The following was submitted to Writer’s Digest for the Your Story #75 competition.
By S.W. Anderson
“You don’t have enough points, sir,” the pimply-faced teenager said from behind the table. Attendants filled the showroom floor, many dressed as their favorite science fiction character.
Josh looked around. “Everything here is way out of my points range. Is there anything here I can actually do?”
“I don’t know, sir,” the teenager replied, his voice cracking. He shifted in his seat and looked at the ground as he chewed heavily on his gum. “I’m going to have to ask you to move along, though.”
“Yeah, yeah. We’re moving.” Josh rolled his eyes as he turned to his friends.
“Man, this place sucks.” Declan repositioned his elaborate wizards hat upon his head for the hundredth time.
“What do we have to do to get more points around here?” interjected Tyler, who was in plain jeans and a Star Wars t-shirt. He stood out more in the crowd than those who donned fancy, expensive, elaborate costumes.
“I’m not sure that we can get more points,” Josh explained, although he was still very confused by the points system. “Let’s try back this way again.”
“Man, let’s just leave,” Tyler exclaimed. It wasn’t the first time today he tried to get the others to leave with him.
“No! I paid sixty bucks to get in here. And I had to pay for your sorry ass too, so we’re not leaving until I find something to make it all worth it!” With that, Josh turned on his heels and began walking towards the back of the convention center.
The words “Food Court” sprawled above his head on the wall in front of him. He stopped abruptly in front of a stand that sat across from a hot dog vendor. The crowd was much more sparse in this area of the convention center. The lack of a crowd was surprising, especially because the vendor’s table sported a single, simple sign, which read: “Try Our NEW Simulation Video Game: FREE!”
Josh pointed to the sign. “Free?” he said aloud to his friends and to the vendor that was sitting behind the table. She was a little, older lady, frail, someone you wouldn’t expect to find at a comic book convention.
“It must suck, dude. It’s free, but, where’s the line?” Tyler questioned, laughing.
“I dunno, but it’s free so let’s try it.” Josh stepped forward and nodded to the vendor, who only smiled and waved her hand, gesturing to the edge of the black curtain.
“I dunno, man. An old lady tells you to go into a pitch black, curtained-off room and you comply?” Declan proclaimed. He smiled sheepishly to the vendor. “No offense.”
“None taken, wizard,” the old lady said sarcastically.
Declan frowned. “Fine. But if we get murdered it’s all your fault.”
The trio stepped into the small area and closed the curtain behind them.
“We don’t get any glasses or anything?” Tyler questioned.
“How did she get it to be so dark in here?” Declan asked, poking around.
“Shut up! I think it’s starting,” Josh interjected.
The dark room slowly began to fade away. Soon, the three were blanketed in a dim, white light. Trees and other shrubbery began to come into focus. Josh looked around and noticed a large, black doorway had formed around them. Above hung a single, glowing exit sign. Below, his feet were somehow covered in snow.
“Woah!” one of them exclaimed. Josh took a few steps forward. “This is pretty neat.”
“It’s actually freezing,” Tyler noted, his breath wafting through the air in little puffs.
“This is weird, guys… I still don’t know about this.” There was fear and uncertainty in Declan’s voice.
“It’s just a simulation,” Josh reminded.
“A freezing, cold simulation. I’m getting out of here.” Tyler turned to head back to the doorway but quickly froze in his spot. “Wait,” he hesitated. “Where did it go?”
“What?” Josh said, still looking around in awe.
“The door, idiot!”
The three turned and looked, confused as the door they had all just traveled through was now missing. In its place, the untouched snow blanketed the forest floor.
They continued to stare at the empty spot in horror as the old lady’s laughter filled the air.