The faded sign on the door simply said ‘Welcome to the Ball Pit.’ The door had been welded to the frame, bolted and draped with locked chains. With the partially lit hallway, it was clear that this supposed to be found.
Vicky stared at the door, puzzled, “we have a ball pit?”
“Apparently,” Kyle said.
Avera came running over hefting a massive locked metal bound book, “Doesn’t this look one of those legendary Pandora Books?”
“Never saw one, isn’t that just a legend?” Kyle said, taking a look.
“What did you two find?”
“A ball pit, we think,” Vicky said.
“A place I haven’t found, heard of or been to yet? That needs fixing.” Avera dropped the book to roll up her sleeves. It thumped solidly onto the ground, and she went to work yanking on chains.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be doing that, Avera. It’s probably closed for a very logical reason.” Vicky said.
“Vick, if they didn’t want us to find a ball pit locked away under the food court, they should have hidden it harder,” Avera grunted between futile tugs on the door.
Kyle gently picked his struggling co-worker off the door and set her aside. He twisted the doorknob and pulled. The door popped open. “You should try the handle next time.” Stale cold air drifted out of the pitch black room.
Avera put her hands out, weaving thread until wisps of pale yellow light seeped out into the darkness. “I like it already,” Avera grinned and stepped into the room.
Kyle followed, leaving Vicky alone in the narrow hallway, “Do locked doors mean anything to you two?”
- YOU HAVE FOUND IT. THIS IS A JOYOUS MOMENT.
Mercury vapor lamps clicked on in rows, spreading out into the darkness like an array of evenly placed tiny blue stars. Every passing moment produced more light as they warmed to operating temperatures. As the lamps shifted from blue to white light, the room continued to stretch out further and further until the far side lost itself in the distance.
WELCOME TO THE BALL PIT.
“That’s what it said on the door,” Vicky said dryly.
BUT NOT JUST ANY BALL PIT. THE BALL PIT.
“It’s huge. How did I not find this before?” Avera said.
FLORENCE CHADWICK’S RECORD CROSSING HAS YET TO BE BEAT.
The lights reached full power the three found a vast expanse of brightly colored red, blue, green, yellow and orange balls in front of them. The hollow metal spheres swirled around in eddies, currents, and small waves which created a never-ending blanket of metal on metal clatter of white noise. A dock off to their right lined with twenty runabouts bobbed at the edge of the pit.
Vicky stepped up to a large plaque on the wall and read, “‘Hereby honor those that have died ‘at sea.’? What kind of ball pit is this?”
Kyle came up behind Vicky, “That’s a lot of names on this sign.”
“There’s bodies in here?” Avera ran up to the edge of the wharf as though one would be floating on top of the balls. Vicky picked up a green sphere that was by her feet.
A DISTINCT POSSIBILITY.
“So what do we have to do?” Avera jumped into one of the boats.
RACE TO THE OTHER SIDE.
“That’s it? Sounds boring.” She slumped in the pilot’s seat.
IT IS ANYTHING BUT BORING.
“Avera,” Vicky pointed back at the plaque, “This place is a deathtrap, we shouldn’t be here.” She turned to head back up the dock and exit.
YOU MUST ATTEMPT TO CROSS NOW.
“Why? The door is right…” Kyle pointed back towards where the door had been, “…there.”
IT IS IN THE RULEBOOK.
“It is not!” Vicky threw the green sphere out into the water. “I read the whole thing!”
RULEBOOK VERSION 3.5 IS THE OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED RULEBOOK.
Vicky looked over at Kyle for help, who shrugged and sat down in another runabout. She ran her hands over her face. “Why do I even bother sometimes.”
“What’s the worst that could happen, Vicky?” Kyle undid the mooring lines while Avera listened to him explain the ropes.
“The wall of dead people? That’s not a small a small list.”
THERE IS HOPE THAT ALL THREE OF YOU WILL WIN. THOUGHT YOU WOULD LIKE TO KNOW.
“Great. Can you make sure that we all win?”
THAT WOULD BE CHEATING.
“Argh!” Vicky stomped over to another boat and climbed in. “If I die, I hate you all. And I blame you, Avera.”
“I accept this responsibility.”
RACERS TO THE STARTING LINE.
Each maneuvered their little boat out into the open ball pit. Several minutes later they managed to be more or less at the start line.
A small console panel flipped open on all three boats to reveal a staggering array of buttons and switches. “I’m excited, are you excited?” Avera called to the other two.
“It will be interesting.”
“No,” Vicky yelled back.
“I hate this part.”
Three engines grumbled to life with throaty roars as the boats dug into the brightly colored balls and surged forward. Avera carved back and forth through the balls and pulled ahead into first, leaving a strange wave of spheres behind. Vicky hit the wake hard and bounced through.
“What are you doing?”
Vicky mashed several buttons on the console. A net launcher folded out of the bow and fired aimlessly in front of her boat. A net big enough to ensnare a boat landed flatly on the surface, forcing Vicky to swerve or get caught by it. “Of course. It’s a death trap.”
Kyle swooped in and fired a large blue ball that rolled along the waves, chasing after Avera.
Avera swung around in a Crazy Ivan in time to shoot a defense of small mines that exploded on contact with the blue ball. Sprays of multi-colored balls shot everywhere with an astonishing velocity that cracked the sides of the watercraft.
Vicky pulled far out of the way of the other two and gunned the tiny craft forward. She lurched into the air as something slam into the bottom of the boat, nearly capsizing. There was a long series of metal clacking noises.
OH NO. YOU HAVE ACTIVATED A TRAP.
The three sped away in different directions as geysers of balls shot into the ceiling. Lights blew out under the onslaught, dimming entire areas of the sea into twilight. The balls rained back down in a hail of ballistic projectiles.
Kyle deftly dodged each spot that began to bubble, indicating an eruption shortly. Over the noise, he heard Avera’s manic laughter. He looked up in time to see her bearing down on him, twin Gatling’s spooling up.
He gunned the boat as globs of foam filled the area his vessel had just vacated. The foam expanded across the surface, hardening into a pebbled island of color.
“How about we try to make it to the other side without attacking each other?” Kyle called out to Avera.
“There are so many buttons to try!”
“You’re both going down!” Vicky crested a wave, gaining considerable air time. Her tiny boat had a giant slingshot armed with goat shaped pillows. The first goat launched into the air and slammed into Avera’s boat, crushing the starboard stern. The slingshot reloaded and fired another goat.
Kyle dodge, the pillow slamming into the sea, balls splattered out into splash damage.
The three pulled away again before looping around for another round of attacks.
Vicky found a ram hammer and advanced on Avera.
Avera found a sonic disassembler and bore down on Vicky
Kyle aimed between them with a spiked submarine mine. The mine detonated between them, throwing out a shock wave of metal spheres and pushed everyone to the far corners of the sea.
Vicky’s boat drifted around in circles for a time, engine dead. Nor could she see any walls to orient herself if she tried. “So, this is how I die,” she said to herself, picking balls up and throwing them idly.
A RESCUE PARTY WILL BE DISPATCHED IF REQUIRED.
“I don’t know how I feel about that, actually.”
Kyle came puttering up, his craft smoking. “Do you require assistance.”
“I thought I’d have a picnic out here in the middle of this ball pit. Yes.”
Kyle tossed her a line, and they got underway to the finish line.
It took another ten minutes to reach the far side of the ball pit. Avera lounged on the shoreline with a drink in hand. “There you guys are, I was getting worried.” She helped them tie up the boats and come ashore. “How did we do? Now that we’re all here.”
YOU DID NOT BEAT FLORENCE CHADWICK’S RECORD.
“That is unfortunate,” Kyle said.
“At least we’re not dead,” Vicky said.
CONSTRUCTION OF NEW FRIENDS IS NOT REQUIRED. THIS PLEASES ME.
“That’s a relief,” Avera said.
A doorway appeared, allowing them to leave.
“Let’s agree to never come back,” Vicky said. The other two nodded as the ball powered down behind them.