As promised, here’s the fourth chapter of Conquest: A LitRPG Story! The Pre-Order is available now on Amazon for only 99 cents. Pre-Order your copy today at myBook.to/Conquest-LitRPG
And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to prevent the darkness of the Leviathan from taking its desired hold upon the earth…
– Methuselah 3:4 –
Allan Young awoke with a loud gasp of breath. Cold sweat glistened from his forehead and the silver light emanating from his wide eyes slowly dimmed. The nightmare had been so real. Staring at his hands, he clenched them tightly together to fight off the swarming visions from the night.
Laying his head in his hands, he took several deep breaths. Multiple nights in a row he had woken up from similar overwhelming dreams. The only thing he could sensibly attribute them to was stress.
Sitting on his dresser was a picture of Lily. He sighed heavily and tipped the photo face-down. His thoughts turned to the big event last night when he got down on one knee in the middle of their favorite restaurant and proposed marriage to her.
What went wrong?
Every single scenario he had envisioned over the past few weeks couldn’t have prepared him for last night’s disaster. A pain throbbed from his core as he stared at the empty sheets next to him, and his mind couldn’t help but imagine running his fingers through her gorgeous red hair. He took several deep breaths in an attempt to fill the emptiness he felt inside.
He squinted as the digits ‘5:16’ glowed from the clock atop his dressers and he fumbled for the aspirin in his nightstand. With a large swig of the leftover stale wine, he downed four pills and tossed the empty bottle aside. His head continued to throb as he got out of bed and switched off the alarm that had been set for 6:00 AM. He stretched high into the air and knocked an empty pizza box onto the floor. He was tempted to call in today, but considering his precarious situation at work he knew it would be extremely unwise.
Stripping off his undershirt, he kicked aside several empty cans of beer and entered the bathroom. He absently applied shaving cream to his face even though it was still smooth from the night before.
His mind was preoccupied by the disturbing dreams he had been having lately. Each one was different in nature, but all of them had a reoccurring theme. Trapped inside the head of one person or another, a dark voice directed and controlled all of his actions. Every time he woke it felt like he had just returned from some type of out-of-body experience. The dark voice seemed to echo in his mind as if from an old memory…
Allan studied himself in the mirror as he cupped his hands under the faucet and he rinsed the remains of shaving cream from his face. He felt very unnerved. These strange dreams were beginning to get the better of him. He worried that they were even affecting him at work.
Wanting to check the news, he pressed firmly on his right temple.
Nothing happened. Confused, he pressed again. Still nothing.
“Not again!” he bellowed angrily.
Fortunately CyberBolt offered a lifetime guarantee on their microchips. Unfortunately however, all of the microchips he’d gotten surgically installed over the years seemed to go faulty within just a few months at best. Though their customer service department absolutely insists that they never install refurbished units, he wasn’t thoroughly convinced.
He had considered skipping work today and heading to CyberBolt’s Chicago Arena, where he could escape reality and play DarkForce to his heart’s content… but now that his microchip had fried again, he would need to undergo another non-invasive surgery to replace it.
This is not my day.
As Allan made the trip to his office at Beckster & Lewis Law Firm, he followed his standard routine by instructing his car’s A.I. unit to play the previous evening’s messages over his car speakers. He always silenced his virtual phone after five o’clock each evening as he left the office in order to maintain a separation between his work life and personal life. There were seven messages in all.
The first message was from his secretary, “…and you have a meeting with Mr. Jenner this morning at 8:00 AM, followed by your meeting with Mr. Demyan at 9:00 AM to sign the securities contract…”
Everything hinges on that contract getting signed today. Nothing else matters.
The next message began, “Allan, it’s Jeff. What ever happened to your promise that you would finish filing the Jerry case today? I’m very disappointed in you. Meet me upstairs in my office tomorrow morning. We need to have a chat.”
How did I forget that again?
Allan moaned as a sinking feeling hit the pit of his stomach. He absently pressed his right temple again with the intent to access his virtual calendar, entirely forgetting his microchip had shorted out.
He made a mental note to add this task to the top of his priority list. He gripped the steering wheel tighter as he waited second-in-line at the excruciatingly long stoplight. He didn’t hesitate to slam on his horn when the car ahead of him continued to sit for a few seconds after the light turned green.
The next message began, “Ha! I knew you’d flake out again! Jeff just handed me the Jerry case. Sucker!”
“Arrg!” Allan slammed his fist on his horn at the taxi driver who had just cut him off.
Of course he gave it to Brad! He’s been gunning for my promotion ever since he got here. That partnership is rightfully mine!
The next message began, “This is a message for Mr. Allan Young. My name is Greg, and I’m calling from the Pre-Legal Department of Asset Portfolio Solutions in regards to a personal business matter of yours that requires your immediate attention. Please contact me as soon as possible at 1-800-293-7600. This is an attempt to collect a debt by a debt collector, and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Allan scoffed as he slammed on the gas pedal and flew through a red light, “It’s in their Pre-Legal Department already? I’m only three months behind!”
The next message, “Hey Allan, it’s Megan. I just heard about the Jerry case. Is everything okay at home? You seem to be slipping from your game.” she paused and cooed, “Do you need to talk? Maybe we can meet for lunch today? You know I’m always here for you.”
Allan smirked at the thought.
She’s such a little flirt. Maybe I should…
He stared incredulously at the two cars ahead of him that were driving slowly in tandem. He slammed on his horn multiple times until one of them pulled off onto the shoulder. He screeched past them, and felt slightly guilty when he realized the driver must be in his late sixties.
The next message, “This is a message for Mr. Allan Young. My name is Jennifer, and I’m calling from the Loss Mitigation Department of Suburban Home Loans in regards to an important personal business matter of yours. I can be reached directly at (773) 429-8143. This is an attempt to collect a debt…”
“Not the mortgage too!” Allan slammed on his breaks as another taxi driver cut him off.
I thought the bank would clear that check. I’ve gotta get that contract signed today!
As the last message began to play, Allan stared intently at the car’s display screen, willing it to make more sense. The voice on the other end shouldn’t have been there.
“…I know we haven’t spoken in a long time, but I need your help. I’ve stumbled across some disturbing information…”
He shook his head in disbelief as he recognized the voice of his long-forsaken best friend. He hadn’t spoken to Jason in over ten years, nor had he any intention of gaining contact with him ever again. Though he and Jason had practically been brothers during their many years together at Harvard University, only a few weeks before graduation they suffered a nasty falling-out over the same girl. They hadn’t spoken to each other since.
Allan jolted from the sound of a loud horn from behind. He had gotten so distracted by the disturbing message that he hadn’t noticed when the light turned green.
The automated system continued to play, “…To hear the message header information, press five…” Intrigued, he pressed the number 5 on the display. It felt strange to actually feel the glass of the display when he pressed it, considering he was typically accustomed to using virtual displays. “…Message from phone number (630) 543-2534, received today, August third at 4:46 AM.”
Why would Jason try to call me after all these years, let alone at such an early hour?
Troubled, Allan stewed over his options. Buckingham Fountain wasn’t very far from his office. He was dreading the idea of facing Jeff’s wrath anyway, so taking a slight detour through Grant Park might be a good way to de-stress before he had to stand before the chopping block.
This had better be important.
© Copyright 2016 Richard M. Mulder, All rights reserved. Registration # TX0008281211