Berit Ellingsen

Cademimu Speed Run

Berit Ellingsen

It’s Zosow, Shanoir, Sweet Doll and me. Zosow goes first, takes off like a plane down the runway, we see only his robe-covered back and the green shine of his weapon. We follow, around the corner, over the concrete barricades, in the purple neon light of this digital police-state moon, while clusters of artificial enemies follow us with unblinking eyes. Except for the sound of our running steps the streets are silent, the populace controlled by fear has retreated to their homes and pulled the curtains shut.
             Zosow stuns one opponent, Chatnoir another, quick as a gleam, unnoticeable as sleep, then Sweet Doll three more, the digital combatants doze while we fight their friends. Zosow pulls one of them close, we run up behind and attack, the only sound the barks of our three weapons going at once, back and forth, back and forth, like luminous brooms. Chatnoir keeps Zosow’s hit points up as he takes the opponents’ attacks, when there is time s/he shoots a round or two on the big indoctrination robots as we fight them. We scythe down the mobs one by one, one by one, till there are none left of that group.
             Then onwards, up a ramp, round the corner, down the lane, oh no not that way, the other direction, we bank and turn like a flock of birds, Zosow, Chatnoir and me, duck down into the right alley and prepare to stun the next cluster of opponents. Sweet Doll lags behind and misses that we run out and into the next alley, slides into the group, yells “Sorry!!!” in the group chat window, but we’re already up and out and on them, stun five enemies, sweep the rest, grind the group down from right to left, uh-oh patrol’s coming, don’t get thrown back into the next cluster now, we scythe and slash and veer to the right, slip to the left, the patrol passes us, blind to our presence and violence.
             Zosow kneels quickly, picks their pockets clean for all of us, then runs on, no time to rest, no time to breathe, Chatnoir after, then me, then Sweet Doll, down another alley, to the next choke point, stun the enemies, push and pull into them, swing left, swing right, jump, duck, swipe, stun, we butt forward, they throw us back, now they are unreachable, not even Zosow moves close to them, but keeps control from a distance, we whittle them down with ranged attacks. Then it’s on through the abandoned streets and barricades, down another ramp, to a transport pad that falls like lightning through the darkness, our hair and clothes rippling upwards like seaweed drifting in sleep, as the rest of our world is by now.
 
             Down, down, down in the digital darkness, past pipes and grates and smoke, no security railing, no barriers to falling, those who built this environment need not worry about gravity or the cost of materials, it’s all thought and vision, numbers and light. Our avatars breathe and shift in identical, predetermined animations. For a moment I wonder who these players are, on the other side of their PC monitors or tv screens, but then I think they are probably a lot like me. How different are people really from each other?
             Sweet Doll stands too close to the edge of the falling platform, gets hit by a jutting steel pipe, bounces up and out of sight as we fall below him/her, then s/he lands back on the platform, laughing, jumping from excitement. We laugh too.
 
Easy now, steady now, in the distance we hear the mighty general of this violet Orwellian world screaming at us for having broken his barricades and soldiers and guards. More stunning, nabbing, scything, no one says anything, only our weapons sing.
             Then there is a boss and his oversized mechanical helper. We attack the boss first, the droid takes Chatnoir, so we have no one to keep Zosow up, and from there we are easily killed. Back again, back again, we jump on our hydrogen-fueled vehicles and rush back to the big opponent, try again, do again. This time the helper goes for me, marks me with a red bull’s eye on the ground, I lure him around and around in the small space while the others bear down on the real boss. Finally the helper freezes me in place, but by then the boss is long gone.
             We run on, Zosow always first, he’s four places at once, stunning, nabbing, swiping, slashing, we follow his directions, like an orchestra to its maestro, now now now, go go go, our reactions faster than our thoughts, faster than yesterday which was dour and lifeless, faster than tomorrow which is already swallowing today, existence folded up like a fan to only this only this cut, only this freedom from time.
 
             At last we are at the angry general in the rocket silo, he is alone, abandoned by his troops and friends. We descend like hawks, certain of victory, we know how to do this and how to do it well. Fire fire fire, he shouts and there is smoke first, then flames, coming up from the grate below us, we crowd behind him, slash, kick, punch, zap. Zosow pulls the angry general after him, away from the fire, away from the damage he is programmed to inflict on us, we follow Zosow, around and around and around, dance in the smoke, jump out of the flames, slowly slowly the general’s hit points dwindle as we fight while we run, then Sweet Doll goes first, his/her hair like a knit cap of flames, was too late, too long in the fire, and crumples to the ground. Then my avatar burns, smoke rising from his clothes and skin, and I’m glad he has neither hair nor brows to singe, then falls to the grated floor. Zosow is still pulling the general after him, down the room and along the short wall, Chatnoir follows, zhoom zhoom zhoom, back again along the other way, zhoom zhoom zhoom, and then finally the general folds too and Chatnoir wakes Sweet Doll and me up again, and we laugh and yell and type “Good job everyone! Phew, that was close!” Then we roll on the item the game awards us with, it’s good for Zosow, and he takes it, and the rest of us receive a little thing we can use too, something for the effort, even though we did it for the fun and the fighting and the feeling of being something that could do more together than we can alone.
 
Now the sun is shining through our windows and the other world is starting to wake, and we are tired and write goodbye and see you later and great fight and sleep well, and part ways, switch the virtual existence off, climb into bed, pull the covers over us and close our eyes and dream of fire and smoke and silent silent moons.

BERIT ELLINGSEN is a Korean-Norwegian writer whose stories have appeared in Unstuck, SmokeLong Quarterly, Metazen, and other journals. Her short story collection, Beneath the Liquid Skin, was published by firthFORTH Books in 2012, and her novel, The Empty City, was translated into French and published as Une Ville Vide by Publie Monde in 2013. In 2012 Berit received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and the British Science Fiction Award. Find out more at
http://beritellingsen.com.

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