Bitter 125

The dancing continued and Britta was starting to tire. Games were meant to be fun, not death by disco. She couldn’t think of anything other than to logout and try to come up with something on the outside. At least she’d be able to think clearly without her brain being constantly jiggled about.

She wasn’t sure where she’d log back in, probably New Town, but that wouldn’t be too bad. She didn’t mind having to do the dungeon again from the start. She’d have a much better idea of what to do if things were the same (although there was no guarantee of that) and she wanted to know if the kobolds would remember her if she came back for another go. It seemed like her best option, but she was still reluctant.

The dancing would be a pain to deal with for another twenty-three hours, and also her dagger was now on the ground which meant she wouldn’t have it when she logged back in. It wasn’t exactly her most used item but she’d still rather have it than not.

Her feet were in the middle of some kind of charleston moves that made her ankles throb. Fake ankles but real pain. Whatever her next decision, Britta knew she couldn’t handle much more of this.

“You could at least provide some music,” Britta shouted into the empty cavern. Her frustration echoed around her.

“Hello, Britta. Can you hear me?” said Dr Reedy’s voice.

Britta perked up. Finally! “Yes? Hello?”

“Just thought I’d let you know, we’re all watching, transfixed. This really is quite amazing.” She didn’t sound like she was making fun of Britta’s predicament but that didn’t mean there wasn’t some chortling going on behind her.

“Can you stop the dancing?” Britta asked.

“Ah, well, you see the thing is, we didn’t actually program this Charmer’s Fandango. No idea where it came from, to be honest with you.”

“What about the dwarf?” she asked the darkness above her like she was talking to God.

“Hmm. Yes, he’s ours but he shouldn’t be in this dungeon. He’s one of the end bosses in the epic version. How he appeared over here I’m afraid is a complete mystery.”

“But why did you make him so hard to kill?” whined Britta. “He’s unstoppable.”

“Yes, he is tough, isn’t he?” She sounded quite pleased with herself. “We wanted to set the high-end players a challenge, see what they’re capable of. The version we intend to release when the game goes live will probably be greatly toned down, depending on how the current players fare. Unfortunately, none of them have progressed far in enough in the epic dungeon to even encounter him yet. We’re very  much looking forward to seeing what happens when you try it.”

At this rate, there’d be quite a long wait before that could happen.

“Then can you just kill me and bring me back?” Even if they had no control over the dancing, she was sure they could do that.

“Yes,” said Dr Reedy, hesitantly, “we could, but at this point we really want to see where this is all going. The fact the dance can be countered by the spell you received can’t be a coincidence. There seems to be an intelligence behind this, guiding your progress. I think it’s vital we track this intelligence down. Please, just do your best. Good luck, we’re all rooting for you.”

Britta could see her point. There would be more chance of figuring out what this was about if she played it all the way through like a proper game and reached the final objective, whatever that was. But did she really have to dance her way there?

Clearly, Dr Reedy didn’t want to interfere so there was no point trying to convince her to help. Britta was on her own.

Going over the edge still seemed like her best chance of killing herself. Her feet weren’t going to allow it so she had to find a way to take away their control over her movement. If she could fall over she might be able to keep them in the air and use her arms to crawl her way to the edge.

But she had the feeling her lower half would find a way to flip her back onto her feet, probably using some kind of breakdance move involving spinning on her back and windmilling her legs about.

The charleston switched to ballet. She was up on her toes, which was uncomfortable, and spinning round and round. She tried leaning over to unbalance herself, but she dipped into an arabesque to counter-balance.

When she’d been very young, Britta had taken ballet lessons. She’d loved dressing up in a tutu and putting on the satin shoes, as any little girl would. For two years she had gone to weekly classes, thoroughly enjoying every minute, but eventually she stopped. Partly because she knew she’d never be any good (she didn’t have the right body for it), and partly because the other girls were so mean to her.

An arabesque was where you posed on one leg while raising and extending the other all the way up behind. It was beautiful and elegant, and she had never had the balance to pull it off. Now she was executing it perfectly in the body of a stubby little gnome. It was quite thrilling.

Rather than fighting the dance, she decided to go with it. She matched her arms to what her feet were doing. She threw herself into the moves, ignoring how stupid she must have looked. She was living a dream she’d had as a child, to dance with true grace, to be a ballerina.

Her arms went over her head and swept out to the side. Her dim memories of ballet lessons and watching dancers in videos reached out from the depths of her mind and it was exhilarating. Spinning and jumping and gesturing as though her whole body was expressing joy. She felt herself regain control of her movements. She only wanted to dance more. She ran across the platform and leaped into a grand jeté, her front leg shooting out straight in front and her back leg shooting out straight in back, toes pointing, legs fully extended. She was flying.

She was really flying. She had leaped off the edge without realising it and was over the bottomless pit. Flying turned to falling. Mission… accomplished? At least she’d find out what was down there.

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