Author Topic: TAN  (Read 1374 times)

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Slimebeast

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on: 04:31:09 PM 12/23/20
TAN
I work the cliché nine-to-five job at an office.

You can picture my workplace before I even describe it. Stark. White. Cubicles that hold you in place like inhumane cages. Removable ceiling tiles and florescent lights that feel like a cruel mockery of open sky.

My boss is an idiot. His father held the position before him, and when the old man retired, the moron he sired took over... despite having little to no business skill whatsoever.

Every day, like clockwork, the same doughy coworker stops by my cubicle and asks the same inane questions he's bothered me with a thousand times. I always offer to write the answers down, but he just says he'd lose them. When he leaves, the smell of his sweaty armpits hangs in the air like bad gas.

The messy-haired guy from the IT department stands in the same spot every morning. It's right between the entrance and our work space. There, he annoys every single passerby with diatribes about how overworked and underpaid he is. We all call him "Panic" behind his back, due to his constantly frazzled demeanor.

Big deal. We all are.

When I get home after a long day of staring at a computer screen and keying in data, you might assume I like to lay back and relax. Pop open a beer, or pour of glass of wine. On the contrary, I just sit down and a different keyboard and get right back online.

Somewhere along the line, I guess I forgot all the skills necessary to detach myself from virtual life. Maybe it was trained out of me by an employer that was so soulless, it needed to steal mine.

I spent most nights playing games, staying up late and sabotaging my work ethic the following morning. Being half-asleep almost made the office more tolerable.

When my friend group got into playing Among Us, I wasn't a fan of it. It was way after the original hype of the game died down, and everyone sort of treated it as the default game for people to play together.

I didn't like the tasks. It felt like work. Running here and there, doing meaningless busywork that did nothing but slow the inevitable, oncoming threat of death... I guess it just felt a little too real. Too close to how my life was actually being spent away.

Still, I gave it a fair shot. The fact that everyone I knew insisted on playing the game made it hard to refuse, after all.

I became adept at avoiding others. I trusted no one. I kept my eyes open for odd behavior, and I was the first to call out anyone acting suspicious. After a while, I actually became good at it. I could usually tell who was playing an impostor within the first few minutes, just based on how the players moved.

I also learned that no one likes a know-it-all, so I had to find clever ways to catch impostors in the act of killing another player, or hopping into a vent to fast travel. Just saying what I knew right away seemed to ruin the fun for others.

I must've been twenty hours into the game, spread across a few weeks, when something unexpected happened.

The most surprising thing at that point was just being surprised at all. Everything in the game had become routine, and I was mostly on autopilot. It was my natural state, really.

A random player entered the round, joining myself and the few friends who were still hanging around by that time of night.

His name was a series of three question marks.

Hey, that happens sometimes. Among Us is a glitchy game, and there are plenty of kids who run hacks with various strange effects.

What was unexplained, however, was the player's color.

Tan.

Not brown, not white, but semi-beige middle ground between the two. I'd only ever seen players glitch into one color that wasn't normally available, and it was always "forest green", a placeholder the devs used for the split second between joining a round and being assigned a real color.

Naturally, the chat lit up with questions and comments.

How did he get that color?

Was he hacking?

Where was his name?

Why wasn't he answering?

Should the host start the round or ban him?

The timer counted down as the round started. You'd be hard pressed to find Among Us rounds where the host actually cares about much more than playing as soon as possible.

The map was Mira HQ. For the three forest-dwelling tribesmen out there who haven't been flooded with Among Us information by now, it's a sky base with relatively few ways for crew mates to avoid impostors.

My favorite tactic for that map, when I was on the good team, would be to immediately run and hide behind the reactor. There, I would wait until I caught an impostor killing, venting, or doing something suspicious.

However, in that round, I was randomly chosen to be one of two impostors.

It's simple enough at that point. Get people alone. Take them out. Don't get caught. Most random Among Us players are little kids on smart phones, so you don't really need to be too careful beyond that most of the time. My few remaining friends that night would be the only ones to worry about.

The kill timer hadn't even counted down when I saw the first body.

There were two reasons I found that confusing. First, if my cooldown wasn't over yet - how did the other impostor kill? Second... the victim WAS the other impostor.

Again, if you've never played the game, let me clear this up for you.

You cannot kill impostors. Not like that. Ever.

Even if it were possible, who would have done it? I was the only other one capable of the act.

I reported the body, calling an immediate meeting ingame.

"Okay," I typed, "I know I shouldn't reveal I'm the Impostor, but something is broken and we should start a new round."

I was insulted and jeered, of course. Admitting I was the bad guy would seem to be a troll tactic to ruin the game for everyone.

Before I could fully explain that the other impostor had been killed - the only person dead so far - I was voted off by the rest of the players.

Everyone voted me out, except for Tan... who didn't vote at all. He never even spoke throughout the process.

Since both impostors were dead, that should have resulted in a crew mate victory. Game over. Everyone's happy, good guys win.

That didn't happen.

The game continued, and for all anyone knew there was still an impostor left to find. Everyone ran off to do their tasks and have fun as if everything was completely normal.

In the ghost chat, invisible to living players, I asked the other impostor how he died.

"Tan."

That was the answer, after which the other impostor rage quit the game.

It made sense right away. I felt stupid for not realizing something so obvious immediately - of course the impossible kill was carried out by the hacker with the impossible color.

As an unseen ghost, I followed Tan around the map as he followed the other players, pretended to do tasks, and waited for his time to strike.

Snap. He killed Purple in the office.

Snap. Green died trying to shoot asteroids.

Snap. Pink never made it through the hallway to medbay.

With each reported body, more and more accusations flew. People were accused, and votes were held, but no consensus could be reached. Every vote was skipped, and one by one they died to an oxymoron - a fake impostor.

You might be expecting some sort of unnatural, demonic twist at this point. My PC exploding in a ball of fire, or the stumpy little tan crew mate climbing out of my screen or whatever.

I don't blame you for thinking that's what I'm going for, but this isn't one of those posts. No, the round simply ended once enough players had been killed, and we were treated to a "DEFEAT" screen with Tan standing alone on a black backdrop.

Even I saw the losing game-over screen, and I was supposed to be on his side.

Tan was gone once everyone rejoined the lobby, and nothing unexpected happened for the remainder of the night. If he hadn't left, he would've been banned anyway.

My friends and I discussed the odd event for a short period of time, but left it at that. Mostly, we shared a mutual frustration over the fact you can't report anyone in-game.

I had completely forgotten about the incident by the time I arrived at work the next day. I was just as tired as always, and planned to catching some sleep during the quiet moments of the day, as per usual.

I entered the office, walked straight to my desk, and plopped down and listened to the boss drone on and on about the Mandalorian in the distances. The dunce actually thought he had discovered some kind of hidden gem and was describing it to everyone who was too afraid to correct him.

The big, sweaty guy stopped by to ask where printer cartridges were kept for the hundredth time, and I put my shirt over my nose and mouth to cover the stench as soon as he lumbered away.

I'm usually so good at spotting the suspicious behavior... but not that day.

"Panic". The messy-haired bundle of nerves that liked to complain to anyone who would listen each morning. He had been absent, and I walked past his usual spot without so much as a thought about him.

The scream woke me from my workday haze. It was one of the girls from human resources.

I poked my head up above the cubicle walls just enough to see the front door closing behind Panic. He had a duffle bag slung from his shoulder, and a pump-action shotgun in his hands.

As he opened fire on the shrieking, scrambling crowd of employees, a spray of blood spattered across his tan suit.
« Last Edit: 08:54:01 PM 04/26/21 by Slimebeast »
If I should live until I wake, I pray the web my death to fake.