Write Your Own Adventure

Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the Choose Your Own Adventure series. When Goosebumps picked up the formula, it was always a treat to buy the latest version from the Scholastic book fairs or find them in the library at school.

Those adventures were always geared towards kids, and I thought it might be interesting to take that concept and develop it into a more adult-oriented version and allow the community to choose how the adventure might proceed. Unlike those books, where the options and plot lines were self-contained and you could always flip ahead to see what might happen next, in this version the community will choose the “action,” and I, the writer, will be forced to adapt the story accordingly.

The story will also be written from the third person/omniscient point of view, rather than the second person (“you” form) those stories often employed. It will end up a bit different from the norm set by those other titles, but I think it will be an interesting experiment, nonetheless.

How it will work is every so many days (about once a week, most likely, depending on response times and submission volume), I will introduce a new portion of the story based on the responses from the previous section’s poll. Whichever poll option has the highest number of votes will be the “decision” that carries the story forward. In cases where there is a tie, I will use a random number generator to decide which option gets selected.

I have no idea how long the story will end up being, but I think the ending should come naturally over time. Hopefully, we can have multiple stories, in the long run, depending on the receptiveness of visitors to the blog. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

WARNING! READER BEWARE! Although I try to keep my YouTube and podcast content generally clean, this story may contain foul language, violence, and adult situations. Please bear this in mind before proceeding.

Broken Fortress

Part One

The computer fan whirred, indicating the hamsters were working up a sweat on their proverbial wheels. Whatever this program was doing, the computer didn’t much like it.

ENTER GIVEN NAME

Marcus Pasko folded the overlarge wad of gum in his mouth with his tongue, then began chewing it again with zeal. He didn’t register its taste–his mind was focused fully on the green text on black background that blinked into life before him. Nice touch, he thought, tapping his fingers on the keyboard. Very Matrix. He typed.

MARCUS

The fans spun again. He reached his hand over to the back of the full tower that housed his latest amalgamation of solid state hard drives, high-speed RAM, and overclocked CPU cores. Cool to the touch, but why were the fans working so hard?

FALSE. ENTER GIVEN NAME.

Marcus thought for a moment, then typed: MARCUS PASKO.

There was no whirr this time–the fans slowed to their normal speed.

CONFIRMED. MARCUS PASKO. 3559 ANALOG COURT, LINCOLN, NE–

Marcus stopped reading–his rapid-fire chewing slowed to a metronomic beat. Oh shit.

The computer generated a beep that sounded very similar to its boot-sequence tone, and the black screen dissolved away. In its place, a simple .gif image appeared, its grainy appearance speaking to its low resolution. It showed a dilapidated building composed of gray granite blocks. The mortar was cracked in many places, and one entire side of the building’s facade had crumbled in on itself. A steel scaffolding stood in the foreground as if someone had recently begun piecing the structure back together.

As Marcus examined the picture for any possible clues, his mind wandered to the conversation he’d had with Jeremy the previous night. I can’t believe you got picked! Jeremy had said, clapping Marcus on the shoulder. He popped the top off his own bottle of beer and dashed it against Marcus’s. It took me forever to figure out my puzzle, but once I did they sent me a certificate and five hundred dollars cash.

“Don’t you think that’s kind of weird?” Marcus had asked, cautiously tasting his beer. He didn’t much care for the stuff, but Jeremy practically forced him to drink it. He didn’t dare waste a drop in the man’s presence.

“No, dumbass! It’s Mister Incog–he, or they, maybe, are notorious for rewarding people for thinking outside the box. I told you all this before, man–come on. Get with it.” His beer was nearly half gone already, Marcus observed. “It’s the chance of a lifetime, and only like five people in the history of The Lobby Project have gotten to the end.”

Marcus shook his head; he dared another sip. “The Lobby Project–what a stupid name. I bet I solve it in two days.”

“I bet you don’t.”

“Three days, then.”

Jeremy shook his head. “No, I mean I bet you don’t solve it. Period. Seeing you’re dumb as shit and all.”

“Hilarious.” Then he’d chugged the rest of his beer just to show his friend up.

Now, sitting in his gaming chair and gazing at the granular image, Marcus thought he could still taste the beer on his tongue. Losing interest in the image, he returned to the program’s icon on his desktop, pondering if it would open back up to the image if he closed out and reopened it. As he reached for the keyboard to exit the program with his alt and F4 keys (for some reason it didn’t open in a traditional window, and had no options to exit normally), he noticed something. In the corner of the infamous Lobby Project icon, he saw a tiny red splotch.

Marcus pulled up his file explorer window and located the program folder for the Lobby Project. He found the icon, opened it in his image editor program, and increased its size by 300 percent. The red splotch transformed into a very abstract-looking sad face, complete with a crimson pixelated circle, single pixel eyes, and downward-facing mouth.

Wondering if it had always been a part of the logo and he’d simply missed it before, Marcus visited the Lobby Project’s website. “We own your future,” read the site header, and Marcus scoffed. Right. His eyes wandered to the center of the webpage, where the bright green and blue logo was exhibited in all its glory. It took up nearly a quarter of the page, and the two interlocking globes showed no sign of red anywhere. Marcus thought it was strange that the desktop icon would show it, but he figured it was likely just an indication that he had yet to solve the overall puzzle. Perhaps when he did, it would turn into a green smiley face. Well, whatever the case, he’d be damned if Jeremy was going to mock him for the rest of eternity for failing to figure it out.

He closed the browser window, returned to the Lobby Project’s still-open window, and pressed his alt and F4 keys. The window disappeared, and he double-clicked the icon on his desktop. Surprisingly, it was as if he’d never closed the window at all–the image popped back into view without a hitch, and he was again looking at the crumbling gray fortress.

The hairs on the back of Marcus’s neck stood up, and he felt an ice cube slide into his stomach. Hanging from the scaffolding was a little girl in a pink dress–her hand was firmly wrapped around one of the steel supports, and her legs dangled from the wooden platform. Her eyes were turned away from Marcus, but he thought she looked afraid.

Not funny, he thought, realizing that it was simply meant to spook him into not wanting to continue. It would be very easy for the program to generate a new image upon reopening, and he knew it was completely harmless fun. Jeremy had said there were times he’d been afraid to continue, and this was an example of that. Marcus moved his mouse cursor over the girl’s face and clicked it a few times. “Pow-pow-pow!” he said, then chuckled to himself.

As he moved the cursor away from her face, a new button appeared over the image. It was centered on what had once been the structure’s front door–it was now merely more than a few slats of rotted wood leaning against the outer wall–and it flashed blue and green like the Lobby Project’s logo. “Enter,” it said, and Marcus hovered his cursor over it.

Time to decide, he thought. Jeremy’s face swarmed into his mind’s eye, a beer to his lips, his eyes glinting with wry humor. Marcus had no idea what the button would do, but he’d come this far, right? What was a little further?