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I feel my body disintegrating as I’m slowly being teleported into the game. I take a deep breath. I’ve been training pretty much my whole life for the day when I have to enter the game. Normally the boys want to play the game and the girls want to live their girly fashion life. I don’t fit that girl mold. And besides, I’m an only child and each family has to send one child into the game after a certain amount of time. Now that I’ve turned fifteen, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
My vision starts to clear as my body is reassembled inside the game. I'm in some sort of clear box overlooking the current round. I still can't feel my whole body yet, but I can at least watch what's going on. There's action everywhere. People running around, swinging plastic swords and shooting bright Nerf guns, but mainly avoiding hordes of zombies. Zombies are everywhere. Chasing people around, slowly but surely, trapping people in corners, and crawling around on the grass, half defeated. There's various green tinted body parts laying around on the ground, most likely from a misaimed sword. At least there isn't blood in the game. That would be gross.
I suddenly hear a really weird sound, a strange sort of dying bugle sound. Everyone below starts to scramble around faster. They seem to draw strength from the sound and fight back fiercer and stronger. I think it’s the sound signaling the end of the round soon. But then the mossy cobble walls start moving. Not much, but changing what looks like a maze below. I think it also squished a couple of zombies.
After a minute or two of scrambling around and walls moving around, another noise sounds, more like a school bell this time. The walls disappear along with the zombies, both alive and dead. If you can call a zombie alive that is. All that is left is the survivors and a few dead people. The survivors high-five each other, gather their weapons and head towards the empty area a little bit in front of me. A few of them grab the dead bodies and drag them towards the gathering.
A young man, about 16, comes out of a door directly below me. He’s holding a clipboard and seems to be directing everyone. I catch a few snippets of what he’s saying.
“…over there…give them respect before they disappear…zombies soon. Now you…any injuries? Are we good to…aright let’s get a move on.”
He claps his hands together and calls out louder so everyone can hear him. “Alright everyone, can I have your attention please? We don’t have a lot of time and have a lot of things to cover. First off, let us identify the dead and have a moment of silence for them.” I hear a few names called out further back in the crowd, and the boy scribbles something down on his clipboard. When he’s done, they all stand there silently for a moment or two, and then the bodies fade. Everybody looks up expectantly. “Sadly, there’s nobody returning to us today from the zombies.” A few disappointed sighs. The boy checks his clipboard again. He really seems to like schedules.
“Okay, we have some time to shop, so take a few moments and get some upgrades. There’s also some water and cookies up here, so please help yourselves.” A bunch of hologram screens popped up in front of everyone and there is a few minutes of shopping, snacking, and general small talk. After a while, the boy decides time is up, so he claps his hands. The screens disappear and I can see the new upgrades people have bought. Everyone finds their way away from the snack table and stands up, ready for the next order of business.
The clipboard boy pulls a walkie-talkie off his belt and talks into it. I can’t hear what he’s saying, but after a moment he nods and turns around to flicks a switch. It must be connected to the box I’m floating in, because I can feel myself disintegrating again. He turns back to the crowd. “We have a new player today!” The crowd cheers lightly. I feel my body being funneled onto the ground below and reassembled, fully this time. “Everyone, please welcome them to our team!”
I fade in and stand there in front of everyone, tall and proud. The light cheering everyone was giving fades away as I stand there. Even the boy with the clipboard stares a little. I’m starting to wonder if I look weird, like is my short blue-purple hair with rainbow streaks too much? I suddenly realize that at least 95% of the players in front of me are boys. I suppose girls are a little uncommon. The boy collects himself and checks his clipboard once again. Does he forget what to do without constantly checking his clipboard? “Uh, what’s your name?”
“Ruby. Ruby Wiley.” I look him directly in the eyes as I say this. He can’t meet them. Typical boys. My mom always told me that I was prettier than the average girl (I don’t believe that) but these boys were acting as if I were a supermodel. Yeesh.
After scribbling more on his clipboard like his life depends on it, he sticks out his hand. “Hi Ruby, I’m Leo. Welcome to the team. I’m the unofficial team leader.” I shake his hand firmly without hesitation. He still seems more flustered than before I came, although he’s hiding it and still being very efficient. He waves his hand in the air and two weapons appear floating in front of me, a black and green plastic sword and a bright orange and white toy gun. Is he a wizard or something? “Your beginner sword and gun,” He explains. I grab them out of the air and stick the sword on my back and the gun in my belt holder, which appeared along with the gun and contains a few extra ammo clips.
“Oh, and I almost forgot, here’s your life band. It’ll keep track of your health points and your kills for you. The number of kills and type of zombie killed will earn you a certain number of coins to buy upgraded weapons and gear. The coins will be added to your account at the shop.” A snap of the fingers and a black bracelet appears on my right wrist. It appears to be integrated flat onto my skin. There’s a small circle on the back like a watch with a big white zero surrounded by green bars. I’m assuming the zero is how many kills and the bars are my health points.
Leo turns toward everyone else. “Alright, gather everything and ready yourselves, we’re moving on to the next round. Good luck!” The world around us changes like a hologram to a rain forest type setting. I can’t tell whether we were teleported or the world changed. It could easily be both. “Good luck, Ruby. You’re really going to need it,” Leo whispers before he slips back into the door behind him. The door disappears. Rude. I think. I know what I’m doing. I’m not some damsel in distress. And to top it all off, he’s probably going to sit somewhere nice and safe while we risk our lives fighting undead people. I shake my head. Rude.
Before anyone can do anything else, I’m teleported with a nice pop! to a random place on the map. No one else is in sight. I guess we’re on our own. I ready my gun and hear the same bell sound that ended the last round. The air suddenly reeks of rotting flesh, and I hear some zombie groans not too far off. I press my back against a tree trunk. My heart starts racing, adrenaline pumping through my veins. I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life, and now it’s here. I just hope I’m ready.