Check out my novels on Wattpad!
Check out my novels on Tapas!
My eyes didn't open—It felt as if they'd crusted shut. Had I been crying that much in my sleep? With weakened arms, I found the VR headset clasps, and undid them. I struggled to get it off, but after several attempts, wiggled it free.
“Man, that was something else,” I whispered, my voice hoarse.
I scanned the hospital room, blinking several times for the blurriness to go away. A steady beeping caught my attention. I glanced at the heart monitor, which had a few different numbers. They meant nothing except that my heart still beat. Another beep came from my bedside table. My phone sat there, plugged in and charged. I reached over, grasping it with numb fingers.
The lock screen message read, '178 new emails'.
“How long have has it been?” I wracked my brain, trying to remember.
With a sigh, I opened the email application and scrolled to the top. The newest message had come from Susie-Q@Zol.com.<pwa data-pwa-id="pwa-10225FF2D1D827D3C3834805BB988748" data-pwa-category="grammar" data-pwa-hint="You're closing double quotes before having opened them." data-pwa-suggestions="" data-pwa-dictionary-word="”" class="pwa-mark pwa-mark-done">”</pwa>
My breath caught in my throat and I clicked the email.
Dear Zycuh, or should I say Jason,
By now, you may have figured out the truth. If not, I’m so sorry. I followed you into the game. It wasn’t easy getting another headset, but I managed. I wanted to see you again even if it meant my death. It's because I loved you more than you've ever known; more than you believe. I’m emailing you from within Dark Days, with the <pwa data-pwa-id="pwa-00EF16B6A41F2602BD2DCA206C0CCB06" data-pwa-category="grammar" data-pwa-hint="Possible confused word" data-pwa-suggestions="end" data-pwa-dictionary-word="send" class="pwa-mark pwa-mark-done">send</pwa> condition: I die, and you log out of the game.
Are you mad at me? I’m sure you are, but please don’t be. You're such a special boy; so selfless and brave—courageous and heroic. You entered Dark Days to save everyone. I could never judge you for that. When you see this email, you might still see me. I was in room 1005, but I’m afraid you won’t find much left, but please if they’ve still kept me on life support..<pwa data-pwa-id="pwa-00F4480B876A1ECAEFFBF612964130D4" data-pwa-category="grammar" data-pwa-hint="The punctuation mark '.' may require a space after it. Consider adding the space." data-pwa-suggestions=". " data-pwa-dictionary-word="." class="pwa-mark pwa-mark-done">.</pwa>please end it.
I love you and always will, Jason. Always. When my dear kitty, <pwa data-pwa-id="pwa-9C0696768D62F0AF2F9C4B6E3DE02DA9" data-pwa-category="spelling" data-pwa-hint="Unknown word: Kitface" data-pwa-suggestions="codifies~cutoffs~cadavers~codifiers~caitiffs" data-pwa-dictionary-word="Kitface" class="pwa-mark pwa-mark-done">Kitface</pwa> crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I lost my will to live. I’m crying now, sorry. <pwa data-pwa-id="pwa-E4ADD0903FBD2872812FDB54F071B02F" data-pwa-category="grammar" data-pwa-hint="Missing comma after introductory phrase" data-pwa-suggestions="Come," data-pwa-dictionary-word="Come" class="pwa-mark pwa-mark-done">Come</pwa> say goodbye. If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that without closure; you’ll never forgive yourself.
I wiped tears from the tip of my nose, and from the phone screen.
“Who are you?” I closed my eyes. “That you loved me so much?”
I set my phone back on the table and climbed onto shaky legs. The icy floor made its way through the ugly, uncomfortable hospital socks. I grabbed the IV stand and used it to balance, bringing it to the door. Outside in the hall, no nurses were in sight, so I hobbled to the elevator, the strong smell of hand sanitizer assaulting my nostrils. Once the doors slid closed, I pressed the 10th-floor button.
A sad song played in the elevator. Something with a lost mother, and two brothers having tried to save her. With a ding, the doors opened, and I stepped out. This time, a couple nurses stood by their station. They were so busy chatting they didn’t notice me as I made my way to room 1005.
I cracked the door open and slipped inside with the IV. The room appeared dreary as if no one visited. A pink cat collar with a bell sat on the bedside table, and it seemed familiar. The memory nagged at the back of my mind, but I couldn’t place it. In the bed, lay the body of an adult woman wearing a VR headset.
I approached her side and looked at all the machines keeping her alive; the same as they had for me. But she didn't want to live as a vegetable. I reached for the life support plug, but hesitated, deciding it best to see her face first. As gentle as I could, I undid her headset, and removed it.
And then my heart stopped.
I stumbled into the wall, still grasping the helmet. The memory of the name Rachel struck me as if it were a wrecking ball. She had a cat named Rachel <pwa data-pwa-id="pwa-64D8A49DE505502BDE8D0A02F1AF001D" data-pwa-category="spelling" data-pwa-hint="Unknown word: Kitface" data-pwa-suggestions="cadavers~cutoffs~codifiers~Cadavers~caitiffs" data-pwa-dictionary-word="Kitface" class="pwa-mark pwa-mark-done">Kitface</pwa>. Why hadn’t I remembered that? Why didn’t I realize sooner? It made me realize my stupidity, and as if Z had messed with my memories.
I staggered to the bedside and put my forehead on the woman I recognized as my mother.
“This can’t be happening,” I whispered to my Mom. “You can’t be Susie-Q.”
But in my gut, I knew it to be true. My mother's name was Susan. Tears poured from my eyes, splashing her face. Her eyes were closed, but she wasn't in there anymore—Z deleted her consciousness inside of Dark Days.
“Dammit,” I sobbed.
I took my mom’s hand and found the same engagement ring her fiancé had given her. I’d never met the man, but she told me he loved her.
Guilt bore upon me—I'd distanced myself from my mother. “Oh, Mom. I apologize for everything; for all of our arguments, and the hatred I thought I had toward you.”
I removed the gold ring from her finger, and placed it on my pinky, the only digit upon which it fit. I stayed only for a few minutes longer, whispering my apologies—And my goodbyes. Before I left the room, I stopped by the outlets. I disconnected the monitors and grabbed the life support’s power plug.
“Sorry, Mom, but I’m not done.” I pulled the cord, and left.
The nurses didn’t notice once again as I returned to my room. I sat back down on the bed and picked up my phone. This time, I typed a message to appear on the screen should anyone try to open it.
To Whom It May Concern. My name is Jason, but one day you'll identify me as Zycuh Hunpo; the one who defeated the hacker, Z, rescuing everyone trapped inside Dark Days.'
I set the phone down and with a deep <pwa data-pwa-id="pwa-41DEF5FD344BE7D5585EBFEC7CAB4729" data-pwa-category="grammar" data-pwa-hint="Possible comma splice." data-pwa-suggestions="sigh;" data-pwa-dictionary-word="sigh," class="pwa-mark pwa-mark-done">sigh,</pwa> I picked up the headset. “This time, Z, it’s personal.”
I placed the helmet on my head and connected the clasps, laying back and wiping a tear from my face. “This time, you son of a bitch, I’m not leaving until I kill you.”
With all the courage, and perhaps foolishness, in my heart, I clicked Login and dove back into Dark Days.
BIT 40: ONLY ONE
Pan, Clari, and I charged Lord Kilo. The mighty vampire slammed his palms together, sending a shock wave jettisoning in our path. I slid while Clari and Pan leaped over the impending attack. On Pan’s tail, I held Dark Goddess out to the side, my eyes trained on the prize; Kilo’s ugly face. Out shot the vampire’s fist, faster than I could register, but Pan saw it and leaped onto his arm. Kilo shook his limb, forcing the Assassin to fall back.
Pan skipped back. “Distract him!”
I offered a quick nod, and screamed, activating Battle Cry. Kilo’s eyes landed on me, but I’d come too close for him to grab. I ran past the undead and jumped onto his throne as Fire Bombs and gunshots rang out.
Kilo turned just as I leaped at him and thrust Dark Goddess. “Lightning Jab!”
He hurled his hand and my weapon's tip met his palm. The sword should've pierced his flesh, but when the dark energy of my sword vanished, the attack hadn’t penetrated. Kilo grinned and closed his hand around my weapon. He jerked hard and threw me across the chamber. I slammed against the floor, bouncing several times, spinning and rolling until I crashed into something. My head lolled as I found Orion staring at me.
He put his hand on my shoulder. “Need that heal now?”
My health bar had dropped to a sixth, so I quickly nodded. “Yes, please.”
Healing energies flowed through me while the battle raged. Clari blocked the explosive punches of Lord Kilo with a Holy Shield. I didn’t see Pan, but Zimea fired from the shadows. Sir zombie disintegrated where he stood as Joker leaped into the middle of the room and slapped her hands to the floor. Two skeletons burst out and charged Kilo—A new skill. They rolled under the Vampire's swipe and slashed with their curved blades. Despite all the hits, Kilo’s HP still hadn’t diminished but a handful of points.
“We’re weakening him, but we need the Crossbow.” Orion released my shoulder. “Zimea has it.”
I nodded. “Get in there and heal Clari. She’s the only thing standing between him and us.”
“Got it, boss!” Orion took to the shadows, as I ran to the opposite side, making my way for Zimea.
I’d made it halfway to the Sniper when a swarm of flapping wings descended upon Clari. Her scream echoed through the hall, and her HP plummeted. A barrage of Orion's Holy Orbs saved her, bypassing the bats.
I ran behind the Sniper. “Zimea!”
“A little busy, here!” She jumped back as Kilo slapped the ground nearby.
She glanced at me and rolled her eyes. “I told you, I don’t have it! Pan does!”
“You weren’t lying?”
“No! Now go hold the front line!”
I dove into a roll, dodging a stream of attacking vampire bats, and coming up again. With Dark Goddess behind my head, I leaped above Kilo’s grounded hand. “Star Cleave!”
With the force of a meteor, Dark Goddess and I chopped Kilo. I sliced through his pinky finger at the joint, but he didn’t even notice.
Red energy flowed around the missing digit, and in a flash, the finger reformed. “Dammit!”
From the shade of the ceiling, came a gliding figure. Pan, looking akin to a bat with his cape spread out behind him, wielded the Crossbow. The weapon glowed white at the bolt’s tip, and Kilo lifted his eyes. The Assassin loosed the bolt and everything slowed to a crawl, a blinding white burning into our retinas. Still, we watched the projectile upon which our hopes rode.
Lord Kilo snatched the Holy Bolt, which left the room in dim candlelight once more. Rays of light shone through the cracks of his fist, but as he squeezed, they extinguished.
I gasped. “It didn’t work.”
The vampire lord gave a deep guttural laugh. “Not much of a godsend, was it? No way exists to defeat me. Understand this now, you will each perish tonight.”
Kilo brought back a massive fist and punched the airborne Pan. With the speed of a rocket, our friend careened into the back of the chamber, crashing with a deafening boom.
My jaw hit the floor. “P-Pan!”
The vampire swung his arm again and Clari flew. The skeleton pair slashing at Kilo's heels shattered as he stomped them. In retaliation, he snapped his fingers, and a thousand bats burst from the darkness, engulfing Joker. She screamed and swatted, to no avail. They exhausted her fragile HP.
Orion ran to help her, but Kilo puckered his cracked lips and blew. The candelabrum extinguished, leaving us in deep, dark shadow.
The only light came from the flashes of Zimea’s guns. Kilo locked onto her, and in a strobe-light terror, moved closer and closer. The great vampire stood above her, lifted his foot, and she screamed—No more flashes. As if the final nails in our metaphorical coffin, Orion and Joker’s screams cut off, and all went silent.
I stood, holding Dark Goddess, my hands gripping the handle so tight my fingers numbed. From every direction, voices assaulted my senses.
“Never good enough.”
“They're dead because of you.”
I grasped my forehead, battling the negativity, but a scraping came from somewhere nearby. It brought me back to reality; the voices weren't real—just in my head.
The scraping came closer, and something clutched my ankle. I squealed and moved to chop the monster, but Orion's weak voice floated to my ears. “Zycuh, you need to find Pan.”
I reached for the Priest, but he screamed, and something dragged him away.
Someone whispered something. I couldn’t make out much, but I heard my name spoken by a girl.
“Zimea?” I spun in a circle. “Clari? Joker? I can’t hear you!”
An icy flash popped before me, and a vampire appeared, outlined in red, flickering energy.
“Get away!” I swung the Goddess, and the vampire poofed into smoke. A chill ran along my spine. I spun and swung my greatsword again, striking another vampire.
Again, the whispering came. A flash behind me—I twisted and attacked, taking out the third illusionary undead. Two came from in front of me.
“Get back!” I Hell Charged, and the flat of my blade bunted through the pair. “Is that the best you can do? I won’t let you defeat me! Stop hiding in the dark, you coward!”
The vampire chuckled. “As you wish.”
A dozen candelabrum burned once again. My eyes widened—Orion and Joker lay on the ground, their HP at zero. Clari and Zimea both were dead, their bars empty. Pan's neck appeared broken, his mouth agape, eyes unseeing.
“N-No,” I breathed. “You killed them?”
“No, no, no, Zycuh Hunpo!” Lord Kilo laughed. “You murdered them.”
I spun, staring at my dead friends. It couldn’t be true—I couldn’t have killed them. The illusionary vampires came to mind. There were five enemies, and I had five companions.
“No!” I dropped my sword, and kneeled next to Zimea, taking her face in my hands. “Please wake up and be alive!”
Tears poured from my eyes, and my heart shattered. She didn’t respond. She couldn’t. I’d killed her. Me—Zycuh.
Lord Kilo appeared to my side in a wisp of smoke. He stood above me, laughing. I wanted to kill the son of a bitch. But I didn’t have the will; I couldn’t. Not after I’d just slain all of my friends.
“Poor, little, Zycuh Hunpo.” Kilo beamed. “Now it’s your turn to die. Are you ready? If you accept defeat, I’ll make your death quick. All you have to do is admit you lost.”
I furrowed my brow. “Why mock me? Just get it over with, dammit!”
“Just say you give up, now!”
Something didn’t add up from the way he demanded my admission.
The ground shook as the Vampire stomped his foot. “Say it!”
I retrieved Dark Goddess, stood, and faced him. With the blade held before me, I glared. “I will never speak those words.”
A crack appeared in the air between us, and from within a light shined.
I narrowed my eyes. “It’s you who will lose!”
With all of my might, I struck the dimensional crack. The surrounding air shattered as if made of glass. The illusional veil vanished, and I stood in the same room, but this time, my friends weren’t slaughtered. They were on their feet, still attacking Kilo.
“Zycuh,” Pan’s faint voice came from my rear.
I turned to find the Assassin, on one knee, shaking. In his hand, he held the Crossbow.
My brows furrowed. “Does it have any more ammo?”
Pan nodded weakly. “It has a cooldown period; thirty seconds left.”
“In the meantime, Orion can heal you.”
“He’s out of healing.”
“Stay back. We’ll finish this.”
Pan nodded and handed me the holy weapon. I took it in my offhand.
“Get him,” Pan murmured. “Prove you aren’t insane for entering this death game. Prove you have what it takes.”
“I’ll prove it.” I gave a grim nod. “In spades.”
The rest of my party had little HP remaining. Another hit for any of them meant death.
“Hold on, guys!” I activated Hell Charge, and darted past Joker, Orion, and Zimea.
Clari blocked another attack from Kilo, and her Holy Shield took its final beating; the light shattered. He brought back his fist again to deliver the final blow to the War Priestess.
I leaped and brought up Dark Goddess as a shield, blocking the attack. The blow had me reeling, and the weapon flying from my hand. Kilo glared down his nose and pulled back to strike again. I lifted the Holy Crossbow and fired. The bolt of my divine weapon met his fist, sinking deep under his skin. Kilo’s eyes burst wide, and his mouth twisted in horror.
Golden light exploded from the impact, forcing me to drop the Crossbow and bring my arms to block the resulting hurricane-force winds.
Lord Kilo screamed, and his fist imploded. The remainder of his body stretched and spaghettified, vanishing into itself until nothing remained. When the light faded, the boss existed no more.
“Did it end?” Clari lifted her head.
“Zycuh did it!” Joker danced around, and jumped, hugging me with her arms and legs. She squeezed me and kissed my cheek. As Zimea approached, Orion rushed over and pried her loose.
Zimea held out her hand, and I stared at it. “What?”
“This is goodbye.” She shrugged. “I thought I should at least shake the hero’s hand before he leaves.”
“You don’t get off that easy.”
With a single step, I closed the gap between us. She winced as if I were slapping her, but instead, I shoved my lips against hers and hugged her tighter than I’d ever hugged anyone in my life.
The kiss might have lasted a second, it may have lasted an eternity, I didn’t know, but when we pulled apart, Zimea’s mouth hung open. “You don’t hate me?”
I chuckled. “No, and I never will.”
“Thank you!” She cheesed.
Pan appeared next to us, presenting a large, golden coin. “Your Life Token; a second chance to live an ordinary existence.”
I pushed his hand away. “I don’t need this. This is only the game's beginning.”
“You forget.” Pan held it out again. “It’s bound to the one who slays the boss.”
I took a deep breath. “Only I can leave.”
“Indeed.” Pan smiled. “You owe Susie-Q a true farewell.”
The siblings joined us and held out their hands.
“Good luck.” Orion and I shook. “I’m sure you’ve made this a brand-new world.”
“Be good out there!” Joker sang. “We'll make sure your girlfriend survives to meet you outside Dark Days.”
“I’m not his—” Zimea murmured, but then met my eyes. “Am I?”
I nodded. “Once I’m out, I’ll make it social media official.”
She giggled and covered her mouth, spinning away.
“So, this is it?” Clari's shoulders slumped. “I’m stuck with these bumpkins?”
I patted her arm. “You’re a Soul Guardian now.”
I retreated, holding the Life Token in both hands.
“Goodbye, Zycuh Hunpo.” Pan tipped his hat. “It was a privilege to fight alongside you.”
“Likewise.” I smiled soberly. “All of you.”
Everyone waved, and I waved back, as corny as it felt. I held the coin above my head and clicked Activate.
Greetings and salutations!
I'm Jake A. Strife.
Currently, I'm the author of 20 books.
Also, I'm a huge anime and video game fan!
My Original Novels:
Crimson Wars - 1 - Blood Sisters
Dark Dayz - 1 - VR Dawn
Dark Dayz - 2 - Shaded Noon
GodForge - 1 - Forge of the Mind
Omega Virus - 1 - Beta Hour
Omega Virus - 2 - Gamma Hour
Omega Virus - 3 - Delta Hour
Omega Virus - 4 - Sigma Hour
Omega Virus - 5 - Psi Hour
Omega Virus - 6 - Omega Hour
Severed Chains - 1 - Fateless (3 ver.)
Severed Chains - 2 - Tribulation (2 ver.)
Severed Chains - 3 - Abyss
Severed Chains - 4 - Dark Side of a Moon
Strange World - 1 - Grimoire
Strange World - 2 - Mega-Real
My Fan Fics Include:
Earthbound - A Hero Chosen
Final Fantasy - Warriors of Light
My 2018 release schedule:
1. God Forge 2
2. Omega Virus 7
3. Dark Dayz 3
4. Strange World 3
5. Severed Chains 2 (rewrite)
Get your copy of Omega Virus: Beta Hour on Amazon! Just click the link!
Get your copy of Dark Dayz: VR Dawn on Amazon! Just click the link!