Sunday, April 10, 2016

Vestigial Surreality: 18: Dragon Warriors

The Sunday SciFi Fantasy Serial, Free Online Fiction, Mystery, Ancestor Simulation, Digital World, Data is Data
episode EIGHTEEN

Nobody spoke as the close group stood in their tight circle in the dimly lit foyer of some dark mansion, a rustic lord’s mansion of giant timbers with only two lamps that oddly did not flicker. The amber-orange light seemed frozen. In fact, the entire atmosphere seemed unnaturally still. Jack and Wolf looked at each other. Wolf the wolf whined softly. Six stood unmoving, looking uncannily like a mannequin. Wolf the wolf turned in a half circle and paced to the heavy double doors, and stood there, head cocked, listening, whining insistently. Something was coming. Something was on the other side of the doors. Something was out in the night.
“What is it, boy?” Jack said, his voice sounding too heavy and too thick in the frozen room. Breath emitted visibly from the youth’s mouth as he spoke, and he shuddered, realizing for the first time just how cold it was in this weird room.
“Don’t call him boy, he’s not a dog,” Wolf the man said.
“Do I really have to start calling you...Wolf?” Jack said, snorting. “I like Stacey better.”
“In this world, apparently I’ve been brought here to fight, and Wolf is my fighting name,” Stacey, Wolf the man, replied, sinking into his deep cloak, reflected light catching and sparking briefly on his eyes as he looked to the double doors where the great wolf stood listening to something. “Plus, with a name like Stacey, my whole life, I’ve almost been the boy named Sue.”
“Made you tough, though,” Jack said, containing his snicker, almost. “You know, the whole my name is Sue, how do you do!”
“Probably just gave me a lifelong bad attitude,” Wolf said, his cool black shillelagh extending from his hand like a walking stick, its tip delicately touching down on the shiny wood planks of the floor.
“I don’t know, that’s the first thing I noticed about you,” Jack said, grinning, his bow sliding off his shoulder, an arrow nocking almost magically between his nimble fingers. “It’s unusual, your great attitude.”
“Six,” Wolf whispered, cuffing the man on the arm. He glanced at Jack. “What is going on? He’s catatonic.”
The big man stood like a pillar of plastic, mouth slightly open, eyes unfocused, one hand extended for their Three Musketeer salute, the other hand clasping a medallion extended on a chain about his thick neck. Jack thought he looked like some statue they would put out at the entrance to a Renaissance Festival.
“This whole place is catatonic,” Jack replied, shivering, “and cold. I didn’t get a cool Aragorn cloak like you did. In a few moments I’ll be as frozen as him.”
Wolf slipped out of his big cloak, and held it open for the kid.
“Really?” Jack said, “I don’t think that thing is going to fit me.”
“In this place, it will probably size itself to fit you perfectly,” Wolf said, aiding Jack into the warmth of the cloak.
But the cloak did not resize itself to Jack’s slim build. He stood with the garment swimming huge on him.
“I feel like I’m trying on my Dad’s clothes,” Jack laughed, nervously, smiling up at Wolf, tugging back the sleeves.
Wolf hugged him, briefly.
“Whatever happens next,” he said, with gravity, “I want you to stay safe, try and stay behind me. Don’t let the beauty of this world fool you, it’s dangerous. Let me do the rough stuff.”
Wolf the wolf whined softly, and scratched at the door.
“What is it, boy?” Wolf said, moving stealthily to the great beast’s side, and then he realized what he had just said and chuckled. “Sorry, what is it, Wolf?”
The big wolf growled and lapped out with his huge tongue, catching Stacey under the chin.
“You know, I kind of like it, don’t be sorry,” Wolf the wolf said, eyes glowing amber lamps.
Wolf the man ruffled Wolf the wolf’s fur, and scratched up between his ears.
“You be careful out there, too. I don’t want you getting hurt, just be ready to back me up if a six-armed giant punches me in the head,” Wolf the man said.
Wolf the wolf scratched at the door again.
“Do you know what’s out there?” Jack said, joining them at the doors, his bow at the ready, clasped in his left hand.
“Men,” Wolf the wolf growled deeply. “Bad men. And many of them.”
Wolf the man tucked his shillelagh beneath his left arm and seized the heavy beam across the door.
“You sure you should open the door, I mean while Six is in this state?” Jack said, unable to suppress the quaver in his voice.
“Open the door,” Wolf the wolf growled.
Wolf the man easily lifted the beam out of the brackets and propped the beam up on its end beside the door.
“You did that so easily,” Jack said, measuring the beam with his eyes. He doubted he could have moved it, as it must be seven feet in length, and twelve inches by six inches in girth, and it looked solid. Jack felt maybe they should have left the beam in place, because it could probably hold off a battering ram.
“Ready?” Wolf the man said.
Wolf the wolf nodded his big head, once.
Jack swallowed, hard. It sounded like an egg was stuck in his throat.
Wolf the man pulled upon the huge ring on the right-side door and swung the eight-foot-tall door inward, bracing himself. Wolf the wolf immediately shot through the door, his large paws strangely quiet in the night. Wolf the man stood in the open doorway, listening. There was nothing. The strangeness inside the manor extended beyond its door, with the world hushed and resting. Yet there was that sense, that the night crouching outside the door waited, ready to pounce.
“What the hell are you doing!”
Jack and Wolf started, whirling about. Six stood a few paces away, his sword in his hand, crouching.
“Shut the door, you idiots!” he cried.
Wolf ushered Jack back into the manor and gently, quietly closed the door, and remained with his shoulder against the monstrously heavy door, leaving a crack which he could peer through, as Six came forward.
“Glad to see you’re okay,” Jack said, “but you almost gave us a heart attack sneaking up like that.”
“You don’t know what you’re doing,” Six said, “you don’t know what’s coming. Close the door! Lock it, put the beam back in place.”
“The lamp,” Wolf said.
They turned to the lamp upon the table. The amber flame flickered in the rippled, smoky glass. And everything felt different. While they focused on the door, the whole world came back into existence.
“Oh no, we’re not ready, but it’s happening, now, they’re here, right now, outside the door,” Six said, his sword lowering until the tip rested upon the floor, and his left hand clutched at his heart as if he were suffering an attack.
“Calm down,” Wolf commanded, his voice low, almost a growl. “Isn’t that why we’re here?”
“Yuh-yes,” Six stammered, “buh-but I’m not ready. This is our very last chance, and you don’t even know—”
Rough voices sounded outside. Wolf tensed at the door, crouching. Jack scrambled back, raising his bow, an arrow ready, and Six finally steadied himself and flanked Wolf to the right.
Six felt frozen throughout his bones, because he had lived this moment, too many times, it seemed countless times, and here it was again, the two giants outside the door. The seven-foot tall brute with the ax—Six had felt that ax, right here, in his breast—and the squat brute with the spear, and Six had experienced that particular delight, as well.
Except now this incredible Stacey guy was here, taking charge, that was decidedly different. And the wisp of a kid, he was here too, with his bow up and an arrow sighted.
Okay, Six thought, this time we’re all in. I’m fighting, and even if I have to die, I’m doing it, I’m going for it, I don’t care anymore.
Loud boots sounded on the porch outside, the dragon warriors not even attempting stealth.
The first crash would strike the door in moments, and Stacey was just standing there, the blow would drive the door into him and he’d fall backward, but when the giant went to kill Stacey, Six would take him, oh yes, this time he would pay back some of the torment these raiders delighted in so much. This time.
Then Wolf pulled the door inward.
Six cried out and scrambled backward as the two hulking figures appeared in the doorway, the seven-foot giant swinging his ax.
Wolf twirled his shillelagh in his left hand and caught the downward swing of the ax crosswise, smashing the giant’s fingers and driving the mighty ax swing to the side, and with one continuing fluid movement he stepped in close and drove his right fist (garbed in the ludicrous thorny snakeskin MMA glove) directly upward into the giant’s chin. The gloved fist cracked upon the tip of the big chin, and the giant’s head snapped backward, tilting almost comically upward, and suddenly the monstrous attacker was doing little mincing ballerina steps, backward, crashing over.
The spear! Six was about to shout out in warning, the squat brute, the one with the long spear, he was already driving forward, and Six meant to cry out, he intended to warn his new friend, but there just was no time, everything was happening sickeningly fast, and yet everything seemed to be moving slowly, dreamlike, and it was too late to issue any kind of warning.
Wolf snapped his shillelagh around and knocked the head of the spear, deflecting the very deadly tip, if only the fragment of an inch to the side, and impossibly Wolf was moving forward, his shillelagh never ceasing, snapping up between the squat warrior’s splayed legs, and it whumped loudly, but Wolf did not pause, but rocked a right elbow forward and smashed the bracer on his arm into the squat warrior’s face.
Six swallowed hard and glanced to Jack. The kid was moving forward, the same arrow nocked at ready, his face grim and resolute. Six moved in close behind the kid. He’d watch their backs, make sure nobody snuck up on them.
The squat warrior did not fall, but staggered backward, and it looked like Wolf was giving him little love taps with the end of his black stick, just a rapid tap-a-tap tapping, all about the warriors head, but still the massively wide warrior did not fall. He tried to bring his spear back into play but Wolf stomped down on the staff of the weapon, smashing it from the warrior’s grasp.
The fallen giant was scrambling to his feet, growling. With an almost leisure consideration Wolf swung his black shillelagh to the right and tapped the giant on the head, knocking him back down.
Torches appeared all about the porch as a multitude of warriors rushed forward.
Wolf drove in again and smashed the wide end of the black fighting club into the squat warrior’s face, driving him end-over-end backward, tumbling down the steps that lead from the porch.
Wolf turned his attention again to the fallen giant, who had flipped over and was crawling away, and Wolf could not resist the cheap shot and swung his boot up between the giant’s scrambling legs. Yes, it was a dirty shot, but who did these creeps think they were, invading a man’s home and castle by night, sneaking in like thieves. Wolf thought better of it and drove his shillelagh into the same tender place where his boot had just struck. The giant groaned loudly and collapsed face down. Wolf strode over his back and stood on his neck, his shillelagh ever twirling.
For a moment everything went still, with Wolf astride the giant’s neck, the wide warrior sprawled flat on his back at the base of the stairs, a ring of perhaps twenty invaders encircling the front of the manor, torches lifted high and wielding massive battleaxes.
Jack stood behind Wolf, his first arrow still nocked, ready to fly, sighting from warrior to warrior. Thank goodness there did not appear to be any bowmen present.
“This is my manor!” Six cried, raising his sword, moving around Jack. He wanted to cut off the giant’s head, because he clearly remembered all the many times before. All the repetitious attacks, played over and over, always with the same result of death, rape, and destruction (not necessarily in that order). This giant, this squat warrior, they were the rapists.
“Wait!” cried the squat warrior, pushing himself into a crouch, appearing remarkably undamaged—undiminished—despite the brutal caning the man with the black shillelagh had just delivered.
Wolf leaped from the top of the stairs, a full ten steps, and crashed down into the squat warrior, flattening him again. He tapped the warrior on the back of the head with the end of his stick.
Six howled and rushed at the giant, slashing down, his sword striking at the prone warrior’s neck, but impossibly the giant rolled over and batted away the sword strike with a bracer on his arm. The giant kicked up with both legs and struck Six at the knees, buckling him over. Grinning despite his bloodied face, the giant rolled at Six with a wicked dagger.
Jack tracked the knife and with hardly a thought, loosed the arrow. The dagger fell from the giant’s pierced hand.
The giant howled and snapped the arrow in his wounded hand, and with jutting teeth he came at Jack, who stepped back a quick shuffling dance, and smashed the widest part of his bow across the man’s snarling face. But the giant was hardly deterred and swung his arms to seize Jack, but Jack surprised himself and leapt to the bannister along the porch and balanced there, another arrow nocked and sighted on the giant’s chest.
Six swung and punched the giant squarely in the eye and the brute came back upon him and they grappled. Six was a big man, six-foot-four and more than two hundred fifty pounds, but the giant dwarfed him, and they snarled and twisted at each other.
A torch-bearing axman rushed across the grounds at Wolf but Jack placed an arrow through his ax hand. The raider dropped his torch and fell to his knees, grasping his wounded hand. Yes, Jack nodded, he could do this. He had Stacey’s back.
“Wait! Wait!” the squat spearman hollered, scrambling away from Wolf on his back and elbows, his legs kicking frantically.
“What, you want to talk?” Wolf growled, tapping at the scrambling feet with the shillelagh.
“The Pugilist!” one of the raiders cried, waving his torch.
“It’s the Pugilist!” another raider cried, stumbling backward, and surprisingly, the ring of raiders drew back, still in violent postures, but undecided in their next actions. All along the line of raiders, like crickets beginning a chorus, they began to say that word, pugilist, over and over again.
“Maybe we should hear what he has to say?” Jack said, easily striding the length of the bannister, his boots sure upon the narrow railing, another arrow nocked.
Six continued to struggle with the giant. He had his hands on the brute’s throat, but despite his savagely twisting fingers, he was unable to effectively throttle the monster, who had him in a bear hug and was squeezing for all he was worth. Six groaned and dug deep his fingers. This was his first chance to get in a few licks of his own, and he was taking some delight in the life-and-death struggle. The bastards! Finally, he would show them how it felt. He squeezed harder with all his considerable strength and felt some slackening in the giant’s deadly embrace.
“I think I might enjoy knocking you down again,” Wolf growled at the squat warrior who continued to scramble away. “Get up.”
The squat warrior complied, rising to a crouch. His face was bloodied and swollen, but he still seemed to have a lot of spite ready, glowering at his shillelagh-wielding tormentor.
The giant lifted Six off his feet and slammed him into a wooden pillar, cracking the mighty wood. But Six did not release his hold. Think pitbull, he commanded himself.
“We did not know you were present, Pugilist,” the squat warrior snarled. “We raided the rich lords, as is our right. They are our enemies, and killing them is our right. Raping their women and children is our right.”
“No, it’s not your right,” Wolf said, going still, the shillelagh for the first time frozen, held parallel along his left arm. He was going to kill this self-righteous savage. For the first time in his life, he felt the killer instinct, deep down. The killer instinct always missing when he was a boxer. And he was almost ashamed to acknowledge that it felt pretty...good.
“I don’t look kindly on rapers.”
“Rapists,” Jack corrected.
Wolf sighed. That kid.
Six and the giant came crashing down the stairs, Six with his fingers buried in the giant’s throat, the giant yet squeezing the smaller man in a bear hug.
Stacey glanced to watch the savage encounter but made certain to maintain the squat warrior clearly in his peripheral vision.
Six gritted his teeth and got up close to stare into the giant’s eyes.
“Not this time,” Six whispered, and clamped his hands, not looking away, watching the giant’s bulging eyes glaze and finally roll up into his head, but still he squeezed, trying to make his palms meet. He wanted to interlock his fingers with the giant’s throat between his hands. The giant legs and arms spasmed, then fell limp.
Six collapsed across the giant’s chest.
“He killed the Krogurr,” many of the raiders muttered, aghast, disbelief evident in their voices. But the truth was, they didn’t sound very outraged, not at all.
“Plant your torches!” the squat warrior thundered, raising his fists at his ears in the classic muscleman pose. Without pause, the raiders obeyed, slamming the ends of their long torches into the loamy soil. Even the raider with the arrow through his hand managed to retrieve his torch and plant it in the soil.
“Now you fight me, and prove if you are the Pugilist of legend,” the squat warrior snarled, stripping off his shaggy armor and dashing each piece to the ground.
Wolf spun his shillelagh and planted it in the soil. He’d keep his cool MMA gloves.
The warrior stripped down to a loincloth, and his body proved tattooed on every inch of flesh, tattoos that glowed iridescent in the torchlight. He had a barrel of a chest, a big man’s body, like a powerlifter, ripe with jiggling fatty muscle, with quite a pair of breasts, to boot.
“Be careful, Stacey,” Jack called, “you know he’s going to cheat.”
“Wolf,” Wolf the man called back.
Jack sighed. “Yes, I know, I know, Wolf.”
“I love fighting a cheater,” Wolf said.
Six pushed himself to a sitting position, gasping, his head whirling.
“Get him,” he croaked.
Wolf marched toward the squat tattooed warrior.
The squat warrior snarled and hurled himself upon Wolf, who sidestepped and tripped the rushing warrior. But to his credit, the squat warrior did not fall, but merely stumbled, and swung back around and lashed out with a fist, which Wolf ducked. The squat warrior kept his fists up as if he were flexing his biceps, and from this stance threw punch after punch in swiping motions, like a cat.
“You’ve been watching too much Chuck Liddell,” Wolf muttered and stepped in close and snapped a machinegun jab into the warrior’s face, peppering him three times, even breaking his nose.
The warrior sat back with a grunt and landed on his butt. Dazed for a moment, he stared up at his tormentor and then flinched, thinking Wolf would kick him while he was down.
Wolf almost did kick him, right in the face, but held himself back. He motioned with his fingers, come on, get back up—let’s play.
The watching raiders murmured.
Jack noticed more raiders slinking in from the darkness, joining the outer ring. These too had torches, which they lit from the flaming stakes planted about the clearing. They waved their torches and began to call out encouragingly to their leader. Jack couldn’t count how many raiders were present, but he figured thirty to forty to be a good ballpark figure. Perhaps, fifty. He kept his bow half-drawn, an arrow nocked. He figured he had perhaps twenty arrows, at best, but he also had his nifty dagger on his belt. He danced nervously on the railing.
Out in the darkness Jack caught sight of a large shape moving quickly around the ring, just on the very edge of the light. It must be Wolf the wolf, he thought.
The squat warrior surged to his feet and attacked, throwing punch after monstrous haymaker punch, all of which Wolf slipped and dodged, ducked and eluded.
Wolf considered. He had certainly never fought anyone like this in the ring, neither in sparring or professionally. The guy was a brute, a big, strong, meaty warrior, even dangerous, but he certainly didn’t know how to fight. Heck, with this new body, he could fight like this for hours. He wasn’t even winded, not a bit, with nary a sign of asthma. He danced in close and planted a fist deep in the squat warrior’s body, just beneath the ribs. The warrior woofed. It was like hitting the heavy bag, with only a little more gush from inside. Wolf half-blocked another powerful blow, and then he snapped down his right fist in a short, driving blow, catching the warrior in the mouth.
The leader of the raiders tumbled over backward.
Surprisingly, many of the raiders cheered.
The warrior rolled onto his hands and knees and glowered up at Wolf. Sheesh, Wolf thought, the guy is just full of piss and vinegar. He had certainly never meant an opponent like this. The guy was scary.
Wolf tittered his fingertips at the warrior, come on, get up again.
The warrior got up again. Wolf knocked him down again.
The raiders cheered again, only now more were cheering.
The warrior, enraged threw himself on Wolf, and they grappled. The warrior stomped down on Wolf’s foot, but Wolf was watching for that and moved his foot, and when the warrior attempted to seize him by the nuts, Wolf hurled himself upward, seized the warrior around the neck, and when his feet touched down he launched himself up and around the man’s broad back, but didn’t release his hold on the man’s neck—he flipped up and over, to land on his feet—the warrior gurgled, strangled, and Wolf applied all his vast strength and pulled the heavy man up and around onto his own back, so that they were back to back, with Wolf’s stranglehold sinking in deeper.
Utterly helpless, balanced on Wolf’s back, the warrior’s neck stretched and twisted about, his feet up in the air, kicking, arms flailing.
The watching raiders roared, and now there were even more of them gathered, perhaps more than a hundred, and they were cheering, watching their chief strangled. Many were chanting.
Pugilist! Pugilist!
In a second or two, the warrior’s neck would snap. The fact that it hadn’t snapped already was a testament to the warrior’s powerful body, but the dynamics of this unheard stranglehold would not allow even the strongest neck to survive such pressures, all of Wolf’s strength, all of the huge squat warrior’s weight, and Wolf felt it, what he always felt in his boxing career.
He felt sorry for the other guy.
Wolf flipped the warrior over and slammed him into the ground. He stood away from the fallen warrior, breathing hard. He looked at the roaring, cheering raiders. They shook their axes and spears above their heads, many of them clashing their weapons together with whoever stood closest to them.
“Anyone else?” Wolf thundered, planting his fists upon his hips.
As one, the encircling raiders quieted and dropped to their knees, placing their weapons reverently upon the ground.
The squat warrior, the once leader of this group, lay gasping and coughing.
Six appeared at Wolf’s side, woozy and gasping.
“You did it, you actually did it, you turned the whole raid aside!” Six said with wonder, placing his arm about Wolf’s shoulders.
“Was this your chief?” Wolf called about the unnaturally quiet glade. For so many violent men to be so silent, it was weird.
Jack leapt lightly from the deck bannister and landed gracefully upon his feet, and quickly trotted to Wolf’s side.
They looked and were surprised to see the leader of the raiders kneeling, placing his forehead in the dirt, taking handfuls of the soil and rubbing it into his head. It appeared to be some form of symbolic gesture of humiliation.
“That’s incredible,” Six said, shaking his head. “Never heard of anything like this, not with dragon warriors.”
“They’re your guys now,” Wolf said, shaking out his muscles. He was exhausted, utterly drained. It truly had been a long couple of days. He thought of the six-armed monstrosity. The vast serpent and their duel under the sacred fruit tree. The sky falling like shards of crystal. The bug-eyed Martians in the alley.
“I don’t think so,” Six said doubtfully, certain any one of the raiders would cease their prostrations and leap for his throat at any moment.
“I do not care what your mission in life was before,” Wolf boomed. “I do not care what you thought your rights were. There will be no more raping. The dragon warriors will from hereon be a people of honor, and your primary goal in life is to protect the lands and life and peoples of...”
He glanced to Six and whispered: “What in the world is your name, here? Your full name?”
“Lord Meren Dulance of High Vale,” Six said, feeling a little self-conscious. It was a good name, right? He could have picked any name he desired, and he’d gone with Lord Meren Dulance, of course that was years ago, and in those days he was just playing a very cool game.
“Your mission in life is to protect the lands and life and people of Lord Meren Dulance of High Vale, this good man standing here beside me,” he boomed.
The raiders bowed and scraped, murmuring like a wave: “Pugilist. Pugilist. Pugilist.”
“You are the protectors of this land and its people. Any harm you have caused here, you will repay,” Stacey boomed, to cries of Pugilist! Pugilist! Pugilist!
“Can you think of anything else?” Wolf whispered to Six.
Six shook his head, feeling dizzy, and liberated, and free.
“How about tributes?” Jack whispered in Wolf’s ear.
“Yes, you will make tributes to Lord Meren Dulance, every year!”
“Twice a year,” Six said, automatically, blinking his eyes.
“Yes, you will make tributes to Lord Meren Dulance twice a year! Tributes of ten percent of your profits, twice a year!”
“Twenty percent, no, twenty-five percent!” Six said, getting into it.
“Don’t be greedy,” Wolf snapped.
“Oh look,” Jack said with glee, “the moons are coming out, one on either side!”
And sure enough, there on their left (Wolf didn’t know the directions here) was the big swollen moon, and right on cue was the smaller moon emerging on the right.
Hours later Wolf reclined in a plush wingchair that fitted his body suspiciously like a La-Z-Boy recliner, a tall tankard of Dark (what Six called it) in his fist. His eyes were drowsy, and he could see the first light of dawn illuminating the windows.
“I couldn’t do without my Guinness Stout,” Six said, sipping appreciatively at his own tankard. “I actually brought some Stout over here and had my brewmeisters work to get it as close as possible. “We’ve just called it Dark, but from hereon, it’s Wolf Dark!”
“How about Dark Wolf?” Jack contributed.
“I’d prefer White Wolf, but then that would be an odd stout, wouldn’t it?” Wolf said, sleepily.
“Dark Wolf it is!” Six laughed.
“A stout named after me, it’s always been one of my highest aspirations,” Wolf said. He usually would not drink anything this strong in the morning, but he really needed it now.
“In about half an hour my cook will be up and I’ll have him rustle up some breakfast, you have to try the bison bacon, it is really good, much better than pork,” Six said.
“Vegetarian,” Jack and Wolf said as one, and laughed.
“We’re still doing that,” Jack said.
“I’m glad one thing is still solid from the old world,” Wolf said.
“I like your goatee,” Jack said.
Wolf felt at his chin. “Funny, I haven’t seen myself in this new world. You’ve got one too, you know?”
“I do?” Jack said, delighted, feeling at his own chin. “I have a real moustache! I’ve always wanted a goatee! Awesome!”
“Yeah,” Wolf said, yawning, “don’t worry, it’ll fill in, give yourself a couple of years.”
Jack looked crestfallen.
“No, I’m kidding, you look like Errol Flynn,” Wolf said, chuckling. “Very dashing.”
“Yeah, Robin Hood, that’s me,” Jack laughed.
“Well come on,” Six burst, “you guys don’t have to be vegetarian any more, come on, live a little. It’s not like you’ll be eating real meat, not in High Vale.”
“I think for us,” Wolf said, glancing at Jack, “the rules probably don’t change too much, as the animals here are as real as the animals back where we came from.”
“Where I come from,” Six said, “everyone is vegetarian; it’s literally a crime to eat any kind of animal—there just aren’t that many of the critters left—so here, I cut loose. Everyone thinks that eating animals is barbaric, and disgusting, but I think we are all pretty much animals, so we just love to rip into other animals. It’s the blood that is so good. When you live with the animals, live like the animals, am I right?”
“I think I just need to conk out,” Wolf said, blinking his eyes.
“Me too,” Jack said, stifling a yawn.
“Conk out? What’s that, some kind of vegetarian thing?” Six said.
“No, it means we’re pooped. We need to keel over and sleep the sleep of the dead,” Jack explained.
“Coma, it’s calling, I’m about to meet a coma,” Wolf said.
“We have two or three guestrooms; you can take your pick. Stacey, you take the room right over there, and Jack there’s one right at the top of the stairs on the second level.”
“Not to be weird or anything, but you don’t have a room with two beds, do you? I don’t want to let Stacey out of my sight,” Jack said.
Wolf did not correct them. He supposed his name would follow him, wherever he went. He was Stacey the Wolf and Wolf the Stacey. But his former self seemed far away. He was in a whole new world, after all.
In their room Wolf did not even remove his boots. He fell face down on one of the small beds, and was instantly asleep.
Jack grinned and removed the older man’s boots. Then he fell onto the other bed and was snoring before his head hit the fluffy pillow.
Six paced in the great hall. He felt overjoyed. Finally, they had done it. Thanks to Old Ben, with a little of the hoped-for luck, they had done it.
He wished the guys could have remained awake long enough to meet Varra, who should be waking soon. Ah, Varra, love of my life, our future is open to us! I gave up everything from my old world, for you, Varra. He slammed his right fist into his left palm. Ah, but he felt good.
Six heard a tiny wind chime on the periphery of his hearing. He called up a window and received a notification of an incoming visitor. He opened the notice. Hey! Great! Seven was coming! This would be truly epic! She should be arriving in the High Vale visitor center on the morrow. Lovely. He couldn’t wait to see her.
Seven could meet his two new friends, Jack and Wolf.

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Vestigial Surreality by Douglas Christian Larsen

Illustrations by Harrison Christian Larsen, story by Douglas Christian Larsen
© Copyright 2016 Douglas Christian Larsen. Vestigial Surreality. All Rights Reserved by the Author, Douglas Christian Larsen. No part of this serial fiction may be reproduced (except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews) or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the publisher, Wolftales UNlimited, but please feel free to share the story with anyone, only not for sale or resale. This work is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental (wink, wink).

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related terms, ideas, works:
ancestor simulation, digital ark, salvation of humanity,
vestigial surreality, manda project, rocket to saturn,
the singularity, the butterfly effect, simulated reality, matrix,
virtual reality, otherland, the matrix, 1q84, haruki murakami,
hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world, dreaming,
the dream place, waking from a dream, ready player one,
hologram, holodeck, saturn, saturnalia, cycles of time,
simulacron-3, daniel f. galouye, counterfeit world,
tad williams, science fantasy, science fiction,
Victor Frankenstein, Nikola Tesla, genius
do we live in a computer simulation?
mystery, thriller, horror, techno thriller,
signs and wonders, vestigial surreality,
william gibson, neal stephenson, serial,
cyberpunk, dystopian future, apocalypse,
scifi, mmorpg, online video game world,
end times, apocalypse, armageddon,
digital universe, hologram universe,
sunday sci-fi fantasy serial fiction,
virtual reality, augmented reality
the unknown writer blog
are we living in a simulation?
puppets, puppetry, punch
Elon Musk, Tesla, VR

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