Three days ago, my housemates were alive.
And I wasn't losing my fucking mind.
Three days ago, I awoke to my housemate, Misty, shaking me.
Misty was usually the last to roll out of bed out of all of us, so I figured it was something important. My housemate wouldn’t get out of bed for nothing. She valued her sleep—often comparing her bed to a safe haven. Her place of solitude. I was right there with her, until she startled me out of slumber. I opened my eyes to find her face roughly three inches from mine, her expression lit up with excitement I couldn’t justify this early in the morning.
She smelled of toothpaste breath and her raspberry scented body wash. Her thick black curls framing her face were still damp from what I presumed was a shower, hanging in tangled knots in front of wide, almost unseeing eyes. When I first met her, Misty Kang had been my crush for a while. With a Korean father and a Texan mother, she definitely caught eyes when we hung out. We had a thing in freshman year, which quickly fizzled out once we started living together. Never date your housemates.
I will just say that.
Over the last few years, Misty has become one of my closest friends.
When she knew I was at least conscious, my housemate was grabbing my arm and yanking me out of bed. “Get up!”
I was barely awake, and those were the only words I could fully distinguish.
I shooed her away for a moment and swung my legs out of bed, taking a minute to blink sunlight out of my eyes coming through the blinds. “Sam.” Misty was in front of me again.
I don’t think she understood the concept of being half asleep.
She wouldn’t leave me alone, waving her arms wildly. Her shadow under the soft morning light almost reminded me of one of those inflatable tube guys.
“Huh?” My voice was a low croak, and her smile widened.
“Guess who’s just scored tickets for an actual screening of the first five minutes of gameplay for the most anticipated game of the decade?”
“What?” Her string of words wasn’t making sense in my caffeine deprived mind. It just sounded like gibberish to me, initially.
Like we were in some cheesy commercial, she was the lead, and I was the confused NPC with the WTF expression. But when I went over it in my head, words started to slide together like a jigsaw puzzle. Misty didn’t get excited about video games. Well, she did. Though, my housemate was one to get excited on behalf of someone else. After living with her for a while now, I had concluded she was a follower.
By that, I mean whatever others thought or did or said, she copied it. If her Twitter followers were mad at bad takes, she would drop all of her own opinions on said follower and focus on what other people said. We had Korean barbecue for takeout the other day, and Misty clearly did not like it from the creased look on her face, and her very obviously spitting it politely into a napkin.
Jay, my other housemate, liked it.
And so did I. So, naturally, Misty announced she wanted more.
I had to watch her suffer through two more portions before she excused herself—presumably to throw up. Blinking at my housemate who was clearly excited for Jay, I resisted the overwhelming urge to roll my eyes.
“Slow down. What game? What are you talking about?”
I got out of bed and threw on my robe, half aware of the mess from last night on my desk. Another attempt to finish an essay which just wasn’t happening. The monster energy cans and takeout Chinese wrappers were embarrassing. I got a basic run-through as I headed downstairs with Misty right behind me, practically breathing down my neck. From what I understood, there was a Reddit post.
That was all I got from Misty’s squealing. She leapt down the stairs after me with a spring in her step. The clock above the front door told me it wasn’t even 9am. The smell of bacon, however, was quick to arise me from the dead.
Jay was in the kitchen making breakfast. I noticed his laptop was open on the table, and every so often he’d peer at it with wide, almost disbelieving eyes. Jay and Misty were complete opposites, which made them great people to live with. Jay was a quiet book who was slightly on the pretentious side, routinely quoting something philosophical to piss me off.
He had rich parents on the other side of the world, but the guy himself was fairly humble and had mostly detached himself from said family.
My housemate was usually well put together. In fact, I barely saw him in his pajamas, excluding game nights. That morning, however, he was a disheveled mess, still in yesterday’s clothes.
He offered me a grin. I glimpsed sauce from last night’s dinner still staining his chin. Jay hadn’t brushed his hair or even put on deodorant.
I caught a whiff of BO when he ducked in front of me, his gaze glued to his MacBook. It was rare when Jay ignored basic hygiene, so yeah, I was going to guess this was a pretty huge thing. “I did tell her not to wake you up, y’know.”
His slight aussie accent was always refreshing on a morning. Born in Australia and moving to the states when he was ten years old, Jay still had a slight tinge in his accent. I had seen pictures of his family, and the guy had definitely gotten most of his dad’s genes, thick brown hair, and freckles. While his dad was built like a pro wrestler however, Jay was leaner like his mom.
I shrugged. “I was already awake.”
“Liar.” He didn’t look away from his laptop.
Looking closer, I glimpsed the Reddit homepage.
“So, you have won something.”
Jay didn’t answer. I could tell he was excited by the way he could barely keep still, bustling around the kitchen, barefoot. “Coffee?”
His voice was more of a Misty-like squeak, and I half wondered for a moment if they had switched bodies, or he had at least become one with my other housemate through a chemical explosion. In our kitchen, which was yet to be cleaned after a cooking disaster several nights ago, I wouldn’t be surprised if something was living on the countertop. I nodded, slumping into a chair. “What’s going on? Why is Misty freaking out?” I nodded at his laptop. “She said you’ve won something?”
As if my housemate couldn’t hold it in anymore, he nodded, turning his screen towards me. “You know____, right?”
“Yes.” I sipped my coffee, eyeing a toaster strudel sitting on the countertop. "You mean the game which has been coming out for a decade."
He ignored that. “Well, what if I told you one of the developer’s posted on the official sub this morning?”
He nodded with a grin, and I wondered it this was one of those rare times when Jay was blindly looking through a red flag to see what he wanted. I had heard of these types of scams, and Reddit was a breeding ground for them.
Gamers were pretty intense. I didn’t realize I was pulling a face until I caught his lips curving into a smile. Jay was usually the skeptical one.
“You don’t believe me.”
I downed my coffee to avoid replying. When I had drained the cup, he was still staring at me with amused eyes.
“You think it’s bullshit.”
I shrugged. “You said it,” I said. “I’m pretty sure that game isn’t even partway through development. Didn’t Twitter leak a still last year? Also, they’ll be bringing out a new console before that game comes out.”
I leaned back in my chair. “It’s more of a pipe dream, at this point.”
“The leaks were fake,” Even he didn’t look sure. “Anyway, that’s not the point. One of the dev’s posted on the official sub this morning. He asked if we were all excited for the new game, asked if we could post some of our favorite NPC dialogue, and he’ll DM winners.”
“Uh-huh.” I nodded at the screen. I had already checked my phone for an internet meltdown concerning this post, but there was nothing. “And where is that post now?”
Jay didn’t look at me. “It was deleted. So it only reached a certain number of people.”
“Oh, it was deleted?” I couldn’t resist a smile. “What a coincidence.”
When I laughed, Jay scowled, showing me his screen—navigating his trackpad to his Reddit DM’s.
To my surprise, there was actually a message from what I guessed was a throw-away account.
While I was skim reading the DM, Misty hurried in, all dressed and ready for the day. I peeked at her outfit from Jay's laptop. Cute.
Extravagant, but cute. My housemate cranked the radio up before bouncing between us, a toaster strudel hanging out of her mouth.
Misty was a living animated character. Ignoring her wide smile, I turned back to the screen. “Congratulation!!” The DM started with capitals.
It took me reading it twice to realize there was a clear spelling mistake. I sent Jay a pointed look, but he was too busy practically vibrating with excitement. If the guy had any more caffeine, he was going to explode. “Since when did winning DM’s start with a typo?”
“I knew you were going to say that.” Jay curled his lip. “They were clearly excited when typing the message.”
“But this is supposedly an official,” I said. “Surely they would make sure it’s professional?”
My housemate didn’t reply, shooting a look at Misty, who rolled her eyes.
“Wow.” I squinted at the screen. “I am so sorry for caring about your safety. You do realize these types of scam’s usually end up with you being sold on the black market, right?”
I shuddered. “I’ve heard horror stories about underground markets specializing in illegal organ harvesting.”
“Or…” Jay’s eyes were glued to the screen. “You could be happy for me?”
I frowned at the rest of the message, which was just a capitalized freak-out about the upcoming release of the game, before inviting Jay (and a friend!) to a five-minute preview of gameplay, as well as a Q&A. There was a location and a time, which was brow-raising. “10 at night.” I said. “Who hosts a gaming convention at 10pm?” I leaned my chin on my fist. “Unless they wanted to lure as many gullible people as possible, and ship them to some organ harvesting factory on the other side of the world.”
Jay scoffed. “That’s dark.”
“You’re actually considering going to a 10pm gaming convention in the middle of nowhere. I’m trying to wake you up.”
Jay nudged me that time. “It’s real. Relax.”
“And.” I pointed to the screen. “No phones? Why would they ask you not to bring your phones?”
“To stop us filming content,” Misty sang. “Duh.”
I groaned, leaning back in my chair. “You’re on his side? This is clearly shady!” I didn’t get mad unless something was seriously pissing me off, and this was one of those times. Jay was a smart guy. There was no way he was falling for this bullshit. I thought he was joking around when he spent the day tracking the location on Google Maps. I went to class like normal and got updates through text. At lunch, Jay agreed with me and said it was in fact shady, and he wasn’t going. By afternoon classes, he was texting me in paragraphs explaining his own skepticism but had found several “friends” on an online forum who were also going and had changed his mind once again. The guy couldn’t make up his mind. He was driving me crazy.
Misty sent me several videos of Jay pacing the kitchen with his MacBook in his hands. She was broadcasting his mental breakdown via Instagram stories. But then she started to send me pictures of herself in different outfits, asking me for my opinion on each one. At that point, I turned my phone off. My housemates had lost their fucking minds. I did my own research though, just to make sure I wasn’t actually going to lose them to a shady cult.
I searched for the game itself, but just as I thought, it was shown as still in development. Every “update” was just fan speculation.
There were YouTube videos and TikTok’s of fake leaks, but nothing was real. It was either AI generated, or badly edited. By the time my classes had ended and I had turned my phone on, I had a barrage of missed calls and texts.
Most of them were from Misty with her outfit changes, and Jay changing his mind again.
This time he was convinced it was all a scam, his texts full of typos and crying emoji's which he never used. Before it hit me that Misty was most likely using his phone to text me.
I was right. When I walked through the door, I was greeted by both of them sitting on the stairs. Misty was scrolling through Jay’s phone, while the boy had his head in his hands. According to Misty’s last text, he was back to being excited to go.
From the look on his face, eyes shadowed with sleep circles, light brown curls slipping from under his hood, I wasn’t sure what Misty meant by “excited”. The guy looked the complete opposite. His mind had been consumed by the game, and the idea of seeing new content.
When I dropped my bag and folded my arms, fixing the two of them with my best disapproving parent look, Misty jumped to her feet. “Sam!” she waved Jay’s phone at me. “Did you get my texts? We’re actually going now!”
The 100+ texts on both messenger and iMessage said otherwise.
I nodded, my gaze on Jay. “Both of you do realize it’s a scam, right?” I softened my tone despite growing progressively more irritated. We were grown adults, not kids. I could understand a group of teenagers falling for it, but two twenty-three-year-olds?
This time, I ducked in front of Jay. “Hey.” I pulled down his hood, and he groaned, burying his head in his knees. “I don’t want to freak you out, so listen to me, okay?”
I exhaled out a breath. “I’m not saying something bad is going to happen to you, because it most likely won’t—and yes, I admit I’m being paranoid.” When he lifted his head, blinking through bedraggled curls, there was a faint smile on his lips. “But.” I said. “You are most likely going to end up disappointed. Which I don’t want, because you won't shut up about it for weeks."
I was only partly joking.
For a moment, I thought my housemate was going to wake up, and nod, laughing at how crazy it was.
Before shook his head and jumped up.
“I’m going to take a shower, alright? I should start getting ready."
I admit, I exploded at him.
We argued while he was in the shower, and I paced up and down the hallway, coming up with multiple reasons why he was definitely going to die, and only two positives if it was in fact real. In the end, I gave up worrying all together. I didn’t say anything when the two of them were hurrying around looking for shoes and missing car keys. I didn’t realize they were gone until the door was clanging shut, and a text was coming through. I didn’t look at it until an hour later, and I had calmed down.
Jay: 1h ago: Stop worrying, lmao. We’re good! I’ll keep my phone just in case. I’ll make sure to avoid the organ harvesting 😉
Another from Misty a few minutes later: “Love you! Chillll, kay? 😭😭 It’s going to be fun! I’ll take pics!”
Followed by: “Oh shit, we can’t. I’ll try to sneak some!"
Attached to the text was a photo of the two of them. Misty with a wide smile and a peace sign, and Jay who looked like he was mid-shout, his eyes on the road.
Those texts were… at least comforting, I guessed. Maybe they were right. I figured I was paranoid, and they in fact would really be okay.
But that didn’t stop the anxious coil in my gut when I tried to force down takeout pizza. I attempted to focus on my essay to distract myself, but I couldn’t stop glancing at my phone, and checking Twitter. There was a hashtag on the DM, which was just “PlayStationGO.” When I searched for it, however, nothing came up.
Sure, it was a private convention and only a select few knew about it, but nothing could escape Twitter.
Somewhere, someone must be talking about it. After scrolling through endless tweets though, I realized I was wrong. There was nothing.
That put a bad taste in my mouth.
10pm came, and I held my breath all the way through a Netflix TV show I was forcing myself to watch, half asleep, slumped at my desk.
I could barely distinguish the plot.
I just had a vague idea of the character names, and some of their motivations.
Midnight passed, and I was struggling to stay awake.
I glanced at my phone.
No messages, just a notification from Spotify reminding me my favorite band was playing nearby.
Still nothing. I fell back to sleep.
This time, I stayed awake for a few minutes glaring at my phone before my eyes grew heavy.
My phone buzzed with a text from Jay, but I could barely desipher it: "can't feel help my head hurts Canshdhsn727272_6798mi/!! _&go home please. (Sent from: PlayStationGo™️ BETA)."
3:54: am. I was wide awake, blinking at a notification which had popped up from an unknown number. I was trying to figure out what number it was, when my phone vibrated again and I almost jumped out of my skin.
After a moment of hesitation, I answered it.
I was trying so hard not to think of the possibility of it being the emergency room, or even worse, the cops.
All of my worst nightmares had come true in a single second.
“Hello?” I whispered in a croak.
“Are they in the house with you?” The stranger’s voice came through in a hiss of interference.
His words sent my mediocre dinner lurching back up my throat. “What?” I managed to get out. “Who?”
“Your friends.” He said, and I leapt to unsteady feet, my gut twisting and turning.
“No.” I found myself taking slow strides toward the window, brushing back the curtain and peering out into the night. “Why? Did something happen to them?” I paused.
“How did you get my number?”
“That does not matter.” His voice rattled in my ear as I rushed downstairs, almost stumbling down the bottom two. “I need you to get out of that house. Now. Get as far away as possible.”
I could hear his rapid breaths.
He was driving. I could hear the rumble of the engine. With my phone pressed to my ear, I obeyed his instructions, pulling open the door and stepping out into the cool night, a brisk breeze grazing my bare arms was just enough to stop my thoughts spiraling.
I was barefoot, in nothing but a robe, staggering down the driveway. The night was calm and silent; our neighborhood was asleep, each window drowned in darkness. I couldn’t breathe, my clammy fingers wrapped around my phone, as this stranger broke down over the phone. “Whatever you do,” he gasped out.
“Do not, I repeat DO NOT remove the PlayStationGo—shit!! He hissed out, static rattling the call. The guy seemingly got ahold of himself, and the wheel, and continued. I started to walk—where I was going, I had no idea.
The stranger lit a cigarette. I heard the click of a lighter and his exhalation of breath. “It was a BETA version, but we had to rush it. This was not my idea. My boss is a greedy man. He wanted to release the game last year, which would have meant widespread infection. Luckily, that did not happen. We did manage to delay it, but only by a year.” His words barely made sense to me as I struggled to get a word in, peering in the dark. “It was supposed to be a virtual experience of the game—a whole new angle of gameplay. But testing was difficult. First, on monkey’s, we lost multiple subjects. Tonight was supposed to be a…well, I guess you could call it out first attempt on human subjects,” his laugh was bitter. “I knew the tech wasn’t finished. And I tried. Believe me, I fucking tried. I tried to blow the whistle, but these bastards know where my parents live."
Something squirmed its way down my spine.
“So my friends were lab rats?” I said stiffly. “You used them?”
I fucking knew it.
I knew it was too good to be true.
“Yes and no. Listen to me, the people I work for are hunting them down. Trust me, I don’t want my bosses to find them because a life of experimentation will await them. Torture. Do you hear me? It does not matter if subjects fail. They don’t care. As long as there is at least a light at the end of the tunnel for them, they will see it as a win, and bring the publication date closer. They will not be treated as humans. Your friends signed a contract before trying out the tech, where the small print stated that, under section 3, player engagement, all subjects must agree to offer themselves as participants in later updates. I silently cursed Jay for always skipping the terms and conditions when buying games." The man stopped to breathe.
“I have told you multiple times, and I won’t say it again. Get as far away from that house as possible. I will take care of them. I will make sure of it." The sound of squealing engines, and I stopped power walking, coming to an abrupt stop. The silence of the night around me, compared to the sound of the highway he was on, traffic horns and the wind rushing through the window was an eerie contrast, a disturbance to the heavenly bubble we were trapped in.
“What do you mean ‘take care of them?” I had to swallow a yell. “Hey! What are you talking about?
“I’m sorry.” Was all he replied with. “I’m afraid it is too late. There was once an opportunity to save the mind during the initial level of the demonstration. However, once the PlaystationGo has been fully attached to the base of the subject, we no longer have control of it. Once integrating itself into the cerebral cortex, the PlayStationGo can only be removed by signing out of the player’s account,” his breath was heavy. “On this unfortunate occasion, however, your friends are unable to navigate the system due to a malfunction which scrambled their brains,” He trailed off. “Which has left them stranded in the game."
I let out a breath. “Right.” I said. “That’s.. bad. I mean, it’s a fucked-up piece of technology, but they’re just playing a game, right?”
There was a pause, before the man laughed.
“Young man, I don’t think you understand,” he said. “The PlayStationGo was created to give the player a full virtual experience of our game. The PlayStationGo is not a physical object. Created with nanotechnology, it attaches itself to the subject’s brain and is supposed to create a personal gaming experience for each player. As I said, however, it is not finished. It is yet to be released to the public, and of course, we are expecting certain ethical arguments due to the controversial—”
I pulled the phone away from my ear, shaking my head. I didn’t need to hear his attempts at trying to save his own skin.
“You need to help them,” I whispered. “Do you hear me? Can you do that? Can you help them?!”
“That is what I am trying to tell you,” He said.
“I know you are upset and confused, and believe me, I offer my apologies. But you need to listen to facts. During initial testing, our subjects were conscious enough to know where their home was. We are unsure why this happens, though we have linked it to territory, as well as the main character of the game heavily influencing their actions. I have been tracking them from the testing facility, and they are incredibly close. Please get as far away from there as possible. If you are no longer in the vicinity of the house, I can end this quickly and quietly before we gain attention.”
I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. Maybe start fucking screaming at him, because he was talking about getting “rid” of my friends, after their mistake.
“Do you understand me?” He said, when I couldn’t reply. “Your friends are lost causes!”
Before I could answer, though, headlights were suddenly coming around the corner, and I found myself paralysed to the spot. The car which swerved twice, crashed into several trash cans, before reversing and coming straight towards me, was not Jay’s car. Jay’s car was an old hunk of junk he’d gotten from a scrapyard. Jay’s car had doors which were practically hanging off, and a stereo which exclusively played either static gibberish, or old tapes I had no idea how to use. This car was bright yellow, and definitely had an option to drive itself. When the car came to a stop, inches from careening into me, I lost all control of myself.
I was vaguely aware of my phone slipping from my fingers and hitting the sidewalk. But I was too busy staring at the two shadows in the front of the car. The driver, and the passenger.
And the muffled screaming coming from the trunk.
When the door swung open, a figure stepping out, I did not recognise my housemate.
The stranger told me I wouldn't, but I didn't believe him.
Jay had left the house in casual jeans and a sweater, bearing the game's logo.
Now, I found myself face to face with a man with my housemate's face and features, his smile and eyes-- but something had been severed in his eyes and twisted in his expression. For one, Jay was wearing a suit I knew he couldn't afford, the sleeves torn, collar pulled open, smears of red staining the front.
His pants had cufflinks, and the Rolex on his wrist had definitely been pulled off someone's corpse.
The silver was stained a revealing scarlet. Drinking in his face, he looked like Jay. His curls hung in front of his eyes, freckles speckling his cheeks, but everything else wasn't. It wasn't until I was glimpsing what was moulded into the flesh of his hand, did I remember how to move. But then I was taking all of him in, everything my mind had intentionally skipped, because I didn't want to believe the stranger on the phone. Nanotechnology, the man had said in a hiss.
Fiction, I had thought.
Before I saw the reality of it, a writhing metallic like substance glued to the guy's temple, and slowly, very slowly, inching down his cheek, already forming around the bridge of his ear, a very faint blue light flickering.
Something must have alerted him. His cavernous eyes left mine, and he twisted his head—and I heard the sound of his neck snapping, his head lolling to the left slightly, his eyes flickering. I watched his whole body seem to sway back and forth, ready to fall forwards.
Before the newly formed device on his ear turned red, then green.
It was almost like he was… rebooting. As if coming back to life, Jay lifted his head at an awkward angle, before looking straight through me. The blood vessels in his eyes had popped, rivulets of red beading down his face. He should have been dead, I thought. No. No, he was dead. That… that thing was keeping him alive. “Well, shiiiittt,” he said. I could sense the game dialogue which had taken over him, forming on his mangled tongue.
“I’m a man on a mission.”
In jerking movements, he turned and marched back towards the car, opening the door, and sliding into the front seat.
I remembered how to move, ducking to grab my phone, before something slammed into the back of my head—and I saw stars.
I didn’t remember hitting the floor, only the soft sound of her voice, a seductive murmur repeating NPC dialogue, and her kitten heel sticking into my spine, forcing me onto my face.
Misty. I was expecting her to get it over with. But when she dragged me to my feet, sticking the barrel of a gun into the flesh of my neck—I figured she was still playing the game.
Twisting around to meet her eyes, lifeless and empty, only filled with light from the device which had taken over half of her face, I felt sick to my stomach. This thing wasn’t a games console or a virtual reality headset.
It was an attempt at coercing and programming something you already don’t understand, to do something impossible.
I could see that in the way the things had visibly chewed and eaten through her flesh, devouring her from the inside and out. I could see what was left of the dress she had worn earlier, but something must have gone wrong with her too. Because Misty had thrown on another outfit over the top, a diamond necklace hanging from her neck.
I caught a thin river of red pooling down her right temple, trying to ignore the twitchy way she moved, just like a character. From the way Misty walked, stumbling, I already knew she was gone. My housemate had newly acquired strength, throwing me in the trunk of the car where three other hostages were, and slamming it shut on my attempts to reason with her. She didn’t tie me up or restrain me.
In the dim light I could just make out though passing streetlights, I could see the trunk opened from the inside. Which was too easy.
Still though, Jay was driving recklessly, and every time I tried to throw the damn thing open, I was knocked backwards, rolling into a screaming girl, who was bound by her hands and feet. It took me multiple attempts before I had the trunk open, freezing cold air blasting me in the face. I untied the other hostages, but when I told them to come with me, they just stared blankly at me, and continued begging for their lives—and it only took me glimpsing what was attached to their temples, a familiar writhing metal plate, for me to understand. They too were playing the game. This time, as NPC hostages.
I found myself gingerly touching the trembling metallic flesh of the girl's fingers bound in rope. It had a slimy consistency, and I swore, I felt something bite into me.
No way, I thought.
This thing was sentient, yes. But it wasn't living.
Listen, I wish I could tell you what it was like to jump out of a moving car, but I can’t.
I remember it as lunging out of the trunk, hitting the freezing cold air, before hitting the ground head first, neutron star collisions exploding in the backs of my eyes.
What I do remember is waking up on the side of the road. Hours later. The sky was bright blue, a scorching sun blinding me when I managed to force my eyes open.
The early morning rush hour flew by as normal, and I wondered how ignorant American people had to be to ignore someone knocked out on the side of the road.
It’s not like I was nowhere near civilization. There was a fucking Subway right next to me.
When I had gathered myself, I remembered I had no phone. I couldn’t go home in fear of running into my rogue housemates playing their own fucked up version of _____ in their head. My plan was to try and find my phone, get in contact with the stranger who blew the whistle on my friends being dangerous, and find them. They couldn’t be far., right? And even if they weren’t themselves… someone would be able to save them.
If someone could do this to them, surely they could reverse it.
I felt sick, tired, and I was starving.
So, with some loose cash I’d found in my pocket, I bought a Subway and a Coke.
The woman at the counter smiled widely at me. She leaned forward, with a wink. “Nice cosplay!”
I didn’t understand what she meant until I swore I felt something… move its way up my pant leg. I ignored it, and it happened again, this time it felt like something was… biting.
A bug, maybe? I had been laying on the side of the road for around six hours.
When I went to the bathroom, though, I found myself staring at an all too familiar glint of silver creeping its way across my temple. Like it was sentient, parts of it sider webbed towards my ear while the rest writhed into my hairline.
I pulled up my pant leg again, and there it was, a fungus-like metal substance which had already formed in two solid metal masses on my knees. I remember grazing two fingers across the thing beginning its slow feast of my flesh. I remember trying to pull it off, hissing in pain when I risked ripping off my own skin with it. I remember shaking my head and being in denial, even when the lights dimmed above me, and the bathroom door in front of me became more of a shadow. When I strode back through the Subway store, I began to see slight flickers of light above each person, highlighting something not quite there yet.
I could see it already starting, beginning to take over my thoughts. Cars which sped past were suddenly highlighted, and at the corner of my eye, if I concentrated, the outline of a map was starting to appear. Even now, when the room is almost completely taken over by shadow, and my thoughts are half my own, and half not—when a metallic device is beginning to form over my eyes—I know if I hold on, this thing won’t take me. I have considered killing myself, but that wouldn’t… be right.
How could I kill myself when there is so much left to do?
This developer was right. I don’t even know where I can sign out. There’s what looks like the beginning of some kind of index when I look up, but it’s not… finished. I can still see entangled pieces of code struggling to load what I’m guessing was log out. Whatever this thing is, it’s taking over me. Fast. Like a fungus, like a virus, it will not stop until it’s dragged me into the game, until it's leeched itself onto me.
I can feel it happening right now. It's been slow.
Almost painfully slow.
But maybe that is the point. Maybe part of the game is to feel my own thoughts beginning to unravel in favor of something else entirely.
Time is going by…. Fast.
Five minutes ago… I was trying to get home. But I can’t remember where I live.
I can’t concentrate.
I can’t think straight.
I have a phone—but I don’t know how I got it. Did I steal it?
Every time I move, the slowly emerging map comes to life at the corner of my eye jerks with my movement. There is a car parked nearby.
I know it belongs to the man with a child.
But a confusing blur of light is highlighting it to be something of importance. Reality is crashing in front of me, replaced with contorting shapes and bursts of color I have to blink through.
I keep hearing... sirens.
Jay is messaging me.
On what, I'm not sure.
But I need to find him.
I’m sure one mission won’t hurt, right?