“Dear subject 7. It is now less than 24 hours until Cracked vs Heretic begins.”
I had been at this place before. Ten of us, standing around a desolate road leading from nowhere to nowhere, dressed in layers upon layers of clothes we were okay with to discard in the hotel room’s trash can some six hours from now. We had been waiting nine months for this – nine months since Cracked vs Heretic first was announced. Scrutinized and evaluated thoroughly on the player page. Alliances and banter and friction. Tension arising. I had been here before, this situation, this place. Difference is, the last time, I was nervous. This time, I felt like my chest was caving in under the weight of a truck – for days already.
A van pulls up. White coveralls. We line up. Waivers. The side door slides open, Sarge steps out in clouds of billowing smoke. Hooded, layers of tape around our eyes, crammed into the van. Hypnotising soundscapes, our own distorted and cut up voices – from videos we had recorded months before. I am Blake. Claustrophobia begins to set in, as the van drives on and on. Suddenly, hard on the brakes, a sudden stop. We are here. More white boiler suits and face masks. Inside. Hoods off. In unison, we recite Blake’s manifesto. I am Blake. Suddenly, as we make it to the sixth line, treacherous hands close around Blake’s throat. Intruders barge in, all in black, invisible faces. The papers are crumpled up, shoved into our mouths – a mockery of Blake’s ritual. We are dragged out, into another building.
Something is rotting. Rotting and corroding and decomposing and falling apart. It should have ended a long time ago. It almost did, too. But something, the deepest, darkest core, something malevolent, utterly nihilistic did not die. It carried on that which never should have. It does not care. In some way, we invited it in, and there is no getting away from it. It brings only suffering and death. Its name is Adrian Marcato. Piled up inside the church of Heretic, this is what is explained to us. A huge H adorns the wall. Duct tape is placed over our eyes, and we drift away in psychosis. Mad, violent hallucinations. Creatures tear us apart. Sharp objects, orifices, claws, shredding clothes, blood and vomit. Flickers of light as Adrian tries to overcome his eroded self. To no avail, in the end.
A grotesque tug of war between two notorious houses. Broken down in one, dragged into the other, a dizzying back and forth chipping away at our minds and bodies. I screamed my lungs out in pain, witnessed sickening displays of torture, I was thrown through rooms by an enormous creature with savage strength, I had to go to severe lengths to keep my composure, keep my calm, keep breathing, keep going. Wet and dirty and shivering and torn and beat up. It did not let up, kept turning upside down, blindsiding us. Six hours, if I were to believe the clock. It lasted for five minutes and an eternity all at once.
I wish I could tell you more. Tell you in detail. Every single moment, every game, every interaction. Some were beautiful, most were terrifying. I was reeling with adrenalin for the next days, reliving every sequence, comparing my memories with what the others had lived through. No one saw the same, everyone had a different experience, yet no one felt like they missed out on something. Every version equally amazing and horrifying. I can’t do it justice with just words. This will stay with me forever. I will leave you with the final moments.
We are running. Panic in the air. We hide in the van, the doors slam shut. The remaining few, the survivors. A sight to behold, too. Wild eyes, covered in dirt and muck, shreds of clothes, naked flesh. Remnants of the way we were thrown into this. The door is thrown open again. It’s Heretic. Dragged out, forced on our knees. Blake is there, on his knees as well. A gun to his head. I yell out to Adrian that he can fight it. That I know there is still good in him. Smacked across the face. It is too late. A dry thud, Blake’s body drops to the ground. We scream out in agony.
A coffin, half buried in a mound of dirt. Violet light paints the scene. On our knees, surrounding the body in the grave. Flowers, laid upon his corpse. Finally broken, we are led away from the scene.
I am Blake. You are Blake. We are Blake. Always.