This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons, living or otherwise, is unintended and purely coincidental. I do not make any monetary value in the writing of this story.
This story contains mild violence, adult language and sexual content between characters aged twenty-one and over.
Book cover designed by Christina Quinn.
It was rare that the two of us would lounge around in the bed together, at least for as long as we had. But, I wasn’t going to complain about spending time with my husband. We talked about nothing for two hours: house stuff, work stuff, random games. When he finally made the decision to get up and get food, I stared at the TV for a moment. It was off, had been for I couldn’t remember how long, but the new VR system was placed next to it, and my attention wandered there.
The VR Sensory was the latest of its kind and boasted of being the best virtual reality experience you would ever experience in gaming. They were right. It was very risky but the device connected to your brain, tricking it into thinking that what you saw and felt was real. It manipulated all of your senses really, and it was well worth the amount we spent on it.
The best games to experience so far were the MMORPGs of course and that made it to where hardly any gamer left their home for social reasons. Why, when all you had to do was put on the headgear and join your online friends in a world you could only dream about? You and your guild or alliance or whatever the game called your group could venture into deadly dungeons or run a farm-like ecosystem together, with virtually no drama.
The most popular game was simply called Your Fantasy, which combined a lot of the other popular MMORPGs into a large clump. It actually reminded me of Final Fantasy except you had a choice if you wanted to either slay monsters day in and day out or be an innkeeper. Majority of players did the quests and leveled up and all that because, what honestly was the fun in literally keeping shop?
I looked at the time and realized that I didn’t have to do a damn thing today. It was the husband’s day off so there was no need for me to do the laundry: it could actually wait until the next day. There were plenty of leftovers if I got too wrapped up into the game and played all day, so I didn’t have to worry about dinner. I got up and made myself a bowl of cereal before committing to the game for half a day, at least.
When I finally strapped the headgear on, I felt ready to take on the world. Last time I logged in, I was on a quest to obtain my fifth Guardian Monster, seeing as though I chose the Summoner class. Aside from the Mages, we were the only ones who could also wield magic, which including summoning monsters to aid us in fights. Unfortunately, we were also the ones with not so much HP so we stayed in the back rows during fights. My online buddy, “Giza” had made it his special quest to show me ways of working around that, particularly so because he was one of the beta testers for the game.
Clicking the headgear on immediately warped you into a space that looked like a basic mainframe of a system. The angelic tones of the system booting up always made me feel at ease and I waited for the message to log in, which would be brief for me because I had clicked auto login when I first set it up. All of the games you had downloaded would appear in a horizontal sliding menu and above it was menu information like the time, how many of your friends were online and inbox messages. I saw the purple number on the icon that looked like an envelope and while I usually ignored them, purple meant important so my hand pressed on the icon.
The screen changed to my inbox and I saw that it was a message from Giza.
Hey, J! There’s a new update for YF. Get yer ass here, ASAP!
It must have been an important one but then again, I thought we would’ve gotten the message from the developers. I shrugged as I went back to pick Your Fantasy and was whisked away into its world.
Something was weird, if not wrong with the situation. Usually, you found yourself at your last save point which should’ve put me at the beginning of the Forest of Dreams. But, as I looked around, I was, along with what seemed to be the other players online, in the town square of Hanook. Every RPG had a beginning or a main town and Hanook was YF’s. There were way too many players for me to just look at their health bars to find anyone in my alliance so I opened up my mini menu to see if I could find their dots. I actually liked the dot system: members of your alliance showed up green, regular friends were blue, important NPCs were orange, enemies were red and everyone else were white. There were two green dots very close to me and I decided to go to them.
I didn’t have to move far before I saw the familiar tank of a man looking around the sea of players. His skin was blue and he had a jagged scar across his left eye. His armor made him look more massive than he really was but it served its purpose well.
“Giza!” it was pointless for me to wave so I just ran up to him and he smiled.
“J!” he was honestly the only alliance member who called me by my real name. Well, my real initial. My login name was J_Dub but in the games, YF particularly, you could assign yourself a different name. Presently, I was Tabitha.
“Why is everyone here? Is it a glitch?”
“I don’t know…” he made himself busy going into his own mini menu. Standing in front of someone, you couldn’t see what they were doing on their own menu but with the way his fingers moved, I knew that he was researching online. “Hmm, no one’s reported anything yet. Wouldn’t hurt to put in a ticket, though. One minute, I was in Cobalt City and then I was warped here. Must be something with the new update.”
“Do you know what it is, or was?”
“I thought that it would be a new item added. The email was vague.”
“Not the one on here. The one you used to sign up with. It just said that there was a new update and would take effect the next time you log in,” Giza spoke as he typed and then closed his menu out. “Whelp, ticket submitted. Let’s find the others. Seeing as though we’re here, we can probably comb through the caves once more. Tweety just joined and their level is really low. That’ll help them out loads.”
“Yeah.” I nodded and looked at the map. For anyone levels one through ten, the caves that were a bit to the west of the town were challenging. But because I had experience with RPGs, I knew to beat up on the monsters outside of town until I was high enough to make the caves look like a walk in the park. It was tedious and time-consuming but a level fifteen player could beat a level eight boss in their sleep.
I actually had help, seeing that it was how I met Giza, who was doing the exact same thing. We partied up and made that sand salamander our bitch! We were somewhat inseparable ever since.
A quick but loud beep interrupted my trip down memory lane, an audible reminder that there was a system message. Because it sounded like it was in stereo, I figured that everyone else got it around the same time as well. When I clicked on the message, I stood in confusion as I read it.
To the players of Your Fantasy:
I first want to thank you for purchasing the VR Sensory Headgear and Your Fantasy MMORPG game. Without you, my dream would have simply remained just that, a dream.
Unfortunately for those of you logged in at this moment, welcome to the beginning of your new life. You are now stuck in the world of Your Fantasy, there is no way for you to log out. The only way is to defeat the game which, unfortunate for you, adds final bosses at a regular interval. Meaning, there may not be a true ending to this game.
This gives a whole new meaning to “Game Over” in your new world. Death here means death in the real world. If you’re in a party, you better hope someone has a Phoenix Down to revive you before the battle ends.
Right now, others in the real world are being informed of the situation. Any attempt to remove the headgear will result in death for the player.
I stopped reading and looked over at Giza. “Hey… did you get this message?”
“I think so. This can’t be real. I’ll log out and… oh.” Giza’s brow furrowed at his menu.
“It just said unable to log me out.”
“Maybe this is part of the update.” An angelic voice said from behind me and I turned and was looking into the shimmering purple eyes of Tweety, our newest alliance member. She had chosen the Archer class and was dressed fittingly in a bra that barely covered her nipples, panties and a leather belt/strap around her waist whose main purpose was to hold her quiver of arrows. I knew that the proper pronoun was they/them but it seemed that Tweety went out of her way to dress her character in that manner and to me, that said obvious girl.
Or, it could’ve been a sex-craved guy but I had a feeling I was wrong about that. Most of them forget that actions done in the real world would register to this one, and it was really annoying to see a player jacking off.
“You might be right. We probably all just got suckered into a marathon play… which would suck. I was only supposed to stay on for an hour.” Giza sighed but continued trying to hack out of the system.
“But, that makes no sense. Why force people to do that? There’s plenty of willing folks to participate in a marathon play. There would’ve been emails warning you that this would happen.” I looked around and my heart started to race, seeing the start of panic settling over quite a few of the players’ faces. That alone told me the message was real. This was no joke: we were really stuck in the game.
My train of thought left me when, all of the sudden, everyone started to change. Everyone’s customized avatars disappeared and in their place were the real people behind them. I looked down at my own hands and they were no longer green. I was back to my milk chocolate self, even my wedding bands were present. Giza was no longer in front of me but there was a girl around my height staring in awe with Giza’s armor on.
“G-Giza? Wait… you’re a girl?” my eyes widened. Giza was pretty, with her brown eyes and jet-black hair in a pixie cut. She had to be no older than fifteen, old enough to be my daughter and that thought made me turn to Tweety. I expected another young girl but then I saw that my instincts were half right. Tweety was a guy but looked nothing like I imagined a sex-craved guy would look. He actually looked comfortable in the outfit he chose for his avatar, regardless of if he towered over us, and was lithe. He had short golden locks that curled close to his eyes, which darted down in slight embarrassment as he tried to cover his crotch.
“This… this is really happening…” his real voice a stark contrast to what he chose for Tweety. I didn’t know what to say to my team members, all I could do was look around and watch as everyone else had the same looks.
What do we do, now?
It was good to know that we had a hacker in our alliance but I felt bad she was stuck in the game with us. Giza was all of thirteen, and wasn’t supposed to be online to begin with: she had been on punishment. But, she had already hacked the game to her likings and was our mirror to the real world. She couldn’t send messages to anyone but she was able to show us everything that was going on.
There was immediate outrage and confusion from the real world, and then we witnessed that what was said in the memo to us was true. There were hundreds of people who tried to remove the Sensory headgear off their loved ones and the damn thing basically electrocuted the user on the spot. I was so glad for the numerous warnings from people, telling them not to remove the headgear. A good thing because I knew for sure that my husband would’ve been one of the first to try but I was still alive in the game.
We all knew that the solution was somewhat simple: play the game and get as far as you can. It was good that we had already formed alliances but there were a lot of internal problems, as I imagined it would be. Working together with others would be impossible, seeing that when everything set in, we had at least one hundred thousand people stuck in the game. The one thing that struck me as surprising was that the beta testers, no matter what alliance they were initially in, worked together to help everyone out. I didn’t understand why some didn’t trust the betas: I was so glad that Giza was one! They were our strategy guides.
A meeting was called for the alliance leaders which I was glad for. The main thing that was agreed on was simply, play the game. It wasn’t clear if we all would be released if one alliance or even one player defeated the entire game, and while it made sense to attack one boss with thousands of people, I also imagined the chaos of doing so. The plan was to see what happened.
Another dilemma happened two weeks after being stuck in YF’s world. It was easy to defend yourself and battle in the virtual world, as well as eat and rest. But in the real world, we were zombified, with no way to eat or sleep. A lot of our loved ones had figured it out before we did and hospitals found themselves filled to the brim with comatose gamers. Unfortunately, there were others who didn’t, or those who lived alone and they eventually died. We were left with only half of our alliance after only two weeks.
It was weird but I had to eventually just tell myself that we were stuck forever, and we would have to make the best of it. I saw that others felt the same and simply integrated themselves into the game. They made themselves into non-playable characters and decided to be happy with what they got. They felt it was pointless to fight in a game with no end in sight.
If I had to honest with myself, alliances for the most part were useless. Sure, we could make it easier to take down higher leveled monsters if we worked together, and we needed all the emotional support we could get. And, you received a shit-ton of XP and Coin the more members of your alliance helped clear areas or defeat bosses. But after that, you didn’t have to be in an alliance, there was no set rule saying so. You could party up with people of your choice.
I found that out before we were all sucked into the game because I loved side quests and there was no need for a whole alliance to come with you on one. In fact, most were required solo events; if it stated that I could have another guest, it would surprise me. But my alliance didn’t have a problem with me being absent most of the time due to side quests: they knew that most of them gave me items that would help out immensely during battles.
Us Summoners and Mages helped out loads if we leveled up properly. But, with Giza’s help, I saw that I leveled up on the likes of Knights, who were amongst the classes that leveled up quickly and had equipped items to help with other stats. So, I became an extremely vital part of Heavenly Shield, our alliance.
I took that knowledge for granted.
Six months had passed since we’d been stuck in YH and the investigation launched against the company gave us a bit more insight on the situation. The main thing was that there was a ghost developer, the main creator of the game and headset, who no one could track down. The other developers had no idea what was going on until it happened, and had no way to stop it. Giza explained all the technical stuff but the only thing I got out of it was that there was some master code but no one knows it and no one can hack to stop it.
Another thing we found out from the higher-level alliances was that this ghost developer kept their word. When these alliances thought that they had a boss beaten, of course nothing would happen but then a few days later, another boss would appear. With that knowledge, most of us just gave up in different ways. Some committed suicide, some stayed away from the big bosses, others “retired” to run shops or simply live but there were not too many who pushed through to try to end the game. I didn’t blame those who gave up: what was the point of playing if there was no end?
I didn’t know how I felt but I knew suicide wasn’t an option. I didn’t want to give up and become some shop keeper but then, a part of me felt it was useless leveling up if more final bosses would show up at any given time. It was weird but I had started to like battling, so battle I did.
I was on one of my side quests because I could never pass up an opportunity to gain another Guardian Monster, which I had eight of. I wasn’t the most powerful Summoner in the game but I was ranked amongst the best of them and I prided myself on that tidbit.
I was just about to approach the save point, which meant it would be boss time, when I heard a series of short beeps. I pulled my menu out and saw that it was a message from Heavenly Shield.
Need you ASAP in the Pandora Caverns!
My heart quickened as I ran to the save point so I could teleport: if someone said I was needed, they were in trouble. When the Caverns came into sight, I wasted no time running through, my menu up to track where my crew was. Six green dots: all of the Shield was battling. The Pandora Caverns were a bit of a challenge if one wasn’t at the right level but my alliance should’ve had no problems with it. Something was disturbingly wrong.
I wasn’t a hundred percent familiar with the Caverns but I knew for sure that I was in an unrecognizable area. There was a wall but my people were right beyond it. As soon as I tried to make sense of it all, it gave way and I was treated to a horrific scene. Four of our alliance members were KO’d. Giza was worn out, down on one knee and Tweety kept his distance, firing flame arrows at an ice tentacled monster.
What the hell was a Raphons doing in the Caverns?
I had no time to waste as I ran towards the nearest downed body, our alliance leader who I could never think of his name. The most important thing was that he was at a higher level than all of us and he needed to be revived first.
“Something’s wrong! I can’t access my items…” my brow furrowed as I tried to go into the battle menu.
“This room was a trap! Our items menu were locked as soon as we entered this room!” Tweety yelled from across the way. The Raphons hadn’t noticed me in the room just yet so its ire was directed towards him. I cursed out loud because the Guardian Monster I was going after, would had been perfect for this room– Phoenixa, the God of Healing.
While the Raphons was distracted, I ran a Scan on it. I automatically knew that fire would hurt it badly, I just wanted to see all its other stats. My team had knocked it down to near death at least but I was sure that the thing casted a plethora of status-changing spells to paralyze and eventually kill the others. I needed to think wisely.
I looked to see how much Tweety’s arrows took off and grunted when I saw that it wasn’t as much as I would’ve liked. He just upgraded to Fira arrows and for them to do little damage was disheartening. I looked over at Giza, who hadn’t attacked at all and I saw that her HP and MP were plummeting at an alarming rate. She was Poisoned.
I wasn’t equipped for long range attacks aside from my Magic so physically attacking would probably find me hit hard in retaliation. I had three options: use my fire Magic or use one of two of my fire Guardian Monsters. My highest fire Magic was Firaga but looking at my MP proved that I didn’t have enough to cast it. That left Ifrit and Diablo. I had trained enough with Diablo to where he would stay in battle but the downside was that he might not survive long enough to finish off the Raphons. Ifrit was hit or miss: sometimes he would stay but more than often he wouldn’t, however he was more powerful.
“Tabitha!” Tweety’s frantic voice made me jump and I rolled out of the way of a tentacle. Fuck, it realized I was there. It was now or never and I had hoped I chose correctly.
“Summon Ifrit, the Guardian of Chaos!” I decided and a bellow of black smoke appeared in front of me. When it dissipated, Ifrit stood in its place, towering over the Raphons. His charcoal horns expanded outward and formed sharp points while a cyclone of fire roared around his torso on down. His yellow eyes gleamed as he smirked down at the monster and a billow of smoke puffed out when he exhaled.
The Raphons put its attention on Ifrit and immediately attacked, hitting him with all twelve of its tentacles but it did nothing but anger Ifrit, which I was glad for. Ifrit roared before he produced a ball of fire. It grew in size, damn near encasing his arms into the ball before he launched it towards the monster, a direct hit. The Raphons wailed in agony before it collapsed and I saw that its HP was at zero. Ifrit retreated into a black cloud of smoke and the door leading back into the Caverns opened: the area was cleared.
Although I hadn’t physically battled, I plopped down to the ground on my knees. Then I realized the huge dilemma. I couldn’t revive the others before ending the battle. They were gone. I watched as one by one, our fallen alliance members started to disintegrate into thin air, along with the Raphons. That’s when I saw it.
“W-Wait, n-no…” I rushed over to Giza’s fallen body. Tears gushed out as I saw her HP and MP bars had been depleted. “Gi… Lana! Lana, no!” by the time I tried to scoop her into my arms, she started to disintegrate.
There were no goodbyes, no last words. She was gone… and I had been too late to save her.
As Tweety and I exited the Caverns, I was numb all over. I stopped walking and just stared at my feet. At least, that was the direction I stared in. In reality, my vision was too blurred to see anything.
“J?” Tweety’s voice was soft as he put his hand on my shoulder. “C-Come on, let–”
“S-S-She was only fourteen, Ty…” I didn’t care that my tears blurred my vision more.
“I was too late…”
“This wasn’t your fault, J,” Tyler was his real name, and he gathered me into a huge hug. “We got in a fucked up situation. This whole situation is fucked up! But, all we can do now is go back to–”
“What’s the fucking point?!” I pushed away from him and left.
“J…” was all I heard before I was out of earshot.
What was the fucking point, anymore?