Crisis in Dorm 31A1

1 requires familiarity with the arcade game Gauntlet.

“Okay, look,” says Elf. “We’re on our last three cups of ramen, so . . .”

Pop.

Elf sighs.

“Our last two cups . . .”

Pop.

Elf turns and shelters the last cup with his body. “For the last time, don’t shoot food!”

Valkyrie looks embarrassed enough to be about to die. “Sorry.”

“Why do you do it?”

“The Atkins diet must be getting to me,” she says. “Everything looks like a monster.”

Elf sighs. He gestures around the apartment. “Look,” he says. “We’ve been over this.”

He stomps to the closet. He opens the door. Closet monsters begin to boil forth. Some of them look like shirts. Others, like shelves. A few, like laundry cast recklessly onto the closet floor. Valkyrie hesitates.

“Go ahead,” Elf says.

Valkyrie shoots the monsters. She shoots them over and over again, a glorious tide of slaughter, until at last Elf can close the closet door again.

“My Psych 101 teacher says that the closet generates monsters because humans are primed to recognize dangerous patterns,” Valkyrie says. “Eventually, we learn to expect safety in our closet. Then the monster generator deactivates, until there’s, like, a wasp in there or something, or a heightened threat mode.”

Elf wiggles a hand. “I dunno. Green doublets, chainmail bikinis—they could be breeding mutant hybrids.”

“With legs?”

“Closet monsters without legs are evolutionarily inferior and likely to lose the grand competition of life,” Elf says. “Moving on.”

He leads her over to the computer. He turns it on. Data ants begin to march forth from the screen.

“Can I shoot them?”

“Don’t shoot Windows!” Elf cautions. “But yes.”

Valkyrie shoots. She kills data ant after data ant. Eventually, she clears the screen. It’s just Windows XP, looking at her.

“Please?” she says.

“Use potions to shut down Windows,” Elf explains.

“Oh!”

Valkyrie throws a potion. Windows hibernates. Elf looks around the room. Then he points at the bookshelves.

“They’re a generator?” Valkyrie asks.

“They generate storage!”

Valkyrie attempts to shoot the storage. Pop.

“That was my last cup of ramen,” Elf says, aggrievedly.

“I don’t know where the storage is,” Valkyrie says. “It can’t be where the books are, but it can’t be where they aren’t!”

Elf frowns. “Great,” he says. “Now I’ll be fretting about that all night.”

“Sorry.” Valkyrie looks sad enough to be about to die.

“It’s all right,” Elf says. “Anyway, so, if it’s coming out of the closet, or the bookshelves, or the computer, shoot it. If it’s not, then it’s not a monster. It might be food. Or it might be an item!”

We’re an item,” says Valkyrie cheerfully.

“Don’t shoot me,” frets Elf.

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