Henry sat up in his bed with a start. He’d been sleeping, but something felt urgent. His first instinct led him to call up the menu. A translucent slate appeared in front of him, it hovered above the blanket that covered his legs. He swiped the screen to scan through the icons to look for something, unsure what, several times. Finally, he stopped.
“Can’t find anything,” he mumbled to himself, then dismissed and turned to give sleep another shot. The second his head touched the pillow his eyes shot open. “NO!” he yelled, then urgently summoned the slate again. He knew what he was looking for now, and swiped once to the right. A blank space at the bottom of the menu stood out like a black sheep. There should have been an option to log out, but it was no longer there.
[HELP! – Hank] He immediately sent a Whisper to the one person that might help, and then gave her more information. [I can’t log out? – Hank] He pulled his knees up to his chest, and sat patiently to wait for a response. Luckily she responded within a couple of minutes.
[Okay. I’m sorry. -Bloody] The Whisper tickled his inner ear canal. He “knew” the text of the message without having to read it. [Be there in a sec. -Bloody] Hank hopped out of the bed and changed out of his pajamas into red Monk gear. A knock on the door called his attention the moment he finished. Hank walked through the small cabin and opened the door for his guest, a tall, thin, pale elf with long, dark, blood-red hair in a braid behind her. He opened the door to let her in, and the wispy elf walked straight to the couch to take a seat.
“Janet’s bringing me some equipment,” she informed Hank as he closed the door. He nodded and sat down next to her. The elf reached for Hank’s hands to comfort him.
“There’s no easy way to say it, but it’s already been confirmed. Your body died moments ago,” she said. Hank looked at the woman through wide eyes, he shook his head subconsciously.
“No. That doesn’t make any sense, how am I still here?” He stood to beat his fist against his chest. “If my body died, I’d lose consciousness.”
“You’d think so,” the elf nodded. A small black hole opened in the air next to the elf. A small black cat with a red face walked out of the hole while holding a small, transparent rectangle, about the size of a playing card, in its mouth. The elf grabbed the Node from the cat, then the cat retreated back into the hole.
[notice: Party Invite – Bloody Sharp] Hank felt the notification tingle in his ear. He accepted it so that he could see whatever she wanted to show him. When he accepted it, the elf stood from her seat then tossed the clear Node onto the floor.
When the Node touched the floor, the living room of Hank’s cabin changed. The floor became dark, moist soil. He recognized his body lying in the middle of the soil pit.
“This is the Mudroom where we put you to recover,” she said. The elf walked to the representation of Hanks body, then knelt next to it. She opened his shirt to show Hank a small green leaf growing out of his belly button. “I’m sorry your body died, but we could never have guessed this would happen,” she said. By this time Hank knelt next to his own body to stare at the small green leaf.
“What happened? I’m a tree?” he asked.
“YES!” Bloody Sharp exclaimed. “Isn’t it amazing!?”
“NO! I can’t go back to my body!” Hank clenched his fists several times to work through the anger.
“But you’re still HERE!” She pointed at the floor and the projection of the Mudroom around them disappeared, leaving his small in-game cabin. “In the AlterNet! Think about it, all your responsibilities left behind. And your family isn’t even out of reach, they all have characters. Here you’re a max level Monk, what were you back home?” Hank unconsciously reached up and rubbed the back of his neck as he considered her words.
“Football Coach,” he said, then added, “high school,” in a lower voice.
“You’re the first person this has happened to, and this Earth is just as real as the one you came from. Work with me, let me learn from you. You’ll never have another worry again,” she said. She offered him a hand, and after several seconds he shook it firmly with a nod.
“Okay. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without you, I trust you,” Hank said.
“Okay, I need to go get started studying what happened. I’ll be back in the morning and we can talk more then, okay?” She disconnected the moment Hank nodded his agreement.
[notice: Party disbanded.] The elf’s features disappeared, her skin darkened. In a moment only the swarm mannequin remained, then it disintegrated into a fine black powder that disappeared before hitting the ground.