Awake in Metal

Staring down at the parchment on my desk, I blew into my tea, freshly made and still steamy. I etched just a few more lines onto the paper, before raising my pencil. I was finally done with the template sketch.

On the paper was a sword, meticulously drawn with sharp straight edges and wide angles, giving it a rather futuristic look, like some sort of plasma cutter. That was the inspiration behind it after all, and with the relatively cut and dry weapons already in DD&D, this design should add a bit of spice to the game.

But I was just a designer, the official decision lied with my boss, Jozaiah Hetch, the lead designer for the game. Nothing got into Deep and Dark without his approval, luckily he seemed to be fond of my designs. I hadn't done anything major in the grand scheme of things but did have the pleasure of making a few minor NPCs and armors. So far this was only a concept, but I was sure once it was finished Jozaiah would be impressed.

With the initial sketch done, I decided I'd start the final sketch tomorrow, instead, I wanted to get to work on some armor. However, I needed to review what had already been made - my favorite excuse to hop back into the game. While playing I could look at the source material, and seeing armor models in a 3D space helped loads.

Fitting the rig on, I looked on intently as the names of the company flashed by, followed by the title screen. Continuing onward, I sat in the lobby as the server loaded. Currently in its developmental stage, the game had only one server, and the number of people on it was high into the hundred millions today. I sighed at the thought, I usually preferred not to review things in such a populated world, by now that the game had gained so much traction there wasn't much that could be done.

The game finally loaded up, and I exhaled as my vision was suddenly filled with landscape and horizon. I now stood at the midpoint between wild, natural forest and civilized, tilled grassland. Every time I booted up this game, I found myself lost in its beauty, and how real that beauty felt, so much so that I'd forget what I'd come here to do.

"Right, armors," I breathed through my rig.

I could have gone to the town and look at town guard armors or whatever the other players wore, but I had something very specific in mind. I needed to go to the Corruptus Redoubt, the closest place that spawned the Dread Knight. It was already October, I figured some new 'evil' armors and designs would be fitting.

Captivated by the scenery, I preferred to walk rather than summon a mount, I wanted nothing more than to waste time in this place. After a few minutes, I had arrived and unsheathed my sword. If I was going to thoroughly study the armors, their bearers needed to be dead. I stepped onto the battlefields, a collapsed cathedral, the already grey bricks of the building seemingly blackened by evil itself. Out of the darkness, two tall Dreadknights appeared, greatswords poised and ready to draw blood.

The left knight charged and swung, seeing it coming I ducked under the slash before countering with an attack of my own. The knight howled as my blade made contact, spinning on his heels. Suspecting the second knight was almost upon me, I took a large sidestep away from both of them, horrified to see a blade in my periphery crash down into the ground where I just was. The knights turned toward me, slow and lumbering foes, but deceptively quick attackers. Still, I thought myself a bit of a daredevil and charged in, dipping forward as close to breakneck speed as I could manage and slashing upward at the closest knight who I had attacked already prior. The slash connected, a grisly show of black shadowy blood as the game registered the hit as critical.

Wow, I thought to myself, surprised at my strength and prowess. But it wasn't just that, something was off. The blood splashed onto my face, I wanted to shut my eyes but I couldn't because I didn't have any.



Wait, where are my eyes?



Distracted by the blood works I hadn't noticed the second Dread Knight had come in for a swing at my blind spot, right behind me. I felt all of my senses numb as my perception of time slowed to a fraction of the usual speed. Spinning around at the waist, I fought to raise my blade high enough to parry the knight's great sword. Our blades collided with a vicious clang, ashes flew from the collision seemingly at light speed as my senses suddenly rushed back in like blood through veins. Feeling the Knight's weight upon me, I was sure I wouldn't be able to conjure the strength to stand up to him, but still I put in everything I had due to the fear of death, I found that I had a lot more at my disposal than my human body would have been capable of supporting. Forcing upward, I jutted forward blade and all, the tension from the sword struggle causing the knights weapon to rubberband right into the ground. Using this opportunity, I drew my sword back and ran it right through his exposed side. There was no confirmation of a critical hit, the mob just keeled over and died. Pulling my blade free, I stood triumphant but feeling not at all like it. Nothing that had just occurred here had been cause for celebration.

I was not in my rig anymore. I was standing in Corruptus Redoubt over two dead bodies. I stood there, stiff and silent like a statue and at this moment I realized I had no need for oxygen anymore. Even after exerting myself the way I just had, I hadn't breathed at all, whereas I'd normally be huffing and puffing by now. I wouldn't know how I would have done so, what with no mouth. I was growing increasingly dysphoric at just how distressingly far I currently was from being human.

Right....time to log out now, I thought. I couldn't take my rig off, I felt detached from my body completely, my mind told me just to log out. Pulling my menu up, a touch screen interface with the blue translucent look you'd expect from a sci-fi movie, I tapped into the settings, and then Log Out. Abso-fucking-lutely nothing. I was stuck. I'm stuck here.

I was still alive though and happened to be one of the more resilient races in the game, I just had to figure out how to get out of here. The first thing that came to mind was the guildhall, yes, there had to be more players, then I could figure this all out. I didn't spend much time in such populated places, but now it was a necessity, I guessed I was going to have to get over my introvertedness. Turning and sheathing my sword, I began the trek back. The second trip was a lot quieter and a lot less whimsical than the first. I was plagued with confusion and doubt at what I could do to escape this situation, other than dying, of course. I didn't want to think about what might happen if I had lost my life in this world. The thought filled my heart with dread.

I finally arrived at the front gate, only to be thrown to the side as what looked like a rogue on a horse burst through. On the ground now I looked up, seeing town guards freezing at the gate. If a player committed a crime and managed to escape, I recalled, the guards would stop and wait for their return. If the guards continued their pursuit of him they'd leave the town undefended, and guards don't spawn with the same aggressiveness as monsters. They had been programmed this way, interesting to see that even now they abided by their coding. Standing and dusting my cloak off, I passed the agitated guards, who sneered and growled with unparalleled realism, before turning and making my way to the guild building.

I pushed open the door, and the place was buzzing. The emotion in here was ranged from depressingly low to ecstatically high. I saw players sitting and kneeling as they moped of their situation, some prayed that their gods would save them, others looked utterly defeated. And then some seemed to be rather illogically excited at the current situation, jumping inhumanely high, running impossibly fast. One Half-Troll by the look of his ass-ugly face was holding a stump that was once likely his arm, watching the wound as his flesh slowly snaked its way back into full shape whilst exclaiming, "-it is! It is! It's growing back, guys!" I shook my head, scoping the room for someone that didn't seem too excited or down about the situation. I found an entire group of people who looked like they were about ready to leave. They looked almost like a party, I really couldn't be sure though. The priest was the most prominent, so I approached him, tapping his shoulder as he walked by. I was surprised at this man's stature, even at six feet he stood taller than me. As he turned my way I had already pulled my menu up and tapped on the quick chat feature. I looked up at him to see an expectant gaze upon his face. I noticed the designs on his armor, remembering seeing those same designs when they were being made. He was an Inquisitor, likely suggesting he was some sort of administrator, no way a regular player had access to armor like that so soon. I looked back down, realizing I was staring and started typing away. I pressed Speak, and an automated male voice spoke out, "Hello Inquisitor. Do you know what is wrong with the game?"

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