Edit: I just checked and there's actually a section for this game with 6 other fics in it. Holy Hannah! I guess it's true - the more simple the game, the more it inspires creativity. :)
So my friend suggested this little time-waster game for my iPod. Temple Run - it's good, I recommend it. But, one thing really bugged me.
It didn't seem to have an end.
Now, I like achievements. Miser run? A bajillion-dollar run? Sure, I'm game! But not when achievements are the only purpose of playing. I want there to be an end to strive towards.
Unfortunately, I don't think Temple Run actually has one. And so:
Madness, On the Brink of
It was a nightmare.
It was a curse.
No, no... no, he wasn't even here. Couldn't be. He was crazy, locked up somewhere in a padded cell getting electroshock therapy and syringes full of drugs to make him sweat out the insanity.
It had to be that. It had to be.
Because if it wasn't, that meant this really was Hell... and if this was Hell, there would never - ever - be an escape.
His reality, his existence, was one of running. Lungs heaving in wet air, straining to get oxygen out of the moisture trying to drown him. His shirt and pants plastered to his body with weary, stinking sweat. His feet, aching with every pounding step, slapping sharply against cruel stone and splintered wood. He had shoes, but they were so thin they gave him only the barest of protection. He felt the jagged edges of broken rocks stab almost through them, thin rubber preventing only his soles bleeding.
And behind him, always, the creatures. The demons.
The things that screeched and hollered like monkeys but ran like humans. Awful lumbering bodies as large as gorillas but with barbed and twisting tails streaming out behind them, allowing them to traverse with ease what he barely managed to clear. And their faces...
Oh god. The glimpses he caught were the sole, terrifying proof that no matter what the sounded like, they were not monkeys. They weren't anything but monsters. Demons.
They had no skin on their faces, just raw white bone like a mask, filled with jagged teeth that could saw and tear at the same time.
And God, they were fast. Easily as fast as him and never, ever tiring. All it took was a single stumble and they were close enough to touch, close enough to swipe at him with clawed fingers and screech in threatening triumph. Close enough to make his blood run cold and his heart pump faster, desperate adrenaline forcing his cramping thighs to propel him just a bit more - just enough.
And yet, no matter how many times he pulled ahead, they were always right behind him. Always ready to grab him and throw him down - grind his body into the stone beneath them, snap his bones under their weight and fight over his meaty remains. Ready and eager to tear him limb from limb, screaming and hooting as they gnawed his leg off at the knee and beat him with it. Yanking his head back by his sweat-soaked hair with cruelly humanoid hands so he could see what they did to him, see as well as feel, as they took his body apart piece by agonising piece.
Until he was running again, clearing the cave, desperate and aching with his clothes sticking to him and his lungs straining.
And behind him, always, they chased.
They didn't always kill him. Didn't even often kill him, come to that. His fear of them was too great. The mind-splintering agony they could cause was too overwhelming - lasted too long. To die at their hands (and teeth, and strength, and cruelty) was second only to dying in the water. Sometimes he drowned, sometimes the piranha stripped his flesh so fast he bled out before he had time to finish screaming. Once, a crocodile had snapped him clean in half and piranha had swum into his insides and shredded it.
Better than either of them were the faster deaths above. Running as fast as he was, if he misjudged a turn or a jump or a slide and hit a tree or wall face-first? Well, maybe it didn't kill him but it sure knocked him out for long enough that he didn't feel the messy death that followed. All he felt was a split second of panicked awareness, followed by an almost immediate jolt as his feet slapped against cold stone and he ran from the cave once more. It was wonderful and terrible, in a way. It hurt so, so much less... but he also got less of a break from running. Sometimes, when he died by impact too many times in a row, he couldn't make his legs work right, after, and stumbled his way to a much more painful end.
It wasn't pleasant when he ran through fire, mostly because it didn't kill him. It just scorched and melted the sides of his face, his arms and sometimes legs. Made every movement - every breath - hurt that little bit more. It sapped his energy, making him stumble more often and recover more slowly. The pain would get worse over time, making his vision shift unreliably.
After being caught by fire, he almost always wound up misjudging a jump over the steel beams or large roots - fracturing his shins and dropping him to slide face-first against the ground, whereupon his ever-present pursuit caught up with him and killed him more thoroughly.
He wanted to scream. He wanted to weep. He wanted to climb a goddamn tree and curl up and hyperventilate until it all just went away.
But of course, he couldn't do any of those things without the monkey-demon-things catching him. He couldn't do anything... but run.
The path twisted and turned, never repeating itself, never making sense. He could take 16 sharp right turns and never even see the path he had followed so far. The fog, ever-present, prevented him from looking ahead, from allowing him to plan for anything but the next turn.
He wanted to think that there really was a way out. Why else would the path always degrade that little bit more, the further he went? Why would whole sections be missing, why would obstacles be stacked closely together as though to sabotage his sense of timing? Why else, except that he was getting too close to the exit and his tormenters were more determined to stop him?
He had to hope that there was a way out. He had to, or he'd truly go insane.
He hated to hope. He wanted the insanity. Maybe it would make everything hurt less. Maybe he could stop being a runner and start being a chaser. Maybe the things that tore him apart so gleefully were once runners themselves, runners who threw away their hope because it just hurt too damned much not to.
Sometimes, when his breath rang in his ears and his heart fluttered like it was thinking of stopping, he thought he saw things.
Glimmers of gold and red, lining the path before him.
They were warnings, mostly. He could see them dip and rise before he even saw the path before him. Without fail, they guided him as to the best way forward. When they lined the right, he followed them, knowing that the left would be crumbling.
When they jumped, he jumped. When they slid, he slid.
Sometimes, after he'd followed them for long enough, everything felt a little easier. Once he could have sworn that his foot hit solid ground, when instead it should have dropped him into the murky water below. Another time he had deliberately tried to knock himself unconscious, only to run through the tree as easily as any ghost. Those times were fleeting and golden. They let him just run, concentrating only on following the glimmers of light, of turning left or right. They let him gather his strength.
They let him hope.
And then those times ended, and his foot slipped from the narrow ledge he found himself on, or clipped the bar he was jumping over and he died just as painfully as all the times before it.
Only to run, once again, from the mouth of the cave.
His nightmares, his demons, his insanity following after.