A rainbow awaited each contestant at the end of the hallway. The holographic show of colors mesmerized even the most desensitized knight – a cruel trick so close to the end. The clink and clank of the armor echoed in the cavernous maze of hallways. Hidden eyes followed James as he struggled to run in his mortal skin.
He dropped his torch and giggled deliriously at the distant rainbow. Piece, by piece, he unloaded the heavy medieval armor on the soft carpeted floor as he walked towards the end. He knew what he needed to do to win this race and become a god. The sight lured him into an uncertain space. The walls crumbled, forming sand dunes in the void.
“I’m not going to lose,” James’ voice was unrecognizable even to him. From below, a mountain approached at high speeds, but he couldn’t feel a thing. The snowcap peaks dispersed the sand dunes of the void around him into perfectly formed wispy cirrus clouds. James felt the rocks below him closer, and the air pushing the sole of his feet slightly without ever making him lose his balance.
As the edge of the mountain scrapes the side of his shoulder, he sees the vessel. A young man, James, meditating on the edge of a cliff near Wilson Peak. James spread his wings, lifts his arms, and fades into the young man.
“What the fuck?” said the young James. “I was so close. What kind of cruel, sadistic asshole makes a game so impossible to win?” He lifted the towel he used to meditate, and a tiny little toad jumped out. Small, the size of a finger, and olive green with black blotching.
“Don’t be a sore loser, it’s the nature of the game,” a strong voice emanated from the toad.
“Fuck off John,” the young James flicked the tiny frog off the cliff, making it glide a little with the wind before coming to a quiet end as a splatter on a flat rock. “What an idea. It could work.”
He studied the rocks and the side of the mountain carefully. “It wouldn’t take much,” he waved his hand and waited. A gust of wind blew under him, tipping him backward into the cliff. As young James regained control of his body, he could see the angel extend his wings and hover above him with a sickly smile. From the angel’s perspective, this young James resembled just another splatter on the rock.
The mountain collapsed into the void and the walls of the start of the labyrinth formed from the edges of sand dunes. A tall figure, in shiny silver armor, walked towards James, dragging a rusted chest.
“You couldn’t be a human for even a minute? How did you do it?” said the figure.
“The wind. He didn’t even see it coming,” responded James as he opened the chest.
“What else are we going to do? Let’s make the minotaur’s spitfire and the accountants bake cakes this time,” James tucked his wings and crawled into the familiar human skin from before. From the chest, he took out a faded golden-brown armor.
“No metal swords, let’s use eternal bone swords,” he reached deep into the chest to pull out the final piece, a horned helmet with melted clocks sticking out like a Dali painting. “What did HE say?”
“Like usual, nothing,” said John, opening the front jaw of his helmet, revealing an incandescent skull with no eyes.
“I’m tired of a rainbow, does it have to be a rainbow at the end?”
“That’s one of HIS rules. Sorry, a rainbow and hallways at the end,” said John closing the chest and burning it to ash with a gentle push of his hands.
“Is he really going to make the winner a creator?”
“It says so on the rules, and the rules a binding.”
“Ready to play again, if you are ready.”
John prepared his mask and extended his wings far above the visible aspect of the void. “If you lose again, try to keep a mortal shell for as long as human life. You’re playing with fire if you don’t.”
“Noted,” James put on his helmet and opened a hidden cellar door. “See you at the other end of the rainbow John.”
The game wasn’t meant to be understood by mortals. As James conquered challenge after challenge in every plane of existence, he once again reached the final maze of hallways before the final rainbow. The last challenge felt banal to James, but he wondered how far he needed to go. How vulnerable he needed to be to get past the hallways and the rainbow.
James didn’t take his armor off this time. He ambled towards the rainbow. He could see it, like before, but now he was close enough to feel it. A warmth impossible to describe, a comforting emotion unknown to his kind. The feeling prompted an involuntary response, and his wings burst out of the armor. The shattered pieces of the backplate from his cuirass encrusted in the walls of the hallway. The front plate slid down and hit the carpeted floor with a low thud.
The rainbow faded before he could get close enough to touch it. He heard the thundering sound of the archangel horn. This was new to James; he’d never heard them play the horns during the game. John, with a flaming sword, pounced behind James.
“You finally lost James,” said John, slashing James’ wings with the flaming sword.
“What kind of game is this? I never won,” James fell to the ground turning the carpet into glass.
“Your victories are noted in the book, and he is pleased with what you’ve done. You won’t be able to play anymore, your duty is now elsewhere,” John launched the flaming sword to the void and disappeared behind the wall.
“I was never a god, humans are not gods,” James whispered as his armor burned his skin as it melted.
“They’re the only gods; we’re just a story,” said a thundering female voice from inside the approaching void.
200 Short Stories
As part of a existential crisis I’m embarking on a project to publish 200 short pieces of fiction. If you’re interested in my progress check out my bookshelf tracker:
This is 6 out of 200.