This is a fanfiction. The characters and world of the Mario universe belong to Nintendo. This story is also thematically based on the Zero Escape series by Aksys Games.
Reader discretion is advised. This story is rated M for Mature due to graphic violence.
Mario and E Gadd’s second set of rooms turned out to be much like the first. They moved much quicker through this one, not only because they had finished their conversation but also because that very conversation had burned much of their time. They only had 00:17 left on the turn timer after they’d finished the first two rooms, which gave them very little time to get through the second room.
The plumber was still trying to wrap his head around this twisted game. If E Gadd was right, this game was designed specifically for Mario. Supposedly it was to teach him about the B theory of time and the concept of relativity, but why in the world would someone orchestrate this whole “party” just for that? There had to be more to the story, but for the time being he had no idea where the story was going.
E Gadd and Mario quickly finished the second maze, their second set of symbols appearing as glowing designs on the wall. This time, Mario’s was a mushroom while E Gadd’s was a shine sprite. This put their full list of shapes up to four: a koopa shell, a power star, a mushroom, and a shine sprite. Some combination of those should be the code. Maybe even two codes, if this room proved to be like the ones they’d explored the first turn.
“Alright, we have what we need,” E Gadd declared. “Let’s get out of here before Ztar enacts her consequences.”
Mario nodded and the two began to make their way back through the maze. As they stepped off of their pressure plates, a weird sound suddenly issued forth from above. Or technically below, looking at Mario from their original perspective. A strange crack appeared in the space between the two players, small but still clearly visible. Stark black against the colorful walls of the room, the crack sparked with bright lines of orange lightning. After a moment, the crack began to collapse in on itself before imploding outward into a dark sphere.
“Mario!” E Gadd cried, “we have to get out of here! That’s a black hole forming. If you get sucked inside and pass through the event horizon, your particles will be pulled apart and crushed in a process called ‘spaghettification.’ But because of time dilation and the radically altered gravity within the black hole, it’ll happen slowly over a thousand years. It’s the most painful death currently conceivable by modern science!”
Mario took off towards his first pressure plate to open a path for E Gadd. “Stop talking about it and run!”
Suddenly what had been a simple exchange of pressing switches and waiting for their partner had become an incredibly dangerous race. The black hole above them began to expand, more orange lightning crackling as even the particles of light around the hole were sucked in. Mario would run from one switch to the next in an instant, then have an agonizing wait as the much older, slower E Gadd hobbled to his next pressure plate. All the while, the black hole was expanding and the threat of spaghettification drawing ever closer. Finally, E Gadd stepped onto his next plate, opening a clear path for Mario to reach the door. The plumber ran for his final switch, standing upon the pressure plate to open a parallel path for E Gadd.
The old scientist started to move, working his way towards the exit as quickly as his little legs would carry him. He seemed to be moving even slower now, and Mario realized that the black hole’s suction was starting to affect the old man.
“You’ve got to keep moving, Gadd!” Mario cried.
The scientist stopped and shook his head. “No, Mario. You have to.”
The next moment felt like an eternity. The force of the black hole yanked E Gadd through the air. He hit the outer edge and was swirled around the sphere before being pulled towards the center. As he passed the event horizon, Mario watched in horror as the old man slowly elongated before his eyes. The scientist’s body became taller and thinner, stretching out into a long, thin strand and then continuing to stretch some more. E Gadd’s mouth was open into a scream, a scream that for Mario lasted only a moment but for Gadd would last one thousand years.
Go, Mario! You can’t die along with him!
The plumber took off at a run for the door, his body moving sluggishly as he fought the powerful force of the growing black hole behind him. He pushed himself as hard as he could, putting all of his strength into every step. Reaching the door, he pulled it open and struggled to the other side. Once he crossed the threshold, he was suddenly free of the black hole’s grip. He fell through into the main hallway and laid on the ground for a few moments.
E Gadd was gone. Somewhere, he was still suffering in agony at this very moment. Mario muttered a silent prayer that time dilation did not work the way the scientist thought it did, that somehow the old man was now at peace instead of enduring a slow, torturous death. Only the thought of his own torturous death – one at the hands of his DICE – got Mario off the ground.
He moved to the safe and began experimenting with combinations. Shell, star, shroom, and shine did nothing. They had gone into the right room and then the left room, so perhaps the symbols were meant to go left to right, as if reading them. With that in mind, Mario tried shroom, shine, shell, and star. The safe clicked and the front hatch opened, allowing the plumber to check inside.
As expected, there was a large key that would allow him to open the door back into the central chamber. Along with it was a sheet with some more rules. These rules dealt with something called a “battle game.” Mario decided to look at those later. He closed the safe and then examined the keypad again. If this room – perhaps this whole game – was about relativity, then maybe the second code was from E Gadd’s perspective. Mario entered the symbols in the order shine, shroom, star, and shell. The safe clicked again, the hatch opening to a secret compartment with two sheets of paper inside.
The first sheet had some sort of diagram. It was a large circle with a number of small nodes with words written beside them. The top of the paper read “The Hero’s Journey.” The large circle was broken up into two halves. The upper half was labeled “Known,” while the bottom half read “Unknown.” None of the numbered nodes made any sense to him – they said things like “call to adventure,” “crossing the threshold,” “seizing the sword;” Mario finally gave up on that sheet and took a look at the other one. The second page was another typed letter, and Mario proceeded to read it to himself.
“What you hold in your hand is called the Hero’s Journey. It’s a sort of diagram that shows the typical arc of any story that involves a hero. Arguably, every story in the world can be plotted along this circle. Including the story of this Mario Party. You began your story at point one, in the Ordinary World. Your call to adventure at point two was admittedly a bit unwilling – you were kidnapped from your home. All of you refused to participate in this mad game until circumstances forced you, so there’s your refusal of the call. You met your mentor E Gadd in the central room before the first turn, and after that you crossed the threshold and fully game a participant in this game. Since deciding to play the game, you have been tested, stood by your allies, and been suspicious of your enemies. Ever since the first party game, you have been approaching the next step: the ordeal. Death and rebirth.”
“Unfortunately for you, E Gadd’s death was only the beginning. You see, Mario, the ordeal is at the very bottom of this circle for a reason. It’s rock bottom. It’s the point where the hero realizes exactly how helpless and hopeless he truly is. Every hero must experience rock bottom before he can rise above and become something truly great. So far you have played this game exactly as expected, doing nothing to defy my expectations. Continuing on that path will only lead to pain for you, Mario. But you will continue, because it’s all you know how to do. Play the game. Follow the rules. Perhaps after you’ve lost something truly important to you, you’ll be able to rise above the ordeal and progress to the reward. But until then, you will suffer.”
Mario crumpled up the letter and tossed the ball of paper aside. Who did this guy think he was, acting like he knew exactly what the plumber would do? Where did he get off acting as if he was so high and mighty? He imagined the captor sitting in a room somewhere, surrounded by video screens, grinning smugly as he watched everyone play his crazy game. Mario still had no idea who had captured him, but he knew that when they met, he’d wipe that smirk off of their face.
With the key now in hand, Mario stepped over to the door and inserted the massive key into the hole. The screen above the keyhole changed from “LOCK” to “OPEN,” and the metal door slid aside. The plumber quickly stepped through. He couldn’t stand to be in E Gadd’s graveyard a moment longer.
As Mario walked out of his room, everyone else filed into the competition dome. A quick look at his DICE revealed that he only had a minute to get inside, so he quickly followed suit. The interior of the competition dome had changed quite a bit since the clock game. A large staircase led up to a raised platform in the center of the room. At the top of the platform was a wall of exposed wires. There was only room at the top of the platform for one person to comfortably stand.
Luigi and Peach smiled as they saw Mario come in, but their smiles quickly turned to looks of concern when they noticed that E Gadd was missing.
“Where’s the doctor?” Peach asked.
Mario simply shook his head. Peach’s look turned from one of concern to devastation, and she fought hard to keep from tearing up. Luigi looked down at the floor, stunned. He was closer to Elvin than anyone else there. After a few moments, he raised up his head.
“W-w-we have to stop this madman,” he said. “We can’t let him hurt anyone else.”
Mario nodded. “I agree. Did either of you find anything that could help us get out of here?”
They both shook their heads. Before Mario could ask any other questions, a massive image of Ztar appeared in the air above them.
“Hello, sweethearts!” she smiled. “It’s time for our next party game, and this one is going to be a real doozy. At the top of the stairs, you all should see a platform in front of a wall of wires. Some of those wires are decorative; some are connected to the platform you’ll be standing on. Those wires will cause the platform to launch you across the room. If you get launched, you lose the game. The last person standing will be our winner, and will get the most coins from the pot.”
The Captain raised his eyebrow at that. “Pot?”
“This is a battle game, sugar,” Ztar explained. “Don’t you know what that is?” The Captain shook his head. Mario suddenly remembered that he’d found battle game rules in his safe. He quickly took them out of his pocket and began to look them over.
“Honey,” Ztar said, “why don’t you read those out loud for everybody?” Mario sighed and cleared his throat.
“At some point during the Mario Party,” he began, “you may play what’s called a Battle Game. This is a special kind of party game where everyone contributes COINS to a pot, and the top three winners earn COINS from the pot. Of course, first place will get the most COINS, third place the least, and second place in the middle. Battle Games can make a big difference in STARs, so be sure to play your hardest!”
Ztar smiled at that. “Great reading, hon! Now, we’ll be going in the following order: Mario, Toad, Luigi, Waluigi, Wario, Peach, and finally Daisy. If you don’t get launched, please head to the back of the line on the stairs and wait for your turn to come around again.”
Reluctantly, Mario moved to the bottom of the stairs and began to make his way up. The others ordered up behind him, the whole group slowly climbing the steps. When Mario reached the top, he noticed a set of scissors attached by a cord to the wall of wires. That would be their method of cutting the wires.
“And let the game begin!” Ztar smiled.
Mario sighed and lifted his hand to the scissors. He looked at the series of wires in front of him. There were a total of 12 wires, so they were split evenly between safe and dangerous wires. As the game started, a large timer on the side wall began to count down from 10. He only had a few seconds to decide, so rather than fuss over his options, he simply picked a random wire and cut it. Bracing himself in case the platform launched, he waited for a few seconds. After a moment or so, he relaxed. Mario stepped off of the platform and began making his way down the stairs, Toad stepping up onto the platform. The young captain struggled to reach the scissors and wires, but he managed to get to a wire and snip it.
A moment passed with no response, Toad staying tight and coiled. Suddenly, the whole platform sprung up and back, launching the Captain backward. Everyone gasped as he flew straight for the steel walls of the competition dome. He managed to tuck himself and use his big poofy mushroom hat as a sort of makeshift shield, lessening his impact as he hit the wall. He fell the rest of the way down and hit the ground hard. But after a moment, he rose up to his feet, battered but alive.
“Captain Toad is the first one to go!” Ztar announced. “Who will be next?”
Luigi was the next to cut, but he was not the next to be flung. After he cut his wire, he held his breath expectantly. When nothing happened, he exhaled and darted down the stairs, standing behind Mario.
“That was close,” he said. Mario chuckled at that. He wasn’t sure why, but it struck him as funny. He then scolded himself internally when he realized that this game likely brought Luigi’s anxiety to a head.
After Luigi was Waluigi, the gangly man stepping up to the wall of wires. He took every bit of the ten seconds, trying to figure out exactly which wire he should cut. When he chose, a confident smirk decorated his long, thin face. He braced himself anyway, and it was a good thing that he did – the platform sprung him over the wall of wires and sent him hurtling towards the floor. He managed to tuck and roll, his shoulder taking a serious blow as he struck the ground. Waluigi cried out in anguish, and it was quite obvious he’d broken something.
“This game is way too dangerous,” Peach muttered. “Our captor isn’t even trying to be subtle anymore.”
“Well we know that I’m safe,” Wario grinned. “It’s been throwing us in a pattern. It’s my turn to be safe.”
“I wouldn’t count on that,” Mario advised.
Wario stepped up to the platform, scooped up the scissors, and cut a wire. He then dropped the scissors and turned to walk off of the platform, not even bothering to wait or brace himself.
“Wario, don’t!” Peach cried.
He had one foot off of the platform when it sprung. Rather than flinging him backward or forward, it launched him straight up. With his body imbalanced and not primed to react, Wario could do nothing to adjust his angle of flight. He was shot headfirst towards the ceiling, and he struck it with a sickening crack. Everyone winced at the impact. His body immediately fell downward towards the platform, falling limply through the air before slamming on the stairs just in front of Peach. She cried out in horror as Wario’s dead body broke in front of her, his head lolling at an unnatural angle and his wide-open eyes staring directly up at her.
“Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod,” Daisy muttered, chanting it over and over again and unable to control her mouth. Luigi turned away and vomited over the edge of the stairs, Mario kneeling down by his brother and helping support him lest he fall. Once he was sure Luigi was alright, he walked past Peach and Daisy and put one foot against Wario’s gut.
“We can’t…we can’t leave him on the stairs,” he said. With a gentle push of his foot, he sent Wario’s limp body tumbling off of the side of the staircase.
There was a sound like a dull roar in Mario’s ears. It took him a few moments to realize it really was a roar. Waluigi was crying out towards the ceiling, screaming obscenities at the one who’d put them here.
“I’LL KILL YOU, DAMN IT!” he cried. “I’LL SEND YOU STRAIGHT TO HELL IF IT’S THE LAST THING I EVER DO!”
Between the screaming, crying, and vomiting, Mario almost didn’t hear Ztar.
“You all really need to pick up the pace,” she chided. “This game can’t last forever, dears.”
Mario lost it. He balled up his fists and made to leap at Ztar’s floating hologram. He didn’t care that he couldn’t hit her. Just trying to make her suffer one tiny fragment of what he felt was all that mattered. Just before his feet left the stairs he felt someone grab him. It wasn’t a forceful, restraining grab. It was gentle, calming. The plumber turned around to see Peach.
“Save you strength,” she whispered. “Save it for the real killer.”
Mario took in a few deep breaths as Peach stepped past him onto the platform. She carefully lifted the scissors, examining the wall for a few moments. After making her decision, she cut her chosen wire decisively. With that she let the scissors go and braced herself to be thrown. All of the breath left Mario’s body as the princess was flung through the air.
“No!” he cried. Peach was ready, though, and as soon as the platform flung her sideways she was readying herself to impact the wall. She’d been thrown to the wall on the right side, very far from the platform that had launched her. This gave her time to descend quite a ways before she impacted the wall. She hit the metal wall hard but her reduced velocity allowed her to land safely on her feet when she reached the floor. The princess had little more than a few bruises to show for her fall.
“Don’t underestimate her,” Daisy said, clapping him on the shoulder. “You may rescue her all the time, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t tough in her own right.”
Daisy looked at the wall of wires with confidence. At this point, six wires had been cut and four of them were traps. This meant that only two traps remained in the six wires still present. Her odds were good, so Daisy wasted no time in cutting a wire. She braced herself just in case, but grinned as a few moments passed with no flinging.
“You’re up again, bro,” Luigi said. “Be ready.” Mario gave his nervous young brother a nod and then stepped up onto the platform. Still five wires to go, and three were safe. He shrugged, grabbed the scissors, and snipped the leftmost wire. He then braced himself for the platform to spring up. He waited one second, two seconds, three…and nothing happened.
“Two safe in a row,” Daisy smiled. “That’s lucky for you, Mario.”
Luigi stepped up next, his breathing coming ragged as his trembling hand lifted the scissors. He chose the rightmost wire, the one opposite of the wire Mario had chosen. With a quick snip, the wire snapped. Luigi readied himself, holding his breath once again as he waited to be launched. But the launch never came, and it was once again Daisy’s turn to try.
There was only one safe wire left. If Daisy cut it now, then Mario and Luigi would be guaranteed to be flung. The princess picked the left-center wire, cutting it quickly and then readying herself for the platform to move. And move it did. She was flung leftward towards the nearest wall, and even expecting to be launched could do nothing to protect her. Her left shoulder smashed into the wall, Daisy crying out in pain as a bone visibly pierced the flesh of her arm. She then tumbled wildly through the air, landing on her right leg and snapping it instantly. Peach screamed and ran to her friend, the Captain and Waluigi close on her heels.
“That looked really bad,” Luigi muttered.
“Let’s finish this so we can help,” Mario said. He stepped up onto the platform. Only two wires remained, both side-by-side. He had ten seconds to decide. Left or right? If he picked the safe wire, he’d be guaranteed a lot of COINS – but Luigi would be flung and could be badly hurt. Of course, Mario had no idea which wire was safe, so even if he wanted to pick wrong purposefully to protect his brother, he couldn’t. He decided to cut the right wire and went for it.
A moment passed. Then another. And Mario was safe. Luigi took in a deep breath and switched with his brother.
“At least this way I know what to expect,” the man in green said. “In a way, that makes it less scary.”
Luigi cut the final wire and then braced himself. Everyone watched him, unsure of where the platform would fling him. If he was flung like Daisy or Wario, he didn’t stand a chance. Suddenly, the platform sprung, launching Luigi straight up in the air towards the ceiling.
“Look out!” Mario cried. The words made no sense but he screamed them just the same. As soon as Luigi felt the direction of the platform, he prepared for it, and as he flew through the air he turned so his feet were facing the ceiling. He hit the ceiling and bowed his legs, using the hard metal as a springboard to launch himself back towards the ground. He turned in the air again, landing feet-first onto the platform in front of the wall of wires. There was a woosh of air as he impacted, and Mario watched with pride as his brother rose to his feet unscathed. Luigi turned to Ztar and flipped her the bird with both hands. The brothers then rushed down the stairs to check on Daisy.
“How is she?” Mario asked. He could tell at a glance that answer would be pretty bad. With a bone sticking out of one arm and one leg totally useless, it’d be quite tough for Daisy to continue playing.
“She can’t walk without help,” Peach explained. “Can you-?”
“Absolutely,” Mario nodded. Peach leaned Daisy onto his left arm, the plumber wrapping the arm around her waist to keep her off of her bad leg. Wounded as she was, the princess still managed to stutter out a thank you.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” the Captain frowned, “but we have to get back out there and roll the DICE.” Everyone groaned but complied, heading out of the competition dome back into the main hallway.
“We should do a STAR check,” Waluigi suggested. “I want to know where everyone is at.”
Peach was still stuck at zero STARs and COINS. Daisy was up to 10 COINS, probably as a result of getting third place in the battle game. Waluigi had 1 STAR, no COINS, and so did Toad. It seemed he’d entered a green room last turn and failed the challenge. Or the challenge didn’t reward him in the form of COINS or STARs. Luigi had 3 STARs with no COINS, while Mario had 4 STARs with no COINS. The brothers had a significant lead over everyone else, with the older brother still in the top spot.
“This is looking more and more fair every round,” Waluigi frowned, his voice dripping with sarcasm and disdain. “I’m still suspicious of you, Mario. The party is named after you, you’ve been in the lead this whole time – obviously you’re the reason we’re all stuck here. I just can’t decide if that’s because you’re the one who trapped us or because the one who trapped us has something special planned for you.”
“Let’s just roll the DICE,” Luigi suggested. It took a little longer than usual to get through the process, since Daisy couldn’t roll her DICE on her own and Mario’s DICE hand was the one supporting her. After Peach rolled hers, she walked over and rolled for both Daisy and Mario. Once done, she told them what they’d gotten.
“Alright, Daisy, you rolled an 8, and you were in the fifth room before. That puts you in room 13, cumulatively speaking. Mario, you were in room 10, and you rolled a 5, so that’ll put you in room 15. I got a 5 too, but I was in the room ahead of you, so I’ll be in room 16. What about the three of you?” she asked, looking towards Waluigi, Luigi, and Toad.
“I rolled a 6,” the Captain said. “I was in room 8 before, so now I’ll be in room 14, using your system.”
“I rolled a 6,” Waluigi answered. “6 plus 9 plus 2 adds up to 17.”
“And I rolled a 3,” Luigi finished. “I was in the twelfth room, so that means Mario and I will be together in room 15.”
Suddenly, Daisy spoke. Her voice came raspy and weak. “So I…I’m alone?”
No one wanted to tell her yes. It was quite obvious that she wouldn’t be solving any puzzles on her own. Sending her into a room by herself was effectively a death sentence. She rolled her head onto Mario’s shoulder and turned up to look at his face as best as she could.
“Take me into your room with you.”
Peach immediately gasped. “Daisy! You’ll be punished! You’ll be killed!”
“That’s the…idea,” the wounded princess stuttered. “I can’t finish a room…by myself. I’m too weak. If you put me in my room, I’ll lay there for an hour until the turn ends. And then…I’ll die. After suffering all that time. This way…this way I’ll die faster. On my terms. With some kind of dignity.”
“No, no,” Peach stammered. “No.” She wasn’t refusing Daisy’s request. Simply mourning a friend she knew she could not save. Princess Toadstool stepped over to her broken friend. She carefully wrapped Daisy in an embrace, doing her best not to harm the woman’s shoulder.
“Get outta here, Peach,” Daisy urged. “You have to live, okay? I can’t die…unless I know you’re going to live.”
“I will,” Peach sobbed. “I promise.”
With that, they broke off their embrace, and everyone headed to their rooms. As with before, the scanner panel didn’t show the room number but the combined DICE rolls of the two people heading inside. This suddenly struck Mario as odd – in the very first round, he’d discussed with Luigi that the door numbers were sequential. Yet there had been pairs that turn. They’d gotten in without their DICE adding together to equal the door number. So why did it work that way now? E Gadd had mentioned before that he felt Ztar’s rules were inconsistent, that she was just making them up as she went. But that didn’t line up with the personality of the captor, a captor who had written Mario multiple letters predicting exactly what he was going to do and locking those letters in safes who-knows-how-long before the game started. He or she knew exactly what room Mario would end up in, but wasn’t consistent with the numbering of the doors? What did that mean? Did it mean anything?
The two brothers each touched their wrist to the scanner panel. With a quick beep of their DICE, the door slid open. Before they could react, something sucked them in through the doorway, yanking them off of their feet and sending them hurtling down a shaft. The door slammed closed as soon as the two of them were through.
The shaft they were plummeting down ended in a floor of jagged metal spikes. Mario pressed against the wall to slow his descent, barely keeping Daisy balanced on his shoulder. Luigi was against the other wall, and he extended a leg. Mario did so as well, the brothers pressing against each other to create enough pressure to hold them in place.
“Look quickly,” Mario urged. “You see a way out of this?”
Luigi answered immediately. “There’s a door across from the one we came in. We’ll have to make our way up.”
“It’d be better to just wall kick than shimmy up,” the older brother suggested. “Let’s hurry.”
As they spoke, Mario struggled more and more with holding Daisy. She seemed to slip out of his grasp, her body totally limp. He turned to look at her and gasped in horror. Her face seemed to be turning to putty, her hair pressing her whole head downward as her face sank in. Her DICE had activated its poison, and her bones had already softened to a point that she had no structure anymore.
Mario tried to hold on to her, but her slick, fleshy form wiggled right through his grip. Like a sack of meat, she fell through the air and hit the spikes below. It was a surreal moment. With no bones to break, she slid onto the spikes as smoothly as a knife through butter. The cold metal pierced her flesh and sent blood pouring down onto the floor. Seeing her like that, totally flat and wrinkled, like a deflated Daisy doll instead of the real person – Mario would never forget that image.
He managed to kick up the walls, bouncing from one side of the shaft to the other until he reached Luigi at the top. His brother pulled him into the doorway, and Mario just sat there on the ground, sobbing. As he cried, he suddenly heard a pitiful moan coming up from the shaft. The brothers scrambled to the side and looked down. There Daisy was, impaled by massive metal spikes, bleeding out onto the floor.
Mario and Luigi both turned away from the sight and darted to the nearest door. They collapsed against the wall and dry-heaved, their bodies dried out of anything that they could conceivably vomit out. Daisy wasn’t dying with dignity. There was no such thing. There was simply dying, and she was lying there still suffering on those spikes. And somewhere in the facility, E Gadd was suffering in agony as he was slowly spaghettifed. He would continue to suffer long after Daisy had bled out. Only Wario’s death had been instant, but there was no dignity in his death, either. His neck shattered, his body falling limp onto the stairway.
“I HATE HIM!” Mario screamed. He’d been screaming that for a few minutes now, he realized. Over and over, like a chant or mantra. His throat was burning from screaming, but he didn’t care. Beside him, Luigi’s breath came quick and shallow. His hands were trembling and his eyes were full of tears. He was trying to speak but couldn’t catch his breath.
Mario recognized a panic attack when he saw one. He immediately got control of himself and knelt down in front of Luigi, speaking to him calmly.
“You need to breathe, Luigi,” he urged. “Slow down. Take deep breaths, in and out.”
“I’m t-t-trying,” the younger brother stammered. “My heart-”
Mario placed his hand on Luigi’s racing heart. “Is fine. Nothing’s wrong with your heart, and you aren’t choking. You’re going to be okay, Luigi. Just breathe.”
Luigi shook his head. “N-n-not helping.”
“Luigi, look at me,” Mario urged. His brother managed to keep his eyes still for a moment. “Now look around the room. Tell me what you can see. Where are we? What is this room like?”
Luigi looked around, Mario keeping his eyes on his brother the whole time. “There’s a screen under a label that says BRIDGE. The screen says LOCK. There’s…there’s a keyhole underneath the screen. That probably activates the bridge so we can get out safely.”
“Keep going, little brother.”
“To our right – well, my right – there’s another shaft heading downward. There’s a platform across the shaft with a small yellow cube. That’s probably the safe with the key. I bet if we looked at it, we’d see a keypad with all those little symbols.”
“I’d say you’re right,” Mario agreed.
“To my left there’s a door, and I can feel one behind me too. They’re both made of wood. They probably lead to the rooms where we’ll find out the safe pass code. And they’ll probably try to kill us.”
“But they won’t,” Mario said. He gave his brother an encouraging clap on the shoulder. “You and I have lived through every trial and challenge Bowser has ever thrown at us. We’ve lived through dungeons full of lava, we’ve been to the bottom of the sea, we’ve even explored other galaxies. I know it’s scary not knowing what’s going to happen, and I know that seeing everything we’ve witnessed in here is overwhelming. But you and I can overcome everything. We’ve proved it over and over again. So let’s prove it again and get out of this living Hell.”
“I don’t know,” Luigi muttered. “I don’t know that I’m strong enough. I always hold you back.”
Mario shook his head. “That’s not true, Luigi. You’re the reason I’m strong. You’ve been seeing me the whole time we’ve been in this place. Aren’t I crying just as much as you? Getting just as sick, losing my cool just as much? I can only be strong when I’m being strong for you, brother. I need you. And you need me. But together, nothing can stop us.”
Luigi’s breathing had calmed down considerably, deepening and becoming much more steady. He smiled and chuckled as Mario finished speaking. “That speech was awful.”
Mario feigned offense and gave Luigi a mock punch to the shoulder. “That speech was great! You just have awful taste.”
The older brother extended a hand, helping the younger to rise to his feet. Luigi wrapped his brother in an embrace.
“Thanks, Mario,” he said. “For never giving up on me.”
“That’s what brothers are for. Now let’s stop being corny and start figuring this place out.”
They decided to proceed through the door directly behind them. As soon as they opened it, a force dragged them inside and sent them hurtling down a massive shaft. They whizzed by a number of brightly colored platforms hurtling towards a floor of metal spikes. Angling their descent, they managed to drift through the air towards a red platform just above the spiked floor. Mario hit the ground first, his feet slamming onto the platform with a woosh of air. Luigi landed immediately after.
“It looks like we have to make our way back up,” Mario said, gesturing to the series of platforms above. “I’m guessing once we reach the top we can go through to the actual puzzle and figure out part of the password.”
“We’re going to have to work together to make these jumps,” Luigi noted. “They’re really high.”
Mario knelt down and linked his hands together. “I’ll give you a boost.”
Luigi backed up a few steps to the wall and readied himself to run. He then darted forward to Mario, who launched his brother up into the air. Luigi’s jumping power combined with his brother’s boost gave him the distance he needed to make it to the blue platform above them.He climbed up and then extended his hands downward. Mario stepped to the wall and then performed a running leap, grabbing Luigi’s hands and allowing the younger brother to pull him up onto the platform.
“Piece of cake,” Mario smiled. For the next platform, they simply had to wall-kick off of the wall in front of them. As with before, Luigi went first, running a few steps up the wall and then kicking off onto the platform. Mario quickly followed suit and then took a look at the next challenge. This jump was all horizontal rather than vertical, and was definitely too far for either of them to make the jump.
“Oh, I know this one!” Luigi exclaimed. “I’ll sit on your shoulders while you make the jump. I can grab the edge of the platform, then you’ll be able to climb up.”
“Can you support me for that long?” Mario questioned.
“What happened to that thing about us being stronger together?” Luigi asked, a smirk on his face. The older brother chuckled at that, and he knelt down for the younger to climb onto his shoulders. Luigi wrapped his legs around Mario’s torso to catch him when they reached the platform. Getting a running start, the plumber launched himself across the gap, bracing himself for Luigi’s catch. The younger brother grabbed hold of the platform, Mario’s body jerking as his torso was nearly crushed by Luigi’s tightened grip. He waited a moment to stop swaying and then climbed up his brother’s body to reach the platform. After that, he pulled Luigi up with him.
“Looks like we have one more jump up,” Luigi noted. “I can’t tell where we go after that, though.”
“Back into the central room, I’d guess,” Mario answered. “Look at the wall.”
It was a bit difficult to see where Mario was pointing, since it was directly above them. But there was no mistaking it once they were able to look at the right angle. There were two large symbols painted onto the wall opposite the door. Once they got back to the door where they had fallen in, they would be able to clearly see the symbols from the doorway.
“So the jumping challenge was the puzzle,” Luigi said. “Then we’re about halfway done!”
The last platform stood across from them, but also pretty high up vertically. A well-timed triple jump couldn’t quite get them there, at least not without someone to catch them. They’d have to get one person across, then the other could triple jump up into the first brother’s grasp. Luigi had the idea of combining a launch with a wall jump. They each rushed to the wall, ran up as far as they could, and then kicked off. Luigi ended up slightly above Mario, the older brother linking his hands to give the younger a midair boost. The boost gave the man in green the momentum he needed to clear the rest of the gap. After that, Mario jumped once, twice, and thrice, his building momentum flinging him far enough to link hands with Luigi and be pulled up onto the platform.
“A kart, and a bob-omb,” Luigi noted. “Now we can go to the other door.”
They made a plan to hunker down just outside of the door, Mario planting himself firmly and gripping Luigi’s torso. If something tried to suck them into the next room, they’d be ready to fight it. The younger brother opened the door carefully, and as expected they were yanked inside. This time, however, they were not thrown down the shaft. Instead, a massive fan beneath them created a powerful vortex that sent them upward. They were blown to the highest part of the shaft, where a wall switch allowed them to deactivate the fan so they could work their way down.
“This time it’s all about falling carefully,” Mario sighed. “This should go by faster, at least.”
A quick leap to the opposite wall and they were headed down, each one using the friction to slow their descent to the next platform. The next one was directly underneath them, which would require a different approach. Luigi gripped Mario’s hands, the older brother slowly lowering the younger down. The man in green let go and dropped down towards the next platform, catching himself on the edge and then pulling up. Mario dropped next, Luigi catching him out of the air.
“The next one is floating in midair,” Mario noticed. “We’ll have to slide down on the wall and then jump onto the platform.”
They each jumped to opposite walls and pressed against them, sliding down slowly before wall-kicking off onto the central platform. Their last trial was to land on the still-moving blades of the fan that had blown them to the ceiling. The blades were turning slowly, but an ill-timed jump would send the brothers into the metal spikes beneath the fan.
“One last jump and we’ll be out of here,” Luigi smiled. “Let’s get it done.”
The brothers waited until the fan blade was rotating into their landing zone and then leapt off of the platform. They stuck their landing and quickly ran to the door, looking back to see the remaining two symbols.
“Looks like a soccer ball and a dice block,” Mario said. “So we’ve got kart, bob-omb, soccer ball, dice block.”
Luigi nodded. “Let’s go put those into the safe.”
They headed back into the central room. Straight ahead was the shaft that separated them from the safe. It was too wide for them to jump across normally, and the ceiling above them was too low to manage a triple jump.
“Why don’t you launch me across?” Luigi suggested. “Then I’ll jump back and you can catch me.”
“That works,” Mario nodded. “You ready?”
He knelt down as Luigi ran to him. With a smooth motion, the older brother launched the younger across the gap. Luigi stepped over to the safe and knelt down beside it.
“Okay, it was kart, bomb, soccer, dice, right?” he asked.
“Yep!” Mario shouted back. Luigi put in the combination, and the safe door opened. He took out the key and closed the door.
“No papers this time?” Mario asked.
“No,” Luigi shouted back. “Now get ready to catch me and let’s get out of here!”
“Wait just a minute,” Mario urged, holding up his hands so Luigi wouldn’t jump. “All the safes have two combinations. Can you try pressing those keys backwards?”
“Why?” Luigi asked. “We’ve got what we need.”
Mario crossed his arms. “Whoever brought us here has been leaving us messages in the safes. You find the message by putting in the second code. We need to see what he or she wanted to say to us after this room.”
Luigi shrugged a bit. “Do we really need to? I haven’t put in any extra codes and I’ve been doing just fine. Reading his note will probably just make you angry.”
“We need to know,” Mario insisted. “The second code is part of his game. If we’re going to play, we have to search every corner we can.”
“Alright,” Luigi nodded. He turned back to the safe and put in the backwards code. “Dice block, soccer ball, bob-omb, and kart.”
The next thing Mario saw was a plume of flames.
The yellow safe burst apart in a wave of fire and pressure, the metal shards riddling Luigi’s body. He was blown backward, the force of the explosion ripping him to pieces in an instant. Blood and viscera were thrown across the shaft and all over Mario’s body. He watched as his brother’s bones were shattered, his limbs scattered, and his organs scorched. The wave of pressure that issued forth from the explosion knocked Mario onto his back. He trembled as his younger brother’s blood sprayed him, hot and wet against his skin.
“L-Luigi,” he stammered.
What the hell had happened?! Why did the safe explode?!
Luigi was dead. All that was left of him now rested on Mario’s body. Luigi’s lifeblood was literally on Mario’s hands.
Do we really need to? Luigi had asked. Did we really need to use the second code?
It’s part of his game, Mario had answered. The words of their captor’s letter came back to him then.
So far you have played this game exactly as expected, doing nothing to defy my expectations. Continuing on that path will only lead to pain for you, Mario. But you will continue, because it’s all you know how to do. Play the game. Follow the rules.
Mario’s hands were trembling. He realized he was talking, muttering words he knew he’d heard or read before without even realizing he was saying them.
That’s not true, Luigi. You’re the reason I’m strong.
Thank you, Mario. For never giving up on me.
Together, nothing can stop us.
Luigi trusted him. They were brothers. Mario had cared for him his whole life. And now Mario had killed him. As he stared at Luigi’s blood on his hands, his torso, his legs, red began to overtake his vision. All he could see was that blood, and all he could hear was a distorted voice, his own voice reading the words of his captor.
You chose the game, and now people will die for it.
I hope you enjoy your party.