Bitter is now available as an eBook.
Dad was an experienced gamer. He could teach a course on how to complete video games in the most efficient manner. In fact, it was his ideal job, and he’d gone so far as to research the possibilities of doing just that at the local college. They had rejected his proposal.
Experienced or not, though, part of the attraction of games was that they were exciting. The thrill of finding something new, of getting past a puzzle or monster, these things were designed to get the player worked up and fully-engaged. Sometimes too engaged.
Dad had got carried away — the sign of good game design. He’d seen the treasure trove of weapons in front of him, and forgotten himself.
Being experienced was of no help when your mind reverted to that of an eight-year-old on Christmas morning.
The blade landed in the middle of his forehead with a thunk! and stayed there.
Seeing your own father get brutally slain by a deadly trap could be a traumatising experience. Or at least, Britta assumed it would be in real life. Here, her reaction was to wince. It was still her dad getting chopped in the head, so she winced quite hard, but it wasn’t like he was going to die for real.
She wasn’t losing a parent. He would just be kicked out of the game. Which would be inconvenient. Although she would get to moan at him for screwing everything up, so that was something to look forward to.
That’s what she had expected to happen, at least. Dad seemed to have other ideas.
The blade, which was curved and fairly long — it looked like it would come in very handy if you wanted to slice up a large pizza — only went in part of the way. It was like the bow of ship beached on a sandy shore. His head was forced into an upward tilt.
There was a long chain attached from the blade’s middle to an anchor-point hidden in the ceiling. It had swung down through a slit and the chain was now taut. She had assumed that was why Dad hadn’t fallen over. He was being held up like a puppet on a single, awkwardly placed string. He slowly turned around.
There was a fair amount of blood, but not as much as you’d expect. He was smiling, but it was the embarrassed smile of someone who had insisted he wasn’t lost, but had somehow ended up back at the signpost he’d passed an hour earlier.
“Got any heals?” he asked.
“Are you alright?” said Britta. “Shouldn’t you be dead? Are you a zombie?”
“No,” said Dad. “Although that would be pretty cool.” He pulled a face. “Ooh, it smarts a bit. Quick, healing potion.” He held out his hand expectantly.
“I don’t have any. I used the last one on Magda.”
Frau Magda was standing next to Britta. Her expression was one of concern — mainly for the blood stains on the cream carpet. “Please don’t stand there. You are dripping.”
“Sorry.” He looked around, which was difficult with the chain restricting his movements. His hands were out in front, patting the air. “I’ve got one in my inventory. Hard to see which buttons to press.”
“Can’t you pull the blade out?” Britta asked. That seemed like the obvious thing to do.
“I’ve got exactly one hit point left. If I remove it, the blood loss will kill me.”
The thing about a damage system based on losing points from a health pool was that it didn’t take into account where you got hit. Some places might be more sensitive than other, so a headshot would do more damage than a hit in the arm, but vital organs weren’t particularly vital. Not even the brain.
He couldn’t see his status screen properly, but he’d managed to open his inventory. She could tell because various random items were appearing on the floor. Armour, weapons, bundles of herbs… No potions, though.
“I’m feeling a bit dizzy,” said Dad. “You sure you don’t have a spare? One you keep for emergencies.”
“No,” said Britta. “I’m not holding out on you, Dad.”
“Dad?” said Frau Magda. “He is your father?”
“Um, no. I mean, kind of.”
“I understand,” said Frau Magda. “He took you in.” Her face softened a little. “He is not as dummkopf as he seems, eh?”
Frau Magda was adopted, perhaps she would be more sympathetic if she thought Britta was, too. A bit underhanded, but not entirely despicable.
“Yes, he raised me. It wasn’t easy.”
“No, it must have been hard for a single father.”
She had meant it hadn’t been easy for her, but she went with it. “He tries his best.”
“Yes,” said Frau Magda. “His best.”
Dad staggered about, hampered by his roof-leash. “Ooh, wait. I think I see something in the corner of my eye.” He stretched his right arm out to the side and flapped it up and down. “Almost got it.”
A red bottle fell onto the floor. A harder surface might have shattered it, but the plush carpet provided a nice cushion. Britta cautiously approached, staying low in case of more swinging blades, and picked the bottle up.
She opened it, and then realised she couldn’t reach his mouth which was aimed at the ceiling.
“Um, could you?” She handed the bottle to Frau Magda.
“Of course.” She poured it into Dad’s open mouth.
After the first couple of gulps, Dad raised his hand to get her to stop, but she took this as a childish aversion to the medicinal taste.
“No, no, you must drink it all down like a good boy.” She grabbed the back of his head with her free hand and pushed the end of the bottle into his mouth, making him gag. She held on firm, and only stopped once the bottle was empty.
“What did you do that for?” spluttered Dad when he had control of his mouth again. “You healed the wound around the blade!”
The gash was completely healed, and the blade was now firmly welded into Dad’s head.