So, where do you want to go?'' he asks me as I come down the stairs and join him.

''Well,'' I begin, before I check my phone to see what the time is, ''It's 10 to 3, so we can't go too far and spend too long. How about that, er, that joint opposite Central Park, er, Maggie's or something like that?'' I suggest as we begin walking down the street.

''Errr, Mattie's, you mean?'' Reuben corrects me.

''Yeah, I think that's it. Mattie's,'' I repeat.

''OK, that's cool,'' Reuben says.

''But we can only take away. We can eat in the park, and then I've gotta go. Do you have to go back to work?'' I say to him.

''No, I've got the rest of the afternoon off. The boss isn't well,'' Reuben answers.

''Oh, is it? I hope he gets well,'' I say.

''I hope he doesn't. He's been giving me a hard time,'' Reuben responds.

''Oh really? What's he been doing?'' I ask him.

''Just...piling on the pressure...making me do things I didn't sign up for, that sort of stuff,'' Reuben replies.

''Alright. Well, have you told him to back off or what?'' I ask him. Reuben laughs briefly.

''Ah, no, I'm not like you, OK? I can't just...talk back to him. Not all of us were born as soldiers, Nash,'' Reuben muses with me. I laugh, knowing that Reuben always hates being a confrontational person.

''Yeah, I know, but it's good to tell him that you don't want to do everything he tells you to do, even things that are off the cuff, so to speak. Do you want me to talk to him?'' I tell him.

''No, it's alright. I can handle my own battles, thanks,'' Reuben responds.

''Good. Then I hope you have the right weapon too,'' I tell him. We both chuckle before we reach our destination. We go inside Mattie's and order braised beef and pulled pork po'boys. We then take the food with us as we go to eat on a bench just before the entrance of Central Park.

''Ah, this is nice,'' I say as I relax on the bench and tuck into my po'boy. It tastes reeeeal nice.

''Mmm, this is delicious! We should get this more often,'' Reuben gushes, food enveloping his cheeks. I snort at him, seeing how he hasn't changed since his childhood. Reuben always wants to say something with food still in his mouth. He's never changed.

''Yeah, it's good,'' I say as I agree with him. We eat for a few moments in silence, before I remember to tell Reuben something.

''Oh yeah! Guess what? Me and Hannah have some exciting news to tell you!'' I say excitedly after I swallow my food in one gulp. I burp out loud, not able to control the gas that had come up from that bite.

''That you've got gas?'' Reuben muses as he smiles.

''No...sorry, ahem, I swallowed too fast. No, that's not it,'' I say to him.

''OK, what is it?'' he asks.

''Me and Hannah...are going to be parents again,'' I announce as I stop eating and look at Reuben. Reuben was half way through a bite before he freezes and looks at me with wide eyes. He pulls away from his po'boy and swallows the bite he took.

''Hannah's...pregnant?'' he says slowly.

''Yep. You're going to be an uncle again!'' I say to Reuben as I slap his arm, hopefully slapping him out of shock in the process. I know how he feels.

''Wha...uh...man, uh, congratulations! I'm so happy for you guys!'' Reuben says to me as he takes my hand and pulls me to him, hugging me on the bench.

''Thanks man,'' I say to him as we settle back down to eat.

''How far along is she?'' Reuben asks as he continues to eat.

''Not sure yet, I didn't even ask her. I was just so surprised at what she said, I didn't have it in my mind to ask,'' I say to him.

''Well, I'm really happy, man,'' Reuben says as he finishes off his food. I take a few more bites before I finish as well.

''So, you've got...20 minutes until you start again. How have you been finding the game so far?'' Reuben asks me. The game. I'd totally forgotten about it now that I've had such great news. I don't even care about it any more.

''It's been...annoying, to say the least. And those level keepers...are just...,'' I struggle to put it into words how I feel about it. It's an incredible game, but it drains my mind mentally so much that I feel...dead.

Dead.

The game saps me of my imagination.

My energy.

My life.

Coming back to reality...is like coming back from the dead.

Being a revenant being.

Having a revenant mind.

''Looking forward to go back in?'' Reuben asks me. I get up from the bench and he follows suit, and we both walk in the direction of where the Game Emporium is.

''I don't know. Not really. I mean, I would be happy to quit right now. Hannah's pregnant, and I feel like...I should be with her. I'm not sure...if I should continue,'' I tell Reuben honestly. Reuben is silent for a while. What I've just said has probably given him a shock.

''I see. Wouldn't Hannah...want you to continue, though? I mean, you entered this game for your family, right? So, if you win it, your family, which is only going to get bigger, would be much better off,'' Reuben reasons. Hmm. He has a point.

''But it's the 'if' I'm worried about. 'If' I win. What 'if' I don't win it?'' I tell him. He stays silent again, thinking about what I've said. We both have a point, but this game could go either way for me. I could win, but then again, I could not. It's a game of chance.

''You've come this far, though. You shouldn't give up hope. You've done pretty well. I mean, you're in second place,'' Reuben says to me.

Wait...

Second place?

''How do you know that I'm in second place?'' I ask Reuben. We stop as I wait to hear his answer.

''Oh, I uh, I passed by the Game Emporium earlier, and I saw you on the VT. It said that you are in second place,'' Reuben answers. Ah, I see. He was there earlier? I didn't see him. But then again, I was in a rush to get home to see Hannah. I didn't really pay much attention to who was in the Emporium.

''Oh, alright. Oh, could you see who was first? Could you see who else is still in the game?'' I inquire.

''Uh, no, I didn't see. I left after watching you,'' Reuben says.

''Oh, OK,'' I say. So I don't know who else is in the game, neither do I know who is in first place.

''What happens if I stay in second place in the last level? Will I get to the Diana Echelon? Or will I lose?'' I ask Reuben.

''How the heck would I know? I don't know the rules. You might get in, but I don't know how the game's rules apply in that matter,'' Reuben says. Actually, I don't know why I am asking him, he's not been in the game.

''Anyway, looks like we're here now. Too late to turn back,'' Reuben says. I look up to see that we have indeed arrived at the Game Emporium. That was quick.

''Would all participants please return to their cubicles, so we can continue game play promptly,'' I hear a female voice announce from the store.

''Guess that's my cue,'' I say to Reuben as I turn to hug him good-bye.

''Yep, time to bid you adieu. Have fun,'' he says after we hug.

''Yeah, I'll try. You know, you sound just like the girls in the game. I'll see you later. Look after Hannah for me. Oh, and can you-,'' I begin to say to Reuben as I walk up the steps.

''Pick up Jayden from school? I know, I will. Take care, Nash,'' Reuben says. It's like he read my mind.

''Thanks Red. See you soon,'' I say before I go in to the store. I head into the lion's den once more, awaiting more adventures in the game.

I'm glad I had that talk with Reuben. He helped me...find my courage to go on again. I thought I had lost that after what happened with Hannah and her brother. I should continue in the game.

I will continue.

And I will win this game.

No matter what it takes.


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