Chapter one: Where Monsters Rule
Dust floated down from the shelves as Maleah went over what was left behind. The attic had been organized chaos for as long as she could remember, but it was familiar chaos at least. A faint smirk ghosted over her lips, her parents always said they would go through this whole thing one day and get rid of all this junk. Maleah sighed as she waved a cobweb away from her face. She could see the marks where things had been in the dust, where they had stood for years untouched, and how they had been dragged out from their gray coated slumber. It was almost funny, really. Her brother had said how little all this had mattered to him, how she could have it all, yet it was clear he had come and picked through it all.
Maleah sighed and ran a hand though her somewhat wild hair….she pulled a hair tie form her pocket and did her best to pull the locks back into a semi-tame line. Sorting through these boxes was going to take ages, but it had to be done. So the cutting and sorting began: a pair of bright orange rollerblades, tough but faded backpack, photos, her old PlayStation, an ancient tv, and an envelope with her name on it.
That made her stop for a moment. It was an envelope and it had her name on it, but this was from years ago. It wasn’t a standard letter envelope either. No no no, this was holding something. She pulled the aged yellow-orange paper apart and out tumbled a card that had words she hadn’t seen in years.
‘Congratulations from the Monster Rancher Team!’
Maleah bitterly laughed. “Never came, hmmm?” She said to no one in particular.
This was sent to her years ago and it just hadn’t been given to her. Simple forgetfulness? Spite? She mulled it over….Her family always thought video games were a waste of time; didn’t matter it was her prize from a series she had loved. Didn’t mattered it was her own money that was used towards this ‘waste of time’. Maleah sighed and shook her head.
“Never got to play the damn thing, used a bit savings to get the system and buy that tv from a garage sale…put the rest of it to college like you all said I should….didn’t even…” She shook her head again. Maleah didn’t want to dwell, but…
“Well, you’re here now.” She smirked as she looked at the tv.
Maleah still remembered the tournament. It was so surreal.
She thought she’d won the right to go up on stage and play the game when she suddenly heard her being name called. The announcer waved her forward and helped her up on her unsteady legs, as the crowd had her nervous. She’d been nothing but a scraggly, rangy kid with wide confused green eyes stumbling up to that gaming console in front of a great crowd. Maleah had no earthly clue why some older kid was telling her ‘She was going down!’ and a bunch of other kids were laughing.
As her eyes shifted away from the crowd and to the screen, the voices died out. It didn’t totally remove the icy sting of fear in her guts, but with nerves shaky, she’d won. Maleah had gone to leave only for another to come up, and another, and then another until finally….
“We have our winner!” The announcer had come over and took her hand up into the air and the crowd went wild. Confetti fell from above and ‘Winner’ flashed in golden letters all over the screens that were also plastered with her utterly bewildered expression.
It was a bit of a daze after that, lots of voices and faces all coming in way too fast, but she remembered being told she was getting a special prize that she would get in a month’s time. The first copy of the new game….
In a month’s time, who knew where she’d be sleeping. Still….it was her home for now. Maleah twirled her green--it had slightly worn sunflowers on it though most only noticed the green-- housekey around it’s keyring on her finger. Listening to the gentle jingle it made as it turned round and round again. Home….
It had all happened so suddenly, neither Maleah or her brother had expecting them both to go so… Maleah shook her head. She didn’t want to dwell on all of it right now. Instead she’d just take a moment and just enjoy something before going back to powering on the PlayStation. “Here we go.”
It hadn’t taken her long to set it all up. Didn’t matter that it had been well over a decade since this PlayStation had been used, it all just came back to her. The old tv fizzled to life and the all too familiar icon flickered across the screen. Maleah had moved some boxes here and there to make a half way comfortable place to be in the dust bunny besieged room. She popped in the disc and heard the system hum to life.
“A quick game won’t hurt…” She muttered to no one, still she looked around the room, and knew it was silly to do so. Maleah was alone, she knew that, no one around to poke their heads in and tell her to stop wasting time.
She then heard the music play. The emblem of the gaming company came across the screen. A smile tugged one her lips. The first game was mostly about fighting, this game promised a whole world to explore.
Maleah couldn’t help but smirk as the story began to play. The art was nice, well the cutscene art…the actual game monsters looked a bit funky from what she could recall, but given this game was made nearly thirty years ago, it was a hard to be too critical of the game.
“Many more are waiting to be awakened.” The narrator spoke as the screen went dark.
Dated tech or not, hearing that familiar narrator did help that small tick of a smile grow on Maleah’s face.
Away from the ancient art and to a flickering, fiery scene. A village engulfed in flames, monsters roared, shouts of fear and pain and two figures running from the carnage for all they were worth. Into the wilds, past the woods and into a system of canyons. Trees and stone made up the world now, but they were still being pursued.
Holly ran, clutching the disc against her side. A roar came from behind and it was close…too close. She hazarded a look over her shoulder and regretted it. Snapping ebony maws filled with ivory teeth, each one growling for her to stop or for her death. The only thing that saved her was the fact that Black Rexes weren’t known for their speed but, even then, their legs were longer than her own. She couldn’t keep this pace up for long.
A sound ahead made her gaze snap forward. A blur of pink. Hope rose up in Holly’s chest as she pushed herself to go faster and further. The young woman clutched the disc close as she rounded the bend with everything she had. A golden utensil lowered and pulled her up the side of the ravine as quick as the wielder dared. Holly’s monster, a Switch named Marzipan, pulled her girl up.
“You were supposed to stay put darlin’.” Marzi panted as she got Holly on solid ground.
“Couldn’t be helped.” Holly panted with a sheepish smile.
“Stop now and we’ll make it quick!” An armored Black Rex bellowed from below. The dark dinos were trying to make their way up the sides. Several cackled wickedly and snapped their jaws.
“Y’all can chew on these!” Marzipan reached into her fleece and pulled out a handful of pink-red orbs which were quickly flung at the Rexes.
The orbs flew a short distance before exploding. Pink-red smoke, bright flashes and a sickly sweet cherry smell.
“Cherry bombs!” One Black Rex wheezed.
Holly and Marzipan made a run for it as the smoke spread. It would buy them some time, but not much.
Maleah coughed and waved her hand in front of her face. That cherry smell was making her eyes water. It was so….wait…why could she smell that? Maleah blinked. Maybe it was the air freshener she had sprayed earlier…yeah that had to be it….She wiped her eyes with her thumb and got comfortable again.
It also struck her as odd that the graphics were so good…..it had been a long time since she’d played gamed original game. Still, given the era it came from….Maybe it was nostalgia making this all look so good. She adjusted her hold on her controller.
“We’re here!” Holly’s voice rang out from the screen.
Maleah’s attention was back fully on the game. Holly and the Switch had made it to the shrine with their disc.
“I wonder what they’re gonna ge-“ Maleahs stopped. “Oh shit! Oh crap! I need a disc to put in!” She got up from her spot.
Boxes were torn open as Holly ran up to put the disc in the middle of the shrine to be unlocked.
“…Since when did we get this?!” Maleah had found a dvd of the musical Cats. She wasn’t even sure it would work, but it was all she had right now.
Holly had run behind the shrine’s podium and put her hands on the panel. The Gaia stone had led her to this disc for a reason, this could be it, this could be the Phoenix. Holly nodded to Marzipan. Marzi nodded back and kept close to the entrance way with one hand in her fleece.
Holly pressed down. “Unlock.”
The PS1 sputtered to a stop and Maleah popped it open. The cats dvd was put in and spun….the old system gave a whine and the tv flickered.
The words on the screen read.
“Damn it all! Do I have to start again?” Maleah groaned. She opened it again. “Wasted enough time as it is.” She took out the dvd and put the game back in. “Whatever I get, I get…assuming this whole thing hasn’t died.”
The ps1 let out a groan and the screen flashed with colors. The tv shook and there was a bright light.
“Did I seriously find the self-destruct button on this old dusty piece of sh-“ She couldn’t finish the sentence as she was overtaken a powerful sensation.
Maleah was falling and spinning, the world was pulsing colors, things flying past her to reach the bottom of…bottom of what? Her eyes shifted down to a bright light. Objects were disappearing into it. Were they shattering on impact? Maleah put up her arms to try and brace for whatever was coming.