“There are three rules”

  1.  Very steep hills.

After a long day of school, Riley Human always liked to bike to the top of any hill and enjoy the sunset. This afternoon, he hops off his bike, sets his bag down and grabs a can of spray paint to start his nightly routine.   He stops on the way to the top of the hill when he sees a low hanging billboard. Wouldn’t it be clever for him to draw his own little sunset on it? Yes, in a symbolic way of how he imagine’s how the days end and start or as he thinks of it as the start of a “new world everyday.”


He looks over his work, unsatisfied. After finishing his “meh” sunset due to the orange spray paint bleeding onto the red of the Arby’s logo, he returns to the bike and rides up the hill. He sets his bike up on the tree and puts his back to it, he watches the last, slightest iota of the sun go down.  He doesn’t mind only seeing the last bits of it. His favorite part is how you can see the light of the sun even though it’s nowhere to be found.  As the darkness comes down, so does a heavy weight of hot air.  He can not resist the urge to close his eyes.


Hoping it isn’t the middle of the night, he slowly peeks open his eyes to see the same lighting that it was when he closed his eyes.  Relieved, he fully opens his eyes, but something isn’t quite right.  Breathing in through his nose expecting the usual fresh mountain air, he immediately coughs as the smell and sensation of smoke flows through his lungs.  


Opening his eyes fully, he sees the smoke around him. He thinks to himself, “Oh this is probably just one of those really trippy dreams.”  But the longer he coughs, the more he realizes that maybe it isn’t a dream.  Slowly standing up and looking around, He sees castles, weird towers, vast rivers, and volcanos.   As his eyes come more into focus he spots a castle on a giant rock with step sharp stones sticking out of the side of the buildings, as his eyes shift to the right he sees a building surrounded by water, large spiked fences, and walls the size only Donald Trump could dream of.  He realizes that he “isn’t in Kansas anymore.”  He definitely isn’t in his hometown of Boulder.


A feeling of nausea passes through him.  He can feel all the blood leave his head. He falls to his knees and quickly throws up.  Thinking he is going to pass out, he lays down hoping that someone accidentally gave him mushrooms.  Using all of his will power teetering back and forth,   stands back up and looks around again, looking back again at where his home town of Boulder should be.  His home town is now replaced by a rocky tower with massive columns.  Looking abandoned and decaying, it still stands with beauty towering over the rest of this new world.  As he looks at the tower, he gets a sudden feeling of excitement in his stomach.


2. A smokey start.

Realizing he shouldn’t stay in the smoke, he starts to walk down the hill towards the mysterious tower.  Once he is close to the bottom of the hill, he realizes he forgot to grab his bike.  Questioning himself if he should go back for it, he sees tall and short black figures throwing a light mist of smoke.  Anxiety building covering him feeling spikes throughout his body.  If he had anything else in his stomach he would have thrown up again.  As the figures get closer Riley yells out, “Who’s there?!”


The figures start running towards him so like any sensible person he sprints as hard as he can.  Then one of the figures shouts out, “Wait up!”  The voice sounds oddly familiar, the voice of a high pitched girl; she also sounds scared.


He thinks to himself, “If that’s who I think it is, I’d rather be dead.”  He stops and waits to see who it is. “F##k,” he says somewhat hoping to say it in his head.  It was Jazmine from his Math, History, and Biology classes.  But who was that taller figure?  It was none other than Uncle Ruckus the crazy school janitor.  Riley realizes how bad of a situation this is.   They come closer and Uncle Ruckus looks at him and says, “Must have taken one too many adderalls.”  


“Isn’t that illegal?!” Jazmine inquires. 


“Child abuse is also illegal” he responds as his lazy eye drifts her direction.


Riley, being the one who seems to be confused by their tranquility, asks “Where are we, and why are we here?!”  He is shaking with anger and confusion.  


“I was doing my nightly routine of my homemade Peppermint Schnapps and a sunset when all of a sudden I fell asleep and ended up here.” says Uncle Ruckus to Riley with his lazy eye still on Jazmine.  


Jazmine with tears in her eyes looks at the person staring at her with a glare and says, “It was after school and I was hanging out with all of my really cool friends, but then I decided to be a loner and go and watch the sunset, and I also fell asleep and ended up here.”  


He wonders for a second why she had to mention her “really cool friends”, he quickly gets back on task and staying focused and wanting to go home asks, “So what’s the plan guys?”  


Uncle Ruckus quickly responds “We’re going to where Denver is supposed to be.”  Riley not wanting to be alone or contest his only aligned decision he nods his head, Jazmine just started crying into his shoulders.  Riley thought about leaving Jazmine for a second but then realizes she might be useful if food gets low.  


They start the slow track to Denver.


  1. Dirty Denver

As they get closer to Denver they can see it is just a small medieval town. They can also tell it is just as busy as current day Denver.  They enter the town looking like outsiders and getting odd glances, so they go into a small tavern with old stall wood with rusty nails.  


As in any good movie, they ask the barkeep what year is it. ”600” he quickly responds. 


“What town is this?” Riley asks.


“Everyone just calls it Dirty Denver.”  He realizes that the world they are in is just a spin off of their own.  


“You got a little nose candy.” Uncle Ruckus says while he gets closer and closer to the bartender’s face. 


“What’s nose candy?” the Bartender asks slowly, backing away. 


“Good… good I was just making sure you didn’t… for safety,” Uncle Ruckus says with a sad look.


Riley getting back on track quickly asks “Have you seen anyone like us before?”  


The bartender responds, “A few of them all say they got here at sunset, and I wonder if it has anything to do with Helios.” 


“Who’s Helios?” Jazmine asks.  


The Bartender gives Jazmine  a harsh stare “Seriously? The sun god. You don’t know who that is?”


Uncle Ruckus is now wandering around finishing off semi empty beers. Riley is questioning every decision he’s ever made and asks, “Where does Helios live?”  


The bartender answers, “I’ll tell you on one condition. We have this group of raiders that keep stealing our $hit. If you help us fight them I’ll tell you.”   Considering himself now the best decision maker, agrees.  The bartender sends them off to a meeting at some nearby barracks. After Riley introduces the group to the town sheriff, they join the troops in some basic training exercises.


4. A step up.

After just doing some basic exercises lead by a man in all black Riley assumes was an assassin or something badass like that but the instructor seems to not be fully confident, the group takes a break.  Surrounded by other people dressed in simple clothes that look itchy compared to any of today’s clothes. Riley looks around. Uncle Ruckus is nowhere to be seen, and Jazmine is crying in the corner. The exercises resume, and he is slowly following along.  As Riley follows along with a halfass mindset knowing these exercises are going to do nothing for him.  A young guy maybe 2 years older than Riley with short black curly hair starts a conversation.


“Hey, my name is Cedric. You don’t look like you’re from around here. What’s your name?”  


“Riley Freeman. Are you nervous?”


“For the battle? Of course I am!  you only get one life.”  


“Fair enough – can’t argue with that logic.”  He pauses, thinking. 


“Do you have any idea what weapon you’re going to use?”  Cedric asks.


“You get to CHOOSE?”


Cedric explains: “Of course not that many people are willing to fight, That leaves the inventory of weapons wide open.  I’d like to go with a bow, a little further back from the action.”  


“Smart choice but I have to go with a sword, they’re too cool looking.”


All of a sudden a large bell rang, “Lunch?” Riley asks in a joking way.  He looks across to Cedric to see him drop down to his knees and start praying.  He watches in confusion just waiting there. 


As Cedric stands up, he whispers the words “love you mom, love you dad.” And looks up to the sky.  “It’s time to fight.” Cedric says with a pale face.  


“What?! I thought it would be in a few days or at least in a few hours.” He says with his face also becoming pale.  


“I’m just as surprised as you.”


They both stare at each other then strut over to the armory.  Might as well walk the part of the soldier! He picks up a sword as planned and Cedric picks up a bow.  Both strut out to the street. They look at each other, both realizing it’s they’re moment to transform who they are. It’s that, or get killed. 


He looks around, he can’t see Uncle Ruckus, but decides that he can probably handle himself.  Jazmine is probably safer in the corner she’s sitting in, so he leaves her alone.   He turns away, walking down the street to the edge of town with about 65 other people who are about to become warriors.


T hey stop, seeing in the distance a calvary moving closer and closer with only 10 men. Maybe they do stand a chance…  Nausea, anxiety and sadness spread through all of them.  Once the men on horseback are in range, archers start to fire.  It is horrible. You can see the lack of training. They are just lucky they aren’t killing each other.  Once the calvary got to them, it was instantly a slaughter.  People tried their best, maybe injuring one or two of the enemy.  Riley with his two years of karate training and his green belt did better than most. 


After ducking and slashing a horse’s leg,  he looks over and sees Cedric trying to aim his bow at a man on a horse who goes behind and stabs him right in the heart.  He hadn’t been paying attention to all of the deaths. Until this moment, he was still participating as if it was a game.  Running over,he knelt by Cedric, who looked up to the sky one last time.  “What, how is this real?” He cries out, screaming.  He yells, “How can this exist in the world?”  while his eyes scan the battlefield. In every direction he sees simple townspeople laying in a bloody mess. 


A horse knocks him over, and he realizes he is the last one alive. Suddenly,  a sword is pressed to his neck. He ponders a few things in seconds: life, death, what’s the purpose, will I actually die in this world?  He was as ready as a 16 year old could be.  He closes his eyes, and then a loud bang happens. Then seven more bangs, for a total of exactly eight times.  As a body falls on him, he looks up and sees Uncle Ruckus standing with a 9 mm in his hand and a joint in his mouth.  He lays there in a feeling of defeat.  Uncle Ruckus walks up to him and takes the joint out of his mouth: “There are three rules you should always follow, rule 1 stay strapped, rule 2 always keep going, rule 3 always have something fun on you.”  Uncle Ruckus says putting the joint back in his mouth.


5. Road to Recovery.

After a few hours of being stunned, Riley and Uncle Ruckus gather Jazmine and go back to the bartender.

Riley, somewhat angry that the bartender didn’t fight, as he walks into the bar seeing the bartender with an odd smirk on his face while he cleans a glass,   Riley asks the question “Where is he?” 


“You fought, I’m surprised that yo…”


“Shut the f##k up, where is he? ” Now he isn’t asking a question. He is demanding an answer.


“Bailing Boulder, just walk to the top. If you kill him, I’m pretty sure he will let you go home.”


They walk to Riley’s home town of Boulder. Once they get there, they stand outside the tall tower just looking up. Scanning the tower they see a small underhang and walk towards it, they see rocks on the edge of slipping out of they’re spot and an entry point. They enter the hollow rock, with long pillars.  The only thing inside is a long staircase.  “It might be better if I am the one to go,”  He says. Hardly noticing, Uncle Ruckus is already heading outside to work on his tan.  


Before heading up, he looks at Uncle Ruckus, and Jazmine one more time nervous but glad he had them to join him on his journey.  He lets out a sigh of relief realizing he’s finally ready.


He starts to climb up step by step, he just keeps moving.  He reaches the door to a room.  He takes a deep breath in and opens it.  Riley stands there in confusion, but deep down he is filled with hatred.  Standing across the room is the bartender.  “Hahah good to see you,” he says. The bartender stands there with a mischievous look.  


He smiles back in a mocking way, saying “Good to see you too.”  


They both stand there for what feels like a full minute, when all of sudden the bartender becomes ten men on horseback, the same ones that he had fought against hours before.  Only knowing Cedric for minutes might mean little for some, but Riley had made a connection with everyone who fought.  Ten gruf men with long black beards, dirt surrounding their face and grins that showed they’re yellow teeth, covered with intimidating scars and cuts.  Anger surges through him as Helios throws him a sword and a glance.  The ten men go back into bartender form  “I’ll take my time with you,” the bartender said.  Helios hands Riley a sword wanting to atleast have a little entertainment as he unsheathes his own.  They approach each other and after a block and a jab by Riley, Helios stabs him in the leg.  He falls to the ground, while his sword is swatted away, and he is  stabbed in the other leg.  It was just like before as the sword approached his throat, the only difference was he was the only one who could save himself.  


Reaching into his back pocket he grabbed the 9mm. BANG! Helios fell to the ground in surprise and pain.  “Rule 1: stay strapped.” He says as he fires off the finishing “BANG.” Feeling the same heat of the air, a calming  sensation washes over him as he closes his eyes again.


He is back on the hill, no smoke in his lungs, no nausea, just darkness.  He wonders if that could have been a dream?  He pulls up his paint legs and feels scars right where he was stabbed.  He lays there for a while hoping Jazmine is okay and also makes it back.  He heads home, getting a slap on the wrist from his mom for being late. Riley goes to bed knowing all you can do is keep moving.