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Green was all the man saw when he awoke; ferns, trees, grass and other jungle life surrounded his prone form. He sat up, taking note of the other humans around him. His own clothing consisted of a pair of jeans, a frayed shirt and a set of muddy sneakers resting on his feet.
The man stood, not remembering a single thing previous to his awakening. The others, now conscious, followed suit. The group looked each other over: there was a shirtless man wearing loose khakis, his dark brown skin rippling with muscle; a paler man clad in a pinstriped suit and sporting a matching fedora and a pistol hanging at a hip holster; a tanned man wearing a dirtied set of worker’s coveralls with a wrench; a woman in cargo pants and a white shirt; and an Asian man in a suit of Japanese monk’s robes.
Everyone looked to each other groggily. The suited man was the first to speak. “Anyone know what’s going on here, I can’t remember a thing…”
Suddenly, everyone looked in their clothing’s pockets, searching for any ID.
The dark-skinned man held a driver’s license aloft. “Tristan Lewis. Now I remember!” He said, the card having triggered memories.
The suit held up a brass badge. “Malcolm Anders, Private Investigator. That’s right! NYC, 1947…” He began to remember his own past.
“Hector Corona Honore the third,” Read the tanned man off of a business card. His eyes widened.
The woman produced a flimsy library card. “Samantha Tyler, Boston, Mass.” She closed her eyes with a grin.
“Akio Kyoto,” The monk murmured, reading a set of characters imprinted on his robe.
The first man checked his pockets and found…nothing. He searched his entire person, and still there was no sign of his former identity.
“Alright,” Tristan, the muscular man, spoke. “So we all know our names?” The group repeated their names to the others until it reached the man.
“I…don’t know.” He shrugged, perplexed. “I couldn’t find anything.”
“Okay, man.” Tristan smiled. “We’ll call you Name.” Everyone chuckled, and Name himself grinned.
“Wait a sec. Mal, you said you were from 1947?” Tristan’s eyebrows rose.
The PI nodded. “What?”
“The last date I remember is 2010.” Everyone was silent as they contemplated the meaning.
“For me it was 2007.” Samantha, who preferred Sam, added.
“I remember 1989, amigo,” Hector muttered.
“Year…1697.” Akio struggled. “Learn…English from Brit man.”
“And judging from Name’s clothes, I’d say he was about 2000s, late 1990s.” Sam motioned to Name with a finger.
“What the ‘ell’s goin’ on here, gringo?” Hector turned to Tristan.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” He responded truthfully. “I say we find out where in the universe we are, and what we’re doing here…” He trailed off as a baseball-sized orb of glowing emerald light floated into the clearing. The orb stopped at the center of the group.
“Hello, competitors,” A disembodied voice echoed. “I am sure you are wondering what you are doing here.”
“’Ell yeah we are, gringo!” Hector muttered before he was shushed by Name.
“I am The Messenger.” The orb began. “And you are here to play a Game. You have been watched by The Others: The Echelon, The Rule and The Gamemaker. You each were selected from your time in Earth’s timeline to participate in this month’s Game. Our Game is simple: you shall face The Hunters and The Creatures, and you shall die.” There was a sudden uproar before the Echelon continued. “The Others enjoy sport, however, so those of you not currently armed are to be equipped with the finest weaponry.” Behind The Messenger a large crate appeared. “Take what you feel is comfortable to use. The Game begins within five minutes. Provide sport for us, and good luck.” With that, The Messenger dissipated.
“Well, that’s a load of crap…” Malcolm muttered.
“Not like that’s going to change anything, man.” Tristan assured him. “Let’s face it; we’re in the middle of a jungle with no idea what we’re doing, and we’ve got five minutes before we get attacked by things we don’t know. Here’s the deal: We’re working as a group, unless you choose otherwise now. Got it?” No one moved. “Good. Next, let’s get that box open. Hector, you’ve got a wrench, you mind?”
“Not at all, gringo.” The Hispanic man stepped forward, smacking the wrench down on the lock and splitting it. He cracked it open, gasping.
There was every kind of weapon imaginable within the box, and more. Tristan picked up a pump-action shotgun while Hector reached for a machine pistol, whereas Akio hefted up a sharpened staff and Sam removed a bolt-action rifle, while Mal stood back.
Name stepped forward, looking through the massive box and finding something: an assault rifle. The automatic rifle somehow seemed to draw Name to it, as if it was meant to be found by him.
“Alright, everyone set?” Tristan’s coarse voice broke through Name’s flood of memories. Everyone nodded their assent, and the self-appointed leader of the group nodded to himself. “Okay, let’s give these Others the show of their lives. Name, you’re on my back, Mal, you’ve got the rear of the group with Hector.”
The group took off at a jog, making it a good distance from the clearing when a horn blared through the thicket. “I’m guessing five minutes is up.” Hector muttered.
Terrifying cackles reached the group’s ears, and Mal nodded, spurring the group back into action.
They were running through the jungle with not a single clue as to where they were going. Out of one of the trees, a squat, monkey-like creature leapt down towards Hector. The Hispanic man leveled his new machine pistol to its forehead and fired repeatedly, blowing the Creature backwards.
The Creature’s corpse was easier to examine than the living one, even if a mere cursory glance during their escape. It had the size of a monkey and the claws of a jaguar. Its eyes glowed a horrifying red, and its teeth were more jagged than a shark’s.
Name spurred the group back into motion as the cackles grew again. A second Creature leapt downwards, and this time Akio speared it on his staff. The body oozed greenish goo.
As the group neared what appeared to be a cave, the true Hunters emerged.
A laser blast blew off Hector’s arm, causing the mechanic to scream in pain. His machine pistol discharged and blasted one of the monstrous Hunters backwards as another shot blew the man to millions of pieces.
“Into the cave!!” Tristan screamed, and the survivors followed.
The cave was more horrifying a place to fight The Hunters than the jungle. A Creature leapt forward, clawing as Akio’s back as he speared two of its brethren and beat back a Hunter. The monk fell forwards with a cry as hundreds of Creatures emerged from the darkness to tear at his flesh. Sam fired several shots into the crowd before being pulled away by Name as the living four ran deeper.
They paused at a small chamber within the cave. Light was a distant dot down one of the corridors. “Okay, we need to get out of here. My guess is that The Others can only see you when their minions can see you. If we can get out of this place, we might be able to survive long enough to find a way out of this hellhole entirely.”
“But getting out of this cave’ll be bad enough,” Mal protested, training his pistol along the shadows. “Once we’re out, we’ll need a distraction to get away.”
They fell silent at that; everyone understood the Private Investigator’s true meaning.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Tristan continued.
The group headed towards the light, it growing in the distance. They heard the cackle of Creatures and the whirr of the Hunters’ robotic limbs closing in, and they turned around to find the horde approaching.
Mal’s pistol fire wasn’t consistent but accurate; each shot blew a Creature aside and several dented a Hunter’s armor plating. However, all good must come to an end, and a Creature soon tackled Mal.
Name blew the Creature off his friend’s back, but the PI didn’t have time enough to stand. As the horde surrounded him, he fired the remainder of his pistol at them.
“No!!” Tristan cried, and Name pulled him and Sam further towards the light. Somehow, Name was accustomed to death, and was hardly phased by any of his comrade’s murder.
The light was not far away when a stray laser blast hit Tristan. The leader fell backwards with a cry, and Sam dragged him onward as Name fired away.
The light was there. They had reached it, and were a step closer to their goal.
Name set Tristan down against a rock and examined the wound.
The group’s stalwart leader was missing his left leg from the kneecap down. He looked up at Name with a groggy smile. “I’m bleedin’ out, Name. Almost dead. You’re still going to need a distraction to get out of here.” He placed a hand on the nameless man’s shoulder. “I trust that you’ll find a way to beat The Others. Not just for me, but also for Mal, Hector and Akio too. Good-“ His breathing hitched and Name noticed the numerous slashes from Creatures. A Creature’s talons had removed half of his leader’s hand.
Name stood and faced Sam, knowing his fate. “Listen to me. I’m going to hold them off as long as I can. Get as far away as possible.” He lifted a hand before she could protest. “Remember The Messenger said ‘this month’s Game’? Hold out until the next batch arrives, and then find them. If you all band together, you might eventually stop this madness. Okay?” Finally, Sam nodded. “Good. Now get going, time’s running out already.” The woman looked one last time at her savior before turning and disappearing into the overgrowth.
Name sighed as he turned back to the cave. With Mal’s death, The Creatures would be occupied for a time. He leveled his gun and looked it over, finding something peculiar: a dog tag glued onto the barrel, unnoticeable until he got a good look.
Leaning in, Name read the dog tag: ‘Sinclair, N. 1st Recon. Ser. # 09930.’ He realized with a start that it was his dog tag. He remembered his service in the military, and realized why he hadn’t remembered anything.
With a smile on his face, Nate Sinclair of US Army’s 1st Recon faced the growing cackles and whirrs. He loaded his gun one final time before leveling it at the shadows.
Into the howling dark.