It wasn’t like Britta needed a bodyguard. She had managed perfectly fine before, more or less. There was no real danger here, it was a game. If the dwarves came after her again, or if someone else did, so what? She could handle it.
The strange house on the hill, and its even stranger occupant, had given her the creeps, that was all. Everything had taken on a more sinister air since she’d left the laboratory. She wasn’t really sure why, it wasn’t like she hadn’t been in a lab before. It had been a lot like the chemistry lab at school, only the Alchemist’s equipment had been slightly more modern.
She headed for the post office, unable to resist turning around every few steps to check she wasn’t being followed. It was an unnerving feeling, like when you see a spider in your room, and then it suddenly disappears.
Now that she had new powers, she really had nothing to be afraid of. She could always teleport out of trouble. She still felt jumpy.
Despite her dread, Britta made it to the post office without being attacked. The shadows were definitely lengthening and the sky had taken on a purple tinge at the edges. According to her screen, it wasn’t even lunchtime at home. Here, evening was setting in.
The post office was closed.
There was a small crowd of players outside the doors, looking confused and demanding answers. They were demanding them of each other which probably meant they wouldn’t get any.
The general cause of consternation was the unscheduled closing of the post office at the scheduled time. There was a sign on the doors stating the opening and closing times. No one was disputing that the post office closed every day at 5:30 PM, but none of them had ever seen it happen before.
“Is it some kind of new system?” asked one.
“Maybe it’s part of an event,” said another.
“What? A secret event no one knows about?”
“Does anyone feel like it’s getting darker.”
“Yeah, it’s definitely getting dark.”
“Don’t talk nonsense. They would have said if they were implementing the day-night cycle.”
“Would they? Maybe they want to get our honest reaction.”
Mild bickering broke out as people argued back and forth. Most of them were here to pick up a package and didn’t know where else to go, so they stayed to ramble on about things they didn’t really understand
The one thing they did all agree on was that it was definitely getting darker.
Britta skirted around the group. She didn’t recognise any of the names on their hovering name tags, and no one called out to her. Which wasn’t very surprising.
The alley down the side of the post office was empty, and the bit round the back was nice and quiet compared to the front of the building. There was a back door to the building here, and not much else. Some garbage, a few crates and no sign of Dennis. She sat down on a crate and waited.
She considered knocking on the back door, but there was no point. He would get here when he finished tidying his counter, or whatever it was digital people did when they weren’t on display. She took out a needle and thread from her inventory and began working on her skirt. She needed to change her appearance so the guards wouldn’t arrest her.
“Britta? Can you hear me?”
“Dr Reedy? Yes, I can hear you.” It had been a while since they’d spoken. She sounded a little on edge, Britta thought.
“Good. Before you continue, I wanted a quick word. You may have noticed we seem to be entering some kind of night mode.”
“You’re not making it happen, then?” asked Britta.
“Definitely not. We do have something along the same lines in development, but we’re nowhere close to finishing. To be honest, we have no idea what will happen once it goes dark.”
She made it sound ominous. Britta was sure it would be just the same as day mode, only not so easy to see.
“Did you have things planned for night mode? New mechanics or anything?” Britta was assuming whoever was behind this had used the APE plans as their blueprint.
“Yes, we have a whole range of new monsters and different quests, but like I said, it’s still at the planning stage. There really is no way to tell what’s going to happen. Which is the problem. The legal department says it would be best to close everything down and let people know the situation. Those who are willing to proceed would need to sign a waiver.”
“What about Stan?” asked Britta. “What happens to him if you close the game down.”
“Oh, no, we wouldn’t really close it down. We’ll just kick everyone out, like we do during maintenance.”
It seemed sensible, but also a pain. Britta didn’t really want more delays. She was only talking to people, what difference did it make what colour the sky had turned?
“Couldn’t you leave me in here? I’ve already signed a waiver, haven’t I?”
“I suppose you have. If you’re sure.”
“Yes. Definitely,” said Britta.
A bell rang somewhere, loud like it was coming from a church steeple. Six solid chimes. Finally, a way to tell the time.
“Alright, I’ll leave you to it,” said Dr Reedy.
Britta was relieved. It didn’t matter to her if she was the only girl in the world. That was how she felt most of the time, anyway.
There was a rattling sound and the back door to the post office opened. Dennis stuck his head out. “You came.”
“Yes,” said Britta. “Just like I said I would.”
Britta looked from side to side, just to make sure. “Yep.”
Dennis entered the alley and closed the door behind him. He was wearing a long coat and a scarf. Britta noticed the air had turned quite cool.
“We better get going,” said Dennis.
“Where to?” asked Britta.
“You want to know about the Mayor, don’t you? Well, then you need to talk to the person who knows him best. My mother.”