By Sheridan Cole
A choose-your-own-adventure story that feels like a video game. Make sure to choose wisely.
“3, 2, 1, Happy New Year!”
You are surrounded by loved ones and couldn’t feel more blessed. Sure, 2020 was absolutely trash and ghetto, but at least the next year can’t possibly be any worse. If it is? Well, we’re only manifesting positivity and good times. We can’t jinx it.
The room starts to get uncomfortably warm and you start to sweat a little, but ignore it. You reach into your pocket to wish some of your close friends and other relatives a happy new year. You unlock your screen and notice a text message from an unknown number.
Congratulations! You’re one of the lucky people who survived 2020! Level 2021 commences now. We hope you survive this one. Godspeed.
“Hm, probably a fake number or prank,” you chuckle to yourself.
“Alright, we’re going to head home. We’re too pooped to pop anymore,” your mother laughs.
You say goodbye to your family and leave first, making the 10-minute trek back to your apartment.
The sky is dark and the city’s still bustling and loud as always under your feet. There’s a soft breeze pushing your hair back and your jacket open. You’re filled with optimism for the future. How misplaced it is.
An airplane crashes to the ground, crushing you on the bottom. All you hear is a big whoosh from the sky, and don’t have time to look up before you’re drowned in darkness.
You open your eyes and see you’re at the party again.
“3, 2, 1, Happy New Year!”
“How am I back here again? What happened?” You wonder.
“Hey, are you alright?” Your sister asks with a concerned expression.
“Yeah, I just need to use the bathroom really quick.” You get up and walk, with an eerie sensation of being closely watched.
You get to the bathroom and close the door, only to come face to face with a woman. You don’t have to panic or scream before you faint from the heat of being near her.
You wake up and look around your room, trying to figure out how you got there. Your room has a minimalist design with just a desk, a bedside table with your lamp and alarm clock, and a chair on the left side of the bed. The window is on the right side of the room.
“Oh good, you’re up!” a cheery voice exclaims.
Before you finish your thought, you’ve flung yourself onto the floor away from the stranger. She’s sitting on the chair to the left side of the bed, with a big, worn, black leather knapsack at her feet. She has on a red long-sleeved blouse and black pleated skirt. Her hair is gelled back into a low pony puff and she wears red lipstick.
“WHO ARE YOU??”
She cringes and holds her hands up. “Okay, I realize this looks very sus–”
“Am I dead? Are you an angel?” You aren’t sure exactly why you feel compelled to ask the last question. It might be because you’re barely awake and a very attractive stranger is in your room. Yes, that’s definitely it.
She snorts at your questions. “Absolutely not. I’m actually the opposite but let’s not get hung up on the semantics.”
“That doesn’t explain what you’re doing in MY APARTMENT!”
“Alright, let me introduce myself. My name is Lucy and you are?” [choose name] “Okay [Name] get off the floor, you look uncomfortable.” By this point, Lucy has walked to you and offers you her hand.
You scramble to your feet and back away from Lucy. “Don’t come any closer!”
“Okay,” Lucy puts her hands up. “Look, we don’t have much time at the moment to answer all your questions, so we need to leave now.”
Lucy lets out a sigh. “You received the text at midnight, right?”
“The one from the unknown number?”
“Yeah, so that means you’ve been selected as the main character for this level.”
“Okay?” This is already a lot to process and it seems like Lucy is about to info dump on you.
“ Are you familiar with Christianity?”
“Yeah, who isn’t?”
“You’d be surprised. Anyway, contrary to what many believe, God and Satan aren’t actually enemies; in fact they are best friends.”
You blink. “That’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard.”
“Hey! Come on dude, it’s true!”
“Yeah sure,” you roll your eyes.
“ANYWAY, God and I—mean Satan decided to make each year a game, you know, like a video game?”
“So you’re the main player for this level. And I’m your guide I guess,” Lucy states nonchalantly.
You blink again.
“This is a very strange dream I’m having. Maybe I should make a therapy appointment,” you think to yourself.
“Okay, we don’t have time for an internal monologue, we actually have to leave now–”
At that, a banging sound comes from behind the door. Your heads snap to the door.
“Damn it, we’re out of time. They’re already here,” Lucy states, alarmed. She walks to the door and puts her ear up to it. Lucy then turns and thrusts the knapsack into your chest.
“Go up to the roof and wait for me there—I’ll explain everything later!”
“What the hell–”
Choice: • Stay and help Lucy • Follow Lucy’s instructions and leave Incorrect choice: Stay and help Lucy
Sadly, two hellhounds break through the bedroom door, ripping both you and Lucy to shreds. You should have listened to her. 🙁
Correct choice: Leave
You spring to your feet and climb out the window onto the fire escape. You hear a scraping noise, looking back to see Lucy barricading the door. You continue climbing.
You make it to the roof, then look around.
“What am I supposed to do now?” You think in desperation. All of this is too much stimulation for you, considering the fact that you planned on spending New Year’s Day in bed.
Just then, Lucy appears next to you.
“You still have the bag right?” She asks urgently.
“Yes,” you look down, realizing that you don’t have shoes or your mask. “This is just great.” You facepalm mentally.
“Don’t worry,” Lucy assures you. “I took a pair of your sneakers and a mask with me. Here.”
“Thanks.” You take them gratefully. You lean against the ledge and pull on your shoes. Then there’s another banging but on the roof door this time.
“Shit,” Lucy’s eyebrows furrow together in frustration and the challenge of thinking. “Okay, I need you to jump off the roof,” she states with conviction.
“And why in the ever-living hell would I do that?” You raise an eyebrow.
“We don’t have time for your attitude!”
“Okay, screw this I’m leaving,”
The roof door bursts open, revealing two hellhounds on fire. Your heart jumps out of your chest.
“WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK ARE THOSE THINGS?”
“No time to explain,” Lucy reaches into the knapsack and pulls out a broad sword.
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?” You’re sure this is some type of dream, because there’s no way this could happen in real life, right?
Lucy lets out an exasperated sigh, then Sparta-kicks you off the roof. The last thing you see is the ground hurtling towards you at breakneck speed.
You wake up again and jolt out of bed. Lucy is sitting in the chair opposite of the bed. Her outfit was different. She was wearing a red, oversized T-shirt with a skull design and black ripped skinny jeans.
“Okay good [Name], you’re up again,” Lucy stands and walks toward you. You jerk away from her.
“You piece of trash! Why’d you kick me off the roof?!”
“Oh come on, you’re still upset about that?”
“YES! It JUST happened!”
“Anyway, now that you’ve had an introduction to the game, you want to leave now?”
You get up and look around your room, then sigh. “How much time do we have?”
“Wow, that was easier than I thought. No over dramatic monologue this time or mental breakdown.”
“Yeah at this point, my life can’t get any worse. Last year was horrible. I’m just not phased anymore.”
“You know, I actually protected you from the worst of it.”
“Wow, thank you so much for protecting me, even though I didn’t know you existed.”
“You know what–” Lucy reaches across the distance to slap you, but you duck away in time.
“Alright! I’m going to get ready.” You look at the clock. “What time did we get caught last time?”
You run to put on some clothes.
Choice: • Wear jeans • Wear sweatpants Wrong Choice: sweatpants
Your pants are not secure and you fall on them while running. Tragic.
Correct Choice: jeans
You decide to put on some jeans and a T-shirt, then put on sneakers. You make sure to grab your mask along with your phone.
“I’m ready, how are we leaving?” Lucy points to the window. You sigh again.
“This is the only safe way,” Lucy shrugs as she walks toward the window. You feel a wave of unnatural heat from her as she walks past you.
“Are you always this hot?”
“Aw thanks,” Lucy chuckles.
“Not like that,” you say exasperated. “You give off so much heat; it’s weird.”
Lucy pauses for a second with a blank expression on her face. “It’s a medical condition,” She promptly climbs out the window without waiting for you to respond.
“Well that was an absolute garbage lie,” you think to yourself.
“Are you coming [Name]!?”
You shake your head and start climbing through the window.
[Excited music starts playing] Welcome to Life: Level 2021
“Wow there’s even an opening for this,” you chuckle to yourself. “Well, I guess we’re going with this. I just hope it’s fun.”
You’re in for a wild time and fun is a subjective term.
I was inspired by the first-person perspective of video games and I also happen to love choose-your-own-adventure stories. I started to think about how I could combine my love for the two together and I came up with this. I wanted the reader to feel as though they were making the choices instead of being a bystander. It was a difficult writing process, but I also enjoyed it very much.
Sheridan Cole is a high school senior on the threshold of her future. The most important thing to her in storytelling is creating stories where characters of a marginalized group have agency in their own lives and decisions. Sheridan loves filmmaking and plans to be an award winning director and screenwriter in the future.