The story is about Phillip McKenzie, a man obsessed with creating a video game like no other currently on the market. He has invested five years into its code and the release date is looming. Investors are screaming. Time is up. Finally success pays a short lived visit as he realises something is inside the game; something evil and looking for a way out.
Using an energy source, Phillip is dragged into the game-world and locked in a dungeon until he finds a way for a living virus, calling itself ‘The Wanderer’, to escape the confinement of the virtual reality world.
The Wanderer knows his secrets; she has watched and secretly helped him develop the skills and the math required to create this digital reality. She is also in love with him and hopes he will join her and together they can rule the outside world. But her advances, both sexual and power driven are rejected. She must look to the outside world for leverage.
And she finds it in the form of his daughter.
Confused, with a line of sweat beading for forehead, Phillip McKenzie started at his PC screen with the motherboard connected directly to the server. He wasn’t sure exactly what the problem was, only that the damn game was getting out of control. The characters wouldn’t do as programmed and holographic glitches were everywhere. This was added stress he did not need. He had six hours to fix the problem before the game was released online, and he already had over a hundred thousand paid customers and sales were going to boom in the next few hours. If he couldn’t deliver by eight tonight that would be the end of Cam-Games Inc. He would lose everything and he wasn’t about to be a loser for the adult half of his life.
The screen went blue.
“Fuck!” Frustration slammed his fist onto the computer table, sending a vibration through the thin desktop screen. Postponing the launch was quickly becoming a reality, a terrifying reality he wished to avoid. Excuses were slamming against each other in his head, for the sponsors, customers and soon to be customers. He didn’t even want to think about the cost of the delay.
Reluctantly he reached for the off button to reboot, when the screen flickered.
The screen went from blue to black.
Curious, Phillip leaned back in his chair and waited.
Words tumbled across the screen, each letter spinning into formation like a wave ready to crash.
“Professor?” He frowned at the words. Thinking a hacker had attacked, he typed in a series of commands but to no avail.
He could hear the sponsors complaining now. He could picture the long wooden table behind which, they all sat with thousand dollar suits and thousand dollar frowns. They were shoving papers and pointing figures at him, showing his signed agreement, his promise, his failure to deliver. Yes, the demo worked fine but without the full product there wasn’t a point to the demo. Wasted time, wasted money and wasted storage. They were screaming at the red line now, the growing numbers, the thinning pockets and the dieting account balance. It wasn’t supposed to diet it was supposed to grow fat, in fact it was meant to start eating in six hours.
Phillip shook the vision from his head.
WE know you’re not a professor, but you could have been. Why did you give up? Do you always give up? We hope not.
“Who are: ‘we’?” he wondered aloud.
We are your creations.
Squeezing his eyes shut, Phillip drew his hands down his face. He had high cheekbones and a narrow chin that he covered with a thick curly brown beard, a contrast to the gray streaked light brown mop of straggly hair that sat on his head. He got off the chair and stretched his long skinny frame. His long fingers interlocked and reached to the ceiling. His blue eyes hurt from the hours of nonstop computing but he contributed it to the thin-rimmed glasses he now wore.
I’m losing it, he thought. I’m interacting with a computer screen.
Five years of programming and building scenes, problems and actions; five years of building a program that understood standard speech in all its abominations and able to reply to questions; five years of testing the limits of holographic projectors before deciding to flag that idea and build a program to compensate; five years of missed love from his wife and children before they left for good; five years without seeing his now twenty-year-old daughter and a son he had yet to see and probably wouldn’t; five years of stress; five years of failure; five years of begging for extensions; five years to lose his house to the bank and five years before realizing that the answer to thousands of questions lay in a visor that could scan a players brain and decide what abilities and level that player could have.
Five years of his life gone and he was having a breakdown.
Words tumbled on the computer screen: Five years? We’ve been with you a lot longer than that. Don’t you remember?
Phillip didn’t want to remember. He reached for the off button to reboot.
Don’t do that. You have been warned.
He reached for the off button. Blue light jagged like lightning bolts, flew from the screen and wrapped around his body. It wrapped around him like a rope, snaring him to the chair.
No professor, fuck you.
The blue light expanded until it encased Phillip in a small bubble. He struggled to breathe, unable to comprehend what was happening to him. Unable to comprehend what he had programmed the game to do. Unable to comprehend that he had taught the program humankind’s first and overriding instinct...Survival.
Phillip’s vision blurred. He fought a loosing battle for breath. Darkness loomed in. It covered all his sensors in a heavy dark cloak. And all he could think of was five wasted years.
He passed out...
...And awoke with a major migraine pounding his temples. He reached up to remove his glasses, knowing from experience that his usually cured the problem. His fingers fumbled across his naked eyes. No glasses, yet he could see clearly and better than before.
Is breathing was slow and normal, as he took in his surroundings. He didn’t like what he saw.
A dungeon with iron bars imbedded in a rocky wall to prevent escape. He was standing on a wet cobblestone floor in bare feet ― Imprisoned ― But how was that possible? He recalled the blue lightning while working on a glitch with his computer and suddenly he was here. But there was something else, also. Voices, he remembered, coming from the computer. Part of the glitch? He couldn’t remember. But blue lightning in his office, coming from...
This was totally fucked up. Yet he knew this dungeon. He had created it from scanned hand drawn pictures. The dew and slivers of green moss were all his. As were the small puddles of water shaking on the smooth stoned hallway. The smell was incredibly bad; a mix of rotten eggs and decayed flesh floating in sewage lined lakes. That was his creation also. But the coldness wasn’t. He hadn’t thought about the temperature, ‘cause the players would be warm in their houses. Now he wished he had as a cold shiver rattled his spine.
In the cells on both sides were stick thin people with long dirty hair and beards reaching down to their chests, rotted clothing and black teeth. One spoke to him, but he couldn’t understand, the words were jumbled and crackled. He understood why as well. He wasn’t wearing a visor, so the de-scrambler wasn’t activated.
The sound of flowing water grabbed his attention. Turning he saw a yellow stream of urine falling from a small iron bared window far up in the wall. Too far to reach. And for the first time since he arrived here, he could hear the commotion of activity from a busy marketplace.
He wasn’t worried about being here. In every game there is an exit route. Two claps of his hand will take him out of here. Then a thought invaded that scared the crap out of him: Does rational thought and rules for the outside world, work in here? He wasn’t sure, and could feel the hairs prickling the back of his neck.
You were kidnapped into a game of your creation. Ever hear of that happening?
No, he answered himself.
The reality of where he was, plainly evident, yet, he was stumped about how he got here. Was his body lying on the floor of the office or was his body drawn into the game also?
He heard a low growl of something approaching, and the swish and thump of a jumping tail. Without realizing it, he backed up to the far wall and pushed himself against the smooth wet rocks.
Light pulsed from torchieres hanging in sconces lining the damp stonewalls. Suddenly all lights flickered, spinning flames shot and danced against the dark walls. Breaking through the light a shadow slowly grew to the ceiling. A shadow with horns, a long jaw and more than likely, sharp teeth.
Frantic with fear, Phillip clapped his hands together twice. Nothing changed. He tried it a second and third time. His eyes were fixed on the shadow getting closer.
“Let me out!” he screamed, sliding down into a crouch.
The shadow changed. The horns vanished and the shape thinned. A slender hand wrapped around the bar to his cell. A moment later, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen stepped into view.
He hadn’t created her.
She was lightly tanned and had long brown hair that flowed just past her shoulders. She wore ripped material tied in a knot and wrapped around her chest covering what appeared to be voluptuous breasts. A torn dress was wrapped around her waist. Her legs were tight and muscular, her stomach flat and firm and she had the face of an angel. Small dark eyes, petite nose and smooth skin.
Phillip was shocked. This curvaceous beauty was a beast. That was part of the game’s hide routine, but he couldn’t help feeling drawn to her. Conflicting emotions wanted him to touch her, speak to her, hold her and kill her. She was a demon and she was in control. The object of the game was to destroy her to win. But this wasn’t what he had created. The demon he had scanned into the computer was a typical horn headed, scaly and muscular devil-man. Not this vision of beauty.
When she spoke, the words were silk-lined and floated erotically at him, waving and skipping in the putrid air.
“I’m not part of the game Phillip, but I thank you for finally creating it. You’ve given me a place to reside and a wilderness to hunt in.”
“Who are you? Why have you kidnapped me?” he managed. A sliding feeling that he was stepping out over the cliff edge of sanity and about to drop into the eye of the abyss of no return pulsed through his body and rubbed his words into near panic.
“You may call me, The Wanderer. As to why I have brought you here, well...” She let the sentence hang. “Preparations have not yet been completed.” The way she looked at him showed admiration. “This world has grown from your idea and design into a vast unexplored wilderness, full of wonder and danger. For this and your dedication to your work, I also thank you.”
Not moving from his seemingly safe position, he said, “Did I create you?”
“You’re not listening,” her voice showed her anger. “You must always listen. Hints are in the speech, isn’t that part of the game?”
“Who are you?” he repeated then added. “And how did I get here?”
She smiled exposing beautiful white straight teeth. “Let’s just say I’ve always existed.” The smile faded. “And you better hope that the self installing software works when those hordes of people get online. You’re here for a special reason. And its completion is your only chance of getting out of here...alive.”
Phillip watched her round the corner of the hallway. He shamelessly had an erection. That was the power she held over him and probably on all men, likely women also. Her sexy silky voice and luscious body, barely hidden, hinted at more. The real power she was ‘suggestiveness’ and not nakedness and her actions and confidence proved her knowledge of it.
The man from the adjacent cell called out.
Phillip turned and saw the man leaning against the bars. His wild eyes stared at the wall. His rags were parted and he was masturbating.
“Eabiutulf bseta,” he said.
Phillip concentrated on the sounds and rearranged them in his head. The prisoner had said, “Beautiful beast.”
With a smile, he knew he could learn this language. And that would give him an advantage.
"Oh, but to play a game" ~ Phillip McKenzie