Trapped in an online world called iSync, Issa meets a thousand other players from every corner of the world, who all go by their online ID names. Struggling to survive and fighting for a way out, he meets Flower, a mysteriously smart girl. How will a human mind survive in conditions evolution hasn't prepared it for?


4. Chapter 4

Chapter 4


Suddenly, everything before me disappeared, and all I could see was complete darkness. I wasn’t even sure anymore if my eyes we open or shut. I kept blinking, but nothing would change.


“Stay calm, stay calm,” I said to myself and swallowed.


I raised my arm and squeezed all five fingers together to summon the AirMenu. A window did appear, proving that I was still inside iSync, but the window was completely empty. No useless logout button, no Admin Intercom. Nothing. Just a blank piece of glass.


Was this the ‘update’ Sven mentioned right before the whole world vanished? Since the AirMenu window proved that we were still inside iSync, I tried to call out their names.


“Quaker! Flower! Sven! Fefe! Faith!”




I couldn’t even hear any echoes.


“Calm down,” I told myself again and tried to sit down. Then I noticed. Was I standing? Or was I sitting? In this empty space of darkness, I could feel no gravity, I could not tell wether I was sitting or standing. I tried to feel my own body. Nothing. This could only mean that my avatar’s body in iSync doesn’t exist in this word of darkness.


“This must be all an update,” I muttered to myself, trying my hardest to believe that this was only temporary.


Forever staying in this state would be truly worse than hell. I couldn’t even commit suicide if I wanted since I had no body.


Breathing hard, I stayed calm and waited. I’m sure out of the remaining eighty-six players, some would go insane in this darkness if they stayed in here for too long. I hoped the developers wouldn’t take too long.


I couldn’t tell if it was minutes, hour or days that passed while I was...floating there. I decided that each breath I took represented roughly one second, and so I started counting to keep myself busy. Soon, I lost count of that too.


After perhaps a thousand concentrated breaths, the AirMenu opened in front of me. On it, it had a countdown starting from sixty.








Biting my lips (curious how I could still initiate all my physical habits while body), I watched as one by one, the seconds counted down until finally...










For whatever reason, zero was written in letters instead of a numeral. I watched as the ‘ZERO’ dissolved into millions of tiny polygons. These polygons then split into another million polygons, and those split into another million. Within a few moments, the polygons have divided themselves again and again, like cells in a human body. I watched as the polygons moved with high precision, as if some force were guiding them.


Billions of polygons assembled to recreate my virtual body. And bit by bit, brick by brick, Queenstown came to life again.


At first it was very dark, my eyes couldn't make out much. Moments later, some of the polygons assembled to recreate the artificial sun that was hanging in the artificial sky.


“And then there was light,” I thought.


Standing there in my avatar body, I watched as all the ninety players around me reassembled their bodies. It was a strange thing to watch, seeing they heads, legs, arms, chest form. Layer by layer, polygon by polygon their bodies came back into existence.


I looked at the players who appeared next to me. Quaker and Flower.


About a minute later, everything was restored.


*  *  *


“Issa?” Flower sounded when her virtual body assembled.


I tried to smile to assure her that everything was alright, but I knew that would be a lie.  Without a second thought, I summoned the AirMenu. My hands wandered to the place where the Admin Intercom button was supposed to be, but in its place a “Profile” button had appeared. Did that mean that the developers had ceased all contact with us? Yet we were all still alive. My eyes began to scan the crowd for Sven. If anyone knew what was going on, it would be him.


I found him a few steps from where I was standing. Together with Flower, I walked over, hoping that at least Sven would know something.


“Sven,” I said as we approached him.


With a glazed look in his eyes, he looked up. His eyes had no emotion whatsoever. I swallowed. That couldn’t mean anything good.


“What just happened? I asked.


Sven blinked a few times, rubbed his eyes, and slowly got up. He could feel no sense of urgency from him. I was starting to become really worried.


“We got an update,” he said with no emotion. He didn’t seem sad, nor happy. Whatever this update was, I couldn’t even guess if it was good news or not. Perhaps good news was that we were all still alive. Bad news was that we were still inside iSync.


“Update?” I urged him to explain further.


Sven nodded. “I’ll explain in a minute. Help me count all the people who have come back. It would be ninety remaining players in Queenstown if I remember right.”


While he acted with no sense of urgency, no energy and no emotion, at least he was able to talk.


I nodded at Flower. We both began counting along with Sven.


As I was counting, I saw Quaker, Faith and Fefe around the plaza. I had never felt so glad to see people I had only met a few hours ago. They were all the friends I had in this world. This world which was neither heaven nor hell.


All three of us counted ninety players, meaning that the two players who got killed by the monster had been revived. Sven called out for everyone to gather closer to the fountain. He had a lot of explaining to do.


“We have just received an update from the developers!” he announced. There was some murmuring, and Sven waited until everyone had quieted down. “Unfortunately, this update does not fix the log out issue. Such an update would require modification of the server computers at a core level, which would not be possible to make unless we were all logged out!”


There was murmuring again, with many people starting to cry, some falling to their knees.


“Why would forcefully logging us out be dangerous?” someone in the crowd asked.


Sven gave them the same explanation Flower had theorized about earlier. Impressed, I glanced at Flower. She looked at me, confused. I simply smiled and nodded. Her reasoning skills were incredible.


Sven continued. “While the developers cannot forcefully log us out without endangering our mental health, they were able to add to the code that was already in place. Some players met...hostile non-player entities outside the gates of Queenstown, and we have lost two players already. We are down to eighty-eight players.”


There was more murmuring and whispers, but this time Sven didn’t wait for it to die out.


“Quiet! This update is an emergency protocol called ZERO WORLD. From the moment Issa defeated the monster and received the extra coat and weapon, the update had begun. This update gives us the means to defend ourselves. Previously, the weapons you could select from the AirMenu were only models, and could not inflict any damage to anything or anyone. They have now been updated with stats and abilities. Other options such as viewing how much in-game health you have left have also become available.”


Immediately, I raised my hand. There was something not quite right. “Why not make us invincible so that we cannot die?” I asked.


“Because your mind is still linked to your physical body. And the body can only take so much damage,” Sven answered.


I could see some people sighing in relief. So there was still hope, our physical bodies were still there.


“The conditions for a safe logout have not changed,” Sven continued. “While two players have just died, the escaped sixteen players still have to return to the fountain plaza in order for everyone to make a safe log-out.”


I felt Flower tug on my sleeves. She gave me a worried look. I understood. Sven certainly was brilliant at wording such matters. While we and the sixteen escaped players could ‘defend’ ourselves, it also gave us the means to fight each other. The other sixteen players would certainly not simply give themselves up.


This would not be easy.


“What happened to those two who died?” the red-headed girl asked.


Sven smiled. Noticeably, this calmed everyone down slightly.


“During the blackout we all experienced, the developers have told me that those two are still alive,” there was a uplifting whispers around the plaza. “But those two have not been automatically logged out. If it was so, the developers would have done it already with all of us.”


Players fell silent.


“The developers are not sure what happened to them, but their physical bodies in the real world have taken no harm, but their minds stayed automatically logged in here.”


Sven looked at the red-headed girl. “Safire, do you see them anywhere in this crowd?”


Safire! So that was her name! I’ll have to remember that, she seems to hold some kind of grudge against me.


Safire scanned the crowd until she saw the two male players who died during the fight with


“Ireland! Thirteen!” she called out.


Flower and I looked at each other and chuckled. Ireland and Thirteen were the strangest ID names so far.


Safire ran over to those two, but stopped dead in her tracks when she was standing in front of them.


“Thirteen? Ireland?” she asked hesitantly.


Neither answered.


Safire shook them by the shoulder, even slapped them to try to wake them up. Nothing. They would not budge. When Safire pushed them down in desperation, they robotically got up and then simply stood there.


“This is the worst outcome...” Flower whispered.


I was about to ask Flower what she thought happened to those two, when Safire began screaming at Sven. “What happened to those two! Are they still alive? Hey!”


Wordlessly, Sven summoned the AirMenu to ask the developers on the outside about the status of Thirteen and Ireland.


We all watched as all color drained from Sven’s face.


I didn’t need Flower to tell me why. I could guess just as much.


Sven had lost communication with the developers.


We were on our own. 

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