Today's story by Benjamin Carlson has a clever twist at the end. Enjoy!
Dave stared at the ornament.
It was a spherical Christmas tree hanging, with a hook on the top holding onto one of the many plastic stems of the fake Christmas tree his parents set up every year. From halfway across the room, ornament looked exactly like every other shiny orb hanging on the tree. Except that it was pitch black.
Dave stepped closer. The orb seemed to be pulling at him, encouraging him to peer further into that endless depth of mysterious darkn—
“Oh, no, no way. Not this time, you don’t!” Dave wasn’t having it. “There is no way I’m doing this today. I’ve got too much to do and not enough time.” Dave turned away from the deep black ornament and started to leave the room. The room promptly began to warp and fade into darkness.
“Oh, bother.” Dave sighed with frustration and looked around. The room had become a world devoid of anything visible. Suddenly a green light appeared, forming a ring a couple meters in diameter around his feet. The green changed to light blue, then to blue, then purple. It kept changing color, kind of like the ribbons on Dave’s computer’s screensaver. The circle then stretched, extending outward in front of him. Just like it always did.
“Right. Here we go again.” Dave said, resignedly. He walked down the “path” edged by the colorful lights. He wanted to stop looking at the lights. They were starting to give him a headache. They almost always did, but if he looked away from them, he would have no reference to tell him if he was still on the path.
After the light had extended to a certain point it split, one arc going upward, forming a doorway, the other broadening, forming a large circular area that would be “safe” to walk on. He’d tried walking outside the colorful edge. The results had not been pleasant.
Dave walked through the doorway. Almost immediately after he did, a voice sounded, visually represented by ripples of color-shifting light expanding from the center of the large circular “floor.”
“David Green, you have been chosen to face a series of Challenges. For each Challenge you complete, you will receive—”
“Oh, enough already. You’ve already told me this stuff a bazillion times. I don’t have time for your silly games today. I have to write a research paper and read the first ten chapters of “Pride and Prejudice” by tomorrow. Just let me Return Home, already.”
The voice grumbled, “No champion may leave without completing a Challenge. To this Rule there are no exceptions.”
“Then just give me a Challenge that will get me Home if I complete it!” David said, frustrated. He was really not in the mood for this today.
The voice hesitated for a moment, then spoke.
“Very well.” Five doorways, outlined by colorful light, appeared on the edge of the circle farthest from Dave. “One door leads back Home. All other doors lead to Challenges. Choose wisely.”
Dave stood there for a moment, thinking. Then he smirked. “I accept this Challenge.”
Dave turned around, walked through the door he had come through, and appeared back in his house.