Bitter 46

Britta preferred to do one thing at a time. It was a lot simpler to get it right that way. But the game seemed to want to throw everything at her all at once.

She had hoped to get herself a pony, ride around a bit, see some sights. That was all. But no. They had to throw in random encounters to keep things exciting for all the adrenalin junkies. Fights and monsters and dark holes to jump down. Or be thrown down.

She had stopped screaming once she realised it wouldn’t do her any good. It was pitch black and impossible to see what was below, or indeed above her or beside her. Her arms were still raised over her head, so she pulled them in and crossed them over her chest.

It wasn’t completely unpleasant. She was falling but it didn’t feel uncontrolled. Once she got used to it, you could even call it fun. Being Alice falling through the rabbit hole was probably what the devs were going for. The gnomes obviously weren’t trying to kill her. This was how they travelled into their home.

She tried to think like a game developer. What would Dad think?

If there was no obvious way to stop herself falling, then it must have been designed that way. She was supposed to fall, but wouldn’t she crash into the ground?

Could be water below her. Or a lot of cushions. Whatever it was, the other gnomes had jumped first and they weren’t committing suicide so there was bound to be something to break her fall. No reason to panic.

The air around her was getting warmer. A hot gust shot up from below, blowing back her hair and puffing up her clothes. She felt her descent slow down. It was like she was floating. She started laughing.

From beneath her came a dim glow. The ground was approaching, but not very fast. As she got closer she saw there was a lattice below her, a grill with lots of holes. The warm air was blowing up through it.

Her feet touched down gently. She stood still for a moment, her heart still racing but a smile on her face. There were openings in the walls, through which light shone into the shaft she was in. Which one was she supposed to go through?

Before she had the chance to make up her mind, a great weight hit her in the head and knocked her over. The impact was painful and she was pinned to the ground. The weight lifted.

“Why were you just standing there?” said the gnome who had landed on her.

“How was I supposed to know you were going to do that?” said Britta as she got back to her feet. She was annoyed at being jumped on, and even more annoyed he was making it sound like it was her fault. “I’ve never jumped down a hole like that before.”

The gnome shook his head and walked over to one of the openings. “What kind of gnome has never been down a flute? You are no gnome.”

She’d had enough of his attitude and was about to tell him what she thought of his views when another gnome landed on top of her, knocking her back down.

She angrily struggled out from under him and got to her feet, but this gnome was quite a bit bigger than her so she kept her mouth shut. She turned and followed the other gnome through the opening.

The tunnel walls glowed from the phosphorescent veins that lined the walls like spiderwebs. It opened into a cavern full of more gnomes crowded around stalls and carts. It looked like a market. They didn’t pay her any attention.

“This is our village,” said Gnome Number One who had suddenly appeared next to her.

“Don’t you have a name?” she asked him.


From the way he said it, she was sure there were more apostrophes in it than necessary. “Okay, Gordon, where’s this Wise One?”

“She is there.” He pointed at the middle of the market where there was an open area. Standing on a rock there was a small gnome about the same size as Britta, except she was pretty. Beautiful, even.

Gnomes could look like that? Britta sighed. She wasn’t even good-looking by gnome standards.

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