Hostile Universe

“It’s a hostile universe out there,” she said.  She flicked the ash off the end of the cigarette dangling from between her fingers.  “But you knew that already.”

I did know that.  You only had to see the Channel 8921 Intergalactic News once to realize that the whole of existence was bent on destroying itself from the inside out.  But it didn’t mean anything.  Not for me, not anymore.

Her outfit was typical for her profession: a black leather jumpsuit, unnecessary belt, stilettos, and a gigantic gun strapped to her back.

She took a drag and, a few seconds later, exhaled a cloud of blue smoke.  I didn’t buy any of it; nobody smoked anymore, and with it being so hard to tell reality from VR in any situation, I found that it was best not to believe anything unless you could touch it…and sometimes not even then.

“In fact, I think you thrive on it,” she intoned smokily.  “I’ve never known anybody to revel in violence as much as you.  And I’ve known a lot of violent people.  But you…you’re an artist.”

I’d heard this all before, in a thousand different places at a thousand different times, but always the same speech.  It was starting to get old.  

I leaned back in my chair, feigning relaxation.  I was tingling with a new feeling, trepidation perhaps, though it felt closer to elation.  I also felt the need to keep it to myself.

“I’m not even sure you have a choice.  Do you even have the faculties to create rather than destroy?”  She had a thoughtful look on her face at this point, perhaps imagining that she’d stumbled across some new thought, something that would make me dwell upon my own existence.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d heard this very same line, with the same emphasis, even the same accent, at least 15 times before.

She looked me squarely in the eyes.  The look on her face said I’m serious now, no bullshit here, so you’d better pay attention.  I leaned forward, resting my arms on the sticky table.  I found myself thankful for my flight suit’s auto-cleaning device.

“Have you ever tried to do anything other than kill?  Has the thought even crossed your mind?  Are your hands even capable of  the lone act that makes you more than an animal, the act of making something out of nothing?”  She paused dramatically.  “You wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

The end of the cigarette in her hand was almost completely ashen, drooping heavily and threatening to fall onto the table.  I was bored.   I leaned back again, casually placing my hand in my pocket.  I felt the device that rested there, which seemed to weigh a thousand pounds and nothing at all.

“I’ll take your silence as a no.”  She turned her head and stared dreamily at the clock above the bar.  It was a pointless thing to do, time doesn’t mean anything in space.  But she was looking through it, not checking the time.

The truth of the matter was that I was tired of war, tired of killing, tired of violence, just plain tired.  For my whole life I had lived only to see tomorrow and deprive others of the same privilege.  I wanted to rest without paranoia, to sleep with both eyes closed.  The only things I saw in my future were lasers and death.  Something needed to change.

But I wasn’t going to tell her that.  She might think that she was the one who placed the idea into my head.

“I don’t know,” she said through another wave of smoke.   “Maybe that’s just your fate.  The grand design must include you somehow.  Just another-”

I didn’t even wait for her to finish her sentence.  She was probably right, but I had no intention of letting her continue this mind-numbing speech.  So I pressed the single button on the device for the first time, and her face exploded into a trillion impossible shapes.   I jumped, to where I didn’t know.  I just knew this small thing with its one switch was supposed to take me somewhere different.  Somewhere I could be who I wanted, not what the universe forced me to be.  A different reality.

My body evaporated and reformed into an unfamiliar configuration.  I felt like I had too many wings and not enough teeth.  Then, in the smallest fraction of a second, I was back to my old self.  Instantly, the world turned into a single point of light the color of infinity, and into infinity the color of nothing. After that, things got confusing.

A billion years and a second later, I was…somewhere different.  I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly.  It was a place as familiar as my childhood home, but something was off. Something was new.  Excitement washed over me for the first time in as long as I could remember.  Maybe things would change.

But it’s always the same, isn’t it?

[Note: This is my take on an introduction in the style of Descent for a game that doesn’t exist.  I’ve always felt that a bizarre back-story can make a simple game a lot more mysterious and intriguing.  The non-existent game for this introduction would be a Shmup in the style of Gradius, except that you can “Jump” to another universe, thereby randomizing enemies and powerups into a totally unique configuration.  No, I will probably never make this game.  But I had to write this down.  Thanks for reading!]


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