After watching his youngest brother stab his father to death over dinner with a steak knife, Jacob knew that any future doors to higher office had just slammed shut on him; he soon, however, found more efficient ways to feed his rising lust for power.
The press had shrewdly dubbed the 1987 killing “The Hearth Murder.” That a 16-year-old had killed his father, a wealthy district judge, was news, perhaps even national news. But that a teenager with the last name ‘Hearth’ had stabbed his father to death by the fireplace, in his own house, guaranteed the surname would remain associated for decades in national consciousness with mayhem and family collapse. The murder never bothered Jacob. In fact, he was an accomplice. He never warned his father upon seeing Lev creep up behind him with the upraised knife. Judge Hearth had been an alcoholic who beat his children, a hypocrite to his own profession. No, what troubled Jacob was the way his political career had been wrenched away, the loss of control over the world he’d structured around him. He required control even over the lives of others, let alone his own. With one world lost to him, the Internet provided him with the virgin world he craved. Supported by the generous inheritance that the three brothers had split, Jacob devoted himself exclusively towards mastery over this new universe. From its earliest years of TCP/IP and hypertext, Jacob was always on the online forefront. But it wasn’t until the rise of role-playing games like World of Warcraft, Dark Ages, Guild Wars, Second Life, and Red Light Center that he came into his own. Soon heralded as one of the undisputed lords of the gaming world, Jacob – by then known as The Unseen (for he had discarded his earlier identity) – began designing and programming his own multi-player game in line with his quest for absolute power. Like other games, players battled and competed online. It differed only in one way. The players were rewarded – or punished – in real life.
Avitus The Visigoth spent two sleepless nights pondering the cryptic command delivered to him after his defeat by Ganesh The Kabalist: Mete out the punishment you deserve upon your loved one. How well he executed this command would determine whether he would be readmitted to Asphodel Fields or banished from it forever.
Although Avitus – Bob Landers in his lesser life – had suffered a disgraceful defeat, he knew it was also an opportunity. This was the first punishment The Unseen One had issued. Some even envied him. He was making history. His terrier, Frodo, sat at his feet, waggling his hind. Avitus tapped his thigh, calling him up. Frodo barked gleefully and leapt into his lap.
Mete out the punishment you deserve upon your loved one… After two days of reflection, Avitus settled upon his punishment. He had been hacked down in the mud swamps of Tartaria, a region of filth, pestilence, and disease. His soul needed cleansing.
Avitus looked at the clock and then walked to the kitchen, cradling Frodo. Doubts gripped him. He had to be strong, his faith unswerving as Abraham’s. He would not disappoint The Unseen One.
-I don’t expect you to understand this, he whispered to Frodo, but in my place you’d do the same.
In the kitchen, Avitus turned his laptop on and logged in to Asphodel Fields. Everyone was in attendance. All recognized this was an historic event. He started the teleconference and stood before the screen.
-I am Avitus The Visigoth and I am prepared to fulfill The Unseen One’s command.
He scooped Frodo up with one hand and held him before the screen.
-Frodo and I have lived together for the last 13 years. I love no one more.
He then shifted the screen so that it faced his front loader washing machine. Avitus stroked Frodo, then placed him in the drum, nails clicking on the dimpled steel. Frodo did not attempt to jump out, but he looked quizzically at Avitus.
Avitus locked the door. Frodo began to paw at the window and bark but it was barely audible behind the glass. Avitus kissed his fingers and pressed them to the glass.
-I’m doing this because I love you.
Then he pulled up a chair in front of the machine and pushed Start.
*FYOR WAS ELIMINATED AT THE END OF ROUND 3