Endgame: The Calling
Pub: October 7, 2014
Twelve ancient lines.
Endgame invites its audience to join twelve Players in a worldwide hunt for three hidden keys.
At stake for the Players: not only their lives but the fate of the world.
At stake for the readers: the chance to participate in a real–world interactive puzzle.
Endgame, written by James Frey and Nils Johnson–Shelton, is a revolutionary, fully integrated, multimedia book and gaming experience that invites its audience to join twelve Players in a worldwide, puzzle–based hunt for three hidden keys and the ultimate prize. The world of Endgame is populated by twelve ancient bloodlines. In each line, a Player trains for a catastrophic event that has not yet happened—until the Calling. Now the Players must set off on a journey in search of three ancient keys that will save not just their line, but the world. Each book in the trilogy will feature an interactive “super puzzle” comprised of clues and riddles layered into the story. Google Niantic is building a mobile, location–based, augmented reality game inextricably tied to the books and mythology. Full Fathom Five will have a major cash prize tied to the puzzle in each book. Twentieth Century Fox has bought the movie rights.
Much of this book is fiction, but much of the information in it is not. Endgame is real. And Endgame is coming.
This book is a puzzle. Within its pages lie clues that lead to a key hidden somewhere on Earth. Decipher, decode, and interpret. Search and seek. If you find the key and deliver it to its proper home, you will be rewarded with Gold1. Stacks and stacks of Ancient Gold$$$ EkatontάdeV ciliάdeV dolάria tou crusoά. $3.
Everything, all the time, every word, name, number, place, distance, color, time, every letter on every page, everything, always. So says, and so has been said, and so will be said again. Everything.
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Endgame has begun. Our future is unwritten. Our future is your future. What will be will be. We each believe some version of how we got here. God made us. Aliens beamed us. Lightning split us or portals delivered us. In the end, the how doesn’t matter. We have this planet, this world, this Earth. We came here, we have been here, and we are here now. You, me, us, the whole of humanity. Whatever you believe happened in the beginning is not important. The end, however. The end is. This is Endgame. We are twelve in number. Young in body, but of ancient people. Our lines were chosen thousands of years ago. We have been preparing every day since. Once the game begins, we must deliberate and decipher, move and murder. Some of us are less ready than others, and the lessers will be the first to die. Endgame is simple this way. What is not simple is that when one of us dies, it will mean the deaths of countless others. The Event, and what comes after, will see to that. You are the unwitting billions. You are the innocent bystanders. You are the lucky losers and the unlucky winners. You are the audience at a play that will determine your fate. We are the Players. Your Players. We have to play. We must be older than 13 and younger than 20. It is the rule and it has always been this way. We are not supernatural. None of us can fly, or turn lead to gold, or heal ourselves. When death comes, it comes. We are mortal. Human. We are the inheritors of the Earth. The Great Puzzle of Salvation is ours to solve, and one of us must do it, or we will all be lost. Together we are everything: strong, kind, ruthless, loyal, smart, stupid, ugly, lustful, mean, fickle, beautiful, calculating, lazy, exuberant, weak. We are good and evil. Like you. Like all. But we are not together. We are not friends. We do not call one another, and we do not text one another. We do not chat on the internet or meet for coffee. We are separated and scattered, spread around the world. We have been raised and trained since birth to be wary and wise, cunning and deceptive, ruthless and merciless. We will stop at nothing to find the keys to the Great Puzzle. We cannot fail. Failure is death. Failure is the End of All, the End of Everything.
Will exuberance beat strength? Stupidity top kindness? Laziness thwart beauty? Will the winner be good or evil? There is only one way to find out. Play. Survive. Solve. Our future is unwritten. Our future is your future. What will be will be. So listen. Follow. Cheer. Hope. Pray. Pray hard if that is what you believe. We are the Players. Your Players. We play for you. Come play with us. People of Earth. Endgame has begun.
Marcus Loxias Megalos
Hafız Alipaşa Sk, Aziz Mahmut Hüdayi Mh, Istanbul, Turkey
Marcus Loxias Megalos is bored. He cannot remember a time before the boredom. School is boring. Girls are boring. Football is boring. Especially when his team, his favorite team, Fenerbahçe, is losing, as they are now, to Manisaspor.
Marcus sneers at the TV in his small, undecorated room. He is slouched in a plush black leather chair that sticks to his skin whenever he sits up. It is night, but Marcus keeps the lights in his room off. The window is open. Heat passes through it like an oppressive ghost as the sounds of the Bosporus—the long, low calls of ships, the bells of buoys—groan and tinkle over Istanbul. Marcus wears baggy black gym shorts and is shirtless. His 24 ribs show through his tanned skin. His arms are sinewy and hard. His breathing is easy. His stomach is taut and his hair is close-cropped and black and his eyes are green. A bead of sweat rolls down the tip of his nose. All of Istanbul simmers on this night, and Marcus is no different. A book lies open in his lap, ancient and leather-bound. The words on its pages are Greek. Marcus has handwritten something in English on a scrap of paper that lies across the open page: From broad Crete I declare that I am come by lineage, the son of a wealthy man. He has read the old book over and over. It’s a tale of war, exploration, betrayal, love, and death. It always makes him smile. What Marcus wouldn’t give to take a journey of his own, to escape the oppressive heat of this dull city. He imagines an endless sea spread out before him, the wind cool against his skin, adventures and enemies arrayed on the horizon. Marcus sighs and touches the scrap of paper. In his other hand he holds a 9,000-year-old knife, made of a single piece of bronze forged in the fires of Knossos. He brings the blade across his body and lets its edge rest against his right forearm. He pushes it into the skin, but not all the way. He knows the limits of this blade. He has trained with it since he could hold it. He has slept with it under his pillow since he was 6. He has killed chickens, rats, dogs, cats, pigs, horses, hawks, and lambs with it. He has killed 11 people with it. He is 16, in his prime for Playing. If he turns 20, he will be ineligible. He wants to Play. He would rather die than be ineligible. The odds are almost nil that he will get his chance, though, and he knows it. Unlike Odysseus, war will never find Marcus. There will be no grand journey. His line has been waiting for 9,000 years. Since the day the knife was forged. For all Marcus knows, his line will wait for another 9,000 years, long after Marcus is gone and the pages of his book have disintegrated. So Marcus is bored. The crowd on the TV cheers, and Marcus looks up from the knife. The Fenerbahçe goalie has cleared a rainbow up the right sideline, the ball finding the head of a burly midfielder. The ball bounces forward, over a line of defenders, near the last two men before the Manisaspor keeper. The players rush for the ball, and the forward comes away with it, 20 meters from the goal, free and clear of the defender. The keeper gets ready. Marcus leans forward. Match time is 75:22. Fenerbahçe has yet to score, and doing so in such a dramatic way would save some face. The old book slides to the floor. The scrap of paper drifts free of the page and slips through the air like a falling leaf. The crowd begins to rise. The sky suddenly brightens, as if the gods, the Gods of the Sky themselves, are coming down to offer help. The keeper backpedals. The forward collects himself and takes the shot, and the ball blasts off.
As it punches the back of the net, the stadium lights up and the crowd screams, first in exaltation for the goal, but immediately afterward in terror and confusion—deep, true, and profound terror and confusion. A massive fireball, a giant burning meteor, explodes above the crowd and tears across the field, obliterating the Fenerbahçe defense and blasting a hole through the end of the stadium grandstand.
Marcus’s eyes widen. He is looking at total carnage. It is butchery on the scale of those American disaster movies. Half the stadium, tens of thousands of people dead, burning, lit up, on fire. It is the most beautiful thing Marcus has ever seen.
He breathes hard. Sweat pours off his brow. People outside are yelling, screaming. A woman wails from the café below. Sirens ring out across the ancient city on the Bosporus, between the Marmara and the Black. On TV, the stadium is awash in flames. Players, police, spectators, coaches run around burning like crazed matchsticks. The commentators cry for help, for God, because they don’t understand. Those not dead or on their way to being dead trample one another as they try to escape. There’s another explosion and the screen goes black. Marcus’s heart wants out of his chest. Marcus’s brain is as hot as the football pitch. Marcus’s stomach is full of rocks and acid. His palms feel hot and sticky. He looks down and sees that he has dug the ancient blade into his forearm, and a rivulet of blood is trickling off his hand, onto the chair, onto his book. The book is ruined, but it doesn’t matter; he won’t need it anymore. Because now, Marcus will have his Odyssey.
Marcus looks back to the darkened TV. He knows there’s something waiting for him there amidst the wreckage. He must find it. A single piece. For himself, for his line.
He smiles. Marcus has trained all of his life for this moment. When he wasn’t training, he was dreaming of the Calling. All the visions of destruction that his teenage mind concocted could not touch what Marcus has witnessed tonight. A meteor destroying a soccer stadium and killing 50,000 people. The legends said it would be a grand announcement. For once, the legends have become a beautiful reality. Marcus has wanted, waited, and prepared for Endgame his entire life. He is no longer bored, and he won’t be again until he either wins or dies.
This is it. He knows it. This is it.
Freeze the world. Unsink the sunken.
22B Hateshinai Tōri, Naha, Okinawa, Japan
Three chimes of a small pewter bell awake Chiyoko Takeda. Her head lolls to the side. The time on her digital clock: 5:24. She makes a note of it. These are heavy numbers now. Significant. She imagines it is the same for those who ascribe meaning to numbers like 11:03 or 9:11 or 7:07. For the rest of her life she will see these numbers, 5:24, and for the rest of her life they will carry weight, meaning, significance. Chiyoko turns from the clock on her side table and stares into the darkness. She lies naked on top of the sheets. She licks her thin lips. She scrutinizes the shadows on her ceiling as if some message will appear there.
The bell should not have rung. Not for her. All her life she has been told of Endgame and her peculiar and fantastical ancestry. Before the bell rang, she was 17 years old, a home- schooled outcast, a master sailor and navigator, an able gardener, a limber climber. Skilled at symbols, languages, and words. An interpreter of signs. An assassin able to wield the wakizashi, the hojo, and the shuriken. Now that the bell has rung, she feels 100. She feels 1,000. She feels 10,000, and getting older by the second. The heavy burden of the centuries presses down upon her. Chiyoko closes her eyes. Darkness returns. She wants to be somewhere else. A cave. Underwater. In the oldest forest on Earth. But she is here and she must get used to it. Darkness will be everywhere soon, and everyone will know it. She must master it. Befriend it. Love it. She has prepared for 17 years and she’s ready, even if she never wanted it or expected it. The darkness. It will be like a loving silence, which for
Chiyoko is easy. The silence is part of who she is. For she can hear, but she has never spoken. She looks out her open window, breathes. It rained during the night, and she can feel the humidity in her nose and throat and chest. The air smells good. There is a gentle rapping on the sliding door leading to her room. Chiyoko sits in her Western-style bed, her slight back facing the door. She stamps her foot twice. Twice means Come in. The sound of wood sliding across wood. The quiet of the screen stopping. The faint shuffle of feet. “I rang the bell,” her uncle says, his head bowed low to the ground, according the young Player the highest level of respect, as is the custom, the rule. “I had to,” he says. “They’re coming. All of them.” Chiyoko nods. He keeps his gaze lowered. “I am sorry,” he says. “It is time.” Chiyoko stamps five arrhythmic times with her foot. Okay. Glass of water. “Yes, of course.” Her uncle backs out of the doorway and quietly moves away. Chiyoko stands, smells the air again, and moves to the window. The faint glow from the city’s lights blankets her pale skin. She looks out over Naha. There is the park. The hospital. The harbor. There is the sea, black, broad, and calm. There is the soft breeze. The palm trees below her window whisper. The low gray clouds begin to light up, as if a spaceship is coming to visit. Old people must be awake, Chiyoko thinks. Old people get up early. They are having tea and rice and radish pickles. Eggs and fish and warm milk. Some will remember the war. The fire from the sky that destroyed and decimated everything. And allowed for a rebirth. What is about to happen will remind them of those days. But a rebirth? Their survival and their future depend entirely on Chiyoko. A dog begins to bark frantically. Birds trill.
A car alarm goes off. The sky gets very bright, and the clouds break downward as a massive fireball bursts over the edge of town. It screams, burns, and crashes into the marina. A great explosion and a billow of scalding steam illuminate the early morning. Rain made of dust and rock and plastic and metal hurls upward over Naha. Trees die. Fish die. Children, dreams, and fortunes die. The lucky ones are snuffed out in their slumber. The unlucky are burned or maimed. Initially it will be mistaken for an earthquake. But they will see. It is just the beginning. The debris falls all over town. Chiyoko senses her piece coming for her. She takes a large step away from her window, and a bright ember shaped like a mackerel falls onto her floor, burning a hole in the tatami mat. Her uncle knocks on the door again. Chiyoko stomps her foot twice. Come in. The door is still open. Her uncle keeps his gaze lowered as he stops at her side and hands her first a simple blue silk kimono, which she steps into, and, after she’s in the kimono, a glass of very cold water. She pours the water over the ember. It sizzles, spurts, and steams, the water immediately boiling. What is left is a shiny, black, jagged rock. She looks at her uncle. He looks back at her, sadness in his eyes. It is the sadness of many centuries, of lifetimes coming to an end. She gives him a slight bow of thanks. He tries to smile. He used to be like her, waiting for Endgame to begin, but it passed him over, like it did countless others, for thousands and thousands of years. Not so for Chiyoko. “I am sorry,” he says. “For you, for all of us. What will be will be.”
You’ve just read an excerpt from Endgame.
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