File One: Save Point
We are the Glitchers, the last of a dying breed. We are told that the ancient ones named us speed runners. The masses call us heroes, but you call us a disease. Your downfall begins today. All we need to do is locate the one off shaded pixel that will grant us access to your lair, and then the system comes crashing down.
We live with one foot in true reality and the other foot in the smoke and mirrors you offered up as a distraction. We work tirelessly to save the sheep you cram into your own personal slaughter house. One day, there will be a definite line between the realities again. We promise you this. If any brave players can overcome our trials, we will hold an induction ceremony for them.
A wheeze echoed through the empty warehouse. A chuckle responded to it. I finally found the location. I lit the flyer that called me to action months ago ablaze. The last piece fell neatly into place, and, in minutes, I would transform into one of my heroes.
“Hey, kid, you okay?”
I removed my visor and blinked away the harsh sunlight. I turned my head to the left, then to the right. People strolled past me, except they appeared to be giants. I wondered if maybe I left my gaming session logged in and the true test had commenced, but then an older man bent over me and offered me his rough, calloused hand. I took it, and stood to my feet. Now the glass buildings towered over me, and the harsh noises of the city flooded into my ears.
I studied the older man carefully. He could be one of them in disguise. After all, he caught me gaming in the middle of the sidewalk on an otherwise perfect day. Not to mention, he ruined my chance of a lifetime. I scowled when I noticed the man’s gaze did not meet mine. “Eyes are up here, jack ass.” I placed my hands firmly on my hips and cleared my throat. I started to regret wearing such a form fitting leather suit in the heat of the day. At least the material felt soft and smooth under my hands.
The man startled and slithered away. I thought I heard him mutter something to do with ungrateful punks, but my thoughts wandered elsewhere. I needed to find my motorcycle and meet up with the gang. I checked my holowatch, only to find out that I had less time than I wanted. I picked up my helmet attachment and put my visor into it. Functionality and safety, wonderful thing, technology. I snickered quietly.
I dashed down the street and fitted my helmet onto my head. The HUD flashed for a moment, while it scanned my surroundings and located my bike. “Come to me, 0kami!” A howl vibrated down the streets, and a soft rumbling sound caused my body to tingle. Technology, indeed. My motorcycle spun in front of me once before stopping itself. The motor seemed to pant while I mounted and prepared to take off for the meeting.
Sometimes, I thought my bike was actually a wolf in disguise, but I knew that such a thing in this day and age could not exist, and yet, if somebody wanted it bad enough, it could become reality with the snap of his or her fingers.
“What is the color of death?”
I groaned at the dork’s creepy voice. “That reference is so last century, dude.”
“Wrong, answer’s ‘Embrace of the Mother’ for future reference.”
“Yeah, sure. Like it’s ever going to come up as one of your passwords again. They change every week. You play too many old school RPGs.”
“And you have a bad habit of being late to our meetings. Tell me it’s something to do with school this time, please.”
I flinched. Maybe I really did have a gaming addiction if my friends hoped my problem involved school of all things. I banged on the door with my fist. “Never mind that! Would you just let me in, noob?”
The garage door opened slowly with a screech, and I blushed when I realized that everyone waited on my arrival. I entered alongside 0kami and heard the door closing behind me. I unzipped my top just a little and fanned myself. The cool, yet stale air of the gamer cave brought relief to my sunburned body. I plopped myself down on a lumpy orange couch, settled into a prone position, and positioned my visor in front of my face without the helmet attachment when a hand, connected to a rather muscly arm, snatched it from me.
“Hey!” I sat up and grabbed at the device.
“Hey yourself. You called Eugene a noob. Plus, you showed up half an hour late and never gave an explanation. You think you own this place now?”
I growled. “No, Ryu.” I glanced behind his trim and toned figure and observed Eugene typing wildly on his computer. Unlike me, Eugene never resorted to augmenting his life, or trading out his time in this world for a totally immersive one. One where things could be anything you imagined them to be.
I squinted at the clock on the wall above Eugene’s computer and nearly bolted from the couch.
“…Not getting this back til ya apologize.”
I stared at Ryu’s tan face, messy black hair and brown eyes for a full minute before it clicked. “Right. Your house, your rules. Sorry, Eugene.”
I watched Eugene shut off his computer. “It’s D, Eugene. Just D. You know how I feel about my name.”
“Anyway, now that you two made up, let’s grab some popcorn and watch our favorite.” Ryu clapped his hand on my shoulder and winked. At least he understood how important tonight was for me.
I held my breath and slipped the visor over my head. I heard the crunch of my springy hair pop into my ears before the other atmosphere consumed me. I knew my friends Eugene and Ryu would keep any internet trolls away during my stream. I made bank off of my little hobby, and got rather annoyed when my parents nagged me about finding a “real” part time job. One more suited to an almost adult like me.
“Welcome back, D.”
“Thank you, piece of crap AI,” I muttered under my breath.
“You love me, and you know it.”
I snapped my attention to the level’s layout. Another platformer. The past levels ranged from races and shootouts, which made the super tech based sci fi setting of this life interesting. Unlike back on Earth.
“Streamers, are you ready?”
I whooped and jumped up and down. All the while I eyed my competition. No big shot billionaire superstars this time. Just scrubs. Piece of cake.
“You all know what time it is!”
The crowd responded to the announcer with shouts of “Hyyyyype!”
“The winner of this stream gets one step closer to the taste of real fame. The losers, well, better luck in the loser challenge.”
A shudder crawled up my spine. I listened to the horrific stories. We all had. We all knew our lives hung on the line, but we took the risk anyway. I forced myself to focus on the objective at hand. The less I needed Eugene’s guidance, the better.
The goal clearly defined itself as the save point to my left, high up on a metallic mountain summit. I needed to break out my parkour skills and reach the summit without falling down to the previous level. Doing so meant doom in more ways than one. I confidently assumed my viewers loved me, but I did not want to discover the ugly truth.
“D, you got this.”
I nodded to myself. “Thanks Eugene.”
The whistle sounded, and I sprinted up the first stair case. I smiled as my enemies staggered and huffed behind me. I leaped over the first pit with ease and landed in a tumble. The world flickered, or so it seemed, for an instant, but everything stabilized and I jumped onto a log suspended in air and rolled it toward the next solid bit of land. I tempted myself with the idea of looking back, but I shook off the feeling and pressed onward to the mountain.
“D, there’s a weapon drop to your right.”
As soon as Ryu spoke, a pistol materialized to my right, and I dove for it. The weight of the gun surprised me, but my HUD displayed that the magazine contained enough ammo.
“The fastest route up the mountain is—”
Static buzzed around my head, which dumbfounded me. That certainly never happened before. Something whizzed past my head, and I rolled forward and charged to the base of the mountain. I glanced back, and frowned.
My prey obtained weapons of their own, and they gained on me. I began scaling the mountain and saw the warm light of safety hovered above me. Fortunately, I exceled at solving mazes. Unfortunately, this maze went straight up. A lot of sharp edges poked out from the maze that could result in real wounds if I missed a handhold.
Snow clung to my hair and nearly blinded me after what felt like hours of climbing, but my HUD informed me that only twenty minutes had elapsed. I forgot about my competitors and pushed my aching body up onto the last ledge. The save point welcomed me home. Arguing carried on the air from below, and I smirked.
At least they were at the mountain’s base. I stepped toward the light and reached out for it when a sharp pain entered my side and the level flickered again and I found myself standing on a black abyss. The cheering faded away as I walked forward, only to reappear in the blue warmth of the save point.
After cheering and comments from the announcer, I logged out and ripped the visor off of me. “What the f—” I cried out in pain as a jolt shot through my body. My vision blurred slightly, and Ryu pressed some sort of cloth into my side. Eugene paced back and forth, while he fidgeted with his hands. It appeared as though he tried to scrub them clean. “Shit, D, I didn’t think they meant business.”
“Wh-what are you talking about, Eugene,” I said through grit teeth.
“Th-th-the Glitchers sent you a message. You didn’t receive it because Ryu took your headset, and then weird stuff.”
I glared at Ryu, half out of anger and half out of the pain. His eyes watered, and I instantly lowered my head. Nausea crept into my stomach. “So, that stuff with the flickering and the static?”
A snap reverberated through the air, and the scent of cigarette smoke filled the garage. “That’s right, honey. You entered a glitch, and you impress me. Such a small scratch.”