Chapter 4: Fight or Fight

The girls started screaming. Some of the boys joined them. One of those boys might have been me.

The thing was huge, more than twice as tall as a human. It had a hairy, ape-like body and a neanderthal type of face. But definitely the face of a person, not an animal. Something about it felt familiar but it wasn’t until a soldier called out, “Ogre!” that the pieces fell into place.

Hearing that word put everything together for me in one mind-blowing moment of clarity. I knew where I was. The fairy, the ogre, the soldiers with swords… this was an RPG.

I had played dozens of similar video games, I recognised all the classic tropes of a fantasy setting, but these weren’t computer graphics. I hadn’t tried Oculus Rift, or any of the latest virtual reality devices, but I was pretty sure they hadn’t got to this stage yet. Everything, from the grass under my feet to the clouds in the sky not only looked like the real thing, I felt the wind against my skin and smelled the musty scent of plants and trees.

The ogre, a classic RPG mob, didn’t quite match what I’d expect in game, but it was close enough. A large humanoid creature that looked primitive and angry. It roared and lunged, pounding the ground with its gigantic fists.

The soldiers formed a semi-circle around the ogre, waving and shouting at it. If it moved to attack one of them, a soldier on the other side would start calling it.

“Hey, dummy. Over here! Over here!”

Spoilt for choice, the stupid thing looked this way and that trying to decide who to kill first. And then Captain Grayson appeared on the creature’s shoulder.

How he got up there, and how he did it without the ogre noticing, I have no idea, but by the time it realised, the Captain had his sword plunged into its tree-trunk-like neck.

The ogre’s scream was even more terrifying than its roar and a geyser of blood shot into the air. Plenty of screams were added to the mix from the people behind me. I realised while I watched the fight unfold like a cut-scene in a game, the others had all sensibly retreated to the other end of the clearing. But I couldn’t accept what I was seeing was real and just stood there.

Captain Grayson clung on to his embedded sword as the ogre thrashed about trying to grab him but ending up spinning in circles like a dog chasing its tail. Blood sprayed in all directions. I jumped back to avoid getting covered in it.

The ogre slowed and finally collapsed, first to its knees, then flat on its face. Its last act was to loudly evacuate its bowels, ejecting a mass of green-black sludge that filled the air with a disgusting stink they’ll never be able to recreate at your local IMAX.

I walked closer to the dead monster and reached out to touch it, wanting to prove to myself it was some kind of hologram. It couldn’t possibly be real.

“Don’t,” said Grayson as he rolled off its back and wiped his sword on the grass. “They sometimes carry diseases.”

I snatched back my extended hand. The last thing I wanted was to take damage from some random debuff. I was even starting to think like I was in a game.

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