Author's Note: You're either going to get this one or you're not. Let's just say that the computer game in question is one of the oldest ones out there. I’m not sure anyone officially owns it, even,
No, not "Pong."
Disclaimer (whoops): The Buffy characters were created by Joss Whedon.
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Flashlight in one hand, crossbow in the other, Buffy cursed to herself as she walked through the caverns beneath Sunnydale. Vampires and demons alike had run screaming, sometimes literally, from the creature they said had taken up residence there.
The creature had apparently since fallen into one of its regular sleep-cycles -- and fortunate for the town, Giles had said, because otherwise the local population would have taken a serious nose-dive.
Serious even for Sunnydale.
The scariest thing about the whole situation is that the normal monsters of Sunnydale had said they would lay low until Buffy took care of the creature. And, a week later, they were keeping their word. Not a single mysterious death in the timeframe.
Sadly, for Sunnydale, that was a record.
Buffy had been gung-ho about Slaying the thing until Giles had explained the creature’s origins: An unholy mix of sorcerers had created it as an indestructible guard, vulnerable only to one weapon: A crossbow bolt they themselves had created.
Apparently they’d forgotten to actually include in their number anyone who actually knew how to work a crossbow. By the time any of them could have figured it out, they were too busy being digested to do anything about it.
The Council had come in and retrieved the crossbow bolt. Over the intervening centuries, the creature had surfaced at irregular intervals, usually munching through sections of the local population before disappearing again. Three attempts to kill it had failed, though they’d managed to retrieve the all-important bolt each time. (They’d duplicated it once. But they weren’t about to send her two. She was lucky the Council had sent her one; Giles had said, “For this, the Council will ignore our differences. Killing this creature is the highest of priorities. Only an impending apocalypse would rank higher.”)
These particular caverns had another problem: They’d been the home, long ago, to a cult that had worshipped a slime god. And while the cult had long since disappeared – slime thou art, to slime returnest – their sacrificial pits were still there. Buffy’d narrowly avoided falling into one already. Only her Slayer reflexes had let her jump over it without falling in. Anyone without them would have been drowning in slime.
From what she could see of the slime, she wouldn’t wish it on her worst enemy.
Since then, she was paying more careful attention. Slime on the tunnel or cave walls usually indicated one of the pits was nearby.
Finally, there were the bats. Not normal bats; Buffy wasn’t fond of them, but once you got past Dracula those weren’t especially scary. No, these were giant bats. Apparently the creature kept them around as guards. They were large enough to pick people up. They’d tried it once with Buffy and tried to drop her into a slime pit.
Thankfully, while the creature might have been invulnerable, the bats weren’t. She hacked and slashed until the creature shrieked and let her go. Since then, a wave of her sword had been enough to keep them at bay – but they were lurking.
Since then, Buffy had been looking up. These things tended to linger on the cavern roofs. She’d killed another one, but there were at least two more lingering out there. Still –
Was that blood?
Yes it was. The creature was nearby. How nearby, Buffy couldn’t be sure yet. It was a messy eater and left blood damn near everywhere.
Now was the time to be careful. It wasn’t light-sensitive, so Buffy didn’t need to turn off her light; but it did have an acute sense of hearing and smell.
This made hunting it a bit of a problem. If Buffy got close enough to see it, it was too late. The creature’s instincts were “munch first, ask questions never.” And since it was still alive nearly five hundred years after it had been created, Buffy was going to have say those were pretty good instincts.
Fortunately, the sorcerers who’d created the creature hadn’t been complete wastes of oxygen; they’d designed the bolt so that, if the creature was in the vicinity, the bolt would find it and hit it unerringly. Buffy had to fire it in the right general direction, but that was about it.
Of course, it would have been better if they’d never developed the creature at all. But they apparently hadn’t thought of that.
Still shooting the creature was no easy task when you had to deduce where the thing was based on nothing more than some blood-stained walls. Sherlock Holmes she was most emphatically not.
She crept forward.. Hmm. No blood in this one. “Colder,” she muttered to herself, and went back to the other cavern.
There were four exits: Two she’d already explored.
She took the one on the left wall. It curved a bit before reaching another blood-soaked room. There were three more exits.
Going back to the earlier unoccupied, bloodless room, she walked in what she assumed was the general direction on the bloodstains –
And there they were.
One tunnel led her back to the earlier room. One tunnel led her into a room with slime and blood on the walls. Giles was definitely springing for a dry-cleaner when she got out of here.
And a night at a luxury spa.
While she was wishing, she’d take a pony.
Maybe if she got lucky the creature would eat it.
One more backtrack, then out the final other path.
Another blood-soaked chamber. If she was right, the room with the blood and slime was to her right, another bloody room to her left.
The creature had to be in the chamber off the far wall.
She had one chance.
She loaded the crossbow, aimed at the far tunnel, and fired.
She got ready to run, not that would likely do anything other than get her killed ten seconds later.
The scream from the next room told her she didn’t have to. It was an almost human scream, and clearly in agony; Buffy would have almost felt sorry for the creature if A, it wasn’t a mass murderer, and B, didn’t sound remarkably like an agitated Daffy Duck.
The screams died down. She crept forward, shining the flashlight.
There it was. Surrounded by blood and the occasional bone. Dead.
Her first, odd, thought was that everyone who designed the creature must have been colorblind. It was bright red. As in, the color of middle-aged men’s wet dream Ferraris, bright red.
It was about eight feet tall, half of which was head. Most of that was mouth. The creature could have swallowed a mule deer whole.
She supposed she’d need to prove to everyone that she’d killed, it, so, grumbling to herself, she began to slice off its head.
Still, despite the blood, the slime, and the necessity of lugging a three-hundred pound monster head through a good mile of twisting cave, she was happy.
She’d pulled it off.
She had, successfully, hunted the wumpus.
X X X X X
Author’s Note: Hunt the Wumpus. Look it up. It’s playable online. And fun. I'm not sure who created the concept, but there are several versions, both text and graphic. And in any event, it wasn't me who created either the concept or the mythology.