by Cave Dweller
Writer's Cramp, 10/13/22
|Aza's avatar inched forward, crouched in formation with his squad. The hill loomed before them, a battered, bombed, bloody grim spectacle. The entire surface of the hill had been catastrophically disfigured. Limbs and metal intertwined, smoke rose from blackened craters. Here and there small fires continued to burn, fueled by violence. This is the work of a madman, Aza thought.
“We're fucked,” said Semya. “Meat to the slaughter.”
“Cut that shit out,” hissed Raku. “We can do this. I say we try the right flank. See that gap halfway up?” Raku indicated his trajectory with a slicing hand in the air.
“Yeah, and I see that stack of bodies, too,” Semya replied.
Aza gazed upon the battlefield. Such waste, such death. Was the game worth it?
“Squad, move out!”
And now it was time to assault the hill, that sad stretch of terrain aching to recover. Aza had a weapon and a suggested mission. His company: distressed and disorganized, always assessing risk versus gain. There was a strong determination among the current players that made the game fun, though. I'll give it a shot, thought Aza.
The bravest among them moved first. Raku's avatar activated and changed position, head swiveling and absorbing data. The incline directly ahead delineated the mound from the plain. How many of the enemy moles remained in their holes, ready to pop up with deadly intent?
“Stay tight,” Raku said. “Kill anything that moves.”
Aza's hands tightened and then loosened on his weapon... tightened and then loosened. I wish I had a better connection, he thought, a better interface. Aza spotted a silhouette on the hill. He aimed and fired. The silhouette dropped. Well, then. That was easy. Another one appeared. Aza fired and the target crumpled awkwardly.
“You silly shits,” Aza mumbled. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted the movement of an enemy squad lurking in shadows on the left. It appeared to him like a column of ants streaming from an underground bunker. They were screeching in horrible unison, ready to sacrifice themselves on the altar. It was unsettling.
Raku's fist pumped up and down, signaling his team. “Shoot! Shoot! Kill! Get those bastards, you recruit pukes!” Raku began to fire indiscriminately, wasting rounds in an undisciplined frenzy.
What the hell is he doing? Aza was perplexed. His best, I guess. I gotta keep fighting...
A sudden blast knocked everyone on their ass. Out of the ominous sky it fell, directly into their midst. The banshee's scream, extraordinary ordinance of the most brutal kind. A loud crack in the sky reverberated, raining death and announcing defeat. Aza's team scrambled to organize yet ultimately disintegrated, reduced to ash and corpse.
Ah, we almost had that... almost won the battle. Aza's breathed heavily in the afterglow of the vicious engagement, conquered yet exhilarated. According to the vital stats displayed on his inner monitor, his essence was still very much alive. "Good game, boys," Semya muttered. "Nice try."
The door to the simulation room swung open.
“You do know it's time for rejuvenation, right?” It was Aza's mother, projecting herself into the game.
“What's going on in there?” Aza's father entered the experience.
“It's one of those war games he likes to play, the human one. Gets him all riled up and anxious. Good luck trying to get him to rest tonight!”
"He'll be fine. I was the same at his age."
"Aza needs direction. Earth is not the right environment for a young soul. We're going to lose him to some ridiculous simulation."
Within the virtual space the avatars lingered for a moment, exchanging information telepathically. There are many battles being fought, at all times, on all levels, in all aspects of reality. There all multiple facets of the struggle. The conflict is an eternal reflection of truth, the ultimate expression of duality. Aza would live to fight another day, in some form or another.