Bitter 214

Britta took off the mask. The exits all disappeared. She put it back on, and there they were again. Magic mask—not exactly something you could use in real life.

At least her in-game problem was solved. Although, it was hard to feel victorious with the crying going on at her feet.

Britta looked down through the eyeholes. The masks previous owner was curled up, hands still covering their face. The people standing around them didn’t say anything. Didn’t try to help their friend. Maybe none of them knew each other, they just gathered to find someone they could feel superior to. It was Britta a moment ago. Now it was this person.

“Hey,” said Britta. Her voice sounded muffled. She took the mask off. “Hey. Get up. There’s nothing to be upset about.”

Her words went unheeded. Britta still felt annoyed, but now it was specifically this person who was getting on her nerves. When they’d had the mask on, they were more than happy to watch as Britta got picked on. Now, no one was even saying anything and they couldn’t even stand on their own feet.

It was hard to feel sorry for someone so eager to play the victim. She felt like kicking the sobbing idiot, really give them something to cry about. Which was a bit odd.

Britta stopped to examine her emotions. She genuinely wanted to kick this person she didn’t even know. Why? How would that change anything?

She put the mask back on. She should just leave now she knew where the doors were. Before something else happened.

She started to make her way towards the exit that would take her closer to the end of the maze. She had travelled three rooms in a forward direction. Three more to go.

The crying behind her decreased in volume, but somehow became even harder to ignore. It was extra-pathetic when it was so quiet.

She turned around and walked back. The crowd had moved away from them, but was still watching.

Britta bent down and pulled the curled up ball to its feet, fighting the resistance she met. She peeled the hands away from the face. It was a girl with an average sort of face. Not pretty, not ugly. Nothing special. Just a regular person with snot and tears all over their face.

Britta felt another urge to get mad. What the hell was she so upset about? Who was going to make fun of the way she looked? Absolutely nobody. Britta took another deep breath. Life was hard for everyone, but some people were also massive idiots.

Britta took the mask off. “Look.” She pried the hands off the girl’s face. They went right back. Britta tried again and again, turning it into a slap fight.

Britta waited for a break in the stupidity and slammed the mask back on the girl’s head. Surprised eyes stared out from the deer’s face.

“Wear it if it helps,” said Britta. “Just show me the way out.”

The girl looked unsure. At least, her eyes did.

“Or I can take the mask and leave you here for everyone to see.” Britta was smaller than the girl, but not by much. And she had been putting extra stats into strength, so she was tougher than she looked.

The deer head moved from side to side. Then the girl pointed at the wall. There had been an opening there, Britta had seen it. But now there was nothing but solid rock.

“Come on,” said Britta. “You have to show me.”

The girl moved forward in nervous, jerky steps. Britta didn’t know if this would work. Perhaps she needed to wear the mask to leave. If that was the case, she’d have to take the mask back, no amount of bawling would change that.

The girl reached out her hand and touched the wall. The black tunnel entrance spread out from where the girl’s finger touched. It grew like paint spreading out on a wet surface.

Britta reached out her own hand and touched air. It was real, not just a Wile E. Coyote fakeout.

She stepped forward. The tunnel didn’t collapse around her. She turned to look at the girl. She considered telling her she didn’t need the mask. Pass on some greater wisdom and change the girl’s life. But she wasn’t a real girl. She was, however, a very convincing idiot, and there was no way to teach an idiot anything. They had to figure it out for themselves.

Britta hurried through the tunnel, glad to have left that particular room behind. She hoped things wouldn’t get any worse than that. Physical danger was far preferable to being irritated to death.

She stepped into another room and was faced by herself. A small gnome with not much gear.

Really? she thought. Was she supposed to fear herself? It wasn’t even really her, just an avatar.

She moved closer and realised it was a mirror. The actions of her opposite matched hers exactly, and when she reached out her hand so they could touch fingers, she felt the cold, glassy surface.

There was an exit on either side, but the one in front of her was just a reflection of the one behind. She could smash the mirror, but that didn’t seem like a great idea when she had no idea what was on the other side. Plus, she didn’t have anything to break it with.

She’d go sideways. A slight detour wasn’t so bad, and at least there was nothing upsetting here.

There was a howl from the tunnel to her left. If the game wanted her to face her fears, why not oblige? She turned left and entered the tunnel.

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