“Ken! Oye! Ken ” opening up his eyes.
“Dad! ” his eyes wide opened as he got up the floor and hugged his dad. “Dad! What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be …..”
“Dead? Ya, I am, still dead…..technically.”
“So how are you…No how am I able to talk to you like this?”
“Welcome to the pre-image, the memories of your life Ken.”
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“Well, this concept of porticons and other stuff had opened a vast field of development and advancement. This game is based on one such technology. Your consciousness is what is talking to me. I am not here physically but it’s like your memories are communicating with your memories. The porti is kinda malfunctioning as it has re-directed the power source of NIXp from the emotion-controlling centers of your brain to the memory storing centers ”.
“it’s getting a bit, complicated dad. ”
“ya, I know. So what do you seek here son?”
“Nothing, I was just missing you, dad. I wanted to hug you.”
“Come here son <kissing him on his forehead>. ”
“How are you dad? It has been a long time”
“Ya, it has been indeed a very long time. Look at you, all grown and handsome ”.
“It’s not like that, dad”
“So, enough of the greetings Ken. You can’t stay here for long. A person’s memories aren’t strong enough to power this device. So the longer you stay, the more it’s likely to cause damage to you. You need to go Ken”
“No, I didn’t want to leave you, dad!”
“Why Ken, did something happened in the outside world? .Why do you look so done and dejected?”
“Nothing dad. I am just not feeling well.”Ken started crying as he lowered his head into his father’s warms arms.
“Don’t lower your spirits, Ken. I am not sure what happened outside, but there are times when life goes on a rollercoaster. You just need to hold onto it Ken. have faith in your friends and others.”
“Faith?…..there have been so many betrayals and moments that everyone seems suspicious now.”
“Look at me, Ken! <raising his head up with his long old fingers>if you don’t want to trust anyone, it’s fine son. You don’t need to place your faith in anyone. But in that case, try to mold yourself into such a person that you never need to ask for anything infront of anyone. Okay!”
“I tried to be that person dad. From the beginning, I tried to compensate for my inabilites and weaknesses. I trained very hard, day and night yet I couldn’t do anything about myself.”
“So, what Ken. Everyone faces failures. You are strong, strong enough to defeat your difficulties and especially that man who stands infront of you and your goal. So don’t give up so fast.”
”I can’t dad! I tried every possible move in my arsenal. Every spell and every physical move but yet I can’t do it.”
“If you run out of options, then listen to your heart. Listen to all those people who have supported you till here and who will be for you till the end. Open your senses Ken, this game is based on emotion. Until you realize your true emotion, you aren’t going to make it. Open your heart Ken and surely you’ll make it through .”
Ken smiled as he wiped off his tears. “And son, don’t leave that hot lady. She’s one heck of a girl who truly loves you.”
“She’s my girl dad. Don’t say it like this” both of them laughed as Ken’s dad patted his head.
“So, I leave here son. Goodbye. Stay strong and never feel dejected of yourself. You are a hero whose time has come”.
“Dad! Dad!! ” Ken shouted as his dad, slowly faded away in thin air.
“Dad!” once again Ken shouted as his eyes opened in the real world.
“Oh! Come on. Now we don’t want you to go mad or out of your senses.”
“Dear, let’s end his misery. Kill him and let’s make this game ours.Shall I kill him?”
“No Amber, you did beautifully in hiding you NIXp during your JUJUBA village visit and even that incident in forest with that strange goblin that you summoned. <Turning to Ken> guess I have to obey my lover’s orders, Ken” as Harry moved towards Ken, with his sword in his hand.
Sitting up against the wall, Ken started to laugh slowly as Harry noticed him laughing to himself. “Wait, Satoshi! He’s definitely upto something.”
“Not a big deal, Champ. The state in which he is, I don’t think that he can even move on his own.”
“Hey! Satoshi. I think you have assumed me to be like these cowards, who are weak and who prefer hiding behind your back rather than fighting the facts. I may be weak but I am not a coward.” Standing up slowly on his legs as he stumbled twice, before finally making up on his legs.
“You know, Satoshi….you did a huge mistake by keeping me alive till now. And more importantly, you did a huge mistake by dragging me till here. And to all those who are standing there, goodbye”
“…………..” <sounds of tremors amplifying second by second> Suddenly the ground began to shake as small pieces of stones began to fall from the ceiling. Harry and Amber stumbled as they took the support of the wall near the passageway which had a long blood mark created from Ken’s blood<when Satoshi dragged him here>.
“You asshole!” Satoshi rushed towards Ken as he tried to slit his sword across Ken’s stomach but luckily, Ken was able to dodge as the shaking earth provided easier conditions for Ken to just move left and right and on the contrary it made difficult for Satoshi to hit Ken.
Collecting the last ounce of his energy and setting his eyes on the red buzzer, Ken keenly observed Satoshi’s attacks and calculating everything, he delivered a kick a chop kick on his right hand causing the sword to fall off from his hand. Then wasting no time, he called a firebolt in his palm and put it straight into Satoshi’s stomach as Satoshi flew off due to the explosion of firebolt and fell right infront of the podium on which the buzzer was kept.
“What have you done Ken?” Harry shouted across the sounds of falling stony ceiling’s as Ken wasted no time and started to run towards the buzzer.
“Ken! Ken!” Harry noticed Ken’s intention as he pulled his posture together and pulled his sword out of his scabbard.
“Not this time Harry!” Ken retorted back with even a louder scream as he chanted “hands of hell”. Ken wasn’t sure if his NIXp was enough to make this spell work so he put extra efforts in chanting the spell.
But luckily, the spell worked as the red blood trail made on the ground by Ken’s blood started to glow. Within no time the red glow changed into dark violet light as the ground stated to move apart and a narrow rift was created in place of the blood trail. The rift was purple in color from the inside and numerous hands came out from the narrow rift.
From left to write, the hands were everywhere as they moved left and right searching for something, as If they wanted to hold something. There were thousands of hands that came out from the trail and they nearly covered the whole passage and the entrance of the hall.
Seeing the creepy hands, Amber and Harry moved inside the passageway carefully dotching each and every hand that came out on the surface. Suddenly a huge chunk of wall fell from the above as Satoshi’s friend was met his death as the stone fell on him as he perished out of the game immediately.
“Ken! Ken! Ken!” Amber angrily said as ken noticed her and replied,”You know amber. I always had a doubt on your character. You were too sweet and caring and this never happens to me. Further, you called out my name once during the Cerberus fight in the stone valley, despite the fact that we barely knew each other ”.
“Shut up you filth!” Amber replied. “Weren’t for Satoshi, I would have never acted all lovey-dovey to you. A broken and an emotionless person like you”.
“For the first time, you said it right Amber. I, am emotionless and honestly speaking I don’t give a single fucking damn to it and thank you for compliments. Your gift is waiting for you.”
“You jerk!” scrambling her teeth together, Amber stepped forward but she felt a force holding her back. Turning around was a thin sticky web which was stuck to her clothes, following from her trousers to her overcoat. Puzzled and amazed, she looked towards Harry, who was facing the similar struggle but was in a much worse condition than her.
“Don’t think too much Amber. It was one of my pet spider, who came out from the blood drop on the wall <which he made during the time Amber met Ken infront of Satoshi> and spanned this web behind your back when you were busy taking. So happy staying and enjoy your final moments as this rift will eventually increase in size and cover the whole passageway.”
Amber didn’t reply anything as she was too pre-occupied with the sticky web which made her feel dirty and uneasy but Harry was listening to everything which Ken said. He looked at Ken and for a second they both made eye contact.
The deadly stare that Ken give Harry was enough to communicate that Ken never expected this from Harry. Harry’s eyes communicated repentance and shame but Ken turned his head away and rushed towards his goal.
A large piece of wall fell on the entrance of the passageway as Amber and Harry were completely cut-off from the hall in which Ken and Satoshi were present.
Ken managed to stay on his feet somehow despite the tremors as jumping and hoping he reached the podium cum stand on which the buzzer was kept.
“Finally!” he remarked with relief as he put his hand on the buzzer.
“………………………..”.Sounds of dangling chains came to Ken’s ears as Ken froze with fear in the position he was with his hand still on the buzzer.
“……………………………………” Once again the sound came to Ken’s ears as he turned back this time to find Satoshi holding the chain in his hand and running towards Ken. Ken knew that he had neither the NIX nor the health to fight Satoshi. So he pushed the buzzer but his hands didn’t moved at all. Perhaps the sound of the chain cause him to lose awareness of the situation and his hands didn’t actually move on the buzzer due to the effect of the fear which runs through him.
“…………….” The sound again came to his ears as this time, Satoshi was standing right behind his back holding the chain in his hands. Wasting no time he wrapped the chain around Ken’s neck and tightened his grip and …………………………
“……………………” <Sounds of opening poppers all around the hall as the tremors stopped>
[a computerized voice coming from above] “Congratulations Satoshi for you millionth kill in the Porticons game. You have been selected as the winner ”. A momentarily pause followed as Harry looked towards Ken’s head which lay on the ground with blood spreading like a fountain from ken’s open neck.
[a computerized voice again came] “Congratulations Ken for becoming the winner of the game Porticons”..
“Damn it!!!!!!”. As the announcement ended, Harry looked at Ken’s hand to find the buzzer pressed by the weight of a large spider which sat, dead on the top of the button.
<White misty gaze infront of the eyes as the eyelids raised slowly> “Where am I?” mummering to himself as the blurry vision infront of his eyes continued to give him a hazy look.
“O!…Ken! Thank God you are awake!” a voice came from the other side as the person took a sigh of relief as Ken moved his hands and tried to get up on his own.
“Don’t worry yourself, Ken. Keep lying in the bed”. As the vision cleared out, Ken was able to identify that it was Ayako, who was sitting right beside him.
“How did I get here, miss” helping himself to get his back rested against the wall.
“That’s for later Ken. firstly, how are you son?”
“I’m fine. Just feeling a little exhausted.”
“That’s good to hear son. We have been so worried about you”.
“I’m sorry to worry you miss but I’m fine now.”
“That’s good to hear “
“How are you miss. It feels like a long time since we met!”
“Indeed Ken. It’s nearly two months since we have talked to each other ”. Keeping her hand on top of Ken’s hand which was injected by a needle fixed on top of his hand by a cloth bandage.
“Two months! <in amazement> Wow!” loud sounds came from Ken’s stomach, as he looked towards Ayako and hold his stomach with embarrassment.
“Ha!Ha! <Laughing softly> it’s alright son. You don’t need to hide your hunger. It’s understandable.”<Passing a plate of apples which have been kept wrapped by a thin cellophen>
“Now sit quietly and finish these apples while I’ll inform Ellie and other’s that you are awake.”
“And yes, by the time I come back, I want all of these apples inside your stomach. You and apples have a very bad history” <getting up from the chair and moving towards the exit>
“Yes! miss” with a slight grin, Ken replied as Ayako made her way out, closing the door. Birds chirped and the wall clock ticked as silence was maintained in the room. Holding the toothpick, Ken put an apple half in his mouth as he looked around to have a glimpse of his surroundings.
Electronic machines and equipment all around the place added up to the surroundings as a small window hid between the contrasting machines, lighting up the whole place with sunshine.
Clear blue skies with tall skyscrapers all around were all which was visible outside the window as Ken gazed at the sky with nothing but blank mind.
Hussle of the crowd in the hospital, the sound of the pulsating heartrate machine, tick of the wall clock. All these sounds came to Ken’s ears as he set his sight on a small bird which tried to fly as it moved its wings quickly in order to maintain it’s flight.
“Go! Birdy Go!” a voice came from Ken’s mind as he was completely lost in cheering and supporting the little bird who dropped it’s altitude few times but eventually managed to somehow fly.
Suddenly, the bird disappeared from the window frame as it dropped its altitude and went falling. Ken crushed the apple In his mouth as he felt as if he himself, went down with the bird. But to his relief, the very next moment the bird again appeared infront of him at this time, it stretched it’s armed completely and flew like a well grown up, experienced flyer.
Swirling around in the sky, it moved round and round infront of that very window chirping happily. A smile came to Ken’s face as finally his cheers have bear fruits.
Picking another piece of apple, Ken saw the bird for a while as both Ken and the little bird were lost in their own space, admiring the surroundings.
Taking his eyes off the bird, Ken looked around the room to find something else to put his interest into. He was fine but somehow he felt as if he was forgetting something that happened to him. Looking at his condition, he couldn’t remember how did he come to the hospital. The last refreshing memory he had was the memory of his father and the sequences which led him to the buzzer.
Under the stack of medicines and few papers, he found a newspaper dated previous week as of today. With keen interest, Ken picked up the paper and keeping the plate aside, he began to read it.
Flipping the pages, one by one he found an article headed “The champ’s blackout!” with a small picture of Ken along the article. The article read as:
“The tied winner of the VALDRO gaming contest Ken Koshi is still unconscious and had shown no signs of recovery. The medical staff has reported that they are trying their best to bring Ken back to his conscious self and they expect the patient to show symptoms of recovery in the upcoming days.
Earlier, Ken was found unconscious lying inside his capsule with black marks all around his body and later he was diagnosed with severe neural issues. It is reported that Satoshi killed Ken with a chain inside the VALDRO game to claim the joint winner of the game.”
Reading the article, Ken felt kind of confused as he was not sure how he was killed or how Satoshi became the winner of the game.
Thinking hard, he looked outside the window to find the bird still whirling around in the sky. But suddenly, a hawk came flying from nowhere and in an instant, it swallowed the little bird and with a gaze at Ken, it flew the window and disappeared. Ken’s eyes widened in amazement as the bird whom he attached his feelings to was killed in a shot.
But unfortunately, Ken was too preoccupied in his own mesh of threaded thoughts as he tried to solve the puzzle of his current condition and the events that lead him here.
Suddenly, a series of events came to Ken’s mind as like a fast-forward movie show everything flashed infront of his eyes. The falling of rocks, the movement of his hand on the buzzer, the dreadful sound of the dangling chain and the cruel, painful death that Satoshi gave him. All of these things rattled through his mind as his eyes widened further but this time with fear and chill as he remembered how painfully he was chocked to death.
All the sounds of ticking clock, the chirps and the hospital noises, all seemed painful and itching to him as he closed his ears to cut those sounds off.
“Ken!” Ellie came walking into the room happily but only to find Ken holding his ears and sitting quietly as he shook with fear with his eyes closed.
The happiness and joy with which she walked in now turned into a mark of question as she rushed towards Ken.”Ken! Ken!” holding his hands she tried to comfort him but all her efforts were in vain as Ken denied to listen to Ellie.
Following Ellie, the others also walked in but only to find Ken sitting in a state of panic. “Ken! Ken! look at us. We are all here to help you!.” Simultaneous voices came from all directions as Ken looked around to find a hord of people standing around him. It were all familiar and dear faces to him but currently, their voices seemed too itchy to him.
“……………………..” from so many different voices, a ‘chain-like’ sound came to Ken’s ears as he tighten his hold and started screaming.
“Stop! Stop! Stop this nonsense. Just go away. I don’t want your sympathy’s.” Silence succumbed the room as everyone heard ken’s plea and they went out of the room without a word to Ken or to each other.
“Ken! my son…..if you don’t want anyone then its fine. We won’t bother you but if you require us anytime…then we are her closeby” with sadness to her voice, Ayako said to Ken as she left the room without waiting for Ken to replay.
Hours passed, followed by days. Ken refused to talk to anyone. Doctors and psychiatrists came and went but Ken refused to speak to anyone. He neither did eat or sleep. All he did was to sit quietly on his bed with his ears closed as his head down in his lap. Courtesy of the drips and other injections, that Ken managed to stay up on his own or else the deficiency of nutrients and food would have made him pass out much before then others might have expected.
It seemed to Ayako that Ken had reverted back to his old self, like in days back when they met first. But this time she was helpless as Ken wasn’t a child and neither did she had the same power and determination to make Ken speak.
All she could do, was to urge him to speak and eat and she did that daily without any hiatus or blame to anyone, not even Ken. probably she understood that it was so huge an event for Ken that he couldn’t help it and he choose to isolate himself rather than fighting it back.
Apart from Ayako, Marvin, Ak and Ellie, all three of them used to sit beside Ken for hours waiting for him to utter a word but each day ended with the same disappointment, like the previous days.
“Miss Ayako, enough of this Ken’s isolation. Someone has to speak to him properly and I’ll go and make him speak to me and everyone else. How many days will we spend like fools, waiting for him to come out of his depression or whatever?
Everything has its limit and this time, I’ll make sure to realize him this.”