Early Opportunity

Victor groaned in disappointment the moment he woke up. He reached for his phone to turn off the alarm; but, he did not get out of bed. He brought the singing phone under the covers and slid the vibrating alarm clock icon upward. The music he chose for his alarm went silent; he sighed and dropped the phone to his chest to doze a bit more. He caught a glimpse of a mail notification before the screen shut off. Curiosity forced him to pick the phone up again and check it.

Normally, no one e-mailed him. His job had its own communication tools; not that anyone contacted him for work either. He used to get only spam until he set up the appropriate filters. He had not received a single e-mail on his newest phone since he bought it; his two-year contract was almost up.

Victor pulled down the notification to see who sent it. It said “AlmightyAdmin@heaven.com  re: Satisfaction Guarantee”.

What?” He immediately sat up in bed and focused on the phone. He gently touched the notification to open it; then, he started reading.

“Attn: Mr. Victor Bleik,” He stopped reading to consider whether he used his last name when he made the account. Then, he realized he didn’t use ‘Victor’ either.  The mystery encouraged him to keep reading.

“This is an automated e-mail sent to you on behalf of Sharp Development. Our algorithms detected the use of several keywords in your e-mail including: life, unfair, unsatisfied, new game. These words, including a number of repetitions, suggest you are unsatisfied with your current life. Sharp Development is the answer for you.” Victor scrolled down past a logo of red scissors to get to the rest of the e-mail.

“In the AlterNet, you can live the life of your dreams. Choose from 25 different races to design the body you want to have. Then, choose the job you want to do from a list of 25 classes.”

Classes? Is this a game?” Victor wondered. Reality knocked him out of his hopeful mood; his stomach sank. Of course, it was too good to be true. He shrugged and kept reading. If nothing else, the distraction of a new game might help.

“The AlterNet is the ultimate gaming experience. You don’t just play your character; you ARE your character. You can slay dragons alongside knights or visit futuristic floating cities. Don’t care much for fantasy? The AlterNet also has dozens of ‘Contemporary Servers’ full of players who want to design a normal life for themselves.”

Ha. It is a game,” Victor chuckled to himself. “But it sounds like a VR game…,” he said aloud to no one, then he looked at his computer. It sat on a desk in the corner of his room. It was already several years old, and he couldn’t afford to make it VR ready any time soon. He sighed and kept reading. It was in smaller print than the rest of the letter.

“This e-mail was dispatched based on the contents of your e-mail. Sharp Development would like to take a moment to remind you that no human has read your e-mail. Our A.I. focuses only on which words are used, and their frequency. This is not a spam message and we will not contact you again. Please reply directly to this e-mail with the subject: ‘Yes’ to create your own AlterNet character for free. The address shown was faked to match the recipient of the message that drew our attention.” Then it ended. Victor scrolled down as far as he could but there was nothing after that.

“Nah,” Victor said with a shrug. He used his thumb to hit the trashcan icon. It would be quite some time before he could afford enough VR gear to play it even if it came with a free trial. Plus it was a game he’d never heard of before, so it was probably just a beta test. He sighed and forced himself to get out of bed before he was later than usual for work.

“Why doesn’t anything ever work out for me?…” he whined to himself as he walked into the bathroom.

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