Part Two: Into the snow
I stepped through the door and instantly the cold hit me.
Oddly, what I was wearing also miraged onto my new body. I had the armor on, the winter coat on, a sword on my side and the backpack pulling my shoulders back a little. I felt strong, physically capable.
I felt like I was in my body, but it was not my body.
I looked at myself, it was sort of me, but a physically stronger, larger me. When I moved my arms, I could feel the muscles in my arms shifting. While I was not personally strong, it was clear that the muscles I had now were significantly more powerful than my real-world ones.
I took a few steps then heard the pleasing sounds of crunching snow under my feet, the smell of forest air, and a landscape of trees with a narrow road stretching out in front of me.
I turned to look back through the door, to say goodbye to Alan, but the door was gone. I did a full spin around and all I could see was trees and snow. Looking to the ground to see my tracks only showed tracks that went back a few steps.
I had literally appeared into this world out of nowhere.
I stood for a few moments, I had no idea where I was, or where to go other than the obvious road in front of me. The sun was rising, clouds were approaching, and it looked like snow was coming with them.
I took another spin to gather in more details.
Tall, skeletal trees covered in snow were everywhere. I looked deep into the forest and that is all I could see. Leafless, snow bound trees surrounded me except for the road leading me, begging me, to walk along it.
The road itself was not wide, it had wheel tracks where carts had travelled and in the middle of the wheel marks were horse tracks. In one direction the road veered to the left and out of sight. The other direct moved gently uphill, the track was straighter for longer, but it too veer away into nothing.
I had already decided to follow the road. Hearing the cracking of branches giving way to the burden of snow gave the forest an eerie feel to it. I knew it was normal, that it happened all the time and was no indication of monsters or ghosts.
But still, this was a game that involved monsters and ghosts, why risk it?
I considered each direction and concluded it was impossible to figure out a correct direction. So, I decided that I prefer the slightly downhill option and began walking that way.
Walking felt good. It reminded me that I don’t do enough of it now, and how much I loved it in younger days. An inkling of hiking through a dark green forest flashed through my mind, combined with being in love.
I tried to grasp the memory, but the it floated away.
The air was warmth sapping, but the movement and winter coat kept up with the heat loss. I was glad about that, although as the first hour went by it occurred to me that shelter might be needed at some point. I looked up to locate the sun, it was hanging over the Northern horizon and moving fast.
Winter means short days. Can the game kill me with the environment?
If so, then the most dangerous part of surviving will be the environment. How embarrassing would it be to be playing a virtual reality game as real as this and to die from the cold?
Just as that thought trailed through my mind, I saw a man slowly come into sight as I walked the curve of the road. At first, I was happy. I was about to meet someone. I remembered that other players came with a yellow glow, but this was no player.
A virtual character?
In my excitement I kept walking without a care about being seen. I was not taking enough notice. I simply kept closing the distance.
It wasn’t until the man turned around that I figured out I had ignored the lop-sided limp or slow walk he had. I ignored the drooping shoulder, the lack of clothes and what he was wearing was torn and decayed.
It was impossible to be blinded to the rotting face with half a face missing, the showing of the jaw bone or the suddenly excited undead groan.
The zombie was aware of me now, it was hungry, and its outstretched arms were attempting to grab me even though it was too far away.
For some reason, this was the moment I decided to acknowledge that I was in a coma, potentially going to die and I had no idea who I was.
The zombie was grotesque, loud and the stench of rotting flesh was overwhelming. I stood my ground, without drawing my sword, as it came closer. I couldn’t stop looking at it, my heart was pumping my chest out, I couldn’t decide whether I should kill it or run.
All I could do was stare at its mouth with its bad teeth, exposed jaw bone and missing nose. I stood there watching it take one step close, each step made it more excited in such a way that even its dead eyes grew wider, its groaning grew more intense. It was about to feed.
It was one step away from me, I had obviously decided to keep looking, terrified into inaction, fixated on the terror. The hand was reaching to grab me when it suddenly lurched violently to the side. It had been hit so hard that it fell sideways, stubbled, then fell to the ground.
I was still looking at it, unsure as to what had just happened.
“Hey, you, snap out of it, we have to run.” She was young, strong and with a look of annoyance on her face. She also has the glow of yellow that indicated she was another coma patient within the game.
She grabbed my arm as the zombie began to pick itself up from the ground, she pulled on my arm to lead me into the forest and away from the road and danger. I followed her without argument, ever since I had become aware, all I had been doing was be confused and accept what others had told me.
She was walking quickly, all the while yanking my arm to make me keep up. I could hear the zombie giving chase, but it was too slow. After a few minutes the groaning became distant, the woman began to take some twists and turns until, suddenly, she stopped.
She looked annoyed and concerned at the same time as she said, “Do you understand that if we die here, we die in real life?”
I was still trying to keep up with everything. “Um, yeah.”
“Then what the fuck was that all about?”
“I don’t know. I couldn’t move.”
She looked into my eyes for a moment before saying, “Do you always react this way when trouble happens?”
I looked back to where we had just come, then back to her. “I don’t know, I haven’t experienced a coma, being dumped into a lethal virtual reality game then been attacked by a real as fuck zombie before.”
Her look of concern was now just annoyance, “Maybe it is best that you just die now so you don’t kill others in the process of you learning.”
I could hear the groan of another zombie.
I asked, “Stay, please stay. This has just happened so quickly. I have just woken up, I remember nothing and before I knew what was happening I was in a forest in winter and that zombie coming at me…..” I couldn’t believe it, tears were coming down my cheeks.
I had a feeling that was not normal for me.
She said, “Okay, settle down, we can hang out together. Just don’t freak out again, if you freak out again, run or fight but do not do nothing. These freaking zombies are all over the place, so you need to get used to it quickly.”
“Okay, yeah, sure.” I as feeling out of control, trying to catch up with everything. I honestly believed I would handle major shifts in life better. I asked, “Look, thanks for saving my butt back there.”
The background zombie had noticed us, I knew because its groan gained a mild excitement.
She answered, “That is okay, I wasn’t much better than you except I ran and screamed instead. Not my best moment.”
I laughed a little. “How long have you been here?”
She smiled as she answered, “This is day two.”
I pointed to the incoming zombie while saying, “Have you killed any yet?”
“One, and I just about pissed my pants while doing it. When I saw you, I thought it was great that you look like a fighter, turns out you are a learner like me.”
She seemed to be teasing me, so I laughed a little bit more. I said, “Well, shall we deal with that one over there together?”
“Sure, you first.”
I looked around to the approaching zombie, it was another example of a rotting, festering, slow-moving terror. I had time to consider things this time, I began by withdrawing the sword. It felt good and surprisingly familiar to me.
I gave it a few swings to get a feel for it, thrust it forward towards the still out of reach zombie. It didn’t seem to mind my preparations for killing it.
Then it occurred to me, “I suppose, given we could die here, that we should at least share names. I am Jacob.”
She had a look a surprise on her face. Alan had looked the same way for a fleeting moment too. She said, “I am Maree. Now, you go first, and they seem to like grabbing a lot.”
With that, the zombie was almost in reach and making its first grab for my arm. This time, my brain was working even though I was terrified. I occurred to me that there are probably better ways to figure out if you can fight or not.
Zombie: 17 – 1 = 16
Jacob: 10 + 2 = 12
The first rule I decided when fighting was not to consider anything that does not involve trying to kill what was in front of me because the zombie, even though I watched it approach, still managed to get the first move in the fight by trying to grab my arm. I was in disbelief that I didn’t just swing my large sword on top of its head.
Zombie Attack Jacob: 2: MISS
Thankfully, my body was up to the job and moved out of range. This time I was going to swing at it.
Jacob Attack zombie: 8 + 5 = 13: HIT
Damage: 6 + 3 = 9
I gave the zombie a decent crack at the head, I really wanted to just kill it outright. The sword did go into the skull, but it didn’t collapse to the ground in the dramatic heap of death I was expecting.
I really thought a sword in the side of a skull would do the job, I was beginning to worry a lot.
From behind I saw Maree approach with her mace.
Maree Attack zombie: 15 + 2: HIT
Damage: 6 + 2 = 8
Just as I was pulling the sword out, she cracked her mace on the skull from above, crushing it inwards, then the dramatic collapse of death occurred.
Jacob: Earned 75 Experience Points.
Amount left to reach 2nd Level: 925
It looked terrible, seeing a skull disintegrated like that, so I looked away. Trying to take my mind off the image, I asked Maree, “Do the hits and damage appear in our heads in every fight?”
Her voiced sounded pleased as she answered, “Well, I am not sure. So far, it has happened to me two times in two fights. And may I add, we made short work of that. I am happy.”
“Yeah, we did. One zombie, easy. How many is too many?”
She walked from the zombie to stand beside me, “I suspect we will find out one day, and when we do, we better be running rather than dying.”
I could hear another zombie. Maybe two. I said, “This forest is full of zombies.”
“Yes, it is. Now there are two of us, and you are not the freeze queen of fighting, we can follow the road. I saw a wagon yesterday, but I was too frightened to walk passed three zombies between me and the road. The sun is up, shall we walk?”
We reached the road without issue. When a zombie noticed us, we walked faster or changed direction. We walked without talking while in the forest, but when we reached the road, Maree said, “Okay, big boy, now we can walk fast. Can you keep up?”
Without waiting, she set off at a surprising pace. I already knew she was going to be difficult to keep up with.
We walked for about one hour before the forest suddenly gave way to farmland and a short distance away, a walled town.
I said, “Well, looks like we will be sleeping inside tonight.”
“Yeah, lets see what else this town has in store for us.”
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