Bitter 18

“Do you mean McDonald’s the burger place?” It seemed unlikely the restaurant chain would open a virtual outlet in a game. Even less likely they would hire real people to staff it. Probably just a man whose name was McDonald who hired people to do jobs and errands.

“Yes, the burger place,” said the elf. “You can find it on your map.”

There was a flicker in the corner of Britta’s visions. The semi-transparent map that she’d forgotten about (because it had been so useless) seemed less empty now.

Britta reached up to see if she could expand it somehow. The moment her finger touched the map, it moved from high on the right to down in front of her, turning as it came down and becoming three-dimensional. It hadn’t done that before. Were they adding updates to the game in real time? Or had asking the elf triggered a change of some sort?

She looked down on the town, the main street and all the alleys. Wireframed building had white tags over them with their name. There was a red triangle in the Adventurer’s Guild, which she assumed was her. When she moved, the triangle moved.

There was also a blue triangle left of the red one. Britta looked to her left to where Diana was standing. When Britta touched the blue triangle with her finger, Diana’s name appeared next to it. She had accepted a friend invite from her and now she could see where she was. No doubt, Diana could also see Britta on her own map.

Known areas obviously didn’t need exploring, it was all laid out for you. Streets, buildings, even shop names. And there, in the central square, were those familiar golden arches. She clicked on them and a new screen opened up. It was the McDonald’s menu with everything you’d expect. Burgers, fries, drinks. Except the prices were in coppers and silvers.

You could eat Big Mac’s here. Were virtual burgers fat-free? If junk food was as real as everything else, if it tasted the same but you’d suffer none of the consequences, it’d put all the fast food joints out of business. Why risk heart disease, obesity and zits when you could just go virtual?

She closed the menu by tapping it, but when she tried to do the same with the map, her hand passed straight through.

“Close the map,” she said. Nothing happened. “Map close?”

The map swooped back to its perch in the top right. She felt a little burst of delight at figuring it out. This was how they got you. Like feeding pellets to rats who pressed the right button.

Why would McDonald’s even support this enterprise? What was in it for them? They weren’t even charging real money for their fake burgers. She would definitely go check it out. Once she made some money.

Which brought her back to the wanted poster. The faces looking down from the wall were gruesome and threatening. Many seemed to be on the point of attacking the person painting their picture. They looked like they deserved to be hunted and killed, but the idea still made Britta uneasy.

She had to stop thinking like this was real, even though that was the point of this entire world. She wouldn’t actually have to kill anything. She would hit it a number of times until it went poof and left behind a bag of coins or something.

It didn’t really matter since she had lost her weapon and her magic seemed to affect no one but herself. There was no way fighting was going to work in her favou and she was certain every monster she met would fancy its chances. She was hardly going to strike fear in the hearts of beasts and men looking like the only raiding she’d ever done was at the local Oxfam store.

She adjusted the trousers that were sliding down her small waist and looked in the box for a belt. She found a piece of string. She wondered if hobo was a playable class in the game.

“Are there any quests I can do that don’t involve killing things?” she asked the elf.

The elf folded her arms on top of the counter and leaned forward, which made her cleavage bulge. If there was any doubt to the gender of the game’s designers... “You can’t accept quests until you’re a Level 3 adventurer.”

She needed quests to get XP, but she wasn’t allowed to do quests until she had enough XP to get to Level 3. How did that make sense?

The elf had a wry smile on her perfect face. Britta felt like smacking it, but that would probably only get her killed, again.

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