I pushed myself back to my feet. The front door should still be just down the hall. All I had to do was get to it and get outside. Somehow that would make everything better. My feet dragged along the stone floor. The last time I had been in a fight was in the first grade. A couple of kids decided to pick on me and I pushed one. Now, I had battered a guy who looked like he had clown pox.

  This was not how I thought today would go. An alien invasion was more likely than the world turning into a video game. I stopped in my tracks. My legs wobbled as my momentum tried to pull me onward. I hadn't been walking so much as falling forward and catching myself with one foot at a time.

  What if whatever this was had reached the entire world? Would getting out really help?

  It had to. I had to get out of here, to get home.

[Quest Started: Get Home]

  A flash of light ahead stopped my spiraling thoughts. There was a stretch of illumination where the office was supposed to be, where it still was. I sprinted toward the light. My footsteps echoed down the hall in time with the pounding of my heart.

  A metal frame set into the stone wall marked the start of a long window. The glass was split into three panels and had a doorway at the end. On top of all this, there were people inside. My feet slid along the floor as I neared the door. I grasped the metal frame and pulled myself into the room.

  It was the office, but not quite. There was a waiting area in the center of the room only the chairs had been replaced with a pair of wooden benches. The offices along the far wall were now shut behind thick wooden doors. The closest person was an older woman stood behind a solid stone counter to my left. Her blonde hair was speckled with gray and she wore wire-frame glasses. She was the same one from the tour my parents and I had gone on last week.

  Something about her made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It had to be my nerves. Tunnel vision, or something like that. I was coming down from an adrenaline rush so it was just my mind trying to adjust back to normal.

  I stepped out of the doorway scanning the area again. The feeling of impending doom didn't let up. My lizard brain was screaming at me to run. There had to be some change beyond the cosmetic. My eyes were drawn to the woman I recognized. I watched her as she went about her business at the desk.

  She was repeating the same motions over and over. Read a page, flip to the next, pause, and take a drink of coffee. It was the exact sequence without fail. I shifted my attention to the book. The page would fall back into place as she took a sip of her coffee for her to read again.

  Her wide, cheery stare locked onto me as I stepped closer.

  "Hello, dear," she said with a smile. "How can I help you?"

  "Something is going on," I blurted out. "A guy attacked me, the building is different, and I just... I don't know what's going on."

  My heart started to pound again as I spoke. Relief had given way to panic. I slumped onto to the counter. My breath began to quicken. I wanted answers. More than that, I needed to get the hell out of here. My head started to spin. I took a deep breath and let it out. My entire world focused on the stretch of the stone counter between my hands. The pounding in my ear began to pass.

  The same wide, cheery stare greeted me as I looked up at her.

  "Hello, dear," she said with a smile. "How can I help you?"

  "I need help," I said slowly.

  "Of course, dear," she replied. "Here you go."

  A small package wrapped in beige clothe appeared on the counter before me. I picked it up.
[Starters Bundle 1x]

  The text hovered in the air above the package. My hands trembled. I looked back to the woman only to see that she had returned to her loop.

  My phone.

  There had to be someone I could call. Emergency services at least. Failing that I'd settle for my parents. I had it before the clown attack. Did I put it away? I patted my pockets. The stone slate appeared in my hand. I stared at it for a long moment.

  A new line of text had joined the list.

[Character Sheet]

  I stumbled over to a bench and took a seat.

  "Fine," I muttered. "This is a game."

[Mason Yannick. Level 1. Quick. Total Experience: 300.]
[Strength: 9]
[Vitality: 9]
[Agility: 12]
[Charisma: 9]
[Perception: 11]
[Will: 7]
[Simple Weapons] [Improvised Weapons]

  Tabletop games and video games were something I was familiar with. It wasn't the worst build, if the stats were on a scale of one to twenty. I never did do the min-max thing. My stats certainly not the best, that was for sure. I put my tablet back in my pocket and turned my attention to the package in my lap.

  How did I open it? My backpack didn't have a zipper anymore and my phone had just appeared in my hand. I settled back into the bench. The stiff wood seat pressed into my back just below my shoulders. My bag was gone. I felt where the straps were supposed to be.

[Backpack- 10/15 Available.]
[Skill Book: Charisma +1]
[Yannick Household Key]
[Codex 000: A New World]

  The display hovered in the space before me. I looked around the room. Everyone else continued in their tasks.

  "Menus don't pause the game," I whispered. "I'll have to keep that in mind."
  I tapped on the Skill Book.

[Activate? Yes/No]

  "Sure," I said and accepted the action.

[Charisma +1]
[Backpack- 9/15 Available]

  I backed out of my inventory. The Starters Bundle glowed green where it rested on the floor near my feet. I touched my pocket, the tablet appeared in my hand, and another touch made it disappear. The inventory window showed up when I tapped just below my collar bone where the straps should have been. Lowering my hand closer the window.

  The mechanics were simple enough.

  I picked up the Starters Bundle and tapped its top. A stack of text popped up in the air above it.

[Dagger 1x]
[Apple 2x] [Cheese Wedge 2x]
[Simple Leather Armor] [Minor Health Potion 1x]

  My shirt shifted as the text faded. I could feel the weight of the leather armor on my torso. It didn't feel much heavier than wearing my backpack. My right hand rested on the hilt of the dagger that had appeared on my hip. I leaned back to get a better look. It wasn't attached to a belt, but something held it in place.

  "If the office is here, the doors should be too," I said as I stood.

  It felt good to hear a voice, even if it was my own. There had to be someone else like me around here. I scanned the room again. It only took a moment to see that the staff ran on a loop like the lady at the counter.

  I drew my dagger and paused waiting for some sort of reaction. No one cared. It was longer than I expected, but it wasn't too heavy. Looking at the blade quieted the gibbering panic in my head. I wasn't helpless anymore.

  I could do this. Whatever that meant.


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About the author


  • The Melting North
  • Action Monkey

Bio: It all started a long time ago in a distant land by the name of Washington. A little boy sat enthralled before a TV screen watching pixels dance. Plumbers defeated dragons, a young adventurer ventured into unknown lands, and ducks were shot from the sky.

After that other stuff happened.

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Unmaker @Unmaker ago

He missed the (possible) chance to game the system. Don't touch the pack. Ask for help again. Does he get another?

If he is being a real bastard, coerce other people to give him part of their starter kit.