Ben held his breath as his eyes stared downward, shimmering with both fear and hope.
The light faded to reveal his fate. It was…
A ripped off corner of a paper with some scrawling on it.
Ben embraced his doom tightly like a long lost lover. In his head, he wrote a bucket list of things to do over the next and final month.
[You have gained Divine Pick Up Line(Consumable, Fine) x1]
"Wait. Divine? That should be a good thing. Then why does this look like a note someone would pass in 3rd grade? The paper isn't even big enough for me to write a goodbye letter to my family.".
After a while, Ben surmised that humans just wouldn't be able to understand the artistic sense of whatever god or demon created this system. Instead of pondering the imponderable, he sought more information about the item.
[Divine Pick Up Line(Consumable, Fine) x1 - Use on any woman to quickly raise her attraction to you by a significant amount]
Ben's breathing became heavy. 'This is it...' He spotted a glimmer of light up above, a possibility of escaping the deep crater he was stuck in. This little scrap of paper could be his life-saving rope.
The door opened and a teenage boy that Ben had never seen entered the dorm room. The boy's eyebrows raised when he saw that Ben was already inside. He put his luggage down, straightened his posture, and approached Ben in a formal manner for a handshake. Not wanting to be disrespectful, Ben stood up and shook hands with him.
"Hello, I take it you are Benjamin? I'm Fariq, from India, and we will be roommates from now on. It is a pleasure to meet you. I did not expect to share a room with an established entrepreneur, which is my great honor."
Ben's death sentence had distracted him to the point that he forgot his roommate was coming today. Yet, there was one part of what Fariq said that confused him.
"Entrepreneur?" Ben asked, squinting.
Fariq's back became even straighter. "I have seen the large number of orders at our front door. I am very impressed. It is only the first day and yet you've started a business already. What is the business model? A Mexican delivery food service?" He stared at Ben as if looking at a mentor. Fariq was in the business program, so he needed to learn from real-world start-ups like this if he wanted to launch his own company in the future.
Ben's face was gloomier than a necromancer's Facebook page. "It's nothing great like that. That's a misunderstanding."
Fariq nodded over and over in appreciation. "Modesty is a virtue. Good. Good. I can see that I will learn much from you and am looking forward to becoming friends."
'…Friends.' To Ben, that word was like an idiom in a foreign language; He knew the translation, but he didn't understand the true meaning. 'When was the last time I had a friend outside of chat rooms?'
Ben could see that Fariq was sincere and it improved his mood. 'It's my first day and I've already made a friend.' He found hope for the future. 'That's right, this is the beginning of my wonderful future. I may have made many mistakes in the past, but I'm still young and have infinite possibilities ahead of me. Who's to say I can't accomplish great things?' It was the spring of his youth!
[29 days and 23 hours remaining until eradication]
'Oh my god, Debbie Downer is living in my head! I didn't need to hear that just now!'
[Would you like to turn off the hourly alarm?]
'It seems like the system also responds to thoughts. Yes, f*cking turn it off. It's not like I'll soon forget the approach of my impending death…' His mental ramblings were interrupted by the sound of a wild animal.
Ben looked down at his stomach and realized he hadn't eaten all day. He took the train in the morning, then was busy with registering and organizing his dorm room all day. Having already washed off the brown waste that covered him earlier, he decided it was a good time to go downstairs and try out the dorm cafeteria. It was getting late so he hoped it hadn't closed yet. Ben invited Fariq, who couldn't go because he had to contact his family and unpack. So Ben went alone.
As Ben passed through the halls, his face brightened up a little because someone had taken down the meme posters of him. 'I guess there are good people in the world.' He used the elevator to reach the ground floor and walked toward the cafeteria. As he passed the entrance, someone next to him yelled, "Hey, Burrito King!"
Ben looked over and found Tyler, one of the people who put up those posters of him everywhere. Ben's mood dropped like a stone again. He thought he'd left his dark past of bullying behind, but it didn't even take a day for people to push him down, burying him in the same lightless hole.
"You still taking orders?" Tyler and another student laughed in Ben's face as they got drinks from the vending machine.
Ben wanted to stand up for himself, but he wasn't a fighter. He made his stand once when he was younger. That's when he learned how much crueler reality was than the movies. The only result of his bravery was a beating from a bully that put him in bed for two weeks. Since then, he always kept his head down, having understood that walking in shame was better than lying down in it.
As Ben prepared to walk away, he caught a powerful scent of floral perfume exuding from behind him. When he turned around, it only took an instant, but what he saw mesmerized him.
Standing there was a gorgeous girl. She had an exotic Mediterranean face like a femme fatale from a James Bond movie. Olive skin complimented her neck-length dark hair, which waved when she moved like ocean currents under dim moonlight. She was talking on the phone and hadn't noticed Ben drooling yet.
Ben gulped. 'What a beauty...'
*Sneer* "Don't even dream about it, you scrub," Tyler said when he saw Ben gazing at the girl, lost in a trance.
Ben clenched his fists, shivering. 'I can't even daydream in peace?!?'
With heavy breathing, he took out the consumable Divine Pick Up Line from his pocket and stared at it for a long time...
Was this the moment? He hadn't seen such a beautiful girl since arriving in Manhattan, but this was his life he was playing with. Failure meant probable death. His heartbeat sped up as he grasped the realization that this was the most important decision he'd ever made. One chance. That's all he had.
'Should I use it now?'
*Author's Note: If you're enjoying the story, please don't forget to add it to your library so you'll have an easier time finding it later.