Virtual Reality’d, Part I
Jeff Donalds awoke to the sound of his alarm clock. He yawned, slammed the clock with his fists, and snailed off into the bathroom to brush his teeth.
By the time Jeff made it to his car, he was awake enough to remember how to start his car, but he had had completely run out of coffee, so his chance of surviving the day was questionable. As he drove out of his driveway, Jeff wondered if he could substitute the coffee with the Swinging Sounds of the Seventies with Cliff Blakefield.
“I’m Cliff Blakesfield, and you’re listening to nothing but the Sweet Sounds of the Seventies. But you knew that, so what are you listening to me for? Let’s get on with our commercial-free music marathon with an ABBA classic, brought to you by Dunkin-Donuts: America Runs On--”
Jeff hit the break. His car skidded to a halt about three centimeters in front of his friend Marv. Why Marv was standing in the middle of the street, Jeff probably wouldn’t find out. He rolled down his window.
“JEFF! Jeff! There you are! Jeff, Jeff--”
“What the heck are you--”
“Jeff, Jeff, it’s a lie, none of it, none of it’s real, Jeff, it’s all, it’s all one big illusion, one big conspiracy, it’s--”
“They’re watching us, Jeff. They’re all watching us with their, their cameras, their little cameras hidden in people’s eyes, they--”
“If you want me to just keep driving, I’d me more than obliged to--”
“You can’t go out there, Jeff. At least not alone. It’s not safe, not anymore, Jeff, now come with me.” Marv grabbed Jeff’s arm and started trying to pull him out of his car. It wasn’t working, but Marv wasn’t giving up.
“In thirty seconds I hit the gas pedal,” Jeff said.
Marv gave up. “Look, Jeff, look around. Don’t you see anything out-of-the-ordinary? Look at that old lady, standing at the bus stop.”
“I see her. What’s so…?”
“The bus doesn’t stop there on Wednesdays, Jeff. Now, look, see that traffic cop over there?”
"We have street lights, Jeff. We don’t need traffic cops. It’s redundant.”
“All you’re doing is pointing out people’s mistakes. I don’t--”
Marv pulled Jeff’s car keys out of the ignition. He walked out into the middle of the other lane. A car screeched to a halt in front of him. Marv reached into the open window of the driver’s seat and succeeded to pull the startled driver out of the car and onto the street. He pulled the driver’s keys out of that car’s ignition, inserted Jeff’s keys, rotated them, and the car revved back to life. Marv turned to Jeff.
“See? They work on every car. Heck, they probably open the doors, and every vault, in that closed bank over there, and we could just mosey on out with piles of cash in our hands, but it wouldn’t matter because none of it’s real! We’re in a virtual reality, Jeff. A video game. Everyone, that old lady, that police man, that guy who I just pulled out of a car, who just got up and walked away? They’re all NPC’s! Non-Player Characters, Jeff! The, the only reason I know that I’m not an NPC is, why would they program an NPC to think he’s inside of a Video Game, Jeff? It doesn’t make any sense!”
Jeff was staring at the other car. “How did you…? My keys?”
Marv rolled his eyes. “I thought you’d be too slow for this, Jeff.” Marv grabbed Jeff’s keys, unlocked Jeff’s door, and pulled him out successfully that time. Jeff followed, stumbling over his feet as he tried to comprehend the events of the last two minutes.
“So… we’re in a Video Game?”
“Well, ‘The Matrix’ is science-fiction, so, yeah, that’s my top guess.” Marv led Jeff through an alleyway.
“How’d you… what makes you think I’m not one of the robot-people?”
“I was going out on a limb, there, Jeff. If you were a robot, you wouldn’t be following me right now.”
“Huh. I see. So, where are you taking me?”
“To an Olive Garden, Jeff. It’s the only place that’s safe.”
“You’ve got to trust me on this one, Jeff. What, do you think I’d go out and stand in the middle of the street without doing any research?”
“I… alright, lead the way.”
They stopped in front of an Olive Garden entrance. Marv looked around carefully, and they snuck inside. They sat down at a booth.
When Jeff stopped panting, he said, “So, I’m still wrapping my head around the whole… well, the everything part.”
“Shh, you’ve gotta be quiet, Jeff. The Olive Garden’s safe but the people are not. See, they don’t have cameras in these places, because who wants to watch people sit around eating italian food? Two caesar salads,” Marv said to the waitress, who Jeff didn’t notice in his confusion and bewilderment.
The salads arrived in less than a minute. “See that, Jeff? You can’t make a salad that fast in real life.”
“So, what… how long have we even been here? And how is it so… real?”
“I dunno, Jeff,” Marv said between bites. “What I do know is, if there’s a way in, there’s a way out.”
“That’s not exactly how logic works, Marv. I mean, that’s kind of the whole methodology behind traps, y’know? You get someone in, and then they can’t get out--”
“Research, Jeff. I did research. And I know how to get us out of here, I just need a few things--Oh, he’s paying,” Marv said to the waiter. To Jeff’s surprise, both of their salads were gone, and the waiter had arrived with a bill for forty dollars.
“It’s not real money, Jeff! It doesn’t matter!”
At that, the waitress’ eyes went red. She began calling out in a rather mechanical voice, “ALERT. ERROR #4076. SUBJECTS' INTELLIGENCE LEVEL TOO HIGH.”
"Uh-oh, Jeff. You've, you really gone and done it this time, Jeff. The waitress is a spy, Jeff."
"What? How was this my fault?"
Then, several things happened at once. Four heavily armored men in red goggles stormed into the Olive Garden with shiny sci-fi weapons. Marv sighed, and pulled out a gun of his own. When he shot at the soldiers, they blipped away like television screens. Then he shot the waitress, for good measure. He jumped out of the booth and grabbed Jeff’s hand once more.
“Time for Plan B!” he said.
TO BE CONTINUED.