Muhammed was determined to get fit. Well, fitter. He already spend three nights a week in the gym, and his body had gone from chubby chewing gum to whipcord in six months.
It was all down to the rowing machine. It had a tiny television that you could tune either to show data about how the row was going, or watch a little animation in the first person of the boat going up the river. The machine was getting on a bit, and the graphics were flat primary colours. The water was nothing more than a blue rectangle, reaching on and on.
This was the reason Muhammed had got so fit. He got it into his head that if he kept rowing, there might be something further down the blue path. So for six months he practised. Muhammed knew he had to keep going, until the point he was close to passing out. He flew down the virtual river, two dimensional trees zooming past on either side. When a bend appeared, Muhammed assumed he was hallucinating, but he pushed on.
Around the corner he went. The grass was no longer green. Instead scarlet fields hugged a mucus green river. Every so often a pixellated fish skeleton floated on the water. Muhammed barely realised he was still going, that the gym was now empty, that it was nearly time to go home.
Maybe he would have stopped, had the two-dimensional castle not appeared, towering over the river. Muhammed bombed towards the turrets, locked into the rowing like a cog in a watch. The castle got closer, until the boat graphic bumped into the bottom stone blocks. The rowing machine stopped mid-flow. and Muhammed flung forward, smacking his head on the screen. He wiped blood and sweat from his eyes, every muscle in his body screaming, lungs recycling air in a never ending frenzy.
The men looked down at him from the turrets, their faces like snowy television screens under their helmets.
‘Go away,’ one said in a distorted voice.
‘We came here because we didn’t want to be disturbed,’ said another.
Of course Muhammed wanted to row away. More than anything in the world. But he was simply too tired. He stared up at the creatures as they pulled out pixellated bow and arrows, and wished he had stayed chubby.