A very short story of 2,888 words.
ISBN: 978-0-9943704-2-6 ePub edition
ISBN: 978-0-9943704-3-3 Kindle edition ASIN: B015MGEMZ0
SAMPLE OF BOOK:
Jessica stared at the advert:
Conscious male seeks conscious female for conversation.
The words jumped out at her. They always did. The ad never changed. It was bait dangling in the river. And one day she would bite.
The player entered the world. It was a deep and satisfying place, lavishly realised and teeming with life. A bird shot past and he felt the brush of its wing and he glimpsed its tight and focused mind. Below him, the battle raged.
He slipped into the mind of a refugee, struggling across a vast and muddy plain, and he felt the man’s pain and anguish and it thrilled him. This was living. This was drama.
His avatar-bones ached as he dragged along. His guts clenched. He scratched his scabby wrists and rubbed his throat. And his avatar-soul was torn with loss, for his family—briefly adopted—was dead. Despairing clouds covered the sky. His reddened eyes looked up and the guns started. He ran, low to the ground, faster than he thought possible, darting like a hare across a field. This was great. This was real excitement. And now the ultimate thrill: the refugee stopped, stood tall, and held his hands to the sky. The bullets hit. His chest exploded and his head flew back and the player was flung out, like a passenger thrown from a crashing car. And the player shot across the furrowed mud, like a slippery puck, and came to rest near spiky bushes.
Something moved behind the greenery. It stopped, as if sensing his presence, then a click. The player gleefully imagined a mechanical hedgehog bustling in the undergrowth—that would be fun, a nice surreal touch in this miserable field…
He rose above the bushes and saw the soldier—prone in the leaf litter—adjust his position. The gunman sniffed and aimed across the field, scanning for more runners. The player edged forward and hovered over the soldier’s helmet and stared at its dull dome. He dove in—through metal and hair and skin and bone—and entered the warm wash of the killer’s brain. He saw the starfish imprint of the refugee’s death—saw the mind-photo of arms reaching against the backdrop of brown and grey. And he remembered the hammering and recoil, and the thin spurt of victory. And he felt deflated, for seeing the death from the killer’s vantage had weakened its thrill. The player’s passions drained away, as passion drains from the quarrelling man who suddenly sees the counter-argument. Thrill-seekers must be one-sided. He should have known.
The player exited. He looked down at the robot-soldier with a kind of pity, and he withdrew from the rutted world of mud and blood. He was annoyed with himself for diluting his moment of joy. But it hardly mattered, for war had lost its edge: it was inevitable and grinding and flat. And he was getting bored.
The player rose above the grey and returned to his domain. There was no mud in this place and no sky. There were no trudging refugees and no soldiers picking them off. And no bullets ever reached this haven. And the player was quite alone. If he were to meet another player—steaming out from the endless non-fog like a ghost liner—then that emerging mind might be nothing more than a dream-friend. Here—in the player’s quiet home—there was nothing to see, and nothing to do, and no one to talk to. He scanned his vast personal desert and the void pulsed.
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