INFINITE LIVES ONLINE
[ Shitting Pixels ]
“Health status,” I muttered under my breath, dreading the response of a status-bot that had been encoded with all the care, compassion, and personality of a toaster.
[HP 24/150. Shelter and recuperation recommended]
Dammit! There was no way to sugar-coat that one. A measly 24 hit-points remaining out of the 150 HP I’d originally set out with? As energy levels went, I wasn’t quite at death's door, but there could be no denying it; I was halfway up the sythe-waving bastard’s driveway, admiring the skull detailing on his shiny new hearse. Damn my magpie-like craving for shiny new weapons of mass destruction, and damn the arrogance that sent me wandering into the Red Zone to track down said items in the first place.
Of course, like most things that inevitably got me killed, maimed, or touched inappropriately by Gnomes, the strategy had seemed like a good one, at the time. Because in Infinitus, high risk meant high reward, and I had a very specific reward in mind; levelling-up into an undeniably sexy engine of destruction. If I could make the leap from generic shirtless swordsman to immortal warrior king, nothing would be able to stand in my path, right?
Of course hindsight was a wonderful thing, and venturing up an ice-encrusted mountain wearing nothing but a pair of skimpy little Ax Battler warrior speedos, matching booties, and a set of undeniably cool-looking, but not-especially-insulating tattoos, had probably been asking for trouble.
I stared down at my avatar's battered, muscular, bleeding torso, and sighed.
Classification: Level 22 Swordsman
HP: 24/150 Mana: 24/100 Evaluation Skill: Level 14
Reputation: -22 Strength: 10 Agility: 8 Speed: 6 Stamina: 12/40
Swordsmanship: 22% Mastery
Brawling: 7% Mastery
Beast Master: 11% Mastery
Hail of Swords: 8% Mastery
Primary weapon: Sword of Azros (Status – Active/Currently Aflame)
Armoured Underwear: HP 30/50 (Status - Active)
Animal Friend: HP 8/75 (Species - Electrodent)
Coin Purse: 6100 Gold
Orb of Hindsight (Active)
Amulet of Razamataz (Inactive)
Pew-Pew Stick (Inactive)
The visuals told the same sorry story as my stats. I looked like the poster-boy for the wrong end of an ass-kicking, and my ego had been equally bruised. Only an hour earlier I thought I was shit-hot, with my advanced sword fighting skills, a pair of armored undies hugging my nether regions, a mythical animal friend humping my leg, and a crapload of magical grenades stuffed down the front of my incredibly manly posing pouch.
But oh what a difference a deity makes. One powerful, magically inclined opponent later, and I was clinging to life, freezing my pumped-up pecs off as I tried to retreat back to the (relative) safety of the Amber Zone. Needless to say, I was shitting pixels.
But then what better place for it? This was Mount Gauldark, after all. One of the most bladder-loosening territories in the whole of the Red Zone. And thanks to its equally bladder-loosening owner, my stats were now well and truly fucked.
As were the stats of the perky little animal friend who was currently tethered to my avatar…
Classification: Level 6 Animal Friend
Affiliations: DeadPixel (Summoner)
HP: 8/75 Mana: 3/100 Evaluation Skill: Level 1
Reputation: 0 Strength: 2 Agility: 5 Speed: 5 Stamina: 10/40
Evil Eye: 13% Mastery
Ratachu was the closest thing I currently had to a party. He was sort of a chubby cartoon-mouse-thing, with the uncanny ability to fire death rays from his adorable anime-inspired eyeballs. The shameless Pokemon knock-off was (thankfully) a lot more deadly than he appeared. Oh, and the poor sod was even further up death's driveway than I was.
“Don't worry, my expendable little animal friend, we'll find a safe haven and get through this Elf-shit, you'll see.”
To be honest, I wasn't sure if I believed my own assurances, but the trusting little creature had no reason to doubt me.
And why was I so uncertain? Because safe havens were something the Red Zone was notoriously short on. As were HP boosts.
So, with little other than the irksome incentive of ‘not dying’ to drive me forward, I cursed my virtually non-existent wardrobe one last time, tightened my strapping arms across my equally virtual chest, and set about dragging my avatar's muscular ass through the snowy wasteland, thankful that, as real as it all felt, it was just a game. The game for fantasy loving MMORPG types, Infinity Sword Online.
Admittedly, I was feeling bitter about the whole damn affair. Welcome to Infinitus, they’d said. A world of digital mayhem populated by Wizards, Elves, Orcs, Gnolls, and any number of hi-res, fantasy-themed bodies for the general public to merrily stuff their digitised souls into. A place to make friends and mutilate people, without the risk of actual physical harm. (And thank fuck for that. If this had been my real body, and not just a beautiful, pixelated representation, important bits would probably be starting to fall off from the cold, by now. And fictional or not, I liked my bits. A lot.)
Of course, I would have liked my avatar (and by extension, the game that it inhabited) a lot more if it didn’t bloody hurt so much.
I scanned the area for shelter, but the ‘scenery’ did little to distract me from an impending death by refrigeration. Chiefly because there was so fucking little of it. Everything was blanketed in a flurry of white, a wall of freezing pixels that erased anything that lay more than twelve feet away from my heroic, chiselled face. At its worst, the blizzard wiped even the blood red sky into a hazy, grey oblivion. And what little I could still see, I’d really have preferred not to. Because everywhere I looked, the landscape had been dotted with little flourishes of death that some sick bastard had thoughtfully added to really gloom the place up a bit.
Bloody hell, I thought to myself. Why do the bad-guy realms always have to be so fucking morbid? Gentrification is not a thing in Gauldark's realm, apparently.
I mean yeah, I could totally understand the game's developers needing to clearly mark out the different Zones. Green Zones were symbolised by life, vitality, and unicorns with rainbow-coloured exhaust emissions. Red Zones symbolised death and depravity, and were generally represented by one form of barren inhospitable wasteland or another. The Amber Zone I was attempting to retreat to was a sort of a mish-mash of the two, depending on whereabouts you happened to wander. You know, like a rough council estate that was trying its best to better itself, despite the small packs of hooded skeletons hanging around the weapons huts, shouting obscenities at visiting adventurers and getting high on the healing potions.
This dodgy district made no effort whatsoever to hide its true intentions behind a tourist-friendly veneer. It was a place where heroes came to fight, and die in battle. And it wore its purpose proudly on its spikily-armored sleeve, if the sudden switch from hanging baskets of flowers to hanging cages of the undead had been anything to go by when I got here. I couldn’t wait to see that bizarre substitution again. Preferably reversed, and next to a big sign that read ‘You are now leaving Mount Gauldark’.
As per the standard rules of Red Zone landscaping, skeletal corpses littered the snowy wastes, their weapons and items long scavenged before my arrival. Iron cages swung from the ancient cast-iron execution posts that now flanked my path; cramped rusting prisons that creaked and groaned in their eternal duet with the wind, while their ancient occupants (stripped even barer than my own scantily clad torso), vied for the passing breather’s attention.
“Come join us,” my audience whispered, rubbing their sinewy hands across their gruesomely exposed ribs, like cage-dancing strippers who’d taken their job description a tad too far. I declined their invitations, funnily enough.
Despite my obvious disinterest in scantly-clad muscle tissue, the groups self-proclaimed leader (a ghoul by the blood-curdling name of ‘Steve’) called me over for a chat. I’d assumed the topic of conversation would be my obvious awesomeness, but surprisingly, this was not to be. Instead, the dead man wanted to know what the hell I was doing wandering around a frozen mountain in my underwear. Which was a fair enough question, I supposed. I ignored the unnecessary dig at my awesome outfit and told him.
“Well, I was on this campaign to get my hands on a particularly juicy magical artifact,” I declared, rubbing my hands together for warmth (spoiler alert: it didn’t work). “And wouldn’t you know it, the quest went to Elf-shit right from the fucking start. Not that the outcome hadn't been one that a blind monk listening to Stevie Wonder couldn’t have seen coming a mile off, I’m now prepared to admit that. But I’ve always been a bit impatient when it comes to forming strategies. I just don’t like planning. I'm more of a ‘wander aimlessly and hope for the best’ kind of guy.”
“My favorite kind of adventurer,” replied Steve, licking the remains of his rotting lips.
“I can imagine. But if I’d taken the time to read the bloody walk-throughs, I’d probably have known better than to march myself straight into Gauldark the Grimm's mountain territory sans party, with only a cute little anime-inspired sprite for back-up.”
I gestured towards said animal friend, who had somehow managed to freeze himself to the ominous scenery by his tongue. I subtly prized him from the metal post and continued.
“So yeah, that was probably my first mistake. You know, besides the obvious.”
“Not wearing a bloody coat?”
“Exactly. I swear, my fucking nipples are going to drop off any minute.”
“Mine already have.” added Steve, bitterly.
“Now my second mistake, that was the threat that went waaaay beyond my nipples…”
“Picking a fight with the biggest, ugliest boy in hell's playground?”
I solemnly nodded. “I mean, seriously, how was I to know Gauldark was one of the most powerful end-of-Zone bosses in the game?”
The dead man rolled his glassy eyes. “Well, to be fair, the first clue was in the fact that they named the mountain after him…”
“’An’ secondly, the bugger has an energy bar that could choke a porn star.”
“You've seen it, too, then? Ah. Of course. He’s the one who murdered you and turned you into a slightly creepy garden decoration, isn’t he?”
Steve quietly nodded. He looked so pathetic, hanging there in his cage, lamenting his lost future and his missing nipples. But I knew better than to even think of rescuing him. I mean, he was a fucking Zombie, for Gandalf’s sake. Zombies were notoriously clingy. And bitey. And with twenty-four HP left in the tank, I’d be easy prey for the notoriously ungrateful dead. Still, I reckoned there could be no harm in treating the Zombie with a little humanity, even if he had accidentally misplaced his own, somewhere along the way.
I turned my evaluation skill on my mouldy new acquaintance, and let his stats wash over my weary mind.
Name: Steve the Zombie
Classification: Level 2 MOB
Affiliations: Zombie Horde: Mount Gauldark
HP: 38/50 Mana: 0/20 Evaluation Skill: Level 12
Reputation: -4 Strength: 2 Agility: 1 Speed: 2 Stamina: 13/100
Cannibalism: 16% Mastery
Charisma: 22% Mastery
“So, yeah ah…, I can see what you are now…” I began, tentatively. “…but if it’s not impolite to ask, what were you beforehand, exactly?” I moved in a little closer. “Warrior Elf? Wizard? Scantily-clad warrior vixen? No offence, but you’re missing a few bits and bobs, so it’s kinda hard to tell…”
“Quest to quest salesman,” he replied with a sigh.
“Really? Weapons and healing potions, that sort of thing?” I enquired, optimistically.
“Yep. Used to wander the entire map, I did, offerin’ in-app purchases to the lazy buggers who couldn't be arsed levelin’ up the old-fashioned way.”
“I thought that was what the Dungeon Keepers are for?”
“Dungeon Keepers? Pffft. Don’t talk to me ‘bout those little bald bastards. Who do you think it was that drove me into the bloody red in the first place? They’ve been pushin’ the small independent arms dealers out of the marketplace fer years.”
“I’ve hated Dungeon Keepers since I first set eyes on that little creep from the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon.” I declared, partly to get on the dead man’s good side, and partly because it was true.
“They’re the epic fantasy equivalent of that bastard clown from IT,” I continued, “but instead of hiding in the sewers, tempting kids to their doom with big red balloons, they lurk in underground chambers, offering the poor little saps age-inappropriate quests instead.”
The dead man laughed, slapping his thigh. The guttural wheeze was somehow even more unsettling than the moaning sounds coming from the neighbouring cage.
“Yeah, tell me about it.” He replied. “No age checks, no fuckin’ morality. All they care about is the bottom line. Gives the other arms traders a bad name, y’know? It makes me sick.”
“So how did they manage to take over your patch, then?”
“Truth is, they were just more popular wiv the punters. Apparently, weapons dealers who know they're in a game ‘ruin the illusion.’ Folk these days like their Non-Playable Characters to stay in character. I dunno. It’s all a loada bollocks, if y’ask me…” He solemnly looked down. “Those dropped off a while back too, incidentally… Anyway, I did what any businessman worth his salt would do; I went lookin’ for new markets. An’ I figured if he can afford ‘is own mountain, ol’ Gauldark must have a few bob stashed under a dragon somewhere.”
“But what do you offer the evil overlord who has everything?” I enquired. “Mystical artifact? Doomsday weapon?”
“Cosmetic surgery.” he replied, to my amazement. “I said ‘Gauldark, mate, why have only one exposed cheekbone when y‘can have a matchin’ set?’ Then I offered ‘im a horn extension.” The dead man pointed to his temple, in case I started getting the wrong idea. (I was.) “Almost had me a sale, too, ‘til I pushed me luck.”
“How so?” I enquired.
“I pointed out that his skull laden shoulder-pads were a bit passé, an’ offered to upgrade his entire wardrobe to somethin’ a bit more appropriate fer world domination. Bugger didn’t take that well at all. So, yeah, he had me skinned, resurrected, an’ hung up here as a warnin’ to others, next to the Jörmungandr’s Witnesses an’ those Leprechauns who came around offerin’ t’tarmac his driveway a few weeks back.”
“So we both forgot to do our research, then.” I responded with a sigh. I was quite shocked to find that I had so much in common with the rotting corpse, and very much hoping that the trend wouldn’t continue.
“So, ah…, the weapons and potions and things you were carrying with you when you were so rudely snuffed out and then rekindled, they’re, ehhh…?”
“Long scavenged, mate. I mean, you know what bloody adventurers are like, right?”
I knew only too well. I was one of them. Damn. I was hoping he could direct me to his secret stash.
“Yes?” I replied, the faintly burning embers of optimism reignited in my muscular warrior’s heart.
“I might still ‘ave an Orb o’ Hindsight up the ol’ prison wallet, if y’fancy it?”
And the embers had now been well and truly pissed over. I politely declined.
“Hang on, you sold weapons…”
The corpse nodded, with a faraway look in his sunken eyes.
“In a previous life, yeah.”
“So you must be familiar with most of the games items, right?”
He nodded again, picking at his grotesque, peeling skin as he did so.
“So maybe you can identify something for me.”
I reached into my inventory and pulled out my most unusual item. It was shaped like a cylinder, about the size of a torch, cast from flawlessly manufactured stainless steel and capped with molded glass. A faint blue light emanated from within the odd item, highlighting the cracks between the metal plates that it had been so expertly constructed from. All in all, the mysterious object was much too modern looking for its surroundings. In fact, it probably would have looked a lot more at home in a catalogue of luxury kitchen accessories, than in a fantasy MMORPG.
“Any idea what the hell this is?” I asked.
“Beats me,” shrugged the dead man, instantly disappointing me. “What’s yer evaluation skill say?”
“Calls it a ‘pew-pew stick.’”
“So, a wand, then?”
“I don’t think so. It’s a bit unwieldy for a wand, and every time I try to read its properties, I just get a ‘read error’ message.”
“Y’checked the forums?
“I'm, ah…, having a little difficulty accessing those at the moment, so I haven't had the chance. But even my level 14 evaluation skill can't bring up anything beyond its name, so I haven’t a notion how it works.”
“Where’d y’get it? Maybe that’ll give us a clue.”
“Found it in the catacombs of Wyrm, next to the skeletal remains of a dead Dwarf.”
“Dropped by an adventurer, eh? Crap. That means it coulda been lifted from anywhere.”
That much was true. Because even if a player couldn’t figure out what an item was for, that sure as hell wouldn't stop them from sticking it in their inventory and carrying it from one end of the map to the other. That was what I’d done, after all.
I sighed, pocketed the item again, and made my excuses to leave.
“How is ol’ Gauldark anyhow?” the corpse blurted out, determined not to lose his lively new conversation partner.
Dammit! If I walk away now, it’s going to look like I was only after him for his items and his knowledge. Which, you know, I was. But still, I suppose another minute or two can’t hurt…
“He used t’come down the mountain every now an’ again, an’ practice his monologue on us,” Steve continued, desperately struggling to keep me engaged. “Then he got all paranoid, said some new threat was descendin’ on the land.”
“I hope it’s not a dragon. That’s the last thing I bloody need…”
“Nah, the bugger was ravin’ about an army. Blokes with armour that could deflect anythin’ he threw at ‘em, an’ wands that fired three thousand rounds per minute. Always was prone to exaggeration, that one. Haven’t seen ‘im in a while, mind.”
“By my hand, I might add… not that I’d imagine that’ll keep him down for long.”
“True… ol’ Gauldark never was one to let six feet o’ earth get on top of ‘im” agreed Steve with a nod.
“Hang on, was that pile of drivel he spouted at me supposed to be the edited monologue? I’d hate to hear the uncut version.”
“Don’t tell me… he put the bit back in about how Daddy never bought him a unicorn, didn’t he?”
“Yes. I wanted to throw myself on the pointy end of a fucking unicorn about halfway through that brain-melting little anecdote. And when he started to go on about how the other villains never invite him around for afternoon torture, I almost died of bloody exhaustion.”
“Heh. Sounds like ol’ Gauldark, alright. Talk the hind legs off a centaur, that one.”
“And evidently the sort who likes to get the last word in,” I added. “I killed him a good hour and a half ago, and his bloody magics are still burning my outfit.”
“Ah, yes, I haveta admit, I was wonderin’ about that…”
[Warning: You are on fire. This injury has a DoT effect. HP -5]
Yes, I’m technically on fire. And no, I didn’t mention that earlier. It’s a teensy bit of a sore point. Actually, it was a very sore point, because, you know, I’m on fire. The ‘damage over time’ effect had been having its wicked way with my energy bar for close to two hours, and was showing no sign of abating. I let out an exasperated sigh, and reluctantly began to address the burning elephant in the room.
“I would like to point out that the fact I am currently on fire is in no way a slight on my epic combat skills…”
“O’course not.” replied the Zombie, looking at me like it probably was.
“In fact, if you really think about it, the miniature inferno that currently rages on my person is probably a testament to just how awesome I truly am. I mean, seriously, when was the last time you saw someone push through this kind of injury?”
“I'm pushin’ through the small inconvenience o’ bein’ dead.” he replied, stealing my thunder a bit.
I didn’t really know how to reply to that one, so instead, I took a brief moment to study the flickering, magical flame.
[Analysis: Everflame. A Pyromancy-based Damage over Time attack. Pyromancy skill of level 20 or higher required to initiate. Continues to burn an opponent long after the initial strike. Drains the victims HP until the flame is naturally extinguished by rest, holy water, or healing magic. Length of effect is dictated by the skill level of the spells caster]
“And stings like a motherfucker!” I added, cursing my inability to hack my own pain-feed and switch it off.
The flickering blaze that clung to my avatar should have looked badass; hey, who needs a namby-pamby little scar when you’re actually on fire. But as only my shitty luck would have it, the blue magical flame was determined to focus the entirety of its efforts around incinerating my manly crotch.
“So, yeah” I continued. “About a minute into the battle, it became painfully (and I mean very, very painfully) apparent that Gauldark the Grimm had a level twenty in Pyromancy. And take it from me, Steve, there’s nothing harder to remove from the armoured undergarments than ground-in magical flame.”
(Well, with the possible exception of the stains caused by that sudden realisation that your opponent is a level 20 Pyromancer… but I chose not to share that information. Because you know, manly warrior. Who most definitely didn’t soil himself on the field of battle. Grrr.)
“Try not to take it personal, mate,” said Steve, leaning in to examine the remains of the attack. “He was a Pyromancer, that’s what they do. And as for where he aimed it… well, t’be fair, there wasn’t much else of yer skimpy little outfit for the attack to latch onto.”
I nodded in agreement. The corpse spent a little longer staring at my burning banana hammock, seemingly mesmerised by the flicker of the cold, magical flame. He was licking his lips again. I couldn't quite figure out if his interest in my barbecued man-bits was culinary or sexual, but either way, it was making me feel uncomfortable. Alright, even more uncomfortable, because, you know, my penis is on fire! I needed to find a way to quench the tiny inferno (I mean huge. Huge inferno. Pornographically huge, I swear), but neither I or the skeletal salesman had a bottle of spell remover to hand, and any attempt to pat out the flame would just look like I was vigorously pleasuring myself for the Zombie's entertainment. An act that would probably get me booted from the game. (I hadn’t encountered a moderator for weeks now, but that wasn’t to say they weren’t out there. Judging me. With their… what did you call them again…? Oh yes, morals.)
I couldn’t be sure where I’d end up if I was forcefully logged out. So, with that small concession to public decency in mind, I grinned and bore the pain of my burning loins like the mighty warrior I was currently shaped like, but most definitely, wasn’t.
“Y’tried holy water, then?” asked the dead man eventually.
“Holy water? Where the hell would I get that? Do I look like a fucking Vampire hunter?”
“Y’look like a greased up male stripper with a weaponised crotch, so I'm having a difficult time guessin’ what yer supposed t’look like… As for the holy water, why not try a church? I mean, it's not bloody rocket-magic, is it?”
“Hmmm. Except I can't really imagine there are that many churches slap bang in the middle of evil bastard territory. And even if I did happen upon one, I don't think ‘can I dip my man-bits in the christening font, please’ would go down that well with the congregation.”
“Depends on the religion, I suppose. Still, I see y’got some fire on yer other sword, too.” He pointed to the large metal weapon in question. “Looks badass.”
Yes, my sword. Another sore point. Most warriors would love to own a flaming sword, regardless of how bloody impractical such an item inevitably turned out to be. My weapon was taking that impracticality to a whole new level.
“It's burning on the wrong end,” I whined. “I blister my fingers every time I reach for the bloody handle.”
The corpse took this opportunity to laugh at me. I pouted. Being laughed at by an undead street decoration was moderately more tolerable than being pitied by one, but only just. Although I had to admit, my flaming sword did look cool whist sheathed against my manly back. And at least I could literally put that problem behind me, as it flickered away behind my left shoulder. My crotch bonfire was somewhat harder to ignore. Eventually, Steve pointed out the obvious.
“If Infinity Sword Online is such an endurance fer yeh, why don’t y’just logout then? Go play somethin’ else for a while. I hear Fairy Tale Crossin’ is pretty good.”
“Oi! I don’t need fairy-tale farming simulators. I am a kickass manly warrior.”
“Whoa, no offence intended, mate. Calm down. I jus’ meant go clear yer head, somehow. When y’save the game, yer avatar will go into ‘ghost’ mode. Y’can come back when you’ve checked the forums fer advice.”
I let out a small groan. The dead man looked at me, somewhat puzzled.
“Dead men tell no tales, right?”
Sensing gossip, Steven excitedly nodded, pulling himself closer to the bars of his cage.
“Well, you see, that’s kind of the main problem I’ve been having. Logging out isn’t really an option for me.”
“Yeah. I’ve been trapped on the server for weeks now. Well, at least I think I have been. Truth be told, I don’t even know if my bodies still hooked up, or if these thoughts are all being formed by some digital echo of my consciousness. No, seriously. I’m beginning to suspect that I’m a ghost in the machine, trapped in this fucking game for all eternity. For all I know, the real me has moved on to some exciting new release involving angry or flappy birds, but accidentally left a scrap of his digitized soul behind.”
“So I might be talkin’ to a small snippet o’ your humanity, trapped in a discarded immersion helmet, like the modern-day equivalent o’ a camera that steals t’primitives’ souls.”
“Um, yeah, I guess. To be honest, I’m not even sure why I told you. It’s something I’d rather not think about. So for the most part, I choose not to.”
Scraps of memories flooded my broken mind. Gods, did I ever miss the real world. And now that I’d begun to venture down that path, what I’d lost was easily threatening to consume me. It was time to close the mental floodgates and move on.
“Oh well.” I began, putting on a dishonest smile. “There’s no time to dwell on my incarceration here. I have a heroic rescue to complete; namely, my own.”
I made to leave again. The corpse took this as a cue to start his chattering anew, firstly about real incarceration (“you want to try livin’ in a tiny cage like this, mate”), then about the terrible weather they’d been having up the mountain lately. And that was when it dawned on me that Steve was trying to kill me.
“Hang on. This chit-chat is all just a clever tactic to hasten my untimely demise, isn't it?”
The guilty looking zombie just shrugged, and began rocking innocently in his cage.
“It bloody is. Keep the knackered adventurer chatting until his HP runs out, that’s your game, isn’t it?”
“Alright, y’got me. But what did you expect? I’m a MOB. Killing adventurers is kind of my thing. And to be honest, I'm really behind on my quotas, as of late. Do us a favour an’ stab yourself in the head fer me, eh?”
“Awww go on. Talkin’ you into offin’ yerself would do wonders fer my charisma skill…”
I gave him a scowl, but what I didn't do, was take the corpses attempt to murder me personally. A MOB was the enemy equivalent of an NPC, after all, and there couldn't be that many employment opportunities for an undead salesman around these parts. Besides, technically, I’d been using him too. Feigning interest, on the off-chance it would bear the fruit of useful information, items or both. Finding neither, I resolved that I'd tolerated the corpse for far too long already, and that it was time for me to move on.
I pried Ratachu’s tongue from the freezing metal post (again) and used him as an excuse to get moving. He gave me a credible excuse to leave; because like myself, the little counterfeit Pokémon had been steadily burning for the past hour. In his readiness to protect his master, the poor sod had taken the brunt of the Pyromancer's attack. With a flick of his wrist, Gauldark had turned my animal friend into a little walking bonfire of anime-inspired cuteness, confirming, as if I didn’t know it already, that he was a total bastard.
I said my goodbyes to the rotting prisoner and his fellow captives. Steve told me they'd be seeing me again soon enough, pointing to an empty cage. I told him that was a bit inappropriate. The corpse told me so was my outfit. I told him he could go suck a very specific part of my anatomy. Steve told me he’d have trouble finding it in this temperature, if the noticeably un-bulgy crotch of my warrior posing pouch was anything to go by. I reluctantly agreed, then pointed out that at least mine was still attached to the rest of my body. Touché.
The (now somewhat pissed-off) looking corpse gave me the middle finger (well, the middle stub, he had more missing pieces than a children's jigsaw) and began staring off into the distance. Feeling mildly invigorated by my verbal victory I moved on, leaving the corpse mumbling something to himself about life being wasted on the living. And away we walked, my burning little animal friend running at my heels, leaving a staggered trench of melted snow in its wake. Somehow, against all odds, I believed that we still had a chance of survival.
Until the snowy wastes suddenly gave way to a sheer drop, and I realised that the only way was down. My new career as a human pancake beckoned.
“Ehhhh, that cage wouldn’t still available by any chance, would it..?”
Author Notes: This short piece of text is an introduction to my much larger GameLit world: Infinite Lives Online. I submitted it to this site because (while it is part of a larger story) I felt the meeting of a weary DeadPixel and Steve the Zombie could also be enjoyed in isolation. Hope you enjoyed ;)