Last Week’s FFF: Tender
In the Interworlds, I was a god. Better than that. I was a superhero. Not many players made it to my level. In fact, in the entire history of the Interworlds, almost ten years, there had been less than twenty.
Due to my super-player status, I was part of a league. The Heroes League. Not the most imaginative name. But trying to convince seventeen people who all thought that they were the best the Interworlds had ever seen to pick one name was impossible. Every single one of us wanted a say in naming it. Eventually, the Admins just had to go with something. Heroes League it was.
It was a fine enough name. It got the point across. My avatar was bestowed a special badge to distinguish me from the rest of the players. As if I needed it. My name was Epic, and everyone knew who I was.
The Interworlds offered a variety of experiences. One could engage in a military strike from any former wars, and play on any side. If that was too real, then saddle up to an Old West shoot out, or a futuristic space battle. Of course, there was the always popular PVP, player verses player, fantasy zones. A player could use magic or melee and work there way through a variety of quests. This was my area of expertise, and where I had earned my way up from the bottom.
It wasn’t all violence, though. It seemed like everything was done in the Interworlds these days. Shopping, people owned virtual property, and even had artificial pets.
Come to think of it, I couldn’t recall the last time I had been in my own body. I’d been plugged in so long, I could hardly remember it. Time had a way of bleeding together in the Interworlds, and making any time outside of it forgettable. I mean, someone must have been taking care of my physical self. I just couldn’t remember if that someone was me.
A battle alert illuminated across my field of vision. Some virus was hacking its way across my realm’s downtown. I called up my fastest teleport spell and was instantly transported to Epic Street. My alert was wrong. This wasn’t a virus, it was a worm. Gross. The gargantuan beast moved its segmented body, slithering its way through the skyscrapers. As it went, it ate. It took out all kinds of aircrafts, from blimps and helicopters to steampunk airships. I didn’t know what happened to their pilots. The worm dove, digging deep into the ground, consuming half a skyscraper and the pavement in its path.
It reemerged two blocks away. I powered up my flight boots and took off. I flew to the face of the worm and stared down its circular mouth. Rows of teeth rotated like a table saw. But I wasn’t afraid. I was a hero. I called up my menu and looked for just the right spell.
I waited to long. It ate me.
It ate me!
What? No. No, this wasn’t happening.
I punched at my visor. Still, I remained disconnected. I shoved the black helmet off of my head. My eyes closed out of reflex at the change of light. After a moment, I opened them, and found that I was in a blank, gray room, with only a reclined chair and my equipment, and a man I’d never seen before. He was old and withered, but looked excited to see me.
“Hello, Epic,” he said.
My voice was cracked and dry. I hardly recognized it.
He rushed out of the room and returned with a cloudy glass of water. I didn’t want to drink it, but I couldn’t resist. I reached for the glass, and noticed that my arm was thin and my skin was pale. It was like sticks and ghosts. I took the glass and used it as a mirror. My warped imagine reflected enough truth. I had aged, and I had withered.
“How long?” I asked.
“It’s been about forty years since the bulk of ya’ll went in,” he said.
How was that possible? I had only been eighteen when I went in. And now, I had wasted my life on a lie.
“Well, after the Interworlds reached a certain population threshold, it just seemed best for the species to keep you there. It’s not like we had the resources to sustain an active population. This way, you all live on a balanced program of proteins and carbs, flavor doesn’t matter.”
“How can this save humanity if people spend there whole lives in there?”
“Well, that’s the thing. Turns out, it can’t. Now, I just got the order from the higher ups that it’s time to pull the plug.”
“Wake people up, like you did to me?”
“If only. But no. We’re just going to unplug them.”
“What will that do?”
“That’s unclear. They might die. Or, their consciousnesses might live on in the machine forever. It’s hard to tell. But they won’t wake up.”
I couldn’t believe someone had ordered the possible execution of most of humanity. He could see I was upset.
“Look,” he said, “those elitist jerks that run things think that they can have this planet all to themselves. But they can’t. I’ve taken care of you all for forty years. I’ve watched your simulations. And that’s why I woke you up. You’re the best hero I’ve ever seen.”
“Yeah, in there. Out here, I’m nothing.”
“I don’t believe that. You can’t let them kill everyone under the guise of eternal life. They’ve convinced everyone who’s still awake. If we’re going to stop them, it’s up to you. What do you say, Epic?”
If he had left me plugged in, I would have died a hero. But I wasn’t in that world, anymore. I was in this one. And it looked like I had one last battle. Maybe I’d still die a hero, after all.