What can I say? It’s long overdue.
Imagine a blank slate. A white plane without any linear descriptions.
Now imagine an unseen hand – or several hands – drawing crudely at first, but with greater assurance and skill, on the undefined areas. At the same time, color is added in heavy drabs and fine lines, refining with every pass of the brush.
Soon, detail work is added. Swift washes of color are scattered everywhere. Skillful twists of the brush insert bright reds and greens and blues everywhere.
Overarching trees wrapped in flowering vines surrounded me, their leaves every shade of green. Soft bird calls were heard faintly in the distance. Occasionally, a squirrel scampered across the scenery. A soft, fragrant wind rustled the leaves above and the thick grass below.
I turned around to find the guy leaned back against a tree, his hands in his pockets, his suit gently shimmering in the dappled sunlight.
“Where am I?” I asked, agog over the change of scenery.
He laughed. “Don’t you know your own places?”
I raised an eyebrow and took another look around. My mental filing cabinet threw up a card.
“The Dreaming Forest?!”
He laughed again. “Yes, sir.”
“But…!” I took another look around. Wow. It was more beautiful than I thought.
He came up to me and placed an arm around my shoulder. “You have an interesting imagination,” he said. “I would admire it in detail, but we are here to test the filters.”
I nodded. “And how can we do that?”
“Right now, this scenery is in standby mode,” he said. “That means that the program has yet to put you into the file you created.” He grinned dazzlingly. “When you picked that card, the program immediately took the file you chose and created this.” He waved his hand around the scenery.
“I don’t understand that. Am I not already in the file?”
He shook his head. “It is like the game you played earlier. You were not ‘in’” –he hooked two of his fingers in quotes – “and you are not ‘in’ now.”
“But it’s a story,” I said. “Well, a scenery, really. Can’t the filters help with changing it?”
He frowned. “I am not sure you understand what the filters do. Either that or I did not explain properly. What they do, technically, is to fix the environmental settings–“
“What are these settings anyways?” I intruded.
“Ah, yes.” He cleared his throat. “These settings can be tweaked for the more extreme scenarios as added verisimilitude.”
“Added what?” I said, daunted by that word.
“Detail,” he explained. He cleared his throat and continued. “In your case, seeing that the version is practically untested, we decided to lock them in place as a precaution for you and as a legal precaution for the business. If you were to die during testing, it might prove disastrous for Kimera.
“The glitch that Carlos reported should have not been possible, seeing that most of the settings were already fixed. I’m sure with all of them fixed now; we should not have any more problems. However, in the case that you see a glitch, just call for Carlos and he’ll send in a report.” He smiled dazzlingly. “Are there any questions?”
“Let me get this straight.” I said. “Right now, I have all the settings fixed. I can’t do anything at all?”
His face took on a look of extreme patience. “I have said before, you can still make new characters, but you cannot change them once they are created. Also, because of the fix, you cannot get any new achievements.”
I shrugged as he went on. “Now, we can do one of two things. Either you can personally take a brief tour of this world or you can be a part of that world.” He gestured and a golden box hovered next to him. “This will save the file and start the program, just like you did with the earlier video game.”
I hesitated. “If I touch it, what happens?”
His face grew even more patient. “You get put into the scenario. Sheesh, are you usually this dense?”
I thought a bit. “Now that you mention it, no. I’m usually rather quick on the draw.” I shook my head, trying to shake out the clouds out of my head.
“Hm.” He gestured again, and a wall of slowly-moving text appeared. He poked around it a bit. “I thought so,” he said, peering into it. “The filters are causing a change in your characteristics. Let me just adjust…”
“Woah!” My mind suddenly cleared up, like sinuses draining of blockage. I shook my head just a bit in shock.
“Good, good.” He swiped across the text and it vanished. “Bug has been tagged for further research. Now, for some fun.” He turned to me. “What do you want to do?”
Something snagged my mind. “The filters changed my…?”
He must have seen my expression, because he raised his hand in a calming gesture. “It is perfectly alright,” he said. “All that happened was that when we created the world, everything in it, including you, was affected by the filters. I just modified them so that they will not anymore.”
“But you are here also…?”
He shook his head. “I’m only here as a modified presentation-slash-avatar,” he said. “That is how I showed up in your room without any undue effects in the game.”
I shrugged slightly in confusion. “Okay. So, I can start the game now?”
He nodded and smiled. “Just touch the box, sir.”
I looked around one last time and did so.
“Save complete,” a neutral-sounding voice said.
I deeply breathed in the soft spring air. It was always spring here, always the cusp of a mild winter melting into days of eternal sun. I decided to walk in any direction, enjoying the sights, the sounds, the occasional crackle of energy bolts.
Something landed behind me, pushing me down, right before a great ball of energy shot past and shattered the tree I was in front of.
“And you stay down, kid, if you know what’s good for you,” the voice said, the weight moving off.
“Huh?” I said, trying to get my bearings. I gingerly stood up, my body slightly twanging in pain. I looked around and saw nothing, really. Just a thick clear blob dangling from the trees.
“I did tell you to stay down,” the blob said.
I took a step back. The blob was huge, almost as big as a truck. Something about it, though, tickled my memory.
“It’s a good thing they ran off before shooting again,” it said, pooling on the ground, then raising up in a column and forming into a heavyset guy dressed in a nondescript shirt and jeans. A very familiar person.
“Hey, you’re the Guardian, aren’t you?”
He raised an eyebrow. “And who are you to know that name?”
“Er…” I was at a loss. I knew very well who this creature was, and if I told him who I was, he might think me mad. I decided on a sugar coating.
“I’m just a, uh, tourist.” What?
“Uhm…I’m from the lands below,” I said, cursing myself mentally. “I, er, heard about this place, and, er, decided to visit?”
He glared at me for a moment before smiling. “Sure, why not. I didn’t know that people lived in the lower levels.” He glanced around. “However, you caught us at a bad time. One of Chaos’ minions is trying to attack this world. We need to get him gone before he takes over.” He glanced at me. “Are you up to it?”
I could only nod. This storyline was going to be a bit more fun than I thought.