We ran through the war-torn streets of the city. I could hear the ground shaking before me. We had put a good distance between us and the aliens, but not enough in time. The sight of an explosion dominated the area ahead.
“Damn it, we’re too late!”
“No, we can still make it through, just move as fast! If you get too badly hurt, I still have a few medkits left. Ready? Go!”
I began to run, but Chris still stood there as if he were paralyzed.
“Hurry up, we can’t wait any long-”
Nevermind, too late. Already, a massive alien worm came out of the ground and swallowed him whole. God dammit Chris. I took off my helmet, met with the sight of him panting.
“Come on man, we were almost at the end again! Why didn’t you run through?”
“Sorry, just… I didn’t know if I was going to make it. Plus, you could’ve finished the level without me, right?”
“It wouldn’t be very nice for me to leave you behind, would it? Well, you either gotta make sure you have more health next time, or we try to get there before the area gets lit up.”
I began to unhook myself from the omni-treadmill, and put my gun back on the rack.
“Now, I’m not sure about you, but I’m done for today.”
“Oh come on, just one more time?”
“You know, I have other things to do today. Tomorrow, same time.”
I left the packed New Worlds Arcade, past the tour busses which seemed to never leave. I was rather thankful that my house was only a few minutes away. The sun, setting behind the sprawling office buildings and few shopping centers, gleamed warmly on my back.
“Hey mom, I’m home.”
“Hey Jack, how was your day?” She greeted me with a loving kiss on my cheek. “All your homework finished?”
“On that right now mom.”
I entered my room and threw my bag onto the bed, pulling out my laptop. First thing, news. Right there, in big bold letters, first article: New Worlds Completes first “True VR” System. I quickly opened the article and read through it. Really amazing stuff. Apparently, New Worlds is moving on from the basic omni-treadmill and helmet and moved onto what they’re calling “programmable dreams.” It’s simply a helmet that you can hook up to your computer, and you can remember them too. They’ve started some closed beta sign up recently though. Really hope they keep the old machines though. I’d really hate to feel those aliens.
At first, it seemed like some cold bug blew through the school, with only me and a few other students being blessed enough to be immune. I tried calling up Chris only to be told by his mother that he was still in bed. Soon, I was worrying about the poor guy, until I finally got a call from Chris himself.
“Holy shit Chris, glad to hear you’re okay”
“You won’t believe this, but I got my hands on a TrueVR helmet! Time just flies with the thing!”
“Hey, congrats man! But seriously, you have a lot of work to catch up on, and we’ve got a few tests tomorrow-”
“You wanna come over and try it out? Trust me, it’s amazing!”
“Well… Sure, why not? A little wouldn’t hurt before we get to work. See ya.”
I was knocking at Chris’s door. As expected, it was answered by his mother.
“Oh hello Jack, really nice to see you! Chris has been waiting in his room. I’m sure he’s very anxious to see you!”
I open the door, and there Chris was, with the TrueVR system on his head.
“Hey Chris!” I yank the helmet off. He flinches, nearly flying out of his chair.
“Jesus Christ man, don’t ever fucking do that again! Seriously, not cool! Just wait for me to finish next time. Seriously.”
“So, can I use the system?”
“What are you talking- Wait, oh yeah! Here, I’ll get the game ready to launch, you just need to put on the helmet and let it do its thing. If you want to exit the game, pinch yourself. Got it?”
I was back in that same war-torn city, but now I realized that I had to cover my mouth due to all the debris floating in the air. The ground shook beneath my feet as a part of a skyscraper collapsed. Near me. The air smelled of blood and gunpowder, and a third alien smell. The wall of fire was up ahead, and I could feel the heat raging off of it-
I woke up in a cold sweat, tearing the helmet off my head.
“What do you think? Pretty cool?”
“No, it’s too real… I just wanted to play a game…”
“Well, if you feel that way, mind handing the helmet back?”
I headed to the front door.
“Well, that was quick. Did you like his VR thingy?”
I turned around. “I think Chris likes it too much. I really hope you moderate him on that thing.”
“I used to pull him out for meals and such, but he needs to start acting for himself! I won’t always be there for him!”
It seems more like a plague blew through the town. The news shifted its focus to how several people are ending up in the hospitals with several “mysterious” self-inflicted bruises all over their bodies. I went to check on Chris, and he hasn’t ended up in the hospital, though I have a feeling he probably won’t.
I pushed open the door only until i felt it stop after being cracked open. His dresser was in front of the door. Peeking through the crack, I could see Chris, still hooked up to his computer. His school books were scattered across the floor, each one with a fine layer of dust. In fact, just about every object, except for the dresser, was dusty. On the floor was a shattered glass and plate, with some kind of rotten food all over the floor. I rammed the door a few times before finally knocking over the dresser. I carefully stepped over to him and put my hands around the helmet-
“STOP!” At the doorframe was Chris’s mother, her face stained with tears and bruises. STOP”
There stood Chris’s mom in the doorway, her face stained with tears and a few bruises. It was then I noticed a bat was leaning up against Chris’s chair.
“I’ve tried already, just please, let go. The thing has already consumed his life.”
I still tore the helmet off of his head, forcing him to flinch awake. He screams, grabbing the bat and tried to swing it. He missed horrifically, sending himself flying to the ground. He continues to flail about on the ground.
“WAKE ME UP, GET ME OUT, PLEASE, PLEASE, JUST WAKE ME UP!”
He continued to flail about on the floor, pinching himself, until he finally collapsed.