Pam sighed when she caught her own eye. She sat an outside cafe on a sunny day watching strangers walk by. An errant sun glare forced her to turn her head toward the cafe’s windows. She shook her head in disappointment and let her eyes roam upward. The large golden “1” that floated above her head changed shape and darkened. It became a black 0.
“Crap,” she thought while staring at herself. She felt the need to hold her reflection as long as she could. Pam wiggled her seat around without losing sight of herself until she found a comfortable position. She watched the stream of pedestrians pass while keeping herself in her peripheral vision. They all had black “0”s floating above their head too. Pam found it interesting that theirs turned black too. Normally their numbers glowed with a bright purple color; she assumed her number was gold because she was special. She always kept an eye out for other golden numbers but she never saw any.
Until a flash of gold caught her eye from the crowd. It floated low enough that she imagined it belonged to a child. She almost stood up and turned around, but her reflection stopped her. She sighed and relaxed back in her seat. Pam focused on the crowd behind her reflection. As she tried to see any sign of gold something else caught her eye. The crowd was not moving. They looked like they should have been moving; many of their mouths hung open as if in the middle of speaking. They seemed to be frozen in time.
“What’s going on?” Pam wondered. She sat still watching herself and the frozen world around her. Gold twinkled in the corner of her eye again. This time it hopped out of the crowd and land on the chair next to her. “WHAT’S GOING ON!?” she shouted when she saw what it was. She was fairly confident she’d lost her mind already.
A sleek black cat sat in the chair next to her. It watched the window meeting Pam’s eyes. She saw a red patch of fur atop its head that looked like a skull. Most important of all, a golden number 14 hovered above its head. Pam was not surprised when the cat replied in English.
“Okay, I’ll keep it short.” the cat said with a soft, feminine voice. She sounded offended. “I’m here to make you a job offer.”
“WhaAAT?” Pam laughed in surprise. Pam was starting to think that she might have died already. Somehow while she was looking at herself. In the last couple of minutes, she saw herself for the last time, kept moving while time was stopped, met a talking cat and will see the cat 14 more times. She shrugged. “Alright, why not? I’m dead or will be soon anyway. What’s the job?”
“Live the life of your dreams,” the cat said.
“You’re going to pay me to live my ideal life?” Pam shook her head. “I’m not quite that gullible, sorry.”
“Of course we wouldn’t pay you, don’t be greedy. The arrangement works like this: You get to live the life of your dreams. We get to study you while you do it.”
“So… what? I have to come in for check-ups and things?” The cat shook her head.
“You seem interested so I’ll give you the full details. First, I didn’t say your ideal life. I said your dream life. That body,” the cat nodded at Pam’s reflection. “is safely stored in our lab while your consciousness gets put in any body you want. Human, elf, gnome, anything you want.”
“Wait a second,” Pam’s eyes narrowed. “You’re recruiting me for a virtual reality MMO?” Even as she asked the question she realized she would be okay with that. She followed it up with another question. “How realistic is it?”
“As real as you feel the world right now.” Pam’s eyes widened.
“I accept!” she said. Pam smiled at her reflection. She knew it would be the last time she saw that body.