Ten-year-old Matt stood at the front window, constantly scanning up and down the street, hoping to see the delivery truck, and then he saw it.
He opened the door in time to grab the package from the deliveryman and thanked him.
He ran to the living room couch and tore open the box.
With an awed expression, he pulled out his new VR Googles.
He moved them in his hands, examining every part. He knew there was more to them than just the ability to play a few games. Not only could he play Virtual Reality games, but he could play Augmented Reality Games as well.
Augmented Reality is the technology that allows you to see your normal environment, but implants pieces of the game within your field of vision, like Pokemon Go, where you could walk around a park, find Pokemon through your phone camera, and catch them.
He quickly put the goggles on, connected his Bluetooth headset, and after connecting to his home WiFi, began to browse through the list of games to find one that interested him.
He found one that stated it was in Beta, so he knew it would be fun. He could not only play the game, but make a game out of looking for glitches at the same time.
He bounced in place as he impatiently waited for the game to download. As soon as it finished, he grabbed the controller, and pressed start.
It was a game where you had to solve a puzzle by locating objects scattered throughout the house.
They could only be located by walking around looking for the objects placed in random locations.
He began walking and soon came upon the first clue. It was a book lying on the dining room table.
He used his controller to open the book and read the phrase that was written on the main page.
As he read the clue, he saw a shadow in the peripheral of his goggles’ field of vision. He was just as excited to see the distortion as he was to find his first clue. He knew the distortion had to be a bug, or better yet, and Easter egg.
When he looked, the distortion was gone, though he was sure he had seen it.
He walked over to where it had been, but whatever it was, it was gone now.
Matt walked back to the first clue, read it again, and began to walk around the house hoping to decipher it and locate the next clue.
A strange scratching sound came from the basement stairs, so he went to investigate, assuming it was part of the game.
He opened the basement door, but hesitated when he saw a shadow cast at the bottom. He couldn’t see who the shadow belonged to.
“Hello?” he called out.
He took off his goggles and saw that there wasn’t really a shadow there.
‘Whew,’ he thought. ‘It’s just part of the game.’
He put the goggles back on and walked down the stairs. He felt safer now that he knew what he was seeing was part of the game.
When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he took a moment to marvel at what he saw. Instead of the normal, boring basement, it had been converted into a massive, creepy dungeon.
Matt explored as much as he could walking, until he reached one of the walls in the basement, and he had to use his controller to continue on.
He explored the whole area, amazed at the detail that he saw. He could almost smell the moisture, and the decay.
He saw some movement and quickly hid himself behind a column, peaking around just enough to see what was happening.
It looked like some sort of ritual. There was an alter surrounded by a dozen men, all wearing robes. He couldn’t see there faces, but he could see that the alter was empty.
Then he saw the phantom-looking creature that he knew was the distortion he had seen earlier. It was flying in a circle around the alter, when all of a sudden, it disappeared in a puff of smoke.
The men in robes seemed unaffected from the sudden disappearance of the phantom, but Matt felt ready to leave. It was beginning to freak him out a little.
He had to keep reminding himself that it was just a game.
He turned around to walk back upstairs and look for more clues when he found himself face to face with the phantom that he had been seeing.
It floated in the air looking at him. It had no face, but Matt felt as if it was smiling at him.
Suddenly panicking, Matt pulled off the googles and almost fainted as he realized that he was still in the dungeon with the phantom still looking at him.
Matt looked passed the phantom hoping to see the stairs leading out of the basement. Instead, he saw a set of stairs that seemed to spiral up several floors to a door at the very top.
Unsure what to do next, or what the phantom was planning on doing with him, he bolted past it towards the stairs to escape.
He didn’t get far as the phantom launched after him, quickly catching up.
Matt felt his motion stop as it grabbed him from behind and kept him from moving forward. He continued to run in place, not able to make any progress.
It picked him up and carried him to the alter, pinning him down as several of the men in robes tied his wrist and ankles.
Though he struggled, Matt wasn’t able to free himself. His eyes widened as one of the monks approached him and revealed a knife.
Matt’s heart was racing, and he began to plead for them to stop.
“Please,” he begged. “Don’t hurt me. I don’t want to play anymore!”
The monk with the knife ignored him, and lifted the knife for the others to see, and they all began to chant.
The monk looked at him. Matt couldn’t see the monk’s face, but could see the red of his eyes.
The monk raised the knife, ready to plunge it into Matt’s chest, when suddenly something flew past and knocked the knife out the monk’s hand.
All the monks and the phantom turned to see where the object had come from. Matt barely saw the object that had knocked the knife out the monk’s hand before it went flying back into the darkness.
The monk who had been about to stab Matt, motioned to another monk to take a look.
He walked to the edge of the darkness to see what had thrown the object. Unable to see anything, he stepped into the shadows.
There was a sudden sound of the monk being hit, and then collapsing to the ground.
All the other monks looked at each other, unsure what to do. The phantom was unable to enter shadows, as he would merge with them, and be unable to move. It was just as blind to the darkness as the monks were.
All the monks moved towards the darkness in unison, along with the phantom to guard the edge.
While they waved their torches in the darkness, trying to see what was there, Matt felt someone tap on his arm.
He whipped his head to see who had touched him, and found himself staring at a beautiful woman, dressed like an archaeologist, and holding a finger to her lips instructing him to be quiet.
He nodded his understanding, and she began to untie his restraints. In the short span of a minute, he was free, and she was helping him off the alter and leading him away.
They were almost to the stairs, when the phantom turned and saw them trying to escape. It made a screeching sound to alert the monks, and they all turned towards where Matt and the woman were trying to escape.
They all began to race after them, the phantom taking the lead to reach them first.
The woman pulled Matt into a shadow, stopping it from being able to catch them.
As the monks approached the shadow with their torches to illuminate the two, a shiny object came flying out and knocked all the torches out of the monks hands in one swipe, before flying back into the shadow.
That whole part of the room was plunged into darkness, and the phantom was forced to retreat back to the alter where there was still a couple of torches lit.
The woman took advantage of the darkness, and telling Matt to stay still, she ran out into the open and began taking out the monks one by one.
She made quick work of them, and ran back to Matt.
“We’re going to run for those stairs, but as soon as we reach them the phantom will be able to attack us as the staircase is lit by torches, and it is too dangerous to attempt to climb them in the dark,” she instructed. “It only has one weakness.”
She pulled out a mirror.
“It can’t stand its own reflection, so when it attacks, I want you to hold the mirror up, facing it,” she said. “Do you understand?”
“Okay,” she started. “On the count of three, okay?”
He nodded again.
“One, two,” she counted, and when she said three, Matt took off running for the stairs, with her right behind him.
The phantom, seeing the boy come out of the shadows at the bottom of the stairs, gave chase.
It flew through the darkness, not able to see while it was flying through the shadows, but once it emerged, it set its sights on the boy and moved in to attack.
The boy looked over his shoulder just in time to see the phantom close in.
He turned, mirror in hand, and faced it towards the phantom, causing it to shriek and turn away.
When the phantom turned away from the boy, it found itself facing the woman. She was holding a mirror as well, and before it could look away, it became transfixed with its own reflection.
The longer it looked at itself, the closer it got to the mirror. It seemed unable to look away.
Matt saw that as the phantom got closer to the mirror, it began to vibrate, as if it was shaking from being cold.
Suddenly, the phantom let out a sharp screech, and continued making the loud sound as it’s body started to evaporate. Matt looked on with wide eyes as the it looked like it was being absorbed by the mirror.
The screeching sound remained constant as the phantom was almost completely absorbed by it. As the remaining parts of the phantom vanished, the screech finally began to dissipate along with what was left of it.
And then it was gone, leaving the woman and Matt staring at each other. The were both breathing heavily.
“This isn’t my first time dealing with phantoms,” the woman explained. “I’ve learned through experience, that one mirror is enough to drive them away, but you need to two to take them out.
“They used to be human, but these monks turned them into phantoms to do their bidding. Looking into a mirror is too unbearable, and they have to look away. But if you use two mirrors, by the time they look away from the first, they get stuck looking at the second, and the longer they stare, the more it reminds them of what they are.
“I’m not sure if the mirror destroys them, sends them somewhere, or even frees them, since they all look the same.
“As for the monks, they aren’t human either. I don’t know what lays behind their robes, because I’ve never seen one out of their monk robe, but I’m pretty sure, whatever they are, they are definitely more dangerous than the phantoms.
“They’re easy enough to beat up, but I’ve never been able to kill one.”
The monks she had taken out began to stir.
“We better get out of here,” she said, grabbing his hand and leading him up the stairs.
“This is were I leave you,” she said once they reached the door. “Listen to me closely.”
“I don’t know who created these doors to our world, but you’re not the first person to end up here, and there have been some I haven’t been able to save.
“All I do know is that through that door is your world, and after talking to a few survivors, I’ve learned a couple of things.
“The gateway is part of the game you’re playing, and I have a feeling that they will be a part of all their future games.
“The second thing I’ve learned is that it’s only in the basements, so while people with no basements are safe, anyone who has one and goes into it when they’re playing the game, will end up in a temple like this one.
“The portal has yet to appear in another part of the game, but there’s no guarantee that won’t change. I’d recommend you don’t play this game anymore, but if you do find yourself in this place again, use this to alert me.”
She handed him a whistle.
“You only need to blow it once,” she said. “Do you understand everything I have told you?”
He nodded and said, “Who are you?”
She smiled and said, “It’s a long story and we don’t have time. Get back to your world before the monks come up the stairs after us.”
“Thank you,” he said as she pushed him through the door.
“Anytime, Matt,” she said, smiling and closing the door behind him.
Matt stood there looking at the door. Part of him wanted to go back to her, and a part of him wanted to quit while he was ahead.
His rational part won, and he slowly took off the VR goggles. He laid them on the kitchen island and walked slowly to the basement door.
Half expecting to see the stairs leading back to the underground temple when he opened the basement door, he instead only found the normal stairs leading to his basement.
He ran down the stairs to make sure it was only his house basement. There was no way he’d ever be able to sleep again if he thought the temple was still down there.
Running his hand along the basement wall, he felt much safer.
“Thank you,” he said one more time and ran back up the stairs.