Book cover of “Kingdom of Chaos“ by Jenn_Ravenwing

Kingdom of Chaos

  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Status: Completed
  • Language: English
  • Author: Jenn_Ravenwing
  • Uploaded by user467738
Kate Willis almost discarded the invitation, but something about it captured her attention and drew her in. Succumbing to curiosity, Kate finds herself immersed in a cutting-edge virtual reality RPG. The game is astonishingly realistic, almost frighteningly so. The walls feel solid, the fireballs hurled at her radiate intense heat, and the wounds s... 

Chapter 1

I almost threw the invitation away. It looked like all the other junk mail: a large piece of bright yellow cardstock with giant red lettering. The font spelled out, "CAPTURE THE PRIZE!"

At first I assumed it was just another one of those gimmicky things that car dealerships send you. You scratch off a number and then take the card into the dealership to see if your number wins a car or a TV or a trip to the Bahamas.

But the smaller print caught my eye. "Do you have what it takes to win the game? Can you beat the odds and claim the Ultimate Prize? Test your mettle against the most dangerous creatures known (and unknown) to man!"

I stared at those smaller words as if mesmerized by them. Something in my core was telling me to look into this further, as silly as it sounded.

"Hey, Kate. Anything interesting in the mail?"

I jumped, startled. Rebecca, my roommate, was home from work. While she concentrated on slipping off her shoes, I quickly and somewhat guiltily shuffled the invitation to the bottom of the pile.

"Nope," I said nonchalantly. "Just junk and bills."

"Damn. I was hoping there was a check from Publisher's Clearing House," she joked.

I grinned at her. "Sorry, Becks," I said. "We're not millionaires today. Maybe tomorrow."

In her RN scrubs, Rebecca Miller looked fairly normal. She was 5'9" with unassuming brown eyes and silky brown hair pulled up into a bun. But I knew that when she let that hair fall down her back and she donned a pair of jeans and a tight t-shirt, she could make any man's jaw drop.

She and I could have been twins. It was eerie how much we looked alike. We were the same height, had the same hair, the same frame... we even had the same slightly upturned nose. The only obvious difference was that my eyes were green.

"How was work?" I asked her.

"Ugh," she muttered, rolling her eyes. "Some dumbass kid got himself shot again. Eleven years old."

I cringed. Rebecca had been telling stories like that a lot lately. It seemed the gangs of LA were leaking into our small, sleepy town of Los Olivos. "Did he live?" I asked.

"Yeah, but he might not walk again. The bullet made a mess of his femoral artery."

Shaking my head, I sighed. "Why is our world so fucked up?"

"Because our world isn't based on books or video games," Rebecca said, smirking at me.

Squinting at her, I retorted, "Maybe it should be. I'm a hell of a lot happier in those worlds than I am in this one."

She chuckled. "I swear, Kate, you're probably the only data analyst in existence that escapes into fantasy." She winked at me before heading upstairs to change.

Rolling my eyes, I returned my attention to the pile of mail in my hand. I tossed everything but the two bills and the bright yellow cardstock into the recycling can. Placing the bills on the kitchen counter, I wandered into the living room and plopped myself heavily onto the couch.

"Can you beat the odds and claim the Ultimate Prize?" I reread the line probably half a dozen times. What could the ultimate prize be, I wonder? I shook myself. Kathryn Elizabeth Willis! You're not seriously thinking about doing this, are you?

I flipped the card over and gasped. In those big, red letters were the words, "YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN." Beneath that in smaller print was a phone number with an area code I didn't recognize.

Kate, get ahold of yourself. These probably got sent out to every household in the country. You in particular were not "chosen".

Yet I felt as if those words were pulling at me, somehow. Tugging at some deep, unmentionable desire to lose myself completely in a true fantasy.

What is the prize?

I reached for my phone, then set it down again. I couldn't, wouldn't, call the number on the card. Surely it was some sort of scam. How embarrassing would it be to get caught up in a mess like that? I should have just tossed it with all the other junk mail.

But twenty minutes later I was still staring at the card when Rebecca joined me on the couch. "What's that?" she asked.

I felt a blush creep into my cheeks. "An invitation of some sort," I mumbled, passing it to her.

"Huh. Weird. Did you join a gamer's mailing list?"

"No. That's probably something generic that got sent out to everyone."

Rebecca arched an eyebrow at me. "Did I get one, too, then? Because this one is addressed to you."

Blinking at her, I snatched the card back. Sure enough, it was addressed to me. I hadn't noticed that before. Perhaps I had been chosen after all.

"You should do it," Rebecca said, surprising me.

I stared at my roommate, my jaw hanging slack. "You're joking."

"Not in the slightest. This seems right up your alley. Have you called the number?"

I shook my head. "No. I thought it was probably a scam."

She lifted her shoulders in a shrug. "It wouldn't hurt to see what it's about. You're a big girl. You know not to give out important information over the phone."

"Yeah, but what if... what if..."

"What if it's genuinely something awesome? What if this ultimate prize could make us so wealthy we wouldn't be waiting on Publisher's Clearing House?"

I snickered. "I doubt it's anything like that."

"Call," Rebecca insisted. "Just call and see."

"Fine," I said exasperatedly. "I'll do it tomorrow."

"Do it now," she said, surprising me once again. "Tomorrow's Saturday, and they might not answer on the weekends."

"Oh, for hell's sake, Becks! Why are you so intent on me doing this?"

She grinned at me. "Because if your interest wasn't piqued by it, that card would be in the trash by now."

I hung my head in defeat. Rebecca knew me all too well. I picked up my phone and punched in the number on the card. "I can't believe I'm doing this," I muttered as I held the phone to my ear.

After a few rings a low, languid female voice floated over the line. "Greetings. How may I assist you?"

I swallowed thickly a few times before managing to choke out, "I'm calling about the card I was sent."

"What's your name?"

"Kate... uhh, Kathryn Willis."

Several thudding heartbeats passed before I got a reply. "Ah, Miss Willis. We are pleased you received the invitation. Only a handful of people were chosen to undertake this endeavor. Would you like to know more about the game?"

I shot Rebecca a look. She nodded emphatically. "Please," I drawled.

"Excellent. The game is a virtual reality version of a fantasy role-playing game. It will begin on April twenty-sixth just outside the town of Enoch, Utah. We will provide you with everything you need: armor, weapons, food, and places to sleep. There are thirty levels; each level more challenging than the previous level. The game will take at least three days to complete, though there is no time limit. There will be small treasures in each level that you can keep, no matter how many levels you make it through. If you manage to reach and defeat the thirtieth level, you will have your chance at the Ultimate Prize. Do you have any questions?"

"What's the ultimate prize?" I asked.

"Unfortunately I cannot disclose that information at this time," the languid voice in my ear purred. "However, rest assured that the prize is worth more than you can even imagine."

I rolled my eyes at Rebecca, making her titter. "How much will it cost to play?" I inquired.

"There is no cost. In fact, if you believe you are up to the challenge, we will cover any and all travel expenses."

Blinking rapidly, I squeaked, "Are you saying you're going to pay me to play your game?"

"Basically, yes."

"Why?"

"You have been chosen."

I sucked in a breath. Rebecca began slapping my leg, mouthing the words, "Do it!" over and over again.

Closing my eyes tightly, I asked the woman, "Can I think about it and call you back?"

"Of course, Miss Willis."

"Thank you. Goodbye."

"Miss Willis?" For the first time in the entire conversation, the languid voice on the line held a note of excitement. "Please give our invitation careful consideration. We would love to hear from you again."

"I... Yeah, sure," I stammered. "I'll think about it."

"Wonderful. Have a good day, Miss Willis."

"Uhh, yeah. You, too." I hung up the phone and stared at it for a moment.

"Wow," Rebecca breathed. "Just think: in two weeks you could be living in Skyrim."

I groaned at her. "They'd have to use the entire state of Utah to set up something similar to Skyrim. I'm surprised you even know the name of that game."

Rebecca shrugged. "I'm not that oblivious to your oddball activities. So, are you going to do it?"

Drawing in a big breath, I slowly let it out. "Probably. If nothing else, I'm curious as hell about the ultimate prize."

"Me, too. Do you think you'll make it that far? Beat the game?"

I waved my hand dismissively. "It'll be a cakewalk, I'm sure. I just don't get why they're willing to pay to fly me out there, let me have all the prizes... I mean, what do they get out of it, you know? It still seems a little fishy."

Nodding, Rebecca said, "Yeah, it's definitely out of the ordinary. You'll have to be on your guard, for sure, but I still think you should do it. This could be the opportunity of a lifetime."

"What if it's really a ruse for some sort of sex trafficking ring?" I squeaked, the thought coming unbidden into my mind.

"Oh, Kate. You're so dramatic." Rebecca shoved at me gently. "Call them back."

"That stuff happens, you know," I said petulantly. "Just like kids getting shot up."

She winced, and immediately I wanted to kick myself for bringing that up. "I'm sorry, Becks. It's just that... It's too good to be true!"

"Then use the analytical part of your brain and go figure out where the falsehoods are hiding," Rebecca said, giving me a swift hug. "I've got to go. Nick is taking me to the Santa Monica Pier tonight."

My eyes got wide. "Whoa. Do you think he might finally kiss you?" Rebecca had been dating Nick for over a month and the two still hadn't locked lips, which was frustrating the hell out of my poor roommate.

She grinned wickedly. "In a setting like that, he's got no choice."

I chuckled and made shooing motions at her. "Go, go. Enjoy yourself."

Rebecca grabbed her purse and headed for the door. "If you haven't called them by the time I get back," she threw over her shoulder, "I'll make you kiss me."

I chortled and shook my head. I had no doubts she'd make good on the threat. As the door clicked shut behind her, I glanced at my phone. Can I really go through with this?

Tapping the green button twice to redial, I held my phone to my ear.

"Greetings. How may I assist you?"

"This is Miss Willis calling again."

Once again the woman's voice gained an air of excitement. "Miss Willis, it is an absolute pleasure to hear your voice. Have you come to a decision?"

I steeled my nerves, took a deep, calming breath, and murmured, "I'm in."

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