Bitter 127

She was diving like Superman smashing into a supervillain. Her small fist wouldn’t normally do much damage but with momentum on her side, she would probably take the dwarf’s head clean off.

Normally, such a thought would have filled her with disgust. This time, she aimed herself gleefully.

The dwarf raised both arms, welcoming her to her doom, or so he thought. As Britta closed in, all thoughts for her own safety vanished as she twisted and tilted her body to stay on target. Her wildly thrashing feet were like a propeller, powering her forward.

The dwarf’s expression changed. She was close enough to see the red eyes switch from malice to concern to panic. She had him.

And then he stepped aside. No, no, no, don’t move, thought Britta, but he did anyway. He took one big side step and he wasn’t in her line of fire anymore. She flew straight into the dirt.

It wasn’t painful, but the sudden and complete stop to her downward trajectory was jarring. Her teeth felt like they were about to shoot out of her mouth. It took a moment to realise her surroundings had changed. She was in the white room, serene and quiet. She logged out.

Her eyes were shut tight but she could tell she wasn’t in the game anymore. She was lying on the familiar softness of her bed. The air smelled different. Sensations from her real body slowly returned.

She opened her eyes and took off the helmet. Her face was hot and sweaty. She wiped her forehead with the sleeve of her tee shirt up by her shoulder. The movement pulled at her wet clothing, soaked in sweat under the arms and across her back. It was unpleasant.

She sat up, blinking.

“You okay there?” said Dad. He was standing in the doorway to her bedroom.

“Yes,” said Britta, her voice dry and cracked. They really should do something about the excessive perspiration, someone could die of dehydration.

“Get changed and come down. You haven’t even had breakfast yet.”

Britta nodded and he left. The clock by her bed said it was almost half eleven. They’d let her play for a lot longer than they said they would, but maybe because it was her first time in a while.

She took a quick shower and brushed her teeth. Her thoughts were consumed by her recent death. She had ended up failing her first dungeon. Should she have done something differently? Did she miss an easy way out? Should she have cast Eternal Health? She didn’t think so. Choosing to not use the spell was the right thing to do. She would go back in and try again, this time without having to perform the conga while she did it.

By the time she got dressed, she felt like her normal self, more or less. In the kitchen, Dad had laid out a small spread for her. Toast and juice and cereal and a boiled egg. It was far more than she could eat, she thought, but once she sat down and started it quickly disappeared into her stomach.

Dad sat on the other side of the kitchen table, watching. When she had finished the food and only had the last dregs of her second glass of juice left, he said, “So… anything interesting?”

“Kind of,” said Britta. “Did you do the beginner dungeon when you started?”

“The mines? Sure. Everyone does. It’s a bit easy, but the novelty of wandering around tunnels with monsters around the corner is pretty cool.” His eyes drifted away from her and he had a sloppy grin on his face.

Britta knew if she let him wallow in nostalgia too long she might never get him back. “How long did it take you?”

“Not long. Twenty, maybe thirty minutes. Not really much to do once you get to the treasure room.”

“And how did you get in the treasure room?”

“Britta, I don’t want to spoil—”

“Dad?” She interrupted him before he started a lecture on the joys of working out game mechanics for yourself. “I don’t think my experience as a beginner was the same as yours. Or anyone’s.”

“Oh,” said Dad. “Why? What happened?”

She told him about her trip into the mine with Stan and her attempt to not get killed by the mad dwarf. He listened in silence, his jaw slowly hanging lower and lower on its hinge.

“Wow,” was all he could say once she finished with her dramatic fatality. He followed up with another one. “Wow.”

“So you didn’t encounter any dwarves when you did the dungeon?”

“No. Nothing like that. This epic dungeon sounds interesting, though. Are you going to give it a go?”

“I can’t even handle the basic one at the moment, not sure I’d last long in the epic one.” She got up and put her plates in the sink. “Where’s Mum?”

“Hmm? She went out for a bit. Shopping. I think that’s what she said. You’ll be okay while I pop into the game for a bit, won’t you?”

“Yes.” Of course she’d be fine, she just had no idea what to do. She couldn’t get back in until tomorrow and she’d finished all her homework in advance.

“Great, great.” Dad got up, looking eager to see what was new in New World, barely able to suppress his excitement at getting to play. He was always happiest when he got to be a kid.

“Oh,” said Britta, “when you get in game, can you send me the money you owe me?”

That wiped the smile off his face.

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