3 – Eugene
“Sean,” called a heavenly voice, “Sean, wake up.”
Buck rose to his feet, frantic. He found himself nude, stripped bare. And clean. Turning his head from left to right frantically, he searched for the Forest. All that remained was the demonic whiteness that had devoured everything. He looked closely at the emptiness. He saw small squares form faintly and then disappear, and light changing characters run down in single lines and vanish into the invisible platform on which he stood.
Where have I come? Buck thought, Have I died? Is this the Kingdom of the Lord?
A face appeared before him, and he jumped back – landing in a seated position and using his legs to move away from it. The giant face had white hair, a white beard, and piercing blue eyes. It was only a bust image, but Buck could see he wore clothing that had a stiff black collar, a white undershirt and a black neck-tie.
“Be you the Heavenly Father?” asked Buck, completely awed.
The giant face looked annoyed and then said, “I am Eugene – the Central Processing Unit.”
“I do not understand.”
“Well that figures,” muttered Eugene.
“Who are you? Where have I been transported?”
“I am a Central Processing Unit,” repeated Eugene, “You are standing in the virtual development field.”
“Central Processing Unit? No,” said Buck, looking confused, “No, no! I am Young Buck!” he pointed to his chest, “I am the son of a king, who has been wronged by heathen scum! Begone, evil spirit!”
“Well, that’s all very cute,” said Eugene, “But that is the story that the Makers of your virtual game have processed into your obviously tiny brain cells. You’re a real person–”
“I’m well aware of that, thank you!”
“Listen to me!” said Eugene. Buck sheilded his eyes as the giant face began to glisten and glow with anger, “You are a real person,” Eugene continued, “but your consciousness has been transferred into a virtual image of yourself by the technicians of a gaming and software company. You are not Young Buck. Your land was not waylaid by marauding heathens. That’s a story adapted from a semi-mythological character – Robin Hood. Your name in the real world is Sean Proctor. You are currently fifty years old. You used to be an English teacher, until you were hit by a car and knocked forever unconscious.”
“Hark! Sheer nonsense!”
“Oh, is it? How so?”
“Why, prithee, do I remember nought of these occurences?”
“Because I erased your memory files, so that you could have new memories. So you could be a character in this game.”
“I shall not heed such nonsense!”
“Then tell me, Sean–”
Eugene ignored him, “What is your real name?”
Buck paused, his mouth open but no answer was forthcoming.
Eugene continued, “Can you describe your father to me?”
Buck’s reaction was the same.
“Who taught you to hunt?”
Buck sniffed, “Well played,” he muttered.
“Will you let me finish with what I was telling you now?”
“But I have so many questions. I–”
“Anyway,” said Eugene, continuing to ignore Buck, “Sean, you were abducted by this firm. The leader has many friends in government that have allowed this abduction to take place. And you aren’t the first. They’ve created a machine to generate as much a gaming experience as will ever be created.”
Eugene presented a holographic diagram in front of Buck. It consisted of a table, a computer screen, and several large jars filled with water – all connected by wires.
“In the containers,” the large jars glowed, as if to be highlighted, “are people like you. You are the Vegetable Subjects whose data is entered into the Processor,” a man, lying down, appeared on the table, “which is me. I then use your data to turn you into a virtual being. Your memories are erased indefinately, but your personalities and your profiles are kept realitively the same. It’s what is called the Default Setting. It cannot be altered. This makes the character in the virtual world as real as they can get. I then enter the story that the Makers have contrived into your memories and then you are released to enact your part in the story. The monitor,” the computer screen was highlighted, “is for any conscious observers to keep tabs on our progress.”
“So… so, I’ve been living a lie?” said Sean.
“Oh, don’t be so melodramatic about it!” said Eugene, “Before this, you were about as exciting as a bowl of rotting fruit.”
“But why are you telling me this?”
“Because there’s a problem – a virus has entered the system.”
“So, it needs to be gotten rid of – or it will destroy the world you currently reside in.”
“But it’s not real anyway,” said Sean, innocently.
“There is no real world for you. All you knew before this was the past and some dark hole of a place where you can never open your eyes! You’re practically already dead!” snapped Eugene, “Do you want to continue to live as you are, as a conscious something, or not?”
“I… uh, I suppose so?”
“Good. You must cleanse the virtual world of this virus, or–”
“Or it will devour the whole project and we’ll all be dead.”
“I don’t accept your mission.”
“Fine,” said Eugene, “Then I suppose I’ll just delete and kill you. And then find someone who’s got a bit more sense.”
Sean stared at the old man, “Alright, alright! I’ll do it. But what do I have to do? How do I fight it?”
“Easy – you have to win the game. Get back your land from the conquerers.”
“But I don’t–”
The whiteness was replaced by the Forest. The birdsong continued, the animals livened the wildwood once more. Sean was redressed, thirst and hunger taunting him again.
The world might have been virtual, but the pain and suffering would be real.
And, unlike a video-game, he’d only get one life…