Bitter 50

It was an unnecessary death. For some reason, she had assumed there would be a helpful gust of air blowing from below to gently guide her to the bottom. There wasn’t. She plummeted into the chasm.  

At least it was a quick death. The further she fell, the darker it got so she didn’t see the ground rushing towards her, but she felt it. There wasn’t any pain, her body just came to a very sudden stop. The shock of it was like being thrown out of herself.

Everything went white.

Do you wish to return to the last restore point?

Britta knew there was no point pressing the Yes button. She hit No and was back in the pod.

The bathrobe did make it a little less sweaty, but her towel-wrapped hair felt heavy and in need of a good brushing. She climbed out of the pod, paused to let herself acclimatise to her real body, and went upstairs.

As she dried her hair and went through her moisturising routine, her mind was filled with events from the game. What she could have done differently, how to have handled situations better, what she would do next time.

Even though it wasn’t all that different to the real world in terms of the environment and basic functions like talking to people, buying things, travelling to places, it felt much more captivating than real life. Which could be down to the novelty factor, or it could mean her real life just wasn’t all that interesting. Probably both.

It was early Saturday evening and she was locked out of the game for twenty-four hours. She had plenty of other things to do, but it was hard to not just sit there reliving things she’d done in the last few hours. Even diving to her death felt more like a memorable moment than a terrifying mistake. How many people could say they had experienced something like that? Bungee jumping without the bungee.

Living without fear. Trying things knowing you couldn’t screw up too bad. Making choices without caring about what other people wanted you to do. It was exhilarating.

After spending an hour sitting and staring at a wall, the fading light outside her bedroom window prompted her to get up and get changed. She put some clothes on, fixed the curtains and turned on the lights. It was all very well having adventures in a fantasy world, she still had homework to do.

She ordered a pizza, went through her bag, sorting out what she needed to do and in what order, received a phone call from her parents and made out she was still annoyed with them for abandoning her—the guilt tripping might come in useful if she needed something from them at a later point—and then went to work. Advanced maths helped bring her down to earth.

The food came and she took a break. She went online to try and find more information on the game, something she might have missed before.

Obsessing over a video game, eating pizza, scouring the web for more info on the game—was she turning into Dad? The thought sent a shudder through her.

There was nothing else about the game, which was hardly surprising since she’d only checked a few hours ago, but there was stuff about the company, APE, that she hadn’t bothered to look at before. Now it all felt a lot more interesting. Anything even tangentially related to the game felt more interesting, which was a slight concern.

She told herself it was just the novelty of it, that she was just messing around. Once her parents came back, she wouldn’t have the time or the opportunity to play the game so she was getting it out of her system now.

Anderson Peters Electronics was only five years old, a small British company started by two men, Harman Jall and Clark Tomani. There didn’t seem to be anyone called Anderson or Peters, which was odd. They that had started out as a designer of VR helmets for established game systems, and then came up with the VR pod. Investors from Japan, Korea and America threw money at them, and it was rumoured a large Chinese investment company had also come in with multi-million dollar financing.

Britta read through the article. It was a little boring, but she still read all of it. The picture of the two company founders showed two young men smiling broadly, holding some kind of award. It didn’t say what they had won or why.

Britta finished her homework and went to bed. She had a dream where she was skydiving without a parachute. She was screaming but not out of fear. She woke up with a smile on her face. She was pretty sure that had never happened before.

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