“Not this time,” Taylor grumbled to herself as she climbed out of bed at six a.m. The sun wasn’t out yet. Her room was dark and best of all, quiet. For as long as she could remember in her young life, she woke up every morning at 6:15 a.m. to upbeat music that no one else heard. She had no idea where it came from, but she never woke up to an alarm.
She set her alarm for six a.m. the night before, but it didn’t go off this morning. Luckily, she did not count on it. She spent the entirety of the day before willing herself to wake up early. Taylor changed out of her pajamas and into a dog-themed onesie she used as a costume the previous month. She ignored the black jeans and yellow t-shirt that were laid out for her. She had no idea where they came from. Her mom insisted she never entered Taylor’s room; and, the school clothes were often outfits Taylor never saw before. She decided to make a point of rebelling that day.
Taylor walked out of her room at 6:10 a.m. and was surprised to find the house dark and quiet like her room. All the previous mornings she woke up to music, the smell of bacon hit her nostrils as soon as she was awake. Usually, she was downstairs by 6:45 in time to sit down to a large breakfast spread that included waffles, pancakes, and french toast. Along with the bacon, omelettes, and cereal, Taylor never had a problem with the same breakfast every morning. She wondered why her mom wasted so much food, but she didn’t complain about her options.
She expected her mother at least, to be awake and in the kitchen. It should have taken more than half an hour to cook up all that food. She padded through the quiet house, walked through the empty kitchen, and ended up in the living room. It was a spacious area with large bay windows that looked out into the dark world waiting for sunrise.
Taylor stared out the windows for a moment, but suddenly she heard the music start. She whirled around and her eyes landed on the VCR clock. It said 6:15 a.m in bright blue numbers.
“Where’s it coming from?” she wondered. Then, she noticed her own shadow on the hardwood floor. She turned around and noticed the kitchen light was on; the scent of bacon hit her nostrils.
“What’s going on?” she wondered. Taylor wandered into the kitchen to find her mother standing in front of the stove with all four burners going. Two boxes of sugary cereal, one with marshmallows, sat on the table with four places already set. Three glasses at each place filled with orange juice, milk, and water. Two of them also had cups for coffee. “I just walked through here!” Taylor knew it was impossible for everything to get done in the short time she spent in the living room.
“Mom? What’s going on?” Taylor asked. Her mother, a short woman with shoulder length brown hair turned around and smiled. But, her eyes seemed to focus on something behind Taylor.
She did not acknowledge Taylor at all. Then, bright yellow words appeared in front of her mom, just below her neck.[Zero – NPC as June Seaver]
“What the Hell?” Taylor asked, but her mother simply stopped smiling and returned her attention to the stove. “MOM!” Taylor yelled to no avail.
“Morning mommy,” Taylor’s 8-year-old sister walked into the kitchen. She stopped at the entrance and grinned.[Zero – NPC as Tammy Seaver] appeared in front of her in the same bold yellow lettering.
“CUUUT!” a man’s voice yelled. Taylor spun around to see a bald man walking in from the living room. She did not recognize him. She looked to her mother for help, but June remained frozen by the stove. She glanced at Tammy and saw the blonde girl still smiling at nothing. The bald man walked straight to Taylor and looked down at her with a sigh.
“You’re not in bed for your credit scene,” he said. His tone of voice was surprisingly warm. Taylor briefly registered that part of her morning routine was snoozing the alarm for five minutes and rolling over. She guessed that retreating under the covers caused her to miss her own yellow text. “So, I guess it’s safe to say you woke up,” he chuckled and smiled. “Good morning.”
“What’s going on? Who are you? What’s wrong with my family?”
“You can call me Bald Lenny,” he moved to the table and sat down at Tammy’s place; then, he gestured for Taylor to sit down too. “Your family isn’t real,” he gestured at the kitchen around them. “This is a TV show, except we use scripted NPCs instead of actors.”
“NPCs? Like in a video game?” Taylor asked though she remained standing. At her height, the only way she could meet Bald Lenny eye to eye was if she stood while he sat. Bald Lenny nodded.
“We’re in the AlterNet, a multi-universe sized game.
“But,.. I’m real,” Taylor said. Bald Lenny shrugged.
“We don’t know what causes it. Every now and then and NPC gains consciousness,” he nodded at her. “They wake up.”
“What happens now?” she asked.
“Well, you’re a person now. I don’t think we could force you back onto the show if we tried. You can do anything you want; I have access to resources to put you on any type of Earth you want to live out the rest of your life.”
“What about my family? They’ll miss me,” she said. Bald Lenny shook his head.
“They’re not real. It’s easy enough to cast another NPC that looks just like you for the show.”
“I’ll miss them…,” Taylor admitted.
“No one’s saying you have to leave,” Baldy Lenny grinned. “Have you ever wanted to try acting?”