Eric wandered through the forest behind his home. The sun was high in the sky; not yet past its peak, but the forest canopy filtered most of the bright light. The path that Eric preferred was relatively dim for such a bright day. He entered the forest to search for solid, construction-worthy branches, but he enjoyed the stroll so much it became a secondary goal. He was enjoying the sounds and smells of the forest around him when a glint caught his eye from the ground up ahead. He dashed forward to the shiny sparkle with a grin.
“Dollar would be great, nickel is good too,” he thought. This wouldn’t be the first time something caught his attention, it was usually just coins. Though the forest was behind his house, it wasn’t his family’s property. The path he was using was frequented by hikers that often dropped loose change. He reached the glint and dusted off the dirt around it. He was surprised when it wasn’t a coin.
“Whoa!” Eric lifted a small, smooth, glassy rectangle out of the dirt and shook it off. It was transparent with the size and thickness of a playing card. “Is this a phone?” he wondered aloud. He did not see any buttons so he pressed his thumb against the screen.
[You have been randomly chosen as the Game Master for this AlterNet server. To accept your prize please read the terms and services agreement then choose ‘Yes’.] Two icons appeared on the screen as well as several tiny horizontal lines. The ‘Yes’ looked bright red while the ‘No’ was a much dimmer green. He was almost 10 and in his short life, he’d learned one thing. No one ever reads the terms and conditions. He pressed ‘Yes’ to see what would happen next.
[Contract approved. Your soul now belongs to Sharp Development in exchange for your own Earth.] Eric chuckled when he realized it was a joke somehow. Of course, they couldn’t take his soul, much less give him the Earth. The device vibrated several times in his hand. It occasionally used enough force to vibrate his hand.
[Eric Lagos – Age 9. Unique Soul #50, El Pescado has been registered as Game Master. Please select a server template. For help with the setup process please say, “Help” at any time.
“Help.” Eric did not waste any time. The device jumped out of his hand and hovered in the air in front of him; then he noticed black dots collecting around it. In seconds a giant swarm of black dots surrounded the device, then they solidified. They turned into a black, featureless mannequin that seemed to be facing Eric.
“Welcome to the AlterNet!” it said with a soft feminine voice. “Here is a list of available templates. Please ask if you have any questions,” it said. The dummy lifted its arm in the air and a large glassy slate appeared in the air; it looked like a larger version of the gadget Eric found. Red text glowed on the slate in columns and Eric stepped closer to read them.
“Sci-fi, Fantasy, Horror, Steampunk, Contemporary…” he read the first few out loud then looked over the rest. They all seemed to be vague genre descriptions. One, in particular, caught his eye.
“What’s ‘Waterworld?’ he asked.
“Waterworld melts the polar ice caps and raises the sea level 300 feet. Uniques #06 La Sirena, #30 El Camarón, #50 El Pescado and #54 La Rana receive attribute bonuses from Waterworld servers. Build time: 72 hours”
Eric did not understand everything it said, but he did recognize #50. It told him that’s what he was and it sounded like whatever it meant he would get bonuses.
“I want that; do it,” he said. The mannequin extended his arm; Eric saw the glassy rectangle come out of its hand in front of him. It was giving him another prompt.
“Commencing flooding procedure,” the mannequin said as Eric felt drops of water starting to land on his head. His eyes widened.
“Wait… it’s real!?” He asked. The mannequin nodded. “… and my… soul?” he asked.
“Is the property of Sharp Development.”