Phantasmagoria

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The Fifth Level - Finders Keepers

I go over to the side of the Andromeda and see that there is no water any more, no more 'Cascade Continuum'. Below, all I can see now is a dense forest. I see row upon row of great and tall trees. But where is the level keeper?

''Do you know what the name of this challenge is called?'' I hear a female voice say from the sky ask.

''No, of course I don't. You didn't tell me,'' I reply back to her. How could I know since she vanished into thin air as soon as she got here?

''Finders keepers,'' she says. Finders keepers?

''I'm guessing that I have to find you. What happens when I do find you?'' I ask her.

''I get to tell you any of the information I keep,'' she answers. So, when I find her, she will tell me anything I want? Will she tell me about...Wraith? About who is left in the game?

''What's the catch?'' I ask her. This is Phantasmagoria we are talking about here. Anything can happen in this game. And I mean anything.

''Well...,'' I hear the voice say, before I see the sky above me begin to turn dark. It's getting darker and...black. As black as...

Space.

Outer space.

Above me, the sky has become a thick blanket of darkness, dotted with a few stars that are barely giving off any light. I look over again to the forest and see that I can barely make out the tops of the trees in this pitch black atmosphere.

''I'll be down here if you need me,'' I hear the voice of the level keeper muse. The voice is no longer in the sky above me, but in the dark forest below me.

''Alright then,'' I say, before I sigh outwardly. I prepare myself to go down below, but I don't know whether I should equip myself with some things first.

''Oh, by the way, I've put a few Nevers in the forest,'' the level keeper says. As if it wasn't harder to see in the dark already, I have to make sure I don't mistake her for a Never? This is going to be so much fun.

''You won't be able to find me from that ship, will you?'' she says to me. Of course not, I was getting ready to co-

''AARGGHHHH!'' I scream as the Andromeda disappear from beneath me and I find myself falling.

Aaaaaagain.

Always falling.

And now it's into trees.

I imagine that this is going to hurt. What can I do to break my fall? What can I use? What do I see actors use in movie scenes like this?

Ah!

I know!

A parachute!

I quickly conjure one on my back, pull the cord from it and try and manoeuvre it so that I will land safely. But man, I can't see a thing! I wonder how the other participants are faring in this annoying darkness.

SHASH!SRASHSHSASHHSH!

I rustle the leaves of the tree I'm using to break my fall on as I glide down it. I'm coming in a bit too fast, so I know the impact of the landing is going to be a slight bump.

FTUMP!

Yep.

That landing was a bump alright. I land on my back and roll a little to the side. My parachute's become tangled in my body, so I slowly get up and untangle myself. I chuck the parachute to one side as I look around my surroundings. I can barely see my body in this dense darkness. I wish I had that glowing rabbit from the second level again.

Oh yeah!

Duh, Nash! Why didn't you think of it before?

I open the palm of my right hand and imagine that there's a bright flash light in it.

This will be very helpful to me.

I point it all around me, so that I can get a good view of where I am.

Which is...no where.

I don't even know where the level keeper could be. I don't know which direction to take. Left? Right? North? South? Does it even matter? I start walking forward, trying to imagine light coming in the sky, but I know we are not allowed to mess with the level keepers' proposed climate and conditions for the level, since it belongs to them. I just have to use this flash light as best I can.

''How am I supposed to find this girl? There must miles and miles of trees around here,'' I say to myself as I traverse through the woods and try to find my way through it. It's deadly silent out here. I do hear the rustling of trees at times, but it may just be...

My...

Imagination...

I hear a lot of rustling behind me. I stop and slowly turn around and I shine my flash light in the direction of the noise.

''Well, you're not her,'' I say to myself as I lay my eyes upon a big, Never guy. He's black, balding, and looks as if he weighs 220 pounds. I'm glad his eyes are bandaged, because I can imagine the look he's giving me right now.

I don't think it's a very nice one.

Want to know why?

Because he's starting to charge after me!

I turn and run as fast as my legs can carry me. I use the flash light to guide me through the trees, so that I don't run into one. I look back once in a while, and I see that he is right on my tail. This guy is fast for a large person. Well, being in this game probably helps. Maybe he's been granted with speed.

''I thought I was the one being chased,'' I hear the level keeper say from inside the woods. Yeah, yeah, whatever. This level is getting on my nerves with this annoying Never chasing after me. Let me see if I can imagine him to stop.

Nope.

That's not working. He's still hot on my heels. I think I'm getting further and further away from the level keeper now. But then again, I don't even know where she is in the first place. I can't see how much time I have left. Where is the timer...

I see something glowing in the black sky above me. I can't see it fully because of the trees being in the way, but I get a slight glimpse of it.

It's the moon...with the time on it.

What does it say?

16...

No...

15 minutes 34 seconds.

Great, I've wasted over four minutes, and many more will probably be wasted if I don't lose this Never. What would also be nice is if I could just...avoid...these trees somehow. Go through them, or-

''Go through them?'' I repeat aloud what I had just thought. Yes, why don't I just go through them? Like Kitty Pride would?

I imagine myself with the ability to go through solid objects and I start running into the trees instead of around them. This feels so...weird, but at the same time, so...exhilarating!

I run back on myself whilst I try and shake the Never. I run back towards where I believe I landed and continue running. I imagine I have so much stamina and speed, so much so that I turn to see I have gained a considerable gap between me and the Never. I keep running as I try and flash my torch around to see if I can spot the level keeper.

She shouldn't be too hard to find. I remember what she was wearing...

Oh no...

I just remembered something else.

What if she...changed her appearance? Like Saya did? What if I can no longer identify her?

''Time is ticking, Mr Williams!'' I hear her say. Yeah, I know that. That's why I'm trying to find you.

But where are you?

Where are you hiding?

Where can you-

''ACH! ARGGH!'' I hear a female voice scream.

Is that...her?

What's happening to-

''Help! AHHHHH!'' she screams further.

I run faster now, and try and see if I can find out where these screams of help are coming from. I think it's coming from...

''AHHH!'' I hear the scream getting nearer. Good, I'm close. Shouldn't be too far now...

''Mr Williams!'' I hear the level keeper say as I come across her. She looks as if she is being...held hostage. I shine the light on her, then on who is holding her-

No way.

''Davenport,'' I say as I see the sharp, vehement eyes of Vaughan Davenport staring at me through the flash light. What on earth is he doing? Why has he got her?

''Finders keepers,'' Vaughan says to me in a menacing voice. He sounds...different. Like he's more...evil. He's...gotten worse. A whole lot worse than before. I didn't know he could be so ruthless as to hold a girl in a choke hold.

''Let her go, Vaughan,'' I say to him with conviction. I look him squarely in the eye before he bursts out laughing.

''No, Nash, I won't. I've caught her, so I've won the challenge,'' Vaughan replies. Oh yes, that's true. But then...why is she...

''It's not Vaughan, you idiot! It's-,'' the girl begins to say before Vaughan tightens his grip around her neck to shut her up. I look at him strangely. Why was she saying that he's not Vaughan? My eyes must be deceiving me if it isn't Vaughan Davenport. If it's not Vaughan, then who is it...

Oh.

No.

It can't be.

It can't...

''Wraith,'' I simply say to myself as I realise that it is him. He's pretending to be Vaughan. But for what purpose?

''What do you want, Wraith?'' I ask him directly. He shouldn't be allowed to attack the level keepers, should he? The level keeper squirms under his firm hold.

''I...want...revenge...,'' Wraith speaks to me in my mind again. Revenge? For what I did to him in the last level?

''And this is your revenge? It's pathetic,'' I say back to him in anger. I can feel my whole body becoming hot with anger.

''It's only a matter of time before I get rid of you...,'' Wraith says to me. Get rid of me? He really does hate me, doesn't he? Well I hate him too. So I will get rid of him now.

''Argh!'' the level keeper shouts before she is let go by Wraith. She falls to the ground as I keep Wraith at bay.

''What...are you...doing to me?'' I hear him say as I imagine Wraith has become stiff as a stone and I raise him up from the ground. I suspend him high up in the air, before I force him back down to the earth with such speed that he cracks into many pieces. My anger begins to subside as I see that he no longer here to threaten me.

The level keeper and I look at each other. I go over to her to help her up.

''Are you alright?'' I ask her.

''Yeah, thanks,'' she responds.

''Is he going to-,'' I begin to ask as I look at the broken pieces of Wraith.

''Yep. He always comes back,'' she interjects. ''But...he's never done that before. He's never pretended to be another participant. He must really have it in for you,'' she replies back.

Yeah, he does.

''I didn't know he could directly attack you,'' I say to her.

''There's a lot of things you don't know,'' she says to me.

Yeah, there is.

''So...now that I've found you, I guess you're going to have to tell me what I want to know now,'' I say to her as I smile. She looks up at me, knowing that I'm right.

''Right you are, Mr Williams. So tell me, what would you like to know first?'' she asks me.

What would I like to know first?

''What's...your name?'' I ask her. She gives me a strange look. Not what she was expecting, perhaps.

''Kelsey. Kelsey Tate,'' she replies. ''What else would you like to know?''

''Who-no, what is Wraith?'' I ask. She smiles in silence as she regards me.

''That's an excellent question,'' she replies.

It is indeed.

And I hope there's an excellent answer.


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