“You have said before that Ashes of God was your pet project long before it was taken by Omega9, how is that?”
The interviewer stretched his hand for his guest to speak. All the while, a grin was canceled as soon as it formed on his face. The scene in front of him gave him a strong sense of deja vu. But for some reason, this sensation was mixed in with incredible happiness and excitement, something that was apparent from his shaking hand. He didn’t know why, but this seemingly normal interview sent him through a roller coaster of emotions.
“Ashes of God was a project that I and some of my friends were creating from our university days. It grew close to completion before Omega9 decided to help us… But we were very disappointed by what it was going to be as every really cool feature we wanted was beyond our programming scope. That’s when Omega9 approached us.”
The journalist took back the microphone. He promptly asked his interviewee.
“What did Omega9 do to help the project grow exactly?”
“They gave us everything we need. Fund, Programmer, Artists… They just asked us to think and the teams we were given contact with would execute.”
Awkward silence momentarily took place. The journalist started speaking after a while.
“If you had to choose between any of those features, what would be the one Omega9 helped with the most?”
The interviewee felt hesitant. He pointed his eyes towards the roof then scratched his head while grunting.
“I would say… Time Dilation. I mean, it was not really a feature we expected to be in at all at the beginning. But thanks to Omega9, it did make the cut.”
“What is this Time Dilation you are speaking about?”
“To speak normal person language, Time Dilation enables a player to get 10 times as much play time than normal by basically making the brain work slightly faster. It’s better than sudoku to work the brain too!”
The interviewee burst out laughing to his own joke. The interviewer tried to continue his questionnaire.
“You mentioned some friends before-”
Without even waiting for the microphone to be under his mouth, the guest stood up, the smile filling his face was no more.
“I think I spoke enough. I’ll be going.”
The stream paused at this moment and stopped minutes after. When the stream changed to its offline screen, Mark closed off the page before turning his digital lenses and earplugs off. Thinking in his head Off, the faint blue light that was emitting from inside his ears faded away, and so did the blue glint on his lenses. The digital lenses/earplug kit was a marvelous invention, one that wasn’t made commercial until December of last year. However, what made it special to Mark right now was the questions that it brought with its existence.
He couldn’t remember when he bought the kit exactly, and if it was just that Mark would have probably assumed it to be a consequence of the shock from traveling through time. However, that wasn’t just the end of it. For the past ten years, Mark was using the digital lenses extensively to the point where he discarded all of his other personal electronic devices, other than the capsule. This made it so that he developed a certain set of reflexes pertaining to when he wanted to browse the net, or checking what time it was. He would instinctively use his thoughts to communicate with the digital kit. All of these facts made it even more intriguing why, in the shock of being in an unfamiliar place, did he check his e-watch first, laptop second, and forget that the information he needed was but a thought away.
Mark was deep in his thoughts when he heard a slightly sharp ringtone that shook him from his stupor. It was the signal that his food was done cooking.
Local System On.
As he thought those words, his eyes glinted with a green light, signifying his connection to his home system.
At his thought, a series of mechanisms ensued before the wall to his left opened into a massive gap. A glass tunnel constructed itself, having the gap as its base, and the table in front of Mark as its end. Two seconds after its construction, the glass was deconstructed, and the gaping hole was once again filled. If someone turned his head or blinked in the span of these two seconds, maybe they would have thought that nothing happened. That is until they see the food that filled the table only to question what kind of magic trick just happened.
Mark’s breakfast consisted of Red Velvet pancakes, Scotch eggs, and orange juice. He slowly ate his meal while looking at his emails. As he was scrolling through them, one mail caught his attention. Sender: Jeff Carlman, Subject: A special gift. The name felt unfamiliar to Mark, he tried his best to recall anything that had to do with this person, but his memory failed him. Mentally focusing on the email, the image on his lenses changed to show the body of the latter.
Looking at the email, Mark finally remembered the name. He was the guy that randomly gifted him the Dreamscape 10 years ago! The Dreamscape cost around $57.000, that’s almost the price of a cheap car! At Mark’s peak this sum might not have been even a fraction of his paycheck, however, before he became a gaming star, it would have taken him a really long time to amass this amount of money.
Looking at the email one last time, Mark committed the name “Jeff Carlman” to heart. He didn’t like owing someone he doesn’t personally know anything, so he had to repay him back when he got the time. For now, he will just consider himself lucky to get a capsule this early and roll on with it.
Talking about the capsule, when will it come?
Looking through his other emails, Mark noticed one coming from VelveExpress, a multinational giant corporation that deals with shipping. Reading it, he understood that the Dreamscape is coming this morning at 11.00 am. It was still 9.00 am, so he had time to kill.
His mind drifted off for a second, about everything he did in those 10 years, all the memories he created, and the connections he made. I guess, all of that is… all of that doesn’t mean anything anymore. It felt bad- It felt bad for him, to face the fact that all of the hardships he went through with his team, with his friends, all of the joyful moments, that all of that is as if it never happened. It’s as if those 10 years he lived were a lie.
Mark couldn’t compare that feeling to anything he experienced before. However, he heard multiple people talking about their failed long-term relationships like that. As when your girlfriend of 10 years break up with you and no longer want to talk to you again, treating you like air. As when that feeling of utter helplessness, as if everything you went through was a lie, these 10 years that were robbed off Mark felt the same.
Thinking about this, Mark couldn’t help but feel depressed. His girlfriend that he spent 5 years with now no longer even knows him. He doesn’t even know where she is at this point in time. Moreover, even if he did, what can he do, just barge in and tell her that she is his girlfriend for more than 5 years, but she can’t remember because it happened in an alternative future? Well, wouldn’t that be the most desperate move a man could ever do?
Even as he chuckled at his own joke, Mark couldn’t hide the pain in his heart. The helplessness he felt at this moment was more suffocating than the deepest oceans. Clutching at his own chest, Mark became aghast. The pain was clear on his eyes, and his face turned pale, white as a sheet.
Leaning his head on the couch and closing his eyes, Mark took deep breaths so as to stop his anxiety attack. For 20 seconds, he kept breathing in and out, until they no longer stayed erratic, but long and constant. For a long time, he stayed that way, motionless. His eyes were closed, but his mind replayed multiple images as if he was watching a movie in his own head. He remembered the time he spent with his friends, all the adventures they partook in, and the stellar team they created. He remembered the first time he met the love of his life. A master of the sword and the pen. Her military might was unrivaled, to the point where even he felt threatened whenever he sparred against her. However, that was only one piece of the puzzle that constituted her existence on the battlefield. Her strategic sense was matchless, she alone ushered a new era for the game Ashes of God, shaping her own meta. Both as a leader and as a mastermind, none reached even the dirt on her feet.
“Sophie..” He muttered.
As he sombered over his fears and despair as if drowning in a deep, dark ocean, a fire ignited in his heart. A wave of anger filled with determination and resolve pushed his back against the water weighing him down throwing him from the dark ocean to the blue sky.
“If what we had between us was real, then-then, once again we’ll make it happen. That, I swear on this life.”
The memories of his time with his friends and lover flashed by him one last time. This time, however, he reached with his hand and grabbed them, burning them into his soul.
Finishing his inner monologue, Mark woke up to the sound of his doorbell ringing. The Dreamscape is finally here, I guess. Finishing his thoughts, Mark’s eyes glinted with a green light. Connecting to his home system, Mark commanded for the capsule to be transported to his room. Commanding the mini-bots to take care of the dishes, Mark sat up and went to his room.
Lying on the capsule, Mark went through the multiple safety mechanisms before the lid closed on him and so did his eyes.
Finishing his mental command, the darkness surrounding slowly started shifting into a blinding light. At the same time, a female robotic voice sounded in his head.
Boot… System Ω9 3.2 Active – Ashes of God