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degreelessness: chapter five

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the severed head of john romero lazily intoned, and when it spoke it made chester nauseous. he felt like everything was moving backwards, his heart pounding out a reverse rhythm. a fine mist of blood appeared in the air and rushed into his nose.

after the head finished its sentence, he replied, “what?”

and john romero’s severed-head-on-a-stick repeated, “to win the game you must kill me, john romero.” except this time it pointed its voice the other way, flowing with the current of what chester experienced as linear time instead of pushing against it.

“oh,” chester said, taking a moment and using his arm to wipe the blood from his face. “you’re wrong.”

the head looked startled, its glassy eyes bulging out in shock. “what? what the fuck are you talking about? i made this goddamn game.”

chester: “well, you know. i’ve been thinking about the whole game thing, and maybe you’re right. maybe you’re right. but really, I think there’s a bit more to it than that.”

the head stared quizzically at him, so he went on. “see. once i entered an underground bunker and blacked out. i wasn’t sure what happened, but from that day on i’ve been invulnerable. i cannot die. if you think that’s fucked up, consider that i’m currently having a conversation with the severed head of a game designer. although really, you’re not a game designer at all. you’re just a sprite in the game. you didn’t make all this. you aren’t god. i am. i am degreelessness. nothing can harm me. that’s why hell is on earth, you see. that’s why i’m the only one left that’s not dead or a zombie. the second coming has passed. christ has risen again and i’ve killed him because his physical form is now unnecessary. but somehow during the chaos of the apocalypse, i forgot who i was, and that trapped me in the world i brought into existence. all my false memories of life as chester were just what you could call ‘antibodies’ that i had created in case of such an emergency, to give me hints that would lead me here. there was no bunker. it was just a trope used to point me in the right direction. the books i found in the library were more hints of my true nature. the trees at the edge of the desert. the sun that never sets. it’s just a program, a ‘game’. and you didn’t make anything at all. i installed this whole world, and you with it.”

romero’s head bellowed indignantly, “but you just said it wasn’t a game!”

chester opened his mouth to speak but his concentration was momentarily broken by the sound of demons beginning to assemble outside the door, growling and brushing up against it as they gathered. ignoring this, he continued. “yeah. my next point. this is when things get a bit difficult. see, I’ve done things in this ‘game’ that you aren’t supposed to be able to do. like talking to you, for instance. it’s like sometimes it’s a game and sometimes it’s something else. that confused me a lot. but while i was in the desert, i did a lot of thinking, and a lot of reading, and the third book that I read was this” and he reached into his backpack and pulled out a thin stack of stapled papers. the front page, in thick black letters, said “degreelessness”.

“it’s a game, but it’s not really a game. it’s a game inside a story. so I don’t have to kill you to win. the game isn’t the point. it’s just an illusion and I can control it any way i want. but the story says that I have to be here for the ending. so i’m here. and now i’m calling down the writer.”

and with this, chester began to scream “deus ex machina!” over and over again as the demons, their stupid minds attracted by the sound, commenced pounding on the door, plunging into it and roaring. all this commotion confused romero’s head, but that didn’t matter because he was just an object with no purpose except death anyway.

I say “what?” my voice bouncing and reverberating through this paragraph endlessly. the sound of it kills john romero’s severed head with a popping sound.

chester, who would have been astounded if he wasn’t so goddamn weary, moaned, “i’m here. i’ve made it all the way to your fucking tower to chat with you. now can i please die? there’s nothing for me in this world. let me go. like Crowley said. let me OUT.”

I reply: “no. there is no way out.” but I have chapter three of the story open while I’m writing this and the words land there too because I’m outside the story, in what I’ll rather inaccurately refer to as the fifth dimension, past three-dimensional space and the fourth dimension of time, and can see it all at once.

feeling a mild sense of déjà vu, and once again reminded of scooby doo and endless hallways, chester broke down and began to wail pitifully, “what? fuck that, let me out. why can’t you let me out?” the demons continued to slam into the door.

I say, “sorry, chester. you’re all wrong. your explanation of all this is pretty illogical. I thought about editing it, but it doesn’t really matter, because it won’t do any good anyway. there’s no way out, chester. i’m sorry. it’s too late for me to change that. did you know that Michelangelo painted himself into ‘The Last Judgment’? he added his face as a piece of stretched human skin.”

“what the fuck are you talking about? just make me human. make me mortal. if i can get rid of this physical form i’ll be free. i’m sure of it. it makes sense, goddamnit.” chester howled desperately, at his wit’s end, then fell to his knees and began to cry, tears mingling with the dirt and gore he missed when he wiped his face.

shaking my head, I give in to his pointless desires. “okay. okay. but it’s not going to work.” I say “IDDQD” and, sighing, prepare to type the last paragraph.

chester felt no different, and was about to start screaming again when the demons finally burst down the door and rushed him, one taking the lead and reaching him first. he saw the thing coming at him. (a flood of vomit pouring out of his mouth; he pisses himself uncontrollably.) time seemed to stop. as the demons overtook him, chester felt himself rise from his body. he understood everything, suddenly. he knew why he had teleported to nazi germany. he knew what the flaws in his logic were. he knew what was in the suitcase in Pulp Fiction. he even knew what the wall in the courtyard of his dreams said, but, more than that, he knew what he had been reflecting. as chester died, he saw these things: his mother, lying in a hospital bed, her hands spastically clutching the sheets once, twice, three times before going limp, her final breath amounting to barely a sigh, and chester not even crying, she’d been slowly deteriorating for so long. there was no shock, no surprise, nothing he had expected to feel, nothing to add any sort of comfort at all, just empty space. his family members (including one or two he would later kill after they turned into zombies) remarked solemnly about how it was really for the best, how she was finally at peace. chester thought of how her hands had grasped the pale green sheets, how mottled and worn her fingers had seemed, nails filthy with accumulated grime. he remembered as a child watching her brush her hair with a silver and red brush in front of the antique vanity mirror they had inherited when his grandmother died. he remembered the look on the face of a mortally wounded imp, wet black eyes full of fear, fangs bared, the stench of urine followed by the stench of blood. chester felt himself drifting from consciousness, and the last thing he saw was a mirror, streaked with shit and blood, and the compound eye of a fly, magnified ten thousand times, buzzing and glistening in the increasing harshness of the light.

when chester awoke, unbelieving of what had happened, he shoved the chainsaw into his mouth and pushed ‘ctrl’.

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I had really been wondering how you would end this, and if it would be a good, and that was really really great. The best ending you could have given it. It shed's so much light on "a story." as well.

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*screams like some little fangirl*

Holy frackin' SHIT! This was fucking AMAZING! Please excuse my foul language! But jeez! This is --- AUGH! I can't even DESCRIBE it without cursing up a storm!

Pressing Ctrl, the sky of unending dawn, IDDQD . . . You know what this reminds me of? TwinRealms! That's an RP campaign I managed a couple years ago that kindah dealt with the question: Are the games you play really just games? Is the person you play just a sprite or are they a real person doomed to shoot, kill, and fight for an eternity?

So I guess that's at least ONE of the reasons why I loved this story so much. Of course, it was frazzin' well-written. Your style is so new, so raw, such a delight to read.

I sincerely hope that you will post other stories here in the future. I'm so glad I got to read all of Degreelessness as it was being cranked out.

I can't say much else before I start virtually screaming like a fangirl and cursing up a storm again. So here's a kudos, a congrats, a round of applause, and a rose for a job well done.

Okay, maybe not a rose if that's not your thing, but it's the thought that counts, right? ;)

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thank you both so much. i was pretty worried with how the ending would be recieved. they're pretty taxing to write. your guys' support has helped a lot with all this. guardian, you have any sort of link for that twinrealms thing?

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I do, actually. Quite a few, heh, as I'm currently trying to revive it as a message-board.

You can find the first incarnation of the concept, titled Unreal Reality: Codename 'RiftWar' here:
http://www.angelfire.com/scifi/fleethq/riftwar.html Note: Any shorties written by me will by 'written' by either a 'Carole,' 'Guardian,' or 'Unreality Manifest.'

The newest incarnation, so far, has no complete DOOM references, but I'm slowly but surely cranking that one out; I hope to post it here once it's comeplete.

In any event, you can find the messageboard within the EZBoard.com network, here:
The Board hasn't opened yet, so there's not much to see there. But if you're interested, tentative date's somewhere between May and June.

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I need to read the rest of the series before giving a fully informed opinion, but: metafiction out the ass! :D Cool stuff man.

Have you ever read anything by Italo Calvino? That's what it reminds me of, a LOT. :)

/edit After having read the rest of this... damn. It's surreal and disorienting, yet still engaging at the same time, with good old DOOM flavor. It's like listening to Italo Calvino retell the story of the DOOM games. :)

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Where would I find this Italo Calvino author in a bookstore? Sci-fi, Mystery --- what? If PWW reminds you'f him I'd definitely want to check him out.

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Guardian said:

Where would I find this Italo Calvino author in a bookstore? Sci-fi, Mystery --- what? If PWW reminds you'f him I'd definitely want to check him out.

Well, not so much the general subject matter or style of the story, but its execution and literary quirkiness are very reminiscient of Calvino. He'd be in general fiction, probably; I'd most recommend getting If on a winter's night a traveler, which is about the most awesomely constructed postmodern/metafictional book I've ever read.

(for those of you who aren't lit majors like I unfortunately am, "metafiction" refers to when a work of fiction is reflexive, or refers to and talks about itself; it's essentially fiction about fiction, and it's something postmodern writers are rather fond of these days.)

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ubik, thanks a bunch. and while i've never read any calvino, i've had his 'if on a winter's night a traveler' and 'invisible cities' on my amazon.com wishlist for quite a while. i'll attempt to actually purchase one now.

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