You get bored of banging supermodels pretty quickly. Sure, the first time is a rush, when you are fifteen and find your father’s headset while he’s out somewhere. The first years are pretty nice, in fact, as you experiment with different styles and models. You trade tricks with friends. You unlock hidden features. Fifty tokens gets you this toy. A hundred gets you a new format. But it gets old fast. There are only so many ways to cum.
That’s how I got into Warzone. There are a lot more ways to kill and die than there are to fuck. People have been ejaculating in pretty much the same manner since the dawn of time but violence has evolved a lot. I can knock a man’s brains out in Hunter with a wooden club or blast an alien to bits with a laser gun in Stars. The thrill that comes from taking life is tremendous. Almost unmatched.
But again it pales. The excitement of violence is fueled by the threat of death. Coders managed to incorporate pain into Warzone. You get stabbed in the chest and felt a bolt of agony. But you learn that if you are the victim of a lethal blow, a title page swims into being and offers you the chance to play again.
Edging around the corner of the saloon, inhaling hot dust, I feel pain explode between my temples. As my vision blurs, I see a cowboy hat lurking behind the bank – and the smoking barrel of a revolver. The frontier scene melts away. The title page emerges.
The glass door of the Metapod sighs as it opens. Limbs aching and joints stiff, I clamber out and feel the strange nuances of reality. The floor has a slight but perceptible floorness.
Looking around, I feel unsettled, and not because of the usual disorientation but because something seems different. Peering into the other pods, I see that people are inside, but the machines are humming as if on standby. Through the glass, I can see that their features have twisted. They are dead.
Innovation meets demand. Risk is officially illegal, but once the add-on was invented it was everywhere. If you die in Warzone, having installed Risk, you actually die. If you are shot, for example, electricity is passed through your brain with enough force to kill you in a second. If you are bleeding out, on the other hand, a slow-acting chemical is injected into your veins. People have run out of desires. That’s how I make sense of it. There is only one experience left.
Not for me though. I’m the janitor. That means once every year I have to get up, and clean the floors, and tighten bolts, and debug code. It’s my job. I take that seriously.
Walking out of the station, I look up at the sky. Who is left out there? Is anyone? Space twinkles, and then darkens, like photopsias dispersing after you stand.