“Oh, come on Ralph,” Peter groaned. “It’s going to be fun! You never want to try anything new.”
Peter folded his arms in frustration as Ralph nervously bit the whites of his fingernails. Ralph was a very cautious young man and he wasn’t too fond of taking big risks or trying new things, so Peter asking him to go to the arcade to play the new scary game that just opened sounded just too daunting for him.
“This is not my type of fun,” Ralph shook his head vigorously.
Ralph wasn’t into sports or video games like the other boys at school. He wasn’t good at volleyball; basketball had never been kind to him and dodgeball…well dodgeball was downright frightening. Ralph enjoyed staying indoors, reading up on fine literature and playing chess.
“But this new game is going to be awesome!” Peter exclaimed loudly outside the arcade doors. “It’s called Soul Taker, and its virtual reality! I’ve never played a virtual reality game before.”
Soul Taker did not sound very fun or safe to Ralph, but that didn’t stop Peter from dragging his friend by the wrist into the arcade and over to the new game.
It was a giant black box with two closed black curtains that you had to go through to enter. Overtop the contraption were the words SOUL TAKER in gooey red letters.
“I don’t want whatever is in there to take my soul,” Ralph shivered.
“It’s just a game Ralph,” Peter rolled his eyes. “It feels real, but its not really.”
“That’s not what I heard,” A screechy voice behind them says. The two boys turn around to see an old man with almost no teeth smiling at them. “I heard…that if you play this game, the Soul Taker comes to claim your soul for real. The only boy I ever saw play this so far…haven’t seen the bloke since.”
Ralph’s eyes widen in fear.
“That’s it, I’m going home!” He turns to leave but Peter grabs his wrist once again.
“You really going to listen to that lunatic?” Peter scowls. “The guy seriously needs a trip to the dentist.”
Peter opens the door for Ralph to enter and with a large sigh and a deep breath, he walks through the curtain, hoping that he won’t regret it.
Inside the small room it’s white, with two sets of virtual reality glasses charging on a stand in the middle.
There are instructions written on the wall in red lettering;
Press the red button to turn on the glasses, then, place the glasses on your face. DO NOT TAKE OFF THE GLASSES UNTIL THE GAME HAS COMPLETED. Good luck.
Peter rubs his hands together with anticipation and Ralph swallows around a lump in his throat.
They make eye contact once more, press the red button on the side of the glasses and put on the virtual reality glasses in unison.
The room is suddenly black, with three red pot lights lit above the ceiling. Ralph looks around to see if he can see Peter, but he’s alone.
Of course, he can’t really be alone, Peter must still be in the room with him, he is just in a different simulation than Ralph.
Ralph looks down at his hands to see he has a gun in one hand and a knife in the other.
“CHOOSE,” A loud voice says. “Lift your choice in the air.”
Ralph examines the two options, one is a regular six round handgun, the other is a machete knife. A gun would most likely be more useful, Ralph thinks to himself, but is it loaded? He pulls the trigger and it fires loud and clear. Convinced, he lifts the gun in the air.
“PLAYER 2 HAS CHOSEN.” The voice says.
All the pot lights turn off and for a moment he’s in the dark silence. Then, a timer comes on the wall, a 3 minutes countdown.
One red light turns on, creating a spotlight. Ralph finds himself staring at himself, but how? Even if this was his reflection, he would see himself wearing the glasses. But the Ralph that he sees isn’t wearing the glasses and he has a twisted frown on his face.
“YOU HAVE THREE MINUTES TO STOP YOURSELF FROM DYING,” The voice says. “OR THE SOUL TAKER WILL COME TO COLLECT.”
I don’t like this game, He thinks.
A pair of hands wrap around the virtual Ralph’s neck and he starts to scream. Ralph shoots at the hands but nothing happens, its as if he just shot at thin air. The red light goes out and appears in another corner of the room. He see’s virtual Ralph again being stabbed with a knife.
The scene looks so real, it makes his stomach turn. What kind of messed up game is this? And how are the glasses mimicking his appearance virtually in the game so accurately? How could the game possibly know what he even looks like?
He shoots twice at his masked murderer but again, it’s as if nothing happened. The bullets don’t affect the virtual murders.
He looks at the timer to see that he is down to two minutes now.
The lights move again, and virtual Ralph is now being beat to death with a glass bottle and he’s screaming.
Ralph looks around the room frantically, how can he stop the virtual version of himself from being killed? And if he can’t stop it…will he be killed too…for real?
No, that’s silly. Like Peter said…it’s just a game.
Ralph looks up and see’s the pot lights above him. Every time the lights move, a different pot light comes on.
He raises his gun at the lit-up light and fires, shattering the pot light. Satisfied, he waits for the second pot light to light up and shoots that one out too.
He smiles as the third one lights up and he aims his gun to shoot, but no bullet comes out. A 6-bullet revolver… and he’s used it 6.
He curses himself for firing that test shot and the beginning of the game. He looks at the timer to see he’s down to one minute. Now what?
The light is shining on the virtual Ralph as he repeatedly gets whipped in the face with a rope, blood masking his facial features.
Ralph quickly looks around the room, looking for something else he can use to turn off the last red light.
He bends down and quickly unties his shoe and throws it at the light, but he misses, and his shoe vanishes into thin air.
30 seconds left on the timer.
He unties his other shoe and gets ready to throw it.
“Come on,” Ralph says, and chucks his shoe at the light, shattering it.
Glass shards fly all around him and he ducks, closing his eyes. When he opens them, he’s surrounded by snow and standing in the middle of a graveyard.
Confused, he wanders around the graveyard aimlessly, not sure what to do. He see’s something on the tree in the distance and walks towards it, hoping it could be some sort of clue.
As he gets closer, he realizes it’s a person.
He stops dead in his tracks and freezes in fear.
It’s Peter, hanging from the branch of the tree from a noose, covered in blood, dead.
Ralph stumbles backwards and falls into a snowbank and rips off the virtual reality glasses.
He rubs his eyes and opens them, but he’s still in the snowbank, staring at his murdered friend.
His eyes widen and his heart begins to race. He reaches up to take the glasses off but he’s no longer wearing them, but he’s still in the game somehow.
He rises to his feet, shaking.
But…if he can’t remove the glasses to end the game, then how is he ever going to get out? Was what that toothless man said actually true?
“RUN,” The voice says. “THE SOUL TAKER IS COMING.”
Ralph stumbles but quickly gains his balance and starts running through the graveyard. Loud drums and the sound of gongs surround him with no clue as to where they are coming from. The gongs get louder and louder as he runs.
A hand from one of the graves reach out, grabbing his ankle and he screams and falls to the ground.
In the distance he see’s a large black figure in a cloak, slithering closer and closer towards him.
Ralph fights with the hand to get it off his ankle, kicking the bones until they break away from his flesh. He gets up quickly and keeps running.
He see’s the entrance gates of the graveyard and runs towards them, barely able to breathe. There is a huge red exit sign flashing over the gates. His lungs are burning, and his loins are on fire, and he’s covered in snow and dirt, but he keeps his pace steady until he breaks through the big black gates and falls to the ground in pain.
He screams and Peter grabs his shoulders.
“Ralph!” Peter yells. “Are you alright?”
Ralph opens his eyes to find himself sitting next to Peter on a fake motorbike, playing a computerized racing game.
“What the-” He says, his breath heavy. “Where’s the…where’s the virtual reality glasses? Th-the soul taker game?”
Peter points his thumb at the Soul Taker black box that’s suddenly covered in caution tape.
“It’s been closed down for days,” Peter says. “I told you already…”
Ralph scratches his head in confusion. Could that really all have just been one bad dream?
“By the way,” Peter says. “Why are you covered in dirt, and where are your shoes?”
Ralph looks down in horror.
It wasn’t a dream.
No more then three hours later, Peter was found hanging from a noose in the tree in his backyard, and everyone claimed it to be suicide, Ralph knew otherwise.
The game was real, and the Soul Taker took Peter’s soul.
As for Ralph, he still see’s the Soul Taker in his dreams at night, waking up covered in a pile of dirt and blood. He lives in constant fear that one day, the Soul Taker will come for him too.
Ralph unconsciously swaps in and out of the game randomly, almost dying each time. Because he took off the glasses, he’s forever stuck playing with the soul taker.