Before you go back inside you look up at the dark, meteor-lit sky and then quickly try to suppress the sense of dread this gives you. Your twentieth birthday was only five days ago and despite, or maybe because of, the fact that it sounds so much older than ‘nineteen’, it is the first age in a long time you feel that fits you. You’ve got this weird, explainable feeling that your life’s about to change drastically and you’re not entirely sure what to think about it.
On the one hand, you are rather fond of familiarity and your life has been pretty much awesome lately, what with even University presenting you with little to worry about and having no financial problems worth speaking of and having a tight group of friends. On the other hand, you have this nagging feeling that things are going a little too well, a little too easy. Like you’re accidentally cheating the system somehow. You would not mind this that much, if it weren’t for the fact that you’re not aware of it. At least then you could worry about getting caught.
Still, none of that actually matters right now. You’re going to play a game and it’s going to be fun and you’re excited. Of course, the fact that your life is at stake does have something to do with the last part and as soon as that thought crosses your mind you stop staring at the sky.
“Men may move mountains, but ideas move men.” – philosopher George Carlin.
Of course George Carlin said that. Nobody else would ever say such a thing.
As you go inside, one of the first things you see is one of the many faeries your mother has all over the house. They look pretty nice, in your opinion, most of them do, at least. You’re not ashamed to admit that, either.
Petey is making his bird noises again. God that bird is annoying. You snap your finger and he shuts up. You love it when he does that, even though it never lasts long before he starts again.
You’re not entirely sure how, but you can feel Lesley giving you an amused look.
“What?” you ask.
“Nothing,” he replies.
“I always do that.”
“I’m sure you do.”
You can’t help but laugh and Lesley, of course, laughs along. It’s not full blown laughter, because it wasn’t funny enough for that and you’re not mad scientists or evil overlords. Yet, you add, for future reference. Whatever that means.
“Do you want something to drink?” It’s a bit of an odd question, under these circumstances, but it took you and your parents years to make you understand (and then follow) these social norms and you’ll be damned if you stop now.
“I know where to get it, thanks,” he replies.
You leave him behind in the kitchen and see that UC has already gotten back to you.
UC: Look what I drew!
-- unorthodoxCreation [UC] sent eccentricStyle [ES] the file "AwesomeDoodle34.jpg" –
UC: Okay, I’ll talk to you when you get back.
-- unorthodoxCreation [UC] is now an idle chum! –
ES: Sorry about that, I’m back now.
ES: What is that?
UC: It’s Grif and Simmons!
ES: That is amazing.
ES: I am amazed.
It says a lot about either you or her that the image you’re watching right now is not at all surprising to you. Still, Lesley does not feel as comfortable with this as you or UC do, so it’s best not to dwell upon it for too long.
UC: Anyway, I connected to you.
ES: Yeah, I noticed.
UC: Did anything change on your end?
ES: It says to press Enter.
UC: then press enter!
UC: What are you waiting for?
ES: You cannot hope to match my typing speed!
UC: That was only two letters.
ES: My point still stands!
ES: Ah, there he is.
You turn your speakers on, so your companion can enjoy whatever music is about to play.
“Alright,” you say, aware that this is going to be a pretty important moment. It wouldn’t do to continue without saying something cool. “Let’s play.” You press Enter.
And then it starts.
It is arguably the most hypnotising loading screen you have ever seen, which is saying something as it’s mainly a spirograph changing shape and colour on a simple background of the sky that basically does the same thing. The music is just awesome, too. In fact, that might be the entire reason for it having this effect, really.
There is also a loading bar, with completely ridiculous things for a game, like ‘Achieving Aluminium Trowels’ or ‘Drafting Circuit Hoses’. You have no idea who made this thing, but it’s pretty damn hilarious.
“How long until someone’s figured out all of those sentences?” you ask.
“I give it two days.” Ah, the power of the internet.
The SBURB logo pops up and then... nothing.
Well, this was one hell of an anti-climax.
ES: Nothing happened.
UC: I can see you!
ES: You can what?
UC: And I have options!
UC: let’s see...
UC: Sounds boring.
ES: What are you doing?
UC: Relax, this is just like the Sims.
ES: That makes no sense.
And then there is a distinct feeling of something being missing. Like, only just now.
“Err,” Lesley says. “Peter?”
“I know!” You, cautiously peek to the right and notice that the wall that was there only a minute ago is now several meters away from you.
UC: this is fun!
ES: What did you do!?
UC: I revised your room, apparently.
ES: You can’t do that!
ES: It’s impossible!
UC: I just did.
UC: are you okay?
ES: You just broke physics!
ES: You can’t break physics!
ES: Or everything else!
ES: What about the cables and the heating and everything that runs through that wall!
ES: How do you even control something in my house!?
ES: We’re on different continents!
ES: Where did you even get the material from!?
UC: It cost me four build grist.
ES: What does that even mean?
UC: i don’t know
UC: But we had 20 of it.
UC: There’s sixteen left
UC: Are you done freaking out?
UC: Can I go back to playing?
UC: I’ll take that as a yes.
“Peter, are you okay?”
You are slightly shaking and staring at the screen, but otherwise unmoving. Needless to say, this hit hard.
You still don’t respond, your eyes very deliberately not looking to your right at all.
“If you don’t snap out of it I’m going to punch you.”
“What?” you say, out of self-preservation.
“Snap out of it.”
You turn to look at him and then both of you say nothing for a few seconds.
“This makes absolutely no goddamn sense!” you yell, eventually, as you get up and start walking through the living room. “What’s going on here?”
“The game is going on,” Lesley says calmly. “Can’t you just run with it? Your life’s at stake.”
“You run with it! I didn’t expect this to alter reality for crying out loud!”
“Technically, everything alters reality in some way.”
You can remember telling him that at some point during a philosophical discussion you had, and if you could only think more clearly you could come up with an actual argument instead of ‘but not like this!’ which is, in fact, not an argument at all.
You were going to play a game and it was going to be fun and you were excited.
And then someone broke the universe.
So much for all that.
These thoughts do help calm you down somewhat. “So, now what?”
“Now you play and make sure UC doesn’t wreck this place even more.”
Well, there goes that nice moment of serenity. You rush back to your computer.
UC: with what?
ES: Whatever you’re doing right now.
ES: Can you tell me your options before you actually start doing anything with it?
UC: Well, there’s Select and Revise.
UC: Phernalia Registry
UC: Grist Cache
UC: Explore Atheneum
UC: and Alchemy Excursus.
ES: Okay, do you understand any of that?
UC: I understand Select, Revise and Deploy I guess.
ES: Try Select, then.
ES: That sounds harmless enough.
UC: okay :)
Soon after, you hear something falling and then silence. The kind of silence you have not been able to enjoy in a long while. You know exactly what happened.
UC: oh god oh god oh god
UC: I think I killed your bird
UC: I’m so sorry!
ES: Ky, this is by far not the worst thing to happen to me today.
ES: I’ll live.
ES: Besides, that bird was annoying.
UC: Birds are cool!
ES: If you say so.
ES: How did that happen, anyway?
UC: Stupid touch pad!
UC: I picked up the table and then I didn’t put it down carefully and now your bird’s dead.
“Yeah, definitely dead!” Lesley yells from the kitchen. “Sorry about that.”
“Okay, thanks,” you yell back. You’re not entirely sure why you said ‘thanks’ in this particular instance, but your brain has pretty much said ‘screw this’ and has left you to operate on automatic.
ES: Can you get used to it?
UC: I think so
ES: Like, play around a bit until everything’s running smoothly.
ES: In ways that don’t end in somebody or something dying.
UC: I get it, ok?
UC: I’m sorry about your bird.
ES: I’m sorry
ES: This is just a bit stressful right now.
ES: I don’t mean to be rude.
ES: It just happens.
UC: okay, I’m going to mess around a bit.
ES: Just don’t rip the toilet out of my bathroom.
ES: I still need that.
UC: Why would I do that?
ES: I don’t know.
ES: You’re you.
UC: What do you take me for?
ES: I can’t claim to understand the way you think at any point in time.
ES: So I’m just covering all my bases here.