Chapter Fourteen – Another World: Two
“Warning! Warning! Excessive Adrenaline Detected!”
“Logging you out.”
“Logging you out.”
“Logging you out.”
Gentle soothing music played as the headset responsible for controlling her nervous system decided she'd gotten too excited.
The music actually helped. It wasn’t shit elevator music. A little peppy. A little mellow. The type of music she could spend an afternoon smoking to.
It didn’t fit the hyperventilation she couldn’t stop, though.
“Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh m-my…”
She lurched out of bed and tumbled to the floor, landing hard on her knees. She groaned in pain, but ignored it in favor of scrambling for the wastebucket.
She dry heaved twice, but nothing came up. Her mouth was cracked and she tasted bile at the back of her throat. After her heartrate slowly fell to more normal levels she tumbled away from the basket to sit and lay her head back on the bed, as she stared up at a ceiling fan.
“She… she spoke. She… oh god.”
The jellyfish. The jellyfish spoke. It sounded so real. So fucking real. Like nothing in the rest of the game. What the hell was that!? She was crying and screaming…
Had the programmers just… been fucking with her? Tatiana shuddered, trying and failing to remove the memory of that broken creature screaming at her. After all that time she’d finally found a way to detect hidden monsters, and... fuck.
Nothing in the game had ever felt that raw. She’d killed the stupid mob fifty times. Hell, probably a hundred! She’d thought it was weird when the creature had stopped showing up to fight, but hadn’t thought any further into it.
She was growing, long since leveling past her friends as her boosted dexterity skyrocketed her through the ranks of the game. She’d thought to supplement that with more dexterity crystals. Had… had the game developers given that creature a personality or something?
A way of scaring her? As soon as she’d discovered the ridiculous Jellyfae and its epic drop, she had wondered if it was cheating.
Well, if that had been a developers sick prank, it had worked. Her eyes were wet and she realized she was still shaking. Sweat lingered on her body, the ceiling fan making her shiver with the cold.
That had felt real, as if all of a sudden the mob had developed a conscience and feelings. The creature seemed like it was a fucking person. That was something she’d never encountered. Was this a part of the game? She was new enough to know that she didn’t know everything about MMOs but she was also blasting through levels like no tomorrow. Where her teammates might die, she could run, and if you could escape a dungeon, you were safe. Most others weren’t fast enough to utilize this option, but she was. It had propelled her to level twenty six. Twelve levels shy of the current top pushers.
Was this game really that good? The game itself wasn’t really a masterpiece of storytelling. The main character NPCs did all their talking in instanced events, where you just watched and your avatar was controlled by the computer. Nothing they had done had felt even close to as realistic as the mob — as Gell.
So… what the hell?
She picked up her phone and dialed up Germaine. He was a long-time gamer and odds were pretty good that he would be awake, though he had MMOs other than Tread The Sky that he actually had real investments in.
He answered on the third ring, which was good. She’d half expected him to ignore her. He and Egs had both been mad at her for the past few weeks because she refused to share the source of her ridiculous character growth.
“Heya Tats, long-time-no-chat,” he said distractedly. She could tell immediately that he was playing some other game. From the sound of it, one with a bunch of guns involved.
She made to speak but hesitated, suddenly embarrassed. What was she supposed to say? That she got scared by an in-game NPC begging for its life?
'Begging for its death actually. What was it she said? “Why are you the only thing that changes?” What the hell did that mean?’ Tatiana thought, her mood dropping.
“Hello? Tatiana? Is this a butt dial?” he asked.
“No. Sorry. Hey Germaine,” she said gloomily.
“There you are! What’s goin’ on?” he asked, his New Orleans accent strong in her ears.
“I… just had an… experience. I don’t really know what happened but it seriously freaked me out,” she said evasively.
His tone dropped a full octave, and she could only imagine what he might’ve interpreted her words to mean. “Are you okay?”
“Y-yeah. I think so. No? I… it was something in game,” she said.
He immediately sighed in relief. If it was in game, then to him, whatever problem she had couldn’t be all that serious.
“So what happened?” he asked.
She could hear the sounds of gunshots being muted in the background. He’d been mad at her but apparently not so mad that he wouldn’t drop it if she came to him with any actual trouble. He was a good friend.
“I… found a mob. Obviously. It's the reason my dexterity jumped so high,” she admitted.
He didn’t say anything, prompting her to continue. She smiled inwardly at that.
“I killed this thing… god, fifty times at least. At the time I didn’t think anything of it, but all of a sudden it disappeared,” she said, letting some measure of the anger she’d felt when the Jellyfae had disappeared slip into her tone. “It was there attacking like mobs do. Then one day it was just gone. No reason why. No system patch to tell me that it had been edited out of the game. Really pissed me off. Remember when I got mad a few weeks ago and wouldn’t join that raid?”
“Yeaahhh, I remember. So you found a mob, killed it a bunch, and then the mob disappeared? Doesn’t sound so strange. Probably just has a kill counter on it or something, and won’t spawn for you anymore. Kind of unusual, but if it’s dropping Dexterity crystals strong enough to make you… well, ridiculous like you are now, it would make sense,” he said.
“That’s what I thought. Until I went back tonight and used a stealth crystal. Germ, I found the mob. It was hiding,” she said soberly.
He stayed quiet. Thoughtful. “That’s it?”
“If only,” She said. “I was overjoyed. Didn’t even think about what that might mean. I found it! It had just been hiding in the fucking ceiling. So I killed it, like you do, waited the two hours for it to respaw–!”
“This freaking thing respawns every cycle!?” he interrupted.
“Germ. Focus. I came back for it and this time it was just… lying there, at the entrance. Like something had hurt it, but not so bad it couldn’t keep fighting. It didn’t attack though. It… talked to me. Screamed at me. Like a person, asking how many times it had to die until I was satisfied.”
“Huh,” he murmured. “Must’ve been the developers? They noticed your rise and decided to screw with you?”
“I thought that but… you should’ve heard this thing, Germ. It was… dammit this sounds so lame… it was real. Accusing me. It scared me. Me!” she said, unable to find the words to explain it better. “Made me feel like I’d been killing a real live person, over and over all this time. Made me feel like… well. Like a monster.”
“I mean, that's a pretty sick prank for a developer to play, but what other explanation could there be? NPCs programmed to attack don’t suddenly start talking. It’s not how games work,” he said, sounding self-assured.
“Yeah… that must be it. Still, I’m going to report it. Whoever made that should be fired. I… I’ve never felt bad about killing generic mobs before. Now every time I look at a skeleton I’m going to be wondering if it's going to start yelling at me for killing its brothers and sisters or some shit,” she replied with a rueful sigh.
“Can you show me? For research purposes, of course,” he said, his tone revealing the playful grin he was probably wearing.
She frowned, annoyed that he wasn’t taking this as seriously as he should’ve, but she supposed he didn’t have the same context she did. To him, it was a computer glitch. He hadn’t heard her wailing. Her… madness.
“I’m never going back there, Germ,” she replied. “Maybe it was a bad developer joke, but it was the type of joke that makes people quit games. Honestly, I might not play for a little while. If you do figure out what it was though… take it seriously, okay? I don’t know how much effort goes into voice acting and programming these NPCs but if this was a prank, someone spent weeks making it at least. And… it freaking worked. I don’t want that mob to be hurt anymore.”
He sighed dramatically. “Fine, fine. Sorry. I know it must’ve been pretty fucked up for you to call me to cry about it.”
“You ass,” she replied fondly. “Don’t go looking for it?”
“I won’t,” he assured her, and she believed him. “Up for some camping in Guns and Grease? I really think I might be getting good enough to go pro in that one.”
“Naaa,” she said. “I’ve had enough killing digital creatures tonight. Think I’m going to call it. I’ve got a long day tomorrow anyway.”
“Aight, peace yo!” he exclaimed.
She chuckled and wished him a good night before hanging up. She sighed and stood up, heading for the bathroom to take an early shower and try to relax her nerves.
Maybe she’d take it easy on Tread the Sky for a few days...
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I'm Materia-Blade. I've been a long time fanfiction writer, and have recently decided to toss my hat into the original fiction arena. I love fantasy, sci-fi, and Lit-RPG's and have read hundreds of books from each genre.
My new story Artificial Jelly has released and is currently being pretty well received! Excited for it to hit trending! Thanks to those who support it, and me, and I hope it continues to impress!
Hope to hear from you soon!