The Curse of Straw

This idea came from a friend. We were talking about D&D and how she first thought that “Curse of Strahd” was “Curse of Straw”. She told that what she imagined was very far from the dark cursed land of mist and vampires. We ended talking about corn mazes and Halloween. She will be DMing a one-shot this Halloween on the theme, while I decided to write my take on the horror of the corn maze. Might be written in multiple parts, or I might just update this post as I keep writing. Ihope you enjoy – Alixa

I was really excited to try this new game I bought. It was all anyone would talk about; a new VR adventure with a horror setting. “Live your horror movie” was how they advertised it. It was supposed to be a competitive game inside a maze with obstacles, puzzles, monsters trying to kill you while you looked for the trophy. Sounded exactly like my kind of fun.

So I put the headset on and turned on the console. I saw the loading screen and felt my heart beat faster. This was it. Right away, I was thrown into character creation. While it was a game with a lot of modern references, the races and classes were pretty traditional. I went for what I always go for, a rogue elf. I heard rogues could branch off into gun wielding; I was really curious to see how that would work within the modern fantasy setting.

After a bit of character customization, I was immediately thrown into a tutorial. I got to try out my starting abilities and get used to the controls. As usual, I did a couple bot games to really get a good feel and gain some experience. Then, once I felt confident enough, it was straight to PvP matches.

The second we loaded into the randomly generated corn maze, I knew something was wrong. It felt so different from the practice games with AI only. Strangely enough, I could feel the wind on my skin. I could smell the wet ground and the sweetness of the ripe corn. As I heard the other players warp in, I turned to them and saw the same confusion on their face.

One of them, a small gnome heavily armored, threw a stone to the large and scantily clad orc.

– Ow, he let out as the rock bounced off his huge bicep. Wait, what the hell? How did I feel that?

We all looked at each other, confused. None of us had any answers.

– Can’t log off either, said the gnome. Looks like we’ll have to play this out, whatevr this is.

As all the fiction I had read and watched about people being trapped in a virtual world came rushing back to me, we heard the overhead voice resonated with the usual announcement.

– The match will start in 1 minute, please get ready.

What came next confirmed my worst fears.

– Fight for the prize, or die trying. Only one can go home, it’s your only way out.

This was it. A match to the death for the right of going home. We were all a bit stunned from this announcement as we were processing it. Then laughter resounded. We all turned to look at the half-demon sorceress.

– Wait, she said, you guys actually believe this shit? Clearly just something to spice up the launch. Come on, if you’re not going in, winning will be way too easy. See ya bitches!

And she disappeared in a flash of smoke. Great.

The paladin gnome shrugged and walked towards to entrance of the maze.

– Whatever. Real or not, I’m winning this. Good luck!

He waved as the half-orc and I stayed behind. The last ones to go.

– So uh, wanna team up? I mean, just for now, until we figured this out?

I smiled at the big guy and nodded. If it was all a joke, there was no harm in getting a bit of help now and betray him later on. If it was real, well… The voice did say only one could go home. I wasn’t about to be one of those tragic heroes to die trapped in a game.

– Sure, why not.
– I’m Chad.

His gamertag showed something completely different above his head, but I shook his hand.

– Alixa. Nice to meet you Chad.

And that’s how the fight for our lives started.

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