They evaporated into puffs of smoke, and the world around me drained away, leaving nothing but the darkness of eternity. An unending void. 

 

“What is this place?” I asked.

 

The void responded, putting the words into my head.

 

Don’t you understand? This place is whatever you wish it to be. You want this to be a secret government experiment so you can be the hero? You want to make this something you hate so you can destroy it? You want this to be heaven so you can finally relax? This can be anything and everything you want, deep down. All you have to do is play the game.

 

“Okay,” I said. An idea had just struck me. “Can we go back to the castle one again?”

 

...seriously?

 

Whatever the void was, it seemed as if it couldn’t read my mind. “Yeah, seriously.” It had no idea what I was planning.

 

The eternal nothingness vanished with a poof. I was back in the castle. The enormous wooden doors at the edge of the hall swung open. The man who entered wore a suit of armor, scuffed with dirt and blood from a recent battle. As soon as the door had closed behind him, he removed his helmet.

 

Tobias.

 

“My lord!” he said before taking a knee. “The undead army has reached the castle gates. Our warriors are preparing for their final stand. We await your command.”

 

“I command you to…” I looked around to see if there was anything here to stop me. There wasn’t. “...Hey what’s that over there?!”

 

Tobias turned around to look over his shoulder, at whatever I was pointing at. While he was momentarily distracted, I made a running break for the closest window. The last words I heard before diving out face first were, “My Lord, NO!”

 

Just as expected, I was far enough off the ground to get the job done. In the distance, goblins and skeletons fought manifold knights clad in battle armor, but my focus was on the ever-approaching ground. I was weightless, falling, speeding towards an inevitable collision. They say that jumpers almost invariably regret their decision the moment they jump. My own experience was no exception. But it was the only thing I knew to do. The only way I could jolt my system. I’ve heard it a million times before. Dream logic. You can fall. You can fly. But you can never hit the ground, or else you die in real life. That’s why you always wake up before it’s too late. It may have been an old wive’s tale, but at this point I didn’t have anything left to lose. The earth came up to meet me, and because I could not stop for death, he kindly yadda yadda… 

 

My eyes shot open.

 

I was awake.

I was finally awake.