Bitter 215

If the challenge was to face her fears, she might as well stop wasting time and get it over with. It wasn’t like she was in a maze she could slip through while avoiding whatever the game had planned for her. It had designed this place with her in mind.

This was more like a maze where the walls could move to stop you getting out too quickly. The traps could be adjusted and the obstacles tweaked in real time. She was already at a massive disadvantage. Her opponent knew where she was, what she was doing, and could up the difficulty if necessary. Or even if unnecessary.

At least if she went directly towards the howling, she would find out what was causing it. If she died, then she could try again knowing what she was up against.

The game had the advantage of full awareness, her only edge was the ability to try as many times as she needed to.

Her original goal had been to treat this like real life and not use death as a throwaway tool. She felt she would learn much more about how to handle difficult situations if she acted like her life meant something in here.

Apparently, the game didn’t think that was a good idea. It made things almost impossible to deal with on the first go round. At this point, her only reasonable out was to embrace death and plan on winning in the next life.

She ran through the tunnel, convinced that a little recklessness was what was needed. There was another howl, definitely ahead of her. It sounded just like the dwarf.

She came to an abrupt halt.

The chamber she’d come to was covered in webs. They stretched from one side to the other, white and stringy. And running along the strands were spiders. Lots of spiders. A bit of an obvious choice, but no less effective for it.

They didn’t look particularly big, but when did that matter? Spiders were creepy whatever their size.

The howling continued to her right. At least it was heading in the correct direction. She opened her map. The chambers she had been in so far were marked; the rest were blacked out. But since it was a six by six grid, it wasn’t hard to work out how far she had to go.

She could back up and try a different route, but were a few creepy crawlies really an impossible obstacle? Under normal circumstances, one spider in the bathtub was beyond her capabilities. Here, you couldn’t afford to worry about the small things when the big things were far more likely to kill you. She opened her inventory and had a look for something that might be useful.

She didn’t have a knife at the moment, and even if she had, it would have been quite fiddly to cut through the webbing. She could do it by hand, but that would be too icky. Fire was another option, but she’d probably end up burning everything down, with her in it.

There was a branch. It was the one Diana had given her to fight zombies. There hadn’t been much use for it so far, but perhaps this was its time to shine. She took it out and held it in both hands.

The branch did a fairly reasonable job of chopping webs out of the way, but it was even better at rolling them up. The strands wound around it like candy floss. With a combination of swinging in wide arcs and reeling in hanging threads, she was able to create a tunnel.

Spiders scuttled out of her way. She was so engrossed in clearing a path, she barely noticed. The howling had drifted away and she was more concerned about losing her prey.

Things were falling on her head, crawling down her back. It wasn’t her real body, she told herself. It felt real, but it wasn’t. She resisted the sensations urging her to drop everything and freak out. Not even a little wriggling about was allowed as she swung her mighty candy floss sword.

As soon as the exit was within reach, she lunged forward, getting a face mask of spider silk. She wiped it off with a sleeve.

The next room was full of water. She was tempted to dive in—the best way to get rid of any critters still on board, but there was no way to tell what might be in there.

The howling was straight ahead, which was great. It wanted to be between her and the way out. She wanted that, too.

There were stepping stones across the water, leading to each of the three exits. Something caused a ripple over the surface.

What was it? Piranha? Sharks?  Something with tentacles? It wasn’t that big a room, but who knew how deep it went?

Britta decided this was the time to turn this into a speed run. She ran, jumping from stone to stone without pausing.

There was thrashing about in the water around her. She kept her focus on the exit. Her balance had always been good, and even though gnomes had short legs, hers had a strong jump. She crossed the twelve stepping stones easily, leaping over the turbulent water and only wavering at the end when she saw a large glassy eye, the size of her head, looking up at her from under the surface.

She slipped as she landed, but managed to regain her balance, and threw herself into the tunnel.

There was no time to stop. She charged on. There was only one more room to go. She didn’t doubt it would be the hardest, but that was okay. Even if she died, she’d got through it once, she could do it again.

She ran into the next chamber and was met by a howl right in her face. Standing between her and the way out wasn’t the dwarf, though. It was Freddy. And his eyes were burning red.

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