The votes are in, K’s POV next!
Welcome to the GAME: a playground for the rich and powerful, a hell for those ignorant of the rules. To play, you embody your true self. The vile you. The desperate you. The sexual, depraved, despicable you.
She doesn’t know her role, her location, or even her name. Trapped in a world designed for the devious to indulge, the tribute known only as Juno is the ultimate prize—whether she realizes it or not.
K, a game master with many secrets, is more than eager to take the spoils of this twisted fantasy landscape for himself. But when the consequences are laid bare, he has to give in to the very traits of humanity the GAME is designed to suppress, or play his role to its full extent.
No matter the cost.
Disclaimer: The following copyrighted content is unedited and subject to change.
Entering this room, I leave behind the caricature. The façade. The palatable figurehead I embody for the masses—the bastard with a nice suit, impressive wealth and a pleasant but non-alarming grin.
He eats his green veggies, says his prayers, and gets fucked by the blunt end of the world at every damn turn.
But he takes it all with a smile and a handshake for the trouble.
Here, there is no point in pretending. No need for masks to hide behind or a name to uphold. For the first time in a decade, I gladly strip the designer Italian suit and stand naked, my eyes on the mirror and the stranger staring back.
In a word? He’s a stupid cunt. An animal, his dark eyes devoid of the pleasant filter I’ve spent thirty years honing.
There are no fucking masses to preen for on this island.
No societal game to play—there is only the GAME. The objective. The debauched arena designed for nothing more than to enhance every sick, fucked-up vice a man could ask for.
Ironically, this is my first time actually playing in it. Really playing. I’ve toured it a few times. Evangelized its benefits to prospective clients. With my own two hands, luck, and my last few dimes I practically built this place from the ground up, lurking in the background like Frankenstein watching his monster from afar.
I designed this place to bring out everything I’ve been groomed to suppress.
And now, my monster is no longer a detached construct. Frankenstein has gone all in, and so far it’s a hell of a ride.
I feel my guard rise instantly as I step deeper into a space I vaguely recognize from years of planning and mulling over the designs for it—the holding room each player is presented with before entering the game world. The stark gray walls and minimal decoration were meant to invoke reflection, going off the bullshit theories of the time. Strip a man of color and familiarity and watch him flounder amongst it all.
To be poetic about it, it’s like being reborn. A womb to safely leave behind the material world and face your true self one last time.
The self without the polished, carefully constructed exterior. The self without the bullshit. The fake smiles. The lies.
The self who dwells within. That hateful, raging motherfucker you’ve grown to ignore whenever you look in the mirror.
In this moment, I’m no longer Kendall—richest asshole in the goddamn universe, and the bastard who knows it all. Has it all. Lost it all.
I’m just K. A lunatic. A deviant.
A filthy, sick, depraved son of a bitch.
And though it’s been a decade since I’ve last embodied him, it feels damn good to be him again.
To feel every sick, twisted, deranged desire my education, knowledge and success should have helped me banish once and for all.
Fuck the shame and guilt.
I let it all wash over me, every damn thing…
And it feels damn good.
* * *
Each holding room leads to a private entrance somewhere in the game world. There, a player is supposedly given whatever they need to fulfill their assigned role before heading out. What that role may be?
It’s the luck of the draw. I could be a sex slave for all I fucking know—though hell, it could be worse. I could be back in the office—even as a slave, at least I’d understand why I’m being screwed and for how long.
If I hope my supplies will give me a clue, they don’t. All I find awaiting me is a long black table sporting a few key necessities.
The first item is a linen tunic designed for historical accuracy over comfort. A small knife in a leather sheath rests beside it, and finally the most important accessory—a golden bracelet that—once latched onto my wrist—can’t be removed mechanically. At a glance it, like the tunic, is crafted to convey historical accuracy. Inside, however, are an array of sleek biometric scanners and lights that betray its high-tech functioning.
Three black symbols adorn the outside rim, only decipherable to those in the know. My creed. Who I am in a nutshell. My twisted kinks. My trauma. My sins.
It’s somewhat laughable that I only possess three—a triangle, a circle with a slash through the center, and finally a line coiled in on itself. I run my finger over those stark aspects of myself, displayed for anyone to see.
As I slip it on, I purge my skull of any other thoughts of the outside world. Kendall is dead. I’m just K. K the fucker with nothing to hide and no one to preen for. K, the asshole experiencing what the “professionals” might deem the perfectionist’s idea of a mental breakdown.
Slowly, I don the tunic and fasten the sheath around my waist before slipping on the sandals. It’s no tailored, thousand-dollar suit, but it does the trick.
Fully dressed, I approach the final door that leads to the starting point. I curl my fingers around the handle, twist. Pull.
Brilliant bright light floods in as my eyes adjust to the sight waiting beyond. Damn. I figure it’s just as impressive to me as it would be to the hundred other players who are making similar entrances.
Though I know the money, time and research that goes into the illusion, it never ceases to awe.
This realm is a tropical, lush beach that seems almost irreconcilable with the stark, utilitarian complex at my back.
“Welcome to the game,” a woman’s voice calls from an unseen speaker. “In this realm, you forsake your old self. The trappings of the modern world and the rules that shape you. In this world you are only you. A player. A creature unbound by any societal constraints. So, go forth and know yourself, and seek the power your past life has denied you.”
A scoff crawls up my throat. It’s melodramatic bullshit in essence—and I wrote the shit. Still, I can’t deny that the scripted words resonate within me, tugging at that part of my soul I’ve grown to resent. The hopeful part.
I step forward, letting the door shut behind me. Without turning around, I know that all I’ll find is a smooth stone wall devoid of any entrance. From this point on, the only way out is to manually give in. Surrender.
So far my role is unclear, leaving me no choice but to keep moving. It’s hot as hell. The sand bites through the thin leather of my sandals, searing my skin and reinforcing in every way possible—this is real. This isn’t a fucking video game. No virtual reality.
The sweat beading on my brow is as authentic as the footsteps rapidly approaching me from my left. I whirl on my heel, reaching for the knife only to let my hand fall with a hiss of irritation.
Fuck. The blue eyes of the figure approaching me are too familiar, as are the features damn near identical to my own. Punchable face, Romanesque nose and dark hair in dire need of a trim.
“Hey bro!” The man calls, waving. Even in his own unbleached tunic, he carries a swagger one could cultivate only through a life spent wearing custom boxers and outfits tailored down to the socks.
I feel my upper lip curl back from my teeth, my irritation impossible to disguise. So much for that peaceful self-exploration. “Damn it, Scotty—”
“Jax,” he corrects, fingering the neckline of his tunic. “Your rules, remember? No real names. A little birdy already told me your game handle—K. How fucking original. And I think I can guess this year’s theme. Ancient Greece or some shit?”
He’s close, but I don’t tell him that. Instead I raise an eyebrow, crossing my arms. “Am I to believe it’s by coincidence that you spawned in at the same location I have?”
Jax winks. “I may have bribed Miranda to hook me up,” he admits, padding beside me. “I’ve got to keep an eye on my big brother on his first ride through the Matrix, right? How does it feel? God it’s so weird seeing you in here. Like Frankenstein making out with his own fucking monster—”
“Should I be alarmed by how many trips you’ve taken in?” I toss back. “What is this, your fifth game?”
“Sixth,” he replies with a grin. “But don’t worry, we’re on the same footing. I’ve never been in black tier before.”
I glance down at his wrist and the symbol etched into his bracelet. A triangle, but nothing more.
“I hear it can get really fucked up,” he adds, his eyes gleaming. “The perfect place for you to work out all that sexual frustration and eternal rage.” A hint of seriousness seeps into his tone and I grit my teeth in anticipation. Here comes the sympathy speech I escaped the real world primarily to avoid. “Especially after—”
“One rule already broken,” I snap. “Maybe I should put a pause on your membership while you refresh yourself on the basics?”
“Yeah yeah.” He rolls his eyes. “Okay, ‘K.’ Mr. Stranger. I’m Jax. Welcome to the black tier of the GAME. Playground for the fucked-up and powerful. Watch your step. I hear this level can get pretty messy. Some crazy asshole billionaire created the place using all of his psychoanalytical knowledge and childhood trauma to build a world for the deranged to play in. Legend has it that if you spin around three times and jack off, he’ll appear to give you a speech on how your erectile dysfunction is directly linked to your buried fear of failure—”
“Remind me to pull Miranda aside for a formal reprimand once this is over,” I say.
Jax winces. “Alright, alright. I’m guessing that’s our ticket to the mainland—” he nods to a wooden rowboat on the beach up ahead, placed mere feet from the surf. “You guys sure don’t make it easy. I wonder what the objective will be. Any hints?”
I shrug. “I deliberately kept myself out of the planning stage once I decided to participate.”
“Really?” Jax scoffs in exasperation. “No fair! Why the fuck am I even hanging with you, then?”
“Why, then?” I echo. “I told you beforehand. This isn’t a vacation for me.”
“I know, I know.” Jax sighs. “But do you really gotta make paradise into a complicated extension of your egomaniacal narcissism?”
“You’ve been reading my book,” I deduce dryly. “If you think flattery will work, it won’t.”
“How about some honesty, huh? For old time’s sake—” he sighs and I clench my jaw.
Here we fucking go.
“What happened wasn’t your fault,” he says, utilizing the tone of voice he seems to think makes him sound like he actually gives a fuck. “Going on some self-destructive quest for internal redemption—albeit in the confines of your private death island—won’t change that. Yeah, I may just stick around for your money and to hang off your coattails of success, but I’m telling the truth. It. Was. Not. Your. Fault. Stop punishing yourself. It won’t bring him back and it won’t make that cunt feel any remorse—”
“Nice pep talk, Scot—Jax.” I shrug him off, drawing level with the boat. A wooden stake and a length of rope are all that’s keeping it from being swept away when the tide rises. Could this really be a mode for reaching the start point?
Either that or a decoy.
What the hell. I have time to kill.
The slap of sand striking my thighs distracts me from the thought as Jax trudges up behind me.
“I’ve got an idea,” he declares. “How about we turn this little excursion into an exercise in brotherly bonding, instead? Yeah know, to make up for the years I spent being shipped around to all those boarding schools? And my time in exile when I quit university to join an Ashram. Oh, and all that time that I hated you. We can even treat this like a camping trip—if our family did shit like camping. Or bonding. Or acknowledged each other. What do you say?”
I turn to find him smiling, his hand extended. I reach for it while forming a fist behind my back. He doesn’t even see the blow coming. I aim for his stomach, leaving him hunched over, gasping for air.
“What the hell!” he groans, sinking to his knees. “What the fuck was that for?”
“A reminder,” I tell him, circling around to the boat’s bow. It’s small, crudely made and probably won’t last in anything rougher than low tide. Judging from the sun, I only have a few hours to make it wherever the hell the mainland is.
Sputtering in my wake, Jax demands, “A reminder of what?”
“Here, we aren’t brothers,” I tell him as I position myself at the stern and square my stance. One hard shove gives me the traction I need to get it moving, slowly but surely toward the surf. “We aren’t friends, either. Hell, we aren’t even acquaintances. Enjoy your time as you always do, but I’m spending mine alone.”
“Fine, have it your way,” Jax croaks in between groans. “But I mean it, K. I’m not afraid to say it—I’m worried about you. The new and improved you is a dick, but I don’t miss the old you one fucking bit. You aren’t that person anymore, and I know you shun therapy and shit because you’re such a big, bad psychological genius—but I don’t think this is how you get over what happened. It’s not your fault that she was a cunt. Or that he offed himself—”
“Word of advice,” I snap, still pushing forward just as the bow catches the tail end of a wave lapping at the shore. I shove until the vessel pushes through the resistance of the surf. “I’m doing this alone. So, stay out of my way.”
“Have fun, asshole!” he shouts after me.
But I don’t intend to.
Fun is a basic, childish response to life.
This is a mission, it’s objective simple—to stop holding back.
Stop being the bastard who suppresses his emotions, bottling them for the sake of everyone else.
Stop giving a fuck about anyone else.
I don’t intend to have fun.
I intend to play, damn the consequences.
But the first step?
Figure out my goddamn role.
What role should K be assigned?
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