I hobbled through the jungle for a bit longer, thankfully not running into any more creatures. Sat down in a tangle of vines. Took out the thorns that were hurting the most. Took note of the fact that my HP Bar was roughly 60% full.
Sometimes, the horror of the fight was so intense that I forgot to check the HP Bar. Tactically and strategically, it made sense to pay attention to the HP Bar. But in the moment there’s so much fear, so much adrenaline, you can’t even think.
I got outside MELTDOWN JUNGLE. It was only in that moment that I saw The Volcano of Dreams.
It towered, its craggy gray base seeming to slope upwards forever. I looked up and saw the purple smoke flowing from the volcano.
In that moment, I realized I had no idea what the creature that attacked me looked like.
I wondered what it would look like in my nightmares.
The journey up the volcano was long but uneventful. It was easier than climbing a cliff face, but harder than just climbing up a hill.
No idea how much time passed. Several times I wanted to give up and log off, but I had no idea what would happen if I did.
Would I slide down the volcano? Die and have to be brought back to life?
I didn’t want to have to go back to the temple. The place was creepy and disorienting.
In the face of adversity, I did the only thing I could: I kept climbing.
At one point I faced what the game called a Batsa, but it barely put up a fight. Took 2% of my HP, and I whacked it out of the way with one swipe from my sword.
Which was to say, an annoyance not really worth my time.
I kept climbing.
Hunger gnawed at my stomach, which led once again to questions. Was I hungry inside the game, or outside of it? Did I really need to log off soon?
The volcano loomed before me, so I climbed.
The higher up I got, the more dense the purple fog became. A couple times my hand would have trouble finding a groove to hold onto. Just had to be really careful and make sure I had a hold with one hand before I let go with another.
As always, the answer was simple: just keep climbing.
It was a sort of surprise when I reached the top of the volcano. My hand reached too high, only to not touch anything. I brought the hand lower, and only then did I realized I was at the top.
Pulled myself up, dusted myself off. The climb and the fight had been more exhausting than death.
A strange realization, that.
I looked around, knowing I wanted to throw the coin into the volcano. There was a problem, though: it was hard to see where the crater of the volcano ended and the throat of it began.
I took the coin out of my inventory. Felt its cold surface in my hand. Stuck my foot out, feeling my way. Once I realized I was still on solid ground, I made the step forward.
Did that two more times. Then, something caught the corner of my eye. I turned and saw a silhouette.
The purple air was much too thick to see anything but a silhouette. Its great big wings flapped in the air. Looked like a giant bird, but the body didn’t look quite right — too small.
The great wings lifted up, then came down. Again and again.
I drew my sword.
What sort of monster was it?
A part of me wanted to toss the coin and run, but the rest of me knew that wasn’t the way to play this.
Killing the monster could grant a lot of XP. And if I fucked this up, it was okay to die.
I could always die and come back to life.
My heart was racing anyway. Don’t ask me why. Because of how real the situation seemed? How unknown?
The monster continued to flap its wings. Got closer and closer. The thorns pushed their way through my skin.
I raised the sword in the air.