BECOME CABBAGE MAN
[What was something that you always wanted?]
That hole in the ceiling was big as fuck.
Leigh sighed at the concrete dust sprinkling a body rag-dolled by a hole in its head. It’s like a vacuum that dropped dead upon pulling the plug. But then again, she would never know how that gadget behaves.
She took a deep breath through her gritting teeth.
Her ears were still ringing, remembering the sensation of firing a plastic toy that suddenly felt so alive in her hands.
It took one moment.
She was watching a video on how to make and sell cheese with some gelatin, powdered milk, and a blender. It might as well be a dream because she planned to get a green one for her birthday. Then, she blacked out and realized that she’s in some sort of a killing game.
All she had was a small window, a time in that room of red spanning lines, creating a space for her to scream about what the fuck was happening. That was the supposed waiting room. That, she did.
She also had an ability given to her based on her wish.
Waking up in a big-ass mansion with a wide garden that might as well by a labyrinth, an Olympic-sized swimming pool that might as well then be a jacuzzi, and a thick wall of military-grade metal, whatever it meant, might be it.
A stupid dream.
She’ll start her morning by waking up late because no one would get to boss her around. She was supposed to have maids carry her a pair of clothes and food. She didn’t even need to dress herself. The maids could do it for her, and they would all look so adorable. They would raise her arms and smother her body with rose-smelling perfume.
It would be a house where she would have the liberty to rip her throat out by screaming as loud as she could because no one would get to tell her to say no. No one would question her behavior because she was the boss.
She’s gonna be laughing with a cup of tea, and her tea party would be filled with people that would want to suck up to her instead of ripped teddy bears and pots of plants. Music would play. People would dance. Everyone would laugh, and as the party goes on, she would be ushered to their porch, which would then be on the fourth floor of their mansion.
Screw the rules, she had money.
Her grandma would be there, finally looking proud and satisfied. She could wear some bright pink gown, probably. It’ll be great, and no one would dare to laugh. They would be something that everyone would be forced to appreciate.
It was a stupid dream, something that an unskippable red text box brought out of her, but it gave her an equally stupid ability.
She had seen what her body had become even before this game started. She was fine with the fact that this thin, pale, unattractive, worthless, husk of a body was just a first step in her journey of a lifetime.
Now her ability asks days, weeks, months, years of her life to turn a toy gun into something that could shoot an actual bullet to kill an actual person.
But if the one that made this game was strong enough to pull a hundred people out of reality, give them powers, and have them kill each other, then why not? People were already killing others for the sake of it. She just needs to defend herself, and coincidentally, she would need to kill everyone she meets to live through this nightmare.
What’s wrong with wanting a little money as a prize for her survival?
Oh, right. Her lightbulb was broken.
But it’s not dark enough to stop her from kicking the dead girl who had the audacity to break into her room. Of course, she would be dead. Leigh blew her brains out.
Leigh’s legs still jellied. If looking like she’s dead was her first step and actually putting her lifespan to make things worse was the second, then the first dead body caused by Ms. Leigh Salameda would be the third. She covered the body with a blanket, tossed her pistol on the bed, and rested her back on the wall to breathe.
She could dream better if her room tasted of chips and sodas instead of metal and burning plastic. But she had to move.
Leigh’s face was fine. There was no need for makeup. There would be no room for pity if everyone else on the street was out to kill her. She just tied her short hair into a ponytail, put on a black sweater, pants, and sneakers that she bought from a thrift store.
She sighed at her half-filled water bottles on the small table at the side of her bed and faced the door. It took three steps, just one beyond the dead body under the blanket. Somehow, the air reeked of smoke, cabbages, and blood.
She turned to the body and froze.
Her body flared. She closed her eyes and breathed through her nose. Her jaws loosened again as she marched. By then, she woke up at the farther side of her bed, facing the creeping door and hugging a pillow like some kind of wall. The gun was right beside her.
Leigh slapped her cheeks and pinched the side of her neck. Everything was real. Everyone was out there, killing, and she had to do it, too. Her childhood friends even shared a kill or two.
What if was someone already saw her and waiting for her to come out?
That was careless of her. Her heart churned. Her brain returned her to that image of her hugging her legs while sitting on a rock in the middle of an abandoned lot. Yet again, she proved how she needed to make things work. She’s better than this. Well, at least better than that girl who decided to jump down at the moment she realized that there’s an enemy below her and became history.
But she should at least be careful. Going down the fire exit was the most rational choice, or maybe trekking through the roofs would be a better option. She hugged the pillow tighter, the walls seemed to move farther and farther. It was the thought that choked her.
Or maybe she could just stay here and chill until she felt safe about going outside. Dying with a clear conscience was good too. Although the dead body begged to differ.
The doorknob moved.
Leigh snatched the gun at her side and pointed it at the door. It shook at her grasp, so she readjusted her aim, with both hands this time, and emptied her strained lungs.
The person outside was literally knocking on death’s door. She could do this. She’s powerful. She’s not scared. At worst, all she needs to do was to know where she’ll aim. By then, she could just close her eyes, look away, and pull the trigger again and again until everything was done.
“I have to do—”
Then what if that person was fighting for someone so noble, so worth. Maybe they need someone cured. What if they’re actually asking for world peace instead of a mansion. What if they’re thinking about the children starving in Africa?
Leigh’s gaze softened.
Her body turned cold at the thought of ending another life, even if it was done in self-defense and in the other party doing something stupid. If someone did a backflip and broke their necks in front of her, of course, she’d feel bad too.
The door turned to ash and crumbled upon the silhouette of a small man entering her room. Leigh bit her teeth to stifle a shriek, sharpening her gaze as she readjusted her aim. She steeled herself. The man flinched and raised both his arms to defend.
It was a moment of weakness, but her finger didn’t move.
There was nothing wrong with this. She needed to protect herself. That man did a very stupid thing. But even with all of that, she couldn’t pull the trigger.
Slowly, Leigh lowered her gun.
It’s not her fault that she was raised so well. It was not her fault that she was like this. She wanted to apologize to her grandma, but she won’t cry. She mustered a brave grin and welcomed that man to touch her, to turn her to ash and end this joke.
Her body burned and forced her to run, to escape. She would’ve done so if they weren’t glued to the foam.
The man was saying something, but she couldn’t hear them. Everything was just a buzz as she waited with tears welling up in her eyes until a shadow patted that man’s head and turned him into a swarm of cabbages with a haunting beep.
Her phone vibrated.
[48 players remain. Ryan Fajardo turned Rald Espiritu into a pile of cabbages.]