Punishing Star

“We’re living in a simulation!” Jaime said suddenly. He stared at his best friend, Martin, sitting across from him. Jaime offered him lunch in the park and Martin never turned down free food. The curly-haired young man raised a single eyebrow at Jaime but continued taking a bite of pizza. “I’ve thought it for a long time, but I never mentioned it because I had no proof.” Jaime fell quiet and waited several seconds for Martin to finish chewing. finally,

“So you’re saying you have proof now?” he asked. Jaime nodded. He stood and rushed around the concrete picnic table to sit next to Martin. Along the way he fished a cellphone out of his pocket; he held it up to show Martin when he sat down. “On. Off. What am I looking at?” he asked. Two labeled, round buttons showed on the screen along with a live preview from the camera.

“I hacked it,” Jaime grinned. “I can’t do much, but it’s proof.” He touched the ‘On’ button on the screen.

“I don’t see anything?” Martin asked while he stared at the empty park in front of him.

“You have to point it at someone,” Jaime said. He walked around the other side of the table and stood in front of Martin. A solid green bar floated above Jaime’s head. The numbers 100/100 hovered next to the bar with a small heart icon.

“Neat, you invented a filter,” Martin chuckled.

“It’s not a filter, it’s real!” Jaime said. He sat down at the table again and pulled the phone from Martin’s hands. “Look, it changes.” He turned and aimed the phone at a couple walking along one of the park’s paths. Their green bars were longer than Jaime’s, and they had purple bars underneath the green.

“#32 / Dancer” hovered above the man’s head next to the numbers “4290/ 4290”. “#34 / Knight” hovered above the woman’s head next to the numbers “7480/7480”. A small fist-shaped icon floated next to another word under the purple bar. “Berserker’s Rage.” Martin turned the phone to look at Jaime, then back at the couple that was now further away.

“It’s not random,” Jaime smiled. “Every time you look at them it’ll give the same info. It’s real.”

“What about me? What does mine say?” Martin released Jaime’s hand so he could turn the camera.

“Same as mine. Zero, villager. WHOA!” Jaime shouted. “Come see!” Jaime pointed the camera at something behind his friend. Martin turned around and saw a tall black hole in the air.

“I see it!” He said. He ran around the table to stand next to Jaime and pulled his own phone out along the way. He started streaming while looking through Jaime’s phone. Martin had a decent amount of followers and within seconds hundreds of people were watching the stream.

“Guys I’m here at the park and I don’t know what I’m looking at.” He started a commentary, but a short pale woman with dark hair stepped out of the hole. She looked straight at Jaime. Martin saw her through Jaime’s app and took note of the text above her head. “#35 / Ninja. 9999/9999”

“You’re not supposed to know what you’ve discovered,” she said flatly then looked at Martin. Her gaze traveled down to the camera on the back of his phone, and she shook her head.

None of you are supposed to know,” she looked right into the camera and held both her hands up. They began to glow with bright blue energy.

“What the hell?” Jaime asked. Martin looked at the phone in Jaime’s hand. He noticed appeared in front of the woman in large red letters.

“Catastrophic server event. Please relocate to another AlterNet server. Server offline in 10 seconds.” Then the number began counting down.

“What does it mean catastrophic event?!” Jaime asked the woman. She smiled and knelt down to touch the ground with both blue-glowing hands.

“It means goodbye.” A shower of brilliant blue sparks exploded around her hands. Blue energy flowed down toward the Earth’s core, completely consuming anything in its way.

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