(This week’s audio recording: “Numerophobia“, is the third and newest Lisa Stenton short story. It was previously titled “More Mysteries”.)
Writing Prompt: In a world where everything from clothes to tools to mundane objects has RPG-like stats and rarities, you become the first person to acquire a legendary item. Before you read this, it’s important that I point out that this is the first time I’m putting a content warning on anything I’ve written. This has slightly more crass language, but it’s enough to need pointing out. This will never be the norm, I just want to make sure I consistently try new things.
The package sat on the welcome mat of the apartment, tossed there as if it was thrown by the paperboy. I frowned, my brow furrowing as I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. I hadn’t ordered anything, had I? My monthly budget was still blown from snagging that Uncommon Toaster of Efficiency at the supermarket last week. I couldn’t afford to buy a whole lot of enchanted stuff with stat bonuses, but at the same time they were so much higher quality and often lasted longer, so they were a better long-term investment.
That’s what made this package so strange. There wasn’t even a name or return address.
Pushing the screen door open, I grabbed the package with both hands. It was light. Lighter than I would have expected from something the size of a small suitcase.
“Something for me this time?” my roommate, Alex, winked as she walked through the entryway brushing her too long black hair.
“No. I don’t know what it is,” I replied. “And how many times do I have to tell you the ‘Luscious Hair’ buff that brush gives you doesn’t stack? It’s not like it’ll make the rest of you beautiful.”
“Oh, shut up, asshole,” she said, leaving down the opposite hall. “I still need to brush my hair like everybody else.”
“I still can’t believe you paid eight hundred dollars for a stupid ‘Rare’ hairbrush.”
“That’s because you have no concept of the value of a dollar, Danny,” she called, voice carrying down the hall.
I didn’t dignify that comment with a response. Instead, I carried the package into the kitchen and tossed it onto the counter. I was about to make breakfast, but something about this demanded that I give it my full attention now. I had to admit I was curious. I grabbed a dinner knife from the silverware drawer, the blade shimmering green to signify its ‘Uncommon’ quality. If I remembered right, this one a ‘Sharp’ knife, meaning it had an increased sharpness stat and might as well be a normal item for how useful it was. The best trait for an item like a knife was ‘Pristine’, which meant it stayed cleaner longer.
I cut into the package, ripping it open to find bubble wrap. The more I ripped, the more bubble wrap I found. I discarded the bag and started shuffling it around, looking for whatever was inside, but couldn’t find anything. Did somebody really send me packaging as a joke?
Eventually I found a small box under the mountain of bubble wrap. I pulled the box out. It was tiny. The sort of box that people proposed with that contained a diamond ring worth more than my yearly income.
I opened the box, and inside was a simple ring. Just a band of steel, no diamonds or anything. The weird thing was, it had a yellow shimmer. What the hell?
I turned on my Appraiser Bracelet and placed the ring on the counter. I scanned it, and the screen on the Bracelet read back ‘Legendary. Stats Unknown.’ Stats unknown? My bracelet had never said that before. I went to the other side of the kitchen and scanned my new toaster. ‘Uncommon. Efficient: -20% Cooking Time.‘ I scanned the ring again. It said the same thing.
I had never seen a yellow quality item. As far as I knew, even mythical items like the Mona Lisa, the Crown Jewels, or the Liberty Bell were only ‘Epic’. Age and popularity tended to manipulate the quality and stats of an item over time. Excalibur and the Ten Commandments were rumored to be old objects that had a ‘Legendary’ quality, but the existence of such items were debatable at best, I had always assumed ‘Epic’ was the highest quality.
Alex came back into the kitchen. She was still brushing her hair. “Anything interesting?” she asked, leaning across the counter over all the bubble wrap.
Not knowing how to respond, I proffered the ring. She took it with her free hand and examined it.
“A stupid ring? That’s pretty disappointing.”
“Look at the shimmer,” I said.
“What? It just looks like a…” her eyes widened. “Holy shit!”
“My scanner says it’s ‘Legendary’.”
Her jaw was left open. Numbly, she placed it on the counter between us and scanned it herself. “Holy shit,” she said again, quiety this time. Her brow furrowed and she looked back up at me. “Stats unknown?” she asked.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” I replied. “That’s what my scanner said too.”
“Have you put it on?”
“What? Of course not!” I said.
“Well?” She flicked the ring across the counter. With a sudden panic, I grabbed it before it could slide off.
“I don’t know, what if it has a downside?”
“Come on, Danny. Why would the only ‘Legendary’ item in existence be a bad thing?”
“Irony,” I said.
Alex rolled her eyes. “Just put it on.”
I sighed. Flipping the ring around in my palms, I tried to think about who would have sent me this. Why give me the only verifiable ‘Legendary’ item in existence? If the Crown Jewels were only ‘Epic’, what could this do?
I slipped the ring onto my fingers.
Alex straightened a little as she stared at me, eyes widening again. “Oh, fuck,” she whispered.
“What, am I invisible? What happened?”
“No,” she said. “You’re gorgeous.”