You find yourself in a barren wasteland, and for a moment you wonder if you’ve taken a wrong turn. There is nothing here but infinite space and tumbleweeds that rolled by. Each tumbleweed felt like a needle through your heart. You start to get a sinking feeling at the pit of your stomach. You wonder if you’re falling, but your feet are firm on the ground. Your breathing turns shallow and dry. You feel your heart race. You instinctively look behind you because you could’ve sworn someone was out to get you.
“But there’s NOTHING!” you cry out in empty space. “Why am I so afraid of NOTHING?!”
Suddenly, your hands begin to feel warm. You look down just in time to see something growing out of your skin. Before you could scream, your hand has fully turned into a baseball bat, with the words “DEFLECT” burned on it.
“What is happening?!” You yell one more time.
“Hey, listen!” A NPC materializes out of nowhere. It is faceless, but its voice keeps you calm. “Welcome to the land of Infinite, Non-Existent Text Messages! This is the first obstacle in your quest to save the princess. Look around you – isn’t this place depressing? This is the place where she first lost herself, don’t let this place do the same to you!
The Princess is only waiting for one text message, and it’s from the Hermit Scholar.”
“The Hermit Scholar?” you ask, more confused than ever. “Who that?!”
“It doesn’t matter who he is,” the NPC replies, brushing you off, obviously mad that you interrupted, “all that matters is who she imagined him to be. Don’t you see? That’s the trap. That’s what gets you. If you accidentally deflect a text message from him (although I doubt if he will ever text) you lose the game automatically. Your task in this world is to deflect EVERYBODY ELSE.”
“What?” You ask. “Deflect?”
“Good luck!” The NPC then dissipated in a cloud of smoke before you could ask for more help.
Suddenly, you see words coming from the distance. You look at your bat-hand, the word DEFLECT was now glowing. As the words start zooming in towards you, you can’t help but feel anticipation. You no longer feel dread, your heart is now beating at a much calmer pace. You feel alive. You feel your purpose carving into your being, as if you always knew what you had meant to do from the beginning. You’re so sure of everything – what a wonderful feeling!
Until the words start getting close enough for you to read them.
This one says, “Hey. Magic tonight if you’re interested?”
You know this isn’t from the Hermit Scholar because he doesn’t play Magic (how did you know that?). You ready your bat-hand. DEFLECT glows with anticipation. As it gets closer you see that it’s from Friendly Polyamorous One that You Could Potentially Hit it off Greatly with Except You’re Hopelessly in Love with the Hermit Scholar so Forget It (wow, that’s a long name). It doesn’t take much energy – it actually came easily, so naturally. Before you knew it, you had successfully deflected the text message with your bat-hand and the words spiraled out of your way and into the distant land.
The next one’s coming, this time at full force. You squint to read the words properly. You are able to make out the following words: “Can’t you see that I still love you?”
This one’s a biggie. This one will definitely hurt. It’s coming from none other than the Ex-Boyfriend. You feel your bat-hand quivering, and growing larger by the second. This is going to take all of your energy to deflect. You certainly start to feel like you don’t want to deflect this one, like you can accept this one, just for once, maybe not necessarily reply to it but maybe keep it for a while, so that you can look back at it in fondness, especially when you feel most alone. It’s nice to know somebody still loves you after all.
BUT NO, you remind yourself. This is how you get trapped in this place. This is how the princess lost herself.
And so you muster up the courage, and bite your lower lip as you prepare to deflect the message with your bat-hand. Your eyes tear up as the words come closer. You SWUNG – but the words were so heavy that it slashed you on the cheek on its way up. You successfully deflected the message but now you’re bleeding – a price you pay for moving on. You fall down to your knees, helpless, hopeless, as you can’t bear to look at the words disappear. Inside the words remain with you, throbbing, in tune with your heart beat. You see now, why the Hermit Scholar was so important.
The NPC is here again. It holds your shoulder in sympathy.
“Congratulations,” it said, “you made it to the next level.”
You look at it, shaking. “But I didn’t get a text message from the Hermit Scholar.”
The NPC shakes its head in remorse. “You never do.”
The password to the next level is: DEFLECT.
You also keep your bat-hand, which you bring to the next level with you.