June 30; 09:34 – 49 Days Remain
Heath Prescott slowly opened his eyes and scowled.
So I’m not even allowed to die peacefully. So much for ‘eternal rest’...
But he was curious what the host was expecting to come of forcing his participation. The host never seemed to imply that contestants weren’t allowed to kill themselves as soon as the game started. Why even bother bringing him into this? The host obviously already knew a lot of information about him, so it probably knew he would try to forfeit as soon as he got the chance.
Heath suddenly noticed that there was a weight around him. He looked down. There was a webbed hand resting on his waist. He yelped and jumped out of the bed, falling off onto the floor. A loud thump echoes through the room.
“Ah...” The other person who was now alone in the bed sat up and rubbed their eyes. Heath sat up after catching his breath and looked up at him. It was a frog.
“What’s wrong, honey? Were you having a nightmare?”
Heath sat completely still, utterly mortified. He forgot he got put in somebody else’s body. Looking down, he found a coat of strange yellow-black fuzz. It wasn’t exactly fur but...
Oh, fuck. I’m the bee from the end of the row.
The amphibian crawled to the edge of the bed and looked down at heath, sitting on the floor and shivering.
“Siya? Are you okay? Do I need to call a doctor?” His eyes widened, apparently concerned for Heath’s wellbeing. Or, Siya’s wellbeing.
“Y-Yeah. I’m fine-” It was someone else’s voice. The sensation made him pause for a moment. It was certainly a strange juxtaposition.
“What’s going on?” The frog, who was presumably Siya’s romantic partner, sat up and looked down at Heath with worried eyes.
“U-uh... I need to tell you something, but... I don’t know how to tell you this without sounding like I’m completely insane.” Heath could feel a sense of anxiety and strangely, some sort of guilt forming within him. The frog scoffed.
“Siya. You know I trust you no matter what. What kind of crazy are we talking about? Is it time travel? If it’s you-know-what, just give me the password and-” Heath interrupted him before he could continue.
“I’m not... I’m not Siya.” They both went quiet for a few moments, staring at each other.
“Like... as in you were using a pseudonym this whole time, or...”
“No, no, I’m literally a different person from who was in this body yesterday.”
The two both went quiet again. The frog looked up to the ceiling.
“Huh. So, who am I talking to then?”
“My name is Heath Prescott. I’m an investment adviser from Laita.” He answered reflexively because he was used to introducing himself.
“Nice to meet you! I’m Chester Leas. Do you know why you’re in Siya’s body?”
Heath didn’t answer the question. He sat there; mouth slightly open, completely dumbstruck.
“You... are you kidding me? You believe me just like that?”
The frog smiled at him. “Of course, I do. You’re in Siya’s body, and I trust her more than my own eyes. If you say you aren’t her, I believe it without a doubt in my mind.”
Heath sighed and looked at the ground. He’d never once in his life met somebody so unconditionally trusting. That ambiguous guilt continued building up inside him, but he wasn’t sure what it meant.
“I... I do know why. Siya Dayal died exactly seven weeks from today, along with me and five others. Instead of just... fading away, some sort of jackass god pulled all of us onto a stage and is forcing us to play some sort of fucked up game show where we all get sent back into one another’s bodies from seven weeks before we died, and we have to find each other to win.” Chester chuckled a few moments after the explanation.
“That’s a hell of a predicament! You can tell me more about the game later, I guess. So, do you know who is in who’s body?”
“I don’t. There were some big names, though. Wayne Frederick and Forrest Vera were both there.” Chester gasped.
“I’m not sure who Vera is, but Wayne Frederick?! Does that mean he died a few weeks from now? How in the hell did someone like him die?”
Heath sighed. “Nobody seemed eager to talk about how they died.”
He suddenly realized that a smile had crept onto his face, just from talking with Chester. He couldn’t even remember the last time he passively smiled like that.
“Um... Pardon my asking, but do you mind telling me how you died?”
The smile faded away instantly.
“I... I’m sure legally speaking I was murdered, but... I knew what I was doing. I provoked somebody to kill me. It... I deliberately got myself killed.”
“Oh.” A look of indescribable pity filled Chester’s eyes as he looked down at Heath.
“Come on, don’t look at me like that...”
They sat beside each other in a few moments of anxious silence. Heath broke their eye contact and looked away.
“Not even my therapists, they... Nobody I talked to ever understood what it’s like to feel like nothing is worth it! It’s like they all were just born with a reason to live! I-I-…” Heath paused.
Chester had hopped down from the bed onto the floor next to Heath and hugged him tightly. Heath didn’t understand how to react. He couldn’t even remember a time in his life when somebody hugged him.
“It’s okay. I’m not judging you.” Chester spoke softly from behind Heath’s head. Despite his instincts, Heath hugged Chester back as he felt hot tears rolling down his cheeks. He buried his face in the man’s shoulder as he sobbed.
“I tried everything, really! A-all kinds of therapy and medicine, but nothing ever got rid of that... fucking gnawing emptiness. That the world didn’t need me. I... I just wanted to...”
“Heath, I know how you felt. How you feel, even if I don’t completely understand it.”
Heath leaned away and stared at the man in front of him. He was sobbing too.
“H-how... What do you-”
“My brother and I... We were really close growing up. A lot of people joked that we were telepathic and whatnot. I’m not sure what exactly started it, but... he started feeling like you did. And he talked about it all the time; as if I felt the same way he did. I was young, so I didn’t exactly understand what was happening to him... but he... he threw his life away. I was the one who found him.”
Heath turned away, wincing at the pain in his chest.
“I can’t pretend to know firsthand what it feels like, but I do know what it feels like to watch it happen to someone. So, please don’t make me live through that again.”
Heath couldn’t even make eye contact. He couldn’t bear to see the look on the man’s face.
“I can tell just from the way you were talking. You never intended to participate in whatever this game is. Can… Can you please just promise me you’re not going to kill yourself again in the body of the love of my life?”
Against his better judgement, he turned to look at Chester’s face. He felt his stomach drop. The sorrow in the man’s eyes was indescribable. Heath looked at the floor and wiped the tears from his face.
“I-I'm sorry. I…”
He doesn’t deserve to have to deal with that. God, fuck, I…
“I promise I'll stay until we can get your… Uh... Wife? I'm not actually sure your relationship with her.”
Chester laughed through his tears and smiled at the man in Siya’s body.
“She's my girlfriend, but we've been together for years. We just don't wanna' tether or finances or have kids, so why marry?”
“Well… I promise I'll help you find your girlfriend again.”
The two meekly smiled at each other for a few moments. It was a very peaceful quiet. The atmosphere of the quaint little apartment felt like a soft blanket over the two men in vulnerable emotional states.
“So… what now?” Heath broke the silence. Chester looked at the ceiling and thought for a few moments.
“Well, you just need to find the other six, right?”
“I mean, there were a shit ton of rules, but yeah.”
“Well… if you remember your phone number, why not just call whoever took your body?”
Heath's eyes widened.
“Shit, that was so obvious. Where is Siya's phone?”
His amphibious new friend reached on to of the nightstand and handed over a smartphone with a light purple case.
“Oh yeah, I also don't know the password.”
Chester chuckled as he took the phone back and unlocked it before passing it again.
The wallpaper was a photo of Siya and Chester kissing on a cliff face with a gorgeous view behind them. It was a lovely photo, but he didn't want to get caught up. Heath opened the dialer and entered his number. He hesitated for a moment before pressing the call button.
God, this is gonna' be so fucking weird.
He pressed the button and held the phone up to his ear, anxiously listening to each ring.
[“This about Second Chance?”] Heath heard his own voice answer the phone. He let out a low chuckle.
“Yeah. So, who ended up in my body?”
[“Forrest Vera.”] she responded curtly.
“Ha! Obviously, I’m Heath. I got dumped in Siya’s body. She was the bumblebee at the other end of the row. I’m here with her boyfriend who for some reason completely believed me about the game. Have you figured out who’s in your body yet?”
[“Hahaha, it sounds like you got lucky! Pleasure to meet you again. No, I haven’t. I’ve tried calling my phone a few times, but it seems like they either turned it off, or they keep denying them. I swear to god if that fucking elephant...”] She trailed off into an inaudible murmur.
[“Regardless, we should try to meet up as soon as possible. We need to find out who is going to be difficult to track down or cooperate with. I trust you’re looking to try for a group victory as well?”]
Heath paused and took a few moments to think before answering the question.
“Well... It’s not very cut-and-dry for me, but I can assure you that I don’t intend to play it solo. I’ll cooperate.”
Forrest sighed exasperatedly. [“You had me worried for a couple seconds there... Well, that’s good to hear anyway. Where do you want to- Oh, shit. The one in my body is calling me back. Hold on a moment, I’m gonna merge the call.”]
Faint tapping was audible over the call. Suddenly, a little chime played. Forrest spoke up first.
[“Alright, this is Forrest calling. I just merged the call with Heath, who got put in Siya’s body. That’s the belligerent lizard and the bee respectively.”]
“Hey, don’t call me-” Heath tried to interject but was interrupted by the voice of the third person in the call.
[“I understand. I am 026. I apologize for being unable to receive your calls for the past few hours; I have been very busy and was passing through an area with no service.”]
[“W-… Huh? It’s only been a few hours since we started and you’re already going somewhere? What in the hell are you doing?!”] Forrest shouted the same question that was on Heath’s mind.
[“My top priority is to rescue Opal Espeia, who was placed in my original body. She is in grave danger of being killed, or even worse, imprisoned somewhere we will never be able to retrieve her from. This worst-case-scenario would prevent any of us from beating the game.”]
“What the fuck? Didn’t you say you worked for Atlas? Why would a peacekeeping organization-”
[“Forrest Vera and Heath Prescott. I am going to ask you to decide whether I should attempt a solo victory. I know what you would answer if I asked right now, but I’m going to tell you something that will make the question much more difficult.”]
[“W-what...?”] Forrest sounded worried, and Heath was already too confused to speak up.
[“Forrest Vera. You did not die by accident.”] They spoke it with the authority of a monarch, as if the idea was not even possible to deny.
[“You were assassinated by Atlas because your campaign was gaining too much traction and was deemed a threat to the long-term goals of Atlas.”]
[“You... what... why would they-”] He could hear the famously confident politician’s voice shaking.
[“Atlas is an international paramilitary organization intent on sparking war between the Union and Republic in order to insert themselves as a mediator purely for financial gain. In the next decade, Atlas will be able to amass enough influence over these two nations to effectively control the entire world. The reason I died was because I found out the truth and was promptly branded as a traitor.”]
Nobody knew how to react. Even Chester who had been listening in had a fearful look in his eyes. This couldn’t possibly be true.
[“Knowing this, do you think I should try to win a solo victory in order to take the body of an Atlas executive and destroy it from the inside, or do you think I should value your second chance over the future of our world?”]