“Aww… crap,” Dennis sighed the moment he became aware of his surroundings. He sat inside a confined, cramped stainless steel cubicle with his pants around his ankles.
“For a good time call Dana Sharp” was etched on the shiny door in front of him along with several other artistic expressions in heavy black marker. He felt something in his hand and checked the note.
“This body will die in 10 minutes. Figure out how, and prevent it.” There were more details below, but that’s where Dennis stopped reading; he learned all the information he needed. He collected himself, then exited the stall. He stopped in front of the mirror to check his appearance; then, gave a grumbling nod of acceptance.
“I hate this one,” he said to the balding, chubby-cheeked gentleman in the mirror. “At least it’s only 10 minutes,” he consoled himself as he exited the restroom and stepped out into the upscale restaurant.
The dining room was crowded with suits and dresses; each diner looked like the type to have summer houses and yachts. They wore watches and jewels that were more expensive than Dennis’ yearly salary. He stood in place surveying the restaurant. He did not know which table was his, but it wouldn’t matter in 10 minutes anyway.
After a couple of minutes of standing in place, he spotted a beautiful woman. The restaurant was full of them, but this one stood out because she was sitting alone in a dim corner with a distraught look on her face. Even from across the dining room he could tell she was crying.
“Awwww, damnit,” Dennis rolled his eyes even as his feet started to carry him toward her table. The moment he saw her, he made a decision. He hated the decision, but he knew better than to argue with his own nature; he never won.
“You okay, Miss?” he asked once he reached her table. She looked up like a startled puppy.
“It’s YOU!” she hissed a whisper. “I don’t know what’s going on! I don’t know how I got here! I don’t want to!” she trembled and looked up at him with pleading eyes. “Can you help me???” she begged. Dennis rolled his eyes mentally again as he nodded and sat down.
“Calm down, it’s okay,” he said. “You got a note, right?” he asked. She nodded vigorously and dropped a crumpled sheet on the linen table cloth. Dennis shook his head.
“I can’t read it, it’s for you only.” She narrowed her eyes at him.
“How did you know I got a note? How do you know you can’t read it, you didn’t even look at it,” she asked. Dennis held his palms up to try and gesture for her to keep calm.
“You don’t remember anything, that’s okay,” he said. “It’s supposed to happen; you know, part of the game.”
“What game?” she asked, she tapped the paper. “It said I have 10 minutes to kill you. How is that a game?” Dennis chuckled. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his own paper note, then handed it to the woman. She took it, and looked it over on both sides.
“It’s blank,” she said. Dennis shook his head.
“It’s not blank. Only I can see it, the same way only you can see yours. My instructions say I have 10 minutes to figure out how I’m going to die and prevent it,” he said. The woman gave him a confused look.
“It’s a game!” he said. “I have to survive for 10 minutes, you have 10 minutes to kill me. Trust me, I’ve been on the killer end before too.”
“Game?” she asked. “How is this a game? I’m sitting here with a real gun in my purse. I feel a buzz because I chugged a couple of glasses of wine when I got my note.” Dennis chuckled.
“Let me see the gun,” he said.
“What?” she asked. Dennis nodded and gestured with his hand.
“Hand it over, trust me.” She only hesitated for a moment before digging through her purse to pull out a heavy black iron revolver. She hid it behind the purse, then discreetly passed it to him under the side of the table. The moment it was in his hand he jumped to his feet and waved the gun in the air.
“I’ve got a gun! I’ve got a gun!” he yelled. The woman panicked with wide eyes, then she noticed no one cared. The well-dressed patrons continued to eat, unconcerned.
“Why aren’t they -,” She began to question Dennis, but she was interrupted by an ear-splitting *BANG!*. A waiter toppled to the ground holding his bloody chest. “WHAT THE FU-,” she screamed, but stopped when the waiter’s body disappeared. In moments, the same waiter walked out of the kitchen.
“They’re NPCs,” Dennis said as he put the gun back on the table.
“You and I are the only real ones here. We’re both playing the game. Players are assigned random matchups in a regular rotation of games. This is probably your first time getting this stage; the memory wipe for this one is kind of harsh until you get used to it. After the game, you’ll go back to your body and have your normal memories again.
“So.. did I lose?” she asked with a chuckle. Dennis shook his head.
“You still have a couple of minutes to kill me. I kind of figured this was your first time, usually the killer spots me as soon as I step out of the restroom. If this is your first time on this stage, you’re probably new to the AlterNet in general,” he said.
“Alternate what?” she asked. Dennis chuckled and shook his head.
“You’ll remember later. Anyway, to welcome you to the AlterNet,” he nudged the gun in her direction. “I’ll let you win this round. But add me to your friend list after the game, I want a real rematch.”
“Okay!” she grinned as she grabbed the gun off the table and aimed at his head.