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First pages

Monday

1

For twenty straight minutes, I stared down at the ticket in my hand. War Town’s opening day, and I had a ticket. We were just a few miles out from the entrance and I was still struggling to believe it.

“Hey Olly, how much longer you think we got?”

I looked over at the source of the voice. Mikey was looking at his phone as he steered the car with his other hand and the other half of his attention. With any other person, I would have scolded them for looking at their phone while driving, but I knew Mikey well enough to know how good he was good at multi-tasking. I also knew that no matter how many times I told him not to do something he would always do it.

“Can’t be much longer.” I shrugged. “A few minutes maybe.”

“I hope so. I can’t take this suspense anymore.”

“It’s not like we haven’t seen it before, there’s pictures of it all over the internet.”

Mikey drummed his fingers against the wheel. “Well, yeah, pictures from the outside. I wanna know what the deal is inside. Besides, no way pictures do a justice for this place.”

I paused for a moment and watched my friend’s movements. His finger drumming went on and he bounced a little in his seat. His excitement looked like it was about to burst from him. He stuck his head out the window, letting the wind whip through his thick, brown hair.

“What was that for?” I asked.

“Just to do something, I guess,” Mikey said. “I’m getting antsy.”

“I can tell.”

“Come on, how can you not be stoked for this? War Town is gonna put Oklahoma to shame!”

I smiled. We had taken more than a few trips to the big paintball tournaments in Oklahoma during college. It would take something like a God to one-up those battles, or at least someone with a great vision and a lot of money. War Town was a case of the latter.

“If anyone’s gonna shame the Oklahoma games, I suppose Jackson Merrus would be the one to do it,” I said.

Mikey shook his head. “Here you go again with that guy.”

“What? He’s an important person.”

“To you.”

“And to anyone in the state of California in a hospital where the SmartBot trials are being done.”

“Do those robo-doctor things even work?”

I chuckled. “Robo-doctors? In that sense, no they don’t work at all. As diagnostic nanobots, yeah they do. How haven’t you see them yet? We work in the same hospital.”

“I’m a paper pusher, Olly. The last time I heard about those things was when I was completing the paperwork to bring them to our hospital.”

“You should visit the trial ward one of these days. They’re quite something.”

“What do they do again?”

“They diagnose patients by passing through their body, either through their gastrointestinal tract or circulatory system. When we bring them out, they can decipher if the patient has a disease as long as it is part of their ever-expanding database.”

“Witchcraft if you ask me. And they work?”

“Well they’re still in trial, but I’ve seen them work quite a few times.”

Mikey’s brow wrinkled. “I’ll have to check ‘em out for myself I think. You geek too much about them and the dude who made them. You seem like a biased source.”

“Geek? I don’t geek.”

“Oh?” Mikey shot me a smart look. “How many times have you name-dropped Jackson Merrus in the past week? Hell, the only reason I know that dude’s name is because you say it all the time.”

“How am I not supposed to get excited about med-tech visionary who is also a crazy adrenaline junkie? That doesn’t happen often. Besides, not only are those SmartBots going to make my job a lot easier once they make it out of trial, War Town is gonna make my free time a lot greater. It’s like Jackson Merrus was made to make my life better.”

“Okay, easy there, your murse is showing.”

Murse, I always hated that term. I had gotten a lot of odd looks and whispers since I started work as a nurse. You would think that in modern times a male nurse would not be such a big deal.

“I’ll bottle it all up, just for you, Mikey,” I said.

Mikey was right, I had been talking about those SmartBots and Merrus a lot. The closer the War Town opening got, the less I could hold it back. A city-sized paintball arena built by the greatest mind in medical technology was not something I would let slip my mind. It would be impossible really. I was reminded every time I went into work.

A bump in the road shook me back to reality. I looked out at the barren desert expanse ahead of us. With a close eye, I noticed ripples forming in the horizon. The silhouette or War Town was budding up in my vision.

Mikey’s fingers drummed again. “Oh man, I can’t wait to just rage in this place!”

“Same. I can’t wait to suit up and fight again.”

“Wear stronger sunscreen this time, bro. It’s been two weeks since our last game and you’ve still got those tan lines on your eyes.”

“When are these things gonna go away?” I looked in the rearview mirror and saw the light lines rolling across my skin. Protective goggles would do that to you.

“Chill out, surfer boy. I’m just messin’ with ya. No one’s gonna notice.”

Surfer boy, the only term I hated more than murse. I understood why people called me that, young tan guy with shaggy blonde hair and sky blue eyes, I certainly fit the description. Still, it made me seem like I was a dumb jock type of person. I’d never even touched a surf board.

“You know I hate it when you call me that,” I said.

“Simmer down, Olly, go lay in the sand or catch some sick waves, brah.”

“Stop it.”

“Don’t worry about those tan lines, you and I both know those are far from the worst thing you can get from this game.” Mikey looked at himself in the mirror, pointing at the scar under his right eye. After eight years it was almost gone, but I could still spot it. “You remember that?”

“Yeah, how could I forget?”

Back when we were in junior year of high school, Mikey and I went to LA’s biggest paintball tournament. Skipped school to go to it too. Literally five minutes after we head in Mikey took a hit right to the sweet spot below the goggles. If I had gone through nursing school before then, I’d like to think I would have done more than laugh at him.

“Man, our parents were so pissed at us.” Mikey grinned. “My mom still tells me every chance she gets that ‘That game will kill you kids!’”

“Never stopped us.”

“Because we’re gonna live forever,” we both chimed simultaneously.

“God, we were dumb back then.” Mikey snickered.

After a few more minutes of driving that little ripple in the horizon became a seemingly endless expanse of chain-link fencing surrounding a gargantuan complex of artificial urban wasteland protruding out of the sandy California basin. Mikey was right, no amount of pictures would ever do a justice for War Town.

The grand opening was limited to only a thousand tickets, but even from the edge of the parking lot we could tell more than that showed up. After five minutes of searching for a spot, Mikey found the closest one he could. The entrance still looked to be over a quarter mile off.

“Jesus, I thought this was exclusive,” Mikey said as we got out of the car.

“I think there’s people here hoping that one of the buyers don’t show.” I pointed to the main line formed beyond the entrance and to the clots of people sitting beside the fences, waiting for someone to give them a shred of hope.

“Who the hell wouldn’t come to this if they got tickets?” Mikey laughed as he grabbed his gear and paintball gun from the trunk. He tossed my gear and gun to me.

Compared to Mikey’s gear, it looked like I was carrying nothing more than a few pads and a mask. Mikey was about forty pounds heavier than me, all of that in muscle, and he towered a solid four inches over me. From the outside it probably looked like David and Goliath had settled their differences and walked it off.

The walk towards the back of the line was slow. Our pads kept us going at a snail’s pace. Neither of us cared though, we were both too enamored with the place to care just how long we took to get there.

“How big is this place again?” Mikey craned his neck despite there being nothing tall to look over.

“The website says ten square miles.” I looked down both sides of the fence. The complex extended as far as I could see both ways. “I believe it.”

“Jesus Christ. It had to cost that Merrus guy a fortune to build this place.”

“Somewhere in the nine figure range I’m sure.”

Mikey shook his head. “That dude is crazy.”

By the time we reached the line it was shortening. The sun was still fresh in the sky and still every ticket-holder able to make it was already there. I was sure we would be early, but we ended up with the last of the arrivals.

I looked ahead through the sea of people towards the entrance. A large sign welcomed everyone to War Town in bold red letters. Below the bright sign was the ticket booth, or rather, booths. I squinted and noticed each booth was marked with a color, Red and Blue. Above each color was a ticker to keep track of how many people were on each team. I had never seen anything like that before, but in a game of that size they had to find some way to make sure the teams were as close to even as possible.

“What team do you want to be on?” I asked.

“What teams are there?” Mikey looked over to the front gates. “Red and Blue?”

“Yep.”

“You wanna do same teams or different?”

“Have we ever done same teams, Mikey?”

“Figured I’d ask.”

It was true. For as long as we had been friends, Mikey and I never once played paintball on the same team. We liked going against each other in combat too much. Although in War Town it probably didn’t matter. With five hundred people on each team in a place the size of a large town, the chances of us coming against each other was minimal.

“So which team do you want?” I asked.

“Red is calling my name,” Mikey replied.

“Okay, I guess that makes me blue then. Blue is the better color anyway.”

“We’ll just see about that.”

A new voice entered our conversation, “You’re picking teams already?”

We both turned to a girl right in front of us, bright-eyed with a giddy smile, looking at us and awaiting an answer. Beyond her there was a short, muscular man giving our conversation a side-eyed glance.

“Yeah,” I replied. “We always like being on opposite teams, so it’s good to figure it out ahead of time.”

The girl’s smile widened. “Oh really? My friends usually stick together, but blue is my favorite color, so I might go with that regardless of what they pick.”

“Where are they at?” Mikey asked.

Her smile dwindled. “I got here a little late, they’re further up the line. They’re supposed to text me when they get through so I know what team they’re on.”

The short man giving us the side-eye turned the rest of himself in our direction and chimed in, “I hoped this would just be a giant free-for-all. Wouldn’t that be something?”

“That sounds like chaos.” The girl laughed.

“Sounds right up my alley,” Mikey said. “Maybe they’ll do that next time.”

“Teams make more sense for the price of the ticket,” I pointed out. “You wouldn’t want to drop a couple hundred dollars on a ticket just to be taken out in the first couple minutes. With teams everyone lasts longer.”

“Makes sense.” The short man gave a shrug. “I still wanna go for a free-for-all here if they ever have one later.”

While the line moved forward, Mikey and I made casual conversation and small talk with the people around us until the red welcome letters were staring right down at us and we were in their shadow. Up close, War Town looked far more foreboding. Almost every building was made from cement. There were a few wooden structures, but it all looked like an abandoned military bunker. Whatever the tournament had in store for us, I knew it would be epic.

It came to be our turn at the ticket booths. I looked up at the tickers above each color. Red needed just twenty more players, Blue still needed thirty. I looked behind us at the rest of the line. There looked to be the exact number needed behind us. The faces in the crowd hoping for a no-show hung low.

“See you on the other side, bro.” Mikey held out his fist. I bumped it with mine as he made his way to the Red Team ticket booth.

I walked to the Blue booth and fed my ticket into a machine. It was strange to see a ticket booth without an actual attendant, but I figured the best place to have a machine for that would be a place constructed by Jackson Merrus. After it processed my ticket, the machine unlocked the floor-to-ceiling turnstile and let me in.

The moment I walked through the gate, I was greeted with the other end of the booth dispensing a small Blackberry-like device, blue arm bands, and a blue clip to go around my gun. I clipped the blue plastic to the barrel of my gun, slid on the arm bands, and took the device. The screen showed a map of War Town and my location just beyond the front gate.

“Sky blue looks scary and intimidating,” Mikey said mockingly.

I looked up to see him a few feet away, sliding on his arm bands and attaching his red clip. “Blood red, how cliché,” I quipped. I looked down at my arm bands. “And I think this is more of a robin’s egg blue.”

Mikey rolled his eyes. “Whatever you say.” He raised his vision and pointed to something behind me. “I guess that answers the question of how we’ll all be getting around.”

I turned around and looked over the blue-clad sea of my team members and saw what he was pointing at. About a football field away from the crowd on my side was a large fleet of what looked like trolley cars. Each of them had exteriors painted in our shade of blue. I looked back and saw beyond Mikey’s crowd a fleet of red trolley cars.

“This place is amazing,” I said.

“Can you imagine doing a drive-by in one of those things? Just getting like five or six guys blasting out the sides as we rolled by? Epic.”

Before I could agree, a series of high-pitched tones came from loudspeakers above the ticket booths. I looked to the booths themselves to see the last few people trickling in. There were no tickers on our side, but I assumed they both read an equal five hundred.

“Attention! Attention!” the speakers let out a robotic female voice. “War Town has reached capacity for this round of gaming.” There was a collective groan and hiss from those still on the outside. “All players must board their team trolleys now, as they will automatically depart in ten minutes. I repeat, all team trolleys will depart in ten minutes. The trolleys will take all players into the center of the city where there will be a short tutorial. Gameplay shall commence at ten o’clock. Good luck.”

I set down my pads and took out my phone. Just after nine-fifteen. The game would start in only forty-five minutes. My foot tapped and my hands shook. Those minutes would go by like eternities, I knew it.

“Okay, man, see ya.” Mikey held out his fist again.

I bumped his knuckles against mine. “See ya.”

He headed towards the Red Team trolleys and I picked up my stuff and headed towards the Blue Team ones. As I walked with the crowd, a swift wind came through from outside the fences and I breathed it in. It was the crisp, warm air of mid-spring. Perfect weather for war. My favorite time of year.

2

The ride took about ten minutes before we reached the middle of War Town. All the way through, I couldn’t stop myself from looking at everything the place offered. There were buildings of all sizes and a realistic cityscape to go with them, complete with a grid street system and numerous alleyways. Along with all the buildings, large blockages and barricades dotted the roadside, some styled to look like sandbags or cars while others were just simple cement walls. The deeper we all went, the more surreal it all became.

By the time the trolleys made it to the town center my head was spinning. There was so much to take in all at once, so many things that could not have been any better. It was paradise, and it went on as far as I could see.

In the middle of the city sat a large park. It was the only place in War Town I had seen at that point that had grass and trees. It wasn’t until we came off the trolleys and walked over it that I realized the foliage was all fake. Jackson Merrus was willing to build an entire city dedicated to paintball, yet he wasn’t willing to build a park with real plants and trees.

Across the park space, I saw the Red Team getting off their trolleys and walking towards the center. I held one of my pads in my teeth to free my hand to check my phone. Nine-forty. There was still twenty minutes left where the teams could be civil.

I made my way to the front of the Blue Team crowd as we moved closer to the center of the park. Stuck in the middle of the faux plant life was a large cement rectangle, looking almost like an altar. A thick white line divided the park in half. As I got further in, I realized the line continued further and went down streets going both directions. A line to divide the city right in half.

By the time everyone had reached the middle I had made it to the front and center of the Blue Team crowd. I thought about the time, only twenty minutes left until game initiation. The team dividing line was just inches in front of me. On the other side of it stood the whole Red Team army. I thought that maybe front and center wasn’t the best place for me.

Just as I padded up one leg, the high-pitched sounds rang out again from loudspeakers spread across the park. I stopped what I was doing and looked up. As I did, my eyes found Mikey near the front of the Red Team crowd. We nodded at each other and exchanged cocky smiles.

“Good morning War Town players,” the robotic female voice said. “If you would please direct your attention to the buildings to your left and right, you will receive a short introduction by War Town’s creator, Jackson Merrus.”

My heart rose in my chest and a smile forced its way to my lips. I saw Mikey roll his eyes at that announcement. I looked to the left and saw a large screen lowering off the side of a tall building. Another screen was lowering down from a building on the opposite side of the park.

A projection activated. A young, smiling face showed up on the screen. I knew that long, strong-jawed face and chaotic head of black hair anywhere. Jackson Merrus had appeared.

“Good morning to all those lucky enough to be the first contestants of the War Town arena,” Merrus’s voice came through the loudspeakers and echoed off the buildings looming over the park. Applause and cheers came from the crowds. I wanted to cheer, but found myself too enamored with Merrus’s virtual presence. “I’m sure you’re all eager to begin your massive paintball game, and for that I apologize.”

My smile dissipated. Apologize? What on earth was he talking about? I watched the smile fade from his face, and he was freed from all welcoming expression.

“I am an adrenaline junkie myself,” Merrus’s projection went on. “I, just like all of you, would have loved the opportunity to play a round of paintball in the War Town arena. Unfortunately, I have not been truthful to you. War Town was not constructed for paintball, or any other popular sport a creative mind may envision for it. My city has an important, yet narrow purpose.”

Worried mutterings washed through the crowd. My heart sank back down to its proper place. I looked over at Mikey, he looked as confused as I felt. Everyone looked puzzled, some even scared.

“Now, this next point some of you may already know,” Merrus continued. “On the digital mapping devices you were all given, if you zoom out you will see a small dot on the screen indicating your team’s home base. What you all don’t know is what those bases are. On far sides of the map, deep into each team’s side of the city are tall hotel buildings. Within each hotel are exactly five hundred small rooms, complete with beds, individual food rations, running water, and clothing with your team color.”

The nervous murmurs evolved into a mess of confused comments. Some people spoke loudly, already to the point of almost yelling. Others remained quiet with their words, either too frightened or too uncertain to speak any louder.

I looked back to Mikey. His confusion had shifted into fear, I could see it in his face. My mind was swinging that way too. Merrus was talking nonsense, but if he was telling the truth about our bases then he had to have something in his head. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what it was.

Merrus’s face changed yet again. His mere lack of a smile became the slightest of frowns. His neutral gaze became lower and darker. Nothing made any sense, but I had a feeling it was about to.

Merrus continued, “After this speech concludes, the trolleys will no longer be automated and be open to player control and direction, which will allow both teams greater mobility for strategic attacks and swift infiltration of enemy territory. I suggest your first trip be to your team’s hotel, just to see I’m not lying. Or, if you prefer, you can pay a visit to the fences. After the trolleys left, the War Town perimeter fence and front gate turnstiles were connected to an electrical current of one hundred and fifty milliamps. Any aspiring electricians in the crowd may know that is a fatal shock.” Merrus raised a finger and wagged it from side-to-side. “I do not recommend touching.”

The semi-frightened conversations fell further into chaos as voices became louder and people began to yell. The whole mass of people shifted and swayed. People were getting scared, I was getting scared, and Merrus still had more to say.

“If anyone thinks that they are smart enough to get over my fences, I promise you that is not a sound idea. All buildings are much too far away to jump across, not like you would survive the fall. Even if you think of a way to bypass the fences, I have rigged the entire city with micro-cameras, the same technology I used in my SmartBots, which any medical practitioner is most likely aware of.”

A lump rose in my throat. Why would he use his life-saving technology to play some human ant farm game? The Jackson Merrus I saw on TV and read about in the press was a man dedicated to helping people, saving lives. That same man appeared before me in the middle of War Town, claiming that he turned his gaming arena into a deadly prison cell. It was impossible. It had to be some kind of joke.

“What will I do if anyone tries escaping the perimeter of War Town before the game is over?” Merrus asked rhetorically. “Let me show you.”

Suddenly, the concrete altar quaked. I backed away, as did everyone else close to it. The slab shook until the concrete cracked and fell away. After only a few seconds, the altar had broken down to unveil a large mechanical device encased in thick panes of glass. Atop the former altar was a long, thin screen displaying nothing but blackness.

“The device in the center of the park that has just been shown to you is a small nuclear weapon, constructed by yours truly. I hope you enjoy it. The device is capable of erasing all of War Town from existence in a fraction of a second.” People screamed and cried out over Merrus’s calm explanation. “When this recording ends, the timer on the device will start to count down. The timer will stop when the game is completed. If it reaches zero, all of you will be vaporized. If I witness anyone attempting escape from this place before the conclusion of the game, I will trigger it remotely. Easy to understand, yes?”

Crowds on both sides were plunging into chaos. Merrus’s voice was hardly audible over people screaming. Some had begun to cry. I was still waiting to hear the whole story, to understand just what the hell was going on.

“I’m sure all of you are wondering just what the point of all this is,” Merrus said. “Well, if you take a trip to your team hotel you will find a large metal door in the basement. On the other side of that door is an expansive cache of weaponry. Now, I don’t mean more paintball supplies when I say that. I mean real metal guns firing real lead ammunition, the kind that kills. The goal of the game remains the same: one team must eliminate the other. You have until this Sunday at ten in the morning to complete the game with the weapons provided for you. If one team does not eliminate the other in that time the nuclear device will eliminate you all. I suggest you all dump your paintball gear, it will do no good against real ammunition. Good luck, and let War Town begin.”

Merrus’s feed cut. Less than a second later, the screen atop the bomb lit up and began counting down. People around the bomb screamed and ran the opposite direction. Panic enveloped the crowds and people scattered. I stayed where I was, I had no idea where I wanted to go.

Once the crowds dispersed as people ran for the trolleys, a select few of us remained. Mikey was one of the people who stayed put. With slow, careful steps we approached each other, looking at one another across the dividing line with solemn, confused expressions.

“This all can’t be real, can it?” Mikey asked, his voice nearly inaudible.

I looked around to the other people approaching each other at the line. So many friends, family members, and couples all joined with separate teams to fight each other for fun. Suddenly the fun was gone, and they were still stuck on opposing sides. There was one couple only a few yards from us. They looked to be in their late teens. A tall skinny boy with long dark hair on the Red side, and a short, equally thin girl with blinding blonde locks on my side. Even with the distance between myself and them fear showed clearly in their faces. Just like Mikey, they were both hoping that none of it was real.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know.”

3

By the time I got to the Blue Team hotel, all hell had broken loose. Dozens of people sat on the sidewalk, in the street, and in alleyways by themselves. Many were curled into the fetal position. I didn’t blame them. Ever since that countdown started, my heart had been slamming against my ribcage as if its dying wish was the see the light of day.

The hotel itself didn’t make me feel any better. It was the tallest building around, by far. It took up over half of an entire block and stood ten stories above the street. Just like all the other buildings in the city, the hotel had no windows, only empty panes. When I first entered War Town, I figured the lack of glass windows was to keep people safe from serious harm. Now I didn’t know what to think.

Unable to stomach the sorrow outside, I headed through the front doors and into the large open room that stood as the lobby. The moment I walked in I understood why people had gone outside. Distraught people filled the whole space, crying, trying to get answers that would never come. In the corners sat groups of people all sitting down and weeping into their cell phones, trying their best to explain what was happening to whoever was on the other end.

I pulled out my phone and checked for a signal. It was weak, but I had some. I even had some data service to work with. Without a thought, I opened my contacts and scrolled down to my mom’s number. That was where I stopped. What would I even tell her if I called? What would I say if she asked anything? Everything was still a confused mess. The people huddled in the corners all bawled into their phones and I didn’t want to be like them. I put my phone away and leaned against a nearby wall.

My heart was beating even faster than before, exacerbated by all the yelling and sobbing. All I wanted to do was slide down to the floor and break down with the rest of them, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t just sit alone and hope for answers to come.

“Attention!” a voice boomed through the chaos. “Attention everyone!”

The source of the voice was a muscular man with a large, shaved head calling out from atop a table across the room. People were taking notice, but a lot of loud conversation and hysterics continued. I pushed myself off the wall and took a few steps towards the man on the table. He looked like he had himself together, the only person who was somehow calm.

The man cupped his hands around his mouth. “I’ve got a group of people here ready to take a trip down to the basement to see what there is down there. Anyone who would like to join us is welcome to. We all want answers to what is going on and we’re all scared, but it’s important to stay calm and collected. We’ll all be just fine if we keep our heads.”

After the man’s speech I was expecting someone from the crowd to resist, but no one did. The man on the table was a powerful speaker. He even got me convinced that everything would be okay in just those few short sentences. 

Once the man stepped down off the table, me and several others followed him as he headed for the main stairwell across the room. As we moved through the crowds, more caught up. By the time I reached the basement stairs, there were at least fifty people behind me, all searching for hope.

I moved through the hoard as we all descended to the basement. Before I could get far through the crowd, everyone stopped in their tracks. I lifted my head up to see above the heads in front of me. I immediately saw the reason everyone stopped. Right at the base of the basement steps was a large metal door, just like Merrus had said. It looked like the door off of a safe or an industrial refrigerator. The man from the table stood in front of it, motionless. People called out for him to open it.

After some tense moments of waiting, the man grabbed the handle to the massive metal door and pulled it open. A light flickered on inside the room. The crowd moved again and I made my way through them to get to the front. Once the cries and screams came, I stopped trying to move forward.

The room beyond the door was just as expansive as the lobby, but a grid of gun racks and ammo shelves split it up. I wanted an answer to what the hell was going on and I got it. We all got it. It just wasn’t the answer we were hoping for.

I trickled in with the rest of the front section of the crowd, scanning through all the weapons. There were so many different kinds and sizes. I had no idea where to start. There were racks of shotguns, hunting rifles, machine guns, and shelves full of pistols of every variety imaginable. I approached the pistols.

My knowledge on guns was the same as my knowledge on space shuttles: I knew they existed and what they did. I didn’t understand how they did what they did, nor did I ever expect I would have to operate one. Unfortunately, I wasn’t looking at a shelf of space shuttles to fly. My eyes were transfixed on a buffet of pistols, from old fashioned revolvers to a few that looked too futuristic to be operated by humans.

Without thinking, I picked one up. It was like I had just picked up a boat anchor. The thing was so heavy and cumbersome. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could shoot accurately out of something so massive. The weapon shook in my hands as I tried to look down the sights. I didn’t know if that was because of the weight or because of the fear-laced adrenaline pumping through my veins.

“Looks kinda big for you,” a familiar voice said. I turned to see the man from the table approaching me with a small, kind smile. It wasn’t until then that I realized just how tall the man was. He looked to be as tall as Mikey, if not a bit taller. He also looked a few years older than everyone else, closer to thirty than twenty. “Try this.” He handed me a pistol from further down the line. As soon as I held his choice in my hand I set down the boat anchor.

“What is this?” I asked. Compared to the other gun it was like I was holding a gun-shaped feather. “It doesn’t even feel like metal.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Mitch Goth currently resides in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he attends Antioch College on the Horace Mann Fellowship. When not writing, he spends his time investigating the paranormal and indulging in a good book or movie.

Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
Trying to capture the emotion of the situation presented as a whole, as well as in all the conflicts that rise out of it. I find that many stories like this gloss over the aspect of emotional and mental distress, and I wanted to make sure I captured that to the best of my ability throughout.
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A.
I didn't so much decide to become a writer as my brain made the decision for me. Ever since I was able to write, I have been writing stories. Almost everyday a new idea comes to me for a story, and if I didn't get them out of my brain and onto the page I would probably go crazy.
Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
The idea for the cover came from the idea of being trapped, which all the War Town participants are. War Town, and the horrors of it, were meant to be inescapable, and I wanted a cover that brought that out. The theme of an inescapable evil is central to the plot.

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