Chapter 1 - Game Start

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"I think I should just start over," Evangeline said into her headset's mic, resisting every urge she had to simply throw the controller in her hands.

"No! Don't do that!" the small voice sang in her ear. "Aren't you almost to act 4?"

"He's friend zoning me again!" Evangeline declared, falling back into her reclined armchair, swimming in a sea of soft, fuzzy blankets.

"Didn't the option to feed off of you come up?"

"Yes, Terra! I picked it, and the scene happened, but then that was it. No romance option to continue!"

"I don't get it. I found it so easy to romance him on my first go!" Terra said unhelpfully.

Groaning, Evangeline plucked up her long cold tea and slurped it up around the tea bag still in it.

"Well, don't restart your game. Why don't you just look up an FAQ and see what it is you're missing?"

"No, absolutely not!" Evangeline declared.

"But why not?"

"What's the point of playing a game where every decision matters? What is the point of letting someone else make the decisions for you?"

"Yeah, but how is it different than restarting your game? I mean, how many hours have you put into it already? A hundred? And you've never gotten further than act 3!"

"Because it's knowledge I've earned!" Evangeline sighed. She just couldn't make Terra understand.

Terra sighed back. "Okay, how about this? Maybe put the game down? I don't know about you, but I've been playing all weekend, and I think I need to take a shower."

At that thought, Evangeline took a good whiff of herself, but she didn't really smell anything. "Yeah, that's okay, go ahead. I'll talk to you later," she said.

"Later." Then Terra was gone. She had never met Terra in real life. They had met on the Tyr's Dream forums and had become friends through the game.

"Because, Terra," Evangeline said, knowing that Terra was gone and couldn't answer her back. "Because I want him to like me for me. There's no point otherwise in pretending to be someone else to get him to like me. I like him, there must be a way."

Yet, even without Terra to reply, she could hear herself. This was crazy. She was getting obsessed. And yes, she was aware "getting" was the wrong word for it.

Lying there in her armchair, she stared at the paused screen, frozen in mid-dialogue with Valerian, the vampire rogue she had completely fallen head over heels for, and he didn't even exist! He was a digital construct written by a writer and played by an actor. Not real.

"I wish I could just talk to you. These dialogue options, they just don't say what I want to."

Evangeline knew she was wasting her life. Well, she was acutely aware of it.

But that didn't change anything.

"I'm just taking a time-out for now. I'll get it together soon," she lied to herself. This whole situation had gone on longer than she expected it would—taking a break from life—but she still just didn't feel any better.

Staring at the bowls of snacks next to her, she wondered, when the last time she had a decent meal?

She'd deal with that in a minute. Maybe she'd order Chinese food. She was sick of pizza, even if it was more cost-effective.

"Valerian, what is wrong with me?" she asked the figure on her screen, mounted up high on her wall. "Why don't you like me?"

Closing her eyes, she exhaled. It was getting harder and harder to stay awake, and the air smelled like something soothing and familiar, nestled in her nest of warmth.

The sensation of falling felt very real. Maybe it was a dream, maybe it wasn't. Her mind couldn't make itself up, she just knew that something was happening to her, something she would never be able to describe and then.

"Ah, there you are."

Evangeline snapped open her eyes.

She stood in the middle of a glade.

"What?"

It was exactly what an idyllic glade would look like. Even-cut green grass with pops of brightly colored flowers throughout, going ten feet in any one direction surrounded her. The tree line was perfectly uniform, and the trees were spaced at exact intervals so that trees behind them filled in the space making a solid wall.

Before her, floating in the air, was a data table. Blinking rapidly at it didn't make it go away. It just continued to hover before her as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Across the top was her name, Evangeline, written in fancy script, along with seven anagrams below it: Str, Con, Dex, Int, Wit, Wis, and Cha. Beneath them were numbers 9, 16, 16, 10, 16, 10, and 14.

And beneath that was a list of skills with numbers besides those such as deception, thieves-trick skill, and perception along with history, magic history, culture, and so many others. Just as she got to the bottom of the list, the whole thing shifted to her left and another column appeared.

Special Skill: Meta Knowledge.

Beside that were four tick marks. Beneath another box appeared. It was empty except for the label at the top. Inventory.

"What the hell?"

"Oh, dear. You're awake already. I wasn't expecting that," a voice said from behind her. Evangeline whirled around to see a gray-skinned man in a toga. Or rather, he had gray skin with marbling of rainbow colors pulsing like cracks in an ancient statue. His hair was a flowing wave of lighter gray, which also seemed to have a strange sheen in the dappled sunlight, casting more rainbows.

Needless to say, what she could see of his skin, and it was a considerable amount, was dehydrated model ripped.

He was also floating a half foot off the ground.

As soon as he noticed her looking, he held out his hands on either side of him, with a purple and gold shawl draped over both. "Greetings, mortal, and welcome my chosen to your destiny."

Evangeline swore that he glowed a little brighter, even though there was no light actually coming off of him.

"Who... who the hell are you?" she asked.

He arched a perfect eyebrow at her. "Truly? Those are your first words to me, mortal?"

"Who the hell are you... sir?"

To be continued...


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