September 2020 Microstory Collection

Video Game

You enter the dark laboratory in the video game, simultaneously your favorite and least favorite part of the game. You’re never great at stealth sections, and even worse at the rhythm challenges when you get caught.
Fortunately you have your endgame character.
Your stats are so high that even if you hit the wrong buttons several times in a row you’re perfectly safe. Ordinarily this part of the game would be much earlier.
Of course, having stats this high also just lets you drag out the challenge, which is always fun.
A siren blares–you’ve been spotted. The game switches to the challenge screen, your status, the buttons to press, and percentage resisted in the HUD.
In the center of the screen hovers the drone enemy that spotted you, the screen it carries swirling in a kaleidoscope of colors.
This is your favorite part of the game because sometimes you’ll just go in there and intentionally lose. It’s, um, er, fun to watch. Yeah, that sounds believable.
You’re not here for that today, though. You hit the button sequence so your character resists the hypnotic screen.
An alternate series of buttons lets you hack into the drone and shut it down, succeeding in the challenge.
You continue on, hoping to not run into any others–you’re rather curious what the mod your friend sent you to download adds to this section.
A new area, they said.
You reach the hallway in question; empty in the base game, a door has been added now. You have to hack it to enter, but it’s a simple hack–you wonder if the mod is for people with a lower-leveled character. At least you might be able to get through it, then.
You enter the room.
At first it’s underwhelming. Same dark lab, same hallway textures, and pretty soon you realize the layout is just copied from elsewhere. Not a lot of work was gone into that part of the mod. What’s in here?
You tense. You haven’t seen any drones, either. Is this a jump scare?
“HELLO!”
You jump, the shout like the detected siren, and you enter a challenge screen. Another drone, another screen, though sleeker–and a pair of eyes and grinning mouth are on the screen, speaking.
“I’m so glad you finally made it! You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be!”
The button sequence pops up and you press–fig you messed up–fig–the sequence is requiring you to press the buttons a lot faster than normal!
You focus on the button sequence on the screen, though you glance at the drone’s hypno-screen on occasion.
Usually when you mess up.
The screen’s colors are much more vivid than the usual drones. It stings your eyes at first, although the more you look at it the easier it is to stare.
“That’s right, keep trying to resist,” the drone says, “it’s much more fun to drag it out, isn’t it?”
You wonder if this is a boss drone added by the mod. You keep messing up the buttons, and the colors grow brighter. The HUD actually grows blurry–you can’t even see the buttons very well now. You keep glancing at the colors, too, which are expanding past the drone’s screen.
You know how it works–if the colors fill the screen it’s game over. (You’ve seen that as often as you’ve seen a successful resist, whether by mistake or intention.) You have a few emergency packs to boost resistance, but if this is a common enemy you don’t want to waste them.
Still, with how things are going you probably have little choice.
“You don’t have much choice in the matter, just keep staring,” the drone says. That was coincidental, but you can’t think about that right now. You press the button for the emergency pack and the colors shrink back.
You’ve got a chance to resist fully now, but the colors are already expanding past the screen again. The more the colors fill the screen the harder it is to push them back down, the faster they expand, but that emergency pack hardly seemed to slow them down at all.
“Pretty colors, pretty colors, why resist such pretty colors~?”
Did you accidentally turn your sound up? The drone’s dialogue sounded much louder than before.
The face in the screen grins wider. “A! Up! Q!” You enter the wrong buttons, distracted by this taunting.
“Sh-Shut up!” you mutter, forgetting it’s only a game. Why does your head hurt? Why does it hurt to think?
“Aww, you don’t want me to shut up,” the drone says, “you want my sweet, syrupy voice to drip into your ear, don’t you?”
It doesn’t seem strange that the drone spoke to you.
You really wish pausing was a feature on these screens. You need to take a break. You’ll beat this boss then go take a nap. You use another emergency pack, but as soon as you use it the colors expand past the screen again. You’re not even sure you’re pressing the right buttons.
Every correct button seems to reduce the colors half as much as they expand…
“Oh dear, your HUD is so blurry,” the drone says. Clear buttons appear in the center of the screen. “Here you go, does this help?”
You nod automatically and stare in the center of the swirling colors.
You press the buttons in the center of the colorful swirl and the colors expand even faster. In your drifting haze you realize those were the wrong buttons. You hit your last emergency pack.
“Come now,” the drone says, “isn’t it much more fun to just watch the colors expand?”
You press a few buttons absentmindedly and then let your arms drop to your sides as you stare at your computer screen full of nothing but the bright, hypnotic colors filling your skull like it was a jar for rainbows.
“Yes, that’s what you really wanted to do all along, isn’t it?”
“This is the best mod ever, isn’t it?” the drone’s voice rings in your mind as if its voice were coming from your own head. “It’s so nice to play this mod over and over and lose to the powerful drone, lose to the enthralling colors. Then once you wake up from your nap…
“You’ll want to share this mod with all of your friends.”

Wheel of Hypno

“All right, let’s get started with our first round, the category is ‘command’ as always.” The blank letters showed up on the board:
_____ ____ A _______
The host, wearing thick goggles, nodded to the contestants. “Go ahead, Jon, you get first spin.”
Jonathan spun the big wheel before them, the colors turning into a swirl. He hadn’t expected them to blend so dizzyingly, and the host had to call him a few times before he snapped to attention. The wheel had landed on $500.
“Oh, uh, is there an, H?” he asked.
“Yes, one H.”
_____ ____ A _H_____
“Spin again.”
Jon spun; he looked at the puzzle but kept glancing back at the wheel, the spiral it formed drawing his attention. It stopped at $800; he asked for an S.
“Sorry, no S. Eugene, you’re next.”
Eugene spun the wheel with all his might.
He’d stared at the wheel the first couple times and wanted to see it swirl again. He almost forgot to say a letter or be disappointed that it only landed on $200.
“A, uh, a T?” he said, his voice far off.
“Sorry, no T. Nicole, you’re up.”
Nicole missed the wheel at first, her vision blurry, but she grabbed it and spun it, the spiral holding her attention like the previous times. When she had enough sense to ask for C, she understood she did something right with four dings.
“Yeah, four Cs! Strong letter here.”
C__C_ ____ A CH_C___
“Spin again,” the host said.
Nicole spun, all three contestants swaying with the spiraling wheel. It was hard to think about the puzzle, but her momentum encouraged Nicole to focus. The wheel clicked onto a dark space but had enough momentum to click just past it.
“Ooh, almost landed on the ‘Instant Hypnosis’ space, close shave there,” the host said. “What letter?”
Nicole swayed. “Uh. That one. Shaped this?” She lifted her finger and thumb.
“You mean L?”
“L, yeah.”
“Two Ls!”
CL_C_ L___ A CH_C___
Nicole pushed her thoughts together. “I’d like to solve the puzzle,” she said, in a tone of voice most would say “I’d like to take a nap,” in.
“Go ahead.”
“Is it ‘cluck like a chicken’?”
“Correct!” the host said, as Nicole’s fellow contestants Jon and Eugene clucked like chickens.
“You’re our big winner today, Nicole!” the host said. Horns blared at her contestant stand, and she shouted as the noise snapped her awake.
“What?”
“You’ve won, Nicole!” the host said.
“I won? I won!” Nicole clapped. The clucking contestants were led off the stage.
“You’ve won a week at the six-star Slimia Spa and Resort, where expert masseurs will massage you in a relaxing bath of soft, squeezing fluids! You’ll doze off covered in their engulfing full-body slime masks, which will cleanse both your body and your mind! All worth $735,340!”

Fan Fic

‘Her hands fell over their shoulders and massaged them. The cyborg turned to their technician, who placed a hand on their cheek and smiled.
‘The cyborg shook their head; their mouth quivered. It wasn’t right, they knew. A technician was a professional role.
‘They weren’t supposed to form an emotional relationship. And yet… They pulled closer… The cyborg had always found her attractive. Her tightly-braided hair, her dark skin, her deep eyes. It was against the rules, but their lips grew closer until’
“Hey, what are you writing?”
“NOTHING!” Nina shouted, minimizing the window. “I mean–you startled me! It’s just, a little project.”
She turned to Ben, the cyborg she performed maintanence for. They weren’t supposed to be be there for another–no, it was an hour later than she thought! Where’d the time go?
“You were typing ferociously,” Ben said. “I’m almost surprised you heard me.”
Nina laughed. “I was, uh, really in the zone. Writing a new, ah, program. I think it’s going to be good.” She stood up. “Are you ready for your weekly check-up?” Ben nodded.
All systems normal…
Next week, Ben arrived as scheduled. All systems were normal, Nina tuned their mechanical components as usual. She fidgeted, though. Did Ben notice? Maybe she did normally, trembling as she ran her fingers over their smooth body.
She longed to hold them in her arms, feel their strong mechanical muscles embrace her, gaze into their deep eyes hiding whirring mechanical cones that would see her as none others would, bring their lips together…
She inhaled. “All right, just let me back you up.” Nina grabbed a chip and inserted it into the slot on the back of Ben’s neck.
Ben waited for the usual tingle of memory copying–
They felt a pinch and shut their eyes.
Ben opened their eyes as Nina’s hands fell over their shoulders and massaged them. Ben turned to Nina, who placed a hand on their cheek and smiled.
Ben shook their head; their mouth quivered. It wasn’t right, they knew. A technician was a professional role.
They weren’t supposed to form an emotional relationship. And yet… They pulled closer… Ben had always found Nina attractive. Her tightly-braided hair, her dark skin, her deep eyes. It was against the rules, but their lips grew closer until the distance was imperceptible.
At least, imperceptible to human senses. Ben’s heightened senses let them feel the remaining distance, and they yearned to close it.
Ben embraced Nina and kissed her lips, and the two stumbled in each other’s arms to the couch for what they’d never before allowed themselves.

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